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TCA: Nick teaches, CMT struts

POSTED BY STEVEN ZEITCHIK

DallascowNow debuting on U.S. cable–either the vanguard of 21st century diversity or another weapon in the arsenal of overbearing parents.

That would Nick Jr.’s bilingual animated show “Ni Hao, Kai-lan,” which the net unwrapped during Friday morning’s cavalcade of TCA announcements and sessions from the many channels in the MTV Networks family.

“Ni Hao” aims to do for Mandarin what “Dora the Explorer” did for Spanish — that is, give parents another language to fret that their children are (or aren’t) learning. Nick execs said that the net chose Chinese because they were trying to reach out to diverse creators. Another unspoken reason might be a desire to appeal to a certain breed of ultra-ambitious, upscale parents who read statistics about the ascendancy of Mandarin as a global language.

The sesh that immediately followed the Nick stuff may have been an education in a more commonly spoken language, and probably a whole lot more intriguing to the overwhelmingly white male demo of TCA-ers. To tubthumb the next season of “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team,” CMT trotted out a clutch of the show’s white-booted, high-kicking, smile-wearing stars.

Setting aside the eye candy factor, the clips and interviews for “Cheerleaders” underscored (as did CMT’s follow-up presentation for “Ty Murray’s Celebrity Bull Riding Challenge) how strong a genre nonscripted can be when it’s done straight-up, docu style with the right subject.

“Cheerleaders” will offer no contrived contests or made-for-TV eliminations, just a video-verite peek into how a thousand dancer-athletes go through the rigorous paces of making an elite squad.
And not to avoid the obvious, but they’re cheerleaders, fer chrissakes. What’s not to like?

–Steven Zeitchik