When ‘Dancing’ Stumbles

Apr 9, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The Insider wasn’t going to watch “Dancing With the Stars” at all this season, in protest of Heather Mills using the ABC hit — and her will-it-or-won’t-it-fall-off? prosthetic leg — to rehabilitate the reputation she so venally damaged in her divorce from Paul McCartney.

But “Dancing” is such a kick when it’s about rooting for the gutsy contestants willing to step outside their comfort zone and develop unexpected talent that The Insider caved at the last minute on the night the fourth season started.

Thanks to a lack of willpower, The Insider is now enjoying the elegant Laila Ali, the engaging Joey Fatone and the sprightly Anton Apolo Ohno and the kinetic Ian Ziering go through their impressive paces each week. Who knew John Ratzenberger would be this season’s George Hamilton, or that Billy Ray Cyrus would be this round’s Grand Master P? Who doesn’t wish that Leeza Gibbons would stop trying so hard that she scrawled “tramp” on her left breast last week?

And who doesn’t wonder how such cheesy-sleazy, tiny-teasey dresses became de rigueur in a competition that’s supposed to be all about grace? The Insider still wishes “Project Runway” would make a challenge about designing a ballroom dance dress for a “Dancing” competitor. Give them Ms. Mills’ first-night fright — an inexplicable yellow-and-pink concoction (complete with oversized hanky things hanging from her wrists) that could only have been designed by someone in an Old West dance-hall daze — and challenge the “Runway” contestants to save this dress from Mr. Blackwell’s Worst-Dressed List.

However, The Insider has stopped watching “Dancing” live, and it’s not about skipping commercials. It’s about avoiding the increasingly silly filler material that stretches even the competition episodes to the point that The Insider fears she may snap.

On last Tuesday’s results show, a numerologist to some unnamed stars and a clairvoyant predicted the ultimate winners.

That’s in addition to three musical guests. Ciara and her all-girl crew did a shirts-only number. Survivor resurrected “Eye of the Tiger.” (Was Dave Bickler wearing a single strand of pearls that might have been tasteful but for the other necklaces?) The professional dancers did a group paso doble, complete with black-and-gold hooded boxer robes. Later, Josh Groban took a back seat to a pair of the pros dancing barefoot in a number that could have been conceived by a soft-porn director.

Host Tom Bergeron plugged a “Dancing With the Stars” cardio dance workout DVD as almost as good as actually bringing the contestants home “without lawyers.”

Sidekick Samantha Harris continued her parade of ‘dos, most apparently built with what The Insider calls “acquired hair,” which makes her the Sanjaya Malakar of “Dancing.” Does anyone else become fixated on this “seasoned journalist”/host/model’s preferred pose? The one where she crooks her elbows away from her ribcage, links her fingers together at upper tummy level and rocks her arms back and forth like appendages on a yard ornament.

In the end, former Miss USA Shandi Finnessey — and her Barbie-like corkscrew ponytail and glittery turquoise scrunchy, hoop earrings and dress — was voted out.

All these complaints being made, there is one madcap bit that is most entertaining.

In the most entertaining bit added to “Dancing” this season, ABC’s late-night man Jimmy Kimmel demonstrated the paso doble with the help of Guillermo Diaz, his squat-bodied parking-lot security guard who redefines drag when he dons his black-and-red saloon-gal frock and head-topping giant red blossom.

He pulls off what Heather Mills couldn’t.