Friday, February 24, 2006

Too Much Bread, Not Enough Jam

So I admit that I have a fondness verging on addiction for Dancing With The Stars (to the point where I'd like to see a Canadian version) but like various Shakespearean heroes, the show has a fatal flaw. As the series goes on there are fewer performers and since the dances are physically taxing in terms of energy there is a brief period of time that the celebrity dancers in particular can go on before there are consequences - like falling or suffering a myocardial infarction. The net result is that the actual dancing part of the show takes less time each and every episode. Now in part they've combatted this by adding a second dance to the program for each team, but the problem continued. In last night's episode the problem came to a head in part because the programming weasels at ABC made a particularly stupid move.

The stupid move that the programming weasels made was to can Crumbs. Now as I understand it the "plan" is to put some sort of reality programming into the second hour of Thursday next week. And over the last two weeks they've shoehorned a repeat of Grey's Anatomy into the post Dancing With The Stars time by cutting Primetime back to a half hour. But they didn't have that luxury this Thursday so to fill the time slot, instead of burning off a final episode of Crumbs, they expanded Dancing With The Stars to two hours. The result? Well it wasn't pretty.

The tease at the start of the episode showed the celebrity dancers preparing for their performances for the night. Which is about all we saw of them live in that first hour. Most of the time was spent with Tom Bergeron - and to a lesser degree Samantha Harris reviewing the performances that the teams had done during the previous weeks. First we were "treated" to the best of Jerry & Anna then to Stacy & Tony and finally to Drew and Cheryl, all in considerable detail. We saw excerpts from all but one of the dances from each couple. After all they were going to be doing their favourite dance from previous weeks so it wouldn't be "helpful" for us to see how they'd done them before. We might compare them with what the teams did live and see faults and flaws - or at least differences - in the current performances. Interspersed between these taped highlights were taped highlights of the professional dancers doing routines that had been performed during previous one hours results show. The one hour results show was of course created once ABC decided that they could shelve Faith and Hope for a few weeks and no one would notice. And actually once they made up their minds that the results show would be live throughout what they had was not a bad product, with the emphasis on the potential music/variety format and the results of the dancing taking second place.

Now all of this occurred during the first excruciating hour of the final dance session. There was still an hour to go, which is the flaw in the whole procedure. The first hour was a waste of time - at least of my time since I could have used that hour to watch Survivor and not been forced to use my late feed to catch up. Beyond that it hurt the flow of the show. If the programming weasels were determined to have a two hour final dancing episode, they could have at least put the first dances for each team in the first hour, interspersed with the material on training, and staged the second Freestyle routines in the second hour. Or better yet they could have chopped the damned thing down to ninety minutes - as in previous weeks - which would have made the entire program tighter. Looking at professional routines could have been held of until the results show or just dumped all together. After all aren't we there to watch B or C class celebrities make fools of themselves by dancing?

By the way, just for the record, I think that Thursday night was the night that Stacy "not an elf" Kiebler lost the competition. Stacy & Tony's Jive was spectacular of course, but the whole house of cards collapsed with the Freestyle dance which literally looked as if it had been recycled from Saturday Night Fever and featured just one lift. It was a safe routine and consequently it was a capital "B" boring routine. The judges thought so to the point where they actually awarded higher marks to Jerry and Anna (in the most absurd Afro wigs ever) than to the "weapon of mass seduction". But the truly amazing performance came from Drew Lachey and Cheryl Burke who earned a second perfect score with their Passa Doble done to Michael Jackson's Thriller followed by a knock-out routine done to the song Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy that featured plenty of lifts and athleticism and earned them another perfect score of 30 from the three judges. More to the point it showed just how weak and safe the routine that Stacy and Tony put together was.

If I were to handicap this thing right now, I'd say that Drew and Cheryl are the likely winners, but given the way that the voting is set up it is entirely possible for any team - including Jerry and Anna - to win. What I can predict, with unerring certainty, is that the final results show of this season will again be an oversized extravaganza. It will, on the whole, be better than the two hours on Thursday night if they remember to focus on music and dance rather than building tension for the results - that can be done in half an hour or an hour - but in my opinion it will still be a bloated production compared to what it probably should be. An hour - fine; ninety minutes - pushing it; but two hours? Too little substance trying to cover too much time, or as I said above, "too much bread, not enough jam."

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