Saturday, November 1, 2014

DWTS Season 19 Week 7: Judges Disappoint. Guess who wins the Team Dance? AGAIN?

Team Creepy dances to "Time Warp." Courtesy of ABC.
It all comes down to this, ultimately: Entertainment or proper technique?

Which is more important is the fundamental question of Dancing with the Stars these days. This reality show began 19 seasons ago, with a focus on ballroom competition technique, and evolved from there. In the evolution, you've had changes (as one would expect). Much more (too much, for my taste) hip hop stuff was added; other, not strictly ballroom, dances ("jazz," "Bollywood") were added to the overall repertoire; and most strikingly, those who shepherded this project all along kind of outgrew their masters.

The judges were once the guiding force. Now many of the longtime pros have far surpassed the judges in skill and creativity and passion. The pros have really become the stars of this show. So it becomes, sometimes, a question of: are we doing this to hit our marks and pack in every piece of content requested? Or are we doing this for "entertainment"? To keep those millions of fans happy and tuning in each week?

The answer, of course, is kind of both. My answer, actually, would be that I look for enough content to see that it's recognizably the dance it's supposed to be, but within that, I love to see creativity stretched as far as it can be. I love to see the dancers having fun (the pros, I mean) and challenging themselves, and on those really lucky days, creating magic. Sometimes they just create straight-up fun. Is that a bad thing? The judges seem to still be saying Yes, but to that, I say NO! Give us fun, dammit!

This week, for example, we had the Team Dances. The remaining cast is divided into two teams. They compete as a team. Fun stuff. Only problem? Derek's team ALWAYS wins. And I mean, ALWAYS. (He has never lost.) How fun is that? What is the point?

Granted, most times, Derek's Team Dance creation stands far and above the other team. Derek Hough is arguably the best dancer on this show. And his magical Team Dances usually include solos for each cast member which seamlessly blend into the whole of the dance. That bit usually causes him to win (IMHO).

Mark Ballas and Sadie dancing as part of Team Creepy. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor.
But this time, it was Derek's team against (also arguably the best dancer on the show) Mark Ballas' team. And Mark Ballas used that same technique: poignant solos by each member, showcasing their ability, really (as the judges did note) highlighting each person's personality. And in this Team Dance, he beat Derek in this point. Also note how in HIS solo with Sadie, he is still mindful of Sadie. (By all rights of this Time Warp, he should be dressed as Frank N. Furter--Speedo, fishnets, etc.-- here. Instead, he chose to dress as a jester, all covered up. I really respected that choice.)

Usually, Derek's Team Dances win because they are also dancing to the best, catchiest number. In this particular case, Mark's team had the edge because they were dancing to "Time Warp"
(from The Rocky Horror Picture Show), always a crowd-pleaser. (So Mark wins as far as music.)

I don't know if it's that the judges are just Derek Hough-blind (and don't see anyone else's talent) or what, but to my eyes, I LOVED what Mark Ballas did with his team. Their Time Warp was fantastic! And he had Cheryl and Witney (who has never seen Rocky Horror... WHAT? Someone take her, for God's sake...) and Peta (all fantastic dancers).

Peta Murgatroyd and Tommy Chong dancing as part of Team Creepy. Courtesy of ABC.
And still Derek's team won. :-(

Mind you, Derek's Team's dance was also incredible. Great costumes, great dancing. I just thought Time Warp was WAY more entertaining. WAY MORE.

Team Itsy Bitsy, the winning team. Derek's team, no surprise. Courtesy of ABC.
So that score bummed me out.

Then, both Mark & Sadie and Derek & Bethany do a paso doble. Mark's was scored a 30. Derek's was scored a 39. Seriously, judges, WTF is up with this scoring? Mind you, I did love Derek and Bethany's paso. But it wasn't in the earth-shaking realms of many pasos past. (So, a near-perfect score?)

Leah Remini (guest host last week) was hitting Derek with her microphone (inappropriately, I thought) as she was saying: "Do you know what it's like to get a 6? or a 7?" She should've been hitting the judges with it.

Bethany and Derek. Courtesy of ABC.
I don't know what the judges are smoking, but to my eyes, Bethany and Derek shot their wad on "Singin' in the Rain," and haven't been up to that level since, even though the scores since then don't reflect that viewpoint.

Whereas, Mark Ballas' paso...WOW! Fantastic music. Great dancing, great choreography, great concept. I really like the pieces that showcase a story, from beginning to end, and Mark Ballas consistently does that. So, too, this week.

In kind of a metaphor for what is actually going on on the show, young innocent girl (Sadie) gets attacked by the jaded zombies, of which Mark is the lead. Some of the judges complained about this storyline, but I thought it was just brilliant and beautiful. And Sadie played the young, innocent girl well.

Sadie and Mark do a paso doble that was extremely entertaining. Courtesy of ABC.
Also, HELLO JUDGES?, it was entertaining!!!! It's the Halloween show. Are zombies not appropriate?

The crowd was on their feet (in the studio) after this number. They were applauding so hard, that Carrie Anne had to wait a minute until she started to give her comment. It was a phenomenal, and audience-stirring, creation of a number. Other people who scored higher didn't get that kind of reaction in studio. (Just sayin...)

Mark Ballas' genius on so many levels just doesn't get the appreciation he really deserves, and it's really starting to piss me off.

We had another story dance, which the judges also didn't like: Val and Janel's Viennese waltz.

Val and Janel do a Viennese waltz. Courtesy of ABC.
The judges really don't get the concept of social media, or the idea of promoting another show, or even that the other show may have a fan base. But Janel is certainly hip to it, and she came up with the idea of pulling in her character from (her successful show) Pretty Little Liars to play off of in this Viennese waltz. I loved it. Loved the costumes, loved the dance. The judges? Not so much (scored a 31, just one point higher than Mark Ballas' score).

Val and Janel. Courtesy of ABC.
Sad, so sad. The costumes were great. The dance was great. Val's choreography, always fantastic.

I'm still rooting for Lea to pull this out. She really could do an Amber Riley if she's able to shine over Artem somehow. Her moments of taking back her own power are truly amazing, but there aren't enough of them.

Lea Thompson and Artem during Team Itsy Bitsy. Courtesy of ABC.
This team has become one of the ones I really look forward to, week after week. Their Argentine tango was awesome.

Lea Thompson and Artem. Courtesy of ABC.
I guess I wasn't kidding when I wrote earlier that I thought Val and Janel's rumba would be the sexiest all season. So far, that's held true. Alfonso and Witney gave it their shot this week, but there was no apparent sexiness in it at all. (Guess if Sadie and Mark can pull off the "nice" rumba...)

Alfonso and Witney do a rumba. Courtesy of ABC.
Peta and Tommy gave us a quickstep, which was kinda not so quick. Still, I'm enjoying watching Tommy and Peta's creations. Tommy is endlessly fun to watch.

Peta Murgatroyd and Tommy Chong. Courtesy of ABC.
The couple voted out this week was Cheryl and Antonio. It made me sad. Not because I was sorry to see Antonio go, but because Cheryl has talked in the press about this likely having been her last season of DWTS. "I started when I was 20, now I'm 30," said she.

That makes me incredibly sad. There are a few people that I really like to watch, no matter what they do (Mark, Derek, Val, Peta, Sharna, Karina and Cheryl; and Tristan MacManus, but he wasn't as much a part of the real DWTS). They are the ones I really watch this show for, so it will be really sad to not have her around anymore. I can't even really imagine it. (Although I said that when Anna Trebunskaya left, and the show has muddled along without her too, I guess.)

Cheryl Burke has always been stunning, usually dancing with a dolt of a partner, and I always ended up watching her magic, and not him so much. (Also true this season.) She will be missed so much.

Cheryl Burke (and Antonio Sabato Jr.) earlier in Season 19, possibly her last season with DWTS.
And, as we have watched her evolve as a dancer, she has only gotten more beautiful.

One more couple (or two) going home, and this is going to finally be a real competition. I can't wait. I just wish they'd start giving Mark Ballas the scores he deserves. He's really been stellar and on point this season, even if the judges can't see it. We, the audience at home, appreciate it.


1. Team Creepy (Time Warp)
2. Team Itsy Bitsy

1. Mark and Sadie (paso doble)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
2. Derek and Bethany (paso doble)
3. Val and Janel (Viennese waltz)
4. Lea and Artem (Argentine tango)
5. Witney and Alfonso (rumba)
6. Peta and Tommy (quickstep)

1. Michael (ugh)


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