It’s official: the 90-minute weekly editions of “Dancing With The Stars” (ABC, Thursdays, 8 p.m. ET) are intolerably long. We are down to five couples. The dances aren’t more than two minutes. That means that of the 90 minutes, about 10 are spent on the dances people tune in to see. That is not very much dancing, and it’s a whole lot of everything else.
The “everything else” this week included the staff of professionals demonstrating all the dances that would be done during the show. While it’s fun to see the pros dance, these dances have been illustrated before. The answer to all this is simple: Make the show shorter.
The show was 10 minutes in before things got underway with Jerry Rice and his partner, Anna. They didn’t like their scores for last week’s samba and were looking to rebound with the paso doble. But as lovable as Jerry is, and as endearing as it was to see him rehearsing while attending the Super Bowl, he was in over his head with the paso doble. His posture has improved dramatically since the early part of the season, but his steps didn’t have enough snap. There is stomping in the paso doble, and Jerry didn’t seem quite up to it. While the judges had kind words for his effort, he repeated his poor scores from last week. And this time, he didn’t seem all that surprised.
Drew and Cheryl came next with a tango. Their rehearsal footage was also football-oriented, as Cheryl refused to let Drew frolic with his wife and brother (Nick Lachey, who knows a little something about being trapped in an awkward TV couple) until he finished his homework.
Drew and Cheryl’s most charming moment of the week came when Drew complained that it was unfair that the judges constantly nagged him about hunching his shoulders up. He insisted that he didn’t have hunched shoulders — just a short neck. Cheryl was having none of it, and after trying to duplicate his hunch in the mirror, she told him two things — “Pull them back. Then down.” And that was the magic formula by which Drew got his shoulders down. Or possibly grew a longer neck.
Their tango was sexy, slithering, and marvelous. Drew is the only celebrity man the show has perhaps ever had who looks like he’s leading rather than watching his partner flail and flourish the way poor Ashly used to with Master P. Drew and Cheryl were thrilled to get three perfect 10s, a week after Stacy and Tony did the same.
George Hamilton, emphasis on the ‘ham’Next up was George Hamilton, who fretted in rehearsal that the rumba might not be “masculine” enough. Countless female fans were sent into fits of lust when Edyta brought in Alec, who paired with eventual winner Kelly Monaco last season, to teach George a little something about masculinity. Alec tried to teach George to dance with his hips, while George continued clowning.
Their rumba, while campy in the way George reliably delivers, offered little dancing. George looked very much like he was just doing whatever he felt like doing, choreography or no. He rarely offers moves you couldn’t see by getting a bank president drunk at a holiday party.
The judges fawned as usual — at least Carrie Ann, who didn’t fault the routine even though she admitted that “there could have been a little more dancing,” and Bruno, who seems to have lost all judgment on the subject of George. Len was kind enough to point out for once that George isn’t dancing most of the time, although his statement that Edyta was “flatulating around” likely raised a few eyebrows among etymologists.
The perennially weepy Lisa Rinna and her partner Louis were up next, and Lisa found the transition from the Latin dances she’s done recently to a ballroom dance like the quickstep to be worthy of — you guessed it — weeping. When she collapsed against the wall in rehearsal, Louis decided that there was only one way to comfort her: etiquette lessons. Yes, in order to pull off the elegance of a ballroom dance, His Fair Lisa had to be taught how to sip tea.
To her credit, while it surely had nothing to do with walking around with a book on her head, Lisa executed the quickstep very well. There is more to her than the hot-mama business that shone in the samba and the paso doble, and there is no one to whom it could have meant more to hear the judges say that she looked beautiful and elegant. Lisa’s exuberance at receiving praise borders on the unnerving, but it does make you root for her.
Not worthy of such fan devotion is Stacy Keibler, who returned this week, same as always, and bubbled about how much she loves dancing, same as always, and showed no personality, same as always, and danced very well, same as always. This week, as if the leering of Bruno weren’t enough to drive home that she is the leggy blonde and don't you forget it, Stacy was taken to try out her jive at Camp Pendleton in front of the troops. You’d never guess, but the Marines enjoyed the six-foot legs and the wiggling around in heels from the lady wrestler.
Stacy did a terrific jive, and she was rewarded with perfect scores across the board. But the problem with Stacy as a contestant on this show is that she is unspeakably boring. She never struggles in rehearsal. She never gets frustrated. There is no evident difference between the way she dances now and the way she danced at the beginning. Tony seems to view her primarily as a commodity, in that he can’t believe he got so lucky as to be paired with this gorgeous young thing who turns out to be a natural. There is no discernible warmth between them except what arises from their mutual gratitude for their continued high scores and continued TV exposure.
The group Viennese waltz offered little except the amusement of seeing both Jerry and Drew get filmy bits of their partners’ costumes draped on their heads in unfortunate ways — Jerry looking at one point like he was literally blindfolded by part of Anna’s dress as he spun her around.
Stacy is probably going to win. Wrestling has a large fan base, and so does the concept of being really hot. But what’s interesting is that for all the stuff about how reality television is all about seeing people humiliate themselves, this show is about rooting. It’s fun to root for Drew as he and Cheryl bicker. It’s fun to root for crazy Lisa, who just wants to look pretty and make people like her. It isn’t fun to root for Stacy, who comes off like an emotionless robot.
Any of the bottom three celebrities — George, Jerry, or Lisa — could go this week. The weirdly bulletproof nature of George Hamilton and the tenacity of the football fan, however, suggest that Lisa may have reached the end of the road. She’ll find out tomorrow night during the results show which, shockingly, is even more heavily padded than the performance shows.
Linda Holmes is a writer in Bloomington, Minn.