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'Dancing With the Stars': With or without them

November 7, 2007 |  9:19 am

"Dancing With the Stars" is not exempt from the effects of the Writers Guild of America strike this week, so it was interesting to see whether the show might seem any different with the hosts left to ad-lib. 

Perhaps it's no real compliment to the writers that DWTS seemed exactly the same. Hosts Tom Bergeron and Samantha Harris continued their groan-worthy punny banter without hiccups. It probably helps that the show has developed such a concrete episodic mold that it could run on autopilot, with no writers or directors, for centuries to come, like a perpetual-motion machine. 

Still, it must be acknowledged that Harris, who was taken to task in this column last season for her deficits as a host, seems to have stepped up her game. She hasn't been flubbing her lines, and while she isn't as charming or humorous as her maternity-leave stand-in, DJane300_3 rew Lachey, she seems to be thinking on her feet more. She might be the first example in history of a woman who is sharper and more alert with the presence of a newborn baby in her life. 

Last night's episode was actually one of the better results shows as well, as it featured another installment of "Dance Center," with previous contestants Kenny Mayne and Jerry Rice. It's unclear who writes this segment -- perhaps Mayne himself -- but it's one of the funnier bits on the show, as Mayne shamelessly points out the idiosyncrasies of the other contestants without the fawning whitewashing that usually goes on. Race car driver Helio Castroneves' smile "weirds him out" and the Brazilian is "unintelligible" because of his accent. Judge Carrie Ann Inaba is a "hater" and Jennie Garth does that "weird thing with her mouth." Oh, and Jane Seymour, who was eliminated last night, is "75, 80 years old." 

The writers of "Dancing With the Stars" might not have a lot of freedom to show off their talents, so right now they might be without what is either one of the cushier or more frustrating jobs in reality TV. But in the meantime, the show does go on.

-- Claire Zulkey

(Photo courtesy ABC)