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'Dancing With the Stars': You've got male!

September 22, 2009 |  6:32 am


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Woo hoo! “Dancing with the Stars” is back, and bigger than ever! With a whopping 16 contestants vying for that coveted Mirrorball trophy, the producers split Season 9’s first week’s competition into two parts: the men and the women. Which means three whole days of fringey fun!

First up: the men. And Macho Monday did not disappoint. We were treated to not one, but two dances by each of the male contestants: one solo routine, and one dance performed side by side in a relay. And it started out with a high-energy romp at the beginning by our very own male pros, danced to Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town.” Were you as excited as I was to see all your pro favorites back and hopping? I was lucky enough to be in the studio audience for Monday’s taping, and the crowd seemed to be electrified by the performance. Not only was it hot, but it was tight (as in tight pants). And the roar of the crowd was deafening.

Taking the lead after Monday’s competition were Aaron Carter and Karina Smirnoff, who received a 22 for their cha-cha. And why wouldn’t Aaron do well, what with his musical background, and when you’ve got four-fifths of the Backstreet Boys in the audience to have your back (all right!). The little brother of Backstreet Boy Nick showed off a bevy of moves in his cha-cha-cha, displaying a nice split through Karina’s legs and more than ample amounts of swagger. He also had tons of energy, though at times the flaunting and prancing reminded me of an unbridled colt champing at his bit. Didn’t Karina’s fringey pipe-cleaner pants look like the ones she sported on Sunday night’s Emmy awards? And was that top left over from Santa’s coat? Way to recycle, girl! Loved how it matched Carter’s lacy snowflake top. Very winter wonderland, by way of Cuba. Carrie Ann remarked how “little Aaron Carter is all grown up,” Len said the cha-cha was “a little bit stiff, but a great start,” while Bruno said it was “spiky … all the energy goes all over the place.” Aaron was a little more successful reining it in for the waltz relay, though at times it seemed to me that it was a little prancing.  Still, Carrie Ann liked his lines, and Bruno admired his rotation, and that was enough to earn him and Karina the 10-point maximum. Total: 32

Just two points behind was Donny Osmond. And let me tell you, there were plenty of ladies in the audience who were hot for Donny tonight. Everything he did was met with ear-splitting screams. Even though he claimed to get embarrassed with the intimate holds (what’s going to happen when he gets the rumba?), the Pride of Provo seemed very relaxed with his fox trot, and the audience just ate him up (during a commercial break, an audience member asked to have Donny, rather than the free T-shirt the crowd-warmer was giving out). And to his credit, Donny was quite the performer. With Aussie partner Kym Johnson by his side (and sis Marie in the audience, accompanied by another famous sibling, Jermaine Jackson), Donny did his darndest to overcome his Osmond Slouch and win over the voting public with his “All that Jazz” routine. While Len complained that it was “too theatrical, too much razzmatazz,” Bruno complimented him on his “full on, full frontal theatrical.” His smooth salsa moves helped cement his stance as both an audience favorite and a technical front-runner. Carrie Ann said Donny “smoked” the competition, and Bruno exclaimed he was “shaking like the king of Puerto Rico” (whatever that means). He got a 20 for his fox trot, plus the full 10 points for the salsa. Total: 30.

Actor Mark Dacascos also showed great promise. Unbeknown to those who only know him as the dramatic chairman on “Iron Chef America,” Dacascos has 11 years of martial arts training under his belt, which makes him more than fit to compete in this competition. He can also do middle splits – hello! His cha-cha with partner Lacey Schwimmer showed a nice fluidity of movement (and rocking guns, thanks to that sleeveless top). But while Carrie Ann said she “loved the Asian theme,” Len wasn’t buying it. “I don’t want to see kung fu in the waltz,” he pouted. And while I usually like the occasional gimmick myself, I have to agree with the stodgy head judge on this one: I thought they were pushing the kung fu theme a little far. OK, he’s Asian. He’s versed in martial arts. But the Asian outfit, the dragon in the back, the dancing to “Kung Fu Fighting,” the fists of fury, the “grasshopper” reference … all a bit much. Who are we karate kidding? Luckily, there were no martial arts references in the Viennese waltz relays, and Mark was able to put his stellar arm extensions front and center. He earned a 21 for the cha cha cha, and 8 points for the waltz. Plus, he gets an extra credit for showing off his “man boobs.” Total: 29.

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Another dark-horse competitor: Louie Vito. The champion snowboarder (who’s training for the 2010 Olympics) is arguably one of this season’s lesser-known “stars.” And a lot of signs seemed to go against him coming into the competition. First, the name: He sounds like he should hang with mobsters in Jersey rather than grace the ballroom floors. Secondly, he looks alarmingly young: When he came down the stairs I wondered if someone had mistakenly brought their 12-year-old to the show. Third, he claimed he’d never even seen an episode of “DWTS” before signing on (which kind of makes you wonder how and why he got corralled into this). Fourth, he’s a snowboarder. But despite all these strikes against him (and the fact that he was dressed up in an ill-fitting suit whose collar just about swallowed him whole), Louie Vito’s fox trot with partner Chelsie Hightower was totally engaging. “Don’t think snowboarder, think prince,” Chelsie wisely counseled. And it seemed to work: Louie displayed a fair amount of grace and nice up-and-down movement, good form, and a winning smile that looked like he was having a blast the entire time. “Very charming,” Tom said admiringly, “That was a little surprise,” marveled Carrie Ann. “You respected the dance.” Len, despite hating on Louie’s mop of hair, “enjoyed your dancing very much.” And Bruno, ever the tactician, blustered: “It was so cute! It was like watching a little dancing Hobbit!” Louis totally won me over with his affability, his commitment to the dance, and his sheer adorableness, and I just wanted to put him in my pocket and take him home. His salsa also packed a nice amount of heat: A great tumbling pass at the beginning, and a not bad snake move at the end. The judges awarded him a 19 for his fox trot, and eight points for the salsa. Total: 27.

Hats off to Chuck Liddell for his admirable performance. And while Liddell is also versed in martial arts, you don’t see him plucking at bonsai trees and karate kidding himself (Sweep the leg, Chuckie!). Though the former ultimate fighting champion was saddled with another theme: the Neanderthal. “A lot of people have the impression that fighters are a bunch of Neanderthals,” he said during the rehearsal footage. Cut to him emitting a very caveman-like “uggghhh!” of frustration as he attempted to glide with partner Anna Trebunskaya across the floor. While his fox trot left a lot to be desired, with what Bruno called poor footwork, terrible lines and bad timing, it was admirable to see Chuck trying so hard to feel the flow, and last season’s runner-up, Gilles Marini, was one of the first on his feet to applaud this fighting champ after his routine. Chuck did a lot better on his salsa, however: The fan favorite loosened up and actually appeared as though the dance was actually fun, rather than pain-inducing. It even led Carrie Ann to comment that Chuck “knows how to work a woman” (huh?). The judges gave the fighting champ a 16 for his fox trot, and a six for the salsa. Total: 22.

Coming in two points behind was Tom DeLay, who (gasp) did not suck! Kudos to Cheryl Burke, not only for helping the former House majority leader get in touch with his inner “Wild Thing,” but also for outfitting him in pants that didn’t sit squarely on his belly button. Cheryl had the unenviable task of whipping this conservative Republican into dancing shape, despite a pre-stress fracture and an innate inability to go left. But his cha-cha, while stiff, seemed to be perfectly functional. Also functional: His swinging bottom. While we in the studio audience witnessed the rampant rump shaking at a safe distance, sadly, those at home were smacked with the searing image in extreme close-up. And while no living creature should have to be subject to that much swinging DeLay derriere, the politician really did display a John Ratzenbergerian lightness of step, as Carrie Ann said. Bruno called the Hammer’s out-there cha-cha “crazier than Sarah Palin,” while Len said “parts were magic, parts were tragic.” The waltz relay showed off more of DeLay’s elder gentleman sensibilities, though Len thought it was a “tad skippy.” None of which has DeLay that worried. “I’ve got bigger critics than those judges,” he quipped. DeLay earned a 16 for his cha-cha, plus four for the waltz. Total: 20.

Tied for last place was NFL hall of famer Michael Irvin – who, despite his ebullient personality and intense inner rivalry with Jerry Rice, could not curry the judges’ favor. And while his cha-cha with partner (and last season’s pro dancing competition winner) Anna Demidova may have lacked in content, I don’t think it warranted fours from Len and Bruno. His shimmies were full of life and swagger, and very infectious. Plus, the guy is just so entertaining: All that time spent in front of the mirror shows how he is his own best friend and worst enemy -- so much inner conflict! Plus, I love how Anna uses his rivalry with Jerry to motivate him. Irvin fared a little better in his waltz, however. While I thought he looked a little stiff and his shoulders tensed up, both Bruno and Carrie Ann commended him and Anna for infusing more content into the routine. He received measly 13 for the cha-cha, plus 6 for the waltz. Total: 19.

Just happy to be here was Ashley Hamilton. Son of the “tan man” (and former “DWTS” competitor George), the actor and comedian was just trying to follow in his father’s footsteps, and maybe even emerge in his own right out from under his dad’s melatonin-rich shadow. (Pere Hamilton was in the audience tonight, and looked so tan that Edyta looked pale by comparison.) Ashley had an impressive height to his advantage, and a self-deprecating attitude that was likable. He even was paired with dad’s old partner and leg-warmer queen Edyta Sliwinska, and their outfits were very complementary and dapper. If only his fox trot wasn’t so stiff and bland. And if only he wasn't constantly being reminded how he wasn’t measuring up to dear old dad. Bruno was particularly harsh: “To me, this was dead. Your daddy knows how to sell it. You have to sell it. I didn’t like it.” Ouch. And his salsa relay didn’t fare much better. Len called it “a dance only your father could love.” Eek. Ashley received a 15 for his fox trot, an additional four for the salsa and a lifetime's worth of daddy issues. Total: 19.

While voters usually respond to against-the-odds stories like Ashley’s recovery from a devastating motorcycle accident, I’m not sure if it will be enough to save the younger Hamilton from being eliminated this week. Michael Irvin had the same point total, but “DWTS” voters love their sports stars (including Aaron Carter, who appears to be Michael’s biggest fan) too much to let him go the first week. Who do you think will be cut? Were you impressed by the performances? Should you nix the kung fu, and tone down the razzmatazz? Sound off below, and then check back Wednesday for the ladies' night recap!

— Allyssa Lee

Photo credits: ABC/Adam Larkey

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