It took four hours of performing — the first two performance shows of the season — for it to become fairly clear that the worst thing the "Dancing With the Stars" producers did this season was to cast Nicole Scherzinger.
The Pussycat Doll is six points ahead of her closest competitor, Evan Lysacek, after only two sets of three judges' scores and earning the first 10s of the season already on Monday for her jive. That means she's an average of a full point per score, per judge ahead of a gold-medal figure skater on what isn't even a full 10-point scale (the judges basically only use 4 through 10). Only Lysacek, ESPN's Erin Andrews and Pamela Anderson are within 10 points of Scherzinger after just two dances, and Scherzinger's at least fifteen points ahead of five out of the 12 couples. What's more, the trend is in her favor: Her advantage over Lysacek doubled from last week's performance, from two points to four.
In short, at the moment, Scherzinger has no credible competition for the title, which isn't surprising, considering that the others are amateur dancers and she's a professional.
Casting people with previous dance experience is unavoidable when you fill a show with celebrities, former celebrities and dubiously qualified celebrities. People take tap classes if they want to be in theater. Lots of little girls who love to perform take ballet. But Scherzinger minored in dance in college, and she's effectively been dancing professionally as part of her singing and performing career for her entire adult life.
When "Dancing" is fun, it's because familiar faces are learning to do something new. They don't have to start out as terrible dancers. Some people have natural musicality and coordination, and they surprise you right out of the gate.
But when you take a professional dancer and ask football players and actresses and an 80-year-old astronaut to compete with her, you've stacked the deck so tremendously that it doesn't feel like a competition at all. It feels like, "Here are 11 people learning to dance, chasing a woman who works as a dancer." There's no sense in rehearsals that her partner, Derek Hough, is teaching her anything, or that she struggles, or that she's learning anything other than the steps.
It's in those struggles, for good or for ill, that you always find the show's actual stories. For instance, Kate Gosselin is hilariously terrible, and her partner, Tony Dovolani, clearly truly dislikes her. She constantly throws in self-pitying, family-referential comments like, "People have quit on me a lot in life," and he's clearly up-to-here with her whole routine. Her disastrous jive Monday night could have been danced better by a scarecrow, and it's frankly going to be delightful fodder for every detractor she has.
Soap actor Aiden Turner seems to be having similar personal problems with his partner, the long-suffering Edyta Sliwinska. Edyta has survived George Hamilton and John Ratzenberger, so when she gets mad, one senses it's not because she's naturally impatient.
You be the judge!One of last week's more promising, if technically flawed, performances came from likable football player Chad Ochocinco. But this week, Chad's fox-trot collapsed to the point where judge Len Goodman outright declared that he had nothing encouraging to say at all, which doesn't happen often. Whether Chad can rebound is an interesting story, because there's some unpredictability to him. There's no unpredictability to Scherzinger — she will look like a pro next week just like she did this week and will every week.
Someone with very low scores will probably be the first to go Tuesday night — most likely Buzz Aldrin (whose fox-trot was actually worse than his cha-cha last week, because he tried to move more), who has the lowest scores of all, or maybe Gosselin, who's five points ahead of him, if her name recognition turns out to be mostly a negative. Maybe it will be one of the middle-scoring contestants who doesn't get the turnout — former “Bachelor” Jake Pavelka, delightful actress Niecy Nash or big grump Shannen Doherty.
But right now, whether terrible, middling or pretty good, they all look like cannon fodder lined up to exit in order before Scherzinger's inevitable coronation. Even Lysacek, whose skating has translated into odd problems with his posture that are spotted mostly around his feet, now doesn't seem likely to mount much of a challenge.
The show is going to have to hope that somebody else gets stronger in a big hurry, because this season could become a very, very dull affair if Scherzinger — without working as hard or through as many frustrations as everyone else — continues to run away with it.
Linda Holmes is a frequent contributor to msnbc.com.
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