The leading contestants on Dancing With the Stars were mostly on their toes at the show's halfway mark, though Lance fell on his Bass in mid-step and Susan Lucci and Brooke Burke got hurt. But it's the judges who really took a tumble, proving they're either numbskulls or corrupt hacks.
Take Judge Len. This Brit nitwit is about as credible as Lord Haw-Haw. Last week, he complained that dancers were too sexy. This week, he complained that Lucci wasn't sexy enough -- "Get yer knickers out next time!" -- and gave Cloris Leachman thumbs up for a salsa persona she defined as "a skanky ho."
"The old girl can still turn a trick!" raved Bruno, taking ever greater leave from the reality-based community. She wasn't that skanky, Bruno. It increasingly appears that the judges are simply doing what William O. Douglas once claimed the Supreme Court did: dress up arbitrary decisions with specious reasoning.
The kangaroo court turned on a perfectly serviceable performance by Maurice Greene and Cheryl Burke last week, making them bitterer than I am with my stockbroker. In what appeared to be unfaked invective (as opposed to most of the awkwardly staged phony-baloney rehearsal conversations), Maurice and Cheryl became snapdragons right out of Edward Albee. Her famous grin gone, Cheryl snarled, "I think that you're lazy and you don't care!"
After their desperately sprightly last-chance-to-dance salsa, the judges gave them an enthusiastic 27 score. Maybe they earned it, but they were better last week! I think the whole thing was contrived to pump up the drama on a show that cannot bear too much reality.
Warren Sapp and Kym Johnson were also feeling low, and bounced back with a disco hustle oddly danced to the way-post-disco "Funkytown." The judges gave them an excessive 25. "That's a guy who knows how to deliver the funk!" trilled Bruno, who went right off his esthetic meds and gave them a 9. Carrie Ann gave Warren a smooch.
The clearest travesty of justice came in the 1950s-themed jitterbug smackdown between Brooke Burke/Derek Hough and Cody Linley/Julianne Hough. The producers built up the rivalry with an utterly unspontaneous Cody/Julianne visit to spy on the rehearsing Brooke and Derek, who unconvincingly mimed surprise.
Granted, Cody's and Julianne's terror in the face of the Brooke/Derek jitterbug juggernaut seemed sincere. The latter have copped the top spot five times, and they looked sharp in Happy Days couture, his hair greased back halfway to the ceiling. (Incidentally, did you know that the '50s thing never existed, and the whole Grease fantasy was actually invented in 1969 by a few Columbia University glee club guys inspired by Susan Sontag's "Notes on Camp?" Fact, check it out.)
But impressive as Brooke's and Derek's many death-defying lifts and amusing bubblegum-biting bits were, did they really deserve two tens from Carrie and Bruno and a 9 from Len? There was a new hesitance in the dynamic duo's dancing. I don't know if her injury and visit to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center the day before the show was the reason. I do know that Cody and Julianne were clearly better than Brooke and Derek. And you know I'm telling the truth because I loathe Cody and Julianne. His big, hairy eyebrows make him look like an especially slow Cro-Magnon, and she's the blonde they wrote all those jokes about.
Young and full of dumb as they are, they were a jitterbug whirlwind, and Julianne's I Love Lucy look outdid Brooke's standard '50s outfit. Yet the judges were dumber than the kids could hope to be, and only gave them 28, one point less than their rivals. It's a mystery. Another mystery: why the '50s getups for a '40s dance?
Alas, we can't fire the judges. So who are they going to fire? Toni Braxton, Lance, or Cloris. Lance and Lacey Schwimmer danced blandly -- the only eyebrow-raiser of their segment was the visit with swing-dance champ Lacey's swing-champ dad, who's the size Marlon Brando was when Rolling Stone ran the headline, "300-POUND MARLON LANDED IN L.A."
Toni wore a sparkly, baggy black thing like a coal sack, and did a sad, saggy swing dance with a meek Michael Jackson moonwalk to nowhere and an ill-advised split nowhere near the floor. Cloris has been farcically bad, then startlingly good. Where can she go from here? Away.
I also advocate defenestrating the dancer I call Mini-She, Susan Lucci. Sprayed with her signature Emmy repellent, Lucci flailed in a gold fringed flapper outfit with gladiator boots to keep her ailing old feets from failing her now. She's a TV personality with no personality. A judicious judge would say, "That's not dancing, that's calisthenics." Her hairdo looked like a calico cat dropped on her head from a skyscraper.
Next time, I hope it's a brick. Or maybe they could drop the judges instead.