On Monday night's episode of "Dancing with the Stars," two things became crystal clear as I watched "the most-watched show in America." One--- it's the halfway point in the season, and frankly, I don't care who wins; and Two--- this show is just not fun anymore.
There, I said it.
I have been a faithful and vocal supporter of this show ever since its debut five years or so ago, from when it was that little oddball show that everyone had written off, except for millions of viewers like me. Over the course of the next 9 seasons, I found the program was steadily evolving, becoming exciting, fun AND funny, quirky, aggravating, ridiculous, disappointing (when the wrong couples were sent home way too early), and actually educational (who knew a samba from a rhumba?). The show embodied everything that makes for good reality television. It has spiraled into shadow of its former marvelous self. Instead of ballroom dancing, most nights (in between the dancing) we're treated to wannabe comic bits and "witty" quotes from stars, pros, and judges trying to out-wit one another.
Nicole Scherzinger, left, and her partner Derek Hough, have provided much of the excitement on the dance floor during the current season of "Dancing with the Stars." (AP)
This season, which started out with an interesting-enough batch of celeb contestants, has turned into "Whining with the Stars." I can't remember any season that contained so much diva drama, whining and complaining (and yes, the producers choose to show specific video clips of those incidents) to the point of exhaustion. It's almost as if the couples are told that each week that the cameras will be scouring their rehearsal time for a meltdown scene. After all, it makes for "great television." Frankly, it's become a downer. How many more scenes of stars walking out of rehearsals do we need to see?
Why not show us one of the pros actually working out a dance routine? Some insight into THEIR creative process (since I truly believe these are extremely talented individuals)? The judges, specifically Len Goodman to his credit, constantly complain that certain "steps" are missing from routines. Why not put a video montage together illustrating the specific steps (in addition to pros demonstrating a "proper" waltz or cha-cha), so we can better understand what these dances involve? That could make for some great television, too. And yes, producers, you could even make it funny.
"Dancing" was great television from day one because it was so different from any other reality show out there. It was charming. And the competition didn't involve eating bugs or jumping off a cliff or stabbing the other contestants in the back. It was all about disparate celebs with pretty much no knowledge of dance taking viewers on a fun-filled journey to sore feet, sore muscles, great costumes and hopefully, an exiting dance routine. There were moments of great joy, injuries, difficult practice sessions, complaining stars, perplexed pros. But all of it came together on game night, in one big, fun-filled competition. Even if every celeb made a total fool of himself or herself out there on those boards, we laughed with them, and it was a great escape at the end of a long, hard work day.
So where HAS all the excitement gone? Do the couples just seem, well, bored? What happened to the days of Helio Castroneves and Julianne Hough bringing down the house with their electrifying dance routines? What happened to beautiful moments like watching Jerry Rice's Fred Astaire-like footwork evolve each week? Or poignant moments like Jerry Springer just wanting to learn the waltz so he could dance at his daughter's wedding? Or sizzling moments like the tango between Mario Lopez and Karina Smirnoff?
In a 2009 interview with the Sun-Times, season one competitor John O'Hurley summed it up thusly: "It's now the most over-produced show on television. It's lost so much of its charm. And that's a shame."
And when it comes to the judges' scoring, their comments have in many cases become rather mean-spirited, their "paddles" revealing little consistency ("7s" for Jake's miserable samba Monday night was ludicrous; "robbing" Chad Ochocinco of 9s for his very good Argentine tango was incomprehensible).
As for who goes home tonight, Jake should get the boot. But if I were Pamela Anderson and Chad Ochocinco, I'd be worried.
And yes, I will continue to watch this season, right up to the presentation of that marvelously tacky mirror-ball trophy. After all, it only brings us that much closer to next season.