Dancing celebrities flip over disparaging judges on ABC and Univision
Is there a celebrity dancing revolt underway?
You may have heard that Michael Bolton was not very pleased last week when Bruno Tonioli sent him back into his doghouse on "Dancing With The Stars" or that Maksim Chmerkovskiy was equally displeased this week when judge Len Goodman criticized his training of singer Brandy and Carrie Ann Inaba followed up by trying to spank him (a bit of Maks' own medicine).
But do you know what went down on Univision's "Mira Quien Baila" on Sunday night?
Latin TV's explosive personality Niurka Marcos, who is competing for charity on Univision's dance show, didn't appreciate the way the judges evaluated her failed lift the previous week. So, the performer, known for her outrageous and sexualized nature, hit the dance floor on Sunday and completed the same challenging lift successfully. This time, she punctuated it by flipping off the judges with both hands at the end of it. ("Mira Quien Baila" is taped in Miami several hours before it airs on Sundays, so the producers were able to blur out Marcos' fingers before the telecast.)
The judges, of course, were not pleased and reprimanded her for her disrespectful behavior, which only made her act out more by arguing with them about their harsh commentary and later taking over the air waves on Univision's complementary behind-the-scenes show, "Sal y Pimienta." (More on that later).
"I was very excited by everything you did," judge Bianca Marroquin told the actress-singer-dancer. "I was going to compliment you to no end. But then you flipped your fingers at us and I found that to be incredibly disrespectful."
Marcos responded by telling her it was an "extraordinary finale. A finale with ratings!"
Marroquin replied: "No, it's a low-class finale and it's a huge sign of disrespect."
On "Dancing With the Stars," a live show, producers don't have the options that come with taping ahead of time, so executive producer Conrad Green appreciates that his celebrities haven't set off any broadcast and standards alarms. But Green said he does encourage them to speak out when they disagree with the judges.
"In these things, everyone needs to have a fairly thick skin," Green said. "You can’t get too prissy about these things. It’s an entertainment show and people are going to have opinions. And the people who survive it are the people who take it with a pinch of salt, you know?"
It could be argued that salt is exactly what Marcos added to the Spanish-language network's otherwise family-friendly show. In fact, after she flipped off the judges, Marcos announced that she was officially coming out of her self-declared "spiritual retirement." In other words, the audience would now get what it's come to expect from the scandalous Cuban performer, who later that evening, on "Sal y Pimienta," insisted on sitting on top of a desk, talked over the hosts, refused to answer their questions, showed her underwear on camera, and left angrily when asked to apologize for her behavior.
Citing "company policy," Univision refused to allow The Times to interview producers from "Mira Quien Baila" or "Sal y Pimienta." A network spokeswoman also said that programming executives were unavailable for comment all week.
But Green from "Dancing With the Stars" chuckled when he heard what transpired on "Mira Quien Baila" and said he thinks American celebrities are sometimes too worried about public opinion.
"We actively say to our celebrities, 'You really can answer the judges back. You don’t have to sit there silently and take it,' " he said. "By and large, Americans are much more polite than the British celebrities on the original show. The British celebrities quite often give it right back to the judges. And some judges know how to take it as well as give it. It’s fine. It’s all part of the show."
That's why Green and the other producers didn't feel compelled to force Tonioli to apologize to Bolton for telling him that his jive was the worst of the show's 11 seasons, even though Goodman, who is considered the head judge, responded unfavorably to the critique: "Ok, you hated it but you should keep some of the comments to yourself, really, because that’s unfair." Bolton waited to complain about the comments until he appeared on "Good Morning America," after he was voted off the show the following night.
"I feel Michael’s issues with Bruno were about the tone of the comments," Green said. "And I think both of them have a very different view about how valid that tone was. But at the end of the day, I don’t think anyone would doubt that Bruno was saying what he genuinely felt about the dance. So I think now Michael has said his bit and maybe more people will feel like they do want to respond. I really don’t know. It will be quite interesting to see how it plays out.
"Everyone approaches these things differently," he added. "Len’s point was that even if you have something negative to say, it’s good to find something encouraging so that people still have a reason to get up in the morning and try it again. At the end of the day, that’s a matter of how you approach the subject. If you look at someone like Simon Cowell, he’s famously quite brusque with people but you can argue that that hasn’t hurt the careers of those people he’s passing those judgments on. And in most cases, it may have made them more motivated. The way you respond to judges on these shows says a lot about you and a lot about how you motivate yourself, really."
For his part, Chmerkovskiy took issue with the way Goodman criticized his training of Brandy. A video package that aired Monday showed Chmerkovskiy slapping Brandy on the butt or arm and saying things like, "Turn around and get the damn step."
After Goodman reprimanded him, Inaba called Chmerkovskiy over to the judge's table, where she attempted to spank him and accused him of being a "naughty boy with your partner."
Chmerkovskiy has said in interviews this week that he doesn't appreciate the judge's comments on his teaching skills and thinks they should stick to evaluating the dance routine. Brandy received high praise for her samba this week.
"I think everyone needs to take a deep breath and accept that it’s an entertainment show and we’re talking about people doing dancing for a stupid prize," Green said. "It’s not life and death events here. Really."
Maria Elena Fernandez
(1st): Niurka Marcos performs her controversial Brazilian dance on Oct. 3 on "Mira Quien Baila." Credit: Univision
(2nd): Chelsie Hightower and Michael Bolton on "Dancing With the Stars" on Sept. 27. Credit: Adam Larkey/ABC
(3rd) Brandy and Maksim Chmerkovskiy on the show Oct. 4. Credit: Adam Larkey/ABC