Say what you will about "So You Think You Can Dance" — call it an "American Idol" rip-off or "Dancing Without the Stars" if need be — but you have to admit that it's got one thing a lot of the other reality shows lack: across-the-board talent.

You wouldn't think this would be such a rarity — these types of reality shows, after all, are meant to attract the people who are actually good at their chosen field.

And yet so many of them consistently feature at least a few head-scratchers that the producers clearly cast just to keep things interesting (in the case of "Dancing with the Stars," this can sometimes describe the entire group).

But when the competition requires you to leap, spin and twist at almost superhuman levels, it's hard for a Sanjaya to sneak past.

Without relying on the age-old tactic of televising the talent-free as way to build tension and elicit drama, "So You Think You Can Dance" extracts its story lines through another method: by putting the contestants in stressful-to-the-point-of-abusive situations.

Consider judge Nigel Lithgow's comment to the dancer who clearly hadn't joined the carb-free craze — he told her she looked "like a little lump bouncing around out there."

(To be fair, tact isn't Nigel's strong suit under even the best of circumstances: when complimenting a beautiful girl with a prosthetic arm who eventually got eliminated, he blithely exclaimed, "I keep forgetting you only have one arm!")

Another drama-milking technique the show relies on heavily during the initial auditions is to pair dancers up, watch the performance derail and then eliminate only one of them.

This didn't sit well with a discarded soul named Jay, who called his former partner's continued success "unjust" and then immediately graduated to a sort of Sean Penn-when-dealing-with-the-paparazzi level of irritation by essentially shoving the cameraman out of his face.

Have no fear that producers got rid of all the difficult ones during the auditioning process. Danny Tidwell, the adopted brother of last year's near-winner Travis Wall, will clearly be a standout, not only for his skill but also because of his level of self-absorbed obnoxiousness.

Ricky Palomino, a gifted dancer who got a lot of air time during both of this week's episodes, muttered nonsensically to the camera before declaring — with a level of self-awareness not typical of your average reality show denizen — that he hasn't "quite found myself so I don't know what kind of strange I am."

And Faina Savich, a ballroom dancer who managed to annoy everyone in her dance group on Wednesday night's episode and pass out from dehydration on Thursday, should also help provide some juicy behind-the-scenes drama.

Inherent drama and talented dancers? As Nigel might say, cue the music.

Anna David is a freelance writer. Her first novel, "Party Girl," is in stores now.