Every season of Dancing with the Stars brings slight changes to the show. Sometimes new dances or new professional dancers are introduced. Other changes include judging formats. All in all, the show stays close to its formulaic but successful structure.
Returning as Dancing with the Stars hosts are the beautiful Samantha Harris and the comedic Tom Bergeron.
Samantha’s primary job is to glean some tidbit from the performers as they come off stage and await their scores. Last night she seemed to step on the comments of several celebrities as she attempted to control the situation and keep the show moving along. Perhaps this is a direct result of her losing control of the show so many times last season during the Cloris Leachman debacle. Tom Bergeron, whose wit makes the show for me, was superb.
When one of the judges’ comments is particularly harsh, it is Tom who changes the mood by zinging the judge back. Tom and his sense of timing makes the show work by injecting his own brand of humor to diffuse a harsh critique or roast a celebrity or judge.
All of the Dancing with the Stars judges are back as well. Len Goodman, the British judge who favors technique and traditional dance moves over new-fangled moves and gimmicky routines, was somewhat subdued in his comments and critiques last night. Perhaps he is waiting for the celebrities to get a bit more comfortable before unleashing the criticism he is known for.
Carrie Ann Inaba, the female judge with a heart, always tries to find something positive to say. Last night was no different. After watching Ty Murray and Chelsie Hightower, a new professional dancer this season, perform, Carrie Ann struggled to find something positive to say about the performance itself. Instead she critiqued Ty by saying “you are one cute cowboy” and that “having fun is contagious to watch.”
Bruno Tonioli has grown more caustic over the past several seasons. What he tries to deliver as wit comes across as harsh, belittling and often downright cruel. To Steve Wozniak he quipped “I don’t know if that was delirious or hilarious”. And to Ty Murray he remarked it looked like an “army drill” and that “there’s always next week”. Seldom do Bruno’s criticisms constitute constructiveness. More often, he is just plain mean.
Two of the celebrities were forced to drop out at the last minute due to injuries, Jewel and Nancy O’Dell. Dancing with the Stars, in typical form, treated the announcement of the replacements as a news event itself, stalling the revelation until just before one of them was to appear.
The night’s dances were limited to the Cha Cha Cha and the Waltz. There were several standouts, dismal disappointments and a few who could surprise us in the long run.
Standouts among the celebrities and their partners were:
Gilles Marini and Cheryl Burke who were fabulous and earned the highest score.
Shawn Johnson and Mark Ballas were surprisingly refined and very elegant.
Melissa Rycroft and Toni Dovoloni who only had 48 hours to practice together were absolutely stunning in the Waltz
Among those destined to leave in the foreseeable future:
Lacey Schwimmer and Steve O who wanted to “put his foot in the Walt’s butt” and apparently did so and kept it there while dancing.
Dmitry Chaplin, another new professional this season and Holly Madison who danced like a newborn deer on wobbly legs according to Carrie Ann.
Chelsie Hightower and Ty Murray who stomped their way through the Cha Cha Cha.
Karina Smirnoff and Steve Wozniak who lacked genius of any kind on the dance floor.
A few contenders who could be surprising include David Allen Grier, and Kym Johnson, Li’l Kim and Derek Hough, Belinda Carlisle and Jonathon Roberts, Holly Madison and Dimtry Chaplin, Lawrence Taylor and Edyta Sliwinska, Chuck Wicks and professional partner and girlfriend Julianne Hough and Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Denise Richards – the first crybaby of the season who broke down in rehearsal under the constant criticism of her partner.
While the formula begins to get old, we continue to watch season after season. In the end it is the dancing and the struggle to win the ridiculous mirror ball that keeps us coming back. Each season we get the chance to watch someone wow us. In spite of the gimmicks and shameless exploitation of the drama in the participants’ lives, I will continue to watch, hoping my favorite makes it all the way through.