And we thought Brooke Burke had some bad luck when it was revealed that the Season 7 champ wouldn’t be part of the Dancing with the Stars all-star season. Things got even worse during Monday’s season premiere. She was forced to do a little arithmetic.
Not much has changed about the ABC warhorse – the contestants are all repeaters, obviously, and there are no new pro dancers again this season. But there has been a minor change made to the judges’ scoring, an outgrowth of all those nights where it seemed that any halfway competent dance earned a score of 7.
The three judges are now permitted to award scores in increments of half a point, and it made a bit of a difference on Monday. Only four times out of 13 did the judges all agree on a score, and while I haven’t checked, that seems lower than in the past. (Of course, the same thing could have been accomplished simply by encouraging the judges to use paddles lower than 5 once in a while, but the networks and logic aren’t always on speaking terms.)
But I’m sure there was a concern regarding the half-points: could the producers really count on Brooke to add, for example, 7, 6.5, and 8 in a split second? But for whatever reason, and for all I know it was a little blinking light out of camera range that did the work for her, Brooke made no mistakes with her quickie addition on Monday. All my snark must therefore be directed at the dancers, and since it’s all-stars, they didn’t give me much to go on either. Well, crap.
Some quick thoughts on the baker’s dozen, in order of their scores:
Emmitt Smith/Cheryl Burke (24.5): The Season 3 champ now has noticeable gray in his beard, but this partnership has all its chemistry intact. It did seem, though, that the judges, and especially Len Goodman with a startling 8.5, were still grading Emmitt based on overall lovability. No way was this cha cha superior to the foxtrot of the next guy down.
Gilles Marini/Peta Murgatroyd (24): He might have been a little overscored too – I think the sight of this guy in a formal outfit on the ballroom takes away the usual critical faculties. Gilles has already developed a strong chemistry with Peta, and more than any of them, has seemed to pick up right where he left.
Sabrina Bryan/Louis Van Amstel (22.5): The viewers’ pick to return was the highest-scoring woman, so there’s no chance that she will be the “most shocking elimination ever” a second time – for this week at least. The only thing the judges found wrong with her cha cha is that she seemed a little frantic, as if trying to prove she belonged with every step.
Apolo Ohno/Karina Smirnoff (22): He returns to the show with all his stage presence intact, and terrific hip action and arm extension on this Party Rock cha cha. The audience loves Apolo, and his natural competitiveness will help him. I don’t know that a former winner can truly be a dark horse, but don’t be surprised if he outlasts Emmitt, whose NFL background is usually a trump card on this show.
Shawn Johnson/Derek Hough (22): Shawn seems likely to be the last woman standing; she’s more mature now and has a partner who will pull out every stop in what may be his final season. This foxtrot seemed excellent and two of the judges agreed, but Len docked them because he found it un-foxtrot-y, or something.
Drew Lachey/Anna Trebunskaya (21.5): Anna was a little more cross in rehearsal than we usually see her, probably because she thinks this might be her best chance at finally winning (she and Jerry Rice finished second to Drew in Season 2). This foxtrot was a bit overrated by the judges, as he came across as overly choppy, almost as if he hadn’t done this before.
Helio Castroneves/Chelsie Hightower (21.5): The judges didn’t have much that was complimentary to say about this foxtrot, but he’s solidly in the middle of the pack, and he always looks to be enjoying himself. With such a big, talented field, you just know someone is going to be a shocking ouster in the next couple of weeks. Helio might be the one, because this male lineup is brutal.
Kelly Monaco/Val Chmerkovskiy (21.5): So I guess this is the couple they want us to think is doin’ it this season? Kelly was the somewhat shocking first season winner, and there was an undertone of skepticism that she could keep up since the show is more competitive these days, but their cha cha was strong enough so that she might not be the first ex-winner going home.
Melissa Rycroft/Tony Dovolani (21): Meh. Away from all the drama that preceded her coming on the show in Season 8, does anyone still care about this woman? She’s in excellent shape and is very likable, but this foxtrot was just OK. It’s hard to imagine anyone running to the phones for her, now that she’s happily married and a mom, instead of the Dumped Girl.
Joey Fatone/Kym Johnson (20.5): Joey is always eager and has a great sense of humor about his place in the world (looking at him now, you’d never believe he was a teen idol just 12 years ago), but the judges were correct in saying that he sometimes trades technique for attitude (not always a bad thing on a cha cha), and that won’t take you far in all-stars.
Bristol Palin/Mark Ballas (19.5): She’s now being billed as a “reality star” rather than a “teen activist.” Bristol seems less defensive these days, and it showed in her dancing. Their cha cha was, believe it or not, a very acceptable DWTS effort, though still on the low side with this kind of competition. She’s well on her way to being voted out in 3 weeks without all of America hating her.
Kirstie Alley/Maksim Chmerkovskiy (19): These two still get along, to the extent Maks gets along with anybody. Their foxtrot was decent for a first week (and let’s not forget that she’s now 61), but it’s a tough field. Maks seemed to interrupt Len as he was starting his critique, adding to the years of tension between the two men; and Kirstie kissed Emmy winner (yay!) Tom Bergeron on the lips before the pair headed offstage. She still knows all the vote-grabbing tricks.
Pamela Anderson/Tristan MacManus (17): As far back as the casting announcement, she looked like the one who would most obviously be overwhelmed, and that’s exactly what happened. The judges not so subtly suggested that she would be better off rehearsing more and engaging in off-color banter less, but her real problem is that her cha cha demanded more from her than she’s physically able to give.