Sunday, April 23, 2017

DWTS S024, Week 1: Quite a Bit of Crazy, Quite a Bit of Sublime

The big question on the first episode of any Dancing with the Stars season is: What kind of looney-tunes do they have on this season? And, also, who are the ones who are going to take our breath away?

Well, happily (and sadly) we got the answers to both of those questions in this episode.

Let's start at the beginning, though, shall we?

The season kicks off with a splashy red carpet simulation, the highlight of which is Maks kissing Len on the cheek.

Everyone pairs up with their partner, and the judges come out, all to the opening number dance. Very nice. Bows to the wondrous Mandy Moore for the choreography.

First up in this mega-star parade of dances is our returning champion, Valentin Chmerkovskiy and his new partner, Normani, whose day job is singing in some band called Fifth Harmony. (That was sarcasm, people, don't send me emails.)

"This is going to be like a hybrid of old-school and new-school swagger," says choreographer extraordinaire Val. And this quickstep is indeed that. Beautifully executed, and they look great together.

Tom calls it, "a high-octane start to the season," although Len (back for the full season this time, YAY!) disagrees. "It was a bit long-winded getting started and getting down on this dance floor." (And later, he gives it a 6, which makes Val wince.) Len also said, "You've got to get a bit more body contact going."

JUDGES' SCORE: 27 out of 40

Next up, Artem pairs with figure skater Nancy Kerrigan. We do love Nancy Kerrigan, but it has been awhile since her skates captured our minds and hearts.

They dance a Viennese waltz to Billy Joel's "She's Always a Woman." It ends with flakes of snow tumbling down, and a real skating type of twirl. Nice.

The judges mention her skater's focus, instead of dancer's focus.

JUDGES' SCORE: 28 out of 40

Tom mentions that this show is the 400th! (Congrats, #DWTS!) "But we don't look a day over 380."

And here, we have our first trainwreck. First, Witney is not the smartest of the bunch. Great dancer, but wow, her lack of knowledge sometimes! She has NO IDEA who Chris Kattan is. She says she's never seen an episode of SNL. (Yikes.) And not like Mango is so indelible anyway.

I pretty much like this couple the least of all the ones performing tonight. Did I mention he can't dance either?

One of Carrie Ann's "favorite things in life is goofy bad dancing." So she loved Kattan's routine.

Len takes it further, "If you were trying to do 'goofy bad dancing,' you pulled it off. The best thing about that cha cha is that I haven't got to watch it again."

JUDGES' SCORE: 17 out of 40    :-0

Let's keep another score. Chris Kattan dances... well, "dances," despite having broken his neck earlier in life. Bonner Bolton, the bull rider, also had broken his neck. Luckily for us, he dances better.

Sharna is just cha chaing away in her cowboy boots. This dance was a fun one, and more than one person mentions their chemistry.

Carrie Ann says, "It was like watching Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise."

Bruno: "How can you resist a cowboy with a killer forward thrust?" (as he's saying this, he's miming a...Ahem...forward thrust... one that makes everyone blush.) I think Bonner got Bruno's vote. Sharna looks beyond embarrassed at what Bruno just said.

Tom: "Seek out the safety of the skybox..."

But in the skybox... Erin, "Carrie Ann mentioned 'oozing,' there was a lot of oozing..." (She says, very slowly...)

Bonner mentions his hat got in the way. Erin, "Oh honey, no one cared about the hat..."

Bonner then thanks his coach, Sharna, "She's been drilling me hard, and working me hard, and cracking that whip." (I so wish I had a picture to put in right here of Carrie Ann's face when he said that!)

JUDGES' SCORE: 22 out of 40

Then, another train wreck. Charo. You remember Charo? She's truly got to be like 100 years old. But she's had a lot of work done, so it's really hard to tell. Charo's schtick, for those who aren't hip to it, is to purposely speak bad English that turns out really sexual in the translation, "I got bumps all over my goose," she says in the package, as she's gyrating her (ancient) crotch. She is an entertainment force of nature (whose time has passed).

Nonetheless, she is now on the show, and she bops through a salsa with Keo and her mile-high hair. As they wait for the judges' scores, she is not patient. At one point, she attempts to charge Bruno, and Tom stops her. Then, when she gets her bad scores, she says: "Why?" in Spanish. (Even though each of the judges has just detailed why.) Tom has quite the ordeal to keep her from going back and punching the judges. "I'm not getting paid enough for this," he pleas.

JUDGES' SCORE: 21 out of 40

Then, we have the most recent Bachelor, Nick Viall, now spreading his ABC franchise coin by trying this Dancing with the Stars thing. *sigh* But, he's paired with Peta Murgatroyd who has been proven to whip a silk purse out of a sow's dancing ear, so who knows? And Peta says she's "defending her title," since the last time she was on the show, she took the Mirror Ball. Then Val won it in between, while she was off having Maks' baby.

But I'll say this right now. People have counted Nick Viall out before, and been dead wrong. I am predicting right now that he goes far in this competition. Much further than many think on the first night.

As he says in the package: "Look out, Mr. T." and "Maks' partner?" Peta: "She was Beyonce's back-up dancer." Nick: "It's gonna really suck for her when we get better scores." Peta laughs. I'm not laughing. He's a very determined man.

Peta: "You'll be like the best Bachelor, that's ever been on the show." Nick scowls and says, "I hope I can aim higher than that."

And indeed, their cha cha was much better than what went before. Course, what went before was Chris Kattan and Charo, so... *shudders*

As they finish, the camera makes a quick cut to our lovely Jenna... who is IN THE AUDIENCE!!! WTF? She's not dancing this season? :-(  That is an extreme bummer.

JUDGES' SCORE: 24 out of 40

So, it's about the halfway point of the first night here. Let me explain something about Dancing with the Stars (if you don't already know this). How it's supposed to work is that you get rank amateurs, who've never danced before, but are famous in SOME OTHER WAY, and prove that they can actually dance.

Somewhere along the way, people decided that they really wanted to see good dance, after all, and those rank amateurs aren't going to do all the flips and spectacular moves that normal people would do, so DWTS has been slowly morphing into something else. It has become about six completely out of the running has-beens who make for good comedy in the beginning, and six actual competitors. USUALLY.

This time around, and I'm always suspicious when this happens, we have A FOR-REAL DANCER. Heather Morris, for those who don't know, was on Glee. However, she was hired onto Glee because SHE'S A DANCER. They already had a bunch of great singers. They needed a great dancer. And she is.

So Julianne and everyone tries to downplay this at the beginning. Oh, BEING BEYONCE'S BACK-UP DANCER is a different kind of dance, it's not BALLROOM. Yeah, um, ok. Shut up.

If there is such a thing on this show as putting one's thumb on the scale, that thumb is Heather Morris. And she's paired with Maks, arguably one of the show's best dancers.

Maks gives Heather a word of encouragement in the package: "Even if you sucked, and this was all a facade, you would have been amazing anyway, because it's ME teaching you."

And it's true. Their Viennese waltz is just a thing of beauty, right out of the gate. Truly miles above anyone else who has just performed. (IMHO)

But Carrie Ann hits on this team's only real drawback: Heather is not a star (like many others on this season are). She's a BACKGROUND dancer. That's what she's good at, supporting others. What will determine if she can win this is if she can step up and own her stardom.

Carrie Ann: "I feel like we got to know everyone else who danced. I don't feel like we got to know you."

Best thing about it: the Tom pinch is back! (Maks likes to pinch Tom's butt.) I missed that!

JUDGES' SCORE: 28 out of 40

I don't know about you, but for me, one of the highlights of last year was the Chicago Cubs being in, and WINNING the World Series. I'm still on a happy high from it, honestly. And anyone who watched knows David Ross for his game-winning homer, in that magical last game. That kind of magic takes you far.

And well, he wanted it to take him to Dancing with the Stars, apparently. Luckily for him, he's paired with the wonderful Lindsay, who does take people quite far, indeed. And David Ross is the first baseball player to compete on DWTS.

They perform a quickstep, fittingly, to the song you heard EVERYWHERE during the Series last year (and in the park in many other years): "Go Cubs Go!" Their names at the opening are on the Wrigley scoreboard. It was so fun.

They also cut to the Cubs at spring training in Arizona, who were watching and cheering David on. That was nice.

JUDGES' SCORE: 28 out of 40

I'm pretty convinced after seeing Gleb awhile now, that his wheelhouse is the sexy thing. That's where he parks it, that's what he does. So this season kicks off with a unicorn (no kidding) and a long-haired blonde with big boobs. Oh joy. There is certainly trepidation on my part, with that shower Argentine tango from last season still burned into my brain, I'm not expecting much.

But Erika Jayne! Wow. Never seen her before, but she is certainly a force to be reckoned with. She does, however, perform this first week to her own song (*Yuck*). "It's Expensive to Be Me."

Not surprisingly, the judges are predictable. Len thought it was "too raunchy." Julianne wanted more salsa content (as did Len). Bruno loved the sex. "It felt like a night in Caligula's palace." Carrie Ann wants her to "go out of your comfort zone. Go more in the elegant zone next week."

JUDGES' SCORE: 24 out of 40

Emma Slater is a hard-working dancer on this show who REALLY deserves a break. She's been saddled with all kinds of people: old, fat, can't move. Never really had a winning combination yet. This one may change that.

She pulls out the "24-Carat Magic" song from the end of last season to do this great cha-cha. It's got attitude, it's got verve. It's a winner.

It starts out with this circle of gold light, that it appears that he's showering in. Gold everywhere. Gorgeous.

Julianne: "I think you've got the magic to make it all the way." She calls it "the dance of the night."

Bruno: "That was the revelation of the night. You were sparkling with star-quality all the way through. I can't believe what I've seen."

Carrie Ann: "You've got the moves, you've got the magic, but now you've got all of our attention. Cause that was killer."

Len, of course, is the wet blanket.

JUDGES' SCORE: 31 out of 40  (Best score of the night so far)

Another one of the joke celebs, especially after that sublime cha cha from Emma and Rashad... It's not even worth talking about this one realistically. Though I do love Kym. Good to see her back.

Len: "The T doesn't stand for 'technique.' "

JUDGES' SCORE: 20 out of 40

Our last competitor follows in the footsteps of last season's winner, Laurie Hernandez, her teammate Simone Biles. They were/are both young, and inexperienced in the ways of the other sex. "Is this the first time you've ever looked into a boy's eyes?" asks Sasha. "Well, you're welcome." (I personally think Sasha is very dreamy.)

They broke out all the stops for this one, with really cool lights.

Incredible tango. For Len, THIS was the dance of the night.

JUDGES' SCORE: 32 out of 40 (highest score of the night).

And at the end, in the closing credits, you see a star for Florence Henderson with "Season 11" at the bottom. Nice.

Here's the way I see the season breaking down from this point.  You have the Chmerkovskiy families (Maksim, Peta and Val) vs. the Farber families (Sasha and Emma).

Those are honestly the ones I see in the final five. Going to be interesting to see who wins.

1. Rashad and Emma's cha cha
2. Heather and Maks' Viennese waltz
3. Simone and Sasha's tango
4. Normani and Val's quickstep
5. Nick and Peta's cha cha
6. Bonner and Sharna's cha cha
7. Nancy and Artem's Viennese waltz
8. David and Lindsay's quickstep

Yeah... Heather has NO dance experience... *eyeroll*
1. Heather Morris and Maks (seriously?)
2. Normani (from Fifth Harmony) and Val
3. Emma and Rashad
4. Simone Biles and Sasha Farber
5. Nancy Kerrigan and Artem
6. Nick Viall and Peta

Sharna and Bonner
1. Sharna and Bonner
2. David and Lindsay
3. Erika and Gleb

1. Chris Kattan *shudders*
2. Charo *shudders*
3. Mr. T

Look who's in the audience? The woman who won (Laurie Hernandez) and the woman who shoulda (Terra Jole).


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