Welcome to another sequin studded, rhythmically challenged season of Dancing With The Stars! Twelve new sort-of celebrities are ready to try their luck on the dance floor and I'm here to make sure no fainting spell, inelegant slip, bent leg or hunched back goes unmentioned. Nothing gets by me! Well, except all those pesky details that I perpetually gloss over, such as Tom and Samantha's banter and other assorted stuff that you won't miss. Trust me.
Because apparently all good things come in pairs, somebody smart at ABC decided to prolong our
painpleasure by kicking off the fun with two fiendishly long nights of dancing. That's about 12 massive hours of action which I am hereby condensing into a scant 367 pages of rock solid reporting. What this means is that I'm cutting all the fat and bringing you the bare bones only. No laborious descriptions of the sequined butt floss that passes for costumes on this show, no painstaking depictions of the incredible musical stylings of the house band, no lingering accounts of Samantha's hairstyles and Len's wacky ties. Sorry, but unless you want to spend what's left of your natural life reading this recap, something had to be done.
Unfortunately nobody will be eliminated this week and next week they're doing the whole thing all over again. Don't ask me why. Such are the mysterious and torturous ways of Dancing With The Stars. All the usual suspects – Len, Bruno and Carrie – are back, the floor is polished, the musicians are ready to murder every song, the disco ball is spinning and I've had my glass of wine already. Let's get to it.
A fresh crop of stale celebs
Tom and his sidekick Samantha are back as well and waste no time whatsoever telling us that we have another season of superlatives coming our way. The oldest and youngest competitors ever are on the show along with the tallest and shortest people they've ever had. The twelve pros, some returning some new, give us a nice dance presentation. I have a feeling this just may be the last bit of good dancing I'll see on the show for a while. As I feast my eyes on the returning talent I notice that there's no Maks. No Maks? Perhaps he got tired of coming in second behind cartoonish race car drivers and just ahead of crass, mawkish and talentless doll designers who shall remain nameless. Can't really blame him. Without further ado, this season's new couples are:
- Penn Jillette and Kym Johnson – Hulking goateed funny man magician and the talking half of the famed Penn and Jilette Vegas act.
- Jason Taylor and Edyta Sliwinska – Cute but I've never heard of him. Supposedly he's a Man of the Year of something or other.
- Christian de la Fuente and Cheryl Burke – Another
nobodyactor that I'll just call eye candy. Ay caramba!
- Adam Carolla and Julianne Hough – Comedian and radio host.
- Mario and Karina Smirnoff – He was introduced as R&B star. I'll just have to take their word for it.
- Steve Guttenberg and Anna Trebunskaya – Actor best known for Three Men and a Baby. At least that's the only movie from which I remember with him.
- Shannon Elizabeth and Derek Hough – Freakishly tall actress of American Pie fame.
- Monica Seles and Jonathan Roberts – Grand Slam tennis champion.
- Marissa Jaret Winokur and Tony Dovolani – Vaguely familiar actress and Broadway star whom I can't place.
- Priscilla Presley and Louis van Amstel - The woman formerly married to Elvis. Currently 62 years old and put together almost entirely out of spare parts that are not biodegradable.
- Kristi Yamaguchi and Mark Ballas – Olympic gold medalist figure skater.
- Marlee Matlin and Fabian Sanchez – Oscar winning actress with the new pro.
Men of the hour ( and a half)
After this nice lineup the men are all ready to dance for the first time and they'll be either doing the Cha Cha or the Foxtrot. First up are Penn and Kym. He says that Dancing is bigger than anything he's ever done but Kym just feels that Penn is the biggest guy she's ever danced with. Penn is aware of his shortcomings in the dancing and looks department, and in rehearsals it's apparent that he lacks grace, fluidity and pretty much any dancing talent. Their first routine is a Cha Cha Cha which is long on comedy but short on proper Cha Cha steps. Penn is a bit stiff and not very nimble although he seems to be having fun. The judges think he did reasonably well, despite his huge feet and appreciated his attitude. His marks are 5-6-5 for a total of 16 points.
Jason and Edyta are up next and right away I learn something. Seems Jason is a football star with the Miami Dolphins. Because we've had so few of those on this show over the years. He's tall and bald and worried about his macho reputation. In spite of his stated fear he meets Edyta wearing a sequined black T-shirt and later during rehearsals dances in a pink tutu that was a gift from his teammates. He looks very macho in it. Rehearsals are not as awkward as you'd think since Jason is committed to learning the ropes. Their first dance is a Foxtrot which looks reasonably smooth. We may just have ourselves a football star who can move. Len is impressed by his posture and elegance, Carrie feels they did a great job, Bruno says he's graceful but needs more romance and heat. Their scores are 7-8-7 for a total of 22.
Resident hunk, Chilean Christian de la Fuente wants to bring romance to the show although he needs a lot of work. Cheryl deems him a tad robotic and stiff, and watching them doing the Cha Cha, I must agree. There is potential there though if he can do something about those wooden arms. Cheryl compensates for him a lot and they finish strong. Carrie likes sexy Christian and thinks the Cha Cha fits him but wants him to watch his posture. Bruno says something about riding bikes and banging and instruments and being on top of, er, things. Len liked everything below the hip but warns that his upper body needs to catch up. They get 7-7-7 for a total of 21 points.
I can't raise my arms that high, Cheryl!
Did Adam Carolla hit the pro dancer jackpot with Julianne Hough? It remains to be seen whether she can mold him into a dancer, however, in the studio the going is rough. He feels weird dancing with a teenager, she probably feels that mirror ball trophy rapidly slipping away from her grasp. The dance the Foxtrot, or maybe I should say Julianne dances while Adam glides around somewhat from left to right. Bruno likens his performance to a bit of third rate comedic acting and points out his considerable posture problems. Len felt he was stiff but liked the footwork and wants him to relax. Carrie thought it was neither here nor there for her. She politely declares that he needs more work. I'll say. They get 5s across the board for a total of 15 points.
Supposedly Mario is a big time R&B star. He is also 21, making him the youngest contestant. He feels he lucked out with Karina as she is a great dancer, however, there are problems. Karina needs surgery for a herniated disk in her neck (ouch!) and this leaves Mario to fend for himself for a few days in the studio. She finally returns wearing a neck brace and they're back to rehearsing. What's a bit of neck surgery when a Cha Cha is on the line? They dance to a hip-hoppy remake of an old disco song. Mario has some moves, and the judges agree. Carrie says he can dance, Len liked it but wants better footwork and Bruno was just excited. It takes so little! All the hip shaking brings them three 8s for a total of 24 points.
Last but not least, we have Steve Guttenberg who is paired with Anna who seems to be a bit of a control freak. Steve is a fan of the show, but a fan does not a dancer make, despite his determination to succeed. In desperation, I guess, she takes him to a bona fide ballroom competition to show him how things should be. If she wanted to discourage a budding not-so-talented dancer, this was excellent strategy. Steve was instead excited, poor thing. Their dance is the Foxtrot. Steve takes big visible breaths, performs the dance rather than dances it and feels relieved to just finish. Bruno compares him to Billy Ray, which is quite cruel, but still says he should watch the arms more. Carrie warms him about his musicality, while Len saw enjoyment and smiles and felt the charm. Backstage, while praising the show, Steve babbles on about world peace, life affirming wholesomeness and such, almost putting me to sleep. They earn all 6s, for a total for 18.
Mario is in the lead with 24 points while Adam is in last place with 16.
This is where I'd normally pack it in and let you go but alas, you're not that lucky this time. There are six female so-so stars who need some attention too. The following is a somewhat faithful account of events in the ballroom as they happened on Tuesday night. I'll cut out as much of the cheese as I can. I promise.
Steppin' out with the ladies
The first woman up is Shannon Elizabeth. Shannon is not a heels kind of girl and adjusting to those dance shoes was a challenge for her. Practice is a mixed bag. Perhaps in an attempt to wow the two or three males watching this show, Shannon is wearing only a top and no skirt. While this may work for ratings, it didn't work for Len who notes that she needs more perfect footwork with such a short dress. Bruno wants her to learn how to use those long legs better and Carrie loved her energy. They earn all 7s for a total of 21 points.
Whoa! You forgot to put on a skirt!
Monica Seles is best known for her excellence on the tennis court, but she admits to having no dance experience at all and it shows. Practice seems like a big chore and Monica is having second thoughts about the process. They plod painfully through the Foxtrot. Monica looks stiff and tentative. Bruno liked the romantic sentiment they tried to convey but didn't see any gracefulness. Len liked the story and the elegance, but agrees with Bruno that she needs to strengthen her core. Carrie felt she struggled but appreciates the delicacy of her delivery. Their scores are 5s across the board for a total of 15 points.
Another star I sort of, kind of maybe have heard of but not really, is Marissa Jaret Winokur. She wants to show “women of all sizes” that you can dance and be sexy. She chirps excitedly and is keyed up like a battery operated poodle during rehearsals but things are not completely hopeless. When they finally hit the floor, there's too much hip hop and precious little Cha in their Cha Cha. The audience seems to like it, and they get a standing ovation. Carrie wasn't happy with the lack of content, Bruno enjoyed the personality but wanted more Cha Cha. Len was “bewitched” but felt they didn't do enough. They earn 18 points total.
At the age of 62, tragic plastic surgery victim Priscilla Presley is the oldest woman ever on the show. I wonder how many times she will mention Elvis before she's eliminated. The count is up to three already. Although elimination is not on the agenda for her as she wants to win. Louis thinks they need a big gesture to make a lasting first impression and tells her that they need to incorporate the “death spiral” in their routine. I'm not sure how much call there is for this move in a Foxtrot but as Priscilla's movements are quite stilted and robotic I'm starting to see why Louis felt it was necessary to inject some zing into the proceedings. After another standing ovation, a winded Priscilla is ready to hear the judges' opinions. She tries to smile but fails, instead her face just distorts into a painful looking unnatural grin. At least she doesn't faint like somebody whose name I won't mention, thereby denying Dancing some juicy footage and making me very happy. Len felt it was a nice, fluid and proper Foxtrot. Bruno terms it a “uncompromising, smoking hot Foxtrot” and saw star quality. Carrie gushes that she is the queen of the dance floor. They earn all 8s for a total of 24 points.
Are you smiling, Priscilla?
Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi, has plenty of dance related experience gliding around on the ice, but ballroom dancing is a different matter. There are heel leads in figure skating, legs need to be straight and toes need to be pointed, but despite the differences it seems like rehearsals are going smoothly for Kristi. Their first Foxtrot is off to a great start. They look polished and comfortable together. It's obvious that Kristi has no problem performing live. Bruno is bowled over with their precision and timing saying this may be the best first round performance he's ever seen. Carrie thought it was effortless. Len says “the ice maiden melted [his] heart”. With scores of 9 across the board, they earn a total of 27 points, putting them in the lead.
Forget having two left feet - or just one - lacking coordination or grace. Try dancing without being able to hear as Marlee Matlin must do. She signs on the show and weirdly enough it's a man we hear speaking for her. She gets to dance with newcomer Fabian Sanchez who naturally feels challenged. Despite the fact that she can't hear a thing, their studio time looks promising. Fabian even puts a speaker right on the floor to see whether Marlee can hear or feel the beat better. She doesn't, but is not deterred. They work with her interpreter as they use visual cues to ease her through the choreography. Watching them Cha Cha I realize that had I not known about Marlee's deafness it would be impossible to tell. They do a great job on the floor and wow the judges. Carrie is astounded and quite impressed by their achievement. Len liked the choreography but cautions Marlee to control her arm positions. Bruno says he counted it out and she didn't miss a beat the whole way through. They earn 7-7-8 for a total of 22 points.
After another interminable night of competition we have Kristi leading with 27 points while Monica is at the bottom of the board with 15 points. Next week they're doing all this all over again and Tom promises that somebody will actually be eliminated on Tuesday night. I'll believe it when I see it. Come see me next week for more of the same and the first sweet elimination, although fewer dancers only mean longer segments and more filler rather than shorter shows.
PM me if you think that Dancing needs to have more F-listers on every season, till the shows end up being 12 hours apiece such that I might have to grow old sitting on my sofa while recapping them.