Monthly Archives: January 2006

Another One Bites the Dust (Episode 2-4A)

Master P and Ashly were finally eliminated. Now, there’s no more controversy to distract from the talented dancers that remain on Dancing with the Stars. But will the dancing be enough to sustain viewers’ attention?

As the results show took on its new, all-live format, there was plenty to do before the eliminated couple could be announced. After a brief look at the previous night’s dances, the judges asked the couple who gave, in their opinion, the most entertaining performance to dance again. We were treated to a reprise of Drew and Cheryl’s Paso Doble. Those “Thriller” hands never get old.

Backstage, Samantha asked Tia, Stacy, and Lisa to critique their performances. It was hard to concentrate on what the women said as George lurked in the background, drawn to Stacy — or, perhaps, to the chance for more airtime. When the camera went back to Tom on the dance floor, he remarked that he thought George was supposed to stay at least 100 feet away from Stacy at all times.

Special guests The Pussycat Dolls performed a lackluster version of their single, “Don’t Cha.” Apart from being currently popular, the Dolls were a strange choice for musical guests. Their act looks like a group of NBA cheerleaders who happen to sing while they gyrate. As Tom said, “I’m guessing they don’t play many weddings.”

Samantha then talked with George, P, and Jerry about their performances. Apparently, George ad libbed several of his dance moves, not because he’d forgotten the routine, just because he felt like it. Jerry said that George lent him butt pads for his performance; whether they were supposed to provide cushioning or merely enhance his behind, only Jerry and George will ever know. When P spoke, he affect an awful Scarface voice, which he persisted in using for much of the evening.

In order to fill the hour, the show augmented the performances and interviews with a couple of interesting pretaped segments. In the first segment, the dancers talked about their pre-show rituals. Athletes are notoriously superstitious, and Jerry has a particular order in which he gets dressed. Like a couple on their wedding day, Tia and Max don’t see each other until the show begins. Others just try to relax. Lisa does yoga. George meditates in his underwear. And Tony and Stacy hold hands while Tony prays; most likely he’s thanking God for the chance to hold Stacy’s hand.

To drag out the suspense of the elimination, Drew & Cheryl and Lisa & Louis were revealed as the first two couples who’d be back next week. Then, professionals Yesenia Adame and Rodrigo Guzman gave an excellent Salsa demonstration. It was fast paced and exciting, as Guzman flipped and spun Adame about while looking like he wouldn’t even break a sweat.

For The Pussycat Dolls’ second performance, eliminated professional Jonathan returned to dance with Anna. The Dolls’ second performance was better than their first, and the song, “Sway,” sounded like a James Bond theme.

After the song and dance number, Samantha was again backstage to ask some of the celebrities how sad they’d be if it was their time to go. George described the experience as the best gift of his life, and P said, in his wretched Tony Montana voice, that he was just happy he got to hang out with his new buddy, George.

In the second pretaped segment, viewers learned how the judges score the performances. Bruno expects high entertainment value, while Carrie Ann wants to feel an emotional connection with the dance. Being more traditional, Len values good technique and a pleasing visual interpretation of the music. He also said he tries to score only on that night’s performance, although Carrie Ann admitted it’s hard to ignore all of the preparation the couples put into each dance.

Bruno tried to break down what the numeric values of his scores mean: 1 is the living dead, 5 or 6 is a slow simmer, and 8 is the boiling point. The rest are varying degrees of hotness. According to Len, to earn a 10, a couple must make no mistakes, have great musicality and technique, and give a “marvelous” performance. All of the judges stressed that their criticism is only meant to help the celebrities improve, not to tear them down. But Len compared dances to Brussels sprouts. Whether you love them or hate them, it’s just a matter of taste.

As the show neared its end, the next three couples safe from elimination were Stacy & Tony, Jerry & Anna, and George & Edyta. That left Tia & Max in the bottom two with P & Ashly.

As Tom dramatically waited to announce who had lost, Max looked at the ceiling, as if he was preparing for an inevitable disappointment. When P and Ashly were eliminated, Max gave the mother of all celebratory fist pumps. Later, Tia said that Max nearly had a coronary, despite the fact that he’s only 26.

There were several video tributes prepared for P and Ashly’s departure, with footage of them dancing and rehearsing, and even a montage of the innumerable times P talked about “the ‘hood.” He gave Ashly credit for being a great teacher, but said they might wind up on Desperate Housewives because of the drama they caused. P even gave Ashly her own pair of P Miller shoes, which she described as very comfortable. Tom took a great jab at P’s tendency to self-promote, telling him, “That’s the longest you’ve gone without a plug.”

This controversial chapter of Dancing with the Stars came to a close when the credits rolled, and P and Ashly danced to the tasteful Queen tune, “Another One Bites the Dust.”

Next week, with only six teams left, all of them will be judged on the same dance: the Samba. Additionally, all of the teams will take the floor at the same time to Salsa. But the highlight of next week may be Friday night’s results show. Bigger than Burt Bachrach and sexier than The Pussycat Dolls (if you’re a 60-year-old woman), it’s special musical guest Barry Manilow! Please, oh please, let him sing “Copacabana!”

Bed, Bath, and Way Beyond (Episode 2-3)

Thursday night’s episode of Beauty and the Geek began as the villainous Chris and his partner, Tristin, rejoined the rest of the cast after surviving the first elimination round. While Tristin was enthusiastically welcomed back, no one was in a rush to greet Chris.

Since the team Cher sent into the elimination round, Brandon & Amanda, didn’t win, she apologized to Chris & Tristin for rooting against them. Actually she just apologized for the phrasing she used and didn’t take back the sentiment. Tristin was stunned at Cher’s hostility toward her team, and took it as a warning that she’d need to beat Cher if she hoped to stick around.

For this week’s challenges, the geeks had to master interior design, and the beauties needed to understand computers. While the ladies crammed for their challenge, the guys left the mansion on an overnight mission. Their challenge was to shop in a Bed, Bath, and Beyond store for items to decorate a bedroom. Each guy had $1500 to spend, which seemed like a lot of money since the rooms already contained a bed frame and mattress, a dresser, and a night stand. But it’s easy to blow $1500 when you don’t know what you’re doing.

Back at the mansion, the girls were happy to have the place to themselves. They stayed up gossiping and eating ice cream sundaes — all that was missing was a pillow fight.

Cher was the only one who didn’t participate, choosing instead to spend the night studying. She seems to take the competition aspect of the show way more seriously than anyone else, at the expense of the camaraderie the other participants are enjoying. Whether it’s the allure of the $250,000 grand prize, or just the satisfaction of beating the other teams, her obsession with winning is turning unhealthy fast.

The guys spent their night hanging pictures and arranging candles. Wes made a bizarre last minute decision to write the phrase “Time stands still when I am with you” on his wall in red paint. The end result looked like it was written in blood.

Without knowing which geek was responsible for each room, the beauties rated the rooms from best to worst. Jennipher was the only girl to correctly identify the room her partner had decorated. The vote resulted in a tie for first between Joe and Karl. Joe’s purple and pink scheme had more first place votes and won the tie break over Karl’s red velvet, Dungeons and Dragons-appropriate room.

The girls’ challenge immediately followed the guys’ challenge. Each girl was required to properly hook up a computer, connect to the internet, download a song, burn it to a CD, and play the CD in a CD player. Each girl was allowed to ask her partner one yes-or-no question, but that was all the help they could get. Cher and Tristin quickly completed each task, with Cher narrowly eking out the win. Despite a pitiful performance, Jennipher vowed to take apart her own computer and put it back together once the show was over, just so she wouldn’t have to feel so dependent upon other people.

Upon returning to the mansion, Cher lit into Josh, criticizing him for not sticking with the interior design plan they’d developed. While he passively withstood her bullying, he admitted later that he’s gathering the courage to stand up to her.

While Cher and Josh they talked, Tristin interrupted to ask the name of the host of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Josh told her it was Ty Pennington. As soon as Tristin left, Cher berated Josh for helping the enemy.

The two victorious teams, Joe & Brittany and Josh & Cher, worked together to pick which teams would fight to avoid elimination. Josh approached the decision differently than the rest, thinking not about strategy but about who would benefit the most from their time in the house. But he wasn’t unable to convince his cohorts that Wes didn’t need the experience as badly as some other cast members. Instead, Chris & Tristin were sent back again, this time to battle Tyson & Thais.

The girls answered questions about computers in the first round of questions. Fueled by her desire for revenge upon Cher, Tristin aced all three of her questions. Tyson entered the guys’ round two points behind after Thais only answered one question correctly. Both Chris and Tyson got their first questions right, but Chris left the door open after missing question number two. Tyson answered his second question correctly but couldn’t save his team when Chris aced his last question: “Who is the host of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition?”

Tyson and Thais left the house with no regrets, agreeing that their new friendship made their experience on the show worthwhile. We’ll see if Cher feels the same about her partner after she learns that Josh’s casual answer is what allowed Chris & Tristin to win.

Next episode, the guys are made over in preparation for a date. But Chris makes a blunder on the date that could ruin his partnership with Tristin.

Tia, Tia, Full of Grace (Episode 2-4)

Tonight’s episode of Dancing with the Stars was action packed. Zorro made an appearance, and the Paso Doble was danced to 80s hits by Michael Jackson and Europe. Were she alive today, my mom would’ve said it was a real “Thriller.” Actually, she is alive. I just haven’t called in a while.

It was bound to be an interesting night, as it was the first chance since last Friday for anyone on the show to react to Master P’s continued presence. He’s managed to outlast two good dancers in Tatum and Giselle, largely because voters have felt sorry for him. Samantha Harris had to do most of the dirty work for the show’s producers, addressing the P Problem in several of her backstage interviews. And the judges didn’t hold back, trying to make it crystal clear why pity votes do not make for a good dance competition.

Tonight’s featured dances were the Fox Trot and the Paso Doble. According to judge Len Goodman, the Fox Trot should be an elegant dance filled with gentle rises and falls. The Paso Doble is the most theatrical dance in ballroom, best known thanks to the fantastic film, Strictly Ballroom. In the Paso Doble, the man must portray the arrogant, macho matador and the woman acts as his cape.

George Hamilton and Edyta Sliwinska: During the training footage from earlier this week, George talked about wanting to focus more on his dance technique and less on gimmicks during the performance. He then proceeded to perform the Paso Doble dressed as Zorro. It was a nice nod to his most famous role as the lead in Zorro, the Gay Blade. Also, ABC’s parent company, Disney, will release The Legend of Zorro on DVD on Tuesday. But I’m sure that’s a coincidence.

Because he was holding a sword and wearing a mask, it was all but impossible to notice George’s attempts to execute his moves with better technique. Carrie Ann pointed out that the mask worked against George by hiding his facial expressions. But, Bruno noted, George and Edyta’s performances have been consistently entertaining. Hopefully it was entertaining enough to keep them from being the next victims of P’s misguided fans.
Scores: Carrie Ann – 7, Len – 7, Bruno – 7. Judges’ Total = 21/30

Tia Carrere and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: Tia and Max took time out from their training in New York City to watch some of the students from Max’s studio. The talent of the teenaged students, one of whom looks like mini-Max, pushed Tia to train even harder for the Fox Trot. It’s easy to see how a strong background working with children has helped Max turn Tia into a beautiful dancer in a matter of weeks.

For the performance, Tia wore a beautiful sequined dress and Max donned a newsboy cap. Apparently, the Fox Trot is the most appropriate dance for portraying a class struggle. Early into the dance, Tia missed a step, causing her to curse and making Max laugh. When the judges pointed out the misstep, Tia joked, “I thought I covered it.” The rest of the dance was elegant, prompting Bruno to call her, “Tia, Tia, full of grace.”
Scores: Carrie Ann – 9, Len – 8, Bruno – 8. Judges’ Total = 25/30

Master P and Ashly DelGrosso: Any sympathy that voters had for Master P was misplaced, and Ashly confirmed it when she said he doesn’t understand how much you need to train to be a successful ballroom dancer. The Paso Doble is particularly difficult because of its acting component. Like the other couples, P and Ashly took a trip out of the studio. They went to Utah to meet Ashly’s huge family (insert polygamy joke here). P did get in a good jab when he said one of Ashly’s training methods was to make him wash her car, Mister Miyagi style.

The performance itself was more of what we’re used to. P made some efforts not to shuffle his feet, and he did wear shoes other than his black sneakers. But everytime Ashly rolled out of his arms, he jerked sideways with her, and he didn’t include any of the facial expressions needed to sell the dance. As always, he seemed so afraid of looking stupid that he didn’t go all the way with the moves, which looked worse than if he would’ve really tried.

Len deserves a lot of credit for not softening on his position from last week. He again called for P to go, saying that P dances like his heart isn’t in it. Len said that for the voters to keep P around amounts to torture for everyone involved, especially Ashly, who deserves better. Bruno described the dance as a nightmare that he couldn’t even judge properly, because, as Carrie Ann noted, there’s no Paso Doble without a matador.
Scores: Carrie Ann – 4, Len – 2, Bruno – 2. Judges’ Total = 8/30

Things got even worse for P and Ashly after they received their scores. Samantha questioned P’s commitment to the show, citing as evidence the fact that he’s only trained 20 hours since the show began, while everyone else has trained around 150 hours. P deflected the question, saying that the judges were hung up on his refusal to wear dance shoes and that “only God can judge me.” He then did the most despicable thing he could have done: he tried to promote his new album. If that doesn’t show his sympathizers why he’s really in this, I don’t know what will. Maybe it would help if God parted the clouds tomorrow and held up a card with a giant “2” on it.

Stacy Keibler and Tony Dovolani: Feeling exhausted after weeks of training, Stacy and Tony indulged in a spa day. The camera panned slowly across bubbles in a bathtub to reveal who lounged inside it. It was a smirking Tony, who quipped, “You thought you were getting Stacy.” Tony and Stacy’s Fox Trot was lovely and highlighted the details, like hand positions and extension, that put Stacy’s dancing well ahead of the other female celebrities. After a smoke machine malfunction caused smoke to billow after the dance ended, Len acknowledged that Stacy has talent that can’t be taught.

Backstage, Samantha asked the couple if they were worried about being eliminated, despite a great performance. Stacy asked viewers for their votes and pointed out that everyone in the room with her was working hard and deserved votes. Master P and Ashly were nowhere to be seen.
Scores: Carrie Ann – 8, Len – 9, Bruno – 9. Judges’ Total = 26/30

Drew Lachey and Cheryl Burke: To help Drew train for his role in the Paso Doble, Cheryl brought in Matador Dennis Borba. Matador Borba cultivated the arrogance Drew would need to meet his biggest challenge yet: dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The song distracted from the great dancing, until Cheryl and Drew busted out some of the dance moves from the “Thriller” video. Doing the creepy hands from the video sent the audience, including Drew’s brother Nick, into a frenzy, and Carrie Ann appreciated the nod to the video. Bruno, who’s judged two American versions of DWTS and three British versions, said that this was the best Paso Doble he’d seen in five seasons. The only criticism came from Len, who said that Drew’s posture was “a bit queer,” although he meant it in the British way, not the American way.
Scores: Carrie Ann – 9, Len – 9, Bruno – 10. Judges’ Total = 28/30

Jerry Rice and Anna Trebunskaya: Anna was a little miffed at Len for calling Jerry “geriatric” last week. She said Len must’ve learned the word at his last doctor’s, visit since he’s probably 102 years old. Jerry was the only male celebrity to dance the Fox Trot, and to help him move more gracefully, Anna took him to a ballet class taught by Batman, judging by the size of his codpiece. Their performance was great, and Jerry looked like a gentleman in his grey suit. Bruno’s seemingly innocent critique that Jerry watch his posture provoked a furious backlash from Len and Carrie Ann, both of whom felt Jerry made dramatic improvements from last week.
Scores: Carrie Ann – 8, Len – 8, Bruno – 8. Judges’ Total = 24/30

Lisa Rinna and Louis van Amstel: Lisa’s busy schedule requires Louis to be available to train whenever there’s a free moment. Apparently, it also requires that Louis make lunch for Lisa’s kids before he helps drops them off at school. But Louis has become a member of the Rinna-Hamlin household, and the kids join in on rehearsals as Harry watches, spouting legalese and holding a Gorgon head.

As the only female celebrity to dance the Paso Doble, the pressure was on Lisa to execute her performance in the role as the matador’s cape. She did so beautifully, despite the fact that they danced to “The Final Countdown” by Europe. The judges unanimously praised her for going all out, and Bruno feared that she might actually eat Louis. The ever enthusiastic Lisa screamed and jumped for joy, alternately hugging Louis and Tom Bergeron.
Scores: Carrie Ann – 9, Len – 9, Bruno – 8. Judges’ Total = 26/30

1 – Drew and Cheryl
2 – Stacy and Tony, Lisa and Louis (tie)
4 – Tia and Max
5 – Jerry and Anna
6 – George and Edyta
7 – Master P and Ashly

The results show moves to its all live format tomorrow, complete with two performances by musical guests The Pussycat Dolls, and an extended interview with the eliminated team. Will voters finally come to their senses and stop rewarding Master P for not trying?

My vote tonight: George and Edyta. They seem most in danger of becoming P’s next victims, so a vote for George and Edyta is the closest we can get to a vote against Master P.

Put These Stars on Ice

It can’t speak well of a reality show when its network promotes the injuries suffered by contestants over the content of the show. Such is the case with Skating with Celebrities. Fox is actually right in focusing on the potential for death or disfigurement, as that’s the only compelling thing about the series.

This “Train Wreck on Ice” (seriously, that’s the network tagline) features six celebrities with minimal ice skating experience. Each celeb is teamed with a professional skater with whom they perform a pairs skating routine each episode. Ice skating is difficult enough when you’re doing it by yourself. Skating with a partner might not be as helpful as it seems, considering the pair must synchronize their moves and occasionally throw each other.

Ringmasters for this circus are Olympians Scott Hamilton and Summer Sanders. Hamilton is an obvious choice: he’s a skating legend, a cancer survivor, and an inspiration to many. Sanders is a swimmer turned broadcaster who’s worked most recently on NBA Inside Stuff with Phylicia Rashad’s ex-husband, Ahmad.

The problem with Sanders isn’t her professional abilities; it’s that she dwarfs her co-host. Hamilton is 5’6″, which isn’t terribly short, but Sanders is 5’9″. Put her in heels, and she’s almost six inches taller than him. They look silly together and it distracts from their hosting efforts. Maybe Sanders should have stuck with Ahmad Rashad, and Hamilton could have paired with Phylicia, who’s only 5’4″.

As is to be expected in the celeb-reality genre, there are no A-listers on the show. Except for Nancy “Why? WHY?” Kerrigan, even the skaters aren’t household names — or haven’t been for 30 years. Here are the minimally famous people so desperate for cash and media attention, they’re willing to risk physical injury:

  • Deborah “Debbie” Gibson (’80s pop icon) and Kurt Browning (Scott Hamilton impersonator)
  • Dave Coulier (guy Alanis Morrisette was so pissed about) and Nancy Kerrigan (whacked in knee by a tire iron)
  • Todd Bridges (Willis) and Jenni Meno (some skater)
  • Kristy Swanson (the original “Buffy”) and Lloyd Eisler (some skater)
  • Jillian Barberie (NFL on Fox weathergirl) and John Zimmerman (some skater)
  • Bruce Jenner (decathelete with bad nose job) and Tai Babilonia (some old skater)

Each week, the couples’ routines must include a specific trick. Week one: the spin. Everyone had to be able to execute a spin with three rotations. Like the big wheel on The Price Is Right, you’ve got to make it all the way around or else it doesn’t count. The rest of the routine is designed by each team’s choreographer. Except for Jillian Barberie (the show’s ringer), all of week one’s performances were equally bad.

In their first performances, female celebs struggled to hold positions, and when lifted in the air by their partners, the women held on with death grips and looked ridiculous. The male celebs didn’t fare much better when the roles were reversed, and they had to lift their partners. I’d be surprised if any of the female pro skaters got more than six inches off the ice.

Routines were scored by three judges, the only recognizable one being Dorothy Hamill. Points were awarded in two categories, technical difficulty and artistic merit, on a scale of 1-10. Instead of sticking with whole numbers, the judges actually used decimal points! So out of 60 possible points, Debbie Gibson’s performance was only 0.3 points better than Todd Bridges’? This isn’t exactly the Olympics, or Math With Celebrities (which I would totally watch); I think we can dispense with the decimal points.

The judging process is not only silly, but it also lasts way too long. The majority of the program was judges commentary and scores. That, on top of routines that felt long, left very little time for training footage. After all of the hype Fox put on the injury footage from training sessions, we only saw brief snippets of each couple practicing. As teams are eliminated, the amount of training video may increase, but it was a disappointing premiere episode from that standpoint.

Anytime Fox tries to clone a hit reality show from another network, the results look shabby and low-rent. Skating with Celebrities is no different, and it pales in comparison to ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. Although the series premiere did well in the ratings last Wednesday, tonight the show starts in its new, permanent Monday night slot. Many viewers may be lost due to the schedule shift. Many others may have already seen all they needed to see and won’t come back.

The Kyoto Dragon (Episode 2-2)

Airheads debating politics and dweebs singing karaoke. What other reasons could you need to watch Beauty and the Geek?

This week, the game began in earnest for the geeks and their partners. After winning a pop culture quiz and the right to switch up any two teams, Amanda decided that she’d prefer to switch out of her partnership with Chris. They swapped team members with Brandon and Tristin. Would it be the right strategic move for Amanda, or only a convenient way for her to avoid the condescending Chris?

After the teams were swapped, the pairs got their first assignments. The geeks would have to overcome their fear of public embarrassment by karaoke-ing the Foreigner song “Hot Blooded” in a club packed with strangers. It was an especially difficult task because no one can sing the word “rendezvous” without sounding stupid.

The beauties, normally comfortable in the company of strangers, would have to give a speech on politics or the environment in an auditorium full of people. None of the girls are political science or environmental studies majors, and most have no interest in current events at all. Danielle summed up the merits of the two-party system of government with the observation, “Whatever works for me is best.”

Before giving their speeches, the beauties studied with their partners. When Tristin got excited simply because she’d heard of Social Security before, Chris said about his partner, “Her life is just one long, blonde moment.” Josh faced similar challenges with Cher, who assumed that the Kyoto Protocol was somehow related to “the Kyoto dragon.” Exhausted after five minutes of studying, Cher took a nap.

In between study sessions with their partners, the geeks had to rehearse for their own performances. As an Asian guy who can’t sing, Tyson was afraid the audience would compare him to legendary American Idol failure William Hung. Because the beauties would appear onstage with the guys while they sang, Ankur and Jennipher worked on a routine, reasoning it would be better to emphasize style over singing quality.

Josh was first to perform at the club, and, after a few stops and starts, he was actually able to have a good time singing. Karl actually had the most potential as a vocalist, and Ankur won points by ripping open his shirt. But the audience voted Tyson the winner, after he solved a Rubik’s cube during the guitar solo. That’s a little more original than playing air guitar, but it’s only a matter of time before the cube gets old.

After the club, teams relocated to a lecture hall for the beauties’ challenge. The girls spoke one at a time after picking a topic at random. Danielle went first but struggled to answer the question, “Do you support lower or higher taxes?” After saying that rich people should pay higher taxes, she proceeded to talk about how she’d tried to dress “smart,” taking special pride that her necklace and shoes matched. Jennipher, Thais, Sarah, and Amanda performed equally poorly, with Amanda reduced to bewildered silence after forgetting everything she’d learned from Brandon about global warming.

Not all of the speeches were awful. Brittany deserved credit for understanding that the Social Security systems depends on people paying taxes when they are young so that there will be money for them when they are old. Tristin, who couldn’t remember specifics about pollution prevention, tried to make the audience laugh by advocating a return to a hunting-gathering lifestyle. Cher was lucky to pick the question on Social Security, as she’d taken care of her ailing grandmother and was familiar with Medicare and the importance of long-term financial planning.

Cher’s coherent speech earned her the win and a hug from Josh, who was impressed that he had the courage to hug her. The victory meant that Cher and Josh would be able to one of the couples to send into the elimination round, while Tyson and Thais would pick the other couple.

But before the doom and gloom of elimination day, the contestants spent the night drinking champagne and holding a spontaneous toga party. The guys balked at the girls’ suggestion of playing Truth or Dare, preferring instead to stage a toga fashion show. The beauties were both baffled and relieved that none of the guys seemed interested in hitting on them. Jennipher said, “That’s what makes them (the geeks) cute.” Any nerdy guy will tell you that the word “cute” is the kiss of death, the label that means you are a friend and can never be anything more.

After the couples eligible for elimination spent the day studying, everyone convened to learn who’d be fighting to stay in the game. Tyson and Thais made their selection first. To no one’s surprise, they nominated show villian Chris and his partner, Tristin, for elimination. Cher and Josh wanted to send in someone who had a good shot at beating Chris, and Brandon and Amanda were chosen as the other team. Tristin rolled her eyes as Thais announced that she hoped Brandon and Amanda would emerge the victors.

The two teams up for elimination were given time to pack and say their goodbyes. Tristin cried, and it took all of Chris’s willpower not to run out of their room.

The girls were up first in the elimination round, and the guys watched the competition on closed circuit television in another room. The first round consisted of three questions each, in the category of politics and U.S. government. Amanda bested Tristin with two correct answers to her rival’s one. The teammates switched places, and the guys answered questions on pop music. Brandon seemed to choke under the pressure, getting only one question right. Chris then brought home the win by answering all three questions correctly. It seems Amanda made the wrong move by dumping Chris as her partner.

On the next episode, viewers will see how the rest of the contestants react to Chris and Tristin’s victory. Challenges intensify as the beauties learn electronics and the geeks decorate a bedroom.

Un-P-lievable (Episode 2-3A)

We Americans united, much like we did 230 years ago, to show the Brits that we won’t let them tell us what to do. And, as a result, Master P was saved for another week on Dancing with the Stars. This week, unlike last week, he didn’t didn’t even place in the bottom two. Besides extending our own agony, it seems all we voters did was prove to the international community that Americans are as stupid as they think we are.

British dance judge Len Goodman declared on Thursday night’s show that it was time for Master P to dance no more. This provoked P’s fans — and non-fans who felt sympathy for Ashly and him — to vote in large enough numbers to save him from elimination.

After the viewers’ and judges’ votes were combined, George & Edyta and Giselle & Jonathan received the lowest rankings. Giselle was eliminated, but her spirits remained high, and she thanked her partner, Jonathan, for giving her “a gift forever.” George is going to have to step up his campaigning next week if he wants to avoid a repeat trip to the bottom two.

But Len wasn’t the only judge who earned blame for P’s miraculous rebound. All of the judges have scored P and Ashly on a different scale from the other couples. Carrie Ann awarded them a six, yet gave sevens to Jerry and Anna, Giselle and Jonathan, and George and Edyta. Were those couples’ performances really only one point better than P’s and Ashly’s? Even the fours that P and Ashly earned from Bruno and Len seemed generous. Carrie Ann said it herself: this is week three, not week one. There’s no more room in this competition for bad performances, and it’s time the dances were scored accordingly.

The problem with Master P’s continued presence in the competition isn’t his refusal to play by the rules. It’s that he’s simply not good enough to merit his spot, especially at the expense of other celebrities. And nothing is going to make him as good a dancer as the others. Though George can’t move as well as the rest, he and Edyta have worked his strengths, like solo footwork and dramatic facial expressions, into their routines. Ashly hasn’t included anything in their programs to showcase what P can do, leading us viewers to conclude that he can’t do anything well.

While it’s nice to see him having more fun, going so far as to declare George his blood brother from the ‘hood tonight, P’s PR efforts come a little too late. It was his own early reluctance to participate enthusiastically that’s left him well behind his competitors in terms of ability. Also, it’s obvious that DWTS is not as important to him as it is to the other celebrities. For some, it’s the fulfillment of a dream. For others, it’s a chance to compete seriously. It’s hard to tell what this show means to P. For that reason, the gracious thing to do next week would be to bow out of the competition.

Even if that doesn’t happen, there are some changes in store for next week’s Friday results show. The previous night’s dances will no longer be shown in their entirety, and the full hour will be live. Contestants will talk about their performances of the Fox Trot and Paso Doble, and there will be a longer interview with the eliminated couple. Next week’s special guests will be The Pussycat Dolls.

Tonight’s results show did have its share of fun moments. The professional dancers paired up to demonstrate the Paso Doble, a traditional dance of the matador, in which the woman represents the bull fighter’s cape. Couples for the performance were Anna & Jonathan, Ashly & Louis, Cheryl & Tony, and Edyta & Max. DWTS‘s music director decided that the song which best suits the Paso Doble is the theme from Rocky. Really, he did. Had there been time to demo the Fox Trot, he would have made the band play “Danger Zone.”

The Style Elements Crew also gave a breakdancing performance which, while impressive, made me feel like I was watching the halftime show at a Chicago Bulls game. I kept waiting for the InflataBulls race, a performance by The Bucket Boys, or at least a few T-shirts thrown to the audience.

Jive Talkin’ (Episode 2-3)

The judges showed up ready to fight on week three of Dancing with the Stars. Host Tom Bergeron speculated that perhaps the judges had “missed their catered meals” that evening. Maybe they were just sick of Master P’s stale performances.

Tonight’s episode featured the Jive and the Tango. The Jive was born out of rock n’ roll music, and the Tango was originally danced by stinky gauchos and hookers. Hey, I just get my info from the show. The dances weren’t assigned based on gender, although Lisa Rinna was the only female celeb to dance the Jive, and George Hamilton was the only male to Tango.

Jerry Rice and Anna Trebunskaya: Fewer couples dancing meant more time for training footage. Jerry proved his desire to win by actually turning off the NFL playoffs in order to practice. He said that this week they were going to “go for the juggler.” Mimes and magicians, you’ll be next.

The couple didn’t perform up to their usual standards, turning in a sloppy Jive. Len said the slowness of the dance made Jerry look “geriatric.” But Jerry and Anna are beloved by the crowd, so one bad performance shouldn’t cost them.
Scores: Carrie Ann – 7, Len – 6, Bruno – 6. Judges’ Total = 19/30

Giselle Fernandez and Jonathan Roberts: Giselle admitted that she has a smaller fan base than some of her competitors, but she hoped that good performances might win her fans over time.

Unfortunately, she and Jonathan danced a flat, passionless Tango, complete with an illegal lift. Hopefully, ABC will clarify why lifts aren’t allowed in the competition, whether it’s an issue of safety or one of fairness (male celebs wouldn’t be able to perform the lifts as easily as the male pros, earning female celebs higher marks). The judges declared that Giselle’s sexy alter ego, Rosarita, had turned into Robocop.
Scores: Carrie Ann – 7, Len – 8, Bruno – 7. Judges’ Total = 22/30

Drew Lachey and Cheryl Burke: Drew’s ultracompetitive nature is tempered by his relationship with Cheryl, who’s more like a sister to him than a coach. His real life sibling, Nick, was back in the audience again. When he wasn’t on hand last week, Drew and Cheryl slipped from first place to second. Coincidence?

Regardless, Drew and Cheryl danced the best Jive of the night, with all the fast footwork and precision that the dance demands. It has to help that Drew is short; long legs surely hampered Jerry, and we can only wonder if it would hurt Stacy in the Jive as well. The judges loved the dance, but Drew and Cheryl were cautioned for performing an illegal lift.
Scores: Carrie Ann – 9, Len – 9, Bruno – 9. Judges’ Total = 27/30

George Hamilton and Edyta Sliwinska: It doesn’t even matter if George can dance. He’s the most entertaining part of the show. Again this week, as the show prepared to go to commercial, Stacy and Edyta hung on George and stared each other down, while a newly mustachioed George mugged for the camera. Instead of training, George went store to store on Rodeo Drive begging for votes. He did the same at an assisted living facility.

When it was finally time to Tango, it was Edyta who stole the show, lunging and high kicking all over the place. She’s one of the most exciting female pros to watch. While the judges loved the entertainment value of the performance, they wanted stronger holds from George.

While waiting backstage for the judges’ scores, George, whose grandfather hailed from Madrid, pleaded for votes in Spanish, in an effort to reach yet another demographic. Co-host Samantha Harris asked if anyone could translate, and Giselle said, “He’s saying, ‘Vote for Giselle.'”
Scores: Carrie Ann – 7, Len – 7, Bruno – 8. Judges’ Total = 22/30

Lisa Rinna and Louis van Amstel: Lisa and Louis hadn’t performed as well as they’d hoped to thus far, and the pressure finally got to Lisa. After a little crying, and a hug from Louis, the pair decided to just have fun. This applied to everything, including their outfits. Lisa dressed in a tiny, fringed, hot pink two-piece and puffed up her hair to maximum volume. Meanwhile, Louis borrowed an outfit from Han Solo.

As the only female celeb to dance the Jive, Lisa went wild, delivering an energetic performance that earned her the nickname “Turbo Lisa” from Bruno. She was obviously thrilled, and hubby Harry Hamlin looked like he had tears in his eyes.

Backstage, Lisa attributed her performance to her girls, and reached into her top. Fortunately for the censors, all she pulled out was a picture of her daughters that she’d taped inside her costume.
Scores: Carrie Ann – 8, Len – 9, Bruno – 8. Judges’ Total = 25/30

Stacy Keibler and Tony Dovolani: The Tango appeared to give Stacy her first real challenge of the competition. Being taller than Tony meant she’d have to bend her knees dramatically during the whole dance. Stacy described the position as looking like she was going to the bathroom with a mean look on her face. When things didn’t go smoothly, Tony became testy in practice, which could wear on Stacy over the long term.

Despite the challenges posed by the dance, Stacy’s performance was very solid, and the judges only criticized her for not projecting enough emotion.
Scores: Carrie Ann – 9, Len – 9, Bruno – 9. Judges’ Total = 27/30

Master P and Ashly DelGrosso: Finally, Master P realized that Ashly was the one person he needed to dance for. They played a little basketball to break up their training, and Ashly even donned a baseball cap with a rhinestoned letter “A” to complement P’s hat.

Despite a more enthusiastic effort than in previous weeks (Tom yelled “Holy Crap!” when they finished), P didn’t perform the Jive well at all. It was sloppy, heavy-footed, and he looked lost most of the time. The judges didn’t hold back tonight. Carrie Ann said she expected more by week three, and Bruno said it wasn’t even a Jive. Jaws dropped when Len verbalized what many fans have been thinking: “It’s time that you and this show parted ways.”
Scores: Carrie Ann – 6, Len – 4, Bruno – 4. Judges’ Total = 14/30

Tia Carrere and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: After coming close to elimination during week one, Tia’s still feeling the pressure. It didn’t help that one of her most famous movie moments was dancing the Tango with Arnold Schwarzenegger in True Lies. Would she be able to relearn in three days what had taken her months to learn for the movie? She gained a lot of confidence from having already lost 20 pounds during training for DWTS. Plus, she had Max to offer supportive shushes whenever she complained during practice.

The result of their effort was my favorite dance of the season, a playful performance that looked how I always imagined a Tango should. From beginning to end, it showcased Max’s skills in choreographing another dance that was perfect for his partner. The judges appreciated it, too, praising both Max and Tia. Carrie Ann even got goosebumps while watching them dance. This strong performance may be just what Tia needed to assert herself as a contender.
Scores: Carrie Ann – 9, Len – 8, Bruno – 9. Judges’ Total = 26/30

1 – Drew and Cheryl, Stacy and Tony (tie)
3 – Tia and Max
4 – Lisa and Louis
5 – Giselle and Jonathan, George and Edyta (tie)
7 – Jerry and Anna
8 – Master P and Ashly

Eliminations will start during the first half of tomorrow night’s results show. Most likely, we’ll learn who the first four safe couples are and save the rest until the end of the show. If this isn’t Master P’s final night, Giselle and George seem the most likely celebs to be sent packing.

Also tomorrow, the professional couples pair up to perform a Paso Doble dance-off, and we will see a breakdancing demo. But if it’s not performed on pieces of cardboard covered in baby powder, it’s not real breakdancing.

My vote tonight: Lisa and Louis. This competition means so much to her. She deserves a vote for putting her heart into it.

Links for ‘Dancing’ Fans

For those of you addicted to Dancing with the Stars, here are two great websites to help you pass the time between episodes:

Raphael Pungin’s Dance Blog has all of the stats on Dancing with the Stars that you could ever want. There are charts and graphs tracking the couples’s progress each week, as well as tons of pictures from the show. In case you’ve forgotten what happened on the original DWTS, there’s plenty of info from season one as well.

For general information on competitive ballroom dancing, check out the Dance Trends Newsletter. In addition to news about competitions and ballroom gossip (can you believe Tony’s new professional partner used to dance with Max?), the newsletter offers commentary on dancing in mainstream media, including Dancing with the Stars. Author’s note: This site has not been updated since February, 2006.

American Idolatry

I gave it a chance. After watching the premiere episode of American Idol‘s fifth season, I’ve determined that I can’t watch any more of it.

Any show can be novel the first time around, and I enjoyed the first season of Idol. The show was new to everyone: contestants, judges, and audience. But Idol has become a behemoth, taking on way more cultural significance than it deserves.

It’s bad enough having to watch the dozen or so awful contestants producers thought were funny — when most were just sad. But even the show’s ultimate payoff, the crowning of a new winner, is usually unsatisfying. Ruben, Fantasia, and Carrie? I’ve never heard anything by any of them, which I consider evidence of their lack of talent. Considering that I can’t help but hear stuff by other artists that the major labels push on me, I’m guessing that even the Idol producers don’t really have that much faith in their winners.

In four seasons, original winner Kelly Clarkson is the only one to achieve any major post-show success. How can we expect that the next big American pop star will come out of this show? More likely, the truly talented singers are paying their dues in clubs instead of looking for a shortcut to fame.

The most amazing thing about Idol is the number of people who try out for the show. Very few of them are good enough, or bad enough, to make it on air. That leaves several thousand mediocre singers who took a day, if not multiple days, out of their lives to try out for the show. Many of them had supportive friends and family members in tow. How could any of them think that they actually had a chance?

A large number of Americans seem to believe that they deserve to be famous, despite having no exceptional talents or skills. This false belief is fostered by a plethora of MTV shows, like Next or My Own, that merely require a desire to be on TV as a casting criterion. Thanks to MTV, 96% of all American teens have been on TV. Coincidentally, 96% of teens are bland, half-formed people. It’s a scientific fact.

It’s time for Americans to demand more from their reality programming. It’s not enough just to show us the young and stupid acting young and stupid to make us feel better about ourselves. It’s not even enough to watch ordinary singers compete or has-been celebrities living in a house together.

We need to offer our viewership as a reward only to those reality show participants who’ve earned it. Go live on an island for 39 days. Race around the world. Ballroom dance or ice skate. I already feel as good as I’m going to from watching people simply embarrass themselves for my entertainment. I’m looking for the inspiration to travel or try something new — or, at the very least, a show that makes me appreciate my indoor plumbing and comfy mattress.

Genetic Freaks and Geeks (Episode 2-1)

Unleash the stereotypes! Beauty and the Geek returned for its sophomore season last week. Surely, these 16 new nerds and babes will be able to form lasting friendships based on mutual understanding as a result of the show. That’s the ultimate goal, right?

Beauty and the Geek’s original anithero was Richard, the nerd in the high-waisted pants who kept everyone at a distance with a pattern of obnoxious behavior. Filling Richard’s role this season is Josh, the Woody Allen-type museum critic so nervous he slept in a closet the first night rather than sleep in the same room as his female partner. While he certainly plays up his anxieties for effect, he’s got some very real fears about social situations. Josh said he’d even be willing to give up part of his intellect to get rid of his anxiety problems.

Richard’s rival last season was Chuck, an intense neurosurgeon whose introspective tendencies made him even more socially awkward than Richard. Chuck’s role looks to be filled this season by Brandon, an assistant neurobiologist who always looks like a deer caught in the headlights.

The sad characteristic that both Chuck and Brandon have in common is that they are so close to being regular guys, but they’ll probably be forever stuck just on the wrong side of weird. Their clothes and hair aren’t outlandish enough to be quirky, and their social unease is more uncomfortable than charming. They’re just close enough to normal that they’ll never be able to tell just what makes them different.

The rest of this season’s geeks are easily distinguishable thanks to their varied, nerdy interests, while the beauties are virtually indistinguishable due to their lack of interests. Teams formed as each beauty chose her favorite from the parade of geeks. Josh described the experience as “facing the sexual firing squad.” This season’s teams are:

  • Brandon and Tristin (cocktail waitress who’s fond of the phrase “wicked cool”)
  • Ankur (unibrowed M.I.T. grad) and Jennipher (camp counselor confused by fractions)
  • Tyson (Rubik’s cube champ) and Thais (model whose name sounds like ‘tie,’ not ‘thighs’)
  • Chris (has kissed one girl) and Amanda (hairstylist intimidated by big books and big menus)
  • Josh and Cher (beer spokesmodel eager to teach Josh not to wear terry cloth shirts on hot days)
  • Karl (Dungeon Master) and Danielle (cocktail waitress who owns 200 shoes and purses)
  • Joe (speed-chess champ) and Brittany (speed-tanning expert)
  • Wes (tracks monkeys with lasers, whatever that means) and Sarah (flaky dental assistant)

This season’s villain is Chris, who writes greeting cards like, “I hope you’re happy… because you broke my heart, you bitch.” He and partner Amanda won the first challenge, a general knowledge quiz in which Chris refused to let Amanda answer any questions. The reward for winning was the ability to switch players between any two teams. Chris grilled the other contestants in an effort to find the best players, offending everyone in the process. He even offended Amanda, who decided to use the chance to swap Chris for a new partner. The results of the team switch will be revealed at the beginning of this week’s show.

But the show wasn’t all contests of intellectual superiority. Some of the most interesting moments occurred when several of the contestants talked over breakfast about what the geeks’s chances would be with the beauties in the real world. Tristin stressed to Josh that he can’t worry whether a woman is judging him when he approaches her, because she doesn’t know if he’s judging her, too. Brittany and Tristin talked about their body image issues, and said the trick is simply to pretend you’re confident when you’re really not. Josh took a measure of comfort from learning that the girls were just as nervous as he was.

Hopefully, Beauty and the Geek will have more sequences like that as the season progresses. It’s hard to tell who benefits more from the experience, the beauties or the geeks. I think members of each group need to take a few extra seconds to judge someone’s worth when they first meet.