A new season of Dancing with the Stars has (already) begun, and this may be the most wide-open season yet. Unlike the last two seasons, there isn't a Mario Lopez, Drew Lachey or Stacy Kiebler who looked like semi-pros right from the start.
The closest thing to a ringer is Joey Fatone, who has dance experience from his N'Sync days and from some Broadway shows. Joey, unsurprisingly, was the leader after the first day with straight eights. He and his partner Kym Johnson gave a crowd-pleasing and charismatic disco/cha cha cha performance that made him the front-runner.
But not by a lot. Boxer Laila Ali turned in a surprisingly graceful and sexy foxtrot with partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy and proved to be the best female dancer after the first show. Can't wait to see what she does in the Latin dances.
Also at the top of the pack was Ian Ziering (aka Steve Sanders from 90210). Ian already has an edge just by being paired with two-time defending champion Cheryl Burke, but he proved his own worth with an entertaining cha cha cha that started off stiff but ended up quite good for the first week. One thing that was really annoying, though, was that the judges kept saying how lucky Cheryl was for having another good partner. While that is true, it also discredits Cheryl as a coach, partner and choreographer. And she seems to be one of the best, if not the best, on the show at that.
Another favorite of mine tonight was, shockingly, John Ratzenberger (Cliff from Cheers), dancing with Edyta Sliwinska. Cliff was supposed to be the old guy along the lines of Jerry Springer and George Hamilton, and even with just two weeks of training (he came in as a late sub after one of the Sopranos guys quit because it was too grueling), he did a decent job and really put his all into his dance. He really sold it performance-wise, if not technique-wise.
Olympic speed-skater Apolo Anton Ono also sold his performance, and the judges proclaimed him to be one with the most potential. With more practice time, I can see him making an impact. His 18 year-old partner Julianne, though, kind of skeeved me out with the whole 'I was star-struck. He's an Olympic gold medalist. Everything I could want ... in a partner' bit. But she wasn't nearly as skeevy as Apolo's super-fan, who proclaimed her jealousy of Julianne: "I'd do ANYTHING to be in Apolo's arms."
All the hype this season has been about Heather Mills and her artificial leg. I was pleased to see that the judges did not favor her or award her points for degree of difficulty. I'm sure she wouldn't have it any other way. Her dancing was criticized, ironically, for her upper body and arms, not her leg. She carried herself well, but that dress was fugly. I worry about her in the fast dances, but I think if her leg does fall off during a dance, she'll get so many audience votes that it won't matter. lol
The judges seemed to like Clyde Drexler, or at least seemed unwilling to tell him bad things to his face. Dude, I'd be more worried about telling Laila Ali bad things than him! They kept referring to his charm and all that, but I just didn't get it at all. Clyde the Glide was dancing like he was still trying to be cool while on this cheesy show. There were times where Emmitt Smith looked like he was at the club dancing, but he at least put some ballroom principles into it. Clyde? Not so much.
Paulina Porizkova looked better after seeing the other female competitors. At the time, I thought she looked very stiff and needed more flexibility, but she was as flexible as a rhythmic gymnast compared to Leeza Gibbons, who came out with second-rate choreographer Tony Davolani looking like she was in a grade school dance recital. I don't know who was worse - Leeza or Billy Ray Cyrus. Uhh ... actually, I'll break the tie and give it to Billy Ray for not only shamelessly plugging his CD but for dancing to his own song and for failing to pull off Karina's fake mullet in what was supposed to be a dramatic ending. Billy Ray is most definitely the Tucker Carlson/Master P of this year. You would think that musicians would be decent dancers because of their musicality and rhythm, but I guess Mr. Achy Breaky isn't really a musician. Heh.
Most likely to leave tomorrow is former Miss USA Shandi Finnessey (who?). Her dancing wasn't horrible, but it probably would have been better for her if she was horrible because there's nothing worse than being passable but dull on this show, which is what she was. If you're not going to be good on this show, you have to really train-wreck it in order to stay. Just ask Master P.