"Dancing with the Stars": Ricki Lake floats; Nancy Grace sinks

In this Sept. 7, 2011 photo, Chaz Bono, right, and his dance partner Lacey Schwimmer laugh while rehearsing for the upcoming season of "Dancing of the Stars" in Los Angeles. The new season of "Dancing with the Stars" premieres Monday, Sept. 19 on ABC. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
Matt Sayles
Chaz Bono, right, and his dance partner Lacey Schwimmer laugh while rehearsing fin the Los Angeles studio. His mother, Cher, was in the audience Monday night.
Matt Sayles

And so the stars went to movies-- to dance to music from films that featured, well, real stars as opposed to Rob Kardashian.

First on the cast list was Chynna Phillips, dancing to "Mission Impossible". That might seem like an absurd sentence, but this whole competition is an absurd sentence.

Pictures: "Dancing with the Stars" Season 13

You can tell that by the footage from the rehearsals: Phillips was heard to utter the cliché: "This week is huge for us." Yes, fail, and shame will rain down upon her to such a degree that she would no longer be able to hold on.

Phillips' partner, Tony Dovolani, channeled his inner, larger Tom Cruise, as he descended on a cable, ready to steal the jewels, her heart or, at least, the show.

Sadly, this tango (I think) turned out to be Mission Mechanical. Phillips moved as if she were a member of Gary Numan's Tubeway Army or Devo. (Oh, Google them.)

She seemed to forget her steps. She seemed to forget where she was. She seemed not to remember a single thing she might have learned in rehearsals. It was as if she had been replaced by a particularly empty-headed replicant.

This was Mission Not-Even-Passable.

"It all went up the Swannee River," said head judge Len Goodman. "You panicked."

"You were slash-and-burn hot, but you lost the plot," said judge Bruno Tonioli.

This was a Chynna that even Google might feel sorry for.

David Arquette, so fortunate to still be on the show, was reminded by partner Kym Johnson that he was a movie star. Perhaps, we needed reminding of that too.

His paso doble was to the tune of "Raiders of the Lost Ark".

Arquette claims to be dyslexic. He claimed not to be able to tell left from right. He swung in on a rope from the right and proceeded to wander left, right and center through movements that seemed to resemble Arnold Schwarznegger in the gym. His arms were stiff. His legs were stiff. His eyebrows were rigid. His face was panic-stricken. If this man were in search of buried treasure, he would have come back with a banana skin and some cheese rind.

For reasons that defy the eyes, brain and psyche, the judges seemed impressed.

"I love the way you crack your whip," declared Tonioli, standing to attention. He complimented Arquette's tight muscles and tight pants.

Carrie Ann Inaba gushed with sexual enthusiasm.

Oddly, Goodman came to the rescue. "For me, it was all Temple of Doom," he said. He explained that Arquette's body was all over the place and that his feet were "stomping". Arquette tried to object. Goodman said he stomped like a farmer. Worse, he claimed he never saw any sign of Arquette having tight buttocks. So there.

Carson Kressley knows what fashions make buttocks look tight and what fashions make backsides sag.

His task this week was to dance a waltz to music from "Pirates of the Caribbean", which was akin to asking Britney Spears to perform a little Verdi aria.

Kressley's choreography involved a little sword-fighting and, given his considerable lack of co-ordination, it was no surprise that his perfectly puffed lips suffered a blow from partner Anna Trebunskaya's improvisational stick in rehearsals.

Kressley sported a blonde beard, rather than a black one. His waltz seemed to comprise hopping, rather than gliding. It was as if a choreographer had taken one look at him and declared: "What shall we do with the drunken sailor?"

It was again, though, so very entertaining, in the way that encouraging a stripper to kiss the groom at a bachelor party is entertaining.

Kressley is such a delight that you forget that there are supposed to be steps, movements and body positions. Instead, one tends to see a gaping mouth, startled eyes and feet searching for solid ground. And one likes it.

"It was like being on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, but weirder," opined a strangely tearless Inaba. "This was your most butch performance."

However, his technique seemed to give her something akin to hemorrhoids.

"It was like childbirth," offered Goodman. "Terrible while it's happening and a joy when it's over."

Tonioli explained that Kressley had finally revealed the truth about Jack Sparrow--that he was a gay blade.

Nancy Grace is an entirely different, sharper kind of blade. Her partner, Tristan McManus, wanted her to be as big as possible. He wanted aggression. This was, after all, (supposed to be) the paso doble.

The song was from "Flash". Grace flashed some thigh and some highly furrowed eyebrows.

At the end of a tightly-wound performance-- during which, at several stages, one wondered whether she was being played by Ricky Gervais-- Grace collapsed in something of a heap.

This was clearly not in the choreography and may well have merely been caused by exhaustion brought on by excessive tension.

"I can't get excited because it's not exciting," moaned Goodman.

"Nancy, you've got to become a ball-breaker out here," snittered Tonioli.

Hope Solo had to dance to something from "Toy Story". Solo was tetchy in rehearsals. She claimed to be a perfectionist. It was hard not to imagine that her partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, was getting just a little tired of this classic uptight American act.

Their foxtrot was a strangely jolly affair. Solo's feet were sometimes unsure, but her smile was very firmly planted on her face all the way through.

"That was so lovely," said Tonioli.

"I get frustrated," whined Goodman. Why? Well, because Solo could go all the way, but he thinks she's not working hard enough. The uptight goalkeeper isn't working hard enough? That might affect her sleep.

"Keeping Up With the Kardashians" can affect anyone's sleep. Little brother Rob was asked to dance to the theme from "Superman", which suggested that at least one producer has s sense of irony.

"I don't have a life outside of this," he said of this competition. Some might wonder whether he did before this competition.

Kardashian performed this paso doble like Clark Kent after a visit to the proctologist. He expressed all the masculinity of baking powder, which doesn't mean his was the worst dance of the night, or, indeed, his worst dance of the competition.

He did tend to stick his belly out as if he'd not eaten for a while, but his effort was whole-hearted, even if his technique was whole-Jerry Springered.

"There is something about the way you move," gushed Inaba. She found him male.

"I can't go into raptures about it," gruffed Goodman. "When you were going around, it was like a waiter offering hors d'oeuvres."

This was, perhaps Goodman's greatest night ever as a judge. It was as if he'd been infected with a peculiar strain of uplifting objectivity.

Many imagined that Ricki Lake was the one who had been infected with a peculiar strain of insider dealing, on entering this extravaganza. After all, she'd been in "Hairspray". This included quite some dancing.

She would have to display quite some dancing when executing a tango to the music from "Psycho".

She did. Black clad, like her partner Derek Hough, Lake showed astounding body control. Not only were her steps precise, but her face and torso offered just the requisite amount of fright-- in a good way.

She did, however, get stabbed at the end. It was just play-acting, but even Dr.Phil in the audience looked frightened. And she hadn't even told him her problems.

"This was a blockbusting performance, worthy of three sequels," waffled Tonioli.

Both he and Inaba offered her the maximum score. Which was slightly psycho, but only slightly.

Chaz Bono loved the underdog movie "Rocky". Appropriate, then, that this was to be his theme music for the night. This was the paso doble, so Bono needed to show his aggressive side, should he have one.

He emerged in boxing gloves and a boxer's dressing gown. He tried to float like a butterfly. But this was like trying to get a Teletubby to play Mike Tyson. Bono is simply too nice, too decent to make you believe he would punch you in the chops.

But, to mom Cher's cheers, he tried his little heart out.

"You keep coming back, you keep fighting," said Tonioli, diplomatically.

Inaba was in tears. "Somehow you get under my skin. You make me root for you," she said.

"It was your best dance to date," encouraged Goodman.

J.R. Martinez really is a dancer. His Pink Panther foxtrot was elegant, refined and fluid, even if he was wearing an entirely pink outfit.

"I thought it was OK," said Inaba. "For some reason, this performance fell a little flat for me. You didn't need the humor."

I am sure some directors must have said that to Peter Sellers once or twice.

"This was the best male dance of the night," countered Goodman, suggesting that Inaba was two steps short of a waltz and a continent removed from humor.

Once the dancing is over, though, it's down to the dancers' popularity. In the actual dancing, there is a vast chasm between the good and the rest. But who might have the smallest following? Surely, not Rocky.



  • Chris Matyszczyk

    Chris has been a multi award-winning executive creative director with some of the most celebrated advertising agencies in the world. His creative work has been recognized at the Cannes Advertising Festival, the New York Festivals, Clio, the One Show, as well as many other festivals around the world. His writing has appeared in such publications as the Financial Times, the European, the Sacramento Bee and The Singapore Press Holdings Group.

    He currently advises major global companies about content creation and marketing, through his company Howard Raucous LLC.

    He brings an irreverent, sarcastic, and sometimes ironic voice to the tech world.