In its previous three seasons, ABC’s Dancing with the Stars has dished out harmless and mindless entertainment. The show’s success is no mystery. The whole family can watch it and not worry about someone getting shot. The shouting Euro announcer (CARRIE ANN INABA!!) is fun to imitate. Forgotten stars from old TV shows get a chance at a comeback while the other celebs who elicit a “who the hell is that” response get some exposure.
Still, I always lost interest halfway through. The skewed fan base voting, the exhausting results show, and Tom Bergeron’s lame one-liners all wore me out after a while. But this season something changed.
Enter Heather Mills. The ex-Mrs. Paul McCartney is hardly a star in my opinion but that doesn’t really matter. From the beginning, her sheer presence on DWTS has been so controversial. I grew up in the '80s so I don’t get the whole “bashing Beatles' wives” thing. To some people Paul McCartney will always be a teen heartthrob, to others he’s just the guy from a Michael Jackson video. I fall in the latter category.
Still, many folks were furious that Mills was even on the show. Many tuned in to vote for anybody but her. Others watched to see how a woman with a prosthetic leg would be able to dance. Either way, it was genius casting on ABC’s part. While we’re on the topic of that infamous leg, let’s get the bad jokes out of the way. She didn’t have a leg to stand on. She stumped the judges. She had a leg up on the competition. Groan, I know. Seriously, Heather Mills worked as both a villain and an inspiration, giving the hokey reality show a much-needed shot in the arm. Personally, I’m not buying that she’s some sort of vegan anti-Christ. I have two functioning legs and I wouldn’t attempt any of those dances, so color me impressed.
With Heather’s elimination this week, the show is left with its usual charms and flaws. Seeing athletes like Apollo Anton Ono and Laila Ali transform into ballroom dancers is entertaining while the constant mugging for the camera by Joey Fatone is tiresome, to say the least. The overlong results shows are still to be viewed with caution unless you have TiVo. Weird comments from the judges (“McStiffy” anyone?) and cheesy covers of pop songs still provide unintentional chuckles. The baffling existence of dimwitted co-host Samantha Harris grows more perplexing with each passing episode. But all in all, Dancing with the Stars still delivers fluffy escapism that may even inspire viewers.
After all, if Cliff Clavin and Steve Sanders can learn how to dance then so can I! And if a charity campaigner can be considered a star then so am I!