“DWTS” Season 13
(CBS) A new ballroom, a controversial cast. Oh, and Chaz Bono, too.
Who couldn’t imagine that this 13th season of “Dancing with the Stars” wouldn’t be lucky, plucky and, even occasionally, yucky?
The opening night of what promises to be, yet again, television’s most peculiar spectacle began with the extremely peculiar Ron Artest. He has changed his name to Metta World Peace, but decided to perform under his former name, old school-style. Artest has a problem, neatly described by his partner, Peta Murgatroyd: “He’s tall and he’s stiff.”
These are not the two greatest attributes for a cha-cha. Indeed, Artest moved with all the freedom of Shaq in his doting period. It was as if the Statue of Liberty had been animated, on an extremely tight budget, by Ray Harryhausen.
“The same old shimmying about,” said head judge Len Goodman. “Your footwork was atrocious.”
“The Dance-a-Tron has landed,” said Bruno Tonioli. That was the most complimentary he could manage.
Carrie Ann Inaba suggested Artest was both “eccentric” and “sexy”, but not (yet) so good at dancing.
Artest looked as if he was about to incur a technical when he espied his paltry scores.
In the presence of Artest’s fellow Laker, Lamar Odom – he who is husband to Khloe Kardashian – and all the sisters, the lesser-known brother, Rob Kardashian, took to the floor. Kardashian declared he wanted to step out of the shadow of his siblings and do his own thing. Perhaps Kim hadn’t mentioned that she had once been on this show (though not for long).
Kardashian took to the floor for his waltz like a centipede takes to leglessness. He stumbled around, staring into a yonder that was less blue and more entirely beyond color. If Artest was stiff, Kardashian could support the average house roof.
“You danced that waltz like you were under strict orders to succeed,” declared Tonioli. He added that Kardashian looked “petrified”.
Inaba claimed she saw potential, even though she found it “a little rigid.”
Then we had Kristin Cavallari, who began by claiming that she is “not a bitch”. Which was a relief. The dancing arts already enjoy far too much appalling behavior – anyone who saw “Black Swan” knows that. How sweet that here was a pleasant, engaging reality star ready to just emit good karma.
Cavallari showed remarkable energy. It was as if she had channeled her alleged former bitchiness into fast-twitchiness of the limbs. She was sprightly, with elegant, expressive arms and even more elegant, expressive teeth. She did allow partner Mark Ballas some “is Michael Jackson really dead?” solos, while she stood and admired, but managed to show enough to offer hope.
“You have the body to ballroom dance, girlfriend,” said Inaba, perhaps hoping to make the Chicago Bears’ Jay Cutler, Cavallari’s former fiancé, a little envious.
“I love a bad girl,” said Tonioli, attempting persuasive conviction.
Chynna Phillips, last seen making a cameo with Wilson Phillips at the end of “Bridesmaids,” was next to adorn the proceedings. Could she hold on for one more day? Could she hold on for just a couple more minutes? When confronted with the waltz, she mused: “This is harder than singing.”
Her opening spin suggested she was mastering this like the finest mistress. Her body described elegance, with seemingly little effort. Her legs drew lines like those of a very sharp pencil.
“It wasn’t the best first dance I’ve ever seen,” opined Goodman. “But it was close.”
“The talent is there,” said Tonioli. Inaba merely gushed.
Nancy Grace dancing. Three words that one could put alongside “Oprah Winfrey belching” or “Tom Cruise growing” in terms of likelihood.
Yet here was the former prosecutor about to execute a cha-cha. Her partner, Tristan McManus, has a very broad Irish accent. His “third step” was, to Grace, the “turd step.”
One cannot blame a lack of communication on the fact that Grace is not entirely endowed with, well, grace. This might have come as a shock to some.
She gave it what she had. However, what she had elicited this from Tonioli: “You don’t seem to believe in yourself.”
And this from Goodman: “You didn’t have any flair and attack. It was all a little bit underwhelming.”
So we drifted to David Arquette. He is blessed with the most sympathetic of partners, Kym Johnson. She kept the choreography conservative. Still, Arquette’s feet looked like they were going twice as fast as they should.
“Relax a little,” said Inaba.
“You didn’t know what the hell you were doing,” suggested Tonioli.
Elisabetta Canalis, she formerly of George Clooney’s arm, is perfectly aware of her coefficient of fame. “Most people recognize me for my past private life,” she said. Her partner, Val Chmerkovskiy, is Russian. He complained that there was something of a language barrier. He offered her some Russian discipline.
They began in bed. Then Canalis made her best attempts at hip-wiggling. However, her bodily movements suggested those of a newly-born cygnet, rather than a swan. There was a certain twiggishness to her attempts to branch out into fluid movement. This is a little more difficult than modeling.
“I didn’t like the bed,” said Goodman. “It got very brittle.”
Tonioli differed. “You were very good in bed,” he said. But then he suggested that it had all fallen apart.
Would Hope Solo float? The U.S. World Cup goalkeeper was confronted with the waltz. She needed to get elegant. Like so many sports personalities before her, Solo has a breadth of movement that allows her to stretch herself, while maintaining at least some body control. Though occasionally trying a little too hard, Solo showed enough to suggest she was a contender.
“You’ve got a bright future in front of you,” said Tonioli.
“What was really impressive was the body contact in the hold,” said Inaba. She also suggested Solo shouldn’t “muscle things” too much.
Carson Kressley was asked to cha-cha. Regretfully, the person who turned up was Cartoon Kressley. It was as if the Funky Chicken had taken several banned substances. His legs were like Roadrunner’s, his lips like Meg Ryan’s and his torso like the love-child of Mick Jagger and Mr. Bean.
“That was my favorite dance of the night by far,” shouted Inaba. “You are something else.”
Not a dancer, perhaps. But definitely something else.
J.R. Martinez, the Iraqi war hero and “All My Children” actor, said he felt like he was going to prom. After 33 surgeries and a body 40-percent burned, he is more than happy to be here.
The Army hadn’t taught him the Viennese Waltz, which was a terrible omission. Still, Martinez marshaled the dance floor and showed remarkable confidence and fluidity. If his performance didn’t lift your spirit, you have no spirit.
“You’ve got courage, you’ve got sense of humor and you’ve got the hips,” said Tonioli.
Inaba, naturally, gushed. “I saw you look at each person while you danced.” For once, her gushing was appropriate.
Then it was Ricki Lake. After appearing in “Hairspray” surely she could dance. Lake wants to lose her back bulges. She claims “not to be the most graceful person out there.” Yet she didn’t seem too troubled by this waltz. She is, after all, a performer.
“Beautiful smooth underarm passes,” said Tonioli.
“I don’t know what was going on with your feet,” offered a sobering Goodman. He still quite liked it, though.
Stunningly, ABC kept Chaz Bono till the very end. Bono explained patiently that he was the first transgender contestant on the show.
He is a highly engaging and articulate personality, if surprisingly short. He claims, though, that he has a tendency to be too serious. And what good is that in the cha-cha? His prognostications were not optimistic: “Being in your 40s and overweight, it kills my body.”
“I really wanna not suck,” he added.
Suck, he did not. He showed remarkable self-possession, not a little verve and a pleasing level of attack – some aimed, perhaps artistically, at his half-witted critics.
His partner, Lacey Schwimmer, made sure she didn’t give him impossible choreography, and Bono will, hopefully, be here for at least another week. He certainly deserves to be.
“I think people have been waiting all night to see you, Chaz,” said Inaba, offering a touching turn of the obvious. “And you did not disappoint.”
“Good footwork and great attitude,” said Goodman.
Someone will be eliminated Tuesday night. Will it be a fall for Grace? Or does America love her just that little bit too much?
TOP THREE: Chynna Phillips, Hope Solo, J.R. Martinez
BOTTOM THREE: Elisabetta Canalis, Nancy Grace, Rob Kardashian