They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. They also say that the devil is in the details. Well, if Dancing With The Stars were any more well-intentioned or any more detail-happy in their obscenely bloated behemoth of a ninth season premiere, they'd be roasting in some mythical inferno right about now. And I'd happily watch a 24/7 live feed of that. What to say about a show that returns season after season bursting at the seams with ever-increasing numbers of D-list celebs whom nobody cares about, the worst karaoke music imaginable and a formula so stale that it now allows room for casting universally despised, disgraced politicians and cheesy 70s era teen idols yet has the affront to call itself “the biggest dance show in the world”? Maybe nothing needs to be said; some things just speak for themselves.
In the magical world that is Dancing With The Stars it is indeed possible to cast no less than - count them and weep! - sixteen people of varying degrees of celebrity or infamy and it's also possible to hog at least five hours of ABC's primetime airtime. On night one of this magical event eight manly celebs will take two entire hours to do their worst for America's votes. And I do mean that quite literally.
If you've ever watched this thing before, you already know the drill: Tom and Samantha's jobs entail reading cue cards and teleprompters while Carrie, Len and Bruno deliver well-rehearsed banter, over-the-top commentary and stilted double entendres under the guise of judging. But before we can say hello to them, the show kicks off with a flashy dance number courtesy of this year's pros: eight buff male specimens are lowered on a platform from the ceiling to Jive their way around the floor to Boys Are Back In Town. The audience is thus primed and ready to receive the “stars” of the show. They descend the big staircase and line up like ducks even as the cameraman struggles to get all 32 of them into one wide shot. Throw in the judges and the hosts and this bunch could probably man a nuclear submarine all by themselves or hold their very own non-NBA tournament.
- Aaron Carter and Karina Smirnoff – He is introduced as a pop star but they probably just mean that tongue-in-cheek.
- Chuck Liddell and Anna Trebunskaya – No idea who this guy is but he looks like a Hell's Angels reject. Probably not enough prison tattoos for their taste.
- Mark Decascos and Lacey Schwimmer – Oh, it's that guy I know from Iron Chef America! Couldn't they get Morimoto instead?
- Ashley Hamilton and Edyta Sliwinska – A match made in spray tan heaven! Isn't it a bit creepy though that Edyta got to do both father and son? No, not in that way! Here's hoping Ashley has not yet reproduced. I don't want to be here 15 years from now writing about Edyta dancing with the third generation of Hamiltons on the 65th season of DWTS. I really don't.
- Donny Osmond and Kym Johnson – One of them has their plastic surgeon, the Hair Club for Men, Rugs 'R US and a cosmetic dentist on speed dial. Hint: it's not Kym.
- Louie Vito and Chelsie Hightower – I didn't know they lowered the age requirement to 12! Sadly, I have no idea who Louie is but he's got some nice fluffy hair. I wouldn't get too attached to him if I were you.
- Michael Irvin and Anna Demidova – He's this year's free offering from the NFL Hall of Fame. I think their entire advertising plan must consist of plugging their members on Dancing. Big, tough and buff, probably has two left feet and a big fan base.
- Tom DeLay and Cheryl Burke – Right when you think things can't get any sleazier on this show they cast an oily, disgraced former politician with big dreams of redeeming his tattered reputation. What? George Bush wasn't available?
- Debi Mazar and Maksim Chmerkovskiy – I've got nothing on her but on page 3 of Google results for “Debbie Mazar” there's an interview with her from Fashion Week. Just thought you'd want to know. Oh, and Maks. Wipe up that drool, people! It's not attractive.
- Melissa Joan Hart and Mark Ballas – The teenage witch! I hear the witching business has been hit hard by the recession but with three names she can always give it a go as a serial killer... Oops! Bad joke. Give me a break, I'm trying not to fall into a coma here!
- Mya and Dmitry Chaplin – R&B also-ran. I wouldn't care if she was a three-headed, eight foot tall, half reptilian, half human ambassador from Apha Centauri as long as she's paired with Maks 2.0.
- Kathy Ireland and Tony Dovolani – Good fashion model to balance out bad fashion model coming up later. She's also taller than Toni. I like that.
- Natalie Coughlin and Alec Mazo – Hopefully she's not a fish out of water because I love her. But wait! She's carrying a tasteful black clutch to the lineup. Oh, Natalie...
- Macy Gray and Jonathan Roberts – Maybe the only way they could ensure she wasn't going to sing was to sign her up to dance. Works for me!
- Joanna Krupa and Derek Hough – Aforementioned “bad fashion model”. Don't know why she is called that but that's what I've read in the threads. I have no other sources and research isn't warranted when models only last three episodes tops. Will revise if she sticks around longer.
- Kelly Osbourne and Louis Van Amstel – Apparently “reality star” is now a full-fledged, legit occupation. But does she have employer provided health care coverage? Hmm.
Beggin' for a life change
Now that we've seen all the horses, it's time to kick-off this race. However, since it's man night, only half of them will go into action. Now, isn't that just too bad? I so wanted to be 95 years old, still recapping this premiere episode from my rocking chair in a nursing home...
First up is Aaron Carter whom they insist on labeling a pop star. Supposedly he holds some sort of record for being the youngest something or other but that counts for little on this show. He claims that he lived through wild days in his misspent, distant youth – you know, like a couple of years ago – and is now here to “turn [his] life around”. That's nice but what's not so nice is that Aaron might be this year's designated horndog. His only requirement in a coach is beauty and since Karina fits the bill for him, it's on to Flirt City. I can see he's going to become tedious fast. As for practice, they have the Cha Cha Cha and a Viennese Waltz relay to work on. Aaron gets to don dancer's heels and although it may be a novelty to some, Aaron says he's been trying on his sisters' heels while growing up. Hello! Rehearsal is all about getting his hips to behave and keeping his hands off of Karina. If this guy sticks around, Maks may end up strangling him in a back alley, his break-up with Karina notwithstanding. In the end, they put on a decent enough, 70's disco infused Cha Cha to Beggin'. I wouldn't say he's a great talent but he's got some potential. Of course Karina's fur bra and gold fringe pants provided a lot of the action too.
Len, now with in even brighter pink shirts and ties, says Aaron was a bit stiff but had potential. Bruno, master of flamboyant overstatement, gushes that Aaron is “sharp and edgy” but he wants all that energy contained better. Carrie agrees with them but nitpicks about Aaron's footwork. Here is where Samantha has a short gabfest with the couples backstage. Sadly, I won't be reporting on any of that, not unless you want to be here all week reading this. Their scores are: 7-8-7 = 22.
Worth a Chuckle
Looks like this Chuck guy is some sort of martial arts star who recently beat some dude whose nickname is “Axe Murderer”. I have taken 8 years of ballet and various other dance classes. I'm only telling you this in case I end up writing mean stuff about Chuck's dancing abilities and he happens to read them and then I happen to disappear somehow. You'll be comforted to know that I could at least high-kick him in the nose before he punched me into an early grave. But enough about me because Chuck is hard at work trying not to fall on his face while rehearsing the Foxtrot. Supposedly, he has a softer side he is ready to show to the world but Anna just wants him to tone down his scary facial expressions because scaring away advertisers is bad for ratings. Out of self-preservation, I'd like to disingenuously praise their routine but it seems I'm incapable of flattery, no matter the cost. Chuck's frozen grimace may pass for a smile if you squint hard enough and don't have an HDTV, but his moves don't pass muster in a dance competition. Anna gets manhandled a bit around the floor, Chuck is counting steps, there are some shenanigans with a hat right at the end but all in all this is a disaster.
Bruno waxes poetic about the match-up between the “gentle Neanderthal and the Russian princess” but says their routine was very rough: timing, footwork, lines, all horrible. Carrie thinks he's smooth and charming but needs a bit more footwork. A bit? Perhaps she's scared too. Len feels Chuck exceeded his extremely low expectations but wants him to find his feminine side. That'll be the day! Final verdict for the night: 6 -5- 5 = 16.
The not-so-secret ingredient
When it comes to Iron Chef there is one and only one master I recognize and he is Chairman Takeshi Kaga. This other dude, Mark Decascos, may be all buff and Kung Fu fighting but he's just a poor imitation. Still, I'm willing to give him a chance to Cha Cha. Lacey, however, I'm done with. She is still billing herself as “the rebel” after two whole seasons on the show. I wonder whether this will be the season she finally breaks out a whip and chains to drive home the point. Fake Chairman is elated to dance with Lacey and between the splits, the Kung Fu moves and the Cha Cha hips he seems to have a bit of knack for dancing. If only he'd stop with that horrid fake Japanese accent!
Because this show is nothing if not predictable, Fake Kaga and Lacey are dancing the Cha Cha to Kung Fu Fighting wearing Asian inspired red and black costumes. There are even some Japanese looking words projected onto the dance floor for good measure. Their dance is 10% Cha Cha Cha, 10% something else that I can't identify and the rest is evenly split between martial arts moves and posing for the camera. And all of it a bit behind the music. Carrie loved the Asian theme, saw lots of potential and some floppy arms. Len, not one for gimmicks, tolerated them this time but doesn't want to see any Kung Fu from now on. Bruno says he started off expecting the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony but didn't quite get it. They get 7s all around for a total of 21 points.
Once upon a time, there was a man who met a tanning booth. Theirs was love at first sight and out of that love a child was born who followed in his father's footsteps, first into the tanning booth (only for a much shorter time) and then onto the dance floor. Ashley Hamilton may be best known for... well, something I can't recall right now, but he is also just Daddy's boy. And Edyta is the lucky girl who got to have them both. As dance partners, of course. Get your minds out of the gutter! While Edyta's complexion might not be quite as well matched with Ashley's as it was with his father's, these two still look good together. However, I hesitate to get attached since poor Ashley may look good but a dancer he is not. A victim of his own reckless past, he has trouble with movement on his left side due to an old motorcycle accident. Not to mention some brain surgery. Aww, now I feel all bad for him which means he'll be eliminated on Wednesday.
The dancing is not good. Their Foxtrot is a bit stiff and awkward and poor Ashely is quite wooden. Unless the viewers take pity on him, Edyta might have an even shorter than usual run this season. Commentary goes from decent footwork from Len, to “dead” from Bruno and nothing special from Carrie. They earn some dismal marks: 5 -6 -4 = 15. Yup, a goner.
Did you know that they're bringing back Design-A-Dance? It's all about voting for the dance, the costumes and even somebody to return and dance with the pros and it's all online to vote for as many times as you want.
Now back to our regularly scheduled tedium.
Do I really have to put my hand there? Giggle, giggle!
I was hoping to never see another cheesetastic Osmond sibling on this show but somehow always suspected that after that horrifying Marie fiasco of a few seasons ago the only thing holding ABC back from casting one of them again was abject embarrassment. However, as time heals all festering wounds, and hopefully dulls all traumatic memories, I guess there was no escaping our gruesome fate this time around. If it's any consolation, and unless there's some diabolical plot afoot, Donny will thankfully refrain from singing. I thank the Universe for small favors. Kym claims Donny was a teen heartthrob all over the world, but this is a bald faced lie. He never made it into the public consciousness in Europe, hence I grew up listening to Michael Jackson. More thanks to the aforementioned Universe.
Rehearsal is a bit puritanical in tone. Donny gets the giggles every time Kym tells him where to put his hands and they're only doing the tame Foxtrot. Wait till they get to the Samba; this guy is going to need anti-anxiety medication from the looks of him. That or a release note from his preacher. In the end they dance to All That Jazz which sounds exciting except Donny moves like he's got lead weights in his shoes and iron bars tied to his arms. Moreover, he compensates with some very weird facial expressions. I'm sorry, I have no screencap of it but imagine the guy in Munch's Scream only he's just a bit surprised instead of completely horrified. Now add some toothy grins to that image and you've got Melissa Rycroft 2.0, er, I mean Donny. What do the judges think of all this? Bruno says he played the audience like a fiddler but his hold was bad and his shoulders sucked. Carrie thinks he'll be a favorite but there needs to be more Ballroom in his Ballroom. Len didn't like the “razmatazz” and the theatricality and wanted more Ballroom as well. They get 7 -6 -7 = 20.
We've got a virgin on the show! Well, at least somebody whose first time with Ballroom dancing will occur in front of our very eyes. Turns out Louie is a young snowboarder fresh from the snowy hills who has never seen an episode of Dancing and can't tell a sequin from a rhinestone. Virgin boy is a bit impatient with his inability to make his body do what needs to be done while Chelsie just means business. She even puts him in a sort of brace to adjust his position and uses masking tape to keep his head from moving out of alignment. Next week: ropes and pulleys. They perform their Foxtrot to No Doubt's It's My Life which is great and makes their routine bearable. Louie is all cute and smiley, like a sweet puppy, but dancing is clearly not his thing. Carrie enjoyed their smiles but felt Louie was having trouble staying on his feet, Len didn't like Louie's long hair because he's an old man but liked Louie's technique. Bruno says Louie was like a dancing hobbit but wanted more fluidity in the dancing. Because all hobbits are fluid. Tom quips that Bruno just invented Louie Frodo. Wow, I'm making that my heading! Thanks, Tom! They earn 6 -7 -6 = 20.
Begginer's bad luck
Our token former football hero, Michael Irvin, is paired with last year's winner of the Pro Competition, Anna Damidova, but I think he just won the Dancing instructor lottery. Think about it, this new pro is like Lacey, minus the affected fake edge and like Chelsie, but with more Russian flair and she's out to prove herself. That's a good combination for success right there. Michael says he was inspired to be on the show because his long-time rival, Jerry Rice, did so well a few seasons back. His mission, which he chose to accept, is to outdo Jerry and win the shiny trophy. He never could beat the guy on the football field but Michael thinks that he can out-Cha Cha him; all he needs are a measly 22 points. Michael is funny in rehearsal, psyching himself up at every turn, often by talking to himself in the mirror, practicing Cha Cha hips with a hoola hoop and generally not letting his goal get in the way of his fun. Dare I say I like the big meathead football player whom I've never even heard of before? Oh, yes, I dare. Well, at least so far.
Their Cha Cha to I feel good is not the most technically sophisticated oeuvre, lacks polish and substance but it's passably entertaining. Len didn't quite like it though. He harps that he wanted more content from Anna's choreography. Bruno thought he pleased the crowd but has only bad things to say about Michael's footwork and timing. Carrie thinks Michael had more charisma than Jerry but she blames Anna for not enough dance moves in the routine for Michael to work out. So, is it the chicken or the egg? They earn 5 – 4 – 4 = 13.
What do a Ballroom dancer and a right wing politician have in common? Nothing except the pancake makeup. Tom DeLay's introductory bit is appropriately pompous, highlighting his association with such popular kids as Dubya and Dick Cheney and his obligatory photo-ops with chubby babies. He says dancing is like life: you gotta work hard and maybe you can win. Is he serious about the working hard part? Can't tell, really. This guy's got that fake frozen politician's grin down to a science and I just try not to stare into his eyes for too long. I mean, you just never know. Tom shows up at the studio wearing his sweatpants pulled up to 10 inches above his bellybutton and looks ready for Bingo night at the nursing home after which the fun starts. As they practice Cha Cha hip shaking, the camera zooms in on DeLay's sweat bottoms with obscene precision highlighting some very visible granny panty lines or something else a bit bulky that I don't want to think about. Cheryl says Tom is determined so she pushes him. At one point we get the obligatory left-right joke when Cheryl tells him to move to the left and DeLay declares that he'll vote Republican but party with the Democrats. Insert stock laughter here.
I don't know what's more tragic, the fact that their Cha Cha is set to Wild Thing, that DeLay tries to ham it up for the camera or that his predictably inept antics get a standing ovation. At least on the right side of the room. Bruno quips that he's crazier than Sarah Palin - which may actually be the first positive TV mention Palin has scored since the election - but says there was a bit of passable Cha Cha Cha there amid all the waste. Carrie Ann thought it was surreal to watch and kind of felt the basics. Len says “parts were magic and parts were tragic” referring to the Cha Cha bits and to the bits of horrible booty shaking that I scrupulously avoided mentioning before. They earn 6 – 5 – 5 = 16.
Chips and Salsa
Did I mention that all the couples are dancing two numbers tonight? Yes, we have another two whole hours of competition to look forward to. Just 2500 more words, I promise! I kid, I kid. Their second routine will be either a Viennese Waltz or a Cha Cha Cha relay. I'm assuming those who had a Ballroom dance to start off will be coming out with a Latin relay bit and vice versa.
The first group is comprised of Ashley/Edyta, Chuck/Anna, Donny/Kym and Louie/Chelsie and they're doing a Salsa Relay. Just in case you don't know what a Salsa Relay is, don't despair, neither does anyone else. Additionally, the scoring on this will be based on their placement according to something or other that sounded complicated. Suffice it to say, they can all better their standings if they do well in this round. Each couple has 30 seconds to prove themselves and lifts are allowed. I suspect that's the entire point of this Salsa Relay, a chance to do big showy ratings-grabbing lifts on the first night of the dialing competition.
Dressed mostly in red the four couples dance the Salsa Relay to Sean Paul's Get Busy. They have a short 30 seconds each which pass by in a blur of action, so quickly that everyone seems to be doing reasonably well in my eyes. Either that or my brain is just numb after almost two hours of sustained bad dancing. However, I have to reluctantly report that Donny did the best among them although he needs to stop grimacing as if his kidneys are being poked through his bellybutton with a knitting needle and he needs to keep his mouth closed while he dances. Other than that he was tolerable. All of his half a million or so family members can vote for him with a clear conscience. At least this week.
What did the judges think? Carrie thought Donny “smoked them”. She also praised Chuck's routine and Louie's fun backflips. Len and Bruno both agree with Carrie about Donny and Chuck but both thought Ashley should have had more rhythm.
The rankings, 4th to 1st place in the Salsa Relay: Ashley/Edyta – 4pts; Chuck/Anna – 6pts; Louie/Chelsie – 8pts and Donny/Kym – 10pts. Oh, so that's how the point system works!
A Fleckerl of hope
The only thing left now is for the other four couples to put us out of our misery and close the night with another routine; Aaron/Karina, Mark/Lacey, Tom/Cheryl and Michael/Anna will dance the Viennese Waltz Relay. The drill is the same with 30 seconds for each couple to do their thing and pick up some points. The music is I Am Your Man, the gowns are soft pink with cream and fluffy, Aaron has reasonably good speed, Mark is frozen and robotic, DeLay looks like a bellboy at the Ritz and Michael is clumsy. For some reason that hot mess of a routine receives a standing ovation but what do they know anyway! Len thought Aaron was hoppy but loved that Mark tried to do a Fleckerl even if it wasn't fully realized. Bruno loved Mark's lines while Carrie also liked Michael's improvement. Nothing good about DeLay except a pun about how there was no delay. Insert hysterical laugh here.
The rankings, 4th to 1st in the Viennese Waltz Relay: Tom/Cheryl – 4pts; Michael/Anna – 6pts; Mark/Lacey – 8pts; Aaron/Karina – 10pts.
After this interminable night, Aaron/Karina lead with 32 points while Ashley/Edyta and Michael/Anna round out the bottom with 19 points each. Who is getting the big ole' boot Wednesday night? I'll be back to sanitize the proceedings for you while my sister in crime MotherSister will be bringing you all the Ladies' Night fun. We'll be going back and forth all season to keep you dizzy and to keep ourselves from seeking professional help. The pills are bad enough already.
The title and all headings were professionally crafted with care to contain as many corny puns as permissible by law. No dictionaries were harmed in the process of writing this recap. All complaints must be accompanied by a either a box of Godiva chocolate or a bottle of alcohol of your choice.