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Rats! Ratzenberger sent home on ‘Dancing’

A predictable night is made more fun by Kenny Mayne and Jerry Rice, who give their take on all the contestants. By Linda Holmes
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

On Monday night’s “Dancing With The Stars” (ABC, Mondays/Tuesdays), the six remaining dancers were separated by the judges’ scores into three clear tiers: Laila Ali and Joey Fatone on top, Apolo Anton Ohno and Ian Ziering in the middle, and John Ratzenberger and Billy Ray Cyrus at the bottom. Tuesday’s results show certainly seemed like it had to be anticlimactic, in that the bottom two seemed like a foregone conclusion. And in the end, they were, sending John home.

At the top of the results show, Laila and Maksim Chmerkovskiy were invited to repeat their samba, which was just as much fun as it had been on Monday. The last time network television showed a woman with actual muscles and flesh baring her legs two nights in a row was probably sometime during the last Olympics, so Laila’s athletic form of beauty is very welcome.

After the encore dance came the first musical segment. There are a few musicians’ names that you probably don’t immediately associate with ballroom dancing, and one of them is Meat Loaf. His appearance singing “Bat Out Of Hell” while six professional dancers attempted to make sequins and bodysuits look at home on stage with him was intensely weird.

In fact, it was almost as weird as his appearance on “American Idol” last season, when he looked close to collapse. This was a perfect example of the kind of segment that never works on “Dancing,” because the dancers look uncomfortable, the entire thing seems forced, and the musician seems resentful that he’s reduced to being there.

An interview segment with Joey and Ian looked pretty dull until, in return for Joey’s remark on Monday mocking Ian for being too serious, Ian faux-earnestly stated that Joey has it all, and was obviously “the driving force behind ’N Sync. Justin who?” Ouch! You tell him, Ian.

Kenny and Jerry: A winning teamPrevious celebrity contestants Kenny Mayne and Jerry Rice then appeared in a “sky box” to provide “DanceCenter” commentary along with Len Goodman. The sports-style coverage was a lot more fun than you might expect, as when they gave the stats on each celebrity’s shoe size.

Kenny is a good choice of commentator for this kind of thing, and to give one example, his flat-out declaration that “women hate” Cheryl Burke and will vote against her was pretty funny. Kenny called Joey a “ham,” which is true, and one of the pieces of trivia offered up on Joey was that he was “no longer the FAT ONE.”

The telestrator circling of Joey’s butt was a cheap joke, but it was executed with a great deal of charm. All in all, this was a highly successful segment, much better than the vast majority of pieces of filler they come up with. More Kenny and Jerry, every week!

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We then learned that Laila and Maks would be moving on to the next round, which was not surprising. We also learned that John and Edyta Sliwinska were in the bottom two, which was also not surprising. With 40 minutes of results show left, it seemed like there was nothing left but waiting for Billy Ray to be called to join John in the bottom two.

A parade of young dancers — some under 10 years old — was utterly charming. It was occasionally a little strange watching sexy moves from the very youngest ones, but several of the others were a hoot to watch. The choice of “Boogie Shoes” to accompany them was brilliant, because nobody doesn’t like “Boogie Shoes,” and it was silly enough to keep the segment from becoming annoyingly precocious.

A round of interviews backstage once again made Billy Ray look resigned and made Joey look kind of cocky and annoying. There’s little that the contestants can say at this point that doesn’t make them look ridiculous, especially in a situation like this where it’s widely agreed who the worst dancer is, and all that’s left is to see whether or not the audience imposes a meritocracy. What can you say but “it has to be Billy Ray”?

A welcome return to Kenny and Jerry brought the crowning of John as “J-Rat,” which would have been a great moniker to discover earlier in the season, when it would have done us all more good. Len also told us that “success comes in cans, not can’ts.” A discussion of Billy Ray allowed Kenny to show his unsurprising sympathy for people who are not born dancers (he wasn’t one, either), while the discussion of Apolo brought the wonderful factoid:  “Born with the goatee.”

More Loaf? Really?Meat Loaf returned for a performance of his new single, along with professional dancers. All previous Meat Loaf-related comments applied equally to this performance, despite the fact that this was a slow song with hilariously overdone lighting effects, rather than a scream anthem like “Bat Out Of Hell.” Meat Loaf really isn’t meant for this kind of gig, and his management should take note.

And now, it was time for Jimmy Kimmel and the charming Guillermo to learn the cha-cha. This week, however, after a couple of oddball dream-sequence jokes, which ended with Guillermo and Jimmy in bed with Tom Bergeron (don’t ask), there was ultimately no demonstration of the cha-cha at all. Sometimes, you have to know when not to dance.

The next announcement of status went to Apolo and Julianne Hough, who learned that they were safe. Again, not a surprise. Obviously, it wasn’t going to be Joey and Kym Johnson in the bottom two when they were tied for the top of the judges’ leader board, so it was down to Ian and Cheryl and Billy Ray and Karina Smirnoff. Could “90210” topple Billy Ray’s apparently unflappable fans?

There was a slight delay in resolving this issue to allow the audience to speak. The audience segment featured Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling putting in a good word for Ian, of course. Cheech Marin had a few kind words for J.Rat, and a handful of other folks spoke out for their favorites. If it were a contest for the largest number of famous people arguing on your behalf, Ian would run away with it.

When they returned to announcing results, Ian was indeed safe. Billy Ray and Karina were in the bottom two, meaning that Joey and Kym were safe.

When it came to the elimination, the couple going home turned out to be John and Edyta. This was no surprise, given their previous trips to the bottom two and Billy Ray’s clearly active fans. It still represented an awfully good showing for John, who agreed that he felt like he was going out on a high note. This leaves the competition with four fairly good dancers and one very bad one, and what will happen next is anybody’s guess. We can all hope, however, that it won’t involve Meat Loaf.

Linda Holmes is a writer in Bloomington, Minn.