Published April 22, 2009
In the seventh week of competition on season 8 of “Dancing With the Stars,” the former football player Lawrence Taylor was sent back to the golf course tonight after landing solidly in last place on the judges’ leaderboard on Monday night.
The show’s cohosts, Samantha Harris and Tom Bergeron, both noted that L.T. was having a hard time concealing his relief at no longer being forced to perform on the dance floor. “You’re the worst actor we’ve ever had on this show,” said Tom. After Lawrence thanked his partner, Edyta Sliwinska—“She’s taught me everything I know about dancing; I don’t where the hell I’m gonna use it”—he told his golfing buddies back in Miami that he would be on the practice range at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Since L.T. had made little effort to convince viewers that his heart was in this competition, his elimination seemed a foregone conclusion once he scored the lowest on Monday night. Here’s how the dancers had stacked up on the leaderboard:
Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani: 29
Shawn Johnson and Mark Ballas: 28
Gilles Marini and Cheryl Burke: 27
Chuck Wicks and Julianne Hough: 27
Lil’ Kim and Derek Hough: 26
Ty Murray and Chelsie Hightower: 24
Lawrence Taylor and Edyta Sliwinska: 21
Here’s the order the couples were told they were safe, in no particular order: Chuck and Julianne; Melissa and Tony; Shawn and Mark; Kim and Derek; and Gilles and Cheryl. There was a moment of suspense when Ty and Chelsie were left standing next to Lawrence and Edyta—their judges’ scores were close, and football fans must outnumber rodeo fans, right?—but Samantha and Tom didn’t drag it out too long.
Unfortunately, the show went long anyway, so we won’t know if the producers chose a particularly sarcastic song to play during Lawrence and Edyta’s last dance. (They should have played “The Ballroom Blitz.”)
Perhaps because Lawrence’s elimination seemed so inevitable, the episode was stuffed with more than the customary amount of filler. As usual, the judges’ pick for a reprise dance was the stars’ group dance. Often the reprises are more enjoyable because the stars don’t seem so tense the second time, but this number was so loose to begin with that they might as well have rerun the original footage. (Did they?)
In the next segment, three medical experts came out and discussed the health benefits and hazards of ballroom dancing. One said that Lil’ Kim was burning off so many calories that she could eat an extra 6 pints of ice cream a week but that Lawrence Taylor was burning off even more and could eat an extra 33 hamburgers a week. (Lil’ people never get a break.) Tom Bergeron pointed out that the first expert, Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN, “could have been surgeon general. He’s here.”
Natasha Bedingfield then took the stage to perform her song “Soulmate,” with two of this season’s eliminated pros, Dmitry Chaplin and Lacey Schwimmer, performing. As usual, the dancers completely upstaged the singer, giving a very theatrical performance that was reminiscent of the “contemporary” routines on “So You Think You Can Dance,” especially when it ended with the partners walking away from each other. (Both Lacey and Dmitri are “SYTYCD” veterans.)
The usual “Stars of Dance” segment wasn’t called that and wasn’t sponsored by the usual department store. It featured a skilled troupe of ballroom dancers called Burn the Floor. The trouble with watching shows like this and “SYTYCD” is that you find yourself straining to see if you recognize any of the dancers from past seasons, so you often miss the actual dancing. (For the record, none of the Floor Burners looked familiar.)
Instead of the usual “Ballroom Kids” competition, the next segment was devoted to a new twist on “Dancing With the Stars.” Six professional dancers paired off to compete for viewer votes, with the prize being a position as a pro on the show next season. Two of the dancers, Afton DelGrosso and Genya Mazo, are siblings of pros from the early seasons of “DWTS” (Ashly and Alec, respectively), and one, Snow Urbin, was a contestant on the first season of “So You Think You Can Dance,” although she didn’t mention that when listing her achievements.
Since the judges didn’t have to score the pros, they were generally complimentary. (Bruno couldn’t resist the pun potential in Snow’s name and said, “They should call you Fire.”) Chances are the home viewers will vote for Afton and Genya for their family connections, and for Anna Demidova and Mayo Alanen for the elegance of their waltz. So Afton’s partner, Brent Borbon, and Snow seem the most likely to go home last week. (Snow was never that popular with audiences on “SYTYCD,” and Brent is apparently the only one with no connection to either Utah or the former Soviet empire, so he can’t go that far.)
The second musical guest was the singing group the Celtic Women, who performed “You Raise Me Up,” with dance accompaniment by Eric Luna and Georgia Ambarian (who had performed on “DWTS” to a performance by James Blunt last spring). The two dancers took the song title literally. Eric twirled Georgia around his neck and under his armpits as if she were a particularly long pair of nunchucks, then spun her over his head; she finished standing on his chest. It was pretty spectacular, but after a while, it made you understand why ballroom has those no-lifts rules.
All in all, the episode made the elimination seem almost like an afterthought. It’s a good thing Lawrence Taylor probably doesn’t care.