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''Dancing With the Stars'': Once more, with feeling

On ”Dancing With the Stars,” the judges reward plastered-on smiles and razzle-dazzle moves, even generously scoring a rah-rah America routine

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Dancing With the Stars

TV Show
Reality TV
run date:
Tom Bergeron, Carrie Ann Inaba, Bruno Tonioli, Len Goodman, Erin Andrews, Julianne Hough
Current Status:
In Season

”Dancing With the Stars”: Once more, with feeling

We’re five down, six remaining, and last night was ”the most demanding night so far,” with each couple having to take on a ballroom and a Latin dance. It’s around this time every season that Len gets all emotional and says things like ”I cannot get over how seriously you take this opportunity” and ”The winners in life are the ones who can take up a challenge and live up to it.” At which we all stare incredulously at our screens and wonder if Len is aware that this show is called Dancing With the Stars and that the prize is a disco-ball trophy. Someone should tell him the disabled woman was knocked out already, so his sweeping statements of purpose are now even more incongruous.

Or maybe they aren’t. After all — Meatloaf tomorrow night! Clearly, DWTS is the hottest, most important thing around. Suck it, Idol!

This week’s performance show belonged, shockingly, to Ian Ziering. The first time a slew of 90210 alums showed up to support him (sorry, Andrea Zuckerman) happened to coincide with the first time Ian bothered to smile during his dances. They were fake smiles too, the painful ”I am trying so hard to appear I’m having fun — oh, #@%&, I missed my step” kind. There was even a ”mouthwash” move involved — a vigorous head shake during which Ian appeared to be wishing his immediate environment and/or lot in life would just disappear once he reopened his eyes. They didn’t.

But! The judges liked Ian this week! You see, Ian, all you had to do was fake-smile, prompting Carrie Ann to say patronizing things like ”Nice attitude shift” and ”You’re really trying to have fun” that had very little to do with actual dancing. I shouldn’t complain, though: Ian scored six straight 9s and ended up tying front-runner Apolo Anton Ohno for third place. Bruno cried out, ”This was the revenge of Ian” and ”This is your night for a breakthrough,” possibly just a little too late. The outpour of Ian love was deserved, I guess, but he’s never been someone I’d really miss if he left the show. I’m guessing Ian and John Ratzenberger will likely be in the bottom two, so the judges wanted to cover their bases and somewhat make up for being jerks to Ian because he didn’t buy into the happy-face game all season.

For the first time, Apolo’s youth, posture, spark plug of a partner, and strategically placed bandanna did not wow the judges, who suddenly wanted ”great” instead of just ”good” out of him. I thought he did great, but Apolo tied for third, leaving Laila Ali and Joey Fatone to share the top spot. They tied at a ridiculously high combined score of 59 out of 60. Yikes — I think these people can dance well too, but seriously, feel free to lay off the 10s at any point, judges. They lose their sequin-encrusted power when you whip them out as easily as Joey’s prop cane-handkerchief. (Cankerchief? No. Reminds me of cankles.)

Granted, Joey and Laila both delivered two solid dances. Laila started off with a quickstep, wearing what I described in my notes as a ”white flowy heaven dress,” which was uncharacteristically apt of me, because as soon as it was over, Bruno said she’d ”opened the door to ballroom heaven,” and Bruno is the voice of reason. Carrie Ann said, ”You knocked me out!” Good one, C.A. Laila and Maks’ samba wowed even more — they were both a vision in chartreuse, and I thought that giant ruffle on Laila’s dress ran across it in the most flattering way possible. I hope that’s not too weird to say. This is weirder: The ruffle reminded me of a beauty-queen sash, or even a women’s rights sash à la Mrs. Banks in Mary Poppins. This was fitting, because Laila took time out to implore all the ladies out there (holla) to vote for her. Rest assured that if you do, she’ll sing ”Sister Suffragette” at the finale.

I also loved when Laila smacked Maks’ ass.

Joey’s routines were more of the same from him — cutesy and well executed, with (depending on one’s taste) potentially a bit too much of what Len called ”razzle-dazzle.” I thought his and Kym’s foxtrot would have been well suited for a Broadway-type show. It also could have landed Joey a job as a magician. The pair finished the show with a jive that didn’t seem like a complicated, triple-step-infused dance to me, but what do I know? Joey did a one-armed handstand! You could tell the judges wanted to close out with a perfect 30. I give you…Cheeky Len: ”It was totally [wink wink] in sync.” Scripted Bruno: ”That was a smashing showcase of talent!” Who Else but Carrie Ann: ”You’re flexible!” There you have it. 10-10-10.

John and Edyta placed fifth, turning in a completely respectable foxtrot and rumba that got decent scores but prompted the judges to comment on John’s age both times. After their rumba, set to an atrocious rendition of ”Under Pressure,” in which the singer botched the lyrics on the second line, Carrie Ann told John, ”Out of all the older gentlemen on the show, I think you move the best.” She also had the gall to say, ”You’re hanging in there with the big boys.” I found this incredibly patronizing — and by the way, shouldn’t John be the big boy? I liked the way he refused to smile and bask in these ”compliments.” He just stood there staring and squinting, as usual. It’s always great fun to watch. Also great fun: John clearly masterminded that ”shrug” move in their foxtrot. And for some reason I squealed when Edyta finished her spinning floor fling and Tom shouted, ”And she always ends up pointing north!”

I get the impression that Billy Ray Cyrus doesn’t want to be there anymore but the judges — and likely ABC, which must think he’s good for ratings — will have none of that. Len’s man crush on Billy Ray is alive and well, as is the Billy Ray Exemplifies America campaign. For his and Karina’s samba, Billy Ray wore a boxing jacket and an American-flag-studded belt, but that wasn’t enough, so the studio kicked in every red and blue light in Hollywood, plus psychedelic red, white, and blue pinwheel screen savers for the digitized panels. I think we got the picture! All Billy Ray needed to do was wait for his ”Living in America” cue to stomp around making peace signs, then thrust his pelvis five times to the line ”You might find out what you are.” No, really. That’s all he needed to do, to score just one point less than John, who actually bothered to learn an entire partnered routine. Oh, well. They want him back, so we can be sure Billy Ray’s patented brand of ”mediocracy” will rule the floor at least another week.

What do you think? Was it just Apolo’s turn to have a harshly judged night, or did he really seem off his game? Do you even listen to these crazy judges anymore? And have any of you ever voted for Ian?