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So far this week, I’ve endured three power outages (making it a challenge to get this column written and up,) and now we’re getting the affects of a tropical storm: stinging icy rain and 75 mile per hour wind gusts. Makes me long for a simple MidWestern Tornado. Because of the lateness of the column, I’ve combined the performance show and the results into one, so if you haven’t seen who gets the boot yet, don’t read this column.
Regardless, I have bigger problems: with Mark Cuban having been exiled from the celebrity ranks of Dancing With The Stars, whomever shall I ridicule?
I think I’ll go with the judges, who I believe intentionally weight the scores to give certain stars a better chance of staying on the show.
Let’s stop pretending these scores are anything other than biased. For example, I’ve pointed out the sweet and gentle treatment they use for Jennie Garth while they tend to skewer Helio Castroneves. My theory is they want Helio to go, and Jennie Garth – or possibly Mel B. – to win. Meanwhile, they turn a blind eye to the deficiencies of unbendable Cameron Mathison, because you wouldn’t want to lose the only celebrity currently starring on an ABC T.V. show. My proof? Season One winner Kelly Monaco…star of General Hospital, but certainly not the best dancer in that competition. The weekly scores are inconsistent from couple to couple, bearing no resemblance to the performances the audience sees…it’s as slanted as the judging in Olympic gymnastics, where the winners are chosen months before the competition begins and the only way an athlete will lose is if they decide to head to a Caribbean island instead of the uneven parallel bars.
And this is the time in the competition where the unfairness of the critiques really becomes apparent: when the couples are on stage together for the group performance, dancing side-by-side, and there’s no denying some are truly great, while others move with the grace and skill of heavily medicated ducks.
On now to the flock. Sabrina Bryan and Mark are first this week, and their rehearsal footage shows Sabrina working overtime as she preps a dance video with her fellow Cheetah Girls (thereby reinforcing my biggest complaint with her.) It looks suspiciously like her walk-in closet exploded, as she’s garbed in a most unflattering array of t-shirts, a vest, black tights, raggedy cut-off jeans skirts, bizarre off-white high wedge heels…I’m no fashion maven, but I’m seeing Blackwell’s List playing a prominent role in this girl’s future. Then she refers to Mark as the “fourth Cheetah Girl,” and I’m pretty sure their romance must be over. She goes on to say she’s “ekshtreemly” worried about learning the routine. I’m not sure if she should be that concerned about her dancing, but she should be concerned about having forgotten how to speak English. The two take to the floor for their fox trot, and while the moves are good, it isn’t fluid. And Mark can’t stop giving her “Eskimo kisses” throughout the performance, upping his “wussiness” factor by ten. The overall effort, while not their best, isn’t horrible. The judges, however, deliver a scathing review. Len says the approach was too hard and aggressive, with not enough highs and lows. Bruno announces there was no finesse, and points out a minor misstep Sabrina had. Carrie Ann disagrees, saying she thought it was great. Total score: only 25.
Jennie Garth and Derek are next. It’s funny: the announcer keeps calling Garth an actress, but the only thing we ever see her doing besides practicing the dances is being a mommy. It doesn’t help her cause she keeps saying during the interviews that she’s “not a performer.” This week they will perform a mambo…or in Jennie’s case, a mombo. For the second week in a row, she’s wearing an outfit that looks like it has a tail. Makes you wonder what she’s hiding. The performance is very dance by numbers, comes off as amateurish, and there are a couple of obvious mistakes with footwork and holds. But to the surprise of no one, the judges adore it. Bruno exclaims Jennie has steam heat and the dance was fantastic. Carrie Ann decrees the dance was fun for all, and Len describes their mambo as exceptional. I can only conclude they were watching a different show. The judges award 27 points.
Jane Seymore and Tony found themselves in the bottom two last week, so they will be fighting hard to keep that from happening again as they present a jive. In preparation, they visit a naval fleet and dance for them, because everyone knows all sailors are experts on 1940s dances. Haven’t you ever seen the huge ships out in the harbor with the men in uniforms swabbing the decks and hoisting the sails, all while performing a catchy little song and dance number? The band proceeds to mangle a slowed down version of David Bowie’s Modern Love as Jane and Tony turn in a lackluster jive. And I found myself distracted as I thought about Jane’s interview earlier in the week in which she revealed she’s had plastic surgery on her eyes, and she’s had breast implants. It’s all her own hair, though, so I’m still a little jealous. Carrie Ann acknowledges the dance was energetic, but also says it wasn’t Jane’s best. Len said, and I quote, “You’re pretty nifty for fifty…or…whatever,” and thought their jive was okay. Bruno agreed the pair didn’t do as well as they’ve done with the other more lyrical dances. The score: 22 points.
Cameron Mathison and poor, chilly Edyta will samba this week. To get them in the spirit of the hip-swiveling challenge, they head to Little Brazil. Apparently Mathison is a method actor. Perhaps if they fly to the actual South American country, he might stand a chance of winning…or not. An older woman at the dance hall tells Cameron that Brazilians are born with the samba in their blood…meaning she views this whole exercise as futile. Cam and Edyta come out for their performance, and for the first time, I’m completely stumped by the costumes. They’re kind of deer-skinesque, psuedo Native American things which have no relation to the dance, country of origin, or the music. What. The. Hell. I’m so distracted I have to rewind and watch the dance again. Nope. Still bland. It’s a samba at half speed. And they end three beats after the music over. Len says it was only good “in parts.” Bruno, like me, was confused by Captain Smith and Pocahontas doing a samba. Carrie Ann liked the primal feel to the presentation. 25 points…the same as Sabrina and Mark, who (even though I don’t like them) are indisputably better dancers.
Old Spice and Maks will now rumble…er…I mean rhumba. But I’m on the right track, as Maks describes the dance as being about love and hate. To get the point across, we’re shown a montage of their contentious relationship…and I wonder why Maks didn’t leave her little has-been butt in England when he had the chance. In spite of their problematic partnership, they provide the first real professional looking dance of the night. It’s smooth, it’s entertaining, it’s very, very good. Especially the end, where Mel ended up on Bruno’s lap…a move guaranteed to add several points to the score. Bruno effervesced at length about the beautiful pacing and the focus. Carrie Ann said she was mesmerized. Len described the dance as perfection. Actually, Len did a rhyming thing, like a bad attempt to channel the spirit of Dr. Seuss, but I’ll spare you the sad result. A perfect 30 is the score.
Marie “Smelling Salts” Osmond and Jonathon take on the paso doble this week. First the network gets a little more mileage out of the footage of Marie fainting, and she explains she has a history of passing out. Soooo…she’s kinda like one of those fainting goats. Whatever you do, don’t frighten her. We also see Jonathon reminding her to breath: In…okay, now out…now in again….aaaand out. C’mon, man! She’s not blond. As they begin their dance, I’m distracted by an errant squeak from one of the clarinets. Careful. You might startle Marie into a faint. They have the right attitude and expression, and the dance wasn’t bad, but it seemed to be more about skirt twirling than substance. Host Tom Bergeron comments that’s the longest he’s ever seen an Osmond go without smiling. Carrie Ann didn’t feel Marie gave the paso her all. Len states he’s afraid to say anything, since last time he spoke to her, she passed out. He goes on to say he liked the opening, but then it deteriorated, and felt more like a gypsy cooking sausages around a campfire. Look…I don’t make this stuff up. Bruno felt Marie was too cranky. 23 points.
Last for the individual couples portion of the show are Helio Castroneves and Julianne, who will cha-cha. In the rehearsal footage, we discover Helio can’t stick his butt out. It’s like the lumbar portion of his spine is fused. When it comes to doing it in front of a live audience, however, Helio comes to life, and the dance isn’t bad. It lacks the spark they had early on, but the basics are there, and it’s still better than at least half the couples we’ve seen. I get the feeling this pair is holding back for the group dance, when they’ll get to throw in some tricks and the previously forbidden lifts. The judges are much kinder to Helio and Julianne than they have been in the most recent weeks, with Len telling them it was fantastic, Bruno announcing they are back in the race, and Carrie Ann stating the “Latin booty was working overtime.” Well, it’s no warp-drive crotch action, but it will do. Their score…28 points.
To kill time and allow Helio and Julianne to get changed, we’re shown the video of the couples prepping for the first group presentation. Christian Perry is the choreographer, and he’s chosen the over-used theme of a 1950s Rock & Roll rumble. Think Danny and Sandi crossed with Sodapop, Cherry, and Johnny. (Stay golden, Pony Boy.) And they’re rehearsing on the old Happy Days set. I kept waiting for Arnold to come out with a basket of fries for them. Ba-ha-ha-ha-ha!
Let me be blunt: I didn’t like the final product. Some couples got more time in the spotlight than others, and the camera work was such that I couldn’t do a decent comparison of technique. Each pair was allowed five to fifteen seconds of solo work, and they all wasted it with a fancy lift which didn’t demonstrate anything but the guy’s ability to heft their partner into the air, regardless of size. The only thing I saw for sure was a mistake by Jane Seymore…and I’m not talking about that awful platinum wig they made her wear. Okay, I am…but not just the wig.
And so Monday ended. Then came The Results Show.
Now, before we talk about who is out, I would like to point out Tom Bergeron’s statement during Monday’s show – before votes were even cast - when he said the results this week would be surprising. And at the beginning of the Results Show, he again said we should all expect the unexpected. It was as though he already knew somehow we would all be stunned. So when the time finally came…I wasn’t. By so thoroughly preparing us for a startling dismissal, TPTB took all the fun out of it for the audience. It’s like blind-folding someone for a taste test, then telling them exactly what you’re putting in their mouth.
But we didn’t get to the axing right away. There was so much more to cover. For example, Jane Seymore was M.I.A. due to a bout of food poisoning. Did Cameron Mathison slip a vial of something vile into Jane’s smoothie? Or did Mel B. taint her tuna? We may never know, but on the upside, the whole thing could result in a nice Pepto Bismal endorsement for Ms. Seymore.
We begin with Tom introducing some special guests: firemen who have been battling the California blazes.
As the dance of the week, the judges take the easy way out and choose the group dance. And I’ll be darned if the director doesn’t call for the exact same sucky camera shots they used on Monday. Choose some alternative angles! Show us something different. Lazy, lazy, lazy. No Emmy for you.
Barry Manilow arrived to perform his newest hit, Looks Like I Bottoxed. He’s apparently become very good friends with Wayne Newton’s plastic surgeon. I used to really like Barry…until he decided to pick on sweet little expectant mother, Elizabeth Hasselbeck. I wonder if he checked everyone’s politics before he agreed to set foot on the DWTS stage. Probably not. I’m betting that the need to hype his new CD probably outweighed his “values” this time. What a shmuck.
The network then seized the moment to promote yet another show: Dance Wars, which will premiere this Spring. The premise is Bruno and Carrie Ann will each head up teams of performers who can sing and dance. The teams will compete against each other, with people being eliminated each week. Sounds simple enough, but because it will be hosted by Drew Lachey, I’ll never watch it.
Finally the bottom two couples are revealed: Cameron and Edyta versus Sabrina and Mark. Both of these pairs were middle of the pack, score-wise, so they must not have as much fan support. The judges seemed shocked, although they certainly must have known prior to the show who would end up headed out the door. Bruno describes the results as…madness. The final tally is revealed, and Sabrina and Mark are out. I can’t say I’m really broken up about it. I can only presume that most viewers agreed with me: a professional dancer shouldn’t be in this competition.
Were you surprised? Upset? Relieved? For me, the big question is this: with a writers strike imminent, will there be anything on Tom and Samantha’s cue cards on Monday?