Sunday, September 27, 2015

DWTS Season 21, Week 2: Hometowns, with a Spin


Bindi and Derek, Hometowns Week 2
You have not lived, my friends, until you've seen a TANGO to AC/DC (above).

But I'm getting ahead of myself... back to the beginning, the very beginning. This week there were two shows, both focusing on Hometowns. Monday night featured the stars' hometowns. Usually, the personal shows help the stars to focus on something other than the fact that these dance rehearsals are killing them.

But by and large with the stars, they were just walking through the paces of this theme. Frankly, I still think a lot of them are just getting their bearings. It was funny, though, in interview, when the producer asked Chaka Khan why she had picked the song "Chicago" about her hometown. "Which song did you choose?" "Chicago, by Frank Sinatra." "And how does your hometown relate to that?" Chaka pauses for a long beat, contemplating the idiot in front of her, and says, "Because it's called Chicago."

And really, that exchange was pretty much the "hometown" highlight of this night. They all pretty much fell flat.

Later, Ms. Chaka Khan was the first to go home.

(Of the five that I requested to go home as soon as possible, both of this week's bootees were on the list.)

1. Paula Deen
2. Kim Whatsherface
3. Gary Busey

(Actually, I'm getting my wish with another one, I believe, because I heard in the Twitter sphere that Kim had some kind of minor stroke after last week's shows.)

So, I'm enjoying Andy and Allison quite a bit. However, that move which is so en vogue with the dancers here lately, where you grab a woman by the throat and sort of dance around her (when the pros do it, it looks amazing)... really looks scary in the hands of an amateur. Andy's moves made me very uncomfortable with this.

Sharna and Nick did a swoon-worthy Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.

Why? Was he in the Army? I must've zoned out of that hometown. But the dance was fun.

Personally can't wait till these two do a rumba... Ahem...

Alek continues to blow me away with his mad dance skills, doing a jazz number (that looked like contermporary to me) but was nonetheless amazing. Dancers keep trying to sneak in more lifts by choosing this jazz option, and it was stunning to watch, so OK.

Still, we're snoozing through all these hometowns...

And then we had this...

Which was notable only for the fact that he kept putting the hat over his genitals, and it kept staying up... so... um, ok...

Then we had Taymar Braxton trying to convince us that Valentin shouldn't 1. thrust his pelvis and 2. take off his shirt. Girlfriend, THAT is why we watch this show. Val without his shirt off is like... Well, let me show you.

Is anyone looking at Taymar in this picture? Hells to the no...

On that same sexuality tip, we also THANK YOU, JESUS, had Alexa and Mark doing a sensual, sexual dance.

Mark Ballas is such a sexy dancer. I am so glad we finally got to see it again. (Both nights of Week 2 had a lot of sensuality.)

We also had Gary and Anna (I love Anna, I love Anna) dance to a lovely Beach Boys tune. Still he is completely batshit crazy. She, however, is wonderful. So I'm very torn with this couple.

But then, just as we are about to fall asleep on night one from lack of drama or spark, along comes Bindi.

And CRIKEY! Our little Bindi has sure grown up. She also informed us that (secretly) she loves hard rock, like AC/DC. So there they are, Derek and Bindi, rocking out a tango. You heard me, I said TANGO, to AC/DC. It was so fantastic, there are no words.

DWTS WEEK 2, First night of Hometowns (Stars)
1. Bindi and Derek
2. Alek and Lindsey
3. Alexa and Mark
4. Val and Taymar
5. Nick and Sharna
6. Andy and Allison
7. Carlos and Witney


But the second night, we actually had poignance. For years, the pros have been shunted aside (and I do blame Maks for this), with the spotlight put firmly on the "stars."

In fact, let me show you a physical example of how this is still in action. Look at this.

Notice pro dancer Mark Ballas in this shot? Not so much, no. And especially for this dance, when the drama and emotion was really all about HIM, they have this shot. (Uncropped by me, this is exactly how it aired.) And they do this A LOT. It's sickening. The "star" is the focus of the shot, and the pro is all but cropped out. Let me just reiterate how much I hate this. It's disrespectful to the pros, and was especially grating when this whole evening was ABOUT THEM.

For once (I mean, truly, they never usually do this), they had the whole Hometowns segment on the Pros, and THEIR hometowns. And it was wonderful, cause usually these folks don't get to speak (as you can see).

The most moving moment to me was when Mark Ballas spoke about his parents (whom everyone knows were world champion pro ballroom dancers) and Mark let Alexa dance to his parents' last music, including letting Alexa do his mom's signature move. That was really special and wonderful. Also, Shirley Ballas was in the audience. (The producers did nothing with this, but it was a very special moment.)

No, really, this was a super important moment for Mark, and the producers obviously honored and recognized that... *sigh*


Someone remind them that at least half of the DWTS audience is there because we LOVE the pros on this show. We'd much rather hear about their stories, and how they rose up through the ballroom ranks. It's MUCH more interesting. Glad they finally gave them a hometowns show, but they could do so much more.

Like this. (The fans got it right.)

Even if DWTS didn't say it properly, we love you, Shirley Ballas. Thank you for giving us Mark. Thank you for all you brought to the world of dance. And for me, personally, this tribute dance this week was the most moving moment.

DWTS WEEK 2, Second night of Hometowns (Pros)
1. Valentin and Taymar (charleston, see pic above)
2. Mark and Alexa (and Shirley)
3. Derek and Bindi
4. Sharna and Nick
5. Allison and Andy
6. Emma and Hayes
7. Witney and Carlos

It could've been worse, I suppose. This one (Gary) kept referring to Anna as "To Russia, With Love." Um, ok. *eyeroll* God bless you, Anna. We love you. Hang in there through the madness.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Emmys 2015: A Year of Change

Amazon's Transparent scooped up some big awards on Emmy night
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm passionate about all things Emmy. For years, I slavishly followed all the shows (Comedy and Drama, anyway), usually able to predict Drama stuff pretty well.

But for me, this year is the year the Emmys changed. Not just because old favorites (Breaking Bad) finally stepped down, but because the voting rules changed, the way we all watched TV changed and the tenor of our times changed.

Maybe like most things, the change has been happening incrementally, and I just finally saw it this year, but I did see it this year, in big ways.

Jill Soloway won for Best Directing, Comedy (for Transparent) and accepted her directing award in a pantsuit. All of that was and is landmark to me. Her show is landmark to me. Jeffrey Tambor (who never won for the fantastic Arrested Development, which changed comedy as we know it) was now onstage, accepting for Best Actor in a Comedy for playing the trans parent of the title.

Lisa Cholodenko, another amazing woman, won for directing Olive Kitteridge.

Viola Davis, when she stepped up to accept her landmark Best Actress award for Drama, spoke about the change that is happening. Jeffrey Tambor thanked those who "allowed him to be part of the change." Change which is so desperately needed in our country, is actually happening in our art.

The (dreadful and juvenile) host, Andy Samberg, alluded to it in his opening number, in which he locked himself into a bunker for a year so he could watch every show, and get caught up. It was meant to be funny, but it's truer this year than ever before. I gave up even trying. I used to be able to corral off a few dozen select shows, watch every episode of them, and feel pretty confident that I was prepared come Emmy time. This year, I just gave up.

Transparent, which this year gave Veep a good run for its money for Best Comedy Series, is on Amazon. Many shows are on cable. Some are on Netflix. Few, actually, are on regular network TV. And you could just feel that everywhere. It just wasn't same old, same old at the Emmys.

I mean, sure, some people (some from Veep, Allison Janney) who always win won again. But there's recent winner Kyle Chandler (from Friday Night Lights, which had its own torturous path of where to watch it), now a nominated actor from Bloodline (a Netflix series).

It's all kind of mind-blowing.

I'm just glad that Jon Hamm FINALLY won. But he didn't even thank Bryan Cranston.


All the wins for Transparent, especially Jill Soloway's win
Peter Dinklage again!!
Inside Amy Schumer wins for Variety Sketch Series
Uzo Aduba wins for Best Supporting Actress for a Drama

Allison Janney again
Allison Janney's amazing dress!
Allison Janney giving a shoutout to recovery, and that "there is hope"
Padma Latchmi, on the red carpet, when asked her beauty secrets, said: "Happiness and good friends."
Veep finally winning for Comedy Series
Game of Thrones finally winning for Drama Series
Regina King wins for American Crime
Viola Davis wins for Best Actress
Frances McDormand wins for Olive Kitteridge
Richard Jenkins wins for the same
Tracey Morgan returns to give the final award

Amy Poehler and Ricky Gervais, both knowing they were going to lose, at least making a bit out of it

The Voice beats Dancing with the Stars. Really?
Bill Murray wins but isn't there to accept

Jon Stewart and The Daily Show, maybe winning for the last time

The In Memoriam segment using AGAIN "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Ugh.

Andy Samberg. Ugh. Hated everything about him as host.
Jimmy Kimmel's nonsense about cutting up the winner's card and eating it. Ugh.
The voiceover says that this category "will have a new winner," then awards the same person who won last year (although the show was in the Comedy category then)


DWTS Season 21: It's Going to Be a Crazy Season

Nothing like blocking off large segments of Hollywood Blvd. for the community to love you.
Hey, everybody! Dancing with the Stars is back for Season 21! I don't know about you, but even though the wacky double Bachelorette and the steamy Bachelor in Paradise were fun, I could not wait for DWTS to return.

And BOY, did they have a splashy first show. Look at this! (above) Through deft uses of social media (telling everyone on Facebook to come down and be a part of this), they got tons of people out to dance. Fun stuff! (Thank you, Mandy Moore, for your always inventive opening numbers.)

Andy Grammar and Allison Holker.
Let me say this about that, though. This was billed as "a 2-night spectacular" premiere. The second night was simply a rehash of the first night, in case you missed it. AKA: a total waste of time. Sure, they threw in some additional backstage segments, and who doesn't love Tom Bergeron doing anything, but still... total waste of time.

So, let's just focus on the first night (the real show). And it was CRAZY. I mean that on many levels. Crazy because of wacky, crowd-filled opening numbers like the above. But also crazy cause: Gary Busey. :-0 But we'll get to that.

What do you want first, the fantastic? or the sucky? Hm...

Well, unlike other first shows (the last two seasons come to mind in particular), where there was a clear winner from the first episode, this week's show was not like that. There were, in fact, a number of competitors who stepped up in Week 1 to give us some amazing dances.

There were also several really cringe-worthy competitors whom I really want to go away. And really not much middle ground. Some who came to play, and others who must leave.

Kim and Tony
If you use the "Degree to which they use stagecraft, to disguise the fact that they suck" rule, lowest scorer Kim Somebody from one of those Housewives shows* is gonna go home first. Sad, because she has the nicest boobs.  (Props to the amazing set designers for this Egyptian phantasm, though.) Also, Tony is great, and I really wish he'd stick around more.

*Don't give me crap about not looking up their names. They aren't going to be around long, and I don't care.

Following in the "I'm so huge, I can't move" mode of Patti LaBelle from last season, this season we have Chaka Khan, paired with Keo, who really just can't catch a break, and will not get past Week 3 (IMHO).

It's a mixed blessing this season with the Pros (who are all I really care about). Some of our passionate favorites (Kym Johnson, Peta Murgatroyd, Tristan McManus) are gone (or still gone), but others (the wondrous Anna Trebunskya) are back! I still miss Cheryl Burke so much, and I did miss Karina Smirnoff, but this season (YAY!), she's back!

Sadly, she's paired with jockey Victor someone* who won a bunch of horse races recently with American Phaeroh. They won't be long for this season.

So, is that all for our stunt casting? Oh no, there's MORE!

It's arguable which one of these I want to go home more, but a good case could be made for Paula Deen, who just doesn't seem able to SHUT UP.

She's paired with Louis Amstel, another of our beloved pros whom we are glad to see return. However, yes, I do think I really hate Paula Deen the most. Also, she's a racist. Has everyone forgotten that? Seriously, get her off this stage. (Sorry, Louie.)

And then... ugh... First, I must say that I really and truly love Anna Trebunskaya. I wish she'd be in every season. She is such a joy to watch, always. And she must really want to be back on the show, too, to have agreed to be paired with Gary Busey.

It cracks me up that ABC actually was trying to highlight his Academy Award nomination two centuries ago. Sorry, ABC, but right now, this man is a complete basket case who may need a mental institution. He's straight-up batshit crazy. And some of that is enjoyable the same way watching a train wreck is enjoyable (as in you can't turn your head away), but at some point, you really must close your eyes and move on.

So, I'm really torn. I love Anna so much that I'm almost willing to endure this wreck of humanity before us. Ugh.

1. Paula Deen
2. Chaka Khan
3. That jockey dude
4. Kim the Housewife
5. Gary Busey

Really, they could go away in any order, but I hope it resembles the above. Thankfully, we have a double elimination coming up (one on Monday, one on Tuesday), so I predict at least two of these people will be gone. WHEW!

So, let's get to the real competitors, shall we? The ones who'll stick around for more than a few weeks?

Ah, just seeing that picture puts the air back in the room. Ah! Bindi and Derek were my favorites from Week 1. Loved Steve Irwin, her dad, who died. Love Bindi. Wasn't sure how her dancing would be, but it turns out to be pretty amazing. Of course, she's dancing to "Crocodile Rock." And it was wondrous, a joy to behold.

But unlike the past two seasons, when the one competitor was so far above the others, Miss Bindi did have some competition (any one of which, depending how the season goes) could take the crown. For example, one of last season's finalists, Sharna Burgess, is paired with one of the Backstreet Boys (Nick Carter).

What's it like to dance with one of your crushes? Sharna lets us know, and it's a joy to watch.

Don't count out last season's winner, either. The wondrous and amazing Valentin Chmerkovskiy is this season paired with Taymor Braxton (whom I think is Toni Braxton's sister, but mostly they talked about her cohosting The Real).

Dunno. This one could go either way. She seems to have a whole lotta attitude, so at this moment I don't see them winning. (But I love Val, so who knows?)

Then, we have a husband-wife team, neither of which I really heard of before.

The husband is named Carlos, and he's paired with Witney. They were pretty awesome.

The wife is named Alexa... I guess she was one of the Spy Kids, but has grown up... anyway, she's paired with my always favorite, Mark Ballas. And I am right now getting down on my knees and thanking God because this season, for the first time in I think five seasons, he's paired with someone who: 1. isn't overly religious or conservative 2. doesn't have issues about costuming 3. isn't a teenager

So whatever happens, there won't be any costuming constraints. Thank the heavens!

Although I suppose it's a different set of constraints when you're trying to do a sexy number, and your husband is RIGHT THERE... but we'll see what happens. He's already asked if she can take home this first costume. (I see that as a good sign of what's to come.)

Dunno. This couple could be way fun, or they could be annoying as hell, but this week, I'm choosing to see it as FUN.

So, really, those are the top contenders (and the bottom feeders). The middle ground (the next three couples) all have the potential to rise up and become top contenders.

My favorites Allison (Holker, love her) and Andy Grammar.

Love watching Allison in anything she does. Her first partner was pretty full of himself. Her second partner (last season) was good, and matched her, but they never really could do a convincing romantic number. Andy looks capable of that, but is he capable of going all the way? Not sure yet.

Three Americans stop a terrorist on a train in France. I can just see the phone calls flying: Let's see if we can get one of them on Dancing! Sure enough, here he is: Alek Skarlotos.

But here's the shocker. He's actually GOOD. Never danced before, and yet, I seriously put these two in the running for the Mirror Ball. Never thought I'd be saying that.

Also, I'm calling it here now: this guy is going to be one of the next Bachelors. He is so handsome and adorable and modest and wonderful.

Lastly, dancing with a 15-year-old Internet sensation, we have the amazing Emma Slater. These dances with teens are always dicey, but the first one went off well.

Don't know if they can win it, but I think they'll be fun to watch for a bit anyway.

Dancing with the Stars Season 21 WEEK ONE
1. Derek and Bindi (jive to Crocodile Rock)
2. Sharna and Nick
3. Val and Taymar (quickstep)
4. Witney and Carlos (jive)
5. Mark and Alexa (jive)
6. Allison and Andy (foxtrot)
7. Lindsey and Alek (foxtrot)
8. Emma and Hayes

Forget the rest, they are just window dressing.

These are the judges this season. Len may be back at a future time, but these three are it for now. I hope they all learn to behave. Also, congrats to Julianne and Derek, who just won an Emmy for choreography for the incredible Empty Heart dance they did last season.

So, for better or worse, this is the cast for Season 21. God help us.