DWTS 15: Week 1

Last night on “Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars” the level of the competition was high, but we also saw the network returning to the low of cheap sex sell tactics. Last season went on without a Playboy bunny. This season, they brought back the pin-up factor with Pamela Anderson. Is that working for you? It wasn’t working for the judges who put her at the bottom of the board. At the top, were some all time favorites. You can still vote online either using Facebook or by going to the ABC website.

Football players have been popular with DWTS fans, even when they can’t dance like Michael Irvin. But some football players can dance and have the kind of flair on the dance floor that you can’t teach.

Retired NFL running back Emmitt Smith is one of those and he was in fine form last night, taking the top spot on the leader board, but by the slimmest of margins in DWTS history–half a point.

Yes, you heard right. Half a point is all that separates first and second place on the leader board. This season, to make things crazier, the judges now can nitpick to within half a point. And the points aren’t coming easy. In second, behind Smith who was reunited with professional dance partner Cheryl Burke, is another Burke protege: Gilles Marini.

Marini is paired with Peta Murgatroyd. Murgatroyd has proven herself an astute judge of the judges and her celebrity. Although she was eliminated quickly the first time out. She was with the recently renamed Laker Metta World Peace and the first elimination. Last season, however, with football player Donald Driver, she took the mirrorball. With the ever-so-sexy Marini, anything is possible. Last night they went for suave in their foxtrot. He was in a white tux with black details. She was in a gorgeously glamorous white gown. It was like a breath of old Hollywood.

Smith and Burke had been more get down funky in their cha cha cha. Smith can dazzle with that smile and dared to wear bright blue shoes; Burke worked that curly mane she was wearing.

In third was the fans’ choice, Sabrina Bryan who was dancing with Louis van Amstel. We were worried about the chemistry between Bryn and van Amstel. Remember the chemical badness of Margaret Cho and van Amstel? Contrast that with the wonderful mentoring van Amstel performed on Kelly Osbourne, making that British bad child bloom like a rose. Bryan had originally been partnered with Mark Ballas during season 5 and had finished seventh. That was due to lack of fan support as opposed to bad dancing.

Bryan was chosen from a pool that included Disney kid Kyle Massey and the campy Carson Kressley.  Massey had competed during season 11 with Lacey Schwimmer and they finished second to Jennifer Grey and her partner Derek Hough. He and Schwimmer beat Bristol Palin and Ballas who were third. Palin is back and her mother was in the audience last night.

The zany Cressley had been partnered with Anna Trebunskaya during season 13. They finished eighth. War vet and soap opera actor J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff won that season with Rob Kardashian a surprise second place with Burke.

Massey and Bryan are both Disney stars and have natural performance ability. Massey was a delightful surprise, but Bryan should have made it to the semi-finals. Her elimination was a shocker and DWTS has brought her back into the fold. Of course, you have to remember that ABC is owned by Disney.

As a nod to the past, the very first mirrorball winner was back, actress and Playboy Playmate Kelly Monaco. Her original partner was Alex Mazo. But the show had definitely evolved since then. During season 1, there were only six celebrities and six weeks of dancing. Monaco won against fan favorite John O’Hurley and his partner Charlotte Jorgensen. Both Mazo and Jorgensen have retired from DWTS, but Louis van Amstel was partnered with Trista Sutter from “The Bachelor.” They were the first eliminated. Edyta Sliwinska and her partner professional boxer Evander Holyfield were the second elmination. Jonathan Roberts was paired with model Rachel Hunter. Joey McIntyre and Ashly DelGrosso finished third.

Monaco (who had the first wardrobe malfunction in DWTS history) danced the waltz week 1 for a score of 13 (5, 4, 4). For week 2, she did better with the rumba, 17 (5, 6, 6). Week 3, she and Mazo were given a 21 for their jive (6, 7, 8). Week 4, when they performed a samba, they were the high score with 26 (9, 9, 8). It was the first time they beat O’Hurley and Jorgensen who received a 21 (7, 8, 6). Week 5 Monaco and Mazo performed a foxtrot for a 22 and a paso doble for a 25, but O’Hurley and Jorgensen received 27s for both dances.

Week six, Monaco and Mazo were one point ahead of O’Hurley and Jorgensen and won. That upset viewers so much ABC had a special dance off between the two couples that ended with Monaco and Mazo were three points behind. This one-off special had the couples perform one unlearned Latin dance during the first round. In the second round the couples performed an unlearned ballroom dance. The last round was the freestyle. O’Hurley and Jorgensen won by three points.

DWTS has certainly evolved and the celebrities perform for 10 weeks instead of six. That means more dances to learn and more pressure.

This season there were no clear train wrecks on the dance floor, but there were some obvious underachievers such as Pamela Anderson who, with her new partner Tristan MacManus, ended up at the bottom of the board. MacManus can dance and he has that cute Irish accent that made third sound like turd to Nancy Grace, but his ability to showcase his celebrity isn’t impressive. Grace wasn’t that graceful, but when he had Gladys Knight some of the dips were not well suited to the Empress of Soul.

Here’s how it stood at the end of the evening:

Emmitt Smith & Cheryl Burke: 24.5

Gilles Marini & Peta Murgatroyd: 24.0

Sabrina Bryan & Louis Van Amstel: 22.5

Shawn Johnson & Derek Hough: 22.0

Apolo Anton Ohno & Karina Smirnoff: 22.0

Kelly Monaco & Val Chmerkovskiy: 21.5

Drew Lachey & Anna Trebunskaya: 21.5

Helio Castroneves & Chelsie Hightower: 21.5

Melissa Rycroft & Tony Dovolani: 21

Joey Fatone & Kym Johnson: 20.5

Bristol Palin & Mark Ballas: 19.5

Kirstie Alley & Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 19

Pamela Anderson & Tristan MacManus: 17

It’s no surprise that Anderson ended up at the bottom. Only Bryan and Anderson had never made the semi-finals in this field of all-stars. Bryan definitely had the ability. Anderson looked worse in her performance with MacManus than she had done with her original partner (Damian Whitewood). MacManus choreographed a quick dip into a split move that looked good on other celebrities, but both times that Anderson performed it, she went into it bent-kneed and came out of if awkwardly. She seemed more involved, or self-involved, in her hairography–not the flipping, spinning type. Her hairography was more primp and look sexy like I just got out of bed. That might work for Playboy photo shoots, but not on the dance floor. Judge Carrie Ann Inaba cautioned Anderson to put in the work. Bruno Tonioli was kinder, but the message was the same.

Palin, who got to the semi-finals more on view voting than actual merit, is understandably also near the bottom. Mark Ballas is a skilled teacher, but their chemistry is almost toxic. During their original time together, Ballas went into his self-indulgent choreography funk. There was a real concern that Palin could win. We wonder if the campaign to get Palin off of DWTS will start up again. There’s an old Facebook page just for that cause.

Second from the bottom is an old favorite that we’d like to stay: Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Alley is the oldest contestant and the most in need of losing a few pounds. We love her chemistry with Maksim Chmerkovskiy and hope she doesn’t go tonight. Our choice would be Anderson, then Palin.

By dance, Smith and Burke had the top score for the cha cha cha and Anderson and MacManus had the low score. Marini and Murgatroyd were the high score for the foxtrot and Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy was at the bottom.

Online voting will remain open until 11 a.m. (Eastern Time)/ 8 a.m. (Pacific Time) today, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012. You have 13 votes and spread them around, but spare the viewers from more performances by Anderson or Palin.

The results will be announced tonight, Tuesday, September 25 on the season premiere of “Dancing with the Stars: The Results” show, 8 p.m. (7 p.m. Central) on ABC. One couple will be eliminated but before that, singing sensation Justin Bieber and Pitbull will perform.

About Jana J. Monji

I've written for the Rafu Shimpo, LA Weekly, LA Times, Examiner.com and, more recently, the Pasadena Weekly and RogerEbert.com. I formerly worked for a dot-com more interested in yodeling than its customers.

Posted on September 25, 2012, in Apolo Anton Ohno, Bristol Palin, Dancing with the Stars: Season 15, Drew Lachey, Emmit Smith, Gilles Marini, Helio Castroneves, Joey Fatone, Kelly Monaco, Kirstie Alley, Melissa Rycroft, Pamela Anderson, Sabrina Bryan, Shawn Johnson, Voting, Week 1 and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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