Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sexy, Sultry Dancing with the Stars Is BACK! and so’s MAKS! YAY!

The stunning opening number to Season 18, choreographed by Mandy Moore. Courtesy of ABC.
I had the misfortune of perusing comment boards prior to the start of Season 18 of Dancing with the Stars. The vitriol went along these lines: “I’m not going to watch because...” “those costumes! So skimpy!” “Why’d they get rid of Brooke Burke?” “Where’s the bandleader and orchestra?” “I’m not going to watch anymore...” Blah blah blah, like that.

Well, ladies and gents, ABC had its answer for ya. And it was this. (See above.) In your face, right out of the gate, we had the first ever guest artist singing in an opening number, with Jason Derulo, belting out, “Talk Dirty to Me,” as the sexy cast of pros strutted and sauntered sexily (women and men). The music, btw, SOUNDED GREAT!

Here’s what it was (the whole show) most of all: ALIVE. The music throbbed and pulsed and seemed up to date, the cast interacted with the hosts in a natural way (Congrats, Erin Andrews, great job! I love ya!), there was just less BS overall.

In fact, I would even say that it was really more distilled essence of Dancing with the Stars than it’s ever been. No frou-frou crap to fill time. The heinous “Glitter Pit” from last season is blissfully gone (replaced by the upstairs waiting area in a different place, with wider stairs as access). The judges are back on the side they belong on, all is seemingly right with the #DWTS world.

Oh, and most of all, THIS.
Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Meryl, the gold medalling ice dancer.
Let me just say this about that. I was one of the many who, when Maks had his egotistical dustup with the judges, was wishing him banished. But this is me, now, like a scorned lover coming back with her tail beween her legs, kissing the floor in front of Maksim, joyously proclaiming his return.

Sure, sure, we’ve made do with the Chmerkovskiy magic with Valentin’s amazingness (which, thankfully, we still have), but it is Maks (like he said) who really makes the show. There is just something he gives this show, a gravitas, a deep-rooted sexuality, something, without which it threatens to fly away with its bubbliness and pandering to sponsors. I almost cried to see him dancing again with his partner Meryl.

For me, it boils down to this: This is DWTS. Derek. Mark Ballas. Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Karina Smirnoff. Cheryl Burke. Len, Bruno, Carrie Anne. Tom Bergeron. That’s it. Others can come and go, but those elements MUST be there for it to be the show it’s capable of being.

Others, like Valentin and Peta Murgatroyd and Tony Dovolani, buff it up and make it better, but those others are its core. Maybe the powers that be at ABC finally realized it, too.

Also, let me say that (although I suppose we’ll never know the reals on this sitch), the dance floor is littered with those rumored to be Maks’ conquests (Karina, Peta, etc.), the most fun to me, while ABC was busy playing up the romance of Peta and her dance partner (she is always rumored to be romantically involved with her dance partners; I actually think it makes her dance better), the real hot sparks (to my eyes) were between (also romantically rumored) former dance partners Erin Andrews and Maksim C.

The hottest (sexiest) dance I’ve ever seen on this show was between Maks and Erin, that dance in that bed they did. WHEW! I get hot just thinking about that dance.

Nothing was said in any of the packages about that hotness, but to me it was palpable in their banter.

I don’t know about anyone else, but dance is primal. It’s all about the sex. All Maksim has to do is walk into a room, and a person’s thinking about sex already. So, as we start fanning ourselves here, let’s just say that with the dancers and Maksim back and the new show orientation: they’ve indeed brought SEXY back.

It’s dripping with sex, and hot costumes, and hot bodies and appreciation of the DANCE of it all. APPLAUSE.

OK, now let’s get to the nitty gritty of this premiere episode: the dances.

Twelve competitors. Let’s start with the easy ones. The ones I cover my eyes when they appear, and really wish they would be gone immediately are: Billy Dee Williams and Diana Nyad. Heavens! Case in point. Did you know he is going to be in the upcoming Star Wars movie? No? Let us remind you. *sigh*


Oh dear God. There have been some clunky competitors: Valerie Harper from last season comes to mind. But old, and I do mean OLD, Billy Dee Williams takes the cake. He looks like he is waiting for his walker, which is just offstage. If there was a shuffling off to Buffalo award, he’d win it. No, wait, that gives a bad name to shuffling. Ah, let’s not bash the poor guy, after all, in a galaxy far far away he was once Lando Kalrissian. (Emphasis on FAR AWAY.)

Let’s just hope that he gets voted off first next week! (I really do feel bad for Emma, who had such a great season last year with someone that no one, me included, thought could dance at the beginning.) As the 5s from the judges started rolling in this week, she looked crestfallen. Dude, Billy Dee was TERRIBLE. Possibly worst contender on DWTS ever. (I’m truly hard-pressed to come up with a worse one.) Seriously, MY EYES!

Diana Nyad wasn’t much better. Dreadful. Hope she’s the next to go. And it’s truly not that I’m ageist, it’s just that straight-up, these folks can’t dance. Not an iota. Hell, Billy looks like he can barely walk. No joke.

So let’s focus on the dancers who have a hope in hell of lasting past a couple of episodes, shall we?

Since I seem to be going from least-liked to best-liked, there is also Karina’s partner, a former hockey player who seems to have difficulty even smiling. Talk about an oaf! Sheesh. Now, I think Karina Smirnoff is the best female dancer on this show, and one of the world’s best dancers (as Maksim said last season), but man, I sure hope these two are voted off quickly.

Karina Smirnoff, looking like a world-class dancer. Sean Avery, looking like a longshoreman.
James and Peta seem to have a romance brewing. Drew Carey is the “only partner I didn’t have to Google,” said Cheryl Burke like five times to different press outlets. *eyeroll*

For the youngsters, there’s some 18 year old who’s apparently big in Australia. He’s dancing with a new pro, Whitney. They were fun.

Those are my bottom tier this seaon. Any of those could go, and I’d be quite happy.

Let’s just pause, take a deep breath, and then ponder those who are actually going to be winning the Mirror Ball this season.

Amy Purdy and Derek Hough. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.
Derek Hough, always pushing boundaries, and taking us into places that the rest of us can’t go, is this season dancing with a woman who has no legs. Amazing, incredible and brave.

Valentin Chmerkovskiy, always one to watch, is this season dancing with a woman who, if she doesn’t tone down the smile wattage a few notches is going to put the audience into a sugar coma.

Danica and Val.
Tony Dovolani, previous Mirror Ball winner, has his work cut out for him (similar to winner Amber Riley last season) with NeNe Leakes. She is a whole lotta woman, and I don’t mean size, I mean attitude and presence. She dominates that dance floor (as Amber did last season, with Derek).

Tony Dovolani and NeNe Leakes.
I’m not sure what this whole “Change partners and DANCE” thing is that they hint about for midseason, but I sure hope it ends up with Maks and NeNe dancing together. THAT I wanna see.

Let’s get to the three teams that I hope are some combination of final three.

MARK BALLAS and CANDACE CAMERON BURE

I always like Mark Ballas as a finalist going in. He’s one of the main reasons I watch DWTS season after season. I feel sorry that he keeps being saddled with partners who wear their conservatism like a badge. I liked Ms. Candace just fine until she says in her package: “I'm not going to wear those skimpy costumes! I’m a mom!” *huff, puff* Good grief.

On this show, baby, you’re a DANCER, so suck it up. Just look at this.

Candace Cameron Bure and Mark Ballas do contemporary.
Now, if you weren’t so intent upon being “a mom,” and chaste and whatever, you might not end up with folds of clothing which splat into your partner’s face like this. Why don’t you just SHUT UP and let the costumers (who are fantastic) do their job? Do you think it endears you to us to say such things? No. It makes me want to vote for you less. You signed up for this gig: DEAL WITH IT.

You are blessed with a partner whose amazing dance talent is going to take you MUCH further in this competition than you really deserve to go, so enjoy it, and be gracious to the team that got you there. Wear whatever costumes they give you.

Remember when poor Mark was saddled with Bristol Palin? *shudders* Or that other chick, who also wouldn’t wear skimpy clothes because of her religion? She had clothes up to her neck, and the judges kept saying she was unable to “find her sexuality.” Well, duh. (Dance, remember, at its purest, is about SEX! As the producers so clearly know.)

So far, Ms. Bure seems to be a better dancer than either of those two, so I hope she can learn to curb her errant comments a bit and be gracious about what the wonderful Mr. Ballas has to teach her. Ugh.

MAKSIM CHMERKOVSKIY and MERYL DAVIS

I don’t know about you, but I was still on an Olympics high when this season of DWTS began. And Meryl and Charlie contributed greatly to that. So it’s just so wonderful to see Meryl dancing! And add to that the supreme visceral, all-is-now-right-with-the-world joy of seeing Maksim on the dance floor again.

In the packages, people are all meeting their partners for the first time, seeing what they can do. Maks asks Meryl to spin into his hand, “Can you do that?” he says innocently. She flawlessly spins on point about six times. Maks smiles slyly, “Yeah, I can work with that.” It was great.

Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy.
Maks, I take back every single bad word I ever said about you. Be a bad boy, be an egotistical bastard. I don’t care. Just don’t ever go away again. DWTS needs you. Truly. And I am so glad you are back!

SHAUNA BURGESS and CHARLIE WHITE

The other half of the Olympic ice dancing team that just won America’s first gold medal is Charlie White. They did a cute thing when Meryl started her dance, with both of them waving and Maks pulls her away to dance. It was really nice.

Hopefully this season they will both learn the art of doing a character, and quit smiling so much. To that end, we had this.

Charlie White and Sharna Burgess do contemporary. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.
My favorite dance of the first night of Season 18. Charlie and Shauna. Awesome stuff. These top three teams are my favorites to watch.

And with any luck, America will have done the right thing and voted out the worst dancer. So we don’t have any more of this nonsense...

Meryl and Maks with two “audience members.”
Ugh.

Erin Andrews, btw, was just what the show needed. I am so very glad she’s there, and so very glad that the wondrous Tom Bergeron is still there, too. (And that he got his pinch from Maks.) The world smiles.

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