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'Welcome to the Thunderdome of Dallas, Ladies'

Oh, AT&T Stadium. Home of the Dallas Cowboys football club, a team trying to relive their glory days with a rookie who does not understand the concept of a T-shirt and a quarterback who does not hold a candle to that tight Jean wearing Troy Aikman.

But no, this review is not about how the Cowboys long to relive their Super Bowl dominance from the early 1990s. No, this is about the often imitated, never duplicated Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

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Now in its 11th season, CMT’s reality show, “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team,” gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the girls who want to shake it off in front of thousands at one of football’s biggest venues. Each season, hundreds of girls audition for the team, but only a select few are chosen to wear the sought-after DCC uniform, which is composed of mere inches of fabric and “leads us” to the first episode on this year’s “illustrious journey.”

After a brief season preview (teaser), a dramatic camera angle takes us to our “main stage,” AT&T Stadium. Typically, auditions begin with bubbly girls with big hair - which signifies their closeness to God, so I hear - beaming with pride. Instead, the common accessory - aside from over-sized wall mirrors - are umbrellas.

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And the thunder rolls.

“The Dallas Cowboys are the best of the best,” remarks Heather O. from Tuscon, Arizona. “I think if you’re going to dream you might as well dream big. And what’s bigger than dreaming about being a DCC.”

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I don’t know, Heather. For me it’s eating an entire jalapeño and pineapple pizza in one sitting. But I’m a simple girl.

As more girls walk into the stadium, we finally have our first backstory, courtesy of Tasha, a 25-year-old potential rookie from Syracuse, Utah. Tasha is a single mother who, at the age of 19, became pregnant with her first child, a girl. Instead of allowing herself to believe her life is over after pushing out a human from her uterus (and possibly having a constant fear of pooping on herself in the process (I know I do)), Tasha is hoping to become a DCC to inspire her youngling - and others, I’m assuming - to never give up.

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Illustration for article titled Welcome to the Thunderdome of Dallas, Ladies

“I started dancing when I was 3-years-old, and since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader,” she says. “When a lot of people found out that I was going to have a baby, (they) would say to me, ‘Oh, that’s so sad. You could have gone somewhere in life.’ And it really, really hurt me. But in the back of my head I always still had my dreams, and I was determined to prove them wrong.”

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Tasha’s resume, like others auditioning, include cheering for other professional sports teams. But the DCC is the best of the best, they all say, and that’s where they want to be.

After Tasha’s story comes to an end, we are treated to a sweet camera shot of the Dallas Cowboys logo located on the 50-yard line of AT&T Stadium’s field. It is there we see our queen, Kelli Finglass, a former DCC and current director of the program. Clad in a dark blue - not to be confused with Smurf blue - she gives us a glimpse of what it is like cheering for the team every Sunday (and sometimes on Monday and/or Thursday) during the season.

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Illustration for article titled Welcome to the Thunderdome of Dallas, Ladies

During Finglass’ introduction, we are treated to a monologue highlighting the DCC’s 2015-16 season, which included two USO tours and a performance on WWE’s biggest stage, WrestleMania, in front of more than 100,000. The crowd, based on my expertise of sports entertainment, were most likely rooting for Brock Lesnar. He’s the absolute worst. But this isn’t about him.

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As Finglass provides us insight into what it takes to become a DCC, we are later told that a recently added staple to the judging panel will not be with us this year as she - Melissa Rycroft - is uber pregnant. But don’t worry, this former DCC will be back later in the season to mentor the girls as they go through training camp. She assures us this is true as she rubs her stomach and smiles a Texas smile, a common occurrence for Finglass and Co. as they judge the ladies. It is important to note that since Rycroft returned to DCC as a showmanship mentor, the show makes no note of her stint on ABC’s “The Bachelor.” No, “viewers” will only know Ms. Rycroft as the winner of “Dancing with the Stars.” In a previous “Making the Team” season, she ranked the Mirror Ball Trophy after her family, which is kind of a slap to the face of those who were really invested in that season of DWTS - at least that’s what my mother tells me.

Anyway, since Rycroft is incubating a human currently, Finglass added a new special guest judge (and personal friend) Anthony Ramos, a fashion consultant for “Access Hollywood.” We meet Ramos before learning of Rycroft’s situation and, during his introduction, we see the fashion consultant greet Finglass on Cowboys field with a faux kiss on both cheeks. They later look each other up and down like high school-aged freshmen on the first day of school. Like Finglass, Ramos coordinated his outfit to show he is a “fan” of the team and throughout this episode we hear a lot from Ramos, including brilliant commentary about how hard it is to become a DCC. Baking cookies is hard, too.

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Illustration for article titled Welcome to the Thunderdome of Dallas, Ladies

As we watch the girls get their glam on, Ramos interviews some of the girls who bedazzled the hell out of their outfits. The scene plays out like an grown up version of “Dance Moms,” but with less yelling from an Abby Lee Miller cosplayer.

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During Ramos’ interviews we once again meet Kyndall (God!) from San Antonio, Texas who made it to training camp last year but was cut before the team was announced. Finglass encouraged Kyndall (I can’t with this spelling) to audition again and she came back for the third (!!!) time.

“Hopefully I’ll have the chance to show them what it takes,” she says while tearing up. It’s do or die for this gal, she adds.

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After a welcome introduction from Finglass, we are greeted with our third story of the night - Yuko, a 23-year-old DCC hopeful from Osaka, Japan. “Go Cowboys!” A professional cheerleader in Japan, Yuko has been working her tail off to make her DCC dreams become a reality, but will a language barrier prevent her from making the dream? Time will tell.

The first round of auditions focused on whittling down DCC hopefuls to around 104 who will be back for the next round, semi-finals. Round one allows the girls time to introduce themselves and perform a 90 second routine of their choosing. The judges panel is composed of several returning judges but, in addition to Ramos, Finglass and Co. introduces us to another guest judge who has pageant experience, Candice Crawford Romo, the sister of Chace Crawford whom we all know from “Gossip Girl.” Aside from her experience in the pageant world, her presence allows us to forget the crappy quarterbacking her husband, Tony, has provided The Cowboys for years. Yes, he can’t throw the ball well, but he’s good at picking arm candy. At least this is the impression I get from her introduction.

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Finglass explains the judging system in place to viewers, which sounds very simple to the average viewer. It’s not in the DCC world. Judges are asked to focus and vote on a girl’s stage presence and if they would they want to see her again. And you can’t forget the most important question of them all - will she look good in the uniform. Uggos and girls with a little bit of a muffin top need not apply. Finglass and her two co-hosts - Judy Trammell, DCC’s head choreographer and former squad member, and Charlotte Jones Anderson is the Dallas Cowboys Executive Vice President and Chief Brand Officer - use this information to determine the next round.

Between auction monologues we are introduced to a few new girls, including several returners. One girl - Jenna from Austin, Texas - cheered for the team in 2011, but was cut due to weight issues. Being cut was “heartbreaking,” she says.

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The dancing continues.

As the judges deliberate the 104 who will make it to the next round, we see DCC hopefuls take a breather or two as they await the news. Once the judges determine who is in the semi-finals, a long time Cowboys security guard who reminds me of the dad from “227" brings out a white board filled with audition numbers. Ah, the fab 104.

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For the girls who don’t make it to semi-finals, tears start to flow as the girls cut reflect on what they did right and what they did wrong. Ramos tells viewers news we already know - if their number is not listed, they go home. Thanks for that.

As girls scour for their numbers, the ones selected to move on ask their peers to take their photo as they pose next to the board. The pose is tradition during the DCC audition process. Your pointer finger must be that - pointed - as it reaches to one’s designated number. Each girl pops out their hip in the direction that gives a 3-D approach to the photo. I don’t even know to describe it because I only cheered for 12 hours after I quit to pursue softball. I’m sure I would have been able to perfect this move if I didn’t love hamburgers so much.

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Illustration for article titled Welcome to the Thunderdome of Dallas, Ladies

Semi-finals is a “deal breaker” for the girls who can’t pick up DCC choreography quick enough and for those who have terrible kicks. The kick line is a common sight at Cowboys games and one mistake can throw things off, at least that’s what Finglass has told us for the past 11 seasons.

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Semi-finals is all a blur - except for a 30 second freak out about some girl who peed on the dance floor (who hasn’t done that before) - but it helps Finglass determine the girls who make it to finals. At finals, the girls will be greeted by returning veteran hopefuls who have to re-audition for the team. Finglass is the first cheerleader in DCC history who has not had to do so. That’s why she’s the boss.

Several girls profiled in the premiere episode of season 11 make it to finals, including Kyndall and Amy of Rochford, Illinois who previously auditioned for the team (four times!) and made it to finals last year only to be cut before training camp. We find out if Amy and Kyndall make it to training camp next week, but not before each finalist is filmed for a “fans’ choice” spot that guarantees one girl a “Golden Ticket” into training camp. The girl who receives the most votes gets the spot. In previous seasons, the “fans’ choice” vote has not made the team. One could compare it to winning a Grammy for Best New Artist.

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Until next week, keep shaking those pom poms.

Missypoo50 wrote this review while not feeling well on a Friday night. She is a fan of reality television and is a former fan of the Dallas Cowboys. She began watching “Making the Team” a year ago after catching a marathon on Logo and is looking forward to more seasons on the horizon (because she has no life).

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“Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team” airs at 9 p.m. Thursdays on CMT. The first episode of season 11 premiered this week.

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