Monthly Archives: May 2007

DwtS 4 Finale: Results Show

After all of the hype — and nearly two hours of filler material — Dancing with the Stars 4 finally crowned its champions. And the winning couple is… Apolo & Julianne.

Most of the evening leading up to the big announcement was spent on video packages recapping everything about Dancing with the Stars: the three previous seasons, various international versions of the show, the finalists’ journeys, how the dancers compare to one another, interviews with family and friends.

There was a dance by the professionals offering a sneak preview of the DwtS Tour. Tony, Elena, Alec, Edyta, Brian, Cheryl, Jonathan, and Karina danced a combination Waltz/Quickstep to Bjork’s "It’s Oh So Quiet."

The final three couples had to dance one more time to get their final scores from the judges. Each couple could repeat any routine they’d performed previously. Rather than picking routines that had already earned straight 10s, the couples chose to redo performances that weren’t quite perfect the first time.

Apolo & Julianne were up first, reprising their Paso Doble. They corrected a minor slip they’d had in their first performance, showing the precision they developed over the course of the season. Carrie Ann said, "You are such a team, and you really, really work together."

Joey & Kym followed with their Star Wars Tango, hoping to improve upon the 8s they earned the first time. Seeing this dance again, it was amazing how straight and gimmick-free the bulk of the choreography was — if not the costuming. Len told Joey, "You’ve been trained, but you’ve never been tamed. Kym has allowed you to just develop your own self."

Laila & Maksim were the last couple to perform, bringing back their Mambo. The most noticeable difference was Laila’s abundance of confidence and the way she was able to dance with abandon. Bruno told her, "You’re like the last standing Amazon, coming out and knocking us all down."

It came as no surprise that the judges awarded all of the couples perfect scores, leaving the leaderboard unchanged. Personally, though, I thought Laila’s 30 was the most deserved.

After the performances, it was time to announce which couple had finished in third place. Tom announced, "Laila & Maksim," prompting Laila to sit on the edge of the stage and pretend to cry.

After thanking the hair, makeup, and costume departments, as well as her partner, Laila commented on the DwtS experience with her trademark wit: "I’m really happy for whoever wins tonight. Of course I’m pissed I didn’t win."

Then it was time for the first eight couples eliminated to give a farewell performance, dancing about 45 seconds from one of their favorite routines. Based on these mini performances, it was apparent that Shandi, Leeza, Clyde, and John didn’t retain a whole lot from their time on the show.

Tom went on to ask each of the eliminated celebrities what they’d miss least from Dancing with the Stars. When Paulina said she wasn’t fond of being judged, Tom said, "Luckily, it didn’t happen long," prompting Shandi, Leeza, and Clyde to slap him.

Clyde, who was seated, still grabbed the microphone (just like he always did when Samantha interviewed him after dances) when Tom asked him the same question, and Billy Ray plugged his new album instead of giving Tom an answer. Some guys never change.

Before announcing the winning couple, Samantha asked the previous trophy winners if they had any advice for tonight’s champions. Drew said to enjoy the experience because "you’re going to be associated with this show for a long, long time." Emmitt said that, thanks to Dancing with the Stars, it’s as if he’d "never played football before in my life. I’ve become a ballroom dancer to America."

Finally, Apolo & Julianne were announced as the winners of DwtS 4. Apolo and Joey each thanked their proud partners, and when Apolo & Julianne held their disco ball trophy aloft, none of the tiny mirrors fell off.

DwtS 4 Finale: A Second Opinion

Game is definitely on for the DwtS finalists, as they take their last kick at the can. Will it be spectacular dance routines or dramatic theatrical numbers that win the viewers’ votes? After ten weeks of gut-wrenching competition, which celebrity has earned the distinction of claiming the ultimate in ballroom bragging rights? Here’s my take on the DwtS finals.

Joey & Kym
Mr. Entertainment set out with a plan to wow the audience and capture the whole enchilada. And wow them he did! Joey delivered a wonderfully entertaining Cha Cha and a technically dazzling Freestyle.

Joey’s flair for performance was evident throughout the execution of both routines. But his dramatic renditions elicited very different reactions for each dance; Joey negatively compromised his scoring with his Cha Cha, while he positively elevated his ranking with his Freestyle.

Was the end result enough to award him the Season 4 Dwts title? In my opinion, absolutely yes!

Joey’s Cha Cha was heavy on tricks and light on basic dance content. This pair’s crowd-pleasing routine contained more razzle-dazzle elements than the judging panel either expected or desired. The proliferation of non-Cha Cha movements might have showcased Joey’s theatrical flair, but it failed to adequately highlight his improved Cha Cha skills.

While the routine contained cheeky elements and some great footwork and turn segments, I would not have classified it as a particularly flirtatious number. Instead, it celebrated the fun and entertaining aspects of dancing and was more reminiscent of a Freestyle dance-off routine. Still, Joey executed the dance with outstanding confidence and competence. The sections where the pair danced as one were quite captivating. I awarded this couple the number two position for their ballroom round.

Joey’s Freestyle was amazing! From his spectacular split-jump off the stage to the multiple jaw-dropping lifts to the disco-flavored choreography. Kym’s skillful integration of past ballroom dance elements into their routine created a wonderful backdrop for the journey that Joey has undergone since his arrival on the show.

The number was energetic, entertaining, full of quick footwork, precise arm gestures, and great facial expressions. Joey and Kym really nailed this one and provided their adoring public with a polished, invigorating performance. For me, this was the hands-down best freestyle dance of the night.

Apolo & Julianne
The Apolo Express seized the inside track in this final round of DWTS. Apolo’s determination to be the first to cross the finish line was backed up by solid Rumba and spectacular Freestyle routines.

Technically, Apolo has mastered many basic ballroom elements. His footwork is fast and precise, his floor coverage is exceptional, his unison with Julianne is outstanding, and his confidence and energy are palpable. Apolo won first place according to the judges’ combined scores. I, however, have him placing a close second behind Joey.

Apolo’s Rumba landed more on the passionate end of the spectrum than the romantic one. Julianne crafted another routine that highlighted Apolo’s strengths: his fast footwork, high energy and superb synchronization. Again, this couple exhibited lovely lines in their poses and executed some wonderfully innovative choreography.

However, this interpretation of the Rumba was too fast and too fragmented to properly convey the sense of romantic interplay that the dance requires. The routine lacked flow and perhaps was guilty of containing too much content (if that’s possible). I failed to feel any connection between the music and the dance itself.

Although I thought Apolo competently performed Julianne’s technically challenging routine, I was not as impressed with this pair as I have been in the past. Their ballroom number ranked third on my score sheet.

Apolo’s Freestyle was an over-the-top ninja/hip-hop spectacle. The dance was fast, energetic and totally original. Talk about tricks! Julianne’s amazing choreography incorporated everything from break-dancing to back flips to blindfolds. The routine contained exactly what the judging panel expected to see in a freestyle performance, with the emphasis clearly on performance.

The number exemplified that signature “wow” factor for which this pair is renowned. It presented a showcase for Apolo’s speed, synchronization and wonderful musicality. What an Olympic triumph for this speed-skating champion! Apolo’s routine placed decimal digits behind Joey’s in my Freestyle ranking.

Laila & Maks
The Queen of the Dance pulled out all the stops in her bid for Season 4’s DwtS title. Laila was confident, energized, and brought everything she had to the table. You can’t help but admire her work ethic, perseverance and tenacity. Her beauty, elegance and magnetic sexuality are simply icing on the cake.

But unless her fanbase (and Maks’) exert Herculean efforts, I fear that Laila will not be the victor. Last night’s combination punch didn’t pack enough oomph to knock out her competition. The voters, not the judges, will ultimately decide who wins this bout.

Laila’s Paso Doble showed a vast improvement over her Round 4 version. This time out, the dance had fire, passion, quick twist turns, aggressive footwork and good arm extensions. Maks’ choreography focused more attention on Laila and her improved ballroom skills than on himself. Certainly, the more appropriate musical selection helped to sell the routine.

However, I had expected the dance to be a bit more polished. I thought that Laila’s head turns could have been sharper – in fact I think that she completely missed one half way through. Also, she could have been more aggressive in the way that she picked up her skirt during the dance, more precise in her foot placement and more diligent about pointing her toes. I recognize that these are minor criticisms, given the number of dance elements that Laila successfully mastered. But at this stage of the competition, pulling off the more subtle details is what separates the winner from the rest of the pack.

Still, after viewing her competitors’ submissions, I think that Laila’s Paso Doble was the undisputed winner of the ballroom round.

Laila’s Freestyle was an energized Michael Jackson-inspired number that accentuated her great hip action and superb fly-girl moves. The routine was playful, entertaining, and technically balanced. Laila confidently executed a number of crowd-pleasing tricks, fast footwork and great turns. Her ballroom technique and her unison with her partner have clearly progressed over the past ten weeks.

Unfortunately, Maks’ psychic abilities were not in tune with the judges’ expectations. Instead of choreographing a number that accentuated Laila’s natural elegance and sophistication, Maks opted to go for something different. But the something different that he chose duplicated an approach that was to be dominated by Laila’s talented competitors.

Although her Freestyle was great, it was not good enough to eclipse the performances of Joey and Apolo. It ranked third on my score sheet.

PARTING WORDS
After Week 9’s impressive performances, I actually found the Finals rather anti-climatic. Although the Freestyle routines were amazing, the judges’ selections fell somewhat below my expectations.

I am delighted, however, that the best three celebrities ended up facing each other in the final round. Joey, Apolo, and Laila have been exceptional competitors this season. I think that they all deserve to win. Their dancing abilities have shown incredible improvement and greatly contributed to the increased popularity of the show.

I would not be disappointed to see any one of them hoisting that fugly mirror ball trophy into the air. But just for the record, my finishing order is Joey, Apolo, Laila.

Ox Notes: May 22, 2007

Dancing with the Stars
At last night’s final Performance Show, TV Guide’s Deborah Starr Seibel talked with the stars about the physical demands of performing, and she chatted with Julianne Hough’s boyfriend, Zach Wilson, who flew in from China for the show.

People’s Monica Rizzo was also at the show and spoke with a number of the celebrities in the audience, including Jerry Springer and Young MC.

Cheryl Burke gave People her assessment of the finalists’ strengths and weaknesses.

Summer Reality Schedule
Reality Blurred posted a handy schedule with the premiere dates for this summer’s crop of reality shows — including tonight’s debut of the Mark Burnett/Steven Spielberg project, On The Lot.

It’s Certainly Creepy
I can’t explain why, but The Addams Family is about to become a Broadway musical.

DwtS 4 Finale: Performance Show

A finale featuring the most evenly matched trio in the show’s history was fun, though it lacked some of the spark of previous seasons. That spark: Cheryl Burke.

The first round of dances consisted of styles chosen specifically for each couple by the judges. The chosen dances were styles that the couples struggled with the first time around, giving them a second chance to perfect them.

JUDGES’ CHOICE ROUND

Laila Ali & Maksim Chmerkovskiy — Paso Doble
Song: Erich Kunzal, "Espana Cani"

During rehearsal, Laila expressed relief that her size presented some challenges: "I’m not that fond of being lifted up and thrown around, anyway." As for the judges’ choice of the Paso Doble: "I’m glad they picked that dance for us, because, you know what — I’m gonna bring it."

This Paso Doble was much better than their first time around, as was evident in Laila’s emotional intensity during the performance. She looked much more comfortable in character — especially when she was able to duck a punch from Maks (a reference to her day job).

Beaming, Len called the performance "fantastic," though he also thought Laila didn’t point her feet in a few spots. Bruno told Laila, "This was like a tidal wave of passion and drama. Your best performance to date as an actress." Carrie Ann said, "I’m so glad you finally pulled the punches because I’ve been waiting for you to throw that punch in there."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…10, Len…9, Bruno…10 = 29/30

Apolo Anton Ohno & Julianne Hough — Rumba
Song: Gladys Night & The Pips, "Midnight Train to Georgia"

In preparation for their freestyle, Julianne brought in a breakdancing coach to help Apolo. But he seemed more concerned about the "advanced" moves Julianne had introduced into their Rumba.

Their slightly-speedy Rumba featured a lot of cool poses that were certainly more advanced than what they did in their original Rumba. But the poses interrupted the flow of the dance at times and distracted from the romance. Still, the improvement in Apolo’s skills is undeniable.

Bruno was enthusiastic: "You have such chemistry, you two together." Carrie Ann told Apolo, "I thought you over-performed it just a hair. It wasn’t your best." When Len said, "It lacked any romance," Bruno shouted, "They made love on the dance floor!" Len called Bruno a "big gob," but Bruno wouldn’t stop talking, at which point Tom Bergeron had to tell Bruno to let Len talk.

Len finished by offering a few examples of what he didn’t like, as well as the pseudo-compliment, "I didn’t dislike it…intensely."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…9, Len…9, Bruno…10 = 28/30

Joey Fatone & Kym Johnson — Cha Cha Cha
Song: Deee-Lite, "Groove Is In The Heart"

By this point in the season, Joey is exhausted — and the effects started to show themselves in rehearsal. As they trained for their freestyle, Kym said, "Sometimes when we’re doing my lifts, I fear for my safety…just a bit." And, like Apolo, Joey was surprised at the difficulty of relearning a dance style he’d already performed.

Their Cha Cha started with a nod to the ‘N Sync video for "Bye Bye Bye," in which the band pretended to be marionettes. This time, Joey pulled imaginary strings to control Kym — who made a fine puppet. Their routine was entertaining and full of plenty of tricks, but it almost felt more like a freestyle routine than a ballroom dance.

The judges all felt that the performance had problems. Carrie Ann said, "For a Cha Cha, it wasn’t quite right. There wasn’t enough content to it." Len agreed:"It was far too theatrical. The more tricks you do, the further you go away from the roots of a dance." Bruno added, "It was an odd Cha Cha — and not that ‘Cha,’ you know what I mean?"

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…9, Len…8, Bruno…9 = 26/30

FREESTYLE ROUND

Laila Ali & Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Song: Michael Jackson, "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)"

Even before the music began, the routine had a problem — Laila’s outfit. It was supposed to be, I believe, the ballroom version of boxing ring attire, but Laila looked like she’d been attacked by a Bedazzler during cheerleading practice. Her glittery silver sneakers may have been comfortable, but they weren’t aesthetically pleasing.

The dance itself was very energetic and full of Laila’s favorite hip-hop-slash-wedding-reception moves — complete with the running man. Since they executed only one lift, Laila & Maks included a couple of other tricks. But more than anything, they made a point of dancing together — a nice statement about their partnership.

And then Laila ripped open Maks’ shirt.

Carrie Ann said, "I love the fly girl moves, girl. I think I would’ve really liked to see it a little more sophisticated." Len agreed: "Your strength is elegance and sophistication — what those other two (meaning Joey and Apolo) can’t do." Bruno agreed with both Carrie Ann and Len.

Laila good-naturedly protested to the judges, "I thought you wanted to see something different." She didn’t get an answer, and their appraisals of her competitors that would follow probably only increased her confusion as to what they really expect from the celebrities.

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…9, Len…8, Bruno…9 = 26/30

Apolo Anton Ohno & Julianne Hough
Song: Young MC, "Bust a Move"

Apolo & Julianne went for a straight breakdancing routine, vaguely reminiscent of Mario Lopez’s Season 3 Freestyle. The dance was full of tricks, including Apolo flipping Julianne with his feet. If a studio ever decides to film Breakin’ 3, Apolo should audition.

Len said, "It was up-to-date. It was everything I’d like freestyle to be." Bruno enthused, "This was so original! It was a surprise." Carrie Ann simply hugged Apolo & Julianne.

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…10, Len…10, Bruno…10 = 30/30

Joey Fatone & Kym Johnson
Song: Donna Summer, "Last Dance"

In keeping with their song, the performance started with some slow and romantic spins. But the tempo of the music changed, Joey & Kym quickly doffed their classy duds in favor of something a little flashier, and it was time to hustle.

There were a number of spins and lifts that required a great degree of strength, balance, and flexibility from both of them, in particular a lift in which Kym actually jumped onto Joey’s shoulders. Throughout, they incorporated some partner dancing in hold, which Joey later said was their way to show off what he’s learned over the course of the season. For that reason alone, it was the smartest choreography of the round, and the couple performed it well.

Bruno called the routine "a hit parade of dance." Carrie Ann said, "I just love that you brought all that you’ve learned throughout the ten weeks of this competition into that dance, and you still had a great time." Len told Joey, "You flew off that stage like Harry Potter on a Nimbus 2000. I wish we had more than a 10 to give."

Judges’ Scores: Carrie Ann…10, Len…10, Bruno…10 = 30/30

Leaderboard:
58 — Apolo & Julianne
56 — Joey & Kym
55 — Laila & Maksim

All of tonight’s Freestyle routines were entertaining, but none was as memorable as either of Cheryl Burke’s winning routines from Seasons 2 and 3. While Ian might not have been as strong a dancer as Joey, Apolo, or Laila, I sure would have liked to see what he and Cheryl could do with the Freestyle.

Tomorrow night, the final three couples will dance one last time, and that performance will be scored by the judges, as well. Their final totals will be out of 90 possible points, and those totals will be combined with the audience votes to determine the winner.

I split my votes between my favorite performance from each round. Laila & Maks’ Paso Doble was my favorite from the Judges’ Choice Round, and Joey & Kym gave a great Freestyle performance.

Since each phone line and email address is allowed five votes this week, I cast my tie-breaker for Joey & Kym. They’ve given great performances all season, and they never copped an attitude with the judges. And maybe, if I’m really nice to Joey, he’ll take me for a ride in KITT.

Ox Notes: May 21, 2007

I Quit
Before NBC had the chance to tell Donald Trump that they wouldn’t be bringing back The Apprentice, Trump announced that he’s done with the show. He said he’ll be moving on to "a major new TV venture," although who knows if his dwindling legion of Apprentice fans will move with him.

Photogenic Fish
Corey Arnold, a crabber on the Rollo during the second season of The Deadliest Catch, wrote an article with advice for aspiring fishermen that includes some of the amazing photographs he’s taken during his years at sea.

Corey’s photographs are currently on display at the Richard Heller Gallery in Santa Monica, California.

Bachelor Interview
Only slightly less fishy than the above-mentioned article is an interview with the current Bachelor, Andy Baldwin, who insists that he and the woman he chooses* in tonight’s season finale are really engaged and in love. That’s what they all say, Andy. (*Possible spoiler in the linked article)

DwtS 4: Pre-Finals Power Rankings

The Season 4 finale features probably the most evenly matched trio of competitors in the history of Dancing with the Stars. Any of the couples could win — provided that certain conditions are met. I’ve attempted to break down some reasons why each of the couples could win or lose.

I should admit that I’m rooting for a Laila & Maks win. Not only do I think they deserve it, but I think a victory by a woman bodes well for the show’s future. Plus, I just think Laila’s neat.

But just because I want her to win doesn’t mean I think she will. Here’s why:

3. Laila Ali & Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Laila & Maks are in the most difficult position going into the finals. The fact that Laila is nearly the same size as Maks puts limitations on the kind of tricks they can do in their freestyle, as do her injured knees. They’ll have to get very creative about crafting a routine that can stand up to the flashy tricks that Apolo and Joey will be able to do with their partners.

But Maks is certainly capable of developing an entertaining program that doesn’t sacrifice skills for stunts. And Laila’s love of hip-hop and campy moves like the butterfly can only help. I wouldn’t be surprised if they revisit some popular dance music from Laila’s (and my) preteen years and bust out some C + C Music Factory or Technotronic for their freestyle.

Also, Laila & Maks were assigned the Paso Doble by the judges — a perfect routine to showcase Laila’s stregth and her femininity. If they nail their Paso and create a fun freestyle, they’ve got an excellent shot.

2. Joey Fatone & Kym Johnson
Joey is so skilled that he’ll be able to execute any moves that Kym asks him to. I won’t be at all surprised if they have the best freestyle of the night (and I’ll be even more impressed if they have the audacity to dance to an ‘N Sync song).

Joey & Kym are the only couple in the finale who’ve ever been in the Bottom Two, which means they may have the weakest fan support. But there’s no reason that a couple of clever and well-executed routines can’t overcome that.

1. Apolo Anton Ohno & Julianne Hough
These two are in the best position — they’re cute, popular, and they have a knack for crafting routines that the audience likes. But I have this feeling that their cuteness may be wearing a little thin. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that people have realized that Julianne is the cute one, and that there’s just not all that much to Apolo.

While I have no doubt that their freestyle will be entertaining and memorable, they could run into trouble with their judge-assigned dance: the Rumba. Apolo’s had problems with the more romantic dances, and if the judges aren’t opposed to awarding scores other than 10s, that could mean trouble.

Ox Notes: May 18, 2007

Dancing with the Stars News
The final three couples were on Larry King Live last night to talk about the season and Monday night’s final performances. In addition to their freestyle routines, the judges asked the couples to perform a specific dance style for the finals — although the dancers didn’t explain if these would be new or old routines. Joey & Kym will dance the Cha Cha Cha, Laila & Maksim the Paso Doble, and Apolo & Kym the Rumba.

Video clips from the DwtS cast’s appearance are available at the Larry King Live page at CNN.com.

National Bingo Night
If the endless promotions for National Bingo Night have convinced you to watch the premiere tonight, ABC has instructions on how you can play along at home.

Television Insanity
VH-1’s Best Week Ever has compiled at list of the 10 Greatest Completely Insane Television Shows of All Time. The list is dominated by beings from outer space, the coolest of which is undeniably Alf.

Gone Fishin’
Throughout the NBA playoffs, the hosts at TNT poke fun at teams as they are eliminated in a segment called Gone Fishin’ (a reference to what the players will be doing with their free time now that their seasons are over). The heads of (TNT co-host) Kenny Smith and stars from each losing team are PhotoShopped into a picture of regular — usually shirtless — guys holding up the fish they’ve caught.

NBA.com has posted a gallery of this season’s fishermen that’s worth taking a look at, even if you’re not a basketball fan. When the Washington Wizards were eliminated, Kenny and Wizards’ star Gilbert Arenas were pictured alongside George W. Bush and Dick Cheney — with Donald Rumsfeld floating in the water behind the boat.

The Chicago Bulls’ Fishin’ picture will be revealed on tonight’s broadcast, and I won’t be surprised to see Oprah reeling in a swordfish alongside Ben Gordon.

And Finally, For No Good Reason, There’s This…

Apropos of nothing