Dancing With The Stars – Week 5

“Most Memorable Year” was the theme for last night’s dances on DWTS.  It’s one that is used in almost every season and it typically gives the viewers more insight into the celebrities’ lives.  There are always some tear jerker moments.  I wish no one was eliminated on this night because it seems borderline cruel to give someone the boot after they’ve just shared such personal stories.  But last night not only did they still eliminate someone, host Tom Bergeron kicked things off by saying based on last week’s votes alone, one of the female celebs would likely be the one to go.  I’m sure the producers thought this was some way to add a little extra drama and pressure but I found myself thinking it was pointless and kind of stupid.

As promised, it was female celeb, Christina Milian, who was ousted.  Having scored the first ’10’ of the season for her Cha Cha (28/30 total), the only way to interpret this is that she simply was not getting the votes.  Based on the comments I read on Twitter, she just never connected to the audience. Interestingly, she has over 1 million followers on Twitter (which is usually a good sign) but they must be watching The Voice and not DWTS.

Jack Osbourne shared the fact that he was diagnosed with MS only a couple of weeks after the birth of his first child.  He is easy to connect to and I usually like his rehearsal packages.  I did think he was a bit over scored for his Waltz (27/30) but the judges seemed to be in a generous mood overall last night. Side note – I thought Cheryl’s hair looked the best I’ve seen it.

I’m really not enjoying Leah Remini.  She’s kind of like a Debbie Downer for me.  We all know she’s not a trained dancer but she keeps reminding us.  I’d rather she take Bill Engvall’s approach – show that you’re loving the experience and keep improving.  She and Tony danced Contemporary and it kind of landed with a thud.  Apparently, the judges thought so too giving her 22/30.

Speaking of trained dancers, Corbin Bleu is simply amazing to watch.  His Foxtrot with Karina was excellent and I didn’t see any hip hop posture creep into the dance.  I also have to say that I absolutely loved when Karina defended herself when Carrie Ann accused them of doing a lift (which isn’t allowed in the Foxtrot).  Karina said her toe never left the floor.  Go girl!  Score – 28

Bill Engvall danced next and he is a perfect example of what a non dancer should do on this show. Throw yourself into it 100%, charm the audience and go for it.  Bill is not getting outstanding scores, but respectable scores.  He got 24/30 for his Viennese Waltz dedicated to his wife of 30 years.

Nothing against Snooki, but whoever decided she should dance to “Work Bitch” by Britney Spears to represent the year she gave birth to her son missed the mark.  I doubt she or her partner, Sasha, picked it so I can only assume the show wanted one more current day song in the lineup (Leah dance to “Roar” by Katy Perry).  Song choice aside, it was a spunky little Jazz number and she managed it fairly well.  Score – 27/30 (a little high if you ask me)

Brant Daugherty and Peta danced a Contemporary routine dedicated to his father who is deceased.  It was tough to stay dry eyed during his rehearsal package.  The dance itself was a little bit of a disconnect for me because while I loved the choreography, I didn’t think it matched his story.  Score – 27/30.

In the category of “I didn’t know that”, we found out Amber Riley once auditioned for American Idol only to be rejected.  Not long after, she auditioned for Glee and landed the role of Mercedes Jones. She and Derek danced the Foxtrot last night and were admonished for lack of content by judge Len Goodman.  He scored them a ‘7’ but Bruno swooped in with the save giving them a ’10’.  Total score was 26/30.

Finally!  A rehearsal package from Elizabeth Berkley that I enjoyed!  I’ve made no secret that she has my favorite pro (Val) as a partner and I’ve been dying for them to show some kind of chemistry.  The footage of her baby, Sky, hanging out at rehearsals and spinning around on the floor with Val was adorable.  I like seeing her mom side; it makes her more relatable.  She and Val danced the Jive in a spoof of one of her most memorable Saved by the Bell scenes.  I didn’t think it was her best dance but I didn’t care because I finally felt like she and Val connected.  Score – 26/30

Reasons to cheer – opening number (again they nailed it), the personal stories

Reasons to jeer – DWTS posted a graphic at the end of the show with voting numbers for each couple and they were WRONG.  This doesn’t make a difference for the die hard fans that know their celebs’ number but it does for the general audience.  Completely unacceptable!

On to week 6 . . .

Dancing With The Stars – Week 4

The big news in the ballroom last night was the return of former pro DWTS dancer, Julianne Hough. Julianne stepped in as guest judge while Len Goodman sat out this week.  Despite a lot of chatter leading up to last night about her potential bias toward her brother, Derek Hough, that interaction was actually anticlimactic for me.  She did accuse him of stealing her Barbie doll’s head or something along those lines but it was the zinger she sent pro Mark Ballas’ way that got all the attention.  The two used to be competitive dance partners and Julianne empathized with his current partner, Christina Milian, by saying “you have to stand in front to be seen”.  It’s not the first time Mark has been accused of being a stage hog and you could tell by his stony half smile that he was not a happy camper.  You can read about his reaction here.

There have been hints that there will be other guest judges this season and one can only hope that Maks Chmerkovskiy will be one of them.  Even though they’re technically judging the celebrity contestants, you can’t tell me watching him critique former girlfriend, Peta Murgatroyd or former fiance, Karina Smirnoff (both current pros on DWTS) wouldn’t be entertaining; not to mention his interaction with younger brother Val (also a current pro).  This is one incestuous group which, frankly, makes the show that much more interesting to me.

Oh yeah and there was some dancing last night too.  Here are some of my highlights:

My favorite dance was Elizabeth Berkley’s Argentine Tango with Val Chmerkovskiy.  Sharp and precise, I thought it was her breakout performance.  If you missed it, you can watch it  here.

Brant Daugherty and Corbin Bleu both gave shirtless performances which are always well received by the audience (although not so much by the judges in Brant’s case this time).

We saw Cheryl’s whip cracking side in Jack Osbourne’s rehearsal package.  Although she wrote it off to PMS, she definitely showed the frustration that comes from having to teach a non dancer a ballroom routine in one week.  Jack seemed to weather the Cheryl storm okay.

When one of the judges told Snooki she sometimes has “T-Rex arms” while dancing, she shrugged it off and said it’s nothing she hasn’t heard before.  There is no way the judges will get under that girl’s skin.

The ballroom said goodbye to Valerie Harper as she was the celeb eliminated after last night’s competition.  Most of the cast seemed to be in tears as I’m sure many at home watching were too.  She is an amazing human.  And on a fun note, I saw on the DWTS Instagram account yesterday that this 74 year old woman can still do the splits!

Reasons to cheer:  We saw some amazing dances from Elizabeth, Corbin and Amber.         

Reasons to jeer:  The judges’ scoring last night was predictable and boring.  3 couples tied at the top with scores of 27 (Elizabeth, Corbin and Amber).  4 couples tied with scores of 24 (Jack, Christina, Leah and Snooki).  I thought there was at least one performance that deserved the first ’10’ of the season.

On to week 5 . . .

Dancing With The Stars – Week 3

I focused more on highlights last week so thought I’d share comments on the individual dances this time ’round.  So let’s get into it . . .

Leah Remini (w/ Tony Dovolani) – I’m enjoying seeing Leah get more into character and show facial expression when she dances.  Her dancing improved this week and that’s the name of the game.  She comes across as a tough cookie in her rehearsal packages but I think she and Tony are actually developing a good rapport.

Corbin Bleu (w/ Karina Smirnoff) – Everyone knows that Corbin can dance so I like that Karina is throwing challenging choreography at him.  Corbin had to dance the Quickstep this week which put him in hold with his partner.  His feet were flying but his posture let him down a bit.  Technicalities aside, it was fast and furious and he kept up.

Elizabeth Berkley Lauren (w/ Val Chmerkovskiy) – Head judge, Len Goodman, said this number was “like chicken soup to the eyes, delicious and satisfying”.  For once I agree with Len; it’s exactly what you want the Foxtrot to be; classic and sophisticated.  I’m still trying to get a read on Elizabeth’s personality.  I wish they would have shown footage of her 1 year old son’s visit that I know happened last week (thanks to Twitter).  Val’s hair was the highlight of their rehearsal package and as good as it looked, we need more.

Brant Daugherty (w/ Peta Murgatroyd) – Despite being mugged during the week and dealing with a sprained ligament, Brant gave a surprisingly good performance.  With the high score of the night (27 out of 30), he is showing that he’s an excellent student.  I was glad they took a week off from the Showmance in rehearsal footage.  It’s either going to evolve naturally or it’s not.  Don’t ram it down our throats.

Valerie Harper (w/ Tristan MacManus) – It was a mess of a Cha Cha routine but Valerie never lost her composure.  You can’t disregard how difficult it would be to perform with a smile when you don’t remember the steps.  I do think she’s likely going to be the one eliminated next week as the show starts to focus on good dancing vs. the inspirational stories.

Bill Engvall (w/  Emma Slater) – Bill continues to surprise everyone by giving solid performances.  The Paso Doble routine suited him and he played the Lone Ranger character with enthusiasm.  Bill reminds me of the dad at the wedding reception who’s out on the dance floor cutting a rug and starting the line dance – fun!

Amber Riley (w/ Derek Hough) – It was an entertaining routine and I liked the funky music choice for their Charleston.  The judges picked apart Amber’s lower body movement saying it was disconnected from her upper body.  Amber’s scores seem to be moving in the wrong direction.  Maybe the judges are just trying to make up for their over exuberant scoring week 1 and bringing everyone back into line a bit.

Jack Osbourne (w/ Cheryl Burke) – Jack’s hips don’t do Cha Cha at this point.  After good solid performances weeks 1 and 2, he looked rigid last night.  That said, I’m enjoying his personality and he and Cheryl’s rehearsal packages.  It was also fun hearing his sister, Kelly’s thoughts when Tom Bergeron asked what she thought of her brother’s dancing.  She said, “I love seeing my brother in pink fluorescent; it’s like a dream come true”.

Christina Milan (w/ Mark Ballas) – Like Amber and Derek’s Charleston, I thought this number was entertaining.  Christina fulfilled the character and supported Mark’s theatrical approach to the dance.  The judges liked it better than Amber’s, scoring it a couple of points higher.  As far as personality, I feel the same way about Christina that I do Elizabeth.  She lands on the quieter side compared to some of the bigger personalities which is fine except when you’re trying to get votes.  I feel like they both need a compelling story.  Let’s face it, this show is as much about popularity as it is about dancing.

Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi (w/ Sasha Farber) – Snooki handled the Quickstep much better than I expected her to.  You can tell she’s trying hard and wants to do well.  I have to say that she and Sasha’s rehearsal footage is usually one of my favorites.  Whether he realizes it or not, Sasha is a good straight man to the off the wall stuff Snooki says.  She may not have a leg up in the dancing but she is a reality television star so she knows how to work her personality for the cameras.

Bill Nye (w/ Tyne Stecklein) – We say goodbye to Bill Nye the Science Guy this week as he was the 2nd celeb eliminated.  Despite the judges comments, I thought this was his most entertaining dance.  He tore his quad (ouch!) at the end of his routine last week and was told not to dance at all.  Tyne came up with creative choreography that allowed him to dance like a robot and keep his injured leg straight.  The fact that he danced at all shows that he’s got guts.

Reasons to cheer:  Opening number, Music (band did a great job last night), overall flow was much better this week.

Reasons to jeer:  The “Word Cloud” created by names trending on Facebook shared by host Brooke Burke (umm…pointless graphic)

On to week 4 . . .

Dancing With The Stars Recap – Who got the boot?

Week 2 of DWTS, officially called ‘Latin Night’, had all couples dancing the Rumba, Samba, Jive or Paso Doble. I always think the Rumba is a tough draw early in the season because it is a more intimate dance and it’s too soon for most couples to have that connection.  As Snooki succinctly put it during her rehearsal package. “I’m gonna get pregnant doing these moves”.

Highlights :

  • Derek Hough pretending to get knocked out by Amber Riley’s breast during rehearsal (or as host Tom Bergeron referred to it: “a pantomime of a boob concussion”).
  • Corbin Bleu channeling his High School Musical character ‘Chad’ and yelling his famous “What team!?!” line and the audience responding “Wildcats!”.
  • Valerie Harper’s partner, Tristan, getting emotional watching her work through her knee injury and articulating for everyone how inspiring it is to be in her presence.
  • Jack Osbourne claiming that he got all the bad family genes, stating he’s “fat, has heart problems, MS and can’t sing or act” to which Cheryl Burke responded “But you can dance.”
  • Bill Nye the Science Guy may have been the lowest scoring celeb again this week but they shared that his dance last week got over 3 million views on YouTube. Wow!
  • Even though he was the first to get eliminated, Keyshawn Johnson took it in stride and shared that he never even bobbed his head to the car radio before this experience.
  • Tom told us that judges, Len and Bruno, will sit out a few weeks this season because of conflicts with the British version of the show ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. Julianne Hough will be one of the first guest judges. It makes one wonder if fan favorite Maks Chmerkovskiy will also return to take a turn at the judges table. I also think this is the producers’ sly way of testing out how the show does without Bruno and Len.

Lowlights:

  • No noteworthy or snarky comments from the judges this week. The trio appear to be making an effort to be more positive. Although as contestant, Bill Engvall, pointed out, sometimes the comments don’t correlate with the scores.
  • We finally got to see how the new format of one night vs. two is going to flow. Not bad for the first go. I did get a little tired of Brooke Burke Charvet shooing the contestants to the dance floor the second she finished interviewing them. I also think the last couple to perform needs to get their score BEFORE the last commercial break. It was awkward that Amber and Derek stood to the side to get their scores and then jumped back with the rest of the group for the results.

On to week 3…

Dancing With The Stars Premiere Recap

Wow! DWTS season 17 is officially underway and the premiere did not disappoint.  With a great lineup of celebrities for the show, they also had a star studded audience.  Jennifer Lopez, Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne along with several cast members from Glee were on hand to support various contestants.  It was almost as fun watching the studio audience as it was the dancing.

Random highlights from the night:

The opening number – loved it!

The audience chanting “Bill! Bill! Bill!” after Bill Nye the Science Guy finished performing.

Jennifer Lopez and boyfriend, Casper Smart, chair dancing and yelling words of encouragement during Leah Remini’s Foxtrot performance. JLo also wiped a tear or two at the end. I didn’t realize until this past week that Leah and Jennifer are BFFs.

Val Chmerkovskiy’s chest (#sorrynotsorry)

Head judge, Len Goodman, comparing Snooki to a pocket rocket and looking dumbfounded when everyone was laughing at him.

Sharon Osbourne getting teary following Jack’s performance.

Bill Engvall’s claim that he wants to be the “Redneck Ballroom King”.

Valerie Harper’s performance – enough said.

Lowlight of the night – Len telling Bill Nye that watching him dance was like getting a wax job “painful while it happened and lovely when it was over.”  You knew Len couldn’t get through an entire episode without baring his teeth.

As for the actual dances, I thought it was stronger than we typically see out of week 1 performances. Corbin Bleu and Elizabeth Berkley both did amazing contemporary routines and tied for 2nd last night with scores of 24. The top scorer, Amber Riley, surprised me by nailing the Cha Cha. Christina Milian showed some skills in her contemporary routine and made me think she might be able to dance with the big kids.

Brant Daugherty, Leah Remini, Jack Osbourne and Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi all gave solid performances and were closer to what we usually see week 1.  I was pleasantly surprised by Bill Engvall who obviously took his training seriously and gave a respectable performace. Keyshawn Johnson, on the other hand, shocked me because of how stiff and uncomfortable he looked (I don’t think he’ll be following in the dance footsteps of Emmitt Smith and Hines Ward). Valerie Harper won the hearts of everyone with her elegant and inspirational Foxtrot (cancer aside, this is a 73 year old woman showing she’s still got some moves!). Bill Nye was so awkward that it was charming and he is clearly a fan favorite already.

On to week 2 . . .

Dancing With The Stars: Season 17 Cast Announcement

Honestly, I’ve been watching DWTS long enough that I’m actually more of a fan of the professional dancers and troupe than I am of the “stars” on the show.  However this season’s cast has definitely grabbed my attention.  The stars were introduced today on Good Morning America.  Below is the cast list along with my initial reactions:

Valerie Harper (w/ Tristan MacManus) – Valerie has an amazing story and you can’t help but root for her.  That said, I do wish Tristan would get paired with someone under the age of 50 one of these days.

Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi (w/ Sasha Farber) – We’ll be able to count on Snooki to give us her “no filter” view on… well everything!  This is the woman who declared that she was very proud of the fact that she didn’t poop on the delivery table during the birth of her son.  Should be interesting to see how Sasha (who seems to be a quiet, well mannered man) reacts to Snooki’s over sharing.

Leah Remini (w/ Tony Dovolani) – the fact that Leah wasn’t in New York for the announcement seemed strange and was further made awkward by the fact that she was on via satellite. She didn’t seem particularly thrilled to be part of the show.  We’ll write it off to the satellite issue and hope more personality comes through in the first episode.

Corbin Bleu (w/ Karina Smirnoff) – Karina has made no secret that Corbin Bleu has been a “dream partner” of hers for some time.  They already looked comfortable with each other and I predict they will go far in the competition.

Brant Daugherty (w/ Peta Murgatroyd) – Don’t know much about Brant but he’s not hard to look at and neither is Peta.  Should make a striking couple and they’re both single.  I predict romance rumors will swirl.

Elizabeth Berkley Lauren (w/ Valentin Chmerkovskiy) – Elizabeth looks the part and has a dance background. Val will have the same challenge he did with Zendaya which is to educate and convince voters that ballroom dance is drastically different than other forms of dance (particularly the moves Elizabeth executed in Showgirls).  Elizabeth doesn’t appear to have the fan base that some of the others do but she’s got my favorite pro as a partner and he tends to have amazing chemistry with gals a few years his senior 🙂  His supporters are not to be underestimated either.

Keyshawn Johnson (w/ Sharna Burgess) – NFL players usually do well on the show and Keyshawn will probably not be the exception.  I’m looking forward to seeing the choreography that Sharna dreams up now that she’s paired with an athlete.

Christina Milan (w/ Mark Ballas) – Best known as a singer and social media correspondent for The Voice, we’ll find out if she can dance too.  Mark will bring his quirky vibe and it should be a fun match.

Bill Nye (w/ Tyne Stecklein) – Bill Nye the Science Guy is an interesting addition who I think will attract a completely different audience to the show.  I thought he showed the most personality of all the contestants during the GMA intro.  It’s a tough draw that he’s paired with a pro that no one is familiar with.  Apparently Tyne has danced on several episodes of the show but hasn’t been a part of the permanent troupe that I know of.

Amber Riley (w/ Derek Hough) –  As a Glee fan, I’m super excited to see Amber on the show.  I think she’s got a huge fan base and the fact that she’s paired with four time winner, Derek Hough, won’t hurt either.

Jack Osbourne (w/ Cheryl Burke) – Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, his is also a story people can get behind.  The possibility of his famous family supporting him in the audience will also be a plus.  That and he’s got a great partner in Cheryl Burke.

Bill Engvall (w/  Emma Slater) – Not sure what to say about this one other than “eh”.  Maybe it’s because I’m not that familiar with Bill so I’m not sure what he brings to the table.  Emma has been promoted to pro after dancing with the troupe a number of seasons so she’ll get a chance to share more of her personality.  I hate to count anyone out before it begins but I predict they’ll be the first to be eliminated.

A Word on the Troupe  

As happy as I am that Sasha and Emma were promoted to pros (side note – they’re also dating), I really wanted to see Henry Byalikov join the pro ranks.  As is typical with Henry, he appears humble and thrilled to be part of the show again regardless and will continue to dazzle us in the troupe numbers, along with Gleb Savchenko, Witney Carson and Lindsay Arnold.

Final Thoughts

The producers at DWTS usually stick with their NFL player/Olympian/Disney kid equation so I was surprised that there wasn’t an Olympian in the mix (namely Ryan Lochte).  But I think they’ve got an eclectic group that should make for good television.  We’ll see how the move to a one night format impacts the voting and results.  Assuming they go back to having three finalists, my preseason prediction is Corbin Bleu, Elizabeth Berkley and Keyshawn Johnson.  If a 4th finalist is added, I might throw in Brant Daugherty if he and Peta work the love connection angle.

Let the dancing begin . . .