Monthly Archives: March 2007

DwtS 4, Week 1: Power Rankings

As the couples of Dancing with the Stars 4 prepare for their second performances, which celebrity is most likely to follow in the footsteps of Trista Sutter, Kenny Mayne, and Tucker Carlson on elimination night?

If you need a refresher on the premiere performances, check out the videos in our Week 1 Performance Show Recap.

From worst to first, here’s where the couples rank after one week…

11. Billy Ray Cyrus & Karina Smirnoff
It’s not just that Billy Ray & Karina earned the lowest scores from the judges after their Cha Cha Cha. It’s the way they did it that puts the most pressure on them. Billy Ray seemed so self-conscious that it would take a psychological breakthrough of Freudian proportions for him to give the kind of performance he needs.

For him, the real accomplishment may have been just getting out on the dance floor. If that’s the case, then he needs to go, so that the show can focus on the couples who came to win.

10. Heather Mills & Jonathan Roberts
The same goes for Heather. Her decision to join the cast is admirable, and she’s already done a lot to change perceptions of the abilities of people with physical handicaps. But she gave me the impression that participating was victory enough for her.

I’d be more inspired if she’d said, "I’m not just going to dance; I’m going to be better than all of the other dancers." Her first routine was great, but I’m skeptical as to whether Heather’s heart is really in it.

9. Leeza Gibbons & Tony Dovolani
Leeza needs to look more relaxed on the dance floor, and she doesn’t have much time to figure out how to do that.

8. Shandi Finnessey & Brian Fortuna
Shandi seemed funny and engaging in pre-show interviews. Sadly, it seems she didn’t come across so well on the show. I thought Shandi’s dancing was fine — but not good enough that she can survive too long without winning over the audience.

Shandi needs to come across as a real person, and not a beauty queen trying too hard to seem like a real person. For example, she should stop calling herself a "geek." Instead, prove it! I recommend responding to the judges in Klingon. Qapla’, Shandi!

I also hope the producers won’t try to manufacture a showmance between Shandi and Brian this season. It didn’t help Willa & Maks last season, and it won’t do Shandi any good now.

7. Clyde Drexler & Elena Grinenko
Some fans called Clyde’s performance "sweet" or "charming," which is the kind of backhanded compliment you give to shy guys. If he wasn’t so tall, they would’ve called him "cute." He’ll have a couple more weeks to get comfortable with the performances, but his dancing will suffer if he can’t loosen up.

6. John Ratzenberger & Edyta Sliwinska
The surprisingly competent Ratzenberger seems to think that he can win this competition on merit alone. Didn’t he get the memo that the older male competitors are supposed to be sluggish, self-deprecating, and threatening to break a hip at a moment’s notice?

5. Paulina Porizkova & Alec Mazo
Hopefully, Paulina will stop harping on her own clumsiness after this week. Not that I don’t believe she was a clumsy kid, but by mentioning it so much, the audience and judges are going to be looking for missteps. She’s better when he sticks to the commie humor.

4. Apolo Anton Ohno & Julianne Hough
Apolo’s naturally gifted, and he pairs well with Julianne. But if he isn’t able to devote as much time to dancing as the others — especially a perfectionist like Ian — it’s going to show in his performances. Fortunately, I’ve heard that he plans to curtail his skating for the remainder of the season.

3. Ian Ziering & Cheryl Burke
Ian didn’t get the highest score from the judges after his first performance, which could be a blessing in disguise. The pressure’s off, so he gets to focus on his own progress and not worry about what everyone else is doing.

2. Laila Ali & Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Laila may have scored the highest among the women, but she wasn’t in first place. This early in the game, that’s perfect for her. She’s going to force herself to work that much harder to overtake Joey as the judges’ favorite.

1. Joey Fatone & Kym Johnson
Joey will probably be setting the pace for the next few weeks. He should aim for consistency early on, looking to peak in the last few shows. Hopefully, he can leave himself some room to grow.

Ox Notes: March 22, 2007

Charles in Charge… For A Few Weeks, Anyway
Fans of Sports Night — possibly the perfect television series (which makes Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 all the more disappointing) — will be pleased to see Josh Charles join ABC’s Six Degrees on April 13. Sadly, his run will be short-lived, as it’s pretty much a lock that the show won’t be back next season.

Sanjaya: Extended Remix 
Even after all of ABC’s efforts to avoid putting Dancing with the Stars up against American Idol, Fox still found a way to make DwtS pay. Tuesday night’s episode of Idol will run an extra seven minutes — overlapping the beginning of DwtS 4’s first Results Show.

Anthony & Rocky — BFFs?
Not exactly. In an interview with Buddy TV, last night’s Survivor: Fiji castoff, Anthony Robinson, reveals that he’s not pulling for Rocky to win the million dollars.

S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night
Chicago area fans of Smallville and Supernatural who were surprised to see their shows replaced by Chicago Bulls basketball tonight, fear not. Both new episodes will air Saturday night on WGN at 7 and 8 p.m. CST.

Follow that up with a PBS repeat of the America’s Ballroom Challenge 2007 Grand Finale at 9, and Saturday Night Live hosted by Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning (who cut his comedic teeth telling others to cut meat), and you’ve got my idea of a fun Saturday night. And, yes, I know exactly how uncool I sound.

Survivor Fiji: Episode 6

After a tribal shakeup on Survivor: High School… er… Fiji, the rivalry between Rocky the jock and class nerd Anthony came to a head. Would the island be big enough for the two of them?

The two tribes, Moto and Ravu, arrived at what they assumed would be a Reward Challenge, only to be told to drop their tribal buffs. When Earl and Edgardo stepped forward to represent their teams, host Jeff Probst informed them that they’d be selecting brand new tribes.

Alternating by selecting a member of the opposite tribe, two new teams were created:
1) Edgardo, Mookie, Alex, Rocky, Dreamz, Anthony
2) Earl, Boo, Michelle, Cassandra, Yau-Man, Stacy

That left Lisi the odd woman out, and since she’d just witnessed the dismantling of her alliance and all of her hopes of winning, she was excited by the prospect of being sent home immediately.

Only she wasn’t going home. She was going to Exile Island. She’d remain there until after the next Tribal Council, when she would join whichever team lost a member at Tribal Council.

Lisi made the mistake of whining about not getting a ticket out of Fiji, and Jeff made sure her new team understood that she’d just given them the perfect reason to get rid of her. She sulked her way over to Exile Island, where she sulked some more.

The rights to the good camp were determined by which buff Edgardo pulled out of a bag. He pulled the Ravu buff, and he and the boys were off to the crummy camp.

There they celebrated the fact that there wasn’t a woman around — before assigning that role to Anthony. He stayed at camp tending to the fire and wondering why chocolate always goes straight to his thighs, while the manly men of masculinity went out to fish, hunt for crabs, and break shit. Like men do.

At the Immunity Challenge, teams were equally matched in a game of wits. All six members of each tribe were tied together and had to carefully weave through an obstacle course, which looked like a knocked-over Pachinko machine (or if you’re a Price is Right fan, a Plinko board). Earl’s Moto tribe edged out Ravu for the victory, continuing Moto’s undefeated streak.

Anthony seemed the obvious boot for Ravu, but he did his best to point out exactly how annoying Rocky was. Despite Anthony’s perceived weakness, he ran the camp almost single-handedly. Meanwhile, Rocky bossed people around and avoided doing any work himself.

At Tribal Council, Rocky used the occasion to give Anthony a decidedly unmotivating "be a man" speech. Yet every time Anthony tried to speak up for himself, Rocky interrupted him. After Rocky called him "effeminate" a few too many times, Anthony said he hadn’t realize that he needed to act like a loudmouthed jerk to earn Rocky’s respect.

Even though Alex, Edgardo, Mookie, and Dreamz had to know that they would soon regret it, they voted out Anthony and kept Rocky. How anyone can stand listening to that guy for five minutes — let alone several days — is beyond me.

Next week, when Survivor returns to its regular Thursday night timeslot, Yau-Man looks for the Immunity Idol. And Lisi brings her feminine charms to Ravu camp, much to the dismay of Dreamz.

Ox Notes: March 21, 2007

Sci Fi has its Tin Man
Neal McDonough will be playing the title character in SciFi’s Wizard of Oz remake, Tin Man. I’m a huge Neal McDonough fan, thanks to his stellar work as an alcoholic D.A. in Boomtown and a shell-shocked officer in Band of Brothers. It’ll be great to see him fronting a talented cast.

Survivor News
In honor of tonight’s special Wednesday airing of Survivor (8 p.m. Eastern), here’s a link to TV Guide’s interview with the most recently eliminated castaway: Rita. I’m not sure why I’m just learning this now, but she’s the sister of Project Runway‘s Nick Verreos.

Heather Mills the next Jerry Springer?
Probably not, but Jerry did offer his thoughts on the image-rejuvenating power of Dancing with the Stars, and its possible benefits for Ms. Mills. He could be right, but why on earth would someone who’s best known for being a charity campaigner (as we were frequently reminded during Monday’s show) need an image makeover?

Videos of Joey & Cheryl and Apolo & Julianne have been added to the DwtS 4, Week 1: Performance Show recap.

Good News for Gadget Heads
Apple TV boxes are heading to a store near you.

DwtS 4, Week 1: Ratings, News, and Videos

DwtS 4 debuted to an audience of 21.65 million, making it the most watched premiere in the show’s history. Here are links to reviews of last night’s premiere at Entertainment Weekly and MSNBC.

In the run-up to the new season, the stars of the show gave plenty of interviews. At BuddyTV, Ian Ziering said that the first time he met fellow competitor, Laila Ali, she warned him, "Look, don’t think that just because you got Cheryl that you’re going to win this thing."

At ReadExpress.com, Kym Johnson said that her partner, Joey Fatone, has already lost 15 pounds, thanks to their dance training. And at MeeVee, Tom Bergeron describes himself as a "gym rat."

This season, ABC is posting complete episodes of Dancing with the Stars online. If you don’t have time to watch the whole episode, videos of Laila & Maks, Billy Ray & Karina, Shandi & Brian, Heather & Jonathan, Joey & Kym, and Apolo & Julianne have been added to the DwtS 4, Week 1: Performance Show recap. (Throughout the season, we’ll continue to scour the web and post videos we find online. We’ve been, shall we say, persuaded not to upload any videos of our own this season.)

DwtS 4, Week 1: Performance Show

With one dance under their belts, the couples on Dancing with the Stars get another week to prove to fans why they deserve to stick around. At least one couple has good reason to be very nervous before next week’s vote.

All of the principal players returned for this season: hosts Tom Bergeron and Samantha Harris; judges Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba, and Bruno Tonioli; and band leader Harold Wheeler.

(A quick note: I wish there was a way to convey just how great Tom Bergeron is at his job, but his greatness lies in the spontaneous asides that you simply have to see to appreciate. He’s the funniest host on television, and Dancing with the Stars wouldn’t be the same without him.)

To kick off the new season, all of the professional dancers performed what I believe was a Samba to Sweet’s "Ballroom Blitz." Maksim Chmerkovskiy, sporting a dashing short haircut, looked as delightfully smarmy as ever, as he danced with Karina Smirnoff and Cheryl Burke at the same time. New castmember Julianne Hough was tossed in the air like a cheerleader before ending the routine balanced high atop Tony Dovolani’s right arm.

The celebrities were introduced individually, and it was announced that all of the women would be dancing the Fox Trot, and the men the Cha Cha Cha. Then it was time for the first performance of the night.

Ian Ziering & Cheryl Burke — Cha Cha Cha
Song: Tommy James & The Shondells, "Mony Mony"

The dancers and celebrites have no idea who they’ll be working with, until they meet for the first time in their practice space. Upon seeing the two-time champ waiting for him, Ian shouted, "We’re gonna win! This is great!" During their practice sessions, Ian & Cheryl had plenty of fun, but he needs to let go of his perfectionist tendencies.

When they took the dance floor, Ian looked perfectly relaxed and happy. He didn’t appear to be at all self-conscious, which allowed him to look far more natural than many of the male celebs ever do. He displayed none of the stiffness in his arm movements that plagued Joey Lawrence last season even in his best performances.

With a few more weeks of practice, Ian will have no problem getting his hips moving. I don’t have much to say about Cheryl’s performance, because she did exactly what she does best: allow her partner to be the star. Ian looked elated after they finished their dance.

The judges were pleased with the night’s first performance. Len told Cheryl, "You’re a lucky little devil. You keep getting really good partners." Bruno commended Cheryl for her choreography and suggested a way they might teach Ian how to move his hips: "Go and see the Chippendales show or something." Early in the routine, Carrie Ann had feared Ian might psych himself out, but she said, "You proved me wrong. The musicality kicked in."

Backstage with Samantha, Ian expressed some concerns about his outfit: ”It’s the first time I’ve had to step through my shirt since I was wearing onesies."

Scores: Carrie Ann…7, Len…7, Bruno…7 = 21/30

Paulina Porizkova & Alec Mazo — Fox Trot
Song: Cole Porter, "It’s too Darn Hot"

During their introductory video, Paulina revealed that, despite her modeling background, she’s actually a klutz. Her family called her "as graceful as a 2×4." Alec and Paulina bonded over their shared geographic background as they trained…
Alec: "Do not question the system."
Paulina: "That’s what they said in the Communist countries."
Alec: "Well, that’s where I’m from."
Paulina: "Yeah, that’s why we both left."

On the dance floor, Paulina looked classy, and dancing to a Cole Porter tune, the couple had an old Hollywood kind of glamour. She looked very confident, and, as she becomes more polished, Paulina will be a real threat. Alec did a wonderful job letting her shine, continuing to play the straight man to her comedian on the floor, just as he did off the floor.

Len commended Paulina for her "musical arms," but warned her about posture and hold problems. Carrie said, "You have great potential. Your lines are gorgeous. But you were a little awkward with each other in the beginning." Bruno said his cohorts were just in a bad mood. He told Paulina, "You’ve got class oozing from every pore. You look like you have breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Tiffany’s."

When asked how it feels to receive criticism from the judges, Paulina fake-cried and said, "It hurts when it’s you."

Scores: Carrie Ann…6, Len…6, Bruno…7 = 19/30

Billy Ray Cyrus & Karina Smirnoff — Cha Cha Cha
Song: Billy Ray Cyrus, "I Want My Mullet Back"

Billy Ray’s insecurity has been the couples’ biggest obstacle. When Karina asked what his strengths are, he replied, "My strength is you. And other than that, everything else is a weakness."

What happened on the dance floor was a mess. Billy Ray missed his holds, forgot the routine, and just looked lost. To be fair, he looked like what many of us amateurs would after only four weeks of training, except that he did it on national TV.

In honor of the song they were dancing too, Karina wore a mullet wig. At the end of the routine, with Karina kneeling at his feet, Billy Ray was supposed to pull off the wig (reclaiming his mullet). But the wig got stuck, and Billy Ray had to rip it off of Karina’s head, in what looked like a very painful maneuver.

After the judges made sure Karina was okay, they got down the business of critiquing the performance. Carrie stammered, "That was…that was rock ‘n roll, but it wasn’t a Cha Cha." Bruno told Billy Ray, "You were like a crazy bear lost in a swamp. I can’t give a critique because there wasn’t anything to criticize." Len said, "It was more like a hoedown than a Cha Cha Cha."

Scores: Carrie Ann…5, Len…4, Bruno…4 = 13/30

Leeza Gibbons & Tony Dovolani — Fox Trot
Song: Frank Sinatra, "Strangers in the night"

Leeza, the oldest woman in the competition, said the show "didn’t kill Jerry Springer. I can do it, too." As a successful businesswoman, normally in charge of her affairs, Leeza admitted to having some trouble relinquishing control and submitting to Tony’s "tough love" training.

Their performance was nice and romantic, although a bit on the slow side. Leeza’s neck and shoulders were tense, but with confidence, her carriage will relax. She’s not an actress, so she needs to work a little harder to get into character.

Bruno said Leeza was so tense and tentative, it was like she was dancing "at the edge of the Grand Canyon." Len said, "Technically it was very good. Relax and enjoy it." Carrie Ann told Leeza, "Let the confidence shine. You brought the character of the dance to life."

When asked by Samantha how she was dealing with Tony’s tough training style, Leeze replied. "I’ve talked to his wife. I know how to handle him. Tony’s a teddy bear."

Scores: Carrie Ann…5, Len…5, Bruno…5 = 15/30

Joey Fatone & Kym Johnson — Cha Cha Cha
Song: Bee Gees, "You Should Be Dancing"

When not dealing with Joey’s goofball antics, Kym had to act as Joey’s fitness instructor as well. "Joey ‘Fat One’ won’t be his nickname for long," said Kym.

They danced a disco-influenced Cha Cha Cha; Joey’s white vest even said "Fatone" in rhinestones on the back. Seconds into the routine, Joey’s microphone pack came loose and began whipping about behind him. But his style was so relaxed and easy, he acted as if it hadn’t even happened. The couples’ fun attitude came through in their performance.

Carrie offered high praise: "I think the competition just began, right now." Len said simply, "That was really, really good." Bruno explained, "It’s about performing. It’s about selling. It’s about being on it, with your music and with your partner. You did all of that in spite of the little accident."

Scores: Carrie Ann…8, Len…8, Bruno…8 = 24/30

Laila Ali & Maksim Chmerkovskiy — Fox Trot
Song: Marvin Gaye, "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)"

Laila and Maks appear to be a match made in heaven. She’s thrilled to have the opportunity to be a girly-girl for a change, and he’s happy to have found someone who appreciates his teaching philosophy: "Just do what I say, and I guarantee the result." But Maks definitely knows his limits: "I’d be absolutely crazy to get into a boxing ring with Laila. I like this face a little too much."

Laila looked lovely in her orange gown, but the rusty-brown shirt wore was not as flattering on Maks. Thanks to her boxing training, Laila is in incredible shape and has fast feet that glide across the floor. She’s already got all of the basics down, so from now on it’s all detail work. And, as far as conditioning, the dance training shouldn’t be any harder than her normal routine. Laila could be most dangerous woman in the field.

Bruno said the routine was "oozing sex appeal and allure. I cannot believe you never danced before." Carrie told Laila, "You’re seemless. You’re effortless." And Len adapted Laila’s father’s famous maxim: "Float like a butterfly… glide like a swan."

Scores: Carrie Ann…7, Len…8, Bruno…8 = 23/30

John Ratzenberger & Edyta Sliwinska — Cha Cha Cha
Song: Aretha Franklin, "Chain of Fools"

After Vincent Pastore dropped out of the competition, John was brought in as a replacement. With only two weeks to train her partner, Edyta said, "This is the first time I’m more nervous than my celebrity."

Edyta returned for her fourth season in a typically skimpy Edyta outfit. If you looked like Edyta, you’d probably wear next-to-nothing, too.

Their performance didn’t look like something thrown together in just two weeks. John did a pretty credible job covering the floor, and Edyta wisely choreographed the routine to take some of the focus off of John and on herself.

Carrie Ann said, "That was surprisingly good! You’re very charismatic." Len warned John about heel leads, which are forbidden in the Latin dances, but said, "It was a good job." Bruno echoed Len’s sentiments.

When Samantha asked John about being the oldest person in the competition, John joked, "I’ll be 72 next week."

Scores: Carrie Ann…6, Len…5, Bruno…6 = 17/30

Shandi Finnessey & Brian Fortuna — Fox Trot
Song: Huey Lewis & The News, "Power of Love"

When they met, Shandi and Brian said they were impressed with each other’s mutual hotness. Brian even designed a move where Shandi would grab his tush. While his intentions were surely playful, it came off as somewhat lecherous.

It took over half a show, but we finally had the first weird song selection of the season: a Fox Trot to Huey Lewis. Shandi’s beauty pageant training served her well, as she smiled through the entire routine. Technically it wasn’t bad, but their performance needs to feel more natural.

In regard to their unfailing smiles, Bruno joked, "It’s Barbie and Ken, live in your living room." Carrie told Shandi, "Your upper body is fantastic. Your lower half needs a lot of work." Len said, "I’ll give her lower half a lot of work! Hey-o!" Okay, he didn’t really. He just asked for "a little more expression, a little less aggression."

Scores: Carrie Ann…6, Len…6, Bruno…7 = 19/30

Clyde Drexler & Elena Grinenko — Cha Cha Cha
Song: Stevie Wonder, "I Was Made To Love Her"

Clyde was afraid of losing his nickname, "The Glide," on the dance floor. But he was impressed with the skills of his diminutive partner: "It’s like playing basketball with Hakeem Olajuwon." (Yeah, if Hakeem were as tall as Earl Boykins.)

It’s next to impossible to look smooth when you’re 6’7" and you live in a world designed for much smaller people. Clyde had no problem gliding across the floor, but his upper body was hunched over. He’s certainly not the worst dancer of the bunch, and Elena looked wonderful. The closed hold of next week’s Quickstep may make Clyde feel more like Elena’s partner, instead of just the guy dancing next to her.

Carrie Ann emphasized, "You do glide. It’s not a disadvantage if you start to use it. I’d love to see you just expand and fill the whole dance floor when you’re dancing." Len said, "It was such a charming performance." Bruno told Clyde, "You’ve got such a lovely warmth exuding from you. You have the talent there. Big is beautiful — sell it."

Scores: Carrie Ann…6, Len…5, Bruno…5 = 16/30

Heather Mills & Jonathan Roberts — Fox Trot
Song: Irving Berlin, "Dancing Cheek to Cheek"

Only upon meeting did Jonathan learn about Heather’s prosthesis. But once the couple learned how to compensate for the fact that she’s balancing on one leg, they were able to joke about it. "Why can you do spin-kick," Jonathan teased, "but we can’t do three steps forward?"

For all of the attention surrounding Heather, you wouldn’t have known this was a woman with one leg. Jonathan choreographed a pleasing routine that took advantage of all of the things that Heather can do, and minimized any complications from her prosthesis. The performance was well executed, and they looked like they had fun doing it.

Tom asked Len if they’d be judging Heather by different standards, and Len said they absolutely would not. To Heather and Jonathan, he said, "There was far more right about that routine than there was wrong." Bruno told Heather, "The thing to pick on was the top half," and he then demonstrated how Heather should properly hold her hands. Carrie said, "When you’re worried about your leg and the weight on your leg… your shoulders get very tense. You’ve got to have a little more faith in your partner, that he’s there for you."

Backstage, Heather told Samantha, "I’m just glad I didn’t fall over."

Scores: Carrie Ann…6, Len…6, Bruno…6 = 18/30

Apolo Anton Ohno & Julianne Hough
Song: Denise Williams, "Let’s Hear It For the Boy"

Julianne was starstruck by Apolo when they met, and she accompanied him to Milan for a competition last week. There, one of his enthusiastic fans told her, "I’d do anything to be in Apolo’s arms."

I usually try to ignore Apolo’s unappealing patch of chin spinach, but the giant red bandana he wore as a headband somehow drew even more attention to it. When I was able to focus on the dancing, I was impressed. He moves comfortably enough that he’ll be fine once he and Julianne have had more time to train together — assuming he gives himself enough time to do so.

Bruno said, "It’s like watching Happy Feet all over again. You have probably the highest potential of all of the people I’ve seen tonight. More rehearsals; clean it up." Carrie told Apolo, "Your hip action’s pretty amazing," but warned him to stop turning his hips in when he walks. Len was already worrying about next week’s Quickstep: "Your posture isn’t great. You’ve got this stooped-over look. But well done for your Cha Cha Cha."

Scores: Carrie Ann…7, Len…7, Bruno…7 = 21/30

Leaderboard:
24 – Joey & Kym
23 – Laila & Maks
21 – Ian & Cheryl, Apolo & Julianne
19 – Paulina & Alec, Shandi & Brian
18 – Heather & Jonathan
17 – John & Edyta
16 – Clyde & Elena
15 – Leeza & Tony
13 – Billy Ray & Karina

Overall, it was an entertaining night of performances, although the two hours really seemed to drag at the end. Limiting the time couples had to prepare for the season was a positive move, as it left lots of room for improvement in the weeks to come.

There is no Results Show tomorrow night; no one will be eliminated until next Tuesday. On next week’s Performance Show, the men will dance the Quickstep and the women the Mambo.

My vote tonight goes to Heather & Jonathan, and not because I found it so inspirational or anything like that. They simply danced the routine that I would most like to try dancing myself.

The MOIB Makeover

If you’ve visited My Ox Is Broken in the past, you may have noticed that it now looks a bit different. Here’s the scoop on what’s changed, what hasn’t, and what’s still to come.

First, a note on the most important part of the site: its content. Kathy will continue to post her recaps. However, she’ll now also be posting news, previews, and commentary most weekdays, as well, so you’ll want to check back frequently.

The most obvious change at MOIB is the new layout. We wanted to make the site as simple to navigate as possible. We wanted the article layout to be easy on the eyes. And, yes, we wanted the site to be pretty.

The site’s new homepage has three main sections. Near the top, you’ll see our featured stories — kind of like the above-the-fold part of a newspaper. Underneath that, on the left, you’ll see a list of our last half-dozen or so articles (and a link to view the entire article archive). On the right are links to TV-related headlines from various sources, including TV Guide and Yahoo! TV.

A couple basic features are still being tested, but they should be active in a matter of days. Chief among them, I’ll be making it easier to browse articles by category. Our Google site search will also be showing up on all pages of the site. (It’s already on some of the pages)

In the coming weeks, we’ll be trying out some new features, like article comments, RSS feeds, and — while DwtS is airing — a chat page, so you can talk about the show as it happens.

As far as the site’s technology, I’ve redesigned the database and remade all the pages (formerly ASP) in ASP.NET 2.0. For those of you who don’t know what that means… it means, in layman’s terms, that I’m lucky to have ever had a girlfriend, much less a wife.

Thanks so much for visiting the site, and if you have any suggestions, go ahead and contact us.

Apprentice L.A.: Episode 9

Muna, your accent is Jamaican Trump crazy!

This week’s task on The Apprentice L.A.
put Kinetic Project Manager Kristine in a difficult position. Teams
were asked to create a 45-second soap opera around Soft Scrub, to be
featured on the company’s website. Because of Muna’s attention to
detail, Kristine proposed putting Muna behind the camera.

But Muna — who has a thick Jamaican accent — said she’d prefer to be one of the actors.

Rather
than risk putting a peeved Muna in the director’s chair, Kristine
consented to let her act opposite Heidi. Then, during the film shoot,
Kristine did the unthinkable and left the set to buy props, trusting
that things would run smoothly in her absence.

Things did not run smoothly.

Muna
was excited and talking at double speed — often while Heidi was
delivering her lines. The result was a garbled, unintelligible mess.

When
Kristine returned, she immediately saw the problem and made an effort
to slow her hyperactive actress down in subsequent scenes. But she
never reviewed the two scenes that were already in the can; if she had,
there surely would’ve been retakes.

Meanwhile, James had stepped
into the role of Project Manager at Arrow. Apart from some ridiculous
overacting on the part of Tim, Nicole, and especially Frank, the
project went off without a hitch. James’s strength as a manager was
knowing when to just get out of the way.

The Soft Scrub execs
agreed that Kinetic’s mini-opera had a better premise than Arrow’s (an
adulterous friend trying to wash away the evidence vs. an interrputed
marriage proposal),. But the execs couldn’t understand a thing Muna
said.

Arrow won the task and earned themselves a lunch with the
Gubernator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who lied and said he was excited to
meet with them. Compared to Muna’s soap opera performace, Arnold
sounded like he’d been born and raised in Cleveland.

In the
Boardroom, all signs pointed to Kristine’s firing. Her attempt to
manage Muna’s moods had sabotaged the final prodect, she left the set
at a critical point in the filming, and she didn’t integrate the
sponsor’s product well.

But then Trump asked his favorite Olympian, Angela, who she’d rather have on her team. She said she’d keep Kristine.

Muna,
fired up and fighting for her life, called out her closest ally, Heidi,
and asked who she’d rather have on her team, assuming that the answer
would be her. This bold (foolish?) move amused Trump, and he pressed
Heidi for her answer.

Heidi acted as if Trump had just tossed
Kristine and Muna into the ocean, and she was holding the only
lifering. She fought against answering the question for ages, until she
finally said, “Kristine.”

Muna was not pleased. Heidi tried to
play politics and offer some explanation for why, up until this point,
she’d been telling Muna she preferred working with her. But it didn’t
matter. Muna’s fate was sealed, and she was fired.

Next week,
the teams are reorganized. James volunteers Nicole to join the other
team against her wishes, and Nicole isn’t happy about it.

DwtS 4 Preseason Power Rankings

Until we’ve seen them dance in Monday’s premiere, it’s completely impossible to predict how the cast of Dancing with the Stars 4 will fare. But that’s not going to stop me from trying.

Obviously,
the best dancers should stick around for a while, and most
of the uncoordinated oafs will be eliminated early. But talent
isn’t the only thing that matters on DwtS.

Here are my predictions for the order of elimination, before we’ve seen a single chasse.
Last season, I predicted Mario would finish ninth and Emmitt fifth. And
I picked Harry to win. So, while preseason prognostication isn’t my
strong suit, it’s still fun to guess.

11. Shandi Finnessey & Brian Fortuna
For whatever reason, a large chunk of the DwtS
fanbase has an aversion to voting for beautiful, blonde celebs
(e.g., Stacy Keibler, Shanna Moakler, Willa Ford, and Rachel Hunter). Regardless of how well they danced, these women all had trouble garnering audience votes over an extended period.

Shandi
Finnessey is a blonde beauty queen, which could make her Public Enemy
Number One. Unless Shandi dyes her hair, performs sans makeup and
wearing a burlap sack, there’s little that her partner Brian Fortuna
can do to save her.

How They Could Win: Unless Shandi proves early on that she’s as congenial as she is pretty, they probably can’t.

10. Clyde Drexler & Elena Grinenko
Before
appearing on the show, Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice were already
household names. Clyde Drexler might be a hit with NBA fans, but I’m
betting that most people don’t know much about him. If ABC wanted
someone over six-and-a-half feet tall, they should’ve cast Gheorghe Muresan. At least he’s been in movies.

Elena
Grinenko and Tucker Carlson were the first couple eliminated last
season, and I don’t expect she’ll last much longer this time. She’s beautiful to watch, but her skill will be overshadowed by her oversized partner.

How They Could Win: Charm might buy them a few weeks, but I doubt they’ll win.

9. Heather Mills & Jonathan Roberts
You don’t have to conduct any polls to know that fans of Sir Paul McCartney (you know, the British Peter Tork)
absolutely HATE Heather Mills. Heather will probably get a pass for the
first couple weeks, before the sympathetic — or morbidly curious —
lose interest and cast their votes elsewhere.

Jonathan Roberts
performed well in Season One, but he himself is not a draw. All he can
do is make Heather look good before their time runs out.

How They Could Win: If Heather’s fake leg flies off and knocks out Samantha Harris, earning Heather the respect of viewers everywhere.

8. Leeza Gibbons & Tony Dovolani
Are
there any hardcore Leeza Gibbons fans out there? In another season she
might have been a top contender, but she’s a comparative guppy in this
pool of c-list sharks.

After being partnered with a sub-par
dancer last season, Tony Dovolani should be motivated to go all out.
Any early trips to the Bottom Two could rattle his confidence, though,
and he’s not nearly so endearing when he’s grumpy — as happened near
the end of Season 2.

How They Could Win:
If their routines are especially exciting and Leeza is much more
engaging than her competitors off the floor (she has no shortage of
experience being in front of the camera), they might stick around a
while. But winning might be asking a bit much.

7. John Ratzenberger & Edyta Sliwinska
John Ratzenberger will be funny and likable, but haven’t we seen enough slow moving old dudes on DwtS?
They always seem destined to finish in the middle of the pack. Poor
Edyta. Didn’t she already pay her dues by dancing with George Hamilton and Evander Holyfield?

How They Could Win:
Sadly for Edyta, I doubt they can. Even if Ratzenberger wins over the
viewing audience, the judges will probably compensate by giving very
low scores in the later rounds.

6. Apolo Anton Ohno & Julianne Hough
Except
for the marquee events, I don’t even know what demographics watch the
Olympics, anymore. I generally see just enough to know the top
Americans in most sports — and which other competitors have cool
nicknames, like The White Sausage. Ohno is no sausage, but he has won a bunch of medals, so I (and, I suspect, most casual Olympic viewers) at least know who he is.

Julianne Hough is a new cast member who could make a big impression on fans. She’s cute as a button
and barely out of high school; every preteen girl is going to want to
be her. Don’t be surprised if your adolescent neighbors have Apolo’s
voting number in their Five.

Apolo’s
biggest hurdle could be finding enough time to practice. Because of
Ohno’s skating schedule, he’s had only a couple weeks to get ready.

How They Could Win:
Apolo & Julianne are my sleeper pick this season. If they’re cute
and endearing — and he picks up the moves quickly — there’s a chance
they could sneak their way to the top.

5. Laila Ali & Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Laila
Ali is beautiful and she could beat the crap out of you. On top of
that, there’s a chance that her famous dad might show up for a taping
of the show.

But she’s paired with Maksim Chmerkovskiy. I’m not
saying that Maks is the world’s hunkiest albatross, but he’s placed in
the Bottom Two during the first episode of each season he’s been on.
And despite subsequent strong performances, he and his partners have
always been eliminated before their season’s token old men. Here’s
hoping he breaks that curse this season.

How They Could Win:
Sexy routines, perfect execution, and positive attitudes. If they can
avoid the Bottom Two for the first few weeks, consider them contenders.

4. Billy Ray Cyrus & Karina Smirnoff
BRC
is a country star with a show on the Disney Channel. A built-in fanbase
like that should be the kiss of death for his competitors. But there
could be some backlash against last season’s trend, when country star
Sara Evans enjoyed massive audience support, despite her poor dancing.
Billy Ray might not be able to win over the new fans he needs to take
the trophy. Then again, he might… if he promises to regrow his once-fearsome mullet.

Karina
Smirnoff is an amazing dancer, and I’m excited to see how she adjusts
to a celeb who’s not a ringer. But her cranky demeanor last season
rubbed some show fans the wrong way. Also, I’m scared she’s going to
work some stupid line dancing gimmick into their early routines. An
excess of boot scooting would be a major turn-off.

How They Could Win: ABC threatens to air nothing but Hannah Montana marathons on (fellow Disney affiliate) ESPN unless Cyrus gets the trophy.

3. Paulina Porizkova & Alec Mazo
Paulina
Porizkova & Alec Mazo are hands-down the most attractive couple in
the cast. I’d be content to watch them shovel crap. If they get
eliminated early, maybe they can guest host an episode of Dirty Jobs. Paulina’s modeling experience should lend their performances a poise that the other female celebs may lack.

Except
for the first season, female celebrities haven’t fared nearly as well
in the voting as their male counterparts have (and Kelly Monaco’s
victory was challenged in a rematch). Hopefully, Paulina and the other
women will get a fairer shake this time, but I’m not optimistic that a
female celebrity will win Dancing with the Stars.

How They Could Win:
If female fans can resist the urge to vote for the cutest male
celebrity, no matter what, then Paulina & Alec have a great chance.

2. Joey Fatone & Kym Johnson
As a former member of ‘N Sync, Joey Fatone has the same boy band experience that helped Drew Lachey win DwtS 2.
Joey’s used to playing to a live audience, he has some dance
experience, and, if his promotional photos are any indication, he’s
having a great time. That’s always the key to winning fans’ hearts.

Joey
also has a great partner. Kym Johnson was able to make Jerry Springer
look like a good dancer, so she’s sure to do an incredible job with a
partner 30 years Jerry’s junior.

So why don’t I think they’ll win? See couple number one below.

How They Could Win: Joey & Kym are so undeniably happy and fun to watch that the audience can’t help but vote for them.

1. Ian Ziering & Cheryl Burke
Sorry,
Ian. The reason you’re ranked first has little to do with you, and
everything to do with your partner. Cheryl Burke has led her partners
to victory the last two seasons, and I’m not about to challenge
historical precedent.

Frankly, I’m surprised producers didn’t
pair Cheryl with someone over 60 just to level the playing field. As
long as Cheryl sticks with her winning formula — playing to her
partner’s strengths and enabling him to look effortless in sometimes
cheeky routines — Ian is a heavy favorite to win this season’s trophy.

How They Could Lose:
They’re at risk if Ian moves like a gorilla or acts like one in his
interview segments. They shouldn’t be an early boot, no matter what,
but Ian should work at being the most charming guy out there. Time to
flash that
Steve Sanders smile.

TAR All-Stars: Episode 5

Aspiring beauticians take heed: the women of Mozambique have very low standards when it comes to their manicures.

Teams
remained in Ushuaia, Argentina, for the first task of this leg,
searching the Martial Glacier for a clue. Ozzy & Danny had trouble
figuring out how to use their avalanche beacon to locate a clue buried
in the snow, and even finished behind Beauty Queens Dustin &
Kandice, who originally ran straight to the glacier without picking up
a beacon.

Luckily for Ozzy & Danny, their deficient
search-and-rescue skills didn’t hurt them. All of the teams ended up on
the same flight to their next destination: Maputo, Mozambique.

For
their first task in Africa, one member of each team completed a
Roadblock involving rats. And we’re not talking your typical New York
subway-type rats. These rats were the size of cats and cuter than their
American cousins, with cool names like Xena and Tupac.

In
Mozambique, rats are trained to sniff out undetonated mines buried in
the ground. Racers attached adorable little harnesses to their rats and
guided them along a short course. When the rat began to dig, a man with
a metal detector confirmed the presence of a mine (already disabled, of
course) and dug up a buried clue.

The racers seemed to form
attachments quickly to their rats. Ian was encouraging: “C’mon, Tupac,
find me a mine!” And Ozzy promised to liberate his rat: “I’ll set you
free after, and take you to a nice lab, where they’ll apply make-up to
you.”

Joe’s rat, Nelson, found the clue first. It directed teams to look for a cluebox at Praca Dos Trabalhadores in Maputo.

Charla’s
rat was more interested in grooming himself than hunting for mines, and
the cousins were the last team to leave the Roadblock. But they weren’t
out of the running, yet.

While most of the teams took a
circuitous route back to Maputo, Charla & Mirna followed a road
that led them straight to the heart of the city. They reached the
cluebox in third place.

The clue was a Detour: Pamper or Porter.
In Pamper, teams drove to a market and picked up a manicure kit. They
needed to earn 30 Meticals (US$1) by convincing women to let them paint
their nails.

In Porter, teams drove to a different market where
they filled ten 45 lb. bags with coal and sewed the bags shut. Then
they carried one bag to a nearby address to receive their next clue.

Most
of the teams chose Porter, assuming that the more physically demanding
task is usually the more straightforward. What they didn’t know is that
many women at the market were willing to pay at least 10 Meticals for a
polish application, making Pamper the much faster of the two Detours.

Bill
& Joe and Ozzy & Danny, the two teams most likely to discuss
their own manicures, chose Porter — and quickly regretted it. They
worked under the hot sun, and filling the bags was hard, messy work.

The
men’s arms were covered in soot, and as they rubbed the sweat from
their faces, Joe & Bill inadvertently gave themselves Hitler-style
moustaches. His own face covered in soot, Danny asked Ozzy, “Do I look
like Rambo?” Ozzy replied, “You look like a faggy raccoon.”

At
the other market, Charla & Mirna got right to work, even soliciting
men for manicures. After a couple of men took them up on their offer,
Mirna said, “I’m glad they have metrosexuals everywhere in the world.”

After
earning more than enough money, Charla & Mirna received a clue
directing them to the Pit Stop at Fortaleza, the oldest building in
Maputo. The cousins arrived in first place and won a trip to Aruba.

The
Beauty Queens also (fittingly) chose to give manicures. Kandice gave a
free manicure to a cute little girl who didn’t have the money to pay.
Their smart Detour choice got them to the Pit Stop in second place.

Uchenna
& Joyce and Eric & Danielle decided to do Porter. Teri &
Ian had intended to do the same, but their driver took them to the
market featuring the Pamper Detour. Ian was skeptical about their
chance of success and wanted to leave. But Teri convinced him to spend
five minutes trying to drum up business.

It paid off, as they
earned all the money they needed from just two manicures. Teri gave two
of the sloppiest polish jobs I’ve ever seen — almost worth the 50
cents they each cost. Thanks to their driver’s error, Teri & Ian
finished the leg in third place.

One by one, the teams from the
Porter task filtered in to the Pit Stop. Ozzy & Danny finished in
fourth place, checking in only after Oswald spent a few minutes chasing
host Phil Keoghan, threatening him with sooty hugs.

They were followed by Joe & Bill, who beat Eric & Danielle in a footrace to the finish mat.

Uchenna
& Joyce arrived last but were not eliminated. Instead, they were
Marked for Elimination, meaning that they’ll face a 30-minute penalty
if they fail to finish the next leg in first place.

Next week,
things look bleak for Uchenna & Joyce, as Uchenna struggles during
a Roadblock. And Danielle threatens to quit racing after she and Eric
are removed from a plane.