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Posted at 10:23 AM ET, 03/20/2007

Reality Check: 'Dancing With the Stars'

By Liz Kelly

Heather Mills and partner Jonathan Roberts, who didn't bother coordinating their outfits. (Photo courtesy ABC)

If "Dancing With the Stars" hadn't debuted last night, I might have been tempted to write about this site. But ABC's wacky dance-off did return and gets our full attention today. Though, after watching the two-hour premiere, I'm thinking that site might have more entertainment value.

Even a soon-to-be ex-Beatle bride sporting an artificial leg (surely ratings gold) wasn't enough to keep the show from tedium. Easy-listening covers of already cheesy songs (Huey Lewis's "The Power of Love," Denise Williams's "Let's Hear It for the Boy") and annoying bio-clips of each contestant and professional dancer didn't do much to ramp up the excitement level.

Dancers were upstaged by over-the-top judge Bruno Tonioli (an Italian choreographer doing his best impression of Armand Goldman) and the entire show was eclipsed by the commercial break premiere of the new "Pirates of the Caribbean" trailer. The night's best performance came from former N-SYNC-er Joey Fatone, the only contestant with previous dancing experience. But even his spot-on moves were tainted by the stain of a radioactively-tanned partner.

If you DVR'd, fast forward to the the much-hyped moment in the last 15 minutes when Heather Mills -- wearing a hideous bargain bin pink and yellow princess Halloween costume and introduced as a "charity campaigner" -- took to the floor for her go at the foxtrot. The dance was smooth, uneventful and Mills's fake leg (which stayed firmly attached) was only mentioned about 156 times during the segment.

I'm not sure I can bring myself to devote two nights to this kind of torture each week -- it's a lot to ask of viewers already invested in "American Idol" and other varied reality offerings. What I will do is give a quick impression of each opening performance after the jump, then we'll vote to predict who will win this season's competition. We'll revisit our results at the end of the season to find out if we were right.

Click continue below to read on and cast your vote...

Ian Ziering (and Cheryl Burke)
The man formerly known as Steve Sanders turned in a solid performance and seemed to have a good sense of his post-"90210" career. Nothing special, though, and Ziering needs to loosen up his hips.

Paulina Porizkova (and Alec Mazo)
Not surprisingly, this former supermodel wins the hair/make-up/dress competition. She looked good on the floor, but didn't really transcend the pretty despite Tonioli's exclamation that she was "breakfast, lunch and dinner at Tiffany's."

Billy Ray Cyrus (and Karina Smirnoff)
This self-described "left-footed hillbilly from Kentucky" made Joe Dirt look like Thurston J. Howell III. Best-known as the father of preteen sensation Hanna Montana, Cyrus used his appearance as an opportunity to promote his new album and single, an ode to the mullet. The show's funniest moment came when Cyrus almost scalped partner Smirnoff when attempting to pull off a mullet wig.

Leeza Gibbons (and Tony Dovolani)
The former "Entertainment Tonight" host was introduced as a "newswoman" and struck a giddy note in her bio footage, describing her partner as a fabulous therapist. A Stepfordian smile hypnotized me into blanking out on her performance.

Joey Fatone (right) and partner Kym Johnson get down. (Photo courtesy ABC)

Joey Fatone (and Kym Johnson)
The former N-SYNC'er scored big points for self-deprecation, humor and an intentionally goofy costume -- a "Saturday Night Fever" reminiscent white slacks/vest combo with a rhinestone "FATONE" emblazoned on the back. The only "star" who looked comfortable on the dance floor and actually gave a true performance, despite losing his mike pack halfway through the routine.

Laila Ali (and Maksim Chmerovskiy)
No doubt, Ali has brains, brawn and beauty. Too bad a cruise-ship revue version of Marvin Gaye's "How Sweet It Is" ruined her performance.

John Ratzenberger (and Edyta Sliwinska)
Ratzenberger ("Cheers's" Cliff Claven) turned in an acceptable performance despite having only two weeks to train (he was a last-minute replacement for "Soprano" Vincent Pastore). No matter how good or bad the dancing, it is just bizarre to see Cliffy dancing with an almost naked amazon sporting pink flamingo pasties.

Shandi Finnessey (and Brian Fortuna)
Oh, you've never heard of her, either? That's because she's a former Miss USA who did not apparently party underage and cause a massive blowout between Rosie O'Donnell and Donald Trump. Her performance was just as memorable.

Clyde Drexler (and Elena Grinenko)
The 6-foot, 7-inch former NBA all-star wins the award for the best sport of the night. He took his comical pairing with the 5-foot, 4-inch Grinenko in stride -- though the dance did kind of look like a giant trying to step on an ant.

Heather Mills (and Jonathan Roberts)
"Hi, I'm Heather Mills. I have an artificial leg," announced Mills as she walked in the door for her first meeting with Roberts. This, of course, set the tone for the remainder of the segment in which we got to see Mills trying on various faux appendages, recount her accident and generally avoid all mention of her pending divorce from Paul McCartney. Her performance was the only one of the night to win the diabolical "6, 6, 6" score from the three judges. Dismissed as coincidence.

Apolo Anton Ohno (and Julianne Hough)
Ohno, he's wearing a "Karate Kid" bandana. Ohno, they're dancing to a song from the "Footloose" soundtrack. Ohno, he can't dance.

My prediction: Unless he's hobbled by another contestant, I predict Joey Fatone as this season's winner, closely followed by Ian Ziering and Laila Ali.

What do you think? Vote in today's poll to predict the winner.

By Liz Kelly  | March 20, 2007; 10:23 AM ET
Categories:  TV  
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Is Dancing with the Stars a "wacky dance-off" or vice-versa?

And why can't we see the pix of the celebrity pickers? Noses everywhere want to know!

Posted by: Butthead | March 20, 2007 10:59 AM | Report abuse

What WAS she wearing? Looks like it's a vintage 80s high school dance outfit!

Posted by: dcgirrrrllll | March 20, 2007 11:00 AM | Report abuse

i'm not going to watch. there's no way it could be as entertaining as the writeups.

Posted by: b | March 20, 2007 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I watched about 30 minutes of it and that was enough for me. Unless they change the show to "Dancing with Gerard Butler", I'm not watching next week. I rather read the TV Blog.

Posted by: NYC | March 20, 2007 11:14 AM | Report abuse

As someone who did watch this with my wife, my first comment to her after Apolo Ohno danced was that the rest of them better hope he doesn't get time to actually practice! If he did only get to practice about a third of the time as the others, he will be tough to beat.

Posted by: Dsmac | March 20, 2007 11:26 AM | Report abuse

After 3 seasons, the production quality of this show is still horrible. Every episode is full of bad camera angles, missed shots of the dancers during key moves and frequent shots of camera men running back and forth.

You rarely ever see camera men moving around on better produced shows like American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance.

Go Cliff!

Posted by: Mac | March 20, 2007 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Joey Fatone by a landslide. The rest was yawnworthy at best. I do give props to Cliff, er John Ratzenberger for his performance on short notice. (Too bad the judges considered his age a handicap along with Heather Mills' artificial leg.)

Posted by: LV | March 20, 2007 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I don't watch because the show is too long, too much filler and too little dancing. It is not worth wasting an hour to see 5 minutes of dancing!

Posted by: CJB | March 20, 2007 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Celebrity nose-pickers to win by ... well, by a nose.

Posted by: Bogota | March 20, 2007 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I agree, Dancing With Gerard Butler....mmmm that would be nice!

Posted by: Burke | March 20, 2007 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Judge Bruno Tonioli is a carbon copy of Erik Rhodes of the old Fred and Ginger musicals ("My name is Tonetti, it rhymes with spaghetti").

But I would argue that the show is wonderful -- competent and experienced judges, a dynamite house band, and you actually see people improve during the course of a season, unlike the unwatchable "American Idol."

Posted by: Alexandria, VA | March 20, 2007 12:20 PM | Report abuse

I don't think I'll watch the rest of this season. Apart from seeing Heather's leg fly off (I feel bad that the thought even entered my head and that I typed it)this crop seems a lil blah.

Posted by: petal | March 20, 2007 12:20 PM | Report abuse

ahhh, dancing with Gerard Butler and the cast of 300, Spartans only need apply, in their movie costumes. Now that is entertainment.

Posted by: carmen | March 20, 2007 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I've never seen this show, but after the pics and description I am speechless. I still feel guilty about all the "Sonny and Cher" and other "variety" shows(and "Matchgame PM") I watched as a kid, and now I realize I can just let that guilt go. This show looks much worse!!

Posted by: Barb | March 20, 2007 12:46 PM | Report abuse

The artificial leg stuff is being so ridiculously exploited! ABC ought to be ashamed of itself...she's a HERO, truly courageous, overcoming tremendous obstacles, so much more to prove, a picture of bravery...oh, C'MON!

I do NOT mean to disrespect anyone who has lost a limb (I have much respect for them, and Heather Mills included), but you'd think we were in an era of wooden clubs and hooks! Prosthetics today are more high-tech than most cars. You think it takes more effort to ballroom dance with an artificial leg than to climb Everest (Mark Inglis) or run across Canada (Terry Fox)? Just to name a few. Try watching the paralympics, or basic daily activities that people with prosthetics do every day.

I suspect ABC is already lining up the "special event you won't want to miss" when Heather Mills visits wounded Iraqi war vets and teaches them how to dance with their artificial limbs. You know it's coming.

Posted by: Ridiculous | March 20, 2007 12:46 PM | Report abuse

I love the show. I think the judges are so much better than the Idol's.

Posted by: DMU | March 20, 2007 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Dsmac, I agree with you. Apolo Ohno all the way if he can just learn to stand up straight instead of bending over like he does when he skates.

Posted by: mjb | March 20, 2007 1:03 PM | Report abuse

DMU what have you been smoking? These judges are all the same, just with different levels of annoyingness.

Last night was the first time I watched, and what I want to know, is WHY is ABC using laugh tracks on the bio background bits? Its just another factor in my deeming it a second rate reality show.

Change the cha-cha nnel.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 20, 2007 1:11 PM | Report abuse

I'm actually surprised that Joey Fatone was asked to be on the show. He may not have been a frontman of N'Sync but anyone who took the time to watch them perform objectively (which is to say, not screaming their names but also not making fun) can tell that all of those guys could MOVE.

Posted by: 23112 | March 20, 2007 1:43 PM | Report abuse

i'm picking joey fatone to win
apollo to place
and laila to show

Posted by: methinks | March 20, 2007 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Since Heather Mills gets to mention her wooden leg ever 30 seconds, I think that John Ratzenberger should introduce himself thusly: Hi, I'm John Ratzenberger, and I have a wooden third leg.

THAT would get viewers' attention.

Posted by: Mister Methane | March 20, 2007 1:51 PM | Report abuse

This show is cheesy. The lineup is nothing special, and there is NO WAY I'm devoting 2 days a week watching it. In fact, I miss the Wife Swap and Supernanny lineup on Mondays on ABC--bring them back now!

Posted by: Ladybug | March 20, 2007 2:02 PM | Report abuse

The first few weeks of Dancing With the Stars is always yawn-worthy, especially since they've picked people who already kind of have an inherant sense of rhythm and/or dancing abilities. There were no Kenny Maynes or Tucker Carlsons this time. The closest would be Billy Ray, who looked like he was trying to line dance his way through the his own song. Once they get all the riff-raff out of the way, the serious dancing can start.
I seriously hope Heather Mills gets voted off first so we can get over this "competitor with the biggest challenge....ever" hooplah.
I'm personally rooting for Laila Ali.

Posted by: E1 | March 20, 2007 2:14 PM | Report abuse

I'll watch the show when they advertise Heather Mills dancing to Gold Digger.

Posted by: L. | March 20, 2007 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Please don't watch this show, it's a joke and an insult to those of us who truly dance. If you are interested try to catch America's Ballroom Challenge on PBS. This is the largest North American competition that draws dancers worldwide. This is a true competition not a "show" and you will see the difference. Most of the professionals on Dancing with the Stars hardly even bother to teach their partners even the basics steps of each dance. This show is for entertainment value only and the music they play sucks. I wouldn't be caught dead dancing to it!!

Posted by: ballroom dancer | March 20, 2007 2:24 PM | Report abuse

No, if you're really interested then just rent Strictly Ballroom. It's hilarious.

Posted by: me | March 20, 2007 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Joey should not have been invited. he already knows how to dance.

Cliff is the comic relief for this year. Great showing though with just 2 weeks of practice.

Heather Mills... am i the only one who was holding my breath during the whole performance? She did good though. I don't expect her to be voted off anytime soon. call it the sympathy vote

Apollo, given time to rehearse will win this thing hands down

Billy Ray, what a joke.

Laila Ali, well what a surprise. I expected her to be a tomboy. but instead very elegant. very good showing.

Clyde, is trying. clearly he is very agile on his feet. but he needs to move something on his upper body. and the fact that he is towering over his partner shows that even more. Who picked his partner anyway?

and for those who are criticizing the show: have you even been to a ballroom class? 90% of the clientele are old rich women who have nothing to do with their money. the other 10% are dance professionals, or getting married and taking a few classes for their big day.

Bottom line is dance instructors can barely make it. and because the industry is not highly regarded or has high visibility, even the best professionals end up teaching for lack of sponsorship or whatever.

Ballroom industry is currently experiencing a revival since this show went on the air. this show is telling you the viewers that you too can learn how to be gracefull and learn how to cha cha cha. dance instructors across America now have a wider audience to make money from instead of milking the rich old women.

Posted by: expat in Texas | March 20, 2007 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Very few people are really interested in real competitive ballroom dancing, and if anything, this show will at least introduce people to it's existence. Nobody thinks this is a true competition and everyone knows that Billy Ray Cyrus will probably last a long time more than he should based entirely on Hannah Montana, it's just a larf.

Posted by: Chris | March 20, 2007 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Liz, you just have to surrender to the Cheeze. Let it wash over you. This is, after all, a show that gives away a trophy shaped like a mirror ball, and which last season had Ex-Mrs. Travis Barker dance to a cover of "Jump" by Kriss Kross.

On some level, you have to respect how unironically this show delivers its goods.

Posted by: Rick | March 20, 2007 5:09 PM | Report abuse

If they make such a big deal out of Heather Mill's missing leg, why don't they have Lance Armstrong on. He only has one testicle. I'd love to hear them mention that every thirty seconds!
(Please realize that I think both Heather and Lance are courageous people and I mean no disrespect, except I am angry at Lance for leaving his wife. I just think the announcers should shut up about it already, as was previously stated. I mean, a lot of us are missing something!!!)

Posted by: Barb | March 20, 2007 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Rick is right. You just let the show's cheesiness wash over you. Yes, the costumes are shiny, the music is ridiculous, and the spray tans are over the top. But what is really enjoyable about the show is how the "stars" really get into it. The first few weeks can be trying because it takes a while to get rid of the really bad ones. Then, it gets really good. Of course, we aren't talking professional dancer good but still very enjoyable.

This season, no one looks to be a disaster on the level of Kenny Mayne and Tucker Carlson. Billy Ray Cyrus was bad but still not on the same level of the previous two. I think they have a good group of people this season.

So, I'm looking forward to my favorite reality tv show and intend to call in each and every week to place my votes.

Posted by: Little Red | March 20, 2007 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Did anyone actually pay attention to the fact that Ms. Mills met Paul because she was offering her time, as a British celeb to an anti- land mine charity, and that it was the same one Di had volunteered with (and before Di had joined it too)? She had her own money by that point to be able to do that, just not the billion or so Paul had. Compared to any normal person, she was and is rich without a penny from him. She IS an activist. She is her own person. I know it hurts because she didn't start out rich, but get over it.

Posted by: D | March 20, 2007 11:37 PM | Report abuse

Word has it that Heather Mills has handicapped parking privleges. Am I missing something here?

Posted by: Karen | March 20, 2007 11:41 PM | Report abuse

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