You could be forgiven for having believed that the next time you heard someone say it was Joey Lawrence Night, they would be referring to an ’80s theme event where everyone wore stone-washed denim and impersonated Joey Lawrence. But Tuesday was Joey Lawrence Night on “Dancing With The Stars” (Tuesdays/Wednesdays, 8:00 p.m. ET), and there was no mockery involved. Well, not much, anyway.
For the second week in a row, in what is threatening to become a pattern, the men (who did the quickstep) seemed to dominate the women (who did the mambo), and Joey dominated most of all. In a sharp green-accented suit, he completed a dance so closely resembling the Platonic ideal of a “Dancing” quickstep that he received a 9 and two 10s — impressive so early in the season. Not only did Joey do the traditional elements of the dance substantially better than any of the other men, but he got away with — it must be admitted — an adorable flourish by adding a short taste of the tap dancing he swears he last practiced at five years old.
Not getting away with the taking of such liberties was Mario Lopez, last week’s technical standout, who got so caught up in showing off his slick moves that he forgot that most of them actually weren’t part of a quickstep. He found himself roundly punished by the judges because, of course, it is important to guard against the show turning into less than a perfectly pure dance competition. Mario plummeted to the back part of the pack after seeming last week to be a favorite, and this will be the moment where he learns how much fan support he has to prop him up when his scores sag.
The sentimental favorite from a sad-sack standpoint had to be Jerry Springer, whose professional partner, Kym, suffered a significant knee injury mid-week. Jerry earned class points for reassuring to Kym that it probably wasn’t worth damaging her knee and her career for the sake of what is, after all, “Dancing With The Stars.” Kym came through nevertheless, and she and Jerry completed an unconventional (“The Quickstep! Now With More Crotch-Kicking!”) but somehow appropriate routine. Jerry may not have talent, but he seems to be trying, and his sense of humor about his own unlikely resilience will almost surely earn him another week or two.
Smith doesn’t live up to expectationsLast week’s surprise was Emmitt Smith, who has proved to be remarkably light on his feet for a guy who used to get his ribs crushed for a living. This week’s quickstep was not quite as good, in part because Emmitt has made the mistake of raising expectations. The rehearsal footage, which is usually dull, revealed that Emmitt struggled with the stiff-shouldered posture that the quickstep requires, in part because he was used to dropping his shoulders to run with a football. Cheryl strapped him into a torture device that looked oddly like a Thighmaster to hold his body in place during practice. It was easy to see during their dance that he had those shoulders locked, so apparently, Cheryl knows what she’s doing.
Maybe the most interesting case among the men was Harry Hamlin, who was so wooden last week that he could have been whittled into a pipe. This week, partner Ashly called in a practitioner of “laughter yoga” to force Harry to guffaw unnaturally in an effort to improve his demeanor. Honestly, Harry still looks almost as stiff as before. What is remarkable, though, is that it is evident that he has no rhythm. None. Zero. Nevertheless, he has applied himself with complete sincerity to the task of learning to dance. He executed a competent quickstep, if not an especially lively one.
It may have been a mediocre performance, but considering that he’s a guy who clearly couldn’t stomp his feet in time with “We Will Rock You,” it speaks well of him that he can do most of such a punchy, carefully timed dance through sheer force of will, concentration, and training. Harry is probably performing above his natural affinity for dancing more than anyone else in the competition, because his natural affinity for dancing certainly appears to be a negative number.
Creating sparks?Among the women, the highest scores went to Monique Coleman, who resolved last week’s lack of “chemistry” with partner Louis by accompanying him on the world’s most awkward gondola ride. The ride looked like a real bust, but during the dance, Monique was speedy and sexy, and she sure was covered with glitter. She lost the beat from time to time, but the judges found her work so hot that they gave her an 8 and two 9s.
Vivica Fox had a strong week as well. Her mambo may not have been as fast as Monique’s, but she and her partner Nick have a certain easy, slightly more mature presentation that compensates for the lack of speed. The beginning of their dance seemed to lack energy, but as it went on, she seemed to be having more and more fun.
The technique did lag a little — Judge Len used Vivica’s performance as his opportunity for one of his unseemly and insulting metaphors. This time, he claimed that the dance was like a pizza, with a hot top half and a “doughy” bottom half. Ouch. It is that kind of comment that makes one wish Len had to deliver his comments while standing up and wearing tights
Moakler most likely to go homeCountry singer Sara Evans scored low last week but was saved by her fans, and they may need to rally for her again. Though her energy improved from last week, Len nailed it when he said, “You dance too carefully.” She seems to be forever counting in her head, and in a dance that benefits from speed and the appearance of sexy spontaneity, Sara’s every hair-flip and hand flourish seemed to be planned, mapped, and labeled. “Wiggle fingers here.” “Touch hair now.” It was not an effective approach.
At the other end of the spectrum was the eager-to-please Willa Ford, who was Evans’ opposite in that she scored well last week with the judges but was dumped near the bottom by the fan voting. It’s hard to overdo a mambo, but Ford seemed to be mugging and hair-shaking and making out with nothing in particular during most of the dance. She seemed to be trying to sell herself as an entertainer, but she overshot and wound up exhausting.
But the leading candidate for the exit this week is probably Shanna Moakler, who scored a point higher than Sara but seemed sluggish and distracted. It didn’t help that she repeatedly interrupted the dance to clear strands of hair out of her mouth, probably casting light on one reason that a lot of dancers wear their hair tied back. Shanna is trying hard, and she seems to be a nice person with a lot of an appeal, but there was something about her performance that seemed unlikely to inspire fans. Ford outscored her by a single point, but one of the two of them would seem to be the most likely to go.
Anything can happen, it turns out, on Joey Lawrence Night.
Linda Holmes is a writer in Bloomington, Minn.