Saturday, March 17, 2007

Dancing With The Stars - March 17, 2007

Premiering Monday; ABC, CTV


Rumba To The Rescue

American Idol managed to boost Fox's sagging fortunes this season. Now, Dancing With the Stars is set to do the same for ABC.

By Eric Kohanik

Much in the same way that American Idol came along just at the right moment to save Fox’s bacon this season, now we have Dancing With the Stars making its return just in the nick of time for ABC.

The network has been flopping around like a dying fish on a beach this season. A slew of disastrous new shows and creative mis-steps in some of its returning hits have led to a downward spiral in the ratings for ABC, which has slipped to third place from the top spot it had occupied last season.

That will all change, of course, as Dancing With the Stars waltzes its way back.

I’ve been a sucker for the show ever since the mid-point of its first season, despite the uproar that surrounded a flawed voting and judging system back then that led to General Hospital star Kelly Monaco beating out Seinfeld alumnus John O’Hurley. A subsequent, wrestling-style rematch proved to be equally silly, crowning O’Hurley as the winner but satisfying no one inthe end.

Producers then revamped the show’s scoring system, giving more weight to viewer votes. That almost proved disastrous, too, when NFL veteran Jerry Rice – a popular guy but a mediocre dancer – actually outlasted dazzling WWE starlet Stacy Keibler in the second season, and almost defeated the guy who ultimately (and deservedly) won: 98 Degrees band member Drew Lachey.

Last season raised the bar further. Although popular NFL star Emmitt Smith emerged victorious in the end, runner-up Mario Lopez gave him a heck of a run for his money.

There was plenty of drama along the way last season, including the unexpected marital split of country singer Sara Evans. And, of course, there was the obvious hypersexual heat that emerged between Lopez and his professional dance partner, Karina Smirnoff.

So now we arrive at the fourth season of Dancing With the Stars. And it’s bound to be full of drama and suspense, too.

For starters, there’s a built-in reigning champion in professional dancer Cheryl Burke, who guided Lachey and Smith to victory.

There’s kind of a built-in villain, too, in contestant Heather Mills, the estranged missus of much-beloved music idol Paul McCartney. As the show’s first participant with an artificial limb, Mills will pique everyone’s interest on several levels. My guess, however, is that she won’t be dancing to any Beatles songs.

The other contestants initially ranged from the obviously able-bodied – boxer Laila Ali, model Paulina Porizkova and Olympic speed-skater Apolo Anton Ohno – to the obviously comical – country crooner Billy Ray Cyrus and Sopranos alumnus Vincent Pastore.

Unfortunately, Pastore pulled out of the show at the 11th hour. Too bad. Just think of all the “Big Pussy on the dance floor” jokes that were already waiting in the wings.

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