Looks like we're in for another fun season of
Dancing with the Stars
, the kind of show that defines reality TV as a guilty pleasure. It's hard not to watch this gaudy bauble of harmless fluff without a goofy grin on your face, at times because of the train-wreck spectacle of the terminally rhythm-less (Tucker Carlson, who didn't even dance half of his dance, content to make faces and laugh it all off) and at times because of the sheer joy of performance, whether it's Emmitt Smith's crowd-pleasing playfulness, Mario Lopez's boyish exuberance or Willa Ford's unexpected elegance. (She could be this season's Stacy Keibler.)
Handicapping these so-called stars is almost as silly a pastime as watching them, but really, who can resist asking questions like who is this season's Drew Lachey, Lopez or the startlingly buff Joey Lawrence, who looks like Mr. Clean on steroids. My money's on Lopez. Or as judge Bruno Tonioli might call him, the Energizer Bunny, as in: "Do you have extra batteries in your pants?" As spoilers go, don't count out fortysomething siren Vivica A. Fox, whose aggressively sexy fox-trot put everyone on notice. (As far as the first night's voting goes, the women may be at a disadvantage, because the fox-trot is generally less showy than the cha-cha, which the men got to dance. But then, the cha-cha tended to reveal the lesser men's weaknesses, of which there were many.)
With an overcrowded dance floor of 11 contestants, the first few weeks will be all about pruning the dead wood, starting (let's hope) with pundit Carlson, whose lackadaisical approach deserves a universal shrug from one and all. The other biggest duds were country singer Sara Evans, a surprising stiff; Harry Hamlin, more disappointing in his awkwardness, if only because we might have believed some of his wife Lisa Rinna's verve could have rubbed off from last season; the pretty but plastic Shanna Moakler; and, as you'd expect, poor Jerry Springer, who would almost be endearing in his self-deprecating dorkiness if the very idea of him didn't make you want to puke on the parquet. He deserves at least a second week, but woe is the show if his fan base rallies to keep him in the competition too long as some sort of perverse joke.
At this point, early favorites among the men look to be Mario Lopez, Joey Lawrence and Emmitt Smith. Among the women: Willa Ford, Vivica A. Fox and Monique Coleman.
If the show stays on point (as opposed to
, for you real dancers out there),
could be a real challenger in this suddenly hot time period, which currently includes Fox's powerhouse
through September (let's hope Fox sticks to its guns and moves it back to 9 pm/ET after the October baseball break) and will soon include the return of CBS' mainstream hit
, CW's past-its-prime cult fave
and NBC's buzzworthy newcomer
Friday Night Lights
. Given the competition, it's hard not to conclude that ABC is kicking off Tuesday night by putting its best foot (or feet) forward.