NPR logo Let's Rush To Judgment!: The New Contenders On 'Dancing With The Stars'

Let's Rush To Judgment

Let's Rush To Judgment!: The New Contenders On 'Dancing With The Stars'

Ricki Lake and Derek Hough rehearse for Dancing With The Stars. Greg Zabilski/ABC hide caption

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Greg Zabilski/ABC

Ricki Lake and Derek Hough rehearse for Dancing With The Stars.

Greg Zabilski/ABC

We normally do Let's Rush To Judgment! pieces about movie trailers, but today, we have something a little different. It's time to rush to judgment about the contenders on this season's Dancing With The Stars.

Yesterday, I watched all the footage of the contestants' first rehearsals with their partners. Since the show is premiering tonight, it seems that ABC has taken these videos down. This is fortunate for you in the narrow sense that watching all the videos required me to watch the same trailer for Sarah Jessica Parker's I Don't Know How She Does It 13 times. I heard Parker snore 13 times, heard other people marvel at how she does it 13 times, and heard that "Do you want it, do you want it, do you want it all?" song 13 times. So I thought I'd import all the intel I could muster and give you an idea of what you might see on tonight's season premiere.

Most obvious genetic advantages: Very often, people expect bigger people to be poor dancers. In the case of Chaz Bono, while past examples suggest he may well be at something of a training disadvantage as a result of being out of shape, is a natural mover. Not surprising, since his parents are Sonny and Cher. Seriously, Cher's kid would never move like a truck, no matter what his body type. That would be illogical. Bono's partner, Lacey Schwimmer, is a pistol who's quite good at working with what she's given — she's handled both Steve-O and Mike Catherwood, neither of whom could dance at all. She's probably the best partner Bono could have gotten.

Most obvious dance background: While others struggle to count rhythmically to three, Ricki Lake — who, remember, has actually been prominently featured in a very famous dance musical — is showing off her tap skills with her partner, Derek Hough.

Most graceful: As much of a great pun as it would be if the most graceful were Nancy Grace, the most purely graceful in the early videos is probably Chynna Phillips, who, it must be said, is aging rather brilliantly. Her partner, Tony Dovolani, has become one of the show's most patient and pleasant professional dancers and has danced with some challenging partners, including Kate Gosselin. If Phillips turns out to be easily teachable, he will deserve his good fortune.

Cheryl Burke and Rob Kardashian rehearse for Dancing With The Stars. Greg Zabilski/ABC hide caption

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Greg Zabilski/ABC

Cheryl Burke and Rob Kardashian rehearse for Dancing With The Stars.

Greg Zabilski/ABC

Most helpless stiff: There's some competition in this category, but it looks like the early leader is non-reality non-star Rob Kardashian, who somehow looks bored, befuddled, and grouchy all at once. He is my easy pick for the first out.

Most surprising good sport: Ron Artest. He brings to his rehearsal video a sense of humor about himself, a decent rapport with his partner, and a genuine desire to do well, which is the most important difference between athletes who go far and athletes who grudgingly go along with a scowl until they're eliminated. (By the way: If the show really intends to call him Metta World Peace, his new legal name, I wish them luck with that.)

Most obnoxious professional partner: I'm going with Mark Ballas, who's paired with Kristin Cavallari of The Hills. Ballas always seems bored and resentful when paired with anyone other than athletic, beautiful young women, but then when they put him with a hottie like Cavallari, he seems sort of ... slimy. They may be in a terrible band together, but I've grown to prefer Derek Hough, who seems to have learned a little something from winning with Jennifer Grey and now can look happy about dancing with Ricki Lake instead of always needing to be with whomever will look best in a samba costume.

Best accent ever: If you can listen to Nancy Grace's partner, Tristan MacManus, and not be transported, then you are not trying hard enough. Grace doesn't look like a terribly good dancer, but it's too early to
tell whether she'll be competent enough to stick around as a slowly improving curiosity. (There is probably substantial crossover between Grace's audience and the core audience of Dancing.)

Best early chemistry: Karina Smirnoff used to seem like kind of an unlikable jerk in her early seasons (it didn't help that for a while, she paired off with one of her partners, Mario Lopez, in real life). But in her rehearsal video with Iraq war veteran and All My Children star J.R. Martinez, she has an easy laugh, a clear level of comfort with Martinez, and a much more relaxed vibe than she had back in the day.

Most surprising potential washout: Hope Solo has a fantastic athlete name, and as a member of the women's soccer team that came so close to winning the World Cup, she's basically a national sports hero. She's also a sex symbol for a fair number of women and men alike. But it's not clear yet that she's any kind of a dancer. Paired with Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who has developed into one of the show's most endearing pro dancers, Solo has her best possible chance to do well. But in the early going, she looks a little shaky.

"And the rest." The other three contestants, David Arquette, Elisabetta Canalis, and Carson Kressley, don't make much of an impression in the rehearsal videos beyond what we know of them. We know Arquette is goofy, Canalis is pretty, and Kressley is silly and high-energy. What lies beyond those qualities remains to be seen.