Nov 23, 2010

Jennifer Grey, Bristol Palin or Kyle Massey? Post TV columnist Lisa de Moraes takes your questions about who will win "Dancing with the Stars," who should win "Dancing with the Stars" the prospects for "Skating with the Stars" and more.

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I've never watched an episode of this show, but I seem to hear and read it about it everywhere. So my questions to you:

1. How did Bristol even get on the show, she never was a star/celebrity in the first place (the show is basically 2nd/3rd tier celebrities at this point, correct?)

2. What exactly do they win? Why is it such a big deal if she does win?

Hi. Yes, it's a meaningless election -- she wins a hideous-yet-coveted Mirror Ball Trophy. But some people think that because this is THE most popular show on American TV, that it will be a big victory for the Tea Party if she wins, because they will have, in a pop-culture-ish way, said to the country that they need to sit up and take notice of them... Or something like that...

Pookie, I believe the dance style you meant to say was flamenco, not flamingo.

I know, I know. I obviously know NOTHING about ballroom dancing. I wouldn't know a flamenco from a flamingo if it was pink and planted in my own front yard...

I'm confused about the scoring. Does the 3 judges' scores count for 50 percent and the viewers 50 percent, or does each judge count for 25 percent and the viewers 25 percent?

It's complicated but I attempted to explain it in my blog yesterday. Briefly: judges award points and each dancer is given a score based on the PERCENTAGE of the overall points the judges  had strewn about. That's half of the dancer's score.. Then in come the popular votes and each dancer is awarded another score which is the PERCENTAGE of the overall popular vote. Then those dancer's two percentages are added up and -- voila -- you have their score.. Last week, Bristol finished the Monday competition with just 1.75 (don't quote me I may be misremembering but it was something like that) percent fewer judges points than Brandy. Which meant if Bristol only got, say, 2 percent more of the public's votes than Brandy, Brandy was a goner...

Picture it: spouses and children from all branches & all parties: Mrs. Clarence Thomas, a Gore girl, Bill Clinton, Laura Bush, Maria Shriver, Dennis Kusinich's hot red headed wife, Russert's kid, etc. Sure the ratings would drop by a landslide, but at least you wouldn't have the indignity of a bunch of political fanboys & girls dashing the dreams of a fading pop star or reality show castoff.

We're working on a poll question about just this, asking people what members of polarizing political families would you like to see on a future edition of "Dancing with the Stars"...I had suggested Rielle Hunter and Cindy McCain for the list...I like some of your suggestions. Bill Clinton has, according to the show's exec producer Conrad Green, been asked and turned them down flat. I'm thinking they should focus on Chelsea.... Or Tipper Gore --  that would be fun....

I like this kid! Does a DWTS win ever catapult a career foreward?

This guy is already a Disney star, he's been in shows on Disney Channel (ABC is owned by Disney)... That said, I think this has really opened up whole new paths for him. Yes, this show has definitely jump-started a number of careers -- that's why C-list has-beens like being on this show. Marie Osmond was suddenly back in the game after being on this show. Ditto Mario Lopez...I could go on and on....

Politics cross-pollinating TV should be encouraged. It produces the freakiest offspring.

This has definitely been a season of "firsts" on "Dancing with the Stars." I believe it's the first time the word "haters" has been used by one of the dancers in a discussion of their success on the show so far... 

The real question is why people are watching a show where people that aren't good dancers are dancing (DWTS) as opposed to a real dance competition reality show (So You Think You Can Dance)? SYTYCD is a much better dance show that doesn't get 1/2 of the viewership, I believe. Are we that obsessed about "Stars" who aren't even stars?

I, for one, love seeing people who used to be famous, like Michael Bolton, getting out on the dance floor. It's very retro -- like some old variety show....I particularly love the cheesetastic dances the professionals do when pop singers come on the results show to plug their new album....

My sentimental favorite is Kyle, Jennifer should win, and Bristol shouldn't have made it this far. Not because her mother is a she-devil, but just because she's not as good as other contenders. While she has improved, others are more deserving. With that said, people seem to forget that half (I think) of the contestant's points are determined by the public.... and it's their right to vote for whomever they want!

I think Bristol did very well with her first dance last night. Her second one -- not so much, though it was certainly an ambitious routine for her.  And yes, she's no Brandy when it comes to dance skills..and maybe Audrina Patridge was better. But there have been lots of less-than-brilliant dancers who made it this far, and even won -- not because they were the best dancer, but because they weren't awful -- may be even pretty good --  and they charmed the public. Emmitt Smith comes to mind...

If Bristol Palin wins "DWTS" my already awkward, stressful, uncomfortable Thanksgiving with several Tea Party relatives will be absolutely ruined with their gloating. I think I might just belly up to the kids' table with a gin martini and call it a day.

You have just described the only way to get through ANY family Thanksgiving, not just the one following Bristol Palin's win on DWTS....

The show is designed for the public to vote for the person they like the best. Bristol has strong public support even if she is not the best dancer. If she wins, it's because of the format - see, i.e., American Idol where many of the best performers don't make it all the way. If people are taking advantage of a loop hole in the voting system to submit hundreds of votes for Bristol, then again, it's ABC and the format that are to blame. Bristol just shows up and dances.

The producer insists thos bogus votes are being caught and expunged. Again, people, last week Bristol only had to get 1.76 percent more of the popular vote to survive and have Brandy sent packing....

So: (a) Are there any circumstances under which Producer Green will reveal the superdupersecret popular voting totals? Would he do so to counter a charge of favoritism for or against any of the candidates? (b) Gee, don't you think that the stop-Bristol vote will be split between Kyle and Jennifer, allowing Bristol to squeak through to victory? (c) Regardless of the outcome, how many days' and weeks' worth of columns will you get out of the endless charges and countercharges?

Dancing With The Marginally Famous - the gift that keeps on giving.

Green will never reveal voting results, any more than the producer of Idol would the year Jennifer Hudson didn't even make it to the final four Idolettes when she was so clearly the best performer of that batch and even Elton John got into the act and accused the show of being racist...sigh...

Did you see the Drudge lead-in today for your Sunday story? "Bristol for the win."

I don't think that anyone at Drudge report read your story.


This has been an interesting story to cover. I have been getting emails calling me a tool of the right and a tool of the left. And I have learned so many new words! I had no idea there were so many conservatives who's prose style is modeled on that of Rabelais.....

I'm not a DWTS watcher and I'm feeling left out. Do you still love me anyway?

Simply adore you....

A lot has been made of the fact that most contestants, lose weight, and Ms. Palin has remained

Is it possible, that this is a combination of the girl:

1) standing next to women w/ Hollywood thin bodies making her look way bogger by comparison

2) the camera adding 10 lbs

3) being an on-camera novice and thus not aware of her best angles?

I have a feeling if she walked into a room she'd look perfectly fine to the human eye.

I frankly do not see how Kyle could possibly have gotten through that freestyle dance number when he is so  -- what's the male equivalent of zaftig?

For shame, you as a TV writer should know that a sucessful show gives the people what they want, and Cindy is not the person America would want to see stufed into one of those tiny ballroom dresses.

Now MEGHAN McCain could probably triple the ratings overnight if they could work out the sturctural engineering details to keep the top of her costume on.

And while I hate myself for admitting this, the addition of Christine O'Donnell(dancing to "Black Magic Woman") and Michelle Bacman (Patsy Cline's "Crazy"?) would make that must-see TV at least for me.

I think all three on your list are making our poll if I'm remembering the list correctly...

After Brandy was eliminated, I decided I could no longer support the show. The fact that Bristol made it to the finals makes this competition a farce!

I don't think it's half so silly as Tom DeLay not being the first booted the season he performed. Talk about two left feet! and Cloris Leachman -- dreadful, though hilarious to some....

I demand Richard Nixon's Head from Futurama be on the show. It would be fantastic to see a disembodied leader do the samba.

My brilliant producer Paul, meanwhile,  wants to see Mary Todd Lincoln...

Did you see the first show? Absolutely dreadful! Too bad the "ice rink" is so small that the skaters cannot build up enough speed to hurt themselves.

I have not yet watched it -- was writing up blog while it was on.... So, no head injuries?

Yeah, but even Emmitt could show human emotion on his face and give us some razzle dazzle. He wasn't Fred Astaire, but he was leaps and bounds better than Bristol.

Am I the only one who thought Bristol's first dance last night was good. And she had facial expressions...I know the judges keep talking every week about her performance being her breakthrough performance, but I actually felt like she had that moment last night...

I think the reason Bristol has been successful thus far is because she represents the average person.

Everyone knows she isn't that good a dancer (though certainly much better than most people at this point), but it is easy to identify with her as someone who undertook a pressurized situation and has risen to the occasion.

In contrast, Kyle is clearly a professional entertainer and Jennifer is both professional entertainer and dancer.

Jennifer deserves to win based on talent and technique, but her interminable whining about her age and physical condition means I wouldn't mind if Kyle won...

You may have noticed she stopped that a few weeks ago -- or, more accurately, the producers who decide what footage we see stopped it a few weeks ago. The only references this week were to actual physical limitations because she has a broken neck and so could not do some of the lifts that we usually expect to see in the opposted to the flamingo, which involves being dressed in pink and planted in my front yard...


I fully agree that we love to watch the show for the sharp cheddar flavor...but then why did we boot Kate Gosselin last year -- they just don't come ANY cheesier than her?

And I forgot to mention: how did Kate Gosselin make it past the first week that season? Although had that happend we would not have been treated to her astounding paso doble (I think it was) to "Paparazzi" which she did in character as Boris Karloff in an evening dress made out of bandanas or something like that. I have trouble now distinguishing between what actually happened in that dance and what only exists in the nightmares I'm still having about it...

I can see why he's turned it down:

1 - what if you lose to a "Situation"- type? = It lowers your stature.

2. Doing a series of gyrating Latin dances with a hot partner might bring back unpleasant memories to the voting public, at a time when he's largely rehabilitated his image.

They don't seriously expect to be accepted by Bill Clinton. I personally think they asked him just so they could say they had and shut up people who claim they are only casting conservative politicians on the show...they do not, as a rule, discuss people they have approached who have turned them down. But for some reason or another they decided it was okay to name Clinton....


There you go -- someone so stocky. He does not appear to have lost any weight either. But man is he limber and I wish I had his stamina... I got exhausted just watching his freestyle dance...

Reportedly before this season began airing, Bristol gave DWTS costumers an ultimatum that her costumes had to be more modest than those that female dancing "stars" typically wear.

My suspicion is that they may be doing a passive-aggressive number on her by creating a number of rather unflattering costumes for her (e.g., the blue number last night) that fulfill her alleged demand, as well as the Paso Doble costume with those ghastly bat-wings.

I'm sure you can think of others. (By comparison, Marie Osmond, who was heavier at the start of her season on the show, seemed to receive more flattering outfits, which I infer might be because she's more professional and gracious).

Her costumes have ranked on the Modesty-o-Meter and the Ghastly-o-Meter about the same as Kate Gosselins...Sunday's blue number wasn't bad. Yes, I did not like the bat wings on the paso doble outfit but they did show off her great legs. I'd give that costume a B+....Kyle's freestyle costume last night, meanwhile, looked like it had been borrowed from P.T. Barnum's clown closet..."vibrant" is may be the nicest way to describe it...

Her face was much better, but rewatch it and look at her feet - for every 2 fast steps mark makes, she makes one shuffle. There is supposed to be much more bounce, levity, and unison in a jive.

See, this is why we need pros like you.

You are chatting, to reiterate, with someone who does not know a flamenco from a flamingo...

OK, have to admit I don't watch the show (nor TV in general), but I do keep up (somewhat) with what's going on via your blogs, chats, etc. While it appears to all that Bristol is not the best dancer, I will say that I'm glad that a woman of "normal size" is on the show and putting herself as a role model for girls. AND I have to give it to her that she is out there trying, esp. given her (lack of) talent...

You and the many people who appear to be voting for her...

Stocky works, but husky is better.

much, much better....

I have voted for Bristol because:

1, it gets liberals so riled up;

2, she deserves my vote because of the nasty, smirky ad hominem comments directed toward her (such as her weight);

3, yes, I can relate to her and think that, compared to a contestant who starred in a film that highlighted her dancing abilities, her improvement is superb.

Mostly because it riles up the liberals, though. Have to be honest.


Does no one remember when Gilles Marini was robbed of his mirror-ball trophy from that squat gymnast who was apparently popular in the heartland? This is nothing new!

thank you for remembering....

So, are you going to blog Skating with the Stars also? How are you on skating jargon?

if my editor see this I will have to go into hiding. No more talk about me blogging Skating with the Stars, please!

Will you now apologize for saying that she was a lesser performer?

Why? There have been far better dancers this season who have gone home....but that has happened many seasons on this show...

Oh how I loved the homage to "Dirty Dancing" with the watermelon last night! Jennifer has the talent, Kyle has the exuberance - I'd be satisfied with either one winning. ...But my gut tells me Bristol will be crowned champ. Ug.

That's a safe bet....

No question, just a note of sincere thanks to Lisa for the excellent commentary and reporting. From the first, I have enjoyed your incisive insight and unique style in The Washington Post; lately, however, I also have come to notice and respect your journalistic research with respect to DWTS -- not, I suspect, a topic of interest to you personally.

-- From a former "Reporting 101" student at Oregon's School of Journalism and one who has begged for standing room tickets to dance performances at the Kennedy Center when I could not afford a seat at any price.

Thanks... it's a tough job, but someone's got to do it... I'm actually going to study up before the next edition, and learn, for instance, what the heck paso doble means...I intend to be an expert by March when the show returns...

I know I shouldn't admit out loud to caring about a stupid TV show, especially one about dancing "stars," but this Palin girl's "success" at the expense of others, notably Brandy, has really gotten to me.

It may just be a TV show to you and other entertainment reporters, but to African American women like me (and Brandy), it's a reminder that playing field is never quite even for us.

Sarah and Bristol Palin represent white female entitlement; moreover, the celebration of American mediocrity. And it's a shame that no one in the media will just say it.

It is interesting you feel this way because, the broadcast networks at least, have been, until recently,  better at casting diversely on their reality series than on their scripted ones...

How about a show called Dancing with the Sleaze? John Edwards, Tiger Woods and Mel Gibson come to mind.

ABC would have one heck of a time selling ads on that show.... the British version of the show, this sort of thing already happened. And it was handled very differently.

There was an ITV political reporter (think Tim Russert-ish) who couldn't dance at all, but he was really funny. The voters kept saving him, but the judges (two of whom are the same as here) absolutely savaged him. They gave him 1's and 2's and acted like they were personally offended by the whole thing.

Finally, the reporter quit the show himself, saying he was afraid he might actually win and he didn't want to embarass the show that badly.

In the US, the same judges are terrified to say anything too negative to Palin. They give her 9's for no apparent reason. So I'm guessing they got the message from the Disney people not to offend the Palin demographic, right?

Not that it matters, of course. But it's one more reason why the British versions of all of these shows are so much more entertaining.

amen.....I'm out of time.  BTW, my regular Friday chat is not happening this week.... Happy Thanksgiving!

In This Chat
Lisa de Moraes
Pulitzer Prize winner, Peabody recipient, Medal of Freedom honoree -- Lisa de Moraes is none of these, but she is an authority on the bad direction, over-acting, and muddled plot lines being played out in the TV industry's executive suites. de Moraes worked for a decade as the television editor at The Hollywood Reporter, the entertainment industry trade paper, where she was routinely on the receiving end of more shouting phone calls from TV suits than Paula Abdul's manager.

When she upgraded to The Washington Post in 1998, a well-known executive producer called to suggest she have someone else start her car, but her trenchant writing (and refusal to use words like "trenchant") earned her the following praise from the brilliant, handsome media observer at Slate: "She writes like a wicked bitch." Wikipedia has called her "a noted television columnist," but they're often unreliable. It's pronounced "deh more ICE."

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