— “Dancing With the Stars” celebrated the big screen on the small screen Monday night as the cast of ballroom wannabes danced to blockbuster movie themes. That of course called for plenty of drama, props and over-the-top costumes, not that there’s anything unusual about the latter.
The theme also brought with it the potential for big fun. Too bad over the course of the night, that turned out to be a potential rarely realized.
Sure, things started off with plenty of promise when the Dance Troupe took the floor for an impressive lightsaber-wielding paso doble, but when the first celeb hit the stage, the momentum came to a grinding halt.
As one of the usual leaderboard leaders, Chynna Phillips should have had no problem pulling off an entertaining tango. However, her all-too-aptly themed “Mission: Impossible” routine fell apart shortly after pro partner Tony Dovolani fell from the ceiling — well, he sorted glided down Tom Cruise-style, but you get the idea.
Less than a minute into the number, it became clear that Phillips lost track of the choreography, panicked and simply couldn't get caught up again. The best part of the bad effort was when it mercifully came to an end.
“You were flush and you were hot, but you lost the plot,” Bruno Tonioli told her.
What sort of score did a disaster like that deserve? According to Tonioli and his judging cohorts, a set of 7s. In other words, the sort of score usually reserved for a fair but not fantastic dance, not a flub-filled routine like the one Phillips delivered.
While a little scoreboard sympathy might not have seemed like such a bad thing when faced with a teary-eyed Phillips, the error of the judges’ ways soon became evident.
For instance, David Arquette’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark” themed paso doble, while far from perfect, did in fact contain all of the requisite footwork and a few impressive moves. So why did two judges give him just one point more than Phillips and one give him the very same score? Because sympathy scoring skews the whole game.
The impact continued throughout the night, much to the disadvantage of hoofer hopeful Carson Kressley.
The fashion guru took the stage with a braided beard and pink Jolly Roger for his Viennese waltz with a “Pirates of the Caribbean” flair. As with most of Kressley’s earlier efforts, the dance didn’t rely so much of technique as it did pure fun.
Despite some grumping from head judge Len Goodman, the panelist himself had to admit that if he were part of the home audience, even he’d vote for Kressley. Which begs the question: Why the 6 paddle? Did Goodman really think Kressley’s imprecise but enjoyable routine was worse that Phillips’ forgotten one?
And so the night went on, with some scores making more sense than others. Nancy Grace’s set of 7s following her stiff and less than lively paso? No problem. Hope Solo’s trio of 8s following her best dance yet? Not fair. Rob Kardashian’s matching score for a not quite super “Superman” number? Meh. And J.R. Martinez’s second-place foxtrot? Just about right.
As for Chaz Bono, who had mom Cher cheering him on from the sidelines, he put his all into a “Rocky”-riffic paso doble. But Bono’s all lacked sharp lines, fine footwork and anything resembling precision. He tied Phillips, and that wasn’t anything to complain about.
Thankfully, the night contained one highlight (well, other than the aforementioned lightsabers).
Ricki Lake had what seemed like an impossible task before her: dance the tango to theme from “Psycho.” For those who don’t remember the song, it’s a time-jumping, rhythm-free score of intensity. Still, Derek Hough somehow choreographed a routine to it, the set department staged it beautifully and more impressively, Lake nailed it.
It was good enough to earn the actress the first two 10s of the season.
So much for the best of the night, but what about the worst? Someone has to go home Tuesday night, but as Kristin Cavallari recently reminded “Dancing” fans, best and worst don’t necessarily matter when it comes to the ballroom boot. So, despite the fact that Phillips was clearly the weakest link, she isn’t likely to leave just yet.
Right or wrong, (and Bono notwithstanding, it’s not all that wrong) Grace and Kardashian seem the safest bets for the red spotlight on elimination night.
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