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Celebs continue to trip over feet on ‘Dancing’

There's a natural expectation during any given season of "Dancing With the Stars" that you're going to see progress. Not this time.
/ Source: contributor

There's a natural expectation during any given season of "Dancing With the Stars" that you're going to see progress. People start out not knowing how to dance, and then they get better at dancing. That's the story viewers are supposed to be watching.

Not this season.

Four weeks into the competition, everyone is dancing almost exactly as they did at the beginning of the season. Consider this: Last season in the fourth week, seven out of 11 competitors remaining scored higher than a 21, and in "Dancing" parlance, its the score that means, "Eh, that was fine."

This season, with nine stars remaining and each of them getting two different scores this week — one technical and one for "performance" for their rumbas and tangos — only three of them managed to beat a 21 on both parts: perennial favorites Nicole Scherzinger and Evan Lysacek, along with Pamela Anderson, whose tendency to pooch out her lips and make as many sexy faces as possible won over the judges on an overpraised rumba.

Or try it this way: This season, over the first four weeks, the overall average judges' score only improved from a 19 to a 20.6. Last season, from the first week to the fourth, the average score on individual dances went from an 18.4 to a 22. The dancing was improving. Yes, that's partly because they started with a bigger cast and dumped weaker couples faster, but whatever the reason, there was more good dancing relative to the amount of not-so-good dancing.

This season, there's little improvement. In fact, one of the only people who could plausibly claim real improvement this week is Chad Ochocinco, a charming and appealing guy with a nice sense of music but not much technical ability. He doesn't dance particularly well, but has at least started standing up straight with his rumba. The other, believe it or not, is Kate Gosselin, who excelled this week by laying down a tango that was almost certainly her least eyeball-gouging performance so far. Hers is a "nowhere to go but up" kind of improvement, but at least it's something.

Everybody else — Jake Pavelka, Niecy Nash, Erin Andrews and Aiden Turner — plugs along, changing little from week to week. Jake will always be very committed and a complete stiff. Niecy will always be told in vague terms that something in her performance doesn't translate because the judges don't know how to say, "You look nothing like Pamela Anderson, and when you act sexy, it freaks us out." Erin will always be precise and pretty but slightly awkward looking around the elbows and knees, and Aiden will always try to perform the entire dance using a series of dramatic squints.

As for the current leaders, Nicole will always be polished, Evan will always be eager and will lose a point here and there for his feet, and Pamela will continue to play a caricature of herself in every single dance she does because it's the only way she seems to feel comfortable.

There's not necessarily anything wrong with a good chunk of this cast, but right now, nothing is happening. Does anybody really expect Jake to locate an untapped well of talent, hit the mother lode and pass Evan? Does anybody think Aiden has movable hips he just hasn't found yet? Is Kate going to stop walking and start dancing through the whole performance?

Part of it — as we've discussed here before — is the dumb decision to cast Nicole, a professional dancer who doesn't belong in the competition at all and doesn't share the struggles everyone else has. Monday night, in order to camouflage her advantage, the judges resorted to nonsensical comments about how she was clearly nervous and off her game before giving her 8s and 9s, placing her two scant points behind Evan, who was the scoring leader for the second week in a row.

Right now, the celebrities seem out of sorts, the pros seem frustrated and the judges seem bored. Everybody's grumpy and nobody's having fun except for Chad and his partner, Cheryl Burke, who are amusing themselves by keeping everyone guessing about the exact nature of their relationship (emphasized this week by the ginormous diamond ring he bought her as a "thank you" gift).

The competition needs movement. Somebody needs to get better, even if it's unlikely they'll ever pass Nicole. Somebody needs to do something you wouldn't expect, or something they didn't seem capable of before, or something that's wildly inventive. Because right now, as a competition, the season is a snooze.

Linda Holmes is a frequent contributor to