Hmmmm. I guess that’s the best way to sum up the feelings I’m left with after watching last night’s show…just “hmmmm”. Ok, I guess I’ll go with the positives, first: loved the new opening credits. Definitely an improvement from the trippy kaleidoscopic intros of years past, or the complete lack of opening credits the past few years. I also thought all the celebs gave it their best shot – there were no D.L. Hughley’s or Master P’s that were out there not even trying. Even if some of them kinda missed the mark – I applaud everyone for sticking with it and not phoning it in. The costuming was a positive, too – I actually found myself liking quite a bit of it (major props to Kym, Sharna, & Witney, who all looked spot-on last night!)
Aaaaand the negatives – I guess the big one for me was the scoring. I’m happy to be wrong about the judges whipping out the “9” paddles in a fit of excitement; however, there still seemed to be quite a bit of disparity between the quality of dance I was seeing and the scores being given for each dance. Definite high & low-balling (we’ll get into that later). Then there was the fact that somehow time got away from them, and they were left absolutely scrambling at the end of the show – to the point where I don’t think anyone had any time to do anything but heap praise on Rumer and begin the “it’s Val’s season” narrative. I like the season to develop its own narrative, thankyouverymuch…don’t need one to be pre-chosen for me. If they’re really THAT good, it will show – you don’t really need to drive the point home with OTT praise and subtle pimping.
1.) Rumer & Val – Just putting this out there: had Derek (or any other pro, really) performed this exact same routine, he would have gotten ripped a new one by not only the judges, but the viewers. Yes, the song wasn’t very foxtrot-y, but at the same time, Val is not the only pro that has gotten saddled with a song that wasn’t exactly dance appropriate, and the others took their lumps when called out on non-dance-appropriate choreography. While Rumer danced what she was given very well, I think they should both thank their lucky stars that there was so little time left in the show by the time they danced that Len didn’t get a chance to throw his usual “what was on the label wasn’t in the tin” lecture. Rumer did very, very well – but I have to wonder whether the narrative that seemed to be set up last night (“Rumer’s the one to beat! Val, this could be your season!”) is going to help her or hurt her in the long run. With Nastia & Riker being every bit as good as Rumer (and Michael nipping at their heels), I think it’s going to be a good fight this season – just hope the storyboarding doesn’t get in the way. And just judging from some of the tension I saw in their rehearsal package – I’m predicting at least one of them storming out of rehearsal at some point this season. Rumer seems like the type that isn’t going to take a whole lot of crap from her partner…which I kinda like. :-)
2.) Nastia & Derek – Unfortunately for Nastia, I think TPTB had already determined that Rumer was to be the “golden girl” of last night’s show, and consequently, Nastia was relegated to a lukewarm, middle-of-the-night running order and a pickier critique for a routine that was every bit as good as Rumer’s. Had they switched the running order to Rumer in the middle and Nastia at the end – I think THIS would be the routine everyone would be gushing about. Funny how much running order can play a role in how a routine is perceived. Loved the energy level of this foxtrot, and the fact that it was a bona fide, Broadway-inspired foxtrot. If I had one critique, it’s that Nastia did look like she adopted the stoic, almost blank-faced gymnast’s expression from time to time – and that’s a complaint I’ve had about every single gymnast they’ve had on the show. So I guess showmanship is something she should work on, because the technique is there. Demographics-wise, I think she may have the edge over Rumer – Olympic gymnast seems to trump “daughter of two Hollywood heavyweights” in terms of voter appeal, if we look at the history of the show. Then again, if there are enough lemmings that buy into the “Val has never won, let him win!” philosophy that the show is already pushing, it could turn the precedent on its head. Food for thought.
3.) Riker & Allison – After watching these two tonight, I’m predicting that I’m going to have a bit of a hard time with them this season. Why? Because I actually feel like Riker might be more experienced in ballroom & Latin than Allison. His jive technique is fantastic – he was kicking and flicking and bouncing at the skill level of an amateur Latin dancer competing at least at the silver syllabus level. Allison, while not terrible, felt quite a bit heavier on her feet to me – and I feel like that’s really the dividing line between someone with some sort of mastery of jive vs. someone who’s still learning: the former can look incredibly light on their feet; the latter tends to look a bit more…deliberate. I also thought Allison’s choreography was a tad repetitive – and I think I had similar complaints about her choreography for Jonathan last season. I just still feel like she’s not on-par with the experience level of the other pros on the show – she needs a few more years of polish before I feel like she’ll even be in the same ballpark. Riker? No major complaints here, other than the fact that needs need to wash his hair and stop trying to downplay his dance experience. I still think the major sticking point in this pairing for me, though, is going to be Allison.
4.) Michael & Peta – Ok, Michael was pretty damn good – definitely better than Robert, who scored a full 2 points higher. But man – why were the judges so damn fixated on his feet??? I get it, they need work – but for f*ck’s sake, it’s week 1. I’m happy if they can just remember their doggone choreography and manage to at least look like they’re having some degree of fun while dancing it! I have to wonder if, like Redfoo, the judges decided that they needed to keep Michael’s score from getting too high – and so they decided to fixate on one rather minute facet of the routine and just really harp on it. Saw some good hip action here, and he managed to actually keep up with Peta’s energy level – I think he’s got potential, for sure, and he seems like a REALLY hard worker, which I can appreciate. I could see him being kind of a cross between Donald & Jacoby – a hard-working nice guy like the former, but with the showmanship and natural groove of the latter. Michael gained a fan in me tonight. :-)
5.) Noah & Sharna – If I was in awe of Amy two seasons ago and how she was able to manage with two prosthetic legs, then my mind was absolutely blown last night with how Noah handled his cha-cha with a bionic knee and no left arm to lead with. I also have to credit Sharna with coming up with some clever choreography to distract from the fact that Noah has no arm. I think the part I loved most was the fact that he & Sharna have such SYNERGY – they know how to make the most of their partnership, and how to compliment each other’s teaching/learning styles. I think this is going to be a very good learning/growth experience for both of them – will definitely be interesting to see how they’re able to handle Noah’s new prosthetic arm. I just hope that they’re able to get past the fact that Noah is an amputee and are able to appreciate him as a good dancer, period – not just “a good dancer, for being an amputee”.
6.) Willow & Mark – Like a lot of others, I’m left without a whole lot to say about these two – it was an odd, non-event cha-cha for me, unfortunately. And I’m not even so sure that it was just because they went first – I think this dance probably would have gotten lost in the shuffle anywhere in the show. This just seemed uncharacteristically low-energy for Marc – even his week 1 cha-chas usually come out of the gate strong, but this choreography seemed to lack impact. I’m not sure if he’s having to reign himself in due to Willow’s age or what, or he’s just trying not to overwhelm her, but I was left feeling pretty “meh” about the whole thing. Willow isn’t BAD; but she’s definitely no Sadie, and I just think her lack of maturity making it hard for her to really sell the dance. This, unfortunately, could be an ongoing problem this season – she just doesn’t have the experience necessary to really sell these dances convincingly. I think Mark has his work cut out for him.
7.) Suzanne & Tony – Despite getting off-time and maybe coming across a bit timid, I think Suzanne actually showed some potential last night – the steps were there; they just need a little more panache behind them. And like some of the other couples that probably fell victim to props and set-ups, I think the Thighmaster bit at the beginning wasted a little too much time and interrupted the momentum of the routine. I actually really like her and Tony together – and to Tony’s credit, he’s actually become kind of awesome the past few seasons, really embracing the idea of “the journey” on the show for his celeb and not focusing so much on “win, win, win”. I actually think Suzanne could have some staying power this season, if she can shake of the nerves and not get caught up in any gimmicks that production might try to con her into – please, no more Thighmaster references. Although Suzanne’s thighs do look FANTASTIC. :-)
8.) Patti & Artem – Given that I had heard that Patti was “really struggling” in rehearsals, I was actually pleasantly surprised that she managed to make it through her dance last night without any major struggles. Granted, it was some verrrrrry basic choreography – “Walk-walk-walk-POSE! Walk-walk-walk-TURN!” as Mama Spence described it :-P But she stayed on-time, she didn’t stumble all over her feet, and she sold the dance pretty well (aside from a few bewildered facial expressions). I think the big struggle Artem is gonna have with Patti this season is just helping her to remember her choreography – as Patti reminded us multiple times last night, she’s 70 years old, and might not be quite as quick to pick up steps. I don’t think she’ll necessarily be a contender this season, but I also don’t see her being absolutely terrible, either – as long as Artem doesn’t try to throw too much her at once.
9.) Robert & Kym – I’m wondering if there was a bit of a “Yay, Kym’s back!!!” kind of high at the judges table, because while I was thoroughly-entertained and enjoyed this cha-cha, I have to admit – it was overscored, especially with respect to Michael, who I thought had more difficult choreography and better mastery of it. I think the appeal of these two lies more in the fact that they’re so daggone nice and pleasant to watch interacting. I doubt they’re going to be one of the huge contenders in terms of skill, but they could stick around for awhile as one of the “warm fuzzy” couples. Can’t recall too much about Robert’s dancing – admittedly, I was more fixated on Kym and her rad costume – but I’m going to venture a guess that, like most of the other male competitors this year, his feet and his hip action probably need some work. Guess I’ll just pay more attention next week :-)
10.) Chris & Witney – I think the way I described Chris on Twitter last night was “what he lacks in musicality, he more than makes up for in heart” – and it’s true: he may not be a natural dancer, but he works HARD. And he actually didn’t do too shabby with this jive – sure, his feet could use some work, and the posture wasn’t stellar, but he still managed to stay on top of the beat and look like he was having fun. Thought the choreography was cute, and while I wasn’t a huge fan of the truck as a prop, I don’t think they relied too heavily on it. Loved the country theme, too – Witney looked adorable. Ultimately, though, I think he may get lost in the shuffle when the competition really heats up – and I’m having a hard time telling if the viewing demographic is suffering from Bachelor oversaturation or not. Time will tell.
11.) Redfoo & Emma – Really kind of puzzled as to why this one got raked over the coals like he did – sure, there was quite a bit of “messin’ about” in his routine, but I think he stayed on-time and managed to churn out a pretty entertaining dance. He was certainly better than Charlotte, so I felt like he was underscored relative to her; I also feel like he kept up better (and was more energetic) than Suzanne, so he should have been scored more on-par with her. I’m not sure if they were trying to make an example of him as the “don’t be messin’ about too much!” poster child or what, but this score (and Michael’s) were the two biggest head-scratchers of the evening for me. I think Foo should be ok next week, because Charlotte doesn’t seem to have much of a fanbase at all, but I kinda wonder just how many people are actually voting for Redfoo – seems like a demographic that doesn’t quite align with the main viewing demographic of the show.
12.) Charlotte & Keo – Ok, say what you will about “not liking Charlotte’s attitude” or “not liking how Keo acts around her” (both are legit complaints I’ve seen about them from those who’ve watched the rehearsals), but I have to give Charlotte credit for soldiering through and finishing her routine despite it going completely sideways early on, and then managing to avoid spectacularly self-destructing afterward, a la Lolo. Sure, it was off-time, limp, and kinda awkward, but she suited up and showed up – and even if she would have actually done well, I think the writing was unfortunately on the wall for these two since day 1: they were bound to be an early out just due to lack of fanbase alone. Oh well – hopefully Charlotte will get to redeem herself a bit with her dance next week and at least leave on a high note. I really didn’t have any issues with her – call it “busty gal solidarity” or whatever, but I was kinda rooting for Charlotte on the inside :-)
So those are my thoughts on last night’s show – what are yours?