Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Donald Driver's Secret Weapon

First things first. Ladies and gentlemen, our Season 14 winners:

Peta Murgatroyd and Donald Driver. And here's why.

When last I examined this, I looked at the top four couples. Let's visit them again.

In fourth place (unjustly) was Derek Hough and Maria Menounos. Their ouster at fourth place was certainly an anamoly of voting, of people thinking they were safe, and not picking up the phone for them. The night that was their last, they had TWO perfect dances. TWO 30s from the judges. That is not a couple who was meant to go home.

And I am, frankly, still upset about it. So, let's just gloss over Derek and Maria's perfection.


What does it take to become a champion?

Frankly,  what it takes to win, mostly, is amazing choreography by the Pro. That's why you are going to see Derek Hough and Mark Ballas win the Mirror Ball over and over and over again (and Karina Smirnoff), because they provide stunning, breath-taking choreography for us to feast upon.

To my eyes, Cheryl Burke is a good choreographer, servicable, but she is not on the same level as Hough and Ballas. She just isn't. Added to that, her partner, William Levy got to third place mostly because he has a rabid fan following that salivated over his hot looks (and his gorgeous shaking ass). Them's the facts, m'am. In interviews afterwards, Burke tried to play down the fact that it was a pretty face that helped get "Team Fuego" to third.

No, he was pretty. That's what got you third. Own it. Embrace it.

First or Second? How do we decide?

Then we come down to our top two. Let me say this. I love Mark Ballas' choreography, more than anyone else on this show, and so I always, from the first episode, hope that he comes in first, and expect him to.

What I realized with Season 14 is that choreography only gets you so far. And while any of the top four in any other season might have won, in THIS super competitive, multi-talented season, it was not enough.

Naughty Bits as a Downfall

Katherine Jenkins, while elegant and graceful and providing stunning lines, almost from her first dance, was hindered by one thing, which ended up keeping her from the Mirror Ball trophy. She is, pretty much, a prude.

Now, I'm not saying that it's a prerequisite for a winner of DWTS to run around in scanty clothes, necessarily. It's more this. One has to own one's body as a dancer. The body, clothed or unclothed, is a vehicle for the dance. We saw, in the interview packages, how Katherine would stammer and laugh and blush when confronted with her "naughty bits." She didn't like showing them, she didn't like dealing with them. If there was one thing she was roundly consistently criticized for was that her dances "lacked fire."

William Levy was graded (perhaps too much by salivating Bruno) for being "sex on a stick." Katherine didn't own her sexiness enough. I am convinced that kept her from the trophy.

My take on it is that Mark Ballas, knowing what it takes to win this thing, was pushing her to give more fire, to get outside her comfort zone. She didn't want to, she didn't want to, then finally she did, in this dance.

Look at this picture. The man on the left is totally comfortable in his own body, and with his own sexuality. He owns this dance. Look at the woman on the right. She is not at all comfortable with the amount of skin she's presently showing (even though, as a DWTS costume goes, this is very chaste; still it was the most skin Katherine showed all season).

At the end of this dance, she "had a back spasm." Her uptightness over her costume made her pull out her back, and it was also the moment when she unconciously decided, "You know what? Second place is good enough for me. I'm really OK with that."

Don't believe me? Here are her costumes for the final.

And this:

She had white shorts on under her flapper dress. SHORTS.

Makes me sad. But that's why she got second, though her choreography was stunning and executed flawlessly.

Now, by contrast.

When you want  something so bad you can taste it...

I had Katherine and Mark in my initial picks. I had Derek and Maria. I didn't know anything really about Peta and Donald Driver (though I've always been suspicious of athletes, they do tend to win a lot).

I was blithely going on, at the beginning of the season, picking my Favorite Dance of the Week (which you can see on my Pinterest board: Mark and Katherine, then Derek and Maria. By week four though (Rock Week), it was (shockingly to me) Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd who had captured my "Dance of the Week" honor.

Their Purple Haze was not to be denied. And it was just so far above all the other competitors.

Look at this, you can already see a championship team at work.

Both competitors are owning that stage.

Or this:

Or their Viennese waltz. Or their story-filled "Mr. Big Stuff":

 What you see in these pictures are two people, singular of purpose, who both really want to win.

Peta because it was her second season as a pro, and in her first season, she was voted out first. Donald because he loved Dancing with the Stars.

This turned out to be their secret weapon. He loved the show. He loved it so much that he watched it, every season. Knew every player, watched every dance.

Where this came into play was the end.

In finals week, Donald was the one who came up with, "...well, back in Season Two..."

And they pulled a move that a similar champion had done. They danced their freestyle to country.

Dudes, it's America. America loves country music.

This was the dance that won the Mirror Ball, I promise you.

Donald Driver knew, from studying the tapes of past seasons, what it took to win. And he wanted that, badly.

And, I have to say, I am happy that they were the ones who won. They wanted it, they deserved it, and they done America proud.

Congratulations to Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd, our new Mirror Ball champions.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Glee's Cruelty Trumps its Rampant Pedophilia

 Mostly concerning: Glee, Season 3, Episode 6: "Mash-off"

I'm having a real problem lately. It concerns TV shows having reprehensible main characters that they then expect us to root for and/or care about.

On the "good" end of this spectrum (ie, shows that do this properly), we have TV magic like Tony Soprano and Breaking Bad's Walter White. They never lose their center, their gravitas, as they descend into madness.

On the "I wanna gouge my eyes out with sticks for watching this" side of the spectrum, we have the travesty of last season's Bachelor, whose Courtney made me never want to watch that show again. I literally want to throw up when I even think about watching it.

We also have shows like Desperate Housewives, who start out nice, with characters you want to invest in and actresses that are compelling, and devolve into soapy messes. I ducked out of Desperate Housewives once they had that killer in the basement nonsense going on, and never went back.

And then we have the case of Glee. The first season was pretty magical. The kids were wonderful singers and dancers. Sure, people threw slushies at each other and called each other "Loser," but what high school doesn't have that?

The second season nearly went off the rails, with a mess of storylines. Poor Sue Sylvester, if it weren't for her sister dying, she would've been a caricature of meaness with no respite. Dreadful.

I went into the third season, more hopeful. Indeed, there was a throughline of story revolving around student council elections and the school play. It seemed to have more cohesion. Heck, it had Eric Stoltz directing! How bad could it be?

Well, then there was "Mash Off." Two things about this episode left me gasping at my screen: the rampant pedophilia, left unchecked; and the absolute meanness and judgmentalism of one of the characters. Let's explore those one by one.

First, let me remind those who maybe haven't seen the show that most of the cast is supposedly in high school. Granted, it's kinda obvious that most of these actors are at least in their 20s, but, in theory, they are teens.

So, frankly, even  some of the storylines (one main character was pregnant in the first season, and not by her boyfriend. Ouch.) leave me squeamish. But sure, in reality, teens do have sex. I am open minded enough to realize that.

Here's where it crosses the line for me. Students don't have sex with teachers. Teachers, for that matter, don't egg on students in the sexual direction. That's a line that shouldn't be crossed. I'm really hardcore about this because there is WAY too much sexual abuse of teens going on (both boys and girls). Here's my bottom line: Adults don't sleep with those under 18. Period. No exceptions. And TV shows shouldn't condone this behavior, or glorify it in any way.

This episode, "Mash Off," kicks off with Puck (who tells us no less than three times that "I'm really 18..."'; in real life, he's 30) waxing lyrical about how enamoured he is with his teacher (who now has custody of his illegitimate child, given up for adoption).

He then launches into Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher," which I admit is a great song. They also do a great rendition of it.

But here's the thing. They are TEENS. And they are singing "Hot for Teacher"? And their actual (male) teacher is in the room, and he's digging it? And encouraging them? It made me want to puke. It was really NOT OK, and every adult who participating in creating this episode should be ashamed of themselves.

Shockingly, it wasn't even the worst part of the episode.

Let me give a bit of backstory about the next part.

A regular storyline of all three seasons is how, even though regular kids are abused and put down, it's the gay kids who REALLY suffer. One of them (one of the male leads) even changed schools for a season because he was struggling so hard with it.

We have another (female) gay student, who is hiding her truth and is really ashamed of it. She lets loose a tirade of judgmental meanness on one of her fellow students that left my mouth agape with shock. And somehow, we are supposed to be rooting for this poor girl who has to hide her gayness.

Well, no. I can't really get past her cruelty, thanks. I don't really care if she walks down the road to happiness, and personally, I don't really care at this point if I see her on screen for one more second. I actually think that if I fast-forwarded through all the mean parts and the pedophlia parts of Glee, there would only be the songs left.

And I just may do that, cause the rest of it has become unwatchable.


Monday, May 14, 2012

The Final Four: Who's It Gonna Be?

Of the final four couples competing on Dancing with the Stars, Season 14, three of them I had picked on the first show. One surprised me.

But I could not have picked four better contestants for a finale. I want to examine them in the order in which I think they will go down.
NUMBER FOUR: Cheryl Burke and William Levy

I love Cheryl Burke. She is one of my favorite dancers to watch. And William Levy became one of the first DWTS heartthrobs ever, eliciting screams from the audience every time he danced. (Yes, I know, something Maks is already used to...) This season was filled with amazing dances and dancers above the usual crop, so the competition was always tough, but Burke and Levy provided stellar dances every time out.

NUMBER THREE: Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd
I didn't think much of them at the beginning. I usually roll my eyes when they trot out the football players. But Donald's love of DWTS, added with his unique chemistry with Peta made for some really memorable dances throughout the season.

Their Purple Haze commanded Rock Week. Their threesome (with last year's winner Karina Smirnoff) stood out amongst an incredible field of unique and innovative contestants. Donald and Peta got much further than I thought they would, and I'm glad. I look forward to seeing them in the finale.

But really, all along, this competition has been between two teams, both captained by geniuses of choreography. Masters of dance who create innovative pictures. It's a really tough call between the two, and who will win will depend on the dances they create. But I think it'll go like this.

NUMBER TWO: Derek Hough and Maria Menounos

Derek Hough creates stunning choreography, if you saw the last samba that he did Bollywood style, or the Madonna number without a melody earlier in the season, you'd know what I'm talking about. Stunning, take-your-breath-away dances.

His one detriment, which I believe is going to cost him the championship, is that he's dancing with Maria Menounos. She's fine, and she seems up for whatever he throws at her, despite two broken ribs, a broken foot and other physical problems.
But, simply, she is not the best this season.

And that would be:


Oh, I swoon just thinking about a Mark Ballas dance. He has created such beautiful poetry on screen every time one of his dances is before us. Not only gorgeous choreography, but a stunning, heart-wrenching story, as his alcoholic man and the woman who loves him tango showed. And in a tough season like this, that is what pushes it above the edge, to the top.

If I had a complaint about Katherine Jenkins (and her lines are perfect, her flicks are spot-on, she is such a perfect partner for Ballas), it's that she doesn't easily go into the truly sexy (Len would say: raunchy) parts of the dance that make it really hot. That may cost her.

But as long as she's willing to let Mark Ballas guide her, this should be the couple who ends up with the mirror ball this season. All in all, this season finale looks to be the best ever. I truly eagerly await all of their dances.

And I hope you do too! (Dancing with the Stars airs on ABC, Monday nights from 8 pm - 10 pm PST. Thanks to ABC/Adam Taylor for the photos.)