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Recap: Lifetime Television’s new ‘Abby’s Studio Rescue’ Premiere

Lifetime Television’s new “Abby’s Studio Rescue”
Recap: Lifetime Television’s new “Abby’s Studio Rescue” Premiere

Whether you were a “Dance Moms” fan or not, Lifetime Television’s new “Abby’s Studio Rescue” is DEFINITELY worth checking out. The second episode is tonight (Tuesday, 9 pm ET/PT) and if you missed the premiere, go watch the full episode on Lifetime’s website to get caught up. You gotta see Abby Lee kicking ass from the very beginning.

If you like shows where true professionals bring in the smackdown to help struggling businesses set right everything that is destroying their companies, this is a must-see.

“Kitchen Nightmares” and “Dinner: Impossible” ain’t got nothing on “Abby’s Studio Rescue.” While they’re dramatic and we all love to watch Gordon Ramsay scream British obscenities, Abby’s facing off with moms and studio owners with attitude and her armory is far better stocked than the folks she going into battle with. My money’s on her, every time.

This new show, produced by Collins Avenue and Morocco Junction Entertainment, has removed Abby Lee from the gossipy drama and bullshit of her own team’s moms that had eclipsed “Dance Moms” in its most recent season. It reminds the viewer of who she really is, what she really does, and how she trains successful competitive dancers.

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Perhaps it’s the contribution of executive producer Heather Schuster, who also produced the popular “Tabatha Takes Over” reality show about beauty salon rescues, that gives the new show the twist we needed to see what Abby Lee Miller can really do when she’s not coaching her own team in her home studio.

Love her or hate her, you cannot help but be absolutely fascinated watching Abby troubleshoot a stack of problems (in the form of children and narcissistic mothers and dance instructors) on a serious deadline. She doesn’t cut cards. She tells it like it is. But I definitely saw a softer side of her than what we’ve seen in her earlier shows as she counseled the distressed studio owner and helped her reconstruct her failing business.

When I watched “Dance Moms” a few times with my husband, we got sucked in fast. We’d sit, jaws dropped, as Abby taught the strictest dance class we’d ever seen while doling out comprehensive bitchslaps to her dancers’ horribly behaved mothers. But then the moms would do something reprehensible in front of their daughters and it left me with an icky feeling.

You could always see Abby getting results with the girls – regardless of whether you approved of her methods – but there was obviously a reason for the name of the show. Most of those moms are horrible examples to their own daughters. #sorrynotsorry

I’d sit and compare Abby to my figure skating coach in grade school, and my husband would sit and compare her to me. I wasn’t always flattered by that, but he meant it as a compliment because I’m a wedding planner and we deal with similar bullshit. The only difference is that my diva moms and guests change every weekend and I never have to see them again – my only concern is the satisfaction of the brides and grooms with how well we executed their weddings.

Abby has to deal with the SAME psychotic ladies day after day, misbehaving in her own studio. Because they have no lives of their own, all they do is sit and snark and criticize Abby and each other’s daughters. I wouldn’t want to trade jobs with her unless I could vote the moms off my island.

But I’ve gotta tell you about the new show now so that you’re intrigued enough to tune in with me tonight and catch the second episode. Thank God for the DVR as I’m supposed to be blogging “Real Housewives of New York” at the same time. Whichever one has me more fascinated gets written first, and right now, Abby’s in the lead.

“I have a reputation for demanding perfection and MY KIDS WIN,” Abby rightfully declares. “If these dance studio owners listen to me, I can help them turn their businesses around.”

“I can make you or break you.” She’s probably right. The woman’s reputation in the industry is legendary and thousands of girls try out for her competitive teams. Only the best make it – and then she still has to deal with their moms. Or not. More than one young dancer has had her dreams dashed by a parental unit who could not behave.

Abby’s first “official” rescue is the Triple Threat dance studio in Warwick, Rhode Island. The owner, Marlaina, first started teaching dance classes out of her home-based daycare center and moved into a really big building with tons of possibility about a year ago. But it’s a dump and she’s letting it get worse.

The moms who so enthusiastically signed contracts for their daughters to compete with Triple Threat have already become restless (and angry) natives trapped in the little viewing room into the studio. But the place is a hole, with exposed wiring, sewer problems, filthy floors, and an absentee owner who has apparently been hiding while she munches her anxiety meds instead of fixing the problem, so they have a right to be disgruntled at this point.

Abby was excited when she walked in for her first rescue but when she took in the entirety of the situation and realized the absentee owner wasn’t there working, it definitely started things out on the wrong foot.

When Marlaina’s employee tries to call her in, she refuses. It takes a call from Abby to the owner’s husband to get a reaction… and her ass into her own studio. Bad, bad start when you’re the one who reached out and asked for Abby’s help. Anxiety meds will not save you from the wrath of Abby if you stand her up.

“I don’t care what’s going on, I don’t care who’s in your house – it could be the President – get your butt down to this dance studio and meet me or I’m leaving,” Abby rants, pointing out she’s taken time away from her own students to help Triple Threat. In true Abby fashion, she tells them how it is on the phone in front of all the students and moms.

“I am extremely concerned that Abby’s here and my mom is not here. You can tell from her face that she is appalled,” the studio owner’s daughter admits, clearly mortified.

Marlaina says in interview that she knows everything is her own fault – she admits that she avoids the studio because the gossip about her is “toxic” and she can’t handle that or the fights between and with the mothers.

“They’re very very catty, the moms,” Marlaina complains. But they have a right to be because they’ve signed up their daughters and paid their dues and the instructor teaching them is 18 years old and hasn’t been to college for dance. The boss is never there.

The biggest consistent criticism of their troupe is their lack of technique. That’s a problem if you want to have a competitive dance team. And with Marlaina never around and no set dance class schedule for the students to follow, things at Triple Threat have rapidly fallen apart. It’s obvious why they’re losing students so rapidly.

Abby teaches a class and gets a feel for the ability level of the dancers and when Marlaina finally graces them with her presence, she tells her that they’re going to do a showcase in three days. And she chews her butt in front of all the girls.

“Well thank you for coming. This is your studio. This is your competition team, this should be your rehearsal.” Abby establishes from the very first that she’s not there to run the company, she’s there to triage the problem and give Marlaina the tools to get her studio back on track.

My only disappointment was how whiny and wimpy the studio owner was and I’m afraid that no matter how much Abby gives her and teaches her, Marlaina’s not going to be able to keep it together six months down the road. I mean, seriously, whining about your anxiety and your medication and inability to handle stress when you know your dance students and their parents are going to see it is a pretty dumb professional move. #truelife

That said, the teasers for the rest of the season show Abby Lee taking on some serious witches with attitude problems who seem to have forgotten they called HER for help, not the other way around. Gotta admit, I’m looking forward to seeing her open up a can of whoop-ass when she gets to them.

This first episode was great for showing us her ability to troubleshoot, but Abby’s famous for verbally crushing the stupid and ill-prepared. I’d be so disappointed if they tried to make her be warm and fuzzy. Fortunately, even when she was being gentle with Marlaina, her eyes said “are you friggin kidding me?” That’s the Abby Lee Miller we know and love.

First, Abby assigns routines for the showcase to be held in a couple of days and then she tackles the serious structural problems, walking through the building, completely horrified by what she finds. She brings in a team and a whole lot of expensive dance equipment and turns Triple Threat into a real studio instead of a crumbling warehouse. It’s pretty spectacular if they really did it overnight.

Finally, she tackles the “mama drama” problem that has Marlaina so freaked out. Let’s face it, babe – if you can’t handle a few annoying mothers at this stage of the game, there’s no point in trying to grow your studio. With success, the momangers get worse, not better. They’ll eat you alive. Abby’s got her moms eating Xanax, not the other way around.

Abby tells her they’ve been bashing her and the studio and that she needs to get in there and tackle the problem. Fresh paint and a real schedule won’t put out the smoldering mutiny in the waiting room. She has to grab this one by the balls and settle it or the problem will just grow by leaps and bounds when Abby leaves and all they have left to do is compare Marlaina to a real pro.

“These are the moms that cause you the anxiety,” Abby coaches Marlaina. “Are you ready to face that fear?” With a pep talk from Abby, she goes in loaded for bear.

“This infuriates me. I am done with these problems at my studio,” Marlaina announces to all of the moms.

“Basically moms, at the end of the day, this is my studio. I love you all – but you need to make a decision if you want to stay or you want to go.” She tells them she’ll let them out of their contracts if they don’t want to hang in with her dance studio while she makes her comeback. But now is the time to make the decision or get out if they’re going to go. It was the first time we saw that Marlaina has any sort of backbone and that’s good as I imagine having a spine is key to teaching dance.

“The drama has to end,” Marlaina says. And temporarily, at least, it does. Because everybody is focused on what is going to happen at the showcase Abby has planned for the third day. Even Abby’s worried because she knows her own troupe can learn routines that quickly, but has her doubts about Triple Threat. Technique is her biggest complaint, just like all the dance judges before her that have seen this group perform.

Long story short – because let’s face it, how much do you really want to hear about dance moves anyway – the showcase is a pretty big hit with the moms and the community. The girls perform well – they’re not Abby Lee’s girls for sure, but they don’t embarrass themselves either. It’s a dramatic improvement from the mess Abby encountered upon arrival at Triple Threat. Must say I was expecting a royal disaster and it didn’t happen. Yes, I was a little disappointed.

Abby’s psyched afterwards because she knows exactly how much she accomplished in such a short time. She’s given Marlaina the tools to continue improving Triple Threat.

“A reliable schedule that you stick to is a must for every dance studio,” Abby explains. “I gave them a safe studio… and Marlaina shut down the mama drama” so she has high hopes that her efforts may not have been in vain.

“I think it’s safe to say that Triple Threat’s door will remain open,” Abby declares. As long as Marlaina stays on her meds (I said that, Abby didn’t). That broken-down studio was more stable than its owner.

The teasers for tonight’s episode show Abby getting more aggressive – and I’m dying to see what goes down. She’s handling these studio owners like she handles her moms – out in the open in front of the girls. She has no fear of naming and shaming when she feels it’s warranted.

“Life is a competition. You are competing against every studio in this town.” We see Abby explaining the facts of life to a studio owner. We also see that in at least one future episode, somebody is going to kick her out of their studio. Hmm… shades of
Tabatha with a Pittsburgh accent? I love it. Maybe I’ll even live-tweet it just for fun.

Sandy Malone is a reality TV star, expert wedding planner, and internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast's BRIDES and The Huffington Post, in addition to Monsters... read more
Sandy Malone

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