On ''Dancing With the Stars,'' New Kid Joey's attitude alienates both the judges and the viewers, but front runner J. Peterman and dark horse Kelly are matadorable

By Michael Slezak
Updated June 13, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Dancing with the Stars: Bob D'Amico/ABC

”Dancing With the Stars”: Joey’s bad attitude

That settles it. I’m totally learning the paso doble before the summer is over. Seriously, what could be more fun than breaking up the monotony of folding your laundry by popping on your Mambo Kings soundtrack, whipping your bath towel over your head, and prancing around in a matador-bull pas de deux with someone you love? If the paso doble can make J. Peterman look like the coolest guy on the planet, then point me to the nearest Arthur Murray studio, pronto.

Not that most men could hope to be as smooth an operator as John ”J. Peterman” O’Hurley, the breakout sensation of Dancing With the Stars‘ inaugural season. Since the show’s first week, it’s seemed a foregone conclusion that O’Hurley and his electrifying partner, Charlotte Jorgensen, would take home first prize, and with good reason. Watching the couple glide across the floor during tonight’s fox trot was like hopping in a time machine back to the 1930s, a simpler era when a couple like Fred and Ginger could capture our imaginations with their sheer elegance — instead of screaming for attention by, say, scrubbing down automobiles in their skivvies. (Sorry, Paris. And Jessica.)

While O’Hurley and Jorgensen’s fox-trot chemistry was delightful, however, it was their paso doble that may have clinched their victory. The Seinfeld alum’s perfectly hammy facial expressions, Jorgensen’s taurine flourishes, the couple’s passionate foot stomps — all of it had me applauding like a big dork from the safety of my couch. Jorgensen, a vision in red, hurled herself into the dips and twirls as if her partner were a trained pro, not a nearly forgotten sitcom actor with a couple months’ dance training. (Kudos to O’Hurley for his unabashedly loopy jokes, too: ”Now that I’m no longer fighting the bull, I file for unemployment,” he quipped in his cheesiest Spanish accent.)

My biggest (and perhaps only) disappointment with DWTS this season is the fact that O’Hurley won’t be facing off against the ”love goddess of the dance floor,” Rachel Hunter, next week, but I have to admit that Kelly Monaco has proven herself a pretty worthy contender for the crown. On occasion, she still tromps around the joint like an angry barmaid 10 minutes before last call, but her paso doble with Alec Mazo was perhaps the evening’s most challenging dance, and Monaco pulled off the fleet footwork, grueling extensions, and passionate expressions without breaking a sweat. (Maybe because she was half-nekkid while doing them, but I digress.?) As judge Bruno Tonioli put it, ”You’ve used your assets properly.” Um, yeah. Or, as Monaco herself declared, ”I’ve come a long way since the tree stump.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Mercifully, tonight was the swan song of Joey ”Sour Candy” McIntyre. Note to reality-show contestants: No one wants to hear you whine about how you deserve higher scores. No one wants to see you make like you’re sucking a lemon when you’re getting feedback from the judges. No one wants you to pretend that somehow you know more than your adorable professional partner, Ashly DelGrosso, when she’s trying to teach you your frickin’ dance steps. Sheesh!

Surly attitude aside, though, the former New Kid simply didn’t earn a place in the finals — and not just because he picked ”Eye of the Tiger” for the paso doble. McIntyre’s initial steps on the fox trot were downright unwieldy, and the rest of the number wasn’t much better. Maybe the judges were a tad cruel to the artist formerly known as Little Joey, but they also needed to ensure a season finale that’ll have a modicum of suspense.

But before I get too down on McIntyre, let me just add that he and the five other C-listers who signed up for DWTS are all winners in my book. Let’s be honest: Who could’ve predicted the most Velveeta-coated show of 2005 would turn out to be the biggest hit of the summer schedule? And even if the participating celebs had received guarantees of a large audience, no one could have ensured that any one of them wouldn’t look totally awkward and ridiculous once they hit the floor. The fact that five live episodes in, nobody has fallen flat on his or her face — and the fact that my cynical heart is warmed by such a development — is proof positive that DWTS is a new kind of reality. Somebody, pass me the cheese.

What do you think? What happened to Joey? Why do so many people love this show? And do you think it could keep its audience in the regular TV season?