Published March 18, 2009
In the first elimination show of the eighth season of "Dancing With the Stars," we learned that America isn’t head over heels anymore for Belinda Carlisle, the former lead singer of the Go-Go’s. She and her partner, Jonathan Roberts, were sent home after being named as one of the two lowest-scoring couples, the other being the portly co-founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak, and his partner, Karina Smirnoff.
The much hyped first ever elimination-show dance-off, in which the two bottom couples would reprise a dance for the judges and then have that score combined with the viewers’ votes, proved to have no effect on the final outcome, as both pairs received scores of 17 (out of a possible 30). Carlisle and Roberts performed their salsa from Monday night, with a little more hip shaking, a little less boob displaying, and considerably more missed steps. Judge Len Goodman gave them one fewer point than yesterday. Wozniak continued to amaze the judges with his enthusiasm; his and Smirnoff’s quickstep received the same score as yesterday (although judge Bruno Tonioli mixed things up a bit by showing the wrong side of his judging paddle).
By the somewhat arcane rules of the dance-off, that meant the decision was based on votes the viewers had already cast the two previous Mondays—and also meant that Carlisle’s fan base seems to have eroded beneath her feet. Two other stars who received lower total scores from the judges—Ty Murray (with Chelsie Hightower) and Steve-O (with Lacey Schwimmer)—evidently received a significantly higher amount of audience support, even though Steve-O had been injured and viewers voted last night on his taped dress-rehearsal performance. (Steve-O returned to the show tonight saying that it was his dumb idea to do the flip that caused the injury and that he hoped to keep competing next week.)
We can assume that Carlisle and Wozniak knew all day that they were in the bottom two, since the show featured footage of them rehearsing their dance-off performances this morning. That may explain why Carlisle seemed so stoic throughout the show as the results were being announced, although maybe, like many 40-plus celebrities, she has simply lost a little facial expressiveness as the years have passed.
Besides Carlisle’s surprising departure, the episode was a little sedate. Although the season premiere last week received unusually high ratings in the coveted 18-to-49-year-old demographic (perhaps because of the last-minute addition of the rejected "Bachelor" fiancée Melissa Rycroft), much of this episode seemed to be aimed at the somewhat less coveted 81-to-94 group. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, a swing band, played for the professionals-only number, featuring Cheryl Burke, Mark Ballas, Tony Dovolani, Lacey Schwimmer, and Derek and Julianne Hough. It’s always nice to see the regulars busting out their best moves without having to worry about having a B-lister step on their toes.
Continuing the hyper-retro theme, the weekly Macy’s Stars of Dance segment was another swing number, choreographed by Michael Rooney, the son of the World War II-era box-office champ Mickey Rooney, who, sure enough, was in the audience to congratulate his kid. (Not to be unkind to invited guests, but the "DWTS" pros totally smoked young Mr. Rooney’s troupe.)
Then Jewel (who had signed on as a contestant this season but dropped out because of an injury) came out and sang the 70-year-old standard "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Those who remember Jewel best from her early folkie work were probably surprised by her big voice; she was probably surprised by the random bursts of applause for the hot number performed during the song by the show’s two "So You Think You Can Dance" veterans, Chelsie Hightower and Dmitry Chaplin. (The passionate choreography was way more "SYTYCD" than "DWTS.")
By the way, if the show really wants to make older folks feel comfortable tuning in, here’s a suggestion: Senior citizens often complain that they’re unfamiliar with current pop culture. "Dancing With the Stars" could run a notice at the beginning of each episode saying something like this: "Old people: Please don’t feel left out if you can’t identify half of the ‘stars’ in this program. No one can identify half of the ‘stars’ in this program."
To pad out the hour, Cameron Mathison, a contender in season 5, did a comedy segment about how to win on the show, in which he made fun of actress Shannon Elizabeth for crying and continued this season’s theme of dropping innuendos about Bruno’s sexuality. (Advising contestants to suck up to the judges, he was seen dropping off Bruno’s dry-cleaning, a thong on a hanger.) The other comic-filler segment, in which the stars trash-talked each other, had even fewer laughs.
Still, some hard-hearted types might have gotten a chuckle out of the song selection for Belinda and Jonathan’s last dance: "Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)."