Monthly Archives: August 2007

DwtS 5 First Impressions

DwtS 5’s cast includes a smorgasbord of celebrities. Here’s my take on this Fall’s eclectic cast of dancing hopefuls.

Supermodel hotties Albert Reed, 22, and Josie Maran, 29, bring some great eye candy to the dance floor, but do they have the moves? These two catwalk strutters, most familiar for their print-ad portfolios, both garner checkmarks in the "unknown" column for me. Albert, who hails from Miami, was a competitive surfer in his teens, so I am guessing that he must have a well-honed sense of balance — a valuable skill in this type of competition. Josie at one time had a long-term relationship with magician David Blaine, though she is currently linked with photographer/fledgling director Ali Alborzi. I’m anticipating that she’ll have a few unexpected tricks up her sleeve!

Marie Osmond, 47, and Wayne Newton, 65, successfully fill the "seasoned" entertainer slots. Both register high on the likeability scale: Marie, courtesy of her popular 70’s show and her work with the Children’s Miracle Network; Wayne, thanks to his almost 50-year reign as Mr Las Vegas. I mean, honestly, is there anyone out there who hasn’t heard "Danke Schoen" at least once? Wayne will likely keep many nostalgic seniors up past their regular bedtime, while Marie is sure to attract countless viewers in their 40s and 50s. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her brother, Donny, featured as one of the Results Show performers — provided Marie lasts long enough in the competition. Will a DwtS doll be her next promoted product on the QVC network?

Melanie Brown, 32, and Sabrina Bryan, 23, by the time the show airs, — and to a lesser degree Jane Seymour, 56, and Mark Cuban, 49 — have dance credentials that elevate them above the novice level. Melanie’s previous performance experience and current preparations for the Spice Girls reunion tour in December and January mean that Mel B is already prepped to heat up the stage. Her recent tabloid-featured paternity battle with comedian and total sleaze ball Eddie Murphy should earn her a respectable number of sympathy votes.

Meanwhile, Cheetah Girl Sabrina Bryan certainly seems to have a leg up on the rest of the field. In early 2006, Sabrina released her own fitness-dance DVD, Byou, she currently has Byou II in the works with a Spring 2008 release date. She lists herself as a dancer, singer, and actress on her website. Then again, this Disney Channel star failed to register on my celebrity radar. Will her fan base be loyal enough to tune-in to DwtS and then heat up the phone lines? If Hannah Montana star Billy Ray Cyrus’ longevity last season is any indication of the commitment level of the Disney Channel crowd, then Sabrina’s popularity and talent could pose a serious threat this season.

Veteran actress, Jane Seymour, brings a touch of class to this year’s contingent – she even has her own 15th century castle in Bath England. Jane studied ballet quite seriously as a youngster. At just 13 she made her professional debut with the London Festival Ballet. Four years later, at age 17, Jane danced with Russia’s renowned Kirov Ballet. A knee injury sustained during her first performance with the Kirov troupe put an end to her dancing career. Nevertheless, with over 10 years of intense dance training under her belt, Jane probably still retains the musicality, flexibility, and work ethic that DwtS competitors need to be successful. The only question seems to be whether her physical limitations will resurface and impede her progress.

Dot-com billionaire Mark Cuban rounds out this quartet of dance veterans. His dancing expertise comes from his stint as a disco dance instructor during his college years, which helped fund his education. This successful entrepreneur holds the distinction of being DwtS‘s first billionaire. Does this title mean that if worse comes to worse Mark could resort to bribing the judges or buying votes?! He certainly has the funds and the Internet wherewithal to get his name out there in a BIG way.

The thirtysomethings crowd is well represented by the four remaining contestants: Jennie Garth, 35, Cameron Mathison, 38, Helio Castroneves, 32, and Floyd Mayweather Jr., 30. These individuals all bring their own dedicated group of fans to the table. The most well known (at least to me) is Jennie Garth, a popular Beverly Hills, 90210 star. Cameron, a resident heartthrob on All My Children, pulls in a fairly substantial soap opera delegation, according to Internet chatter. He’s also the only homegrown Canadian representative, which earns him mega brownie points in my book! Charismatic Helio, a two-time Indy champion, brings his own carload of racing enthusiasts. And Pretty Boy Floyd fills the ring with another batch of boxing devotees. How adept these contenders are on the dance floor is an unknown factor. I’d have to nominate Floyd as the most likely to succeed given the fancy footwork that he regularly executes in his professional boxing bouts.

Of course, the potential of these celebrities is closely linked to the professional dancers with whom they’ve been partnered and the committed fans that those pros bring to the mix. So I’m going to go out on the proverbial limb and give a preliminary prediction of the four teams that — at least on paper — have the best chance of making it to the finals. They are: Sabrina Bryan & Mark Ballas, Melanie Brown & Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Floyd Mayweather Jr. & Karina Smirnoff, and Cameron Mathison & Edyta Sliwinski. Helio Castroneves & Julianne Hough could conceivably overtake Floyd & Karina, providing Helio’s dance skills make the grade.

Polish up that disco ball trophy and let the games begin!

Ox Notes: August 31, 2007

Is Sabrina Bryan a ringer, brought in by ABC to become the first woman to win Dancing with the Stars since Kelly Monaco? Here’s a video of Sabrina dancing the Tango on an episode of The Cheetah Girls:

One of Sabrina’s competitors on DwtS, boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., said he thought about quitting once he realized how difficult ballroom dancing is: "But I’m a true champion, and true champions don’t quit."

The producer of MSNBC’s documentary series Lockup, Rasha Drachkovitch, talked to Reuters about some of the dangers and surprises of filming in a prison, including the inmate who liked being on camera so much he started confessing to other crimes.

If you’re interested in keeping up with Who Wants to Be a Superhero but, like me, don’t have the SciFi channel, Zap2It has recaps of each episode.

Greg Grunberg gave TV Guide an update on the Heroes world tour, where he and Masi Oka have been goofing around on the Tokyo subway.

If you’re interested in buying episodes of Heroes at iTunes, you’ll soon be out of luck: NBC won’t renew its contract with iTunes.

Since it’s payday for many of us — and the start of a three-day weekend here in the States — here’s a great way to blow some money: Amazon is having a special Primetime Emmy DVD Sale on boxed sets of Emmy nominated shows, past and present. I’m eyeing the first season of Rome for $54.99, but the first season of Soap is even more tempting at $14.99.

Ox Notes: August 30, 2007

Now that the cast list for Dancing with the Stars 5 has been released, people are setting odds on who’s most likely to win. Here are the odds as calculated by The Chicago Sun-Times’ Doug Elfman, who posits that Jane Seymour signed on to the show to "avoid making Dr. Quinn Returns, co-starring Kenny Rogers."

DwtS alum Drew Lachey will host Dance War: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann (formerly called Dance-X), which will air six episodes this winter.

MTV’s working on a new reality series called The Paper about a high school newspaper — because nothing’s more exciting than watching people write. Maybe I’ll set up a camera while I work and sell the recordings to some network, too.

Variety has an interesting article about the networks’ backup plans in the event of a writers strike when their contract runs out in October. Plans include importing popular cable series. The website also features a piece about the good old days of network fall TV campaigns, with links to some amusing YouTube videos.

Billboard magazine has an interview with Flight of the Conchords’ Jermaine Clement, who sounds a little burnt out by the comedy duo’s recent rise to fame.

And Tim Gunn is making the rounds promoting his new show, Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style, which premieres on Bravo September 6. In an interview with The Chicago Sun-Times, he says that the presidential candidate he’d most like to make over is Hillary Clinton: "I find her uniform to be a crashing bore."

Tim is completely candid in this interview with AfterElton.com, and it is a must read for Tim Gunn fans. He opens up about his lack of a love life and his unexpected path his career has take since Project Runway: "If I were to read a script that had all this in it, I’d say this is preposterous – fire the writer!"

Ox Notes: August 29, 2007

While on tour with Dancing with the Stars this summer, Cheryl Burke answered fans’ questions for People — although she didn’t get a chance to say what she thinks of her new partner, Wayne Newton.

Here’s an interview with Christa DeAngelo after she failed to win Pirate Master. Has she mentioned that she was playing for her daughter?

Updating a story reported earlier this week, Kevin Smith will not be directing an episode of Battlestar Galactica, after all.

To toughen up Katie Couric’s image, CBS is sending her to Iraq. They defend the move as more than just a publicity stunt: Katie’s high profile has enabled her to secure interviews with "reclusive politicians and alleged terror leaders."

The Writers Guild of America has jumped into the Kid Nation fray, alleging that the network kept its workers in "deplorable" conditions. Variety’s Brian Lowry says that the real story behind the Kid Nation controversy is just how many rights reality show participants willingly sign away for a chance at fame.

Maxim has a list of "Ten Fall Shows We Won’t Watch." And, in most (not all) cases, I think they may be on to something.

Finally, Filmwad has a list of Actors Who Have Spent Their Entire Careers Playing the Same Character. I especially liked their description of the character Ben Affleck always plays: "Almost Charming, Immensely Douchebaggy Sonofabitch."

DwtS 5: Cast List Revealed!

Tom Bergeron, Carrie Ann Inaba, and reigning trophy holder Apolo Anton Ohno stopped by Good Morning America to announce the cast of Dancing with the Stars 5. And, after all of the rumors that had been circulating, a few of the names were a bit of a surprise:

Marie Osmond — Singer, Actress
Partner — Jonathan Roberts

"Pretty Boy" Floyd Mayweather Jr. — Boxer
Partner — Karina Smirnoff

Melanie Brown (aka Scary Spice) — Pop Singer
Partner — Maksim Chmerkovskiy

Helio Castroneves — Racecar Champ
Partner — Julianne Hough

Jennie Garth — Actress
Partner — Derek Hough

Cameron Mathison — Soap Star
Partner –Edyta Sliwinska

Jane Seymour — "Queen of the Mini-Series"
Partner — Tony Dovolani

Albert Reed — Model
Partner — Anna Trebunskaya

Sabrina Bryan — Actress, Singer
Partner — Mark Ballas

Mark Cuban — Owner, Dallas Mavericks
Partner — Kym Johnson

Josie Maran — Model
Partner — Alec Mazo

Wayne Newton
— Entertainer
Partner — Cheryl Burke

Jane Seymour called in during the live announcement. She said she’s dancing for her mother, who’s recovering from a stroke — Dancing with the Stars is her mom’s favorite show.

Tom explained that, when the show returns on September 24, the female celebs will dance on Monday, the men on Tuesday, with the first elimination on Wednesday. That Wednesday night’s musical guest will be Dolly Parton, and future Results Show performers include Avril Lavigne and Gloria Estefan.

More information on the cast and new season can be found at ABC’s Dancing with the Stars website.

Pirate Master: Finale

By the end of last week’s episode, the winner of Pirate Master had already been decided. This week’s finale was a mere formality.

When Jay decided to keep Ben instead of Louie, he doomed both himself and Christa. There was no way either of them could beat Ben in a challenge that demanded physical strength and stamina, as every challenge had to this point. The final challenge was no different, so it was no surprise when Ben became Pirate Master.

At the beginning of the two-hour finale (well, 80 minutes since it aired without commercial breaks), Jay, Ben, and Christa learned that the race for the $500,000 treasure was only a two person affair. That meant that one more challenge would determine which one of them would get a free pass and which two would wind up with Black Spots.

Christa lagged behind the guys on the run through the jungle — just far enough so that Ben could cut down a rope bridge and effectively put her out of the race. Ben then outran Jay, who’s more than a decade Ben’s senior, to the penultimate treasure.

With Ben’s spot in the final treasure hunt secured, it was time to decide who would race against him. To make that decision, the "ghost crew" of all of the previously eliminated pirates was brought back.

To quote Jay: "Frick. I’m history."

Time had not healed the ghosts’ wounds, and several of them championed their own moral superiority for not having stooped to the devious levels Ben, Christa, and Jay had (although that "nice guy" mentality probably explained why they didn’t last as long in the competition as the final three did).

Particularly disturbing was a rant by Cheryl about how she didn’t respect any of the people left in the game. It was difficult to see the bitterness she had about the game at that point, knowing that mere months after the filming, she would kill herself, expressing frustration with Pirate Master until the time of her death.

Kendra, on the other hand, used her bitter feelings to make an hilarious jab at Christa. Rolling her eyes as stay-at-home mom Christa said for the umpteenth time, "I’m doing this for my daughter," Kendra retorted, "You drag your daughter out every two minutes. Well, set an example for her: get a job!"

The ghost pirates voted, and Jay, who’d acknowledged playing a part in the elimination of all of them, lost: 12-1 (I’m guessing the "1" was Kendra). If the producers really wanted to do something bold — and true to the pirate’s code of ethics — the 12 votes would’ve earned Jay a pass into the final race for inspiring such contempt in his crewmates.

But Christa got the spot in the finale, and Jay was not cut adrift, forced instead to hang out on the ship with the all of the crew members who’d just told him they hated him.

The following day, Christa and Ben were told to choose three teammates from the ghost crew to help them on the final treasure hunt. Both Ben and Christa offered up the money they’d earned until that point as a reward for the three crew members, should their team win. (To see who needed the money most, Wikipedia has a breakdown of how much booty each pirate earned while on the show.)

As the ghosts made their cases for why they’d like to play on the final task, some of them offered their services only to Christa, including Nessa and scientist/exotic dancer John. Jay made the same offer, but warned Christa that he probably wasn’t in the best physical shape after their grueling jungle run the previous day.

Still, when asked to vote for the three crew members she’d like, Christa submitted the names of Jay, Nessa, and scientist/exotic dancer John. Ben made his submissions: Cheryl, Azmyth, and Nessa.

That prompted a bidding war for Nessa. Ben promised her $10,000, regardless of if his team won. Christa promised the same guaranteed $10,000, plus the entire amount she’d won to that point — around $70,000 — if their team won (she got Jay’s and scientist/exotic dancer John’s permission, first).

Nessa went with Christa, and Ben chose Jupiter. The remaining ghost pirates were then cut adrift again.

Finally, it was time for the big race, which wasn’t any different than the previous treasure hunts. Row to shore, run through the jungle, carry something heavy, run some more, carry something heavy back to the boat, row back to the Picton Castle.

Turns out, all along, the $500,000 prize was hidden in the Chest of Zanzibar, right under the crews’ noses. Who’d’ve ever thunk it?

Once back on board the Picton Castle, Ben and Christa had to work alone to solve a puzzle that revealed the combination to the last lock on the chest. Ben had a sizable lead on Christa, giving him enough time to solve the puzzle first. He won the loot, just like we knew he would, as soon as Jay voted to get rid of Louie.

Ox Notes: August 28, 2007

One last day of Dancing with the Stars 5 cast spoilers, this time courtesy of TMZ. Their cast list includes Indy car driver Helio Castroneves.

The casts of two other reality shows have been released: America’s Next Top Model and Beauty and the Geek 4.

Kevin Smith is going to direct an episode of Battlestar Galactica.

Here are two lists of important stuff to know ahead of the fall TV season. Reality Blurred has a list of premiere dates for every reality show, including obscure offerings like FOX Reality’s The Search for the Next Elvira.

And Zap2It has an extensive gallery of actors with supporting roles in this season’s new shows, along with mentions of where you’ve seen them before. The alphabetical list is a real whopper, with more than 100 entries — from Paul Adelstein to Natalie Zea.

I’m off to watch the final episode of Pirate Master, a show I desperately wanted to love and that could’ve succeeded with a couple of changes: more variety in the challenges, and a mutiny option that only required a majority of the crew’s consent, not the entire crew minus the captain.

The boring challenges — row to shore, run uphill, read a clue, dig up treasure — are really what ruined the show, since they were bound to the narrative of the ship’s fictional captain. Rather than hunt for Captain Steele’s buried treasure every week, the crew could’ve been tested on their pirate skills: sword fighting, cannon firing, speed climbing the rigging, plank walking.

Instead, viewers got a show that was very unswashbuckling.