If you were hoping and praying for a basic cable version of Showgirls, VH1 has just the show for you. Instead of Vegas and scantily-clad ladies, Hit the Floor takes place in the world of professional dance teams. It’s supposed to be soapy and frothy, but it comes off more wooden and cliché. Like many shows featuring women in creative fields, there is a strict adherence to the trope that talented women must clearly hate each other, because apparently all females ascribe to the Highlander school of thought: There can only be one. Alas, there needs to be a villain. Although, like any good soap, the potential for villainy is in no short supply in Hit the Floor.
But the main problem, despite the extension-destroying cat fights and dance offs, is how seriously it takes itself, without pushing into Showgirls levels of camp, or infusing itself with fun like Bring It On, or even the CW’s Hellcats. There is just not enough spirit for a show about cheerleading. Don’t get me wrong, Hit the Floor still has times for lines like: “I don’t know what you’re used to in the champagne room, but we’re not trying to make tips here. We’re trying to make art.” If Hit the Floor aspires to be quality primetime suds, low-level cattiness set to Beyonce isn’t going to cut it. The episode's first major dramatic reveal — why Ahsha's mother isn't so keen on her becoming a Devil girl — is done with such little fanfare, it lets the air out of any potential the premiere episode had. It's not an auspicious sign when even the easiest of dramatic beats isn't banged out as loudly as possible.
The Los Angeles Devils girls are akin to the Laker girls or the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, inspiring fanbases that outreach some of the squad's athletes. Ahsha (Taylour Paige, a former Laker girl herself) is the wannabe virtuoso whose dream is to be a Devil girl. But her mother (Kimberly Elise, who is acting at about half her strength, yet still outkicks everyone else), an original Devil girl, wants more for her daughter than the backstabbing world of pro dance teams. Thrown into the mix are the evil captain Jelena (Logan Browning), Devils coach Pete Davenport (Dean Cain), and various players with wandering eyes. (For professional basketball players with many choices in female companionship, the Devils seemed to be awfully invested in who makes the dance team). There’s also a bubbling subplot about an MIA dancer who may be able to blow the lid off the entire organization, which could prove to be interesting if only because there’s not much tension in wondering whether main character Ahsha will make it through the episode-long audition process.
Hit the Floor's main assets are its dance sequences, which are copious and add energy to a show that needs it. But Hit the Floor commits the greatest sin of onscreen dance. In live dance, the audience has a wide view of the dance floor. But that magic of being able to see the full experience, is often limited onscreen by the mistaken notion that quick cuts and reaction shots from the crowd (who are often just standing there, doing nothing exciting) make dance more interesting. Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance?, out of necessity, are actually pretty good at handling the camera during dance sequences, as are older movies and a couple entries into the Step Up pantheon. Shots are kept intact so we can actually watch the full experience of the dance. The camera may pan and zoom but it rarely cuts. Hit the Floor, does not follow the same rules. For the few people who tuned in to watch a gum-snapping Dean Cain look as if judging dance auditions is akin to watching paint dry, there are plenty of those shots to be had. But the rest tuned in to see dancing, and it would be nice if we could actually watch some of it now and again.