My friend Janet A. is not a fan of the new season of “Dancing with the Stars.” I, on the other hand, am way more into this spring’s competition than last fall’s. For one thing, I had actually heard of every one of the stars before the program began, except for soap opera actor Aiden Turner. And Turner is a very good looking guy with a British accent, so I’m not going to complain about his casting!
Janet thinks there’s been too much emphasis on the dancer/pro conflicts in the rehearsal footage that precedes each live performance. I suspect that’s a choice being made in the editing room — because it makes for dramatic footage. If you throw two people together for eight hours a day, they are going to butt heads from time to time. I suspect that even sweet li’l Shawn Johnson, who won last spring’s contest, had some tense moments with her partner Mark Ballas. It’s all about creating a storyline, which the editors do very well. Will super-hot Erin Andrews hook up with Maks? Will Buzz Aldrin break a hip? Tune in and find out!
Having said that, however, I don’t think the producers need to work overtime to manufacture any tension between reality queen Kate Gosselin and her unfortunate partner, Tony Dovolani. I have never seen a single episode of “Jon & Kate Plus Eight,” but one of my favorite shows, “The Soup,” the E! channel’s weekly half-hour pop culture compendium, frequently featured clips of Gosselin which made her seem like a bitter control freak. (One showed Kate going into a complete meltdown when Jon forgot to use a coupon at the store; “I’m gonna shoot him!” she declared to the camera crew.)
Jon turned out to be not such a nice guy, of course, which led to an outpouring of sympathy for Kate, but I suspect her appearances on “DWTS” will not help her image. For one thing, she is an atrocious dancer. Her Week 2 jive to “I’m Still Standing” may have been the poorest performance I’ve ever seen on this show — she stared at Tony’s feet and looked terrified during the entire segment. People would probably feel sorry for her were it not for the fact that we had just seen her behave in a rude, passive aggressive manner to Tony during the rehearsal footage. Amazingly, however, Kate didn’t wind up in the final two the next night — my only guess is that people love a train wreck. I’m sure the producers are loving every moment, since Kate is delivering amazing ratings. They keep slotting her segments toward the end of the show, to make sure everyone stays tuned for the full two hours.
Last night, she and Tony danced to Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi,” which was supposed to give Kate a way to unleash her aggression and anger toward the photographers who follow her everywhere. (Hint: if you want them to quit doing that, stop appearing on reality shows.) Her way of conveying those emotions consisted of literally baring her teeth. It was a slight — slight! — improvement over the previous week, however.
However, I’ll be happy to see Kate go — it would be nice to see her get the ax tonight, with Buzz to follow next week. He’s even more painful to watch than Cloris Leachman, and the way the producers are playing up his Heroic Astronaut background is nothing but shameless pandering. If he’s back next week, expect him to emerge from a replica of the Apollo 11 capsule wearing a red, white and blue costume, dancing to “God Bless America” while surrounded by an adorable group of schoolchildren waving tiny flags. I will miss the shots of his incredibly taut-faced wife Lois in the audience, though; she always seems to be surrounded by a pack of ladies who all look like they could be extras on “Nip/Tuck”:
The rest of the dancers, though, are all fairly decent. I had high hopes for Chad Ochocinco — my initial Final Three picks, before the show debuted, were Chad, Nicole Scherzinger and Evan Lysacek — since the football players are usually good (Warren Sapp was one of my all-time favorite “DWTS” contestants). Plus, he’s partnered with Joe’s TV girlfriend Cheryl Burke. However, Chad is pretty stiff and ungainly on the dance floor; so is Aiden Turner, but they’re both extremely attractive men, so I’ll be fine with them sticking around a while.
Lysacek seems to be following in the footsteps of Olympian champs Kristi Yamaguchi and Johnson. Plus, he seems to be having a good time with his pro partner, Anna Trebunskaya. ESPN’s Erin Andrews is steaming up the dance floor with Maks Chmerkovskiy; last night, Andrews waltzed blindfolded, which waas supposed to prove her “trust” in Maks, but seemed a little more “9 1/2 Weeks.” And Pussycat Doll Scherzinger — this season’s Mya (in other words, the contestant who is already a trained dancer) — is so good that Derek Hough shrewdly devised a routine for her last night seemingly to bring down her absurdly high judges’ scores, presumably to make her seem a bit more of the underdog. Their quickstep was so brilliant that we immediately rewound it to watch again, but Derek had thrown out all of the components ballroom dancing judges want to see, like an unbroken hold and no lifts, bringing her down from first to third place. Hough, the show’s most gifted choreographer, will get Nicole back up to #1 when it counts.
In the middle of the pack, we have former “Bachelor” Jake Pavelka, who seems rather charmingly game to do anything, whether it be dressing like a nerd and dancing to “Hip to Be Square” or doing an “Indiana Jones”-themed routine which ended with him being shut into a mummy sarcophagus. Comedian Niecy Nash is a surprisingly expressive dancer who seems a little desperate to garner votes from various constituencies; last week, plus-sized Nash dedicated her dance to “all the thick girls,” while yesterday’s waltz depicted a doomed interracial love affair from the 1960s, with some words of support for gay marriage thrown in for good measure. Then there’s my favorite, sex kitten Pamela Anderson, whom I never expected to root for, but I think she really brings something to this show. She’s got a certain wacky charm, and never seems to take herself too seriously — you had to love the fact that last night’s rehearsal footage showed her getting dancing tips from the one and only Charo! Pam wound up in the bottom two last week, which seemed to throw her off her game a little bit, so Joe and I sent some votes her way.
Tonight, one of the stars will go home. If you hear a loud groan coming from the direction of my living room, it means that both Buzz and Kate have survived to dance another week. I love this line from EW.com’s recap of last night’s episode: at the beginning of the show, “Kate Gosselin mouthed ‘I love you’ to the camera to remind her kids, watching at home, that she loves the camera.” That woman needs to be off my screen, stat.