Monday, March 16, 2009

Dancing with the Stars: Top 13 Part 1

Welcome to another season of the world’s most dangerous reality T.V. show: Dancing with the Stars. Uninsured celebrities need not apply.

Since premeditating this season, two celebrities have already been forced to drop out for dancing-relating injuries. Jewel fell victim to fractures in both legs (Yeeeouch!) and Nancy O’dell freaking tore her meniscus (which, after some extensive research on wikipedia, is something important in the knee). Neither of these ladies look particular fragile, so what I have to ask is: what the hell kind of dances have they been learning? I know ballroom dancing is physical, but damn…

Dance by dance, after the jump…

Li’l Kim would like to dedicate her cha-cha to all her girlfriends in prison, which is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. It’s such a shame she brought that gem out in the first 10 minutes of the show, because we could have used it later (it’s all downhill from there). As the Latin-infused beats of Nasty Boyz (?) comes on, “Black Barbie and Ken” dance a perfectly adequate cha-cha. I immediately notice that she has good hip action and footwork. I also notice that her face looks almost as tight as Derek’s pants, which is VERY. The judges make the usual nonsensical remarks and score her straight 7’s, which is a respectable way to start on this show. I feel I must address the “prison” issue, because it seems to be coming up a lot and people are confused. Li’l Kim served time in prison for conspiracy and perjury (she apparently lied under oath to protect a friend), so it’s not like she went to jail for cutting someone or something. It does seem kind of strange to giggle and laugh about a stint in prison, especially on camera to an audience that may or may know what exactly happened, but I don’t think Li’l Kim is ashamed or embarrassed about her criminal record, so there’s no point in keeping it under wraps. I did laugh, though, when Tom Bergeron cracked a joke at her expense (“I’d like to dedicate my hosting duties to the guys at Rikers Island…”), even if Li’l Kim didn’t find it particularly funny.

Belinda Carlisle is up next, and she and her partner, Jonathan Roberts, will grace us with the first epically boring dance of the season. I think the Waltz is my least favorite ballroom dance, at least on this show. Professionally, it’s fast and spinning and almost dizzying to watch, but watching Jonathan and Belinda do it, zzzzzz. It seems Belinda was worried about the spins making her dizzy, so much so that she is anxious about perhaps vomiting on the dancefloor. That would be awesome. Meanwhile, we never see Jonathan teach her how to spot turns, which would be really helpful. Anyway, like I said, the dance is boring and Belinda is incredibly stiff, thudding around the floor like she’s a 500 lb. bedazzled statue. The judges agree with me and score her at 17.

Next is Lawrence Taylor, the one who played football. He feels the pressure to do as well as all the previous professional football players, and based on his cha-cha, he has a long way to go. What we have here is an example of the paradox that plagues many a hot-blooded hetero celebrity on this show: the fear of looking foolish tends to make one dance stiff and straight, which makes one look like an uncoordinated oaf. Why must all of these men be afraid to move their hips? Is it because it looks gay? I lose patience with this – it’s every season with this show. If you’re worried about looking twee, you probably shouldn’t agree to be on this show. Anyway – sure enough, Lawrence lets his insecurities get the best of him. Despite all of Edyta’s efforts to make the dance exciting, all I can see is how wooden and uninvolved he is. The judges hand him a 16.

Here comes Steve-O. I was hard on him in my premeditative post, but it turns out he has been in rehab for a couple of months facing his demons. He hopes DWTS will be a wholesome activity and a good addition to his post-rehab regimen. I’m sure it won’t hurt his career, either. He is much more behaved in the rehearsal footage than I would have expected, and Lacey Schwimmer seems up to the challenge of keeping him on track. Johnny Knoxville and Weeman are in the audience to join us as we watch the most bizarre waltz I’ve ever seen on this show. Steve-O is obviously enjoying himself, which is a plus, but he performs the dance like it’s one of his stunts; no rhythm, no grace, no control. Despite all of this (and quite a few miffed steps), I have to agree with the judges that it was decent for a first outing, but he’s got a lot of work to do. At least he’s entertaining. He scores a 17.

Gilles Marini is next and I’ve been looking forward to this, because up to this point all I know about him is that he has a penis and likes to show it, which forces me to think of him as a slice of man-meat, as opposed to an actual person. It seems this show thinks similarly because the camera wastes no time before zooming in on his ass during the rehearsal footage (and seriously, thanks!). His partner, Cheryl Burke, raves about his natural abilities, that is… when she isn’t admonishing him for being too feminine. They show us so much footage of Cheryl calling him a woman that I’m wondering what they want me to take from it all. Am I supposed to think he’s a fruitcake? Is that supposed to be a bad thing? Their cha-cha is fantastic thanks to Gilles natural Latin fire and an obvious talent for dancing (and Cheryl’s choreography, I guess). The judges give him a 24… very high marks for a premiere.

Moving on to Chuck Wicks and Julianne Hough: we’re subjected to the first (of many…I presume) excruciating rehearsal packages in which we explore the trials and tribulations of trying to be a couple and a “couple” at the same time. Julianne finds Chuck to be the most frustrating pupil she has ever had, while Chuck ADDs all over the place. This is going to get real old real fast. Their waltz is almost impressive – lots of fast spins and fast footwork – but Chuck looks confused a good bit of the time, and Julianne is clearly pulling him along. The judges, after commending him on his natural grace, urge him to work on refining his movements and dancing less frantically. He scores a 20 (too high in my opinion, especially considering the obvious LIFT!)

After checking in with Jewel and her bum legs, we are introduced to her replacement: Holly Madison, previously known for being one of Hugh Hefner’s pieces of arm-candy. Historically, women like Holly have not fared well on this show, probably because of the show’s voting base, which I imagine to be mostly housewives and gays. She threatens the housewives and lacks the personality to turn on the guys, so basically she’s cannon fodder. I worry even more for her because her partner is Dmitry Chaplin, a new and relatively unknown professional. What Dmitry lacks in name recognition he makes up by being incredibly attractive. The new couple has only had about a week to prepare their cha-cha, so we shouldn’t expect perfection. As they dance, I can see some tentativeness on Holly’s part, and Dmitry is visibly coaching her through it, but all in all, it’s a totally passable performance. The judges comment that she has great potential and will probably be a contender once she’s caught up with the others. The question, though, is whether or not this audience will get behind a Playboy model… She scores an 18.

I lost a huge bet with the girls in the typing pool because Ty Murray showed up to the premiere without a cowboy hat perched atop his head. I will probably hold a grudge. Ty is about as country as this show has ever gotten, so of course he’s uncomfortable with all the hip-swinging and butt-shaking. He mentions at least five times that all of his friends are probably laughing at him, so I must scream at my TV, “WHY DID YOU COME ON THE SHOW THEN?!” But then I remember Jewel and how this was supposed to be some sort of ratings coup - a real-life married couple competing against each other - and I think he was probably roped into this, much like the poor cows at his rodeo, and then I feel a little sorry for him. Well, don’t worry, Ty… you probably won’t be around for long. I’m sad, though, because I love Chelsie Hightower. Girl, that’s called pulling the short straw – better luck next season. Their cha-cha is awkward, scary, and very hard to watch. He totally loses it about halfway through – Chelsie can only cover so much. I will say, though, that despite his reservations and obvious discomfiture, he did try very hard. I think the judges agree, because they score him at a very generous 14.

YAY! Shawn Johnson and Mark Ballas. I’m very excited about this pair. Unfortunately, the show has opted to start them with a waltz, rather than a hot and sexy Latin dance, so I suppose I’ll have to wait another week before seeing Ballas’s hips blazing around the dance floor like I like it. The show also refuses to let us forget Shawn’s young age, as evidenced by her inability to suppress her giggles during rehearsals. Honestly, I think she is handling herself quite well – I don’t know what I would do if Mark Ballas looked at me that way. Actually, yes I do. But I’ll save it for myself. Aaaanyway, their waltz is great, as expected. Shawn would like us to believe her gymnastics won’t help her in the competition, but that’s just bullshit. The gymnastics have taught her how to be graceful and poised and balanced, so she should just own it. The judges score her well (23), but they do call her out for her PRESENTATION arms. Also, is it just me, or is her voice a lot less squeaky than it was at the Olympics? Thank God.

Oh, Steve Wozniak. I laugh and I cry and I shake my head. There are times when I find his dorkiness endearing and then there are times when I really want the other professional dancers to stuff him in a locker. I mean, I thought most nerds kind of grow out of it, but Steve is probably no less socially awkward than he was at 13. I love it when he spouts off some nerd-speak in front of Karina, because her looks of incredulity are priceless. Seriously, her eyes glaze over like she’s trying to find her happy place. Of course, the dance is terrible. He’s flat-footed and sloppy, and there are many wince-worthy moments. But, at the same time, he is so into it, it’s impossible not to smile. The judges’ reactions are complimentary (he’s having fun) but damning (Bruno called him a teletubby of all things). He scores a 13.

Poor Kym Johnson has no idea what to do with David Alan Grier. Neither do I. I don’t know if I found his shtick funny or annoying. I do know that he comes across kind of crazy, and I’m not sure if that’s on purpose or not. I am curious, however, to find out… so well played, DAG. Their waltz is actually pretty solid as far as technique goes, but he makes some of the strangest faces. The waltz face is serene and happy, but he looks like he is coming unglued. I’m glad the judges mention it, because that means they found it as disconcerting as I. They score a 19, and it would have been higher if it hadn’t been for a lift in there somewhere.

It’s only the first week and Maxsim has already made his partner cry. That man sure works fast. Is he really that much of a douche bag or is Denise Richards just too sensitive? I have to be honest; I’m not much interested in watching these two kids fight every week. Just shut up and dance, Richards, because if you suck and get kicked off early I’ll give you something to cry about. Sadly, their cha-cha isn’t fantastic – she’s stiff and wooden and frightened of the steps, leaving Max to do most of the work (and work he does). The judges collectively encourage her to let go more and PERFORM, which I think she can probably do (she better), if only to keep Max from yelling at her some more. She receives an 18. As a superficial aside: has Max gained some weight, esp. in the posterior area? I’m not complaining at all, it just seems juicier than usual back there, and trust me, I was looking.

Last and certainly least: Melissa Rycroft, the 11th hour replacement for Nancy O’Dell. I have never seen a single episode of The Bachelor or any of its derivatives, so I have no idea who this chick is, but the internets tell me that she was chosen by The Bachelor and then un-chosen in a despicable way, so we’re all supposed to love her and support her because she done been wronged something awful. She was pulled into this venture less than two days ago and has been paired with Tony Dovalani (not sure which of those is worse), so tonight we’re going to see the most under-rehearsed waltz in DWTS history. Yippee. But shut up, everyone, because their performance is actually quite good – like, a whole lot better than some of the others. Sure, Tony has to verbally coach her the whole time, which is kind of distracting, but she certainly doesn’t suck. The judges are impressed and score her a 23, which is tied for the second highest score of the night.

Here’s how things stand at the end of Round 1. Next Monday is Round 2 followed by eliminations on Tuesday.

Gilles and Cherly – 24
Melissa and Tony – 23
Shawn and Mark – 23
Li’l Kim and Derek – 21
Chuck and Julianne – 20
D.A.G. and Kym – 19
Holly and Dmitry – 18
Denise and Maksim – 18
Belinda and Jonathan – 17
Steve-O and Lacey – 17
Lawrence and Edtya – 16
Ty and Chelsie – 14
Steve and Karina – 13

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