Sunday, September 28, 2014

DWTS Season 19 Week 2 a bit off, but Oldsters Come Roaring Back

Still haven't really picked a favorite for this season of Dancing with the Stars (you?), but so far, I'm gravitating to Val and Janel. I would like someone who hasn't won a Mirror Ball to win one this time around.

So, what did we have this week? Well, the cinematographers got some lessons, and finally figured out how to fit four judges in a frame. If it doesn't include all four of them, it's not working, IMHO.

We also had a GREAT effect that is new. When the judges were commenting on a dance JUST danced, the screen split and it was shown again. GREAT effect, love it big time. Of course, right now, it just seems like a random replay, but if they got to the point where they were actually showing what the judges were referring to (a step, or sequence), that would really be awesome!

Other camerawork (like spinning around and around as the dancers are twirling, specifically seen in Derek and Bethany's number this week) was really incredible to behold. After all, they have this huge space to work with, with flying cameras, it would be nice to see them really take advantage of all that.

Another thing that is really working is the balcony area in which dancers can watch others perform, as well as comment to Erin once they get their scores. They seem to have stairs on both sides of it now (works well) and the camera makes excellent use of both this space and the backstage area, so that you really feel like you are part of the action. Those are all great things. It really makes it feel exciting and frenetic when you really see all the people who are rushing around over there.

I haven't yet ventured into their backstage cam thing. Obviously, they've given up their photos to the media thing in favor of a whole interactive thing while the show is on. Bully for them. I prefer to watch the dances going on, and not get distracted by others telling me what I just watched. I'm old-fashioned that way.

BTW, I am combining commentary from both nights, especially since pics are so hard to come by now. Let's start with the worst and go to the best.

Tavis Smiley. Jeez oh pete's. *shakes head*

Let me just say this. I have NO, ZERO, No patience for people, whoever they are, who sign up and agree to be on  Dancing with the Stars, and then don't realize that they are going to be putting in mega hours, oh, actually dancing. And training to be dancing. In fact, if you have any other kind of career while you are doing DWTS, you are going to lose. You are going to be voted out early.

It is a COMMITMENT to do this show. If you agree to do it, you should bloody well CLEAR YOUR DECKS during the time you are doing it, cause it's a LONG hard slog. GET IT? If you can't do that, if you have book tours lined up or whatever the F, DON'T DO IT. Don't waste our time and yours by signing up.

Tavis Smiley couldn't even be bothered to be on the opening show when they introduced the cast. They had to Skype him in. LAME. And if you do it the way he did it, you might wanna look at your schedule, cause you're overcommitted, and you probably need a Workaholics program. I'm just saying.

So good riddance to Tavis Smiley. Good riddance.

I feel very bad for Sharna, cause she's a wonderful partner and dancer, and she got the short end of this deal. And I'm bummed she won't be competing more this season.

To the other competitors, I really don't like Michael, the racecar driver, although at least he is showing up and trying. But he's seriously in the two-left-feet category, and I do expect him to go very soon.

Another boggle we had this week was dear Allison Holker (partnered with Jonathan). She's a transfer from So You Think You Can Dance (which I must say, I've never watched), and she also did some (Emmy-nominated) choreography with Derek Hough. So everyone was excited about her coming over. However, DWTS is its own animal. It has its own rules and structure, and after all, it was based on the longtime history of ballroom dance competitions. That's what it still is, mostly. The judges score based on the rules of the particular dance being danced.

Even the newer ones (like jazz and modern and hiphop) that they've incorporated, they still use the rules of that dance to judge by. One of the DWTS fan sites has an Instagram where they were asking today: "Who is your favorite judge?," among other questions. Mine is actually Len, because he is a stickler for the rules. But he can also be swayed by a truly magical dance.

All of that to bring up the case of Allison Holker. She danced "a cha cha," and every single judge (including Julianne) commented on the fact that she had "no cha cha content." Poor Allison seemed gobsmacked. "I wanted to bring a fresh new take to choreography," she sputtered.

First lesson to Allison: listen to what the judges are saying. That's what they are scoring you on. You can go off and do your own thing, if you want, but be prepared to get low scores as a result. Second, whatever you think about the judges, don't say it into the camera. (Maybe you could ask Maks about this.) She was really walking a fine line this week with this. (Jonathan actually saved her.) They will probably give her a pass because she's new and doesn't know any better, as long as she keeps other comments to herself from now on. You don't take on the judges and win. Not on this show.

Also, don't get me wrong. Derek Hough pushes the choreography envelope constantly. But he has five Mirror Balls because he knows what content Len (in particular) is looking for, and makes sure that is in there, then adds his own little touches here and there. And it ends up magical. That is certainly not what Allison was doing in this cha cha. (As a viewer, I didn't vote for her.)

Karina and Randy also did a cha-cha, with (need I say it?) much more cha cha content. However, someone forgot to mention to Randy that DWTS usually does a whole ep during the season which is dedicated to the servicepeople (Army, Navy, Marines, etc.). He didn't need to do it so soon. Also, a great song blends together what the song is saying with the dance you're doing (see Val and Janel's "Call Me Maybe" foxtrot, which perfectly blended lyrics and presentation). It's highly questionable (especially if you're trying to compliment/honor them) to dance "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" to servicepeople. Cause, um, that's kind of an insult. But whatever.

And let me say this about that. DWTS previously had various theme nights. They were timed to fit in with the cast as it was evolving. The one about "My Favorite Year" ended up around the fourth or fifth week, when some of the dead weight had been weeded out, and the cast was gelled together enough to tackle an emotional dance. It always worked well and brought some poignant moments.

Don't know if this new show runner ditched all the previous themes, but the first one (a new one): "#MyJamMonday" (yes, that is a hashtag) fell really flat. Not one of the stars talked about why this particular song is "My Jam" or whatever. It was just lame across the board. Randy worked in the service people angle, but what does that have to do with "Satisfaction"? Just a song he liked? Blech. Hated this concept.

In fact, once again, Val and Janel are one of the few who really took a song I could see her jamming to, and performed it. That didn't work for a lot of folks.

So those were the outright travesties, of one variety or another. Then we had the ones in the middle, which were ok, fine. Cheryl and Antonio did a rumba (and another nice little touch is when they list the couple's phone number to call, and their names, it also says the dance they are dancing). The hottest parts of this dance were shown in close-up (of their faces). Which is great for a movie. Not so great when you are supposed to be showing a dance.

Alfonso and Witney, fresh from a kick-butt routine (which they had 3 weeks to practice), didn't do as well this week.

I will give Alfonso this: he's got charisma to kill for. And that's going to propel him through a lot of dances. But I fear that, as a pro, Witney may not be strong enough (creative enough as a choreographer) to carry him the whole way. I wish he had been paired with Sharna. That would've been a combo I could root for all the way.

Their salsa didn't do it for me this week.

Lea and Artem did a jive, splendidly. Also, Artem became an American citizen this week, so congrats on that, Artem! They are a couple to watch.

One of the highlights for me of this season is that there are two dancers in their 70s, and two who are teenagers. I would bet money that both teenagers would get to the final five, and the 70 year olds will be voted out sooner rather than later. But it won't be for lack of trying. All of them have excellent Mirror-Ball-winning partners.

Mark Ballas and Sadie (she's eighteen, and from Duck Dynasty) are fun to watch, of course. Is he cursed, or does he just ask for whichever contestant is uptight about their costuming? Season after season, he gets the religious ones, or the prudes, or the ones who have overprotective dads (this season) who won't let their daughter dance in DWTS garb. So far, at least, it hasn't harmed their dancing. At least Sadie isn't in the up-to-the-neck burkhas that last season's twit subjected us to. I have said it before, I'll say it again, it DOES affect the dance. It does, certainly, affect the voting, although all those who are adamant about Janet Jackson's nipple showing and other such horrendous stuff, look up Sadie and Mark's number, and vote for that chastity you so love.

So far, for me, it hasn't been a distraction. I just really want Mark Ballas to win another Mirror Ball, and he keeps getting saddled with these wingnuts. (For whatever reason.)

Then we have someone who is being portrayed as a wingnut, who is actually incredibly smart and fun. That would be Tommy Chong (of Cheech and Chong) and his partner, Peta Murgatroyd. He made a big show of it the first week, even bringing along partner Cheech for his opening number. It was cool.

This week, he and Peta had the salsa, and it was bright, snappy and fun. In fact, 76-year-old Tommy Chong was the first male dancer this season to bare his chest. And it was good. I really loved this number.

Another significant thing about DWTS, and any longtime pro will attest to this, it's not just about dancing. If you really give yourself to it, it can really be life-changing. This week, we had 72-year-old fashion designer Betsey Johnson. If you know anything about her, you've probably seen her in her wacky outfits. Even last week, she ended her dance with a cartwheel. Zany is her persona.

She also was one of the people in the Bottom Two last week. So this week, well-versed pro Tony Dovolani went to town on her, and had her do a makeover. Her hair was slicked back, she was dressed very elegantly. Tony even pre-empted any further wardrobe malfunctions by ripping apart her long dress (smart move, Tony), so she wouldn't trip over it.

Now, one of the ways you can win (see: Derek Hough) is to execute everything perfectly and do mind-bending choreography. Another way you can win, or at least get very very far in this competition, is to win the hearts and minds of the audience. You could be tripping all over yourself, not able to dance a lick, but if you get out there and try, and seem to be improving, the audience (us, sitting here at home) will vote for you. PROMISE. Ask Bill Engvall.

Such is the case with Betsey this week. The first week, she was falling all over herself, and she was a mess. This week, she looks like Ginger Rogers, all glammed up, and was splendid. She got a standing ovation in the ballroom, including from Carrie Anne. And I voted for her. Not because of the dancing, necessarily, but because of the process that appears to be happening. She said in her comments, "I just wanted to look pretty." Almost made us cry.  (And she did, btw. Look pretty, that is.)

Emotions, capturing the hearts of the audience, will take you far in this process. Look for Betsey to go far if she keeps showing up with this version of herself.

The other 18-year-old is lucky enough to be dancing with Derek. However, she also injured herself, so that was not good. But the dance they performed (injury and all) was my second favorite of the night.

Janel and Val were my favorite.

1. Janel and Val
2. Bethany and Derek
3. Sadie and Mark
4. Betsey and Tony
5. Tommy and Peta
6. Lea and Artem

Also, I normally tune out the musical acts that appear on the results show. However, there was a dance with this one that just blew my mind. Karina and Val and Peta. So incredible. Really amazing.

It was a tortured modern dance about a threesome: a man torn between two women. Very powerful. And I have to say that most of the time I ignore/forget that Maksim Chmerkovskiy (Val's brother) was involved with Karina Smirnoff (engaged to) and Peta Murgatroyd. There are other times that I really remember it. That's all I'll say about that.

On the other side of the brother spectrum, we had Julianne Hough (our new judge, and two time Mirror Ball winner herself) dancing provocatively with the hot sexy men of DWTS Season 19, which, of course, includes her brother, Derek. I know people (in both these instances) are playing characters when they dance, but still... it kinda bugs me to see Derek and Julianne in any kind of romantic scenario. And the whole Maks-Karina-Peta thing, danced by Val... Well, it was an amazingly powerful dance.

Also danced tonight was a hit song by Sia, she who won't show her face (it's her thing). All you know her by is her blonde hair (which, of course, leads me to believe that she doesn't have blonde hair in real life. In any case, Allison Holker danced this incredible pairing with a girl from Dance Moms, which made it look, at various times in the song, like this was a woman and her child and/or a woman dancing with a younger version of herself. Also very powerful and poignant. I really like Allison Holker's interpretations in this case.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Dimple Season of DWTS (19) Kicks Off with a Rousing Number from Carlton

Alfonso and Witney wowed us the first week of Season 19.
DISCLAIMER: For the last several seasons, my blog posts about DWTS have been filled with gorgeous promotional pictures from the ABC website. To my mind, they both illustrated the lovely dances we were seeing, and mostly, promoted DWTS every week. For whatever reason, last season, ABC's posting of pictures was sporadic, and I ended up having to get a lot of them from On the Red (a sister ABC site). This year, all of that seems gone. For whatever reason, DWTS pictures do not seem available from Week 1 (unless you have something like this, which someone obviously took from their TV). Not my first choice. I would love to have proper pictures through the proper channels to illustrate the stories and the dances, but it doesn't seem to be happening this season. So I may have stories with only text. Sorry about that, readers. I'll do the best I can.


Season 19 has kicked off. Well, in some cases, limped off, but in any case, it's begun. We have our usual collection of motley folk, some athletes, some stars that you've totally forgotten about, some teen things. Yawn.

We also still have Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews (yay!). We have our three regular judges (Carrie Ann Inaba, Bruno Tonioli, Len Goodman) with the addition of Derek's sister, Julianne Hough, to help with the judging. We also, before I get into the meat of the dancing (I'm looking at you, Antonio Sabato, Jr.), some housekeeping details. We have a new showrunner and director this year. We shall see how that plays out, when the man we had for six years isn't there to guide the ship. So far, we've seen some pretty bad camerawork and artistic choices.

For example. They have four judges now, yet have a configuration where when the votes are given, you can only see THREE of them. Lame, people. Get some professionals to do this, please. Countless really bad camera shots... where you'd only see half of Tom Bergeron as he was talking, where the star isn't even in frame, just amateur stuff. Hope they fix that, and FAST.

Also, inexplicably, for one of the contestants, we didn't get to hear Bruno's vote explanation. Sure, running short on time? Just lop off one of the judges' comments. WHAT? You have four judges now. I want to see all of them, and hear what EACH of them has to say about each contestant. Really... is that so hard?

Oh, but let's start at the beginning, shall we? The show kicked off with a taped bit showing you everyone who's on the show. OK, I'm thinking, they are doing away with the personal introduction of everyone. But no, they have that TOO! Fun.

They also have their two days back! Mondays are the main deal (2 hours), and Tuesdays are eliminations (1 hour). We'll see how it goes. (I'm not covering the second night this week, other than to say that someone, either camera person or director or choreographer doesn't seem to like Karina Smirnoff very much because in the big dance sequence, she was totally out of view of the camera. She's one of the STARS, people. Put her front and center, please! Karina and Cheryl are who we want to see, not all these new blonde dancers. Sheesh.)

So, to our motley collection of dancers/stars. Let's talk about the ones who need to go right away: Lolo & Keo (love Keo, so it's too bad) and Betsey & Tony. Also sad, because I do love to watch Tony dance, but Betsey is crazy. And can't dance. Neither can Lolo. Enough about that. (Indeed, Lolo & Keo were the first couple eliminated.)

Hedging closely into this group is Michael somebody (a racecar driver) who compared himself to Bill Engvall. Dude, you don't deserve to wear Bill Engvall's dancing shoes, and you are not going to last anywhere near as long as he did.

Comic relief is present with Tommy Chong, who could flame out fast, or surprise us and pull an Engvall. Jury is still out on that one. But as long as he lasts, Tommy Chong is darn fun to watch with Peta. And his buddy Cheech showed up to give moral support.

Two others who I'm not sure about (they could go either way) are Tavis & Sharna and Randy & Karina. Love these women, and they can both make things happen, but these two guys are still big question marks.

So that leaves this list.

DWTS WEEK ONE (Miche choices based on dances)
1. Alfonso and Witney
2. Janel and Val
3. Bethany and Derek
4. Lea and Artem
5. Jonathan and Allison
6. Antonio and Cheryl
7. Sadie and Mark

In all honesty, those seven are our competitors. One of these seven shall win this season. We shall see how a season of injury, stress, constant new dances, etc. wears on them all. Based on the first week, Alfonso and Witney are really going to be hard to catch. This man was polished. Blew everyone else away. Great way to end the first show of the new season.