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Strap on those high heels and dust off your rumbas, kids, because Dancing With The Stars is back for it’s third season! I’ll be two-stepping with fellow newbie writer Brandy for these recaps this season and be warned – I’m the girl who needs at least three beers before I hit the dance floor and then only if they’re playing the Macarena, making me only slightly less qualified than most of this season’s stars. So, in the immortal words of Buckshot Roberts from the classic 1988 film Young Guns…let’s dance!

Tom Bergeron, taking a break from introducing home videos of people getting whacked in the crotch, and Samantha Harris, requisite eye candy, are back as hosts this year. We are introduced to season 3’s lineup, and it’s as bizarre eclectic as ever:

Joey Lawrence, formerly Blossom’s cutie-pie big brother, with Edyta Sliwinska
Sara Evans, country crooner, with Tony Dovolani
Tucker Carlson, right-wing rant king, with Elena Grinenko
Monique Carlson, twenty-something teen queen, with Louis Van Amstel
Emmitt Smith, token tough-guy sports hero, with Cheryl Burke
Willa Ford, self-proclaimed “bad girl” of pop, with Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Mario Lopez, the guy from Saved By The Bell (no, not Screech, another guy), with Karina Smirnoff
Shanna Moakler, former pageant princess, with Jesse DeSoto
Harry Hamlin, husband of previous competitor Lisa Rinna (and we won’t be allowed to forget that, as you’ll soon discover), with Ashly Delgrosso
Vivica A. Fox, slumming actress, with Nick Kosovich
Jerry Springer, granddaddy of trash TV, with Kym Johnson

Tom tells us the female stars will be dancing the foxtrot with their partners, and the men will be taking on the cha-cha-cha. I don’t know what the cha-cha-cha should look like, but I have a brief flashback of a TV commercial from the ‘70’s, featuring the Chiquita Banana lady. I’m hoping they don’t make the guys pile fruit on their heads while they dance – I mean, Jerry Springer needs to hold on to his last few shreds of dignity.

My Opinionation

Fortunately, I’m the only person in the room (besides Jerry) old enough to remember Carmen Miranda, and we are introduced to our first couple, Joey and Edyta. Joey admits that his dance experience is limited to a tap-dancing stint on Johnny Carson back in 1982 when he was the mop-headed kid in Gimme A Break. What about that cute little dance number in the opening credits of Blossom, Joe? During his interview, Joey lets out a little giggle – reminding us that even with the shaved head and ripped bod, he’s still that huggable sitcom star of the ‘80’s. Not so huggable is partner Edyta, who patterns her moves after creatures of the jungle (well, I do recall Snagglepuss doing a little soft-shoe when he exited, stage left). She takes a shot at former partner George Hamilton, commenting that he was, you know, old, and Joey is hot, young, and in most excellent physical condition – yeah, and he’s newly married, hon, so keep those tiger claws sheathed.
Joey & Edyta will be cha-cha-cha’ing to I Like The Way You Move. I can’t tell one cha-cha from another, but I think it was pretty good. The parts when I wasn’t watching Joey’s biceps glisten under the lights were, anyway. At any rate, it’s an energetic performance and a great opening number. But what do our judges’ panel think? And who are these guys, anyway?

Head judge Len Goodman thinks it’s a great first dance (hey, maybe I do have an eye for this stuff after all!) but tells Joey to work on his hips. Not touching that. Judge no. 2, Bruno Tonioli, waxes enthusiastic, telling the pair their dance was slick, sharp, and sexy, but agrees that the hips needs work. Carrie Ann Anaba, our third panel member, tells Joe to work on his arms. Are you kidding me? It’s perfectly obvious that Joey has done hours of work to get those pipes…oh, she means arm movement while dancing. Got it. Joey bobs his head obediently at the judges’ comments and lets out that endearing little giggle again. I’m furiously writing down the phone number to vote – hey, recappers need their eye candy too, people!

Samantha meets up with the couples off-stage to hear the judges’ scores – we have a 7 (out of 10) from Carrie Ann, a 7 from Len, and a 7 from Bruno, giving our first pairing a 21 out of 30. A promising start, and Joey and Edyta can put their feet up and take it easy for the next…hour and 50 minutes. Excuse me one moment while I stretch and put the coffee on.

Sucks…in a bucket

Next up is country star Sara Evans, who tells us she broke both legs in a car accident as a child, and thought she may never walk again. I’m guessing here, but Sara’s dancing experience is pretty limited to, well, nothing. Partner Tony tells us that on the dance floor, woman is a lioness (yet more wildlife imagery). Sadly for Country Music Association award winner Sara, tonight’s dance is a foxtrot – no line dancing in the ballroom, y’all. Sara & Tony take the floor to the strains of Mandy, and as it turns out, watching someone foxtrot to a schmaltzy AM radio hit from thirty years ago is as bad as you might imagine it to be. The judges are underwhelmed as well – Len says most elements were great, but it didn’t “glide”, Bruno thinks they have potential…but in a rather stunning (and scary) display of a lack of any anger management skills, turns on the audience and snarls “shut up!” when they take issue with the rest of his critique. Carrie Ann is understandably looking a little skittish after Bruno’s outburst and simply tells Sara she seemed nervous. The scores reflect the judges’ comments, with a 5 from all three, giving Sara & Tony a paltry 15 out of 30. Sara’s voice is resigned as she tells Samantha that she’s disappointed, and will try to do better. Sounds more like a mewling kitten than a lioness.

No, please, don’t get up on our account

I know, you think of ballroom dancing, and the first guy who comes to mind is Tucker Carlson. Me too. Tucker, the large-C Conservative political mouthpiece and Canada fan, tells us that his dancing is limited to drunken wedding performances. Way to alienate your followers in the Bible Belt, Tucker. Leading him further down the path to sin is partner Elena, whose dance style is hot, sexy, and feminine. Can she turn Tucker into the cha-cha master he aspires to be? They’ll be cha-cha-cha’ing to Dancing In The Streets, which starts (and ends) with Tucker seated in a chair. The performance is…well, I never thought I’d want to ask Tucker Carlson not to quit his day job. The judges mostly agree, though Carrie Ann shows her inner Paula Abdul by telling Tucker that she loves that he had fun, but since he didn’t dance for half the number she couldn’t comment further. Len has no time for such niceties, though, and quips that Tucker’s problems started when he stood up (from the chair). Bruno bluntly tells the pair that it was a dreadful, awful mess. The scores bear out the criticism, with a 5 from Carrie Ann, a 4 from Len, and a 3 from Bruno. That’s a 12 out of 30, the lowest score yet tonight. Tucker, your dancing is hurting America.

Nothing says romance like a Y-incision

Our next dancing star is Monique Carlson, and I agree that “star” is a bit of a stretch in this case. She was apparently in some high school movie and is adored by the tween set, so she’s sort of like Hilary Duff, except not really that famous and without her own clothing line. Monique did some dancing as a youngster but stopped because she couldn’t afford it, so instead pursued that more cost-effective extracurricular activity, acting. Her partner is Svengali-wannabe Louis, who wants to share his knowledge with the young, flexible Monique. The pair will be fox-trotting to Baby Love, which would be really icky if Monique was actually a teenager, but fortunately she just plays one in the movies – her bio lists her actual age as 25. Apparently those lessons Monique took in the 3rd grade have paid off, as the performance is actually pretty good. There’s even a heart-stopping moment at the end where Louis dips Monique in a back bend and her pink gown just barely manages to keep her cleavage in check. The judges are all delighted with…Monique’s arms. I can’t even begin to guess what the hell they’re talking about, but maybe it’s that arm movement thing that Joey Lawrence apparently lacked. Not content for it to be all about the arms, though, Len adds that he wished the two had more chemistry and that the performance was as romantic as an autopsy. There’s so many things wrong with that comparison it’s hard to know where to begin, and while I’m thinking about it, my reverie is interrupted when I hear Louis say something about how deep inside, everyone loves pain. So maybe the autopsy comparison isn’t that far off after all. Here are the scores and then I’m off to shower this segment’s yuckiness off me – two 6’s from Carrie Ann and Len, and a 7 from Bruno makes a fairly respectable 19 out of 30.

The next velvet teddy bear, but this one dances

Emmitt Smith is the all-time NFL rushing leader, so you can see how Dancing With The Stars is the next obvious career move for him. Yeah, me too. Emmitt, not surprisingly, is in this for the competition aspect and he’s stoked to be paired up with last season’s champ, Cheryl. Here we pause to give Cheryl some well-deserved props not only for her previous win, but because she seems like a nice, normal person…whereas the first few professional dancers are like creepy extras from Cats that never get out of character. Emmitt and Cheryl provide some laughs with their rehearsal footage (Cheryl charges Emmitt for his mistakes – fortunately he talks her down to 25 cents from a dollar an error, as he’s quickly racking up the bill). Emmitt and Cheryl are shaking it to Son Of A Preacher Man tonight, and host Bob aptly describes it as “like watching a teddy bear dance”. The crowd loves them and gives up the first standing ovation of the competition. The judges are effusive with their praise – Carrie Ann actually jumps up to shake Emmitt’s hand, Len says they are a joy to watch, and Bruno tells them they made everybody want to dance. All three give 8’s out of 10, and Emmitt & Cheryl are our new leaders, with 24 out of 30 points.

Maybe it’s just her toes that are funny-looking

Who is Willa Ford, you may well ask? Well, when you can’t even get a straight answer out of Google, you know you’re in a celebrity no-man’s land. She’s apparently some kind of pop singer, with a bad case of nerves when it comes to ballroom dancing. Her partner is Maksim, who likes to make a woman feel like a woman on the dance floor. Willa is up for that, telling us that Maksim is a very attractive man indeed, and he knows it. Maksim returns the compliment by saying that Willa is young, fit, and talented – and if you’re all that, who cares if you can dance? As it turns out, though, they can - the pair does that foxtrot thing to the accompaniment of the very pretty song True, and does it justice with an exquisite performance. The judges are misty-eyed with their praise – Bruno says it was like watching a love story develop, Carrie Ann calls it graceful and elegant, and Len likes the lovely, fluid movement – but ever the wordsmith, adds that Willa’s feet are “bizarre”. And Willa actually agrees.

There’s a commercial break before we get the scores, and it’s a good thing, because I have to go run and call my mom to be sure she watches the results tomorrow night, because that notorious panty-collector himself, Mr. Tom Jones, will be performing on Wednesday’s show. Crossing my fingers hoping they make everyone foxtrot to “What’s New, Pussycat?”.

The scores for Willa & Maksim are in, and apparently Willa’s bizarre feet cost them a few points, as they receive 7’s from Carrie and Len, and an 8 from Bruno, to put them two behind leaders Emmitt and Cheryl.

Is that a battery in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

We’re up to sitcom stars of the ‘90’s, with our next dancer, Mario Lopez. Mario’s main claim to fame is his role on Saved By The Bell – and dammit, now I’ve got that theme song stuck in my head. Mario instantly endears us all to him by admitting he’s doing the show for his mom, who is shown eagerly watching her boy at rehearsal. Awww. Karina, five-time champ of something dance-related, is his partner. Mario is in awe of Karina, and admits that Karina thinks he’s a dork. That couldn’t have anything to do with the fact his mom is hanging out watching them rehearse. Karina provides some entertainment with her butchering of American slang (“you are like mouse in wheel” and “Len Goodman will have field trip with this!”). Her accent is oddly reminiscent of Balki Bartokomous – hey, Dancing With The Stars producers, come to think of it, I bet Bronson Pinchot has some free time on his hands these days, how about calling him up for season 4?
Mario & Karina are doing the cha-cha-cha to Walkin’ On The Sun, and turn in a fabulous performance. Language is apparently no barrier, as Karina obviously is one hell of a dance coach. Len thinks it’s marvelous. Bruno calls him “Super Mario” and asks if he has extra batteries in his pants. I’m hoping this is just another amusing example of someone from another country getting mixed up while spouting American shorthand, but somehow…I don’t think so. Carrie Ann, probably carried away by the sight of Mario’s dimples, proclaims them the couple to beat, and adds that she digs Mario’s hip action. Take a number, sweetie, you have to get through Karina, Mario’s wife, and his mom first. The judges’ scores catapult these two into the lead, with 9’s from Carrie Ann and Bruno, and an 8 from Len.

The healing power of ballroom dance

Shanna Moakler is the next celebrity, and she’s chosen to go the pity route for votes – she’s a former Miss USA and competitive roller skater, who’s going through a divorce and hoping DWTS will take her mind off her problems and get her to focus on something. Jesse, her partner, is a former electrician who’s only been dancing for the past seven years. He cements their position as Team Underdog by letting us know that Shanna’s main problem is not believing in herself. I’m sure that’s a common affliction among beauty pageant winners. They’re doing the foxtrot to Saving All My Love For You, and…well, it looks like the stylist is rooting for Team Underdog too, as she’s chosen to stuff Shanna into what’s possibly the ugliest gown I have ever seen. Suffice it to say that the vision of Shanna in this dress is pretty much what you’d get if you imagined a pre-Trimspa’d Anna Nicole Smith sitting naked atop a chicken. How are we supposed to pay attention to the dancing? Fortunately, the judges are immune to Shanna’s woes and wardrobe, but are lukewarm with their comments – Bruno says there were good moments, but likens Shanna to an “ice queen”, Carrie Ann tells her she has good posture (there’s that pageant training kicking in), while Len was expecting more, and didn’t like her footwork either. Team Underdog ends up with a paltry score of 18, getting a 7 from Carrie Ann, a 5 from Len, and a 6 from Bruno. Shanna vows to improve, and describes the experience as “healing”, and “a blessing”.

You may be an actor but you ain’t no dancer

From sitcoms to drama, the next dancing star is former LA Law guy Harry Hamlin. Harry is married to soap queen Lisa Rinna, and Lisa wastes no time in popping up at rehearsals, for interviews, and has dragged a couple of girlfriends with her to wear matching t-shirts supporting Harry and sit in the studio audience to cheer him on. We also get to see clips of Lisa’s performances last year. But we don’t want to forget it’s actually all about Harry this year, so when it’s time to interview him…he tells us that he wants to be able to dance with his wife. What was her name again?
On to Harry’s partner, Ashly, who seems like a very sweet girl as she went aaalllll the way to Canada to meet him. Very brave of her to venture into the wilds of Ontario just to see who her dance partner would be. They will be doing the cha-cha-cha to Disco Inferno, which seems odd to me (I would’ve saved that song for when they have to dance The Hustle). Harry looks disturbingly old next to Ashly, but pretty fit. However, the dancing is abysmal, and the judges are relentless in their critique – Carrie Ann tells Harry he looked stiff and awkward, Len wants a bit less mechanical, and more animal (I must learn not to cringe whilst typing out Len’s comments this season), and Bruno complains that it didn’t look like Harry was having any fun, and that they should leave work in the rehearsal room. Ashly, curiously, doesn’t seem to mind the slings and arrows – apparently her partner from last year, Mr. P (huh?) was a slacker and she’s having a much better time with Harry. The judges’ scores are predictably low – 6’s from Len and Bruno, and a 5 from Carrie, putting them in the low-mediocre range with a 17 out of 30.

Viva la diva

What is Vivica A. Fox doing here? She must have really pissed off her agent. The season’s resident diva is obviously determined to make the best of things, though, and she tells us she’s no stranger to physical work – she spent six months training for Kill Bill and she’s here to win. Her pro partner is Nick, the James Bond of the ballroom. Uh, dude, I don’t think Vivica is anybody’s Bond girl, and we just saw footage that proves she could probably kick your ass. I think Nick gets that, as we don’t see him speak again.
This evening’s final foxtrot is set to I Just Wanna Make Love To You, and Vivica’s hard work in rehearsal pays off as she & Nick turn in a great performance. Bruno exclaims, “Viva la diva!”, Len loved that they “sold” the performance, and Carrie Ann called Vivica “feisty”, but then added that her technique was lacking. Hello, Carrie Ann, were you not watching Vivica beat the snot out of Uma Thurmann just a couple of minutes ago? Carrie Ann’s criticism doesn’t hurt this pair much, though, as they end up with a 22 out of 30, getting 8’s from Len and Bruno, and a paltry 6 from Carrie Ann. Samantha points out that Vivica is the only female dancer over 40 – guess she wasn’t paying attention to that Kill Bill footage either.

Jer-ry (cha-cha-cha), Jer-ry (cha-cha-cha), Jer-ry (cha-cha-cha)

Former Cincinnati mayor and reigning king of trash TV Jerry Springer is tonight’s final dancing star. Jerry is here so he can learn to dance in time for his daughter’s wedding. His partner is Kym, who appropriately is young enough to be his daughter. Jerry keeps Kym giggling with self-deprecating quips – he asks her if she ended up being his partner because she lost a contest, if she knows CPR, and admits in an interview that he could “bring her down” (in a dip) but she was on her own when it comes to getting back up. Does Jerry have enough cha to get through the cha-cha-cha? The song they dance to is Hey, Daddy (more proof, if any is needed, that the producer of this show is Satan). And Jerry – well, he dances as well as any father of the bride I’ve ever seen. They end the dance with Jerry flinging a wad of paper money into the air. It’s very cute and inspires the audience to take up the Jer-ry, Jer-ry chant. For his part, Jerry looks frighteningly winded by the performance – that crack he made earlier about the “he can dance” epitaph on his tombstone is hitting a little too close to home just now. Len says he was worried about him (with good reason, apparently) but thinks Jerry held his own. Carrie Ann loved that he had fun but commented he did forget some of the choreography, and Bruno notes that there’s still some spring left in Springer and that he must have been to the George Hamilton school of dance. The poor guy’s face is grey, he’s panting, and the judges make old man jokes. Nice. The scores are lousy, with 5’s from Carrie Ann and Len, and a 6 from Bruno, putting Jerry & Kym close to the bottom with 16 out of 30. Samantha helpfully reminds Jerry that he’s the oldest competitor, and has no dance training – so what’s his strategy? Jerry tells her it’s to stay vertical. Woot-woot! Jer-ry, Jer-ry, Jer-ry….

Tom appears to make his pitch for us to vote, with a woefully unfunny speech he attributes to that dance icon, the Reverend Al Sharpton, and we get a quick recap of the performances and voting phone numbers. The standings according to the judges’ scores are given (in case the viewing audience can’t add three numbers together) and are as follows:

1st place – Mario & Karina
2nd place – Emmitt & Cheryl
Tied for 3rd place – Willa & Maksim/Vivica & Nick

By process of elimination, it’s obvious who would be in the middle (though not to Bob, because he lists them for us anyway), but I know you guys can figure it out if I give you the bottom three, right?

Bottom Three:
Jerry & Kym
Sara & Tony
Tucker & Elena

Don’t forget to tune in to Wednesday’s results show to fling your dainties at the TV for Tom Jones’ appearance, and to find out which couple will not be waltzing their way into Week 2. I’ll be your whirling, twirling recapper for the results show as well, before I let Brandy cut in for next week’s program. Exit, stage left!

Got dance fever yet? Email me at ajane@fansofreality.com.