Jun 11, 2020
Dancing with the Stars: You Are Contractually Obligated to LOVE EVERY DISNEY MOVIE EVER!
I can show you the waltz… shining, shimmering, splendid… Tell me, princess, now when did you last foxtrot by my side? It’s Disney Night on Dancing With the Stars, so get yourself ready for a whole new world of corporate synergy!
All hail our mighty corporate overlords!
Contestants and judges of Dancing With the Stars, please rise for our Pledge of Subservience.
We pledge obedience to the Mouse,
Owner of the American Broadcasting Company of America.
And to the animated characters,
With whom we will now pretend to dance,
One reality show, under Disney,
The omnipotent and ubiquitous,
To assure continued paychecks for all.
It’s Disney Week on Dancing With the Stars! Everybody’s going to be in corny costumes, interacting with cartoon characters, and reminding the audience to go see Cinderella, now playing at a theater near you!
Those who do not will be taken to the dungeons and forced to listen to Idina Menzel’s New Year’s Eve performance of “Let it Go” on a continual loop until they tear their own ears off.
Disney magic has turned judge Julianne Hough’s hair pink. I keep waiting to see if a cartoon Merriweather will fly in and try to turn it blue.
Disney World/Land/Empire is supposed to be the Happiest Place on Earth, but somebody’s still getting sent back to Obscurity Land at the end of the night. There’s no lines for rides there—just for the unemployment checks.
Shark Tank tycoon Robert Herjavec and his new trophy mistress—er, pro partner—Kym are safe. However, two-time sitcom actress Suzanne Somers (you didn’t forget about Step by Step, did you?) and her pro partner Tony are in jeopardy. They are also dancing first. Well, take heart, Suzanne. At least you can get this torture over with quickly and then go find Pleasure Island Saloon and get smashed.
Suzanne is not feeling the Disney magic. She’s feeling the harsh, cold hand of reality at last. Dancing is hard, and she’s lousy at it. She hates it. She can’t learn the moves. She hates pretending to interact with cartoons. Nobody is buying all the exercise crap she’s been trying so hard to sell. The judges won’t give her anything but sevens. She doesn’t think she can stay on the show. She’s opened up a whole new case of whine. Gee, do you think the editors are trying to tell us something?
They are dancing Jazz to “He’s a Tramp” from Lady And the Tramp. He’s supposed to be Tramp, but she’s the one dressed like … OK, not going there, but I think I saw a drugged-out hooker on some cop show recently wearing the same black cocktail dress. And it’s the Dress of Doom. About halfway through the routine, Suzanne snags her six-inch heel on the hem, and the entire world shudders at how close we came to a Suzanne Somers wardrobe malfunction. On Disney night. Won’t somebody think of the children?
Len: You, when you dance, are always easy on the eye. It’s your best dance to date. It’s such a pity that you had that little hiccup.
Julianne: I wanted to see a little bit more raunchy, and girl, well, well well! I wish you didn’t mess up there.
Bruno: The lady was a vamp. Accidents happen…
Carrie Ann: Today you brought your A-game. OK, so your heel got stuck in your skirt…
Judges’ score: 28
There has to be a showmance every season, and this time, it’s Shark Tank millionare Robert Herjavec sniffing around pro partner Kym Johnson like she’s his Happily Ever After. Robert really seems to want Kym. Kym really seems to want the promised Ferrari. To prepare for their Mary Poppins Quickstep, Kym is pulling every trick she can think of out of Poppins’s carpetbag. She’s going to do magic! Robert’s proven he can dance nice, slow, romantic dances pretty well. Now she’s going to take him to the next level. She’s going to try to turn him into Dick Van Dyke!
The song is “Step in Time,” and Robert… can’t. And I mean, he’s doomed from the first step onward. He’s supposed to be the lead chimney sweep, but all those other pro dancers around him do is prove that he simply can’t keep up at all unless he’s got Kym leading him around. I have to feel bad for him, anyway—he’s still grinning like a man deeply infatuated with both this new girl and this new hobby, but he’s sleeping on the couch tonight. Too bad, because parts of Kym were just poppin’ out of the low-cut Mary Poppins outfit like they were eager for a post-triumph grope.
Julianne: I think that you know that your steps were not so in time.
Bruno: Time is a relative concept. In your own world, you were perfectly in time.
Carrie Ann: Chim-chiminee, chim-chiminee, chim-chim cha BOOOOOO!
Len: You were out there really popping, giving it your all. (Maybe he was talking about Kym’s dress.)
It’s a magical night indeed when Len’s the one to give a little comfort at the end.
Judges’ score: 24
It’s the lowest of the night. They may be in trouble next week. Kym sees that Ferrari driving away from her forever.
During the changeover, Buzz Lightyear and Jesse the Cowgirl dance to a Mariachi version of “Friend In Me” from Toy Story sung in Spanish. Because Disney Cheese is beloved all over the world.
As the next results come up, we learn that former Bachelor Chris Soules is in jeopardy, and I feel like a fairy godmother just granted me a wish. Hunger Games actress Willow Shields is safe, to nobody’s surprise, but… oh, some wicked witch has cast a terrible spell on the voters! National treasure Patti LaBelle is in jeopardy! Somebody’s been paying attention to her actual dancing!
And the picture just keeps getting bleaker for our soul diva. Pro partner Artem, encouraged by his success in making her do some actual steps last week, has been more demanding than in the past. Patti thinks it’s been heck on wheels, I tell you. Pure heck. Unfortunately, she’s older, she’s larger, and her knees are rebelling in protest. We get to watch her ice her knee while stubbornly declaring that she’ll never let Artem down, and several people genuflect in the aura of her resilience. And because they’ve been ordered to keep her happy.
As their dance begins, Patti stands center stage under a single spotlight (of course), declaring “When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.” The Blue Fairy has gone soul diva in yellow, and the lights make little stars twinkle all around her. That’s the most impressive part of the dance. As usual, they spend the first ten seconds posing. Finally, they plod through the most elementary Waltz steps imaginable while animations of Gepetto and Pinocchio magically start capering over about half the screen. The effect is predictably whimsical and laughably transparent. They are an adorable, calculated diversion from the extreme simplicity of the live competitors’ steps.
There are the usual glowing judges’ comments (I’m surprised nobody’s nose started growing):
Bruno: You had just the right touch of Disney magic.
Carrie Ann: It’s like watching the fairy godmother of Dancing With the Stars.
Len: It had a charm about it.
Julianne: Your attitude is unbelievable.
Crappy judges’ score: 27
The paddles don’t lie.
Well, everybody’s been saying that actress Willow Shield’s age shouldn’t matter (she’s 14). She’s dancing with the adults, so this week her pro partner Mark really starts working her like an adult professional. They are serious contenders in this competition, and Mark’s beginning to dream of snatching that golden mirror ball trophy out from under Derek Hough’s greedy little nose, so they are driven, determined… and Willow’s daddy has dropped by with milk and cookies. He is demanding that Willow get her Snack Time. I wonder if he’s got a cot for Nap Time as well. “Daaaaaaaaaaaaaad! I don’t waaaaaaaaaannnnaaaaa!” Since the theme for this dance is Alice in Wonderland, of course we get the obligatory fantasy sequence about food with signs that say “Eat me” and make Willow grow ten feet in four seconds. OK, Dad, snack time’s canceled. Willow is a growing girl and she doesn’t need any hallucinogens in her cupcakes.
I think Mark must have gotten a double dose of the wild stuff in his cookies, because his White Rabbit outfit is truly disturbing. He’ll never be asked to greet children in any theme park, but it’s great, because he understands that Alice in Wonderland is a nightmare.
His vision is more Tim Burton than Walt Disney, and I hope the Head Producer of Hearts doesn’t scream, “Off with his head!” for the vibrant, foggy, slightly sinister Wonderland scene design that accompanies their Foxtrot. The visual spectacle is so elaborate, with playing cards menacing around everywhere, that I am almost distracted from their actual dancing. Looked pretty great to me. These two always are.
Carrie Ann: There were places where you lost your footing… (Crowd rises to chase her down a rabbit hole) but the second half was insane!
Len: Wonderful, creative dance. It was fabulous.
Julianne: You definitely took me down a rabbit hole, that’s for sure.
Bruno: That is a big scary rabbit.
Judges’ score: 34
Former Bachelor Chris Soules has this sinking feeling. Some week soon, he’s not getting a rose from the viewers anymore. He’s a man plucked from obscurity for no good reason, a real zero to hero story, and now he’s out of his league. He had the show’s lowest scores last week, and there’s only one way to handle this disaster. He snaps at his pro partner, Witney. Funny thing about Witney. She hasn’t quite figured out that some of the contestants are just more talented than others. Last season, during the partner switch week, she had to trade in eventual winner Alfonso Ribeiro for embarrassing dud Michael Waltrip; she couldn’t figure out why she couldn’t make him dance well and ended up in bitter tears, as if it were her fault. The same thing is threatening to happen here, so Alfonso drops by to cheer her up and remind her that it’s not her fault her current partner is a washout. After the pep talk, this couple does a little better, and they have visions of possible straight sevens in their heads until Mr. Klutz pulls his calf. They close the package with visions of him whining that he can’t perform on the show.
Fine, Chris. You just sit there, ice it, and leave us to enjoy the people worth watching.
No such luck. Perhaps inspired to show off his Hercules outfit to his fiancée, Chris manages to stumble to the dance floor on competition night with a really dull and uninspired Quickstep to—of course—“Zero to Hero” from Hercules. “I’m dressed in a skirt!” wails Prince Farming, and he doesn’t seem to be having any fun out there. It’s not the worst Quickstep tonight—Robert Herjavec wasn’t in time, remember. But at least Robert was TRYING, for Disney’s sake, and one can argue that he messed up more because he actually attempted something difficult. This? ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Zero. No hero.
Len: Well done, Hercules. I thought you did fine. (He’s clearly given up on trying to teach this bozo anything.)
Julianne: I think you’re getting in the way of yourself right now.
Bruno: You were magnificent of Mount Olympus.
Carrie Ann: I thought this was your best performance by a long shot.
Judges’ score: 27
Combat veteran Noah Galloway has to feel a little like a national icon after last week. His last routine, set to “American Soldier” got 33.5 million views on Facebook, and as the week begins, Noah is feeling pretty good about himself. Maybe he’s not just the injured novelty act! Maybe he can actually compete to win!
Noah, Noah… ah, no. Last week was all about his amazing personal story, with the absolutely perfect music and a whole bunch of crazy one-handed lifts. It was his moment, and he deserved it. This week, however, Noah and pro partner Sharna have a traditional ballroom dance, the Foxtrot. It requires rise and fall… and really, a left leg. You can’t do incredible lifts to make up for the lack of mobility. About halfway through the rehearsals, he begins to realize this and starts to fret because he can’t really do the dance style properly. (He can’t. Not his fault. It is what it is.) Sharna calls him a princess and tells him to stop behaving like a baby.
A baby? I hardly think that’s fair. Noah Galloway, of all people in this competition, does not deserve to be called a baby.
Their Aladdin number begins as Noah slowly floats down from the sky on a magic carpet to meet Sharna at the ground, and they quite deliberately waste as much time posing with a rose as they possibly can. After 30 cutesy seconds of standing still, she finally lets him move around, and it becomes very obvious that he can’t Foxtrot. Sharna can Foxtrot. He can stand still and hold out his arm to her. There’s just nothing else they can do with this, and there’s no magic genie coming to make it any better. The judges are really nice about the whole thing, but they know he’s fighting an impossible battle.
Julianne: This is your first traditional ballroom dance. That’s a challenge just by itself.
Bruno: Looking at you makes us all believe in magic.
Carrie Ann: You’ve captured the hearts and the imagination of everyone out here.
Len: Overall you’re great.
Judges’ score: 28
But now… sweep aside the pretenders, the novelties, the wannabes… here come the frontrunners! For Disney Night, the producers have grouped the three Chosen Couples to close the show with big flashing signs that say “We’ve saved the BEST FOR LAST.” OK, audience, now you know whom you are supposed to vote for. Obey the Mouse. The Mouse sees all. The Mouse knows all. The Mouse owns all. You’ve got your orders. You know what to do.
I can’t really argue. The Mouse is right.
Fledging musician Riker Lynch is bummed out. He came in fourth last week, and he thinks he should be at the top. OK, Riker, take heart, because the producers just informed the audience of that quite clearly. And he does perk up considerably when he realizes he’s getting to play Captain Jack Sparrow for his Paso Double. Turns out he does a pretty hysterical impression of the whacky old pirate—and he likes doing it so much his pro partner, Allison, thinks he’s gone crazy.
Never mind crazy. If getting a little crazy is what’s necessary to inspire Riker like this, he should spend a week in an asylum. This Paso is wild, dashing, so fast the couple blurs in movement, and so physical I’m afraid he’s going to send Allison out of a flying spin and crashing into the audience. It’s an amazing, dynamic dance, his best of the competition—and that is a very high bar. Yeah, this kid does not belong in fourth place. Best yet, it’s manly. Everybody wanted him to be more manly. Can you smell the testosterone?
Bruno: That was mad and wonderful! A super production for a super talent.
Carrie Ann: That was a beast of a Paso. Best ever! Best EEEEEVVVVEEEERRR! (Nearly flings herself out of the judges’ stand for a closer whiff of the testosterone.)
Len: This wasn’t Pirates of the Caribbean, this was Fast and Furious. It was fast, and if you don’t come back, I’ll be furious.
Julianne: This is what I call artistry.
Judges’ score: 38
I think this score may actually have been too low. Fun fact: On Disney Night, the Ten paddles have Mickey Mouse ears.
OK, here’s the thing about actress Rumer Willis. She’s not a delicate little doll. She’s got tattoos, a nose ring, and a lot of attitude. She’s kind of cringing with pain at all the Disney cuteness going on around her, and finally she breaks out in purple hives. Oh, no, sorry, it’s just body makeup. Nobody’s gonna force Rumer Willis to be a stinkin’ Disney Princess! She’s gonna get the juicy part! Rumer wants to be… a VILLAIN!!! Specifically, she’s going to be Ursula from The Little Mermaid. Now that’s got her excited! She and pro partner Val spend the whole week dancing the Samba in a swimming pool just to get ready. Hey, Rumer… you do know you’ll actually be doing this on dry land, right?
They have no problem transferring from water to earth, though. She begins her dance behind a cauldron of pure evil, with wonderful lighting that brings out the purple octopus tentacles needed for a true Ursula.
Then she, with Val appearing as evil minion Flotsam (or is he Jetsam?), does a wickedly sexy, vibrant Samba, seducing some invisible Ariel into signing away her voice and her “Poor Unfortunate Soul.” Ah, Ursula—um, Rumer—just rushed the judges’ panel. Maybe Julianne is Ariel? Or maybe Rumer just wants to get a better look at that Mickey Mouse Ten paddle? At any rate, for the past hour we’ve been watching a parade of limited contestants hide behind animations and pro backup dancers to take attention away from their mediocrity. It’s refreshing to see a couple (two in a row, now) who can really tear up the floor.
Carrie Ann: What is going on tonight? Everybody is drinking the Disney juice, because that was sickly creative.
Len: You are a fantastic dancer. That’s it.
Julianne: You just made Ursula, like, the sexiest animated character on the planet.
Bruno: Utterly and deliciously wicked!
Judges’ score: 39
Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin got one ten last week, and then crumpled to watch Willow Shields and Mark earn three tens. Yeah, she knows this drill. You get a perfect score from a judge, you think you’ve got the gold, and then somebody else blows you away. It’s happened to her before… (just not at the 2008 Olympics.) So, how to up the ten factor? Nastia decides it’s time to get a little silly. She and pro partner Derek are dancing to something from Frozen—hey, you know SOMEBODY had to do it. They consider “Let it Go”… and decide to let it go. How about something that hasn’t completely warped everybody’s brain for months now? Something that isn’t about absolute solitude? How about… “Love is an Open Door”? Fun fact: since Nastia is Anna and Derek is evil prince Hans, we’ve got Disney villains on the floor for two consecutive numbers.
Derek’s spent a lot of time on Broadway recently, and it shows in the production values for this Jazz number. They’ve elaborately recreated the outside of Anna’s home castle to recreate one of Disney’s most back-handed “love” scenes, as Hans and Anna start their ill-fated “romance.” The costumes are great, and the dancing is flawless—at this point, we expect nothing less from this couple. For whatever reason, Derek’s really gotten into the idea of them actually recreating the scene as it might appear on a Broadway stage, right down to both of them lip-synching through the entire song. It’s really entertaining, more than a little goofy, and the idea of Derek playing a villain who just pretends to be a nice guy so he can get the big prize… heh. Let’s not go there. It’s not fair. Probably. You never know. Hans seemed nice, too.
Len: There was nothing Frozen about that dance. That was like a warm hug on a cold evening. (Clearly, Len has never seen Frozen and does not know what Prince Hans is really doing in this scene.)
Julianne: That was so Disney! Oh, my gosh!
Bruno: Practically perfect in every way! (That’s a line from Mary Poppins, of course, but since Bruno didn’t get to use that line during that critique…)
Carrie Ann: It was like a Disney dream come true. (But she didn’t like the lip-synching.)
Judges’ score: 38
Alas, every magical night in Disney World must come to a close, and somebody must be expelled from the Magic Kingdom forever. We already know who it is, really. Her package really beat us over the head with the foreshadowing. She’s lousy at it. She hates it. She can’t learn the moves. She doesn’t think she can stay on the show.
And so, she doesn’t. With a final, desperate plug for her new book, Suzanne Somers departs back to her home in Hasbeen Land.