Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for May 16th, 2011

“Dancing with the Stars” Semifinals — is the fix in?

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Folks, I just finished watching the semifinals for the television show Dancing with the Stars (henceforth called “DwtS,” their acronym; note I’m referring to the current United States show), and I am wondering whether what on Earth the judges were smoking tonight.  To the point that I’m wondering whether the fix is, indeed, in . . . but first, some background.

DwtS is predicated on stars coming in who have little or no dance ability and little or no dance experience, both learning to dance and “put on a show” in the grand old show biz tradition, so I expect some stars to be better one week and not so good the next.  This makes the show fun, unpredictable, yet interesting, as the stars are usually outside to well outside their comfort zones in learning to dance.

I’ve watched DwtS since their second season, the year Cheryl Burke and Drew Lachey won the “coveted mirror ball trophy” (which is actually a tacky piece of hardware that tends to fall apart within a year, but the stars want it anyway no matter how gaudy and trashy it is); I’ve seen many good dances, many bad dances, and many “huh?” dances.   I’ve learned what makes up a good paso doble, what makes a good cha cha cha, etc., and I’ve also learned that the most successful stars fuse their personality with their technical ability, showing real, measured improvement from week to week as they go.  (Often, they also show a measurable weight loss, as has contestant Kirstie Alley this season.  More on Alley in a bit.)

However, I’ve never seen a night quite like this one, where I honestly felt that one couple — Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas — were handed high scores after doing extremely questionable routines where Kane’s dancing seemed stiff, wooden, and much less of everything than any previous week (including her first week, as Kane had some dance experience, depth unknown, before she came into this intense competition).  Kane had three dances — a very stiff tango, where her legs and body didn’t seem to go together very well, an extremely stiff rhumba (mind you, the rhumba has to be fluid and sexy, and Kane was neither), and worst of all, a stiff and clumsy cha cha cha.  Yet for these three dances, she was praised and given high scores — a perfect thirty (three tens, the highest score given out on this show) for the rhumba, which was a travesty of justice — then given 15 extra points in the “winner-take-all” cha cha when it was stiff, wooden, clumsy, and even the “tricks” (flashy things to divert your attention) lacked polish?

I really didn’t agree with that “winner-take-all” thing at all.  First off, in the “elimination rounds,” I thought Ralph Macchio danced better than Hines Ward, yet they kept Ward; in the other one, Kirstie Alley clearly out-danced Kane (and was probably the best cha cha dancer of the night), yet didn’t advance over the stiff and wooden Kane?  Why?

As for the other dances, well, Macchio’s time should be up.   He’s now healthier — last week he more or less got a “pass” from the viewers as he wasn’t able to dance well due to a hamstring injury — and wasn’t really any better until the cha cha (and I’ve already discussed how unjust that was), his third dance of the evening.   Ward’s other two dances were clean and precise, and I liked his tango a great deal (that one deserved a thirty; the other one, not so much, but his pro, Kym Johnson, was dancing with an obvious amount of pain after sustaining a severe neck injury and I believe the judges gave him a little bit more for the first two dances than he deserved — Ward should’ve won the cha cha considering the judges put him there with a unanimous vote, considering how terrible Kane was, but there you go).  And Alley danced with grace, elegance, and fire in her Viennese Waltz and Paso Doble — two diametrically opposed dances that are both extremely difficult — and really deserved to win that cha cha competition, too, on merit.

At any rate, Mark Ballas seems to go to the finals every year — and before some folks write in and tell me, “No he doesn’t,” I did say seems.   He was there last season with the underperforming Bristol Palin; he’s been there with Shawn Johnson (a good dancer and gymnast), with Kristi Yamaguchi (an outstanding skater and a very good dancer also), and should’ve been there with Sabrina Bryan.  He’s quite a good dancer and obviously teaches his students how to dance, of which I approve — but his attitude leaves me cold.  (Even allowing for how DwtS can edit folks, Ballas should be more aware of how he comes across on camera.  He acts like he’s the star, not his pro, and that’s just wrong.  Though of course as a DwtS pro, he has fans rooting for him no matter who his partner is, he needs to remember to be humble — or at least learn to fake it a little better.)

And as for Kane — man, can she please eat a cheeseburger or two?  Because she’s way, way, way too thin — every time I see her, I think how she needs to eat more.   And when Ballas picks Kane up for the overhead “tricks,” I think, “Whee!  She weighs what, two pounds?  How tough was that, Mark?”  (Compared to the real work Maksim Chmerikovskiy has put in, first teaching his partner Alley to dance and dance well, then to compensate for Alley being a big, beautiful woman — albeit less of one than when she started, as she’s obviously lost at least sixty pounds during the course of this season’s DwtS — I really don’t have much sympathy for Ballas at all.)

Look.  It’s just a cheesy reality show, but I enjoy it.  I like to see the dancers improve — and they all do, to some extent (even Bristol Palin improved last season).  It’s a tough gig to be on DwtS; people get injured (look at Macchio’s injury last week, or poor pro Kym Johnson’s this past week).  It’s hard to dance in front of hundreds, maybe a couple of thousand people in person, then know millions of people will see you dance either on television or YouTube.  I can’t imagine the sort of pressure that puts on all the contestants and my hat is off to all of them — even the rather klutzy Kane this evening.

But it chaps my hide something fierce when the competition does not seem on the up and up.  And I’m sorry — I know Ballas in particular, if he sees this blog for whatever reason, will not agree with me, but unless the camera angles were bad for all three dances with Kane, these were the worst three dances she has had all season.  She may have an injury; she may well have been ill; she may be the funniest, cutest, nicest contestant they have ever had on DwtS.  But she didn’t deserve the high scores she got tonight, nor did she deserve to win that cha cha as she really shouldn’t have even advanced over Alley in that first “elimination round.”

So the question is: is the fix in?  And if it is, why should I watch this show if Kane and Ballas are destined to take home the cheesy trophy?

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 16, 2011 at 10:18 pm