SAN DIEGO, March 20, 2012—Longtime fans of “Dancing With the Stars” are forgiven if they feel disoriented after watching the first week of Season 14 of “Dancing With the Stars.” No drama, no train wrecks, and dance routines that ranged from admirable to entertaining to inspirational, to say nothing of flat out hot.
Critics may have complained about the lack of star power or stunt casting among the twelve contestants this season ABC’s hit dance competition show, but they were not lacking for skills on the dance floor. It looked more like week six or seven, and the scores reflected it.
Contestants on “Dancing With the Stars” are usually relieved and grateful just to get through their first week routine. Last night, several stars were just shy of getting perfect scores of 10. There was no score lower than six given all night, and the judges even busted out a few nines, which is unprecedented. The scores ranged from lows of 20 for Gavin DeGraw and Melissa Gilbert, to a high of 26 for Katherine Jenkins and Jaleel White.
Judges Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, and Bruno Tonioli said it was the highest level quality in a season debut in the history of the show. Critics and fans gushed across Twitter, Facebook, and fan blogs. Who knew a lineup of former TV icons, several singers, a handful of athletes, a Disney star and a Motown legend would light up the dance floor?
So how did our predictions roll out in the first week? Let’s check the scoreboard.
The Also-Rans: Jack Wagner performed a decent fox trot which benefited from being one of the first dances of the evening. It was pleasant but overscored at 23. No one enjoyed herself more on the dance floor than Sherri Shepherd, host of “The View.” She exceeded expectations, but a good attitude will only take her so far. Gladys Knight was the revelation of the night. She looked great, moved well and showed good rhythm and fluidity. Let’s all keep in mind she is the oldest contestant at age 67. Her cha cha routine brought the audience to its feet, and she’ll last a few weeks no doubt.
Gavin DeGraw was one of the few contestants that seemed like a Week One contestant. He gave it a good try but he was a little stiff and tentative. Unless he makes significant improvement next week, he’ll be the one to go.
The Jury is Out: So far, the evidence shows some promise in this group of contestants. Tennis pro Martina Navratilova has never looked better. She admitted the biggest challenge for her was wearing heels, and that she hadn’t worn a dress in 20 years. Her partner Tony Dovoloni did well by her, but this is very unfamiliar territory for her. Let’s hope her work ethic will help her succeed. She scored a 24 but it was far too generous.
Melissa Gilbert gave it her all, and she looked superb in a fringed black cat suit. Women across America applauded her nerve, and in any other season she’d be near this top. This year, her score of 20 tied her for the lowest score. But she should be safe unless she really blows it next week.
Welsh opera star Katherine Jenkins performed a beautiful routine with Mark Ballas. Was it worth being tied for the highest score of the night? Jenkins was fortunate to draw this style of dance which suited her. We’ll see if she can keep up with the hip swiveling Latin dances.
The final member of this group ended the show with a flourish, and showed the style we thought might be hiding behind his childhood geek image. Jaleel White danced a stylish fox trot, and seemed completely at ease and confident with partner Kym Johnson. He served notice that he’s a serious threat, and it seems the jury has rendered his verdict: White is a serious threat to steal that Mirror Ball Trophy.
The Contenders, Not Pretenders: The three men in this group are overloaded with charisma and confidence, essential elements for long-term success on this show. Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver held nothing back in his cha cha. Disney star Roshon Fegan won a lot of new fans after delivering a cha cha in the style of the late Michael Jackson. He was utterly charming and a real breath of fresh air. Ah, youth.
William Levy drew the perfect partner in Cheryl Burke and the perfect song, the Pitbull and Chris Brown collaboration “International Love.” Song choice can make a big difference and it earned him a higher score than he probably deserved. Oh, and it didn’t hurt that the Cuban-born telenovela actor is as smokin’ hot as advertised. He’s going nowhere.
In any other season, Maria Menounos would be at the top of the leader board with a perfectly fine cha cha. But she danced first, which is never easy. By comparison, she suffered. She’s got room for improvement, and working with Derek Hough she’s not in danger and will be given room to develop her skills and confidence.
Bear in mind the highest score the contestants can receive is 30, and they have three months of dancing ahead. The judges don’t have much more to give. Will we get to the point that every routine is getting a 28, 29, or a perfect 30? If so, audience votes are going to count more than ever this season in determining who goes how and who stays in the competition. Without seeing improvement and surprises, will the audience get a little bored?
The stars will dance again Monday, and their scores from the first week and next week will be combined. One star will be voted off March 27.
Elimination in the competition results from a combination of judges’ scores and audience votes. The celebrity with the lowest combined scores is sent home, until three stars remain. They and their partners compete for the championship.
Gavin DeGraw and Karina Smirnoff: 20
Melissa Gilbert and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 20
Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd: 21
Maria Menounos and Derek Hough: 21
Roshon Fagan and Chelsie Hightower: 23
Gladys Knight and Tristan McManus: 23
Sherri Shepherd and Val Chmerkovskiy: 23
Jack Wagner and Anna Trebunskaya: 23
William Levy and Cheryl Burke: 24
Martina Navratilova and Tony Dovolani: 24
Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas: 26
Jaleel White and Kym Johnson: 26
“Dancing With the Stars” returns next Monday night, March 26, 8 p.m. Eastern/Pacific Time, and airs on Monday and Tuesday nights on the ABC Television Network.
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Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. Read more Media Migraine in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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