Dancing With The Stars

Dancing with the Stars Week 1: The Women (Mar 19)

Two nights, two performance shows! Ask yourselves what you’ve done to receive such bounty. Myndi was there (and by “there”, I mean, “at her house”) to recap the sausage-fest . With the men now divided between the good and not good, and perhaps more importantly, divided between the perfectly likeable people (who do not call a woman a bitch when she critiques their dancing) and Adam Carolla, we turn our attention to the ladies.

I’ll be honest with you: I’d really like to see a woman win this year. It’s been four straight seasons of male domination. One more, and people are going to start complaining that it’s not possible for a woman to win, and then we’re going to get a season that’s nothing but Fly Girls and dudes who need canes to walk, just to balance things out. So come on, ladies, give me a compelling reason to vote for you!

As the show starts, we see weird, shaky footage of the men. It makes them look needlessly terrifying. In a montage of what we saw 24 hours ago, the editing makes it seem like the audience booed Carrie-Ann for telling Penn he has big feet. Is that really how it happened? Because the man does have some gunboats.

There’s a really creepy thing where the women appear as neon outlines of themselves. Tom Bergeron says “Move over, macho”, and “macho” is represented onscreen by Jason Taylor. Those other guys? Apparently pretty girly. And with his signature bellow of “Liiiive”, Tom Bergeron takes us into the theme music. It’s absolutely absurd how happy this music makes me. It’s very Pavlovian.

By the way, co-host Samantha Harris is no longer nursing. Not that it’s any of our business really, but there’s clearly been a change. Her chest actually damaged my television set last season.

All the stars and their partners parade onto the stage, and it must be nice for the female professionals to wear actual clothing for a change. I barely recognize Edyta when she’s all covered up like that. There’s a recap of last night’s performance, but we’ve already got you covered there. It’s worth noting that Guttenberg is still ridiculously happy to be there and goofily endearing.

Tom calls the women their “highest-achieving cast ever” – an Oscar winner, a Tony winner, a Grand Slam winner, and a gold medalist. He does not include “a woman who saw Elvis Presley naked, and Shannon Elizabeth”. Len, who is clearly wearing a Father’s Day tie, says he’s a little grumpy.

First up is Shannon Elizabeth. We’re told that she’s a competitive poker player. More interestingly, partner Derek Hough explains that last year he “entered this competition as a boy, and now (he’s) coming back as a man.” Damn. What did Jennie Garth do to him? In their meeting video, Derek complains that usually, the beautiful women are eliminated early. That’s right, Kelly Monaco, you’re a heifer! It is mentioned no less than twice that Shannon is a tomboy. Get used to hearing that one.

Just like last night, it’s 16 minutes before the dancing begins. Unlike last night, Shannon Elizabeth is dressed like a prostitute who works on Indian Reservations. It’s red and shiny and there’s fringe and cleavage, and I think somebody in wardrobe played a trick on her. They dance the cha-cha, and this is one of those dances that I just don’t get. I can sort of identify most of the dances by now, but I have no idea what distinguishes a cha-cha. It’s pretty good, though. As expected for the first week, Derek’s doing most of the work, and Shannon’s doing a lot of posing. They’re going for the Stacy Kiebler style where it’s all legs and extensions, and not so much focus on actually getting from one pose to the next.

Len thinks she needs to work on straightening her legs, but he likes her short dress. Yeah, her modesty is only theoretically concealed. Bruno (who is identified onscreen as Carrie Ann) thinks she’s a sexy minx. He also tells her to work on her legs. Carrie-Ann says almost exactly the same thing as Bruno, but they argue anyway.

In her interview with Samantha, Shannon says that she screwed up, and Derek has to talk her down. Yep. She’s that girl.

Scores: Carrie-Ann—7, Len—7, Bruno—7 Total: 21

Up next is Monica Seles. Her video has her playing tennis in a ballroom gown. Because, you know, she plays tennis. She also identifies herself as a tomboy. Her partner is Jonathan Roberts, who spent the last two seasons with Heather Mills and Marie Osmond. A one-legged partner, and one who insisted on dancing like a wind-up doll. It’s been quite a journey for him. She calls herself “El Stiffo”, and man, does she have some bad posture.

She spends the first 15 seconds of their dance sitting down. A risky move that we in the business call “a Tucker Carlson”. Jonathan is pretty much pushing her through the foxtrot, and they almost never break contact. She has some nice footwork, but a pretty obvious stumble during a twirl.

Bruno calls her more Grace Adler than Grace Kelly, and that’s really reaching. They talk a lot about her core, and I’m not sure if that’s a real thing or if it symbolizes something. Carrie-Ann says vaguely positive things that I can’t remember seconds after she says them. In the interview, Samantha calls her a “ballroom princess”, and apparently this takes the place of her prom. That’s sort of sweet. It wasn’t my dedication to tennis that caused me to miss prom, but rather the fact that girls avoided me.

Scores: Carrie-Ann—5, Len—5, Bruno—5 Total: 15 Really? The same as Carolla? Crazy talk.

Now it’s Marissa Jaret Winokur. I actually have no idea who she is. I mean, she played Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray on Broadway, but that doesn’t help me much. She has way too much hair, and she mentions her size. Sure, she’s heavier than the other people on the show, but it’s not like she needs to be lifted out of bed. Big for a famous person is not the same as big for a regular person. She also does a lot of mugging in her video, which grates on me instantly. She’s partnered with Tony Dovolani. He got more likeable for me in the last few seasons; he used to bug me big time, but now I find him pretty entertaining. Plus, he totally thinks he’s the Alpha Male of the group now, with Maks sitting out the season. You just know he pushes Derek around.

Damn, Marissa is really short. She says she’s under five foot. How short do you have to be before you’re officially a midget? That’ll be a bit of a dancing challenge, I think. Also, she mentions that she has a butt. Well, I hope so. It certainly makes sitting easier. Her enthusiasm in the video is actually kind of endearing. I can’t decide how I feel about her. I feel like she’d make me tired in real life.

They dance the cha-cha to a song I’ve heard a thousand times but I can’t identify because I’m old. Tony is wearing incredibly shiny leather pants with sequins, and I can’t stop worrying about chafing issues. The audience loves it. Is that RickiLake? Get Nikki Blonsky in there and you can have a freakin’ Turnblad convention. I thought it was pretty good, but I’m not losing my mind like Ricki is. There were too many stretches where she didn’t move her feet, which never goes over well.

Carrie-Ann loved her energy but not her dancing. Bruno simulates Tony’s dancing and Len looks really upset. Carrie-Ann is stroking his head and I don’t know what’s going on. Len liked the performance, but not the hip-hop. Well, not really hip-hop. There was a whole “White guy at a club dancing his one move” thing that the audience loved. Still, sort of the opposite of hip-hop. But then Len is a thousand years old. He criticized Tony for not giving her enough to do. The judges always seem to be irritated with Tony, don’t they? It must be the pants.

Scores: Carrie-Ann—6, Len—6, Bruno—6 Total: 18

Samantha makes a big deal about a mistake she made in the dance, but somehow that turns into proof of how awesome Marissa is. There’s a reason Harris doesn’t get to anchor the Presidential Debates.

Tom talks to the guys. Guess who’s having a great time watching the show. Yes, it’s Steve! Most of them are kind of funny at least.

Time for Priscilla Presley. She talks about all the other things she’s done before getting to the “married to Elvis” thing. Yeah, maybe lead with that next time. There is so much Botox or puppy hormone or something going on with her that she appears to be covered in an immobile plastic carapace. Her partner is Louis Van Amstel, who I kind of like but most people seem to hate.

In their introduction, Priscilla tells Louis to be tough with her. He responds by sucker-punching her. (I just made that up. But it would have been awesome.) Her mouth terrifies me. She and Adam Carolla can compete for the Scariest Mouth Award. She says her goal is to win. Huh. And apparently, they will be performing the Death Spiral. Is that the thing Homer Simpson had to ride a motorcycle through in order to win a truck? That would be a weird turn for this show to take.

Their foxtrot isn’t bad, but it’s kind of rote. Her footwork seems kind of mushy and she’s a little lost when they break their hold. On two separate extensions, it looks like she almost pitches forward. And then the Death Spiral mostly consists of him spinning her prone form. There is not motorcycle involved. A standing ovation for Priscilla!

Len liked it, as did Bruno. Bruno says she has star quality. Carrie-Ann loved it, and all their praise seems disproportionate to me. It was a good first week dance, but it didn’t change the way I look at dance or anything.

In her Samantha interview, Priscilla manages to plug everything else she’s ever done. She gives speeches around the country? Really? About what? Samantha calls her “the most mature woman” they’ve ever had on the show. If you’re going to call attention to it on national TV, just call her “old” and be done with it.

Scores: Carrie-Ann—8, Len—8, Bruno—8 Total: 24 As good as Mario? What’s going on here?

Kristi Yamaguchi is up next, and my Spell Check already knows the name “Yamaguchi”. She reminds us that she’s a gold medalist. Disturbingly, I had assumed it was for gymnastics, but it’s actually figure skating. I’m shockingly ill-informed. Her partner is Mark Ballas, best known for squiring Sabrina Bryant about.

When they meet, Kristi’s daughters are running around. They’re adorable. She seems to start out pretty well, based on the training footage. I can’t really come up with anything else to say. She needs some sort of personality dysfunction, or she’ll be really hard to write about.

They get to foxtrot to actual foxtrot music, which seems like an advantage. Still, they’re really good. She does a great job of keeping in step with Mark and she keeps up when they separate. It’s not flashy, but it’s probably the most solid dancing we’ve seen all night.

Bruno loved it – he’s kind of gushy, but he’s actually specific in his praise, instead of just comparing her to the first animal to pop into his head. Carrie-Ann calls her perfection, and Len says she melted his heart. He does point out some botched pivots, and it’s actually a compliment when Len picks on minor stuff on your first dance. You know he’s not going to bother explaining heel leads to Penn.

Samantha asks if she has a natural advantage with the ice-skating. Kristi says she does not. That was enlightening. Samantha, who can’t handle a segue to save her life says “Let’s see if your scores are scary….”

Scores: Carrie-Ann—9, Len—9, Bruno—9 Total: 27

Tom Bergeron reminds us that Heather Mills danced with one artificial leg, and Kenny Mayne danced with two. Hee. Seriously? The Kenny Mayne jokes will never get old. Also, I get way excited when he comes back to do “DanceCenter”. Anyway, this is all to introduce us to Marlee Matlin, who is deaf.

Her regular male interpreter translates her introduction for us, and they are very careful to keep a boom arm in front of his face. Can he not be seen? Is her interpreter in Witness Protection for ratting out a deaf murderer? She fails to mention her recent guest stint on My Name is Earl, or the classic Seinfeld episode. Instead, she focuses on her Oscar, and her recurring role on The L Word. Or as it’s know in my circle, “That show where ladies kiss”.

Her partner is Fabian Sanchez, a newcomer to the show. Wait, a newcomer? I can’t guarantee I’m going to remember this guy. Julianne Hough was my cutoff for new people. He says he’s going to teach the young guys how to dance. So he’s old then? It’s hard to tell on dancers.

In their introduction video, we can see the translator’s face, so he must have just had a pimple the day the previous segment was shot. Fabian is delighted and then terrified, and I already want Fred Armisen to play him. Marlee explains that she has a good sense of rhythm, and she’s very much in tune with her body, since that’s what she uses to communicate.

(Totally sarcasm-free for a moment. I think Marlee Matlin is awesome, and I have a lot of respect for her. When she talks about pushing herself to be on this show, it’s not the usual “Oh, I just had a baby and this is scary for me” thing. She is seriously pushing herself. The woman has no regard for her comfort zone at all, and I give her all the credit in the world.)

In the next shot, she seems to have a different translator. She also convinces Fabian to let her grab his ass. Fabian tests to see how much she can hear, apparently missing the concept of “deaf”. Marlee explains to the viewers that yes, she is actually deaf. But she sleeps great. Hee.

OK, it’s impossible to really be objective here, but their cha-cha was really good. You wouldn’t know you’re watching a woman who can’t hear the music. She ventured out away from her partner more than Monica Seles did, which to me was just unbelievable. Clearly, she has to be counting the steps in her head rather than responding to the beat, but you can’t see her doing it the way you could, say, Harry Hamlin (who could hear!). Not to get all Up With People, but I really liked it, and I think they had some of the most interesting choreography of the night.

Carrie-Ann reminds her that she’s not getting special treatment, and then tells her she was fantastic. Len loved the choreography and tells her to work on her arms, which is very cool of him. He’s obviously not giving her a pass, because he has constructive criticism. Bruno counted all the way through, and she hardly missed a beat.

Samantha’s interview is even more awkward with an interpreter, and she completely avoids asking any interesting question about her experience. Fabian, like all the other pros tonight, does not get to speak.

Scores: Carrie-Ann—7, Len—7, Bruno—8 Total: 22 Wow. The only round that wasn’t unanimous all night. I still think she was much better than Priscilla Presley.

And here’s where everybody falls on the final tally:

Kristi Yamaguchi – 27
Priscilla Presley – 24

Mario – 24

Marlee Matlin – 22

Jason Taylor – 22

Shannon Elizabeth – 21

Cristian de la Fuente – 21

Marissa Jaret Winokur – 18

Steve Guttenberg – 18

Penn Jillette – 16

Monica Seles – 15

Adam Carolla – 15

See you next week for more dancing and a double elimination!

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