By now, you’ve no doubt seen the very uncomfortable footage of Marie Osmond fainting into a messy slump on this week’s “Dancing with the Stars.” As millions of people watched on live television, America’s former Princess of Paper Roses did what every professional dancer hopes never to experience—loose her footing.
But oddly enough, that’s far from the most shocking thing we’ve ever witnessed on this television show. How about macho football stars like Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith prancing around in sparkly outerwear? Or Beatles extortionist Heather Mills doing the quickstep with only one leg? But my personal favorite was witnessing Mario Lopez pull himself up from “Saved by the Bell” obscurity to emerge as one of television’s hottest hunks. (I still think he was robbed of the title, though.)
When “Dancing with the Stars” first premiered several years ago, I greeted it with all the enthusiasm of a root canal. The cast list reminded me of the formula they would use on the old “Love Boat” or “Fantasy Island” shows, when they would stuff as many TV and movie has-beens into an episode and hope someone would remember them. The term “Star” had eventually gotten so tarnished from over-usage that anyone who appeared in even one national commercial could be featured as a major talent.
So I gladly skipped the first few episodes, not wanting to waste my time witnessing such an obvious train wreck. But then something weird happened. I turned in one day when nothing else was on, and found myself fascinated with the process. Not only did we observe stars humiliating themselves while learning the Tango, but we also caught glimpses of them tripping and falling down in the rehearsal rooms. I wouldn’t call it ground-breaking television, but it was certainly captivating. To see these B or C list celebrities showing such raw vulnerability while learning to do the Cha Cha provides some of the best behind-the-scenes exploitation since Madonna’s “Truth or Dare” in 1991.
After that, I was hooked. I even ventured into watching “So You Think You Can Dance” during the summer hiatus just to get my fix of sweat and adrenaline. And what I realized was that these two shows had single-handedly taken dancing out of the dark ages and given it a fresh new spin for the 21st Century. Not only that, but the often maligned art of Ballroom Dancing was suddenly cooler than Krumping. Dance studios across the country that were once in danger of cobwebs and wrecking balls suddenly saw a resurgence of eager novices dying to learn the intricacies of the Paso Doble.
And that’s what I find so entertaining about the show. It not only gives us weekly lessons on proper form and technique, but it’s also taught us a very valuable lesson--Dancing is not just for Sissies. There’s a lot of hard work and effort that goes into making it look so easy, and I have to admire anyone who attempts doing it. Even if I’ve never heard of them before. Because it doesn’t matter to me whether it’s a celebrity, a quasi-celebrity or someone like Mark Cuban learning the dances, I will gladly cheer them on for their bravery and determination. After all, it takes a lot of guts to wear spandex and sequins with a straight face on national television. And if it weren’t for “Dancing with the Stars,” I might never have known who Drew Lachey and Sabrina Bryan were. (Who?)
And don’t even get me started on the judges. Forget Len and Bruno, who seem to squabble more than an old married couple, the real star of that panel is Carrie Ann Inaba. If for no other reason than her name, which is so much fun to say. (Try saying it five times fast and you’ll begin sounding like a native Bostonian.)