Archive for September, 2015

Joey Watches: DWTS Elimination #2

Last night was part 2 of the Hometown Glory theme for Dancing with the Stars. On Monday, the pairs danced to songs representative of the stars hometowns but tonight the focus was on the dance pros. As the judges and the co-hosts noted, it was really nice to learn a little bit more about the dance pros and see a side of them we don’t usually get to see. However, there was also the potential for more drama and errors: firstly because this was the second dance the stars had to learn in only the second week of competition, when everything is still new and the rigorous practicing is still something they have to adapt to; and secondly, many of the pros were emotional and trying to pay respectful homage to places or people in their lives and both the pros and the stars felt the pressure to “do it right.”

First up was Hayes Grier of Vine sensation, performing to the quickstep with dance Pro Emma. I liked this dance much better than the motorcyle, orange jumpsuit number from Monday. He still dances like a teenager, but this was a very earnest and eager teen and I thought he did really well. There is some sophistication lacking in his movements, but he was invested in doing well and it showed.

Next up was Carlos PenaVega and dance pro Witney doing a cowboy version of Elvis Presley’s Hounddog. Did I mention I’m over this couple? I do feel like they are little too buddy-buddy with his wife on stage a few feet away and it just doesn’t work for me.

Gary Busey was next, performing with dance pro (to Russia with love) Anna. Their outfits were over the top, and so was his opinion of how great they danced. We know he’s just there for the trainwreck aspect, and he delivers. I waffle between fear for Anna’s being (as he continues to hug and grope her every chance he gets) and pity that they would put a dementia patient out on the dance floor. His dancing on Monday was relatively sharper. The word that kept running through my mind was “coherence”: he doesn’t have it in his perception or his dance skills and unlike past bad dancers on the show who may be funny – this time the humor is a little one sided as America laughs at him but he’s not in on the joke. I understand he’s good for ratings, but he needs to be put down gently.

Andy “Dancing is Hard” Grammer was next with pro Alison. (You may know Alison’s husband – he’s Twitch from So You Think You Can Dance.) I love Andy’s enthusiasm to do well – but I do think this dance was a little jerky. Still – he did well and I hope he continues to improve.

Next up was dance pro Mark Ballas with star Alexa PenaVega. First thing I have to note – what was up with her dress? It looked like a beautiful gown covered in leftover mummy wraps. One of the pieces was wrapped horribly over one boob and was very unflattering. Nevertheless, I really like Mark as a dance pro – and the video package about his mom and dad was just very emotional. Even though I am over the PenaVega Saga for this season – I do think she danced well and loved the choreography. However, she still has problems moving her hips and I do think Mark looked a little Fleetwood Mac with his hipster bun. His mom was in the audience and they danced to Somewhere in Time, which reminded me of a my romantic teenage self (which you probably couldn’t see with all my snarky wardrobe criticism).

Paula Deen with dance pro Louis was up next and I just don’t really know what to say. I just have this “awkard to watch” thing still. Her hair was less scary, but she reminded me of a vamped up Cruella DeVille in the red grandma gown. She does have great legs, but she just reminds me of a matronly dame from a Marx Bros movie. She still grips Louis too hard with fright which limits the fluidity of their dance. She can’t hear, or doesn’t focus, so she responds out of sync with the others. The judges commented she was light on her feet – I just don’t see it. I really wanted to see her be a comeback kid – but she looks more like Gary Busey’s sister.

Fortunately, Bindi Irwin was next and danced with dance pro Derek. She did a beautiful waltz and even though they got dinged for doing a slight lift (a big dance no-no) she still scored well. I love the polish and courtesy she brings to the show. She is very gracious when accepting compliments (something I struggle with) while still always giving back to her partner and those around her. Someone said she was a “real life Disney Princess” and I agree. I also noticed how her mom and brother stood out from the rest of the crowd when the cameras panned to them – they are like unspoiled goodness in a sea of American selfies. I really want her to stay in the game. (Incidentally, for those of you wondering why Beau Bridges was sitting in the audience with Bindi’s family – Bindi and he did a straight-to-video movie together – Free Willy: Escape from Pirate’s Cove)

Housewife Kim Z was next with dance pro Tony. This was another wardrobe malfunction in my opinion – as a busty woman I can tell you that was not a good look. (It also doesn’t help when judge Bruno equates you to a sofa – he must be focused on her . . . pillows) Just like she needs structure and energy in her wardrobe, she needs structure and energy in her dancing. Once again she danced – but there was a dip in energy from her performance the night before. Granted, this was a slower song, but still – she needs to maintain. Still on the fence about this star, but for the sake of the show I hope she improves.

Alek Skarlatos and pro Lindsay were next and although I could have done without the white tux and gown with the red white and blue accents, he danced incredibly well again. They called him Alek the Great, and I think he was. I look forward to him continuing on in the competition.

Jockey Victor Espinoza was next with dance pro Karina. The continuation of short jokes continued – with scenes of her carrying him and various others treating him like a little doll. Also continuing was the mini Latin lover stereotypical wardrobe – and the awkward ending of him on his knees with his face against the lowest edges of her stomach (aka – right between her legs). He did dance better, but it was obvious that he was the object of much kidding, and not being treated with the respect he deserved. (There was an interesting moment where he kept comparing Karina to taming his horse American Pharaoh – and he just kept repeating it.)

Backstreet Boy Nick Carter was next with aussie Sharna. As you may recall, Nick slipped and fell in his dance number the day before, so he was very concerned about being sent home. But tonight’s dance was about Sharna, and the video package strongly reflected that Nick’s focus was on doing a great dance for her. And he did! It was beautiful, so well done, and it was obvious that when Nick switched his focus from his mistakes to honoring his partner, he just did so well. There’s a life lesson in there somewhere. And with that, Nick as a gentleman, not just a boy band singer, really emerged. I’m rooting for him now as well as Bindi and Alek.

The finale dance was with Tamar Braxton and dance pro Val (last season’s winner). Although Val emigrated to the US, he considers NYC his home and there was a very cute Charleston number done outside a brownstone stoop. Her outfit was a bit much for me when she wasn’t dancing. This was the first night I felt like Tamar could really be a contender. It was cutesy but well danced with Tamar having much more life and less surreality star quality. Although not on my list of favs yet, if she continues this route, she could make it there.

Once the dances were done, we were again given another speedy elimination round. The bottom two were identified as Gary Busey and Triple Crown jockey winner Victor Espinoza. And since America loves insanity over short jokes, Victor was eliminated. At least he can move back to his dignity soon hopefully.

Tonight on Dancing with the Stars, each dance pair was assigned to dance under the theme of Hometown Glory – where they talked a little about their hometown and what it means to them. There are 2 nights of dance this week, with an elimination each night which means all the celebrities had to learn 2 full numbers their second week in, which is unprecedented and a little cruel.

Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys was the first dancer, and unfortunately, he just looked terrified the entire time. He went from a strong final dance last week to a much tenser dance this time around, further complicated by slippery shoes and an unfortunate fall. Still, he powered through the dance and ended on his feet, even if his score drops.

Paula Deen was next and even though her dance improved, she is definitely still on my awkard to watch list. (Shorty Hulk says she looks like an aged and wasted Britney Spears) I’m not sure what they were thinking with her hair, and she still looks like she is gripping on to her dance pro Luis in an inappropriate manner. She did however seem to impress the judges and her scores went up from last week.

Vine sensation Hayes Grier had a touching week, with lots of tears and touching moments with his mom. He’s also from Mooresville, NC so hometown boy. I don’t see the connection with dance pro Emma that the judges rave about – but I’m glad he improved from last week. I’m sure his fan base will keep him in action.

Chaka Khan was next with dance pro Keo. She told a good story in her video package about wanting to improve every week. However, good intentions not withstanding, Chaka again lost her place and even though she did better, it was still a struggle.

Andy Grammer is a little cutie that reminds me a little of Chris Isaak. He had the best comeback of the night when the judges got on him for losing the beat when he’s a musician: “Dancing is hard.” Based on his effort and charm, I think he will be okay.

Side bar: What was up with judge Bruno’s mouth? I truly think he was having problem with his flipper or denture or something. Every time he talked, he had a hand in front of his mouth. I think that is why he swore and why the camera stopped focusing on him.

What did deserve our focus was Housewife Kim Zolciak (evidently she’s dropped the Zocliak-Bierrman from last week.) Unlike last week where she literally walked through her routine, this week she actually danced! She danced, she smiled, and she got great reviews. I was ready for her to get kicked off last week, but knew she wouldn’t because of her fan base. But after tonight, I might actually root for her.

Alek Skarlatos was great again this week. He is such the everyman hero that middle America (and I) want to root for. And it doesn’t hurt that he has a little hair on his chest! I think co-host Erin Andrews stated it well last week when she pointed out that he is our surrogate celebrity – that we can pretend we are on the show through him. My favorite part? At the end of the judging conversation, Alek turned to host Tom Bergeron and put out his hand to shake it. Total class.

Married couple Alexa and Carlos PenaVega tied for scores and judges responses. I realize they are supposed to add an extra element to the show, but I’m over it. I don’t connect with either star at this point. They said Alexa was great, I found some of her moves jarring and off beat. Same with Carlos.

Triple Crown jockey Victor Espinoza makes me want to do the southern “bless your heart” response. This week he was subject to short jokes, sombrero stereotypes and penis jokes, obscene gestures, and he just smiles and does whatever dance pro Karina tells him to do. I realize he has short term memory issues and that Karina is just fighting for votes, but this is just not giving this man any dignity. The sooner he is voted off, the kinder it will be.

Tamar Braxton and Val turned in a nice performance. Tamar tends to be a little reserved and doesn’t have the emotional connection she needs, even though she has great musicality. It was nice to see big sister Toni in the audience to support her – but I think Tamar still needs to find her way to stand out.

Gary Busey looked so strange with his crazy hair tamed. Is it just me, or does he look like he’s just trying to figure out how to touch, hug, and kiss his dance pro every chance he can get? Not that I blame him – Anna is lovely. But as Shorty Hulk mused, we wonder how many tasers they have on standby at any given time.

Last dance went to bubbly Bindi Irwin, who surprised the crowd by admitting that she loves listening to heavy metal. So she and dance pro Derek danced to “Shook Me All Night Long” and tore up the dance floor. Well, as much as we saw as there were at least 2 camera transition miscues. She did an amazing job – which makes me hope that both she and Alek end up in the semi-finals as I would already be happy seeing either one of them win the famed mirror ball trophy.

Unfortunately, the unfun part had to happen quickly due to running over (does DWTS ever NOT run over?)

We quickly found out that the bottom 2 were Chaka Khan and Gary Busey. Although I would have much rather seen Chaka Khan continue her “gradient upward” – I knew her fan base would not compare to the mesmerizing train wreck that is Gary Busey. And America loves a train wreck so much more.

So first person out? Chaka Khan. This does not bode well for dance pro Keo – who never seems to make it past the first few weeks. It will be interesting to see if they utilize him again next season as a dance pro, or if he will be just a background dancer.

Tomorrow night is the second night of dance this week, and will include another elimination round. Will Gary still be in the bottom? Will Victor Espinoza win out as the comic fodder? As long as Bindi and Alek survive – I’ll be okay.

Until then – keep dancing!

So last night was the season premiere of Dancing with the Stars and the season finale of So You Think You Can Dance. The aired simultaneously, so I had to pick which one to watch first and then go back and watch the other on video (first world problems, I know!)

So let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start)

Dancing with the Stars (Mondays, ABC)
Season 21! Opening night! Lights, music, dancing, glitterballs! And bring on the crazy!

Dancing with the Stars is nothing if not entertaining – either through beauty and grace, or through absolute insanity. Last night was no exception. As the 13 stars each had their turn on the dance floor, I found myself saying things like “bless his heart” to “awkward!” to “hope someone has a taser nearby” to “omg – so adorable.”

Not long for the show will be Victor Espinoza, the jockey who won the Triple Crown in 2015. He has 3 challenges right from the start: he’s shorter than his female partner, he has no musicality, and he has no short-term memory due to multiple sports injuries. Dance pro Katrina Smirnoff tried her best, but his dance was definitely a “bless his heart” moment.

Reality show star and TV host Tamar Braxton did well, and given her viewer fan base, should be safe. So should competing spouses Carlos and Alexa PenaVega, singer Andy Grammer and Vine/Social Media star Hayes Grier.

Chaka Khan should be okay, because she is the Queen of Funk after all. But her first dance was troubled. She was paired with Keo Motepse who is only in his 3rd year and has not had much stage time. He should have known better than to lower his 62-year old celebrity down from the ceiling and then expect her to be able to remember dance steps on her first night. She smiled throughout it though, and her hair was, as always, fabulous. But I hope she gets to dance more.

Bindi Irwin was an absolute delight with her winning smile, eagerness, and pure energy. She did very well for her first week and absolutely lit up the dance room. Her pro, Derek Hough, however, seemed a little less than happy when hero Alek Skarlatos got equal praise for his musicality and dedication to learning. Derek, a 5 time DWTS winner, is known for being competitive and I hope his intensity does not bring Bindi’s naivete and sweetness down. I can totally see Derek being the dark and brooding master this season (and the eventual Phantom of the DWTS if we are not careful).

Crazy train had multiple stops last night. We all expected that Gary Busey would be out of his mind, because c’mon. And he definitely was. In the words of my friend who skyped with me during the show, “The cheese has definitely slid far off his cracker.” I felt bad for his dance pro, Anna Trebunskaya, but maybe in Russia they are used to dealing with crazy. However for me the winner for awkward craziness was definitely Paula Deen. I felt so bad for her dance pro Louis Van Amstel as she was continually forcing his head down to her chest and grabbing and hugging him for dear life. We know she is clawing her way back in to world acceptance, but telling host Tom Bergeron that you have soiled your pants is not the way to go.

The Dialing It In award goes to Kim Zolciak-Biermann of Real Housewives infamy. Her dance had the least amount of enthusiasm, although there was a nice set up in her pre-dance video package where she confessed that she didn’t like taking the chance of not being perfect on live TV vs. her more carefully coiffed persona on her reality shows. Her dance moves reminded me a little more like Kate Gosselin – stiff and formal – although Kim definitely had a little more va-va-voom in her outfit. Her dance pro Tony Dovolani danced around her in a bare-chested frenzy trying to make up for it. I do think her fan base will push her through to the next week, however, so she should be safe.

Final dance was given to Nick Carter of Backstreet Boys fame. Nick definitely brought the fan girls out in his dance partner Sharna Burgess and judge Julianne Hough. However, unlike his fellow bandmate Joey Fatone who has also competed, Nick doesn’t have quite the charisma and charm yet. He reminds me more of his brother Aaron Carter who was so concerned about dancing well that he just looked too desperate and did not last long in the competition. I think Nick can definitely go far, I just think he’s not a sure thing yet.

This season is definitely full of opportunity – I’m intrigued on how America will vote.

So You Think You Can Dance (Fox, Mondays)
I was surprised that the season finale for this show was over 2 hours long since they were just revealing the results from the previous week. In order to fill up the show, everyone got to pick their favorite dance of the season, with some people picking twice. Of course, this is a nice way to remind the audience of the some of the dances that they can see live in the tour that kicks off shortly after the finale. But it was definitely a dance down memory lane kind of evening.

I admit, I did love seeing some of the numbers again. However, it is my personal opinion that once a dance is no longer part of the competition, it never has quite the same spark as the first time you see it. There is a certain electricity and sparkle that just doesn’t allow itself to be recreated.

My favorite number of the evening was a never before seen routine between top ten finalist Jim Nowakowski and all star Alex Wong. It was a powerful dance and had that spark that some of the repeats missed a little bit. I hope it is featured on the tour or that, as suggested, a sequel is done in following years.

Then we had our four finalists: Hailee Payne (jazz) and Gaby Diaz (tap) from Team Stage and Virgil Gadson (Hip Hop) and JaJa Vankova (Animation/Krump) from Team Street. Based on the judges comments from the previous week, I was not surprised when Hailee was the first to be eliminated – leaving Gaby as the winner of Team Stage. Similarly, there was no surprise that Jaja won out over Virgil for Team Street.

This left Gaby and Jaja as the last two standing. Personally, I assumed that Jaja would win because it was clear that part of the inspiration for this Stage vs. Street competition was caused by JaJa in season 11 when she was unable to make the top 20 due to her lack of experience in stage styles. Really, the interesting thing is that both Jaja and Gaby had comeback kid stories. Jaja was rejected in season 11 and was brought back to almost take it all in season 12. Gaby was rejected in the initial auditions and then flew out to the next location and auditioned again rather than giving up.

Surprisingly, Gaby was announced the winner. Although I felt she was very worthy of the prize, really, any of the top 4 would have been deserving. Once the winner was announced, there wasn’t really much to say. There was, however, a lot of confetti on the stage and I remembered thinking how glad I was that I didn’t have to clean that up.

Fox has not yet announced the renewal of the series, but they usually don’t announce this until November or December. What will be interesting is whether they keep this year’s street vs. stage formula, which was actually pretty entertaining, as well as the judges and host Cat Deeley, who recently announced she was pregnant. Until then, I’ll keep my dancing fix in check with Dancing with the Stars.

Until next time, keep those toes tapping!

So the new season of Dancing With The Stars begins on Monday, Sept 14th and with that – they have released the full cast list along with their pro dancer pair-ups. For the complete list, visit the ABC post here.

As usual, there are a lot of “who is that?” going on amongst viewers. Let’s be clear, it is rare that you will find an A or B list actor on the roster. Reality is, the people appearing on this show are hoping to make something happen with their careers – either to improve a tarnished image, or restart a stagnant career, or just to grab the tail of the rising star they find themselves on.

Let’s also point out that there is a bit of a formula of who they pick: reality stars, internet stars, athletes, musical legends, 80s stars, the hearthrobs, the love stories, the survivors/heroes, and the Disney kids.

What makes things different this season? Well, we’ve got a married couple. They actually tick off 2 boxes: Disney Kids & Love Stories. Alexa and Carlos Penavega were on Spy Kids and Big Time Rush respectively. And they are married to each other – awww. This reminds me a little of Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the Olympic ice skaters from season 18. Suddenly this skating duo were pitted against each other and everyone wondered which one was better and who would be voted off first. Of course, Meryl & Charlie weren’t married – so this raises it up a notch.

From what I can tell, this season’s “hero” story does not include any physical limitations. Alek Skarlatos was part of a trio who foiled a terrorist attack in Paris recently, and is now living in Oregon and studying to be a police officer. I think it would be hard to raise the bar after last season’s Noah Galloway, who was a double amputee after serving in Iraq. Prior survivors include Amy Purdy (paralympic snowboarder), deaf actress Marlee Matlin, and leg amputee Heather Mills (ex-wife of Paul McCartney). For the record, I find it crass to describe them by their limitations, but I’m just pointing out that this year we are focusing more on the hero part vs. the survivor part.

I’m not sure how I feel about Paula Deen being on Dancing with the Stars. I know she was vilified in the press for stupid things she has said and done in the past, and I used to adore her before all this, but now I just feel weird having her dance her way back – I feel like she should be focusing on charity efforts, not dancing steps – but that’s just me.

Gary Busey also makes me a little nervous. He’s a great actor gone crazy, and I worry about him dancing with a pro female. Also, I’m trying to figure out if he’s supposed to be the comic relief for this season. In the past we’ve had Tommy Chong, Andy Dyck, and Bill Engvall. I’m just worried he’s going to be adding to our level of idiocracy.

I’m excited about Chaka Khan, as she, like last season’s Patti LaBelle, is a musical legend. But she definitely has some great moves to live up to with Miss Patti – and I hope she’s up for the challenge.

Nick Carter seems to be the 80s heartthrob this season – but he’s too young for me to be excited about. I loved the seasons with Joey Fatone, Alfonso Ribiero, Mario Lopez and Joey Lawrence. When Nick’s brother Aaron was on, he just tried to hard and I felt sad for him. I hope things are different for Nick – but I’m not going to cry if he goes Bye, Bye, Bye (see what I did there?)

The rest of the cast are more “wait to be seen” opinions for me. I always wonder if I’m going to find someone to root for, and inevitably someone always grabs my heart so the formula is working. And yes, even as I write this, the theme music has been dancing its way through my head. So let the season begin!