Casey Reed, an afternoon drive-time DJ on Philadelphia’s Q102, has been holding down a second gig as a TV host of “Dancin On Air.” The show’s format is an old chestnut of television: local teenagers dancing to popular music.
“I thought it was a good resume-builder,” said Reed, who has been with the show for four years. “I’m getting to the point where I ask myself, ‘Why?'”
“Dancin’ on Air” began in Philadelphia in 1981, and went national in 1986 as “Dance Party USA.” It was the launching pad of TV host Kelly Ripa and actor Tom Verica, who is now on “How to To Get Away with Murder.” Madonna had her first television appearance on the show. Duran Duran made their American TV debut on the show.
Then, it disappeared for more than 20 years, returning to local television in 2011. “Dancin On Air” is once again trying to go national, this time as a reality show on the Fuse cable channel.
“Now that Fuse as come in, to hit record on the whole thing and see what it’s really like, is why I stayed on,” said Reed.
“Saturday Morning Fever,” broadcasting Wednesday at 11p.m. on the Fuse channel, tracks the lives of “Dancin’ On Air” featured dancers, their lofty ambitions and egos as they strive for stardom. Both shows were shot simultaneously, with two different crews and two different agendas.
“We’ve had people who have been hosts and it goes right to their heads,” said Michael Nise, one of the original producers of “Dancin’ On Air.” “We try to find people who are just natural people who can talk to one another without getting a big head.”
The reality show, on the other hand, picks out the quirky behaviors and rough edges of adolescent personalities on and off the dance floor. The producers saw the Philadelphia teenagers had something not often seen on television.
“They are identifiable. They are not completely outlandish, but they are unique,” said Fuse vice president Michael Dugan. “There is some tension, but we really do try to avoid the kind of television show where people throw flower vases at each other.”
The show’s Virgil is played by Reed, who is not a dancer and does not intend to be. In addition to raising hackles against the lackadaisical production methods of “Dancin On Air,” she is seen tending to the various other parts of her life.
“I have a lot going on,” said Reed. “I have girlfriend, Brittany, and we’re trying to plan a wedding and how to have children through in vitro. I have a rental property I’m trying to keep up. And I’m always planning for the apocalypse.”
Describing herself as a “type-A” personality, Reed finds herself sometimes ill prepared to deal with a room full of sweating teenagers. Nise says the production was particularly complicated because two shooting crews had to maneuver around each other.
“I have an innate fear of mass chaos,” said Reed. “However that’s created – biologically, nuclear warfare – I like to be prepared at all times.”
When the first, 6-episode season of “Saturday Morning Fever” is broadcast, Fuse will also begin streaming exclusive new episodes of “Dancin’ On Air” on its website.