Dancing With the Stars has been a pretty fun ride during its previous ten seasons, but it’s this eleventh season that has really upped the fun factor. Designating several special “theme” weeks that will be scattered throughout Season Eleven has brought a new set of challenges to both the professional dancers and their celebrity partners beyond the typical ‘can they actually become a competitor?’ challenge.
Week Five’s particular challenge came in the form of dancing to television theme songs – a campy sort of theme on paper, but sheer entertainment in action…kind of like television theme songs in general. The remaining eight couples each chose a TV theme, and were tasked with performing one of five dances: the tango, the quickstep, the foxtrot, the rumba, or the jive. One tango, one jive, and two each of the quickstep, the foxtrot, and the rumba graced the floor, and audiences were treated to an overall-entertaining evening of competition accompanied by television theme songs that spanned the spectrum. Some were instantly-recognizable while others might not have been, but all in all, that spectrum nicely represented television history.
Part of the fun with this theme also lies in the fact that one of the competitors this season is almost inextricably linked to one of the most recognizable themes in television theme song history, and it would have been a disappointment had she not danced to it. Florence Henderson’s tango with partner Corky Ballas to the theme from The Brady Bunch was fun for a couple of reasons: one, who ever could have thought that the Brady theme could be a tango, and two, well, it was the Brady theme as a tango. Henderson appeared to be having fun, and Ballas was as much of a showman as ever, but overall, the dance itself wasn’t exactly exciting. It was cute, yes. And while there were some parts of it that were definitely a spot-on tango, there were other parts that were just…boring. But again, this dance definitely had the nostalgia factor on its side, and Henderson and Ballas are a charming pair. Nobody puts Mrs. Brady in a corner.
Like Henderson, Audrina Patridge also danced to the theme of the television show that made her famous. With a rumba set to “Unwritten,” by Natasha Bedingfield – the song used as the theme for MTV’s The Hills – Patridge once again proved that she is improving with each week that passes, not only in technical skill but in performance, and that she is certainly a contender. Her movements were graceful, her lines absolutely stunning, and her sense of injecting a character into the dance is improving. The rehearsal footage shown before the actual dance helped to illustrate just how well the dance turned out – she was undeniably feeling a little bit awkward about the sensual nature of the rumba – and also helped to show that she, like Mike Sorrentino, is full of surprises regarding her personality. Her rapport with Dovolani on and off the dance floor is a joy to watch, and should help to lead her right on through to the top three.
Speaking of chemistry, Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough continue to emulate chameleons as their dance-created relationships change each week. After a fiery, tensely-passionate Argentine tango last week, which followed a fun-and-frisky samba in Week Three, they created an adorably domestic, fabulously-Fifties pair as they foxtrotted their way around the dance floor to “Love and Marriage,” used as the theme for Married…With Children. It was a lighthearted dance, fun to watch, and despite the fact that Grey fell to third place in the standings for the night, was still pretty technically sound, and a delightful performance. Hough isn’t a two-time professional champion for nothing, and his continued good work in choreographing their routines – in addition to Grey’s innate ability and hard work – is what’s going to carry them through this competition…and possibly even to that mirror-ball trophy.
It was singer Brandy who took the top spot from Grey this week, with her quickstep set to the theme from Friends, “I’ll Be There For You,” by The Rembrandts. Praised by head judge Len Goodman as her “best dance so far,” and to be honest, it deserved to take the top spot. The technique was close to flawless, the performance was spectacular, and the choreography was fun, spunky, and fit the music to a T. Not to mention, for the first time in the course of the competition, there was no underlying tension between Brandy and Chmerkovskiy, and the dance was therefore light, airy, and a joy to watch. Her performance this week puts her that one step closer to really being a consistent contender for the rest of her time on the show, and it was nice to see Chmerkovskiy without his usual sneer on his face.
At the other end of the leaderboard was Bristol Palin, whose monkey-suited Jive to the theme from The Monkees got praise for its attempt at showing personality, but faltered in its footwork. Palin and partner Mark Ballas earned the lowest score of the night for their Jive, but when it comes down to it, probably also earned a lot of points for its originality (which may or may not also be a nice way to say strangeness), and the fact that for the first time, Alaska’s former First Daughter really looked like she was having fun. Unfortunately for her, the theme of this season seems to be that the dancers who earn the lowest judges’ scores are actually the dancers who get eliminated, and so it could be that her time has come…unless her willingness to wear a monkey suit for part of her dance endeared her to the world. …which is possible.
Falling in the middle were Kurt Warner and Anna Trebunskaya with their Bewitched quickstep, Kyle Massey and Lacey Schwimmer with their Charlie’s Angels foxtrot, and Rick Fox and Cheryl Burke with their Hill Street Blues rumba. Warner’s quickstep twinkled as much as the music, and there was definitely something magical going on to earn him his highest score of the season thus far, a 24. There’s just no shaking the particular brand of sparkling charm that he has, and he’s quite possibly the dark horse to watch in this competition. Massey’s foxtrot was a blend of classic foxtrot and 70s’ sass, but the fact that Schwimmer looked startlingly like Farrah Fawcett was actually kind of an unsettling distraction. Massey’s a showman, that’s for certain, but his status as the youngest competitor might work against him; his energy is sometimes unbridled, which isn’t always appropriate. Last, but not least, Fox’s rumba wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t his best dance of the season, either. There were moments when he looked way too stiff for the sensual rumba, and others when it seemed like his height was working against him.
Television themes are probably a guilty pleasure for most people – everyone has at least one that they can sing or hum by heart – so combining them with another guilty pleasure means an overall highly entertaining night of television. But when there’s such a high level of competition…well, it’s hard to say whose show’s getting cancelled when the elimination rolls around.