ABC’s ‘Dirty Dancing’ Recap: Put This Baby in the Corner (of a Dumpster)

Price Peterson
Writer

Warning: This photo recap of ABC’s Dirty Dancing remake contains spoilers.

For a reason we may truly never discover or understand, the ABC network produced and then aired a three-hour, full-body cringe called Dirty Dancing. But because it featured nothing that even remotely resembled sexiness, the “Dirty” part of the title should probably be in quotes. And judging from Baby’s lazy shimmies, so should the “Dancing” part. Let’s just make something really clear: I did not care for “Dirty” “Dancing”!

The original 1980s version of Dirty Dancing (working title: Horniness at a Summer Camp For Adults) is considered a classic due mainly to its soundtrack and Patrick Swayze’s hairdo. But did you realize there was a Broadway adaptation of this thing? It was mostly the same as the movie except instead of simply dancing to hot hits of the ’60s and ’80s, the characters would also SING THEM out loud for no apparent reason. And this, friends, was the version ABC decided to adapt for our viewing displeasure. Also, considering the plot is almost entirely about how everyone is mega-horny at all times, it was still so boring and awkward? Let’s talk about it!

This version of Dirty Dancing starred Abigail Breslin (Scream Queens, Little Miss Sunshine) as a grown woman named Baby, and Colt Prattes (photos that come with picture frames) as a pro bono male hooker. It also began and ended with one of the most baffling book-ending devices I’ve ever seen.

That’s right, it began with Baby ATTENDING Dirty Dancing The Musical on Broadway. But in the 1970s? My brain was already broken and praying for relief. This was going to be a long 3 hours. (THREE HOURS.)

Anyway, here’s another thing that nearly broke me. I realize this was in the original but I hadn’t really thought about it until now: You’re telling me that in the olden days families would spend entire summers at sleepaway camps together? Imagine being freshly graduated from high school and instead of spending the summer with your friends and kissing cuties you had to hang out with your family at a camp? Insane. Anyway, meet Baby and her older sister, the girl from Modern Family. One was a bookish, slightly homely proto-feminist, and the other waggled her ring finger at anybody in a sweater vest. Something tells me they were BOTH going to be learning valuable lessons this summer.

Within minutes of their arrival in the Catskills, Baby nearly slid off her chair while watching the nightly dance show (?) in the dining hall (?). Their names were Johnny and Penny (Nicole Sherzinger) and this pair were the dirtiest dancers of them all.

Later that night, Baby ran into Jennifer Lopez’s lover who was carrying three watermelons. And if you saw those melons and immediately thought “Oh, there’s a super sexy, underground dance party nearby” you were RIGHT.

At this point Baby stumbled into the seedy underbelly of the summer camp, where staff members and, like, activity counselors danced so dirty Mr. Clean himself would’ve Roger Rabbited right out of there. (There was no dirty dancing at any point in this film.)

But as you can see, something had come over Baby. All this dancing and dirtiness made her realize that she was ready to FIND HERSELF. Even if it meant getting wind of Penny’s unwanted pregnancy (which may or may not have been caused by Johnny’s reproductive organs) and offering to help her pay for it.

In Baby’s family, asking for $250 no questions asked is a normal and chill thing, so she was able to help Penny get her illegal abortion. (Should this movie have been called Dirty Abortion? Let me know!)

But Johnny and Penny don’t accept no handouts, so in exchange for paying for Penny’s back alley abortion, Baby was about to get so many dance lessons! And here’s where the movie really got wild: We were treated to several dozen dance training montages, yet Baby never once became good at dancing? Truly, and I’m sorry to Abigail Breslin, but her lack of skill (or even effort) was borderline surreal. You’d think ABC would have access to a team of people who turn stars into ballroom dancers, but I guess not! However, if you like seeing a very clumsy girl half-heartedly gyrate slowly to bad covers of ’60s hits, this movie was hot like fire.

On the upside, things began to get slightly better when Johnny stopped wearing a shirt. That’s an important part of any dance lesson, in my experience.

Yeah, I don’t know about this signature dance move. Seems hard on the lower back.

Probably the other main plotline in this thing was how horny Debra Messing was. As Baby’s mother, nearly every line of dialogue was about how she hadn’t had sex in years and wanted a divorce. It didn’t help that Katey Sagal was cougar-ing around and doing sex with Johnny and singing “Fever” in the mess hall. It was more than Debra Messing could take!

Penny’s abortion did not go great, so after Baby and Johnny arrived back from a dance gig (at which the audience seemingly sarcastic-clapped at Baby’s “performance”), they discovered that Penny was in a bad way. She probably should not have trusted a “doctor” who operated out of a VW van and hadn’t sanitized his eggbeater, but luckily Baby’s father was a doctor and came to Penny’s aid. Still, he was ticked at Baby for getting mixed up in this business, and even more ticked at Johnny for maybe knocking Penny up! Even though he hadn’t! But Johnny was prideful and didn’t want to defend himself or whatever.

Fortunately Baby knew just how to cheer Johnny up: By climbing around on his body like it was a jungle gym made of fleshy riverstones.

By firelight they danced so dirty, the cabin will forever smell of it.

Debra Messing, meanwhile, had reached her breaking point. She got up and sang in front of the entire camp about how someone should throw a funeral for her junk because it was all over. You know that scene in Cats when the elderly hobo cat sings “Memory” out of nowhere and everyone looks super sad because it’s like, “Who is this lady?” This was a lot like that. Poor Debra Messing!

Baby lost her virginity to Johnny, which she seemed pretty pleased about. And frankly? I did not see that coming. Yes, Johnny clearly has a lot of severe mental and emotional problems, but this was next level. Big congrats to Baby, but Johnny what is up?

Even the girl from Modern Family was like, “Pardon me?”

So then Johnny was framed for stealing Katey Sagal’s watch, but Baby got him off because at the time of the theft she was getting him off. At which point Johnny made things right with Baby’s daddy. Johnny was just a stand-up bro.

This inspired Baby’s daddy to apologize to Debra Messing on a canoe, cancel their divorce, and then bone BIG TIME back at the cabin. Parents doing sex? Man, what next?

Here’s what’s next: The girl from Modern Family fell in love with someone of another race! I didn’t remember this plotline from the original movie, so I’m pretty sure it was inserted here to fill up time, but I’m also pretty sure we all learned a valuable lesson about tolerance FINALLY. To be clear, the girl from Modern Family would not have fallen for this babe of a different race had she not been nearly date raped by her No. 1 crush earlier. So maybe there are silver linings to all problematic things?

Then at this point somebody put Baby in a corner and Johnny ran in and was like, “Hey I do not appreciate where Baby is seated in this dining hall, she should be sitting at a table closer to the center of the room, but since party planning is not my forté how about I just take her onstage and scream-sing in her face about having the time of my life?” It was all very confusing, and this was how the all-ages summer camp’s end-of-summer talent show was finally ruined: By these two doofs assuming that not only would everyone enjoy watching them “dance,” they would even be roused to their feet to join in!

At this point Baby jumped into Johnny’s hands and they performed their signature move that they’d been working on all summer but had never properly performed, which was, uh, this. And man did the crowd go NUTS.

Never in their wildest dreams did Debra Messing and Baby’s daddy expect to see their daughter held aloft by a summer camp dance instructor for like 9 seconds. Just goes to show the things you can accomplish when you believe in yourself.

So, back to this book-ending thing. We flash forwarded many years and then suddenly this film became a tragic AIDS drama. Just kidding, it was only 1975, get real. Anyway, Baby had apparently written a BOOK about the summer she’d lost her virginity to a doof, and it was a big enough hit that somebody adapted it into a Broadway musical, yet she had to buy her own ticket and attend alone? Also, Johnny had choreographed it! What a small, nonsensical world!

But Baby now had a husband and daughter, and I suppose that since she’d written a book we can surmise that she had not followed the oppressive, patriarchal life path that this movie initially condemned for her Modern Family sister? No, Baby had gotten hella laid at least twice, so she was a full-fledged feminist icon now. That fateful summer she’d learned a lot of about dirtiness, be in regards to dancing or surgical instruments, and for that society was made better as a whole.

I did not enjoy “Dirty” “Dancing“!

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