Film and TV

Dancing With the Stars: Week One, Part Deux - Do the Ladies Run This... Well, You Know

I'm not used to this reality show schedule of airing competition shows and results in the same week, especially since Dancing With the Stars is running three episodes this week: the first male round, the first female round and the first elimination. I woke up Tuesday morning feeling hungover, images of Tom "Dazzle Me Dreamy" DeLay still thrusting in my head, but I soon remembered there would be no turnaround time. Last night was the two-hour ladies' episode, so I sturdied myself with a stiff shot of Diet Dr Pepper and jumped back into the madness.

Just like the previous night, the episode kicked off with the pros -- this time, the women -- doing a big production number; it was Tom Jones' "She's a Lady," and if that's the kind of music you're into, well, God help you because I sure can't. Once again, Tom Bergeron and Lady Co-Host were inexplicably knocked right out by the opener.

Then it was time for the contestants to enter grandly down the giant staircase, and as they did so, I realized why I show I'd never seen before Monday had felt so familiar: It's as cheesy and scripted and "hilarious" as 1970s variety shows. And that may be why the show appeals to older viewers, but you know what? Those shows were terrible. You also have to wonder how much of the dynamic between the partners is natural and how much is written to place them into certain groups: the underdog, the hot shot, the crazy old lying politician and so on.

The women, like their male counterparts, seem to be paired with pros that sound like James Bond villains. There's Debi Mazar and Maksim Chmerkovskly; Melissa Joan Hart, who will never not be Clarissa, and Mark Ballas; Mya and Dmitry Chaplin; Kathy Ireland, who was very important to me when I was 12, and Tony Dovolani; Olympic gold medal swimmer Natalie Coughlin and Alec Mazo; Macy Gray, who's totally alive, and Jonathan Roberts; model Joanna Krupa and Derek Hough; and Kelly Osbourne and Louis Van Amstel (who wins for best name).

Tom and Lady reminded viewers that this is the first. Time. Ever. That the contestants have had to do a ballroom and Latin dance on the first night, and they make it sound akin to performing open-heart surgery while writing the State of the Union. I mean, it's a challenge -- heels, tuxes, etc. -- but they're really overselling the difficulty.

It almost goes without saying that some of the women are going to be better at this than the men: Their numbers include former models and dancers whose litheness outclasses that of, say, a washed-up Mormon pop star or an aging wide receiver. Not all, of course -- Melissa Joan Hart's rehearsal and performance were unintentionally funny in the extreme -- but still, you know they might bring an edge.

Most of the dances were adequate. Melissa's was meh and set to some awful faux-country empowerment anthem, and Mya's devoid of frills. Kathy did a pretty lame salsa that would have upset Seventh-Grade Dan in many, many ways, and then the swimmer danced, and holy crap I'm starting to realize that the male contestants are going to be way more entertaining. Not that they're actually more talented or more interesting, but because they're better at being bad.

Most of the female contestants are so close in skill there's no difference, but the men are either good or awful, and it's that dichotomy that makes train wrecks like this show watchable. This isn't like American Idol, where the contestants have been refining their talent for years; these people were drafted into awkward service, and from this early vantage point, the guys have more potential for horrible failure or surprising success.

The exception: Macy Gray, who's clunky and weird and her team's very own Dazzle. She moves a little like a tank controlled by a drunk driver. Kelly Osbourne, though, was cute and wounded and clearly trying to make the best of something she'd never seen herself doing, and is the most likeable female contestant by far. I want her to go all the way.

They did the relay thing that the men did the night before, and it was just boring. Joanna the model and Mya won their relays, which I believe puts Joanna in the lead for now. But cuts are coming Wednesday night, when two couples get the ax. My guesses/hopes: Ashley Hamilton and Macy Gray. Thoughts?

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Daniel Carlson
Contact: Daniel Carlson