Sunday, November 24, 2013

DWTS Semi-Finals: Will the People’s Champion Prevail?

The amazing dancers of DWTS. Note Mark Ballas, Tony Dovolani, Valentin Chmerkovskiy and Tristan McManus.
We are down to five contestants. The final five absolutely amaze me. I would not have picked these five in any scenario.

It strikes me that perhaps there was some fraud happening with the phone method of voting, cause taking that out of the mix this season REALLY seems to leave the winners that the voters want, judges be damned. (Just a theory.)

For this semi-finals, they have an interesting concept. The dancers do two dances, both different varieties of dance, but to the same song. One version electric, one acoustic. There were some very wonderful pairings to this concept. Going from my least favorite to my favorite...

First up, in the electric format, we had:

Tony Dovolani and Leah Remini. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.
And the “People’s Champion,” (as Bruno called him, and it’s true):

Bill Engvall and Emma Slater.
The absolutely on fire (in both of their dances), Jack Osbourne and Cheryl Burke, dancing to The Police’s “Roxanne.”

Jack Osbourne and Cheryl Burke, dancing to the electric “Roxanne.” Courtesy of ABC.
My favorite of all the electric dances, my only remaining couple from my picks at the beginning, are Amber Riley and Derek Hough. Now, she's had a lot of problems with her knee, and she does go out there like a trouper, however, one must also judge those choices accordingly.

The dance subtitled, “The best we could do, under the circumstances.” Amber Riley and Derek Hough.
Now, I know you’re saying, “Michelle, these are only FOUR couples. Where is the fifth?”

Let me say this about that. I have had trouble all along with Corbin Bleu. He’s a professional DANCER. There’s no getting around that. The only way to get around it, in fact, is to not vote for him. So, in the same degree that my passion for Bill Engvall winning this thing has gone up, my passion for Corbin Bleu NOT winning this thing has also gone up.

Yes, his dances with Karina are fine. Sure. But I'm not participating in one moment of hype for him. Other than this.

Karina Smirnoff and Corbin Bleu.
You may remember, when Corbin did his legendary Game of Thrones dance (really quite wonderful), Karina, in the package, made some comment about “is this too revealing?” (And it wasn’t.) This, however... well, look at it.... Let’s just say it was WAY more revealing, and not a peep about it in this package.

Cause there was also this:
Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Bruno Tonioli
Yes, that’s right. Maksim Chmerkovskiy is back. Well, at least for the semi-finals, anyway. And that would be Karina Smirnoff’s former fiance, Maks. So I’m sure that she was wearing next to nothing in her dance had NOTHING to do at all with the fact that Maks was judging. Ahem... And the fact that she, in her next-to-nothingness insisted upon going up to Maks, and giving him a kiss on the cheek. *sigh*

What Maks said that warranted the kiss was that Karina is “among the top five female dancers.” (I think he said in the world, but he might’ve said on DWTS—kinda the same thing anyway). Personally, I think she is easily the BEST female dancer on DWTS. Although, as Maksim showed us when he danced, that does seem to come concurrent with a hefty dose of ego.

Ugh. The less said about those two (Karina and Corbin), the better.

I would like to see a future where we have Maksim, Carrie Ann and Bruno judging (please, God, put Carrie Ann in the middle for that. Bruno’s inappropriate homoeroticness really bugs me during the show.) I hope they don’t bring back Julianne Hough regularly (she was mean). And DEFINITELY NO CHER.

But let’s get back to the acoustic versions of the dances.

Also in order of how I liked them, from least favorite to most favorite, we had:

Leah Remini and Tony Dovolani. (Leah, sadly, ended up being the one sent home on this night.)
Derek Hough and Amber Riley do a stunning Viennese waltz.
And the acoustic version of “Roxanne” this time:
Cheryl Burke and Jack Osbourne do an incredible Argentine tango to “Roxanne.”
And, no joke, my absolute favorite dance of ALL OF THEM of the night, was this one.
Bill Engvall and Emma Slater do an Argentine tango. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.
Bill Engvall proved in this dance that old guys are actually pretty darn sexy, and could teach the kids a thing or two. Emma proved in this dance, that for a pro who came from nowhere, she’s really holding her own with the choreography of those who’ve been around the block here before. She is the only one left standing who has not yet won a Mirror Ball. My fingers are crossed that that changes next week.

I have to say, going into the Finals, I am really kinda rooting for Bill and Emma to win it all, but, if not them, my only hope is that it’s not Karina and Corbin. In fact, I really hope that Corbin and Karina get bumped on Monday, and it’s the other three left standing. THAT would be an amazing finals.

The People’s Champion, indeed.

Derek Hough (in back), Val Chmerkovskiy, Tony Dovolani and Tristan McManus. Courtesy of ABC.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

DWTS Week Nine: The Candy Man Can... Stay

Gleb, Elizabeth Berkley and Val Chmerkovskiy sadly get voted out this week. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.
Finally it’s starting to resonate with me, this whole voting thing. How who we voted for last week gets bounced this week.

Let’s recap, shall we?

Last week, one of my favorite couples to win (Val Chmerkovskiy and Elizabeth Berkley) did this really kinda terrible dance. It was noted that midweek, Elizabeth decided to change the dance, which meant changing the choreography midstream. What appeared was a harsh mess of something that left Cher (the guest judge) saying, “I don’t know what all that was behind there.”

What the whole dance was, and what appeared after the dance, was all a sickening ploy to kiss up to Cher. Various people did it in various ways during the show, but Elizabeth’s ego-driven nonsense was the worst.

She did a jarring dance, and then, in the point when you are supposed to hear the judges commenting about the dance, you hear Elizabeth burst in... you know, in that pent-up ego thing that friends have, when they’ve “just gotta” talk to some celebrity and say what they’ve always wanted to say? And you’re left shaking your head, and finally dragging them away? It was like that. Painful like that.

I’ve long believed (since I saw Bristol Palin on this show) that DWTS should have a “no-way-in-hell this person” button. If they had, Elizabeth would’ve gotten a lot of that for all this. She did, I suppose, in effect get that, when she was voted out in Week Nine, after getting 10s from all the judges for her trio dance.
This "on top of the wedding cake" thing was inspired. Elizabeth and Val.
People really don’t like rampant displays of ego, like they saw this week (or the previous week, as the case may be).

How could you not love this dance? Peta Murgatroyd, Bill Engvall and Emma Slater. Courtesy of ABC.
Conversely, warm and wonderful and kind, just-trying-his-hardest Bill Engvall got to stay, with all the judges wondering what the frack happened here. What they seem to be missing, and what in these moments I am SO grateful for, is that the show is purposely built not just on judging. There is a component (I believe they’ve always said it was 50% of the scores) that is WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT. And the people, as this season has really shown, want vastly different things than the judges do. And that’s the beauty of this show.

We are voting on who we want to continue to see on our screens week after week. And DWTS, like life, isn’t just about scoring perfect scores. It isn’t just about doing a dance perfectly. It’s much more about how you treat others, how you interact with the teams, and what your story is.

I was shocked, like many, when Christina Milian got voted out, but I can see now why. She and Mark had been doing perfect dances, but she had no personality, no spark, no reason to vote for her.

Emma, Peta and Bill Engvall do their trio dance.
Contrast that with Bill Engvall, who looks so gosh-darn-happy every time he gets to stay. Who do you think America is going to vote for? (Personally, I hope he wins it. I hope Mr. Broadway veteran Corbin Blue goes down in flames and has to watch the trophy being handed to Bill Engvall. That would be true justice.)

This all is also why Leah Remini is still there, too. She is so very likeable, she has a story, and she’s doing better and better every week. I mean, look at this.
Tony Dovolani and Leah Remini do their tango.
And even better, her trio dance this week was absolutely inspired. They did a parody of the three judges to the song, “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” Really brilliant.

Tony Dovolani as Bruno, Leah Remini as Carrie Ann Inaba and Henry Byalikov as Len.
And, in addition to a brilliant concept, some great dancing. Great fun.

Even Jack Osbourne, who, early on was one of the ones I really couldn’t wait to have voted off, is becoming more and more fun to watch every week. His trio (with Sharna Burgess) was a fun dance, even if the concept was a bit shaky. But Jack and Cheryl’s waltz was beautiful.

Jack Osbourne does a lovely waltz with Cheryl Burke.
As you may or may not have noticed, there is now only one couple left from my original group of people that I’ve been following and rooting for. That would be this one:

Amber Riley and Derek Hough, doing their quickstep.
Amber Riley and Derek Hough, doing a fine quickstep. They also did this amazing trio with Mark Ballas. What is not to love about that?

Mark Ballas, Amber Riley and Derek Hough. Superb trio.
Here’s the thing, though. I don’t think Amber is going to win. Coming out of the gate, it sure seemed like she had all the star power she needed to win this thing. But I’m calling it right now. She’s not going to win. She has a bad knee, and has been really only giving about 85% of what she could give to this competition.

Plus, if audiences didn’t like Elizabeth’s divaesque behavior, I gotta believe they are not down with Amber’s either. And Derek JUST won.

So who does that leave?

Well, I have neglected to mention the ringer in this mix, who so far is keeping his pro dance skills almost under wraps, even though in his trio this week, he dazzled the judges so much (all 10s) that one of them said, “I didn’t even see the other two people onstage.” I am talking, of course, about professional dancer Corbin Blue.
Witney, Corbin, Karina do a jazz number.
I am hoping against hope, praying every prayer that he does not win. I am gonna believe that (judging by this season so far), America is gonna do the right thing.

Who does that leave?

Jack and Cheryl? Maybe.  Leah and Tony? Also maybe. I would be happy with either of those.

But seriously and honest to God, here’s who I am rooting for, at this point, to win this thing.

Emma Slater and Bill Engvall. My picks to win.
Make it happen, America. We can do this!


Friday, November 8, 2013

DWTS Week Eight: It's All About Cher

Mark Ballas dancing to a Cher number. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor
Let me say this about that. Cher is a terrible judge for Dancing with the Stars. Perhaps the worst judge they've ever had. I truly hope they never have her return in that capacity.

That said, it was cool to hear so many songs of hers and the dancers all dancing to her songs.

The worst offenders of the “trying too hard to please Cher” syndrome, were, sadly, one of my favorite couples, who gave us this:

Elizabeth Berkley and Val Chmerkovskiy. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.
It was, sad to say, my least favorite of their dances. (The sexy half-naked Val notwithstanding.)

This, on the other hand, was one of my favorite dances of the night:

Bill Engvall and Emma Slater
Where Bill actually did sexy moves like this:

Bill and Emma
Wonderful stuff!

Leah Remini also did some stuff, but since it was mostly sucking up to Cher, and Cher sucked as a judge, I’m just going to leave it all out here.

And in the category of “Couple You Don’t Expect, Doing Great Things,” we had this.

Cheryl Burke and Jack Osbourne
Jack and Cheryl, oh my God! Jack and Cheryl! This dance of theirs was mind-blowing. My favorite of theirs so far.

Cheryl reminding us, of course, that she was actually named cause her mom liked Cher.

But my favorite dance of the night, saved for last, was the stunning dance Derek Hough and Amber Riley put together.

Let me set the scene a bit. It starts with some sailors in uniform.

Derek Hough, Amber Riley and the troupe
She picks one out, and starts to disrobe him.

Is it getting a little steamy in here yet? Oh yes, it is...

The hottest of a hot dance with Amber Riley and Derek Hough.
Did you notice she’s wearing leather? And afterwards, Bruno noted that she took the normal “guy’s part” (she took the lead). Oh yes, she certainly did. And it was wonderful.... AHEM. Glad they saved it for last. 

Sadly, our hot little twosome (that would be Brant and Peta, not Derek and Amber) got sent packing tonight. :-(
Peta Murgatroyd and Brant D. get sent home.
And I'll leave you with, no not another shot of Val and/or Derek shirtless, as nice as they may be... no, my favorite part of this season: Bill Engvall, in his signature move. Enjoy!

Bill Engvall and Emma Slater, one of my favorite couples this season.
And here, Bill Engvall discovers that he and Emma are safe for another week. I was just about as glad as he is, believe me. Keep voting for Bill!

Bill, Emma, Cheryl Burke, Tom Bergeron, Jack Osbourne
Oh, and lastly, if you think Dancing with the Stars is all about hunky man meat (well, it is)... there is also this. (Note the creepy Wizard of Oz-y Cher hangings. Yikes.)

Sharna (dark hair) and other troupe dancers do a break.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

DWTS Week Seven: Just Foxing Awesome

This is the story of Season 17 on Dancing with the Stars to me:

Bill Engvall wows the judges. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor. 
See, what Dancing with the Stars is supposed to be about is some poor schlub who can’t dance being coached by a pro, and going through these dances each week. Instead, we’ve gotten these folks with tons of dance training who coast to winning the mirror balls. COUGHNicoleScherzingerCOUGH or, this season, COUGHCorbinCOUGH.

And truly, those folks honestly hold the least appeal to me. There is no drama, there is no suspense, there is no there there.

But witness instead, someone who is doing exactly that: Bill Engvall. You almost can’t get a better definition of “average schlub” than Bill Engvall. But he’s going out there, week after week, with his Australian pro who needs to learn how to pronounce Jimmy Buffet right, and he’s doing the best he can. And he's wowing us.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am throwing LOTS of votes his way (and none Corbin’s way, for the record). Cause I just love Bill Engvall going through this journey, and I’m going to be very bummed when he’s voted out finally. (Jack Osbourne is starting to do that, too, but I’ll put that into Week Eight’s story.)

So, keep an eye on Bill Engvall, and if you wonder why he’s there week after week, that is why.

To the other contestants:

My favorite lovey-dovey couple, Brant and Peta, actually ended their number with a great smackeroo. Quite wonderful.

Brant and Peta do the jive (no hands). Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.
Oh yeah, and they did a nice jive too.

Cheryl and Jack did a fun little dance. Jack seems to be getting into the whole thing more.

Cheryl Burke and Jack Osbourne.
There was also this.

Corbin and Karina. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor
But that brings me back to my favorites to watch, week after week. They did not disappoint this week, either.

The lovely Elizabeth and Val Chmerkovskiy. Still can’t get over Val smiling in his dances. And they are wonderful to watch together.

Val Chmerkovskiy and Elizabeth Berkley. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.
But by far my favorite couple this week, was the always wondrous Derek Hough and Amber Riley, who got their magic back with a fierce paso doble. Stunning to watch.

Derek Hough and Amber Riley do a mean paso doble. Courtesy of ABC.
Loved it so much. Fabulous to watch, my favorite dance of the night.

Then, we also had the “Team” dances. For those who are only occasional watchers of DWTS, it goes like this. Derek’s team always wins. And whoever is on the losing team also has someone on their team who goes home. That was true again this year.

Since it was close to Halloween, the losing team took on the moniker, “Team Scary Bon Bon.”

They competed against Derek’s team, which had the added bonus (as they did last year) of dancing to a song you just can't get out of your head, that crazy “What Did the Fox Say?” song.

For that reason, and no doubt others, they called themselves, “Team Foxing Awesome.” Tom Bergeron’s running gag was how hard it was to not slip and... er, say something else. (That’s why they pay you the big bucks, Tom.)

Team Foxing Awesome, and they were.
But as good as all that was, the best dance of the night was still this.

Derek Hough and Amber Riley do a paso doble.
Don’t know about you, but this is why I watch.