"Dancing With the Stars" originally kicked off with a simple premise: Take a group of non-dancing celebrities (or former celebrities ... or almost celebrities) and train them to move and groove from scratch.
Sure, over the years a few ringers have joined the ballroom bash, and it's always fun to see their near-perfect performances. But nothing is quite like watching someone go from left-footed fumbler to passable hoofer -- even if the judges don't always recognize the progress.
Case in point? On Monday night, just two weeks into the competition, comedians Andy Dick and D.L. Hughley showed just how serious they are about turning their reps around, and it was a treat to behold the ballroom comebacks.
Actually, Andy's week-one performance wasn't really a problem for a first effort; he outshined several competitors. But one thing was obvious -- he was scared. The rehabbed celeb shared his fear of the ballroom and of the bottle, and the fright showed on the dance floor.
For his second performance, it was like a new man hit the stage. Dressed as the Mad Hatter and claw-dancing through Lady GaGa's "Poker Face," Andy's jazz routine entertained and raised his personal bar. Of course, he still has room for lots of improvement, but his newfound confidence and his daring approach put him way ahead of some (such as Ingo Rademacher and Sean Lowe, both of whom matched Andy's score of 20 points for less impressive routines).
As for D.L., although the judges were unduly cruel in how they delivered their reviews last time, the truth is he was just awful in week one. In fact, had he simply come out and not delivered the worst dance of the night on Monday, it would have been considered a big improvement.
But he did more than that. After a tough round of rehearsals -- featuring plenty of expletives and more than one remark about his "humiliating" treatment from head judge Len Goodman and the gang -- D.L. put his all into a quickstep that wouldn't have seemed possible just last week.
"It doesn't matter where you start," Len said, remarking that it's all about improvement.
Then again, Len's comments might have made more sense if he and the other judges didn't follow them up with a score of just 16 points. Those odd marks put D.L. two points behind three lesser dancers -- Wynonna Judd, who slowly moved her way through a quickstep; Lisa Vanderpump, whose jive lacked big kicks and solid footwork; and Victor Ortiz, who proved he really needs to find his own comeback after giving the jive a try.
Of course, some contestants didn't need a comeback at all. Last week's leaderboard topper, Zendaya, continued to wow with a fast, precise jive that earned her 26 points and praise from the panel.
"A star is born -- big time," Bruno Tonioli told her.
But someone else is hot on that star's heels.
Kellie Pickler, who showed promise with her cha-cha-cha last week, completely won over the judges with a modern jazz routine that showed off her near-perfect form. Carrie Ann Inaba called it "freakin' amazing," and the others must have agreed -- after all, she earned 26 for the dance.
Relying less on form and more on fun, Super Bowl champ Jacoby Jones wowed the crowd with one heck of jazz number. The slightly goofy dance -- which got him 23 points -- played to his personality and showed that he can get the audience out of their seats. (And it was certainly more entertaining than the fine but forgetful 24-point quickstep Aly Raisman delivered.)
Firmly in the back of the pack was for figure-skating great Dorothy Hamill. The gold-medalist was feeling pain in rehearsal thanks to a cyst and accompanying nerve pain, and when it counted, it showed in her jive. Missed marks and sloppy steps dominated the 15-point dance and left the judges little choice but to kindly mention all of the problems.
To Dorothy's credit, when Len heard boos for his criticism, she defended him.
"It's true," she told the crowd of her shortcomings.
That was it for Monday's ballroom action. As for what's to come Tuesday night, someone's got to go. Will it be D.L., whose combined score for both weeks landed him in last place despite his turnaround? Or will Dorothy go for a more flubbed routine? Frankly, there are plenty of far from perfect hoofer hopefuls who won't be able to rest easy while they wait to find out the results.
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