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'Dancing With the Stars': Back to basics

October 17, 2007 |  8:08 am

Dancing_melb_275 "Dancing With the Stars" last night was all about keeping it real.  No flashy, big-name guests, no guest hosts and no sugarcoating.  Never shy of picking up on the faintest disaster or controversy, "DWTS" made sure to highlight judge Carrie Ann Inaba's criticism of Jane Seymour and Jennie Garth for what she said were illegal lifts during their dances.  Both dancers denied it, but there was something refreshing about the technical aspects of dance being brought to the forefront.  So much of the show focuses on partner chemistry, costumes and emotions; rarely does the audience get to learn what goes into each dance and what distinguishes a flashy but sloppy performance from a tight and controlled one.

Meanwhile, in a rare turn of events, a judge actually answered Tom Bergeron's question of "Who deserves to go home?"  So often the judges wimp out and say something along the lines of "Everyone is so great."  Bruno Tonioli didn't actually say, "Floyd Mayweather! He's the one who deserves to go home," but he just about did by emphatically making a case that Mel B. (pictured) did NOT deserve to be eliminated.  It seemed unlikely that she would anyway, with her personality and skills, and with Maksim Chmerkovskiy's face and physique and skills and personality and face and physique.  Floyd took his defeat with aplomb, whereas Mark Cuban seemed genuinely thrilled once again not to be in the bottom two.

It felt like the producers of the show said, "You know what?  Let's take this one back to basics."  Of course a large part of this couldn't be helped, since guest performer Gloria Estefan was unable to make the show because of her sick mother (moms out there, take care of yourselves).  Thus, "DWTS" let its own take the spotlight, featuring its band and a dance by Cheryl Burke and Drew Lachey to Wayne Newton singing "Danke Schein."  It was a sweet little number and obviously scheduled at the last minute, but it would have been the slightest bit more fun if Cheryl and Wayne hadn't been eliminated last week and Drew hadn't just wrapped up his time as guest host.  That leaves Samantha Harris back in her spot as co-host.  Judging by last night, she was studying Drew's backstage moves while she was gone, and wasn't going to let something as minor as a new baby slow her down -- she was back as beautiful as ever and handling her host duties like a champ. 

One novelty of the episode was a performance by Wade Robson, who fans of "So You Think You Can Dance" will recognize.  He and his crew performed a jerky, circus-inspired contemporary number that "SYTYCD" fans would identify as his oeuvre.  Wade hadn't danced on TV in four years, and the performance was just what "DWTS" needed to spice things up.  Not only was the dancing a different style than what we typically see on the show, it was refreshing to see new camera angles, different stage sets, different lighting, to really put some magic in the episode.

-- Claire Zulkey

(Photo courtesy ABC)

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