Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Dancing Fools

[[T U B E]] * Wow, you can tell Americans have way too much free time on their hands when, three weeks after the ABC-TV summer series Dancing with the Stars ended its run, they (and that includes TV critics, who should know better) are still grousing that the wrong couple won the contest. There’s talk of vote confusion, media favoritism, and corporate influences--just like in America’s increasingly suspect presidential elections. But somewhere amid all of this, folks seem to have forgotten that Dancing with the Stars was nothing more than popular entertainment.

For those of you who managed to miss this series entirely, it paired half a dozen B-level celebs with professional dance instructors, who were supposed to impart to their sometimes less than graceful charges years of dancing experience in a mere six weeks. (In other words, every adolescent boy’s worst nightmare!) The foxtrot, the tango, the cha-cha, the Viennese waltz--Dancing covered them all, and more. And while a few would-be superstars (Trista Sutter? Uh, was she on Average Joe or The Bachelor? Who the hell cares!) bombed out early, three--former Seinfeld supporting player John O’Hurley, General Hospital actress (and onetime Playboy centerfold) Kelly Monaco, and former New Kids on the Block member Joey McIntyre--managed to impress both the judges and the crowd. All three demonstrated both passion for this contest and a bit of grace, with O’Hurley being, arguably, the most precise performer, while Monaco demonstrated the greatest advancement and was the most fun to watch (especially in the week that the straps holding up her skimpy top broke, and she had to show her virtuosity on the dance floor at the same time as she was trying not to show her superior assets to the viewing audience). In the end, though, it was Monaco and her partner, Alec Mazo, who waltzed away with the incredibly cheesy trophy, thanks to a unanimous decision by the three judges, who gave out their first “10” votes of the series.

And that remarkable scoring, of course, has been one of the bones of contention ever since, together with allegations that Monaco won only because her show, General Hospital, like Dancing, happens to be an ABC production. (What these complainers fail to take into account is that viewers had a chance to vote online for their favorite dancer, too, and Monaco probably has a bigger fan base these days than O’Hurley. If a goodly portion of those at-home voters were male, O’Hurley didn’t stand a chance.) The indisputably sexy soapster seems unperturbed by all this disparagement. “I’m not going to go home and cry because someone did not like my dancing,” Monaco told the Television Critics Association this week. “I felt from the beginning this is fun for me. ... If you don’t like it, you don’t like it. I wouldn’t be sitting here if the whole world hated what I did.”

What she should have said was: “Listen up, folks. You’re being idiotic. There are wars going on in the world, AIDS running rampant in Africa, Republicans putting the demands of the gun industry ahead of national defense, new polls showing that a majority of Americans believe George W. Bush intentionally misled the American public about Saddam Hussein’s WMD supply, and yet your panties are in a twist over alleged unfairness on a TV show? Get a life!” But that might not be good PR, so instead we find critics earnestly pursuing ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson for his take on the controversy (“Do I understand it? I guess I understand that people are going to have strong preferences. I love that people are so wrapped up in the show”) and hear talk of a “dance-off” between Monaco and O’Hurley.

Ridiculous. It’s as if America's couch potatoes were up in arms because the crew filming the survivors on Gilligan’s Island didn’t make effort one to save the poor castaways. (Oh, wait, that actually happened in the 1960s!)

Fortunately, not everyone looks upon this flapdoodle with such gravity. When a reporter asked Monaco whether she’d consider a dance-off, the plucky young actress replied: “Bring it on. You want a dance-off, come on up here. I'll give you a dance-off.”

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