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Friday, 16 of April of 2021

Dancing with the Stars – Week 1

“Make me sparkle.”

Nancy Grace dances.

Gah, this is, like, the worst.

A show that compliments Rob Kardashian and Nancy Gross for their lazy and just plain gross attempts at dance is what’s wrong with America.

Not to condemn the whole show. I’m sure the history of this show contains much more heinous crimes. I just haven’t seen them. Yeah. 13 cycles and this is my first time watching it. They cast Hope Solo. What am I supposed to do?

Instead of justifying my long-standing crush on the national team keeper like some kind of women’s soccer hipster, let’s talk about the dancing. I’m no dance expert. I own Strictly Ballroom but haven’t watched it (instead I Beavis and Butthead giggle at the title). What I know of this show is mostly anecdotal, the only actual suggestion of the show to cross my eyes is whatever cut into my Lost hour. I thought it was just a stage for minor celebrities and spotlightless dancers to hop a rung on the star ladder.

And it kind of is. But, after watching the first week (four HOURS of programming), you can color me intrigued. Although it might not be so much about the dancing as it is the format. And the women in low-cut gowns don’t hurt. Oh, and the train wrecks.

Here’s the thing. If you’re looking for detailed analysis of dance moves, I’m not your guy. TWoP seems to care about that. I can only tell you what I see.

Metta World Peace (ne Ron Artest): One of the few things I knew about this competition was how athletes seem to do well. Jerry Rice, Hines Ward, Warren Sapp. But these are all football players with bred determination and artful footwork to begin with. That’s not to say that basketball players don’t need proper footwork to compete on the hardwood, but Metta (he changed his name during the filming of the show to Metta World Peace — for reals) but I’m not sure if it’s his athletic training or just that his personality was too large or batshit crazy to be bothered by choreography. Really stiff. Like how I would look on the dance floor if they’d shoved me out there with no training. It didn’t even look like he was trying. He said he was doing the show for his sick daughter (who is also changing her last name to World Peace). Way to disappoint a kid with cancer.

Rob Kardashian: His sisters Kim and Frankenberry were in the audience to watch Rob walk through a Viennese waltz. I say walk through because he hardly did anything. I get the feeling that the first week options of cha-cha and waltz are provided for dance ability. Cha-cha is a simple step that allows for flourish (and a lot of “that wasn’t a seizure; I meant to do that”) while the waltz is all structure and poise, like a list of instructions that any idiot follow. Just smile and move. Rob had the smiling part down. And the moving part down. But little else. It felt like a lazy rehearsal walkthrough but in prettier clothes. The judges congratulated him on a proper, gentlemanly dance which is ridiculous but I suppose you have to lower the bar for non-dancers learning how to dance in three weeks (I guess). Bruno did tell Shemp Kardashian he didn’t hear the music of his dancing. Khloe yelled that Bruno needs to clean out his ears because she heard all of the music. Though she can’t really be trusted with that stovepipe she has for an ear. Kim teared up through her brother’s performance despite his dancing being neither good nor emotional, showing you she has no idea how to feel.

Kristin Cavallari: I know I’m hitting it strong that I don’t watch reality very often but most of my Laguna Beach/The Hills education comes from The Soup. I’d heard the name but didn’t know which tan blonde girl she was (there are a lot of them about). Apparently, she was “the bad one” and Dancing with the Stars is going to be her redemption and a way for people to get to know her. Apparently that’s what this show has become for a lot of celebrities and public figures: less about competition and more a stepping stone for a career. People remark all the time about how the people on these celebrity-focused competition shows are barely celebrities but it has to be a testament to the success of the program that people believe they can either gain the exposure they feel they deserve or use it to rebuild a tarnished reputation to move on to the next level of stardom, or public office, or whatever sex tape lies before them. I’m not saying that Cavallari is headed for a sex tape but I’m not sure I’d mind if that happened. Hers was the first good dance of the night, Carrie Ann Inaba mentioning her “hairography” which I assume meant the several hair twirls and tousling that happened throughout the number. In fact, the only reason I wanted the dance to end was because the song (“Dynamite” by Taio Cruz) made want to set my TV on fire.

Chynna Phillips: So many things to say here. First, Wilson-Phillips figured prominently in my tween years. “Hold On” was on every personal radio (Walkman or otherwise) of every girl I knew in elementary school. I couldn’t get away from that beach video. But it’s been almost 20 years since then (good lord) and she’s married to Billy Baldwin. And he contributes to her pre-dance bio AND is in the audience. I’m not sure why that’s amazing to me but it is. That Billy Baldwin would deign to visit this set (which I’m sure he did when Stephen was on) is like seeing a celebrity at Target: strangely familiar but out of context and even when you do realize that that’s the guy, you wonder what the heck they’re doing participating in this part of your life. Her dance itself was pretty stunning. The judges were floored by the first 15 seconds where she danced by herself but I wasn’t really all that impressed until their first move together after those 15 seconds. Her partner steadied her and spun her like a music box ballerina. Their Viennese waltz made Shemp look like he was doing the cabbage patch across the floor. They were all poise and grace, like what you think of when you imagine the term “ballroom dance.” If we’re going to judge purely on technique and not which celebrity will garner the most ratings over the course of the next few weeks, she has to be one of the favorites to win.

Nancy Grace: What an effing train wreck. I’m fairly certain this is one of those times where a person wants to repair a bad reputation without having to sacrifice her on-air persona but the Nancy Grace mystique is a dark cloud that hangs like poison over her very appearance. Everything she does is like watching a hellish bastardization of that act, whether that’s dancing or smiling or having fun. Yeah, having fun because it makes you feel like fun must be wrong if she’s doing it. I was first struck with the gimmicky beginning (she sits behind a desk and in front of a green screen to simulate her show before she rips off the pant suit to a dress where the bust was holding on for dear life) because I’d never seen that before (obviously) and wasn’t sure why it was happening. I was glad to hear Len Goodman (the more trustworthy Simon Cowell of the program) hates that garbage just as much as I do now (again, because Nancy Grace did it). Nancy’s as stiff and confused and you thing she would be but the judges try to build her confidence and placate her bovine-like moves (not a fat joke, just that she lumbered through this dance). Basically the judges were like, “You’ve got the moves. You just didn’t show them here.” Also of note: Her dance partner, Tristan, is a rookie so I imagine that’s why he’s stuck with Nancy. I feel bad for him. But I’m always sympathetic with the Irish. It’s why I still see Colin Farrell movies and eat Lucky Charms.

David Arquette: Here’s our real redemption story. This a nice dude that went through a dark time and now he’s trying to get his life back through dance. I like David Arquette. He’s a sweet guy, perfectly adequate as a comedic actor, and funny in general (at least in the bio and the behind-the-scenes stuff). Not particularly electric on the dance floor but you root for him because he’s self-admonishing, positive, dedicated and you want him to have something good in his liOHMYGAH — is that Courtney Cox in the audience? I know that I said I was surprised by Billy Baldwin being here but Courtney Cox in the audience is just too much. Isn’t there a pilates class for her to be at? What is she doing here?

Elizabetta Canalis: I, like you, know her as the woman formerly boning George Clooney. Though there’s something odd about her in the ABC filter. Granted, I only know her through pictures on WWTDD and I knew she was skinny but on this show she is all bones and boobs. Dear Elizabetta, eat a donut. Her dance was fine and the judges are right: when she was on her own, you could see her thinking about her steps like she was trying to solve the Hodge conjecture. I also feel sad for her claim that this show is a dream come true because she gets to work in the United States. Oh, honey.

Hope Solo: Interesting value judgements about the female body in this segment. Hope is an athlete at the top of her game and her body reflects that. But comments are made that her arms aren’t feminine and her lines don’t match that for a Viennese waltz. Struck me as weird. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive. After her bio and some painful soccer-based one-liners (“But if I can get elegant with this Viennese waltz then I think we’re gonna score” — she doesn’t score! She’s a goalkeeper!), she danced the waltz just fine. The judges were full of things like “muscling too much” and “independent woman” and “punching him in the face.” The best part about Hope Solo on this episode though is watching her competitive half-smiles for her fellow contestants.

Carson Kressley: I’ve read in some places that people were a little disappointed with how Carson didn’t dance expertly but he’s always been a little too much of a goofball to be considered any level of graceful. And the dance reflects that. But if there’s anything Carson is all about it’s flair. The rooster walk was fun, everything had a great energy. It just wasn’t ballroom dancing. So. He’ll work on that I suppose. He’s fun to have around if anything. Also: I learned that “Moves Like Jagger” is by Maroon 5. Not that I loved the song or anything but now I don’t want to hear it anymore.

JR Martinez: I’m not one to be overenthusiastic about our troops. I’m glad they do fighting that I don’t have to do so I can write blog posts about minor celebrities stumbling across a wood floor for our amusement. But I’m not shedding a tear for their courage. JR Martinez did a good job with the dance although it looked like he almost dislocated his partner’s shoulder on the spinny move. He has the determination and backstory to get better and be the main competition for Chynna Phillips.

Ricki Lake: I’m SO happy no one chanted “Go Ricki” during her dance. Although I wouldn’t probably done it. Her dance was also just fine and I have a feeling her minor celebrity cache and middling performances will probably send her to the middle of the pack. She’ll stick around because she’s really unremarkable. That’s not to say she won’t get better or won’t achieve her goals of weight loss. The one thing she has going for her is that she honestly really wants to be there and knows how to express emotion. Not weird robot leaks like Kim Kardashian.

Chaz Bono: Here’s the thing: I don’t think Chaz Bono has the moves. But you’re not going to cut the transgender in the first week. Hopefully he’ll get better and whine a lot less as the season progresses. I do like how the he and the bio focused more on the support he’s gotten by doing this show and not the negative press I’ve heard so much more about since the announcement. Not to get all political on you, but no one is going to watch this show and become transgender because they see Chaz Bono do it. That’s really overestimating the power of his dwindled celebrity. Also: the cost of becoming transgender is enough of a paywall to keep kids from inverting their pee-pees on a drunken whim. Instead, maybe we should talk about Elizabetta Canalis and how she promotes ill-advised arm tattoos.

So they danced for two hours with bios preceding each number. I was most surprised about how the contestants didn’t know their partners until the first day of rehearsal. Also, it’s interesting how, because the show has been on for twelve previous cycles, there are favorite dancers and some celebrities, like Carson and Ricki, were able to rattle off names or have fandom. Shows that the program is just as likely to catapult the careers of the dancers as it does the stars.

Despite the bios for each character during the dances episode, the following day’s results show (brilliant to separate the two) included an hour of “Get to Know the Stars” (also brilliant to build investment in these characters). The results show itself is a stellar piece of marketing and format. Between this and The Bachelor/The Bachelorette, ABC has eliminations down pat: just enough drama to keep the viewer interested while not too much to be a parody of itself (I’m pointing my elbow at you Who Wants to Be a Millionaire). There’s also plenty of room for programming plugs on the show as they invite the stars of the network to hang out in the front row of the audience to promote shows. It makes me wonder if Matthew Fox or Josh Holloway ever showed up to check it out. I imagine them having a couple of drink, beers or martinis, slouching, and raising their glasses as Tom Bergeron encouraged people to watch LOST after the show. Something to dig into the archives for.

I’ll spare you in-depth analysis of the results show only to say: (1) I’m glad the “dance troupe” is keeping the tradition of the Solid Gold Dancers in tact (but why did Bruno take his shirt off — is that something that’s going to happen a lot?), (2) the “in jeopardy” thing is genius, (3) and I like the aspect of the encore dance as a way to really celebrate the best of the best from the dances episode. Carson was the clear choice and I noticed her really hit that rooster walk hard the second time around.

In the end, Metta World Peace was the easy choice to eliminate first. I really wanted to hate Dancing with the Stars so I could say that the black guy always gets killed first in horror pictures. But he was truly awful and, although he might have gotten better, his heart really wasn’t into dancing. Even saying something like that makes me want to dry heave. But it’s kind of true. That was what was lacking in his dance was just a dedication to it. He was certainly performing for the crowd but in his own way. Lucky for Shemp and Nancy Grace because they get to live another week. But I have to assume one of them is next.

Until next week, true believers. I need to find some strawberry-flavored cereal now.

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