Sunday, October 27, 2013

DWTS Week Six: No One Goes Home

Here are some good things about Season 17 so far. The opening numbers, usually stunning pieces, with both pros and troupe members dancing, are just incredible. This week’s was from Lacey Schwimmer and her brother. Mesmerizing, and a great use of these fabulous dancers.

Pros and the troupe dance the opening number. Choreographed by Lacey Schwimmer and her brother this week.
Just stunning stuff. Don’t miss the opening of the show anymore. (Early on, they had the “celebs” trying to keep up.) So glad they’ve disposed of all that nonsense. Celebs just stand there and wave as they are introduced, while the dancers get a vigorous workout.

Also, during the show, there are dance segues in between ads and the show. Wonderful bits of dance magic, and no labored “here is the troupe” introductions attached to them. Just dancing. Great stuff.

The fact that the show is only one day now means lots of belabored hooha gets disposed of. The singers (blissfully) are kept to a bare minimum (I think they should be dispensed of entirely). The other labored dances seem to have gone away. It’s just this magical stuff at the beginning, and the dancers who are competing.

Well, most weeks. This week, we also had some craziness where four couples danced (and competed against each other). Their scores would be added to their total. Blah blah. Hated all that nonsense.

We also had the, “Oh, let’s pretend to be sending someone home, but really we won’t cause there was a computer glitch," cruelty, that actually caused Emma (the last person standing) to cry. Can we please avoid such brutality in the future? Oh my, was it mean.

But let's just skip all that and get to the actual dancing, shall we?

Now, I probably shouldn’t admit this to the reading public, but every week (since I’ve been watching DWTS), I have kept a log, separated out into four quadrants, I rate the dances. The top is FABULOUS! Second is Great. Third is OK. Last is Sucked. Many teams fall into the “Sucked” category every week (sad to say). Or many get into “OK.” Few land in the “Fabulous” category. This week, no joke, I had no one in either “OK” or “Sucked.” For the first time ever. The dances were all that good.

Look at this, for example.

Corbin and Karina. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.
The dance above was to the theme song of Game of Thrones. I get the feeling that Corbin has watched every episode. Let’s just say he’s WAY into it. Karina said she had never watched an episode.

The judges (especially Len) were less than wowed. Personally, I think it’s their best dance all season.

Karina, in their package says, “Is what I’m wearing too revealing?” She has so obviously never seen Game of Thrones. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Nice costume, Karina. No, really.
While I am still reeling (seriously) from Mark Ballas and partner no longer being part of the competition, I really like all of the remaining dancers. Cheryl (“oh so beautiful”) Burke and Jack Osbourne are even fun. They accused him of not being able to get into character. So we had this.

Cheryl Burke and Jack Osbourne.
I even really enjoy Bill Engvall. He and Emma Slater are really fun to watch. She comes out and says that this week they are dancing to “Beef Burger in Paradise” by Jimmy BuffAY. He rolls his eyes (in a nice way) and says, “No, that's ‘Cheeseburger in Paradise’ by Jimmy BuffET.” It was cute.

“That’s Jimmy Buffet, Emma.”
Seen a lot of dances in these 17 seasons. Sure have never seen anyone fighting over a cheeseburger. And so, you’ve gotta love it. I know I do.

Brant and Peta tango. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.
Brant and Peta, our resident Will-They or Won’t They? couple of this season served up a steamy tango.

But I wanna talk for a bit about my favorite two couples (that are remaining).

Derek Hough and Amber Riley samba. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.
My friends, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Derek Hough samba with Amber Riley. Complete with more than one samba roll! It was unbelievable. Derek through in all sorts of great samba moves, and Len shot him down by calling said moves “repetitive.”

Whatever, it was a great dance. Truly wonderful to watch. Seriously. Samba rolls. Wow.

But my favorite couple, still, is Val and Elizabeth. Let me say this about that.

I was one of those audience members who just rolled my eyes upon hearing that Elizabeth “Showgirls” Berkley was doing this show this season. I hereby take every bit of that back.

She came on this show, at least partly, to redeem her battered image. And while DWTS has the hokey “My Most Awesome Year” contrived segment (which this year fell mostly flat), Ms. Berkley has been doing her own waltz down memory lane for us. It’s almost like she’s dancing with a ghost, or chasing ghosts out of her past.

We had the “Saved By the Bell” flashback, complete with Mario Lopez in the audience last week. This week, although she didn’t dance on any poles, it was pretty much in-your-face to “Showgirls.”

Valentin Chmerkovskiy and Elizabeth Berkley. Courtesy of ABC/Alan Taylor.
She is subtly, but effectively, saying: “Here’s what you thought I was. But here’s what I am.” Week after glorious week, she’s showing us that she’s a dancer to be reckoned with.

Hollywood loves a sob story, but even more than that, it loves someone who bounces back. Who won’t take no for an answer. I really really hope she wins this thing.

Her fierceness and her drive are inescapable. Mixed with Val’s brilliant choreography, it’s a very heady combination. And Val winning a mirror ball trophy is long overdue.

Val and Elizabeth.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

DWTS Week Five: The Ballroom Gets Hit with a Shocker

NOOOOoooooooooooooooooooooo. I'm still gobsmacked.

Christina Milian and Mark Ballas dance their way to the first 10 of Season 17.
Mark Ballas is one of my favorite choreographers (and dancers) of Dancing with the Stars. He is one of the ones I always expect to last to the end, because he's so amazingly talented. I root for him no matter who his partner is. (I even rooted for him when he was with the obnoxious Palin daughter. *shudders*)

I was absolutely stunned when the news was read. I still am kind of in shock.

SNOOKI is stil there and Mark Ballas is going home? WTF?

However, this result proves, to anyone who had any doubt, that the public are indeed a part of this process. If you are competing on this show, you've gotta have some story that the public can latch onto. Even Bristol Palin lasted longer than this because although she had her detractors, there were also those who would defend her, and vote for her.

For myself, Christina Milian does nothing for me. I didn't know her really before this show, and she didn't strike me in any way while on this show. The ONLY reason I threw lots of votes in their team's direction each week was because I really love Mark Ballas' dancing.

But, I suppose, the fact that they had been in the Bottom Two previously should have been some kind of warning of her lack of popularity. I think the only reason Valerie Harper (whom people REALLY loved, and who has cancer) was voted out first was because she 100% could not dance.

Everyone else who's left has a story, has some popularity, has something going on. I guess I neglect the fact that that is all part of the mix here.

But Christina Milian leaving in Week Five, when she has an amazing partner like Mark Ballas, and has been dancing really amazingly, proves just that people weren't interested in her. Still, it really shocked me. The ballroom was filled with loud boos when it was announced, so others were shocked and angry too.

Let me try to push past my anger here and get on with the rest of it. :-(

The week was "My Most Memorable Year," which could be good year or bad year. Note to future DWTS contestants: it should be something which moves the audience, and gets them to like you more. Amber Riley picking the "year I was booked on Glee" is only an eye-roller. Yes, we know you're a star, and that we love you on Glee. But do you have any FEELINGS? This is the week to show those.

Jack Osbourne and Cheryl Burke (who just keeps getting more beautiful).
And so, the winners of this week, the ones who actually followed directions, were Jack and Cheryl (Jack who picked the year he got married, had a baby and discovered he has MS); Bill and Emma (Bill was one of the few to pick anything outside the 2000s, with the year he met his wife, 1982); and two spectacular pieces, which I shall detail in a moment.

Bill Engvall and Emma are a joy to watch every week. Courtesy of ABC and Dancing with the Stars.
Let me just say this too. Now that we have the confusion of too many old Bills around dissipated, Bill Engvall (the one who's left) is a real Dancing With the Stars contestant. One you can root for and enjoy every week because they don't have a ton of dance training, but gosh darn it, they are trying! He is really wonderful and I enjoy him more and more every week. 

But we had two dances which spectacularly fit the purpose of this week. We had Elizabeth Berkley, whom many fans were introduced to by her appearance on “Saved By the Bell” many many years ago. (I didn't watch it, so this segment did nothing for me.) But she recreated her “famous” scene of taking too many diet pills or something. It was kinda funny. Must've been very poignant for her.

And then she and Val burst into an amazing jive, dancing, of course, to “I'm So Excited.” It was a woman whom we've known before in at least one other context (two, if you count Showgirls), and it was a reaffirming of exactly where she is now. It was joyous and amazing. Plus, Val Chmerkovskiy's choreography is stunning. Week after week after week, they are the couple I really want to watch most.

Elizabeth Berkley and Val Chmerkovskiy dance to “I'm So Excited.

Did I mention that he’s smiling now? Like REGULARLY! :-0  

I loved (and hated) Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Val’s older brother, whom we got to know first on this show. But I have to say that Val really suits the show better. He works hard with whomever he’s partnered with, and brings amazing choreography always (so did Maks). But he’s smiling and cheerful, not an angry lout. This one looks and acts like he’s part of the DWTS team. And I am so grateful for him, every single week since he’s been a regular pro.
But, to my mind, the one who clearly had a great story to tell in this week of My Most Amazing Year, and had wollops of emotion packed into the dance more than anyone else was Leah Remini. Of course, her story is finally breaking free from the Church of Scientology. She started the dance as a large puppet, being controlled by Tony Dovolani, her master. And the rest of the dance, as she experienced her freedom was really moving and emotional.
Leah Remini and Tony Dovolani.
I don't know what the hell Sasha and Snooki were doing, and I really hope she gets voted out soon. Corbin and Karina just bore me to tears, although she did look very pretty in her fairy princess outfit.

The fire seems to have gone from the Brant-Peta matchup. Not sure why.

One more couple I really am rooting for, even though you can just feel the ego filling the room (hers, not his)... is Derek Hough and Amber Riley. (My scores at right reflect my personal favorites overall.)

Amber Riley and Derek Hough. Courtesy of ABC (Adam Taylor). 
Some production notes: I am so glad that not one single woman has tripped over her dress this season. And we can actually see their feet! YAY.

Also, I'm still hating the cast sitting on the side of the judges thing, but I really like that they don't have to climb a long flight of stairs after dancing their little hearts out.

Most of all, I really love the dance intros and segues they have going. Often now, they are tying them in with songs that have played or are going to play with the contestants’ dances. Really nice. Also nice way to use the troupe regularly. This is a DANCE show, after all. Wish they'd get rid of these guest singer things completely.

But, this week it was all about this:
Len gives the first 10 of Season 17 to Mark Ballas and Christina Milian.
Followed by this:
Christina Milian and Mark Ballas, voted out.
Last week, in one of the packages, someone said, “It's not about the best dancers. The best dancers often go home.” This week, they proved that. Sorry to see you go, Mark. :-(


Monday, October 7, 2013

DWTS Week Three: Kicking Out the Old and Infirm

First, know this about me. I'm not going to cover every week of #DancingWithTheStars. Sometimes I'm just not inspired to, sometimes I am. So I'm bypassing Week Two.

Week Three, however...
Tony Dovolani and Leah Remini. Courtesy of ABC. (Adam Taylor)
There are certain truisms about some reality TV shows. The most obnoxious ones will always get kicked off of the island of Survivor first. The old, infirm and just can't dance will almost always get voted off of Dancing With the Stars first. This time, it was all three.

We are just now getting used to the new, leaner, meaner voting procedure. (IOW, our votes from LAST week and the judges votes from THIS week add up to who goes home. Sure, ok.)

In this case, poor Bill Nye, the science guy, did some major damage to his leg... and btw, it kills me how every time they are sitting in a doctor's office and the doctor says something akin to "you're gonna be paralyzed for life if you dance," and then we see the fools dancing anyway...but I digress.

Bill Nye couldn't dance, so his leg was made immobile, he was made to look like a robot and they danced anyway. And got voted out. Boo hoo. Bye bye.

Soon to be booted (one hopes, anyway) is the train wreck that is Valerie Harper and Tristan MacManus. Mind you, he's wonderful and oh so easy on the eyes... still. She simply cannot dance. Not one iota. Please make her leave soon.

Now that all that nonsense has passed, let's get to some of the other dancers (sorry Emma, I'm sure you're wonderful; and Tristan, here's hoping you get better partners someday).

This season makes me wonder if the pros have some kind of deal where they get two loser, can't dance troublemakers as their partners, by the third they have to get a real dancer or something. Cause Karina Smirnoff just couldn't be happier to have her partner, Corbin. But let's kid no one, he's a dancer. So, as has been said in other columns online, it kinda seems not really fair. Plus, there is no challenge to their dances. (Well, other than Karina's first contemporary, but that was HER challenge, not theirs.)

Karina Smirnoff and Corbin.
So, ok, Karina doesn't have some lunkhead football player to deal with. Karina's happy, I'm happy. I'm still not rooting for her this season.

As far as the bottom feeders, I actually enjoyed and voted for both Bill Engvall's Lone Ranger...

Bill Engvall and Emma
and Snooki and Sasha's one-handed cartwheel while holding hands...

Cause, you know, no one's really ever done that before (that I can remember).

But, oh, let's get to the dancers we are actually looking forward to, shall we?

Like this, as a palette refresher...

Peta and Brant do the quick step.
Still my favorite couple each week, it's just wondrous to see what Derek Hough does with boobs, I gotta tell ya (I say this as a big-boobed girl, not as any kind of insult to Amber). I promise you, they worked a motorboat into this routine. What a joy.

Derek Hough and Amber Riley do the Charleston.
However, I do worry about celebrities who have other shows to work on, and have to fly around the country being able to give themselves fully to this show. I loved Derek and Amber coming out of the gate, but I fear that may've been her best dance.

The two couples to watch out for, at least judging from this week, are the luminous and stunning Val and Elizabeth, who foxtrotted deliciously in Week Three.

Val Chmerkovskiy and Elizabeth Berkley foxtrot. A joy to watch.
And my favorite couple from this week (though I still can't figure out why Mark Ballas was wearing clown makeup... maybe an inside joke or something?). Anyway, their Charleston was superb, and my favorite dance of the week.

Christina Milian and Mark Ballas do a mean Charleston.