Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘DWTS

Donald Driver Wins DWTS

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Earlier this year, I blogged about Donald Driver being a contestant on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”  I’ve watched Driver, a wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers, play for the last twelve years; he is as fierce and tough a competitor as they come, yet he’s never been big on showboating or making a name for himself.  Driver is the type of guy who exalts his teammates, coaching staff, and family, which is why I’ve always enjoyed rooting for him.

Earlier tonight, Driver won this season of DWTS with his professional dance partner, Peta Murgatroyd.  Driver was the odds-on favorite in Las Vegas and was also one of the fan favorites throughout this past season, but it was never clear that he would indeed be the final person standing.  This had nothing to do with Driver’s dancing, which was excellent, but was instead about how well everyone else danced this season, too.

Over and over again during the past ten-week season, the judges exalted the level of competition, seemingly the highest it’s ever been, which is why it wasn’t easy to pick Driver (even as good as he was all season) as the winner.  And because the level of competition was so very high, it was nearly impossible to determine what the crowd would do from week to week.  The contestants who went out in fourth, fifth, and sixth places were all very good to excellent dancers who would’ve been Top Three material any other season — perhaps even winning material.  

But all any competitor can do is this: control what you can control, and don’t worry about anything else.  Driver did that: he controlled what he could control by making sure to improve as a dancer every single week.  He listened to his pro, Murgatroyd, and he also listened carefully to the judges.   Then he went out the next week and danced even better, because he took their criticism to heart.

Driver had another thing in his favor: he improved every single week.  It may seem strange, but as a long-time watcher of DWTS, I’m aware that DWTS is often decided by who improves the most as much as who is the best dancer/who does the crowd enjoy watching dance the most.  Fortunately for Driver, all of these factors — all of them — were in his favor.

Driver is a classy guy, and his behavior tonight on the final DWTS results show proved it.  Unlike some past winners, he immediately congratulated the runners-up and their partners (singer Katherine Jenkins and her partner, Mark Ballas, finished second; actor William Levy and his partner, Cheryl Burke, finished third).  Driver also made it clear that he couldn’t have done any of this without Murgatroyd, his partner, and thanked ABC for the opportunity of being on the show. 

All of this — class, professionalism, strong work-ethic, and graciousness — is why I’ve enjoyed watching Driver on the football field, and now off it on DWTS.  And it’s also why I’m glad to say, “Congratulations, Donald, on your well-deserved DWTS win!”

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 22, 2012 at 11:44 pm

DWTS Week Eight: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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Tonight, there were only five stars left on “Dancing with the Stars” to battle it out for spots in the semi-finals next week.  These stars are Nancy Grace with pro partner Tristan MacManus, Rob Kardashian with pro partner Cheryl Burke, Ricki Lake with pro partner Derek Hough, Hope Solo with pro partner Maksim Chmerikovskiy, and last but not least, J.R. Martinez with pro partner Karina Smirnoff.  The dance levels varied widely, and so did the performances, but everyone did as well as they possibly could.

That said, it’s time for some serious critiquing. 

Best of the night: J.R. Martinez/Karina Smirnoff.  I’ve said this before, but Martinez is so good that he often looks like a male pro until he makes a mistake, or has his body in a position a male pro would not take.  Martinez is the class of this field, and he had an outstanding night tonight.

Prediction for tomorrow: Safe.  (Easily.)

Second best of the night: Rob Kardashian/Cheryl Burke.  Kardashian moves stiffly and doesn’t pick his feet up off the floor very often, but he’s shown the most improvement.  Both dances tonight were good.

Prediction for tomorrow: Probably safe.  (Should be, but may not be depending on the strength of his fan base.)  If he hits the B2, he’ll go home.

Third best of the night (tie): Ricki Lake/Derek Hough.  As always, Hough’s choreography was outstanding, but Lake is hurt and it’s very easy to tell.  She was good, but not outstanding; Kardashian was actually a little better, and he has far less talent than does Lake.

Prediction for tomorrow: Bottom 2, will be retained for semi-finals.  (Once again, if Kardashian hits the B2, he’s gone.)

Third best of night (tie): Hope Solo/Maksim Chmerikovskiy.  They danced better than I’ve ever seen them in both dances.  They received the “kiss and make up” edit, and the “most improved dancer” type of remarks; they’re not going anywhere.

Prediction for tomorrow: Safe.

Fifth and last:  Nancy Grace/Tristan MacManus.  I really like MacManus, as I’ve said before; he is a consummate professional, and he has done the best job he — or anyone else — could’ve done with Grace.  Ms. Grace is stiff and does not move well, and by this point she is badly outclassed by the competition.  This is not merely due to her age (she over 50) or how short she is, or that she’s a fuller-figured woman.  (I am a big, beautiful woman myself, so I don’t really care about that.)

Nope, it’s none of that.

Purely and simply, it’s a combination of two things:

1) I don’t like her attitude toward her pro — she seems to be blaming MacManus for why she hasn’t improved, not realizing that at some point natural talent (or the lack of it) has to apply.  Maybe Grace would do better at some of these dances if she had more time to study it — that’s almost surely the case — but her complaining about her busy schedule and then saying that MacManus “doesn’t have a full-time job” was just wrong.  (Doesn’t Grace realize that teaching her anything has to be the toughest full-time job MacManus has ever had?)

2) Her tango was, at best, tepid.  She was given better scores than she deserved, and better comments, too, in her first dance, probably because the judges had seen Grace do the jive last week and knew she was terrible.  Her second dance, the “instant jive” (all of the couples had to do this), was awful despite the best efforts of MacManus to showcase her in a positive light; it was so bad that head judge Len Goodman actually told Grace that her time at DWTS was just about up.  (I kept expecting him to add the words that usually follow those, “Don’t let the door hit you in the rear on the way out.”  But he didn’t; he left those words unsaid.)

Prediction: B2.  Will go home.  MacManus will breathe a sigh of relief, and so will those of us who watch DWTS.

But my predictions are just that . . . I’m not omniscient, omnipotent, or omnipresent, either, so it’s possible that someone else will go home instead.

What do you think, America?

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 7, 2011 at 11:08 pm

DWTS Non-Shocker: David Arquette Goes Home

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Is it just me, or did the fact that David Arquette went home tonight on “Dancing with the Stars” rather than Nancy Grace seem like a total anticlimax?

Last night, I predicted that if Arquette hit the bottom two (called the B2, for short), he’d go home because I believed his fan base was most likely lower than either Grace or Hope Solo.   Arquette danced better, in my opinion, than either Grace or Solo, but in a reality show competition, how many people are willing to vote for you is the major thing that either keeps you in or sends you home (that’s what I mean by a fan base).

Consider that Solo is one of the best-known female athletes in the world as she’s the goalie for the United States of America’s national soccer team.  So you’d figure she probably has a much bigger fan base than Arquette and Grace, as she did not hit the B2 tonight.

As for Grace, while she’s really not a good dancer, she has two things on her side: her partner, Tristan MacManus, who many DWTS fans have taken to as he’s a delightfully low-key presence, and her own show on HLN (formerly CNN Headline news), where she’s actually called in to her show and asked her viewers to text her number to keep her in.

This week, we were told who was definitely in the B2 — sometimes, they only say “one of these two really is in the B2, while the other may or may not be” — and it was definitely Arquette and Grace.  This means that Grace’s huge fan base probably won’t be enough to save her next week, considering by any objective measure, Solo’s should be far higher — and the other three dancers (including Rob Kardashian, of all people) are all much better than Grace, so are likely to outscore her by plenty.

What I know from watching DWTS for years is this: when a good dancer who’s improving is booted “too soon” by the viewers (this was Arquette’s role tonight), the judges get tough the next week on the undeserving person (or people) who stayed instead of him.  Grace’s time should’ve been up several weeks ago but she’s outlasted several better dancers, now including Arquette; watch for the judges to be in an uproar next week and give Grace the extremely low scores she’s likely to deserve no matter how much the judges approve of her pro.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 1, 2011 at 9:23 pm

My Take on Hallowe’en DWTS Episode

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Well, Chaz Bono is gone, but in my opinion, “Dancing with the Stars” could’ve used him and his partner, Lacey Schwimmer tonight during their Hallowe’en episode.  They would’ve been a great help, as they always brought the entertainment first, last, and always.

This was a Hallowe’en episode, so the hair and make-up and song choices all reflected that, with the song choices actually hindering several couples.  Still, it was a show that mostly entertained, with a few really low spots.

Here we go, first with the “solo” dances (as two group dances followed at the end of the show):

David Arquette and Kym Johnson:  He did OK.  Arquette is a bit manic for my tastes and he got ahead of his choreography; if he were a musician, I’d tell him he was rushing and to stay behind the beat rather than in front of it.  (Johnson, of course, was great, as she always is.)  ** Edited to add: Score was a 24.

Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke:  Surprisingly good tango, though they drew a fairly easy song for it, the theme song for “The Addams’ Family.”   Kardashian’s form was good and he stayed in character.  (Burke, of course, was wonderful, as she always is.)  They scored a 25.

Derek Hough and Ricki Lake:  They danced a paso doble to the song “Dream (or a Beautiful Nightmare),” and the choreography was excellent.  (Hough’s always is.)  Lake is hurt, and it showed; Hough did a lot of dancing around her.  They were given a 27, the best score of the night for the solo dances, which probably was deserved as no one really danced up to his or her potential.

Maksim Chmerikovskiy and Hope Solo: Danced a samba, of all things, to “Werewolves of London.”  Decent samba.  Solo looked more relaxed this week; she was helped in rehearsal by one of the “Troupe” dancers, Teddy (he often dances on Tuesday evenings with other pro dancers) because Chmerikovskiy has a broken toe.  (Note that I enjoyed Bono and Schwimmer’s samba much better than this, and yet this got a better score.)  They scored a 24.

Nancy Grace and Tristan MacManus:  They drew an impossible song, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”  They had to try to do a jive.  Grace is OK with a slower tempo in most disciplines, but her jive was really awful.  It scored a 21, which was far too high; really, it deserved something like a 15.  (MacManus was cute, and competent, and I enjoyed watching him.  He does not out-dance his partner and tries hard to showcase her.  May he be back next season with someone who has more dancing talent than Grace.)

J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff:  They had the nearly impossible task of dancing a tango, of all things, to the “Ghostbusters” theme.  Smirnoff’s choreography was inventive, but Martinez didn’t look right as he danced — his back was out of position, I think, and his legs were too bent.  That said, he still danced better than any of the non-pros this evening and did more actual work than anyone else, too . . . they scored a 25, and were underscored.

Next, it was time for the team dances.  First, they had to pick teams; “Team Tango,” which featured Martinez and Smirnoff, picked Grace/Rogers and Arquette/Johnson.  The team choreography here was really good — better than I’ve seen in many a season for these team dances — but every solo was a bit off.  (Martinez, again, was the best of the three, by a lot.)  Arquette rushed, again, and was visibly ahead of Johnson most of the way.  Grace looked better at this than she did in the jive even though she’s not yet danced a tango, and may not if she goes home tomorrow as she should (being the weakest celebrity dancer left).  They scored a 23, which was added to the individual scores for all three couples.

Then, there was “Team Paso,” which was led by Lake and Hough.  Hough actually did the picking here, and chose Solo/Chmerikovskiy (to avoid Chmerikovskiy having to dance with Smirnoff, his ex-fiancée) and Kardashian/Burke.  Solo, predictably, had trouble learning the choreography, and Hough stepped in to help her learn it when Chmerikovskiy was too frustrated to teach it to her.  (This was one of the few times in quite a number of seasons that I’ve seen Hough do anything of the sort.  Solo learned it when Hough taught it to her; this makes me think at least some of why Hough has such a high opinion of himself is due to knowing he has great skill in teaching and choreographing — which indeed is the case, though I wish he could be a little humbler about it.)  The individual routines here were the highlight; all three couples did their best in those (Kardashian looked a bit lost, but up against two pros like Hough and Chmerikovkiy, that means Kardashian actually did very well and the judges knew it; they even said so), though to be fair, I don’t think these dances between the pairs were as difficult for both partners (in the tango, both partners must dance well or it looks awful; in the paso, only one partner — the male — must dance well or it looks awful).  This dance scored a 26, which was added to each individual dance team’s total.

My predictions for definitely safe:  Martinez and Lake

Probably safe:  Kardashian and Arquette

My predictions for bottom two: Grace and Solo, though Arquette, if he lands in the B2, probably goes home as it seems to me he has a lesser fanbase than either Grace or Solo.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 31, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Brewers, Cards tied 1-1; also, DWTS info

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Last night’s Milwaukee Brewers-St. Louis Cardinals game wasn’t worth much as the Cardinals won easily, 12-3 .  Brewers starting pitcher Shaun Marcum again didn’t have it (this was at least the seventh game in a row where Marcum has looked awful), the Cardinals went up 3-0 in the first inning and the Brewers were unable to battle back.

Now, there was a blown call by the first base umpire in the fifth inning, as Rickie Weeks was called out (the second half of an inning-ending double play) when he should’ve been safe.  And there were some defensive lapses in center field by Brewers OF Nyjer Morgan; at least twice, Morgan misplayed the ball (a third time, where he nearly made a great catch after “laying out” with his glove in front of him, was a very fine attempt) and that, too, revised the score upward for the Cardinals (while the blown umpire call definitely revised the Brewers’ score downward because if Weeks had been called safe as he should’ve been, a run would’ve scored in the bottom of the fifth).

So, a brief tally here with that umpire’s blown call revised and Morgan not running the wrong way in the outfield twice would’ve possibly changed the score to something like 7-4 (or 7-5) Cardinals if everything else had been the same.  Which would’ve still been a loss, of course — it just would’ve been a loss that Brewers fans would’ve felt better about.

That Brewers manager Ron Roenicke agrees with Marcum’s self-assessment that Marcum “isn’t pitching that badly” is absurd.  While Marcum has had a number of bloop hits and really light hits fall in lately, he’s also been hit really hard by Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols.  It’s also blindingly obvious that  Marcum has missed many of his spots (you don’t want to throw pitches high in the strike zone to Pujols unless you want him to hit .750 against you, yet that’s exactly where Marcum was throwing; later on, Marcum said on the radio post-game show that he “didn’t miss his spot by much.”  What?) and doesn’t look good — instead, he looks like his arm is too tired for him to get any decent pitches over the plate.

Anyway, game 3, which will be played in St. Louis’s home park, Busch Stadium, will be tomorrow night.  The pitching matchup will be Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo, who’s been great in the post-season thus far, and Chris Carpenter, who’s had one bad game and one outstanding game (the outstanding game, of course, was his complete game shutout effort in game 5 in the NLDS versus the Philadelphia Phillies).  This game should be a much closer affair, and will be likely to be determined by how well the two starters pitch rather than how many runs the Cardinals and Brewers can get off two errant starters (as in the previous two games).

Finally, in tonight’s “Dancing with the Stars” results show, Chynna Phillips was voted off.  Phillips was paired with professional partner Tony Dovolani, and the two were a very entertaining pairing; however, on Monday night’s show, Phillips completely forgot her routine and Dovolani had to talk her through it.  This is a real shame, because as I’ve said before, there are a few stars who aren’t as good as Phillips who are still there, including Nancy Grace, Carson Kressley, and as much as I hate to admit it, Chaz Bono.

Now, I vote on the basis of entertainment, improvement, and whether or not I really like the professional dancer (as the longer the pro’s “star” stays on, the more the pro ends up getting paid as I understand it).  Bono, thus far, has shown the most improvement, while of the three I mentioned, Kressley has been the most entertaining.  Lacey Schwimmer, Bono’s pro, is by far my favorite pro dancer on the show, so between the two things — Bono having shown improvement, and Lacey being my favorite pro — they continue to get my votes week after week.  (Mind you, I don’t really know Nancy Grace’s pro dancer, Tristan MacManus, though MacManus seems like a really nice guy and he’s certainly doing his best with Grace.)

The two good “star” dancers on the show, J.R. Martinez and Ricki Lake, are light-years beyond Bono, Grace and Kressley.  But Phillips at her best wasn’t that far behind either Martinez or Lake, which is why it’s such a shame she had an off night and ended up being eliminated.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 11, 2011 at 9:48 pm