Dancing with the Stars: Rapid Replay, Week 1

A Recap of the March 19 Fourth-Season Premiere

Dancing with the Stars While everyone else was absorbed with Heather Mills—apparently this season’s most scandalous competitor given her status as the estranged Mrs. Paul McCartney—and the possibility of seeing her prosthetic left leg fly off during her routine last week on Dancing with the Stars, I was actually watching the dancing for dancing’s sake. From that perspective, there were two clear standouts in the first episode of Season 4: Joey Fatone (partnered with Kym Johnson, back for her second season), who wowed me and all of the judges with his exceptional command of the moves, and Laila Ali (partnered with two-season veteran Maksim Chmerkovskiy), a skilled performer whose dancing does not give away her lack of experience in the least. From this early standpoint, these two amateur hoofers are definitely the ones to beat as they are truly setting the bar high.

Judging by the copious media reports focusing almost exclusively on Heather Mills’ debut performance, however, there’s strong indication that this season may likely be all or mostly about the only competing Brit. What a shame because Mills is just one competitor of eleven, many of whom may have experienced equally difficult challenges in their lives and managed to dance just as admirably. Let’s cut right to the chase, then, and discuss the eleven couples in Week 1′s performance order. All of the male celebrity participants performed the Cha Cha Cha with their professional partners and the female participants the Fox Trot. The first voting results show airs tomorrow night from 9pm to 10pm EST, during which one unlucky couple will have to bid adieu.

Ian Ziering/Cheryl Burke

  • Judges Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, and Bruno Tonioli all agreed that Ziering had great hip action and was in it to win.
  • Score: 7 (Carrie Ann), 7 (Len), 7 (Bruno) = 21/30 Points
  • Comments: I concur on all counts, and my score was also a 7. Ziering really surprised me with how much better his efforts were than I expected.

Paulina Porizkova/Alec Mazo

  • Carrie Ann: Stated that Paulina’s arms were elegant, although the partnership seemed out of sorts.
  • Len: Also liked Paulina’s arm extensions and grace.
  • Bruno: Felt Paulina had class oozing from every pore, as if she eats breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Tiffany’s (!).
  • Score: 6 (Carrie Ann), 6 (Len), 7 (Bruno) = 19/30 Points
  • Comments: During the pre-performance rehearsal overview, Porizkova noted that she’s about as graceful as a two-by-four. Unfortunately, I have to agree, and I gave her wooden efforts a score of 4.

Billy Ray Cyrus/Karina Smirnoff

  • Carrie Ann: Thought the routine was rock and roll, but not the Cha Cha Cha.
  • Len: Accurately noted that the performance was more like a hoedown than the Cha Cha Cha.
  • Bruno: Agreed with Carrie Ann and Len, adding that Cyrus was like a crazy bear lost in a swamp.
  • Score: 5 (Carrie Ann), 4 (Len), 4 (Bruno) = 13/30 Points
  • Comments: Cyrus made sure to mention that the routine’s song, “I Want My Mullet Back,” is a tune from his latest album. Good for him. Yet, that still didn’t make up for how he stared at the floor—while singing the song, no less—throughout most of the performance and then almost pulled off Smirnoff’s head as he insisted on removing her mullet wig despite its clear preference to remain in place. Cyrus has a whole lotta work to do before he’ll become a legitimate contender. I gave his efforts a 2.

Leeza Gibbons/Tony Dovolani

  • Carrie Ann: Advised Leeza to let the confidence shine.
  • Len: Observed that, technically, the routine was very good, although Leeza started to stiffen up.
  • Bruno: Also suggested that Leeza learn how to relax.
  • Score: 5 (Carrie Ann), 5 (Len), 5 (Bruno) = 15/30 Points
  • Comments: I cannot believe that Carrie Ann obviously thought Cyrus was as good as Gibbons since she gave them both a score of 5. I gave Gibbons a 5, three points higher than the two points I gave Cyrus, because Gibbons, the oldest female competitor this year, was practically a pro compared to the singer.

Joey Fatone/Kym Johnson

  • Carrie Ann: Echoed my sentiments exactly by announcing that the competition “just began right now” following Fatone and Johnson’s routine.
  • Len: Further elaborated that the path of glory starts right here.
  • Bruno: Added that Fatone and Johnson’s performance is what it’s really all about.
  • Score: 8 (Carrie Ann), 8 (Len), 8 (Bruno) = 24/30 Points
  • Comments: I know you’re supposed to leave room for growth and to avoid fat heads, but I scored Fatone a ceiling-smacking 9. First, he gave me the giggles when he claimed in the rehearsal overview that he needs a bra, and then he had me bopping to the beat during the routine with his impressive channeling of John Travolta circa Saturday Night Fever. He and Kym were both simply fantastic.

Laila Ali/Maksim Chmerkovskiy

  • Carrie Ann: Observed that what was beautiful about the way Ali danced was the fluidity.
  • Len: Agreed that Ali glided like a swan and that all of her dancing, including the footwork, was great.
  • Bruno: Ramped up the deserved praise even further with his accurate claims that the Foxtrot was oozing sex appeal and that he couldn’t believe Ali hasn’t danced before since she commanded the stage.
  • Score: 7 (Carrie Ann), 8 (Len), 8 (Bruno) = 23/30 Points
  • Comments: Carrie Ann apparently has a bit of a blind spot when it comes to the male celebrity contestants. First she scored Cyrus as high as Gibbons, and then she scored Ali less than Fatone when Ali was inarguably just as good. Bah! I gave the stunning Ali a 9, too.

John Ratzenberger/Edyta Sliwinska

Ratzenberger replaced original competitor Vincent Pastore (Big Pussy on HBO’s crime drama The Sopranos) when the latter actor withdrew after one week of rehearsals, allegedly because the physical demands were too much. In a notable (and intentional?) twist, ABC aired a Sopranos commercial right before Ratzenberger and Sliwinska’s performance that featured Pastore cavorting with an “exotic dancer” pole dancing on a street sign’s post, plucking cannoli out of a tree with cannoli-filled branches, and passing by a sidewalk vendor specializing in guns.

  • Carrie Ann: Felt Ratzenberger was surprisingly good, light on his feet, and very charismatic.
  • Len: Despite initially thinking the routine was going to be a disaster, he believed Ratzenberger’s ultimate efforts were well-done.
  • Bruno: Agreed that Ratzenberger did a very good job.
  • Score: 6 (Carrie Ann), 5 (Len), 6 (Bruno) = 17/30 Points
  • Comments: The performance was not at all bad for the oldest competitor of all this season (Ratzenberger will turn 60 on April 6). I gave him a 5.

Shandi Finnessey/Brian Fortuna

  • Carrie Ann: Noted that Finnessey’s upper body is fantastic, her lower half needs work, and she’s too pigeon-toed.
  • Len: Although he felt that Finnessey sold it, he advised the 2004 Miss USA to work on not being so aggressive.
  • Bruno: Agreed with Len that Finnessey sold it, but he thought she must have been suffering from cramps with all of the smiling.
  • Score: 6 (Carrie Ann), 6 (Len), 7 (Bruno) = 19/30 Points
  • Comments: Shandi’s near six-feet height worked to her advantage, making her look especially lithe. She and Fortuna have a very nice, compatible partnership, too, and clearly enjoy each other’s company. Yet, as much as Finnessey and Fortuna were really, really, *really* into one another, the judges’ scores were a smidgen too high. I gave Finnessey a nice middling 5.

Clyde Drexler/Elena Grinenko

  • Carrie Ann: Kindly commented that Drexler was smooth on his feet and glided, but his dancing was a little small.
  • Len: Bailed out by observing that Drexler’s performance was so charming, he didn’t really want to critique it.
  • Bruno: Skirted the obvious entirely by noting that Drexler has a lovely warmth exuding from him and used the floor. Also added that big is beautiful and Drexler shouldn’t apologize for it.
  • Score: 6 (Carrie Ann), 5 (Len), 5 (Bruno) = 16/30 Points
  • Comments: Drexler genuinely seems like one of the nicest people on Earth, but his dancing needs a great deal of work. He held his arms crooked at the elbow, with his hands balled into fists ready for fighting, during nearly the entire routine, and he looked deathly uncomfortable, embarrassed, nervous, or sick—possibly a combination of all four. My advice is to just relax and let go. I gave his work a generous 3.

Heather Mills/Jonathan Roberts

  • Carrie Ann: Believed that Mills has to watch her arms because her shoulders get tense.
  • Len: Unhelpfully observed that there was more right than wrong in Mills’ routine.
  • Bruno: Kissed up to Mills by stating that she has more guts than Rambo [Yeah, right], although she needs to watch her hands and top half.
  • Score: 6 (Carrie Ann), 6 (Len), 6 (Bruno) = 18/30 Points
  • Comments: Mills’ performance was pretty good, so much so that if it weren’t pointed out ad nauseum, nobody would probably even realize one of her lower legs is prosthetic. I gave her a deserved 5.

Apolo Anton Ohno/Julianne Hough

  • Carrie Ann: Fawned that Ohno’s hip action was pretty amazing [No, it wasn't], but that he could stand to be more graceful.
  • Len: Finally regained his chutzpah by accurately noting that Ohno’s posture wasn’t great, as indicated by his topped-over look.
  • Bruno: Practiced more celebrity groveling with his observations that Ohno was a joy to watch [Why, I have no idea] and that his potential is probably the highest of all the performers [Ditto]. On the more realistic side, he commented that Ohno should focus on the technical parts of his dancing.
  • Score: 7 (Carrie Ann), 7 (Len), 7 (Bruno) = 21/30 Points
  • Comments: All of the judges must have been ready for bed at that point because Ohno was in no way anywhere near as good as Ziering, Ali, or Finnessey. Yes, he and his partner are cute and young, and their performance was not bad. In fact, although Ohno seemed overly stiff in his upper body, the pair looked nice and had a good time together. Still, Ohno’s efforts rated only a 5 in my score book.

In Summary

  • After Round 1, the judges’ overall Top 2 performers are Joey Fatone (24/30 points) and Laila Ali (23/30 points)
  • My Top 2 performers are Fatone and Ali (both 9/10 points), as well
  • The judges’ overall Bottom 2 performers are Billy Ray Cyrus (13/30 points) and Leeza Gibbons (15/30 points)
  • My Bottom 2 performers are Cyrus (2/10 points) and—I’m sad to say, but must be honest—Clyde Drexler (3/10 points)

Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8pm EST (performance) and Tuesdays at 9pm EST (results) on ABC.
A special, one-hour performance recap show is also scheduled for tomorrow night at 8pm EST on ABC.

Dancing with the Stars image courtesy of ABC

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