Oh, yeah. Catfish Dude is grating as all get out, but at the end of the day, it is a dancing competition, and he is a very good dancer.
Right now it’s Catfish guy’s to lose. Bachlorette girl second, Nellie third.
I would really love to see Justina Machado win it, though. She may not be the best dancer, technically speaking, but she has the most passion, joy, and personality by far. I’m hoping the voters push it her way.
I wouldn’t begrudge Catfish guy or Bachelorette lady, but Nelly has no business in the finals IMO. Yes, he’s improved, but he still stomps around the dance floor like Godzilla destroying Tokyo. I don’t get why the judges love him so much; he’s just not the least bit graceful.
In fact, I can’t recall ever disagreeing with the judges as much as I have this season. How they gave a 30 to Johnny’s contemporary dance this week is beyond me. It looked like a total mess. There have been many examples this season of dances that I thought were beautifully performed getting low scores, and ones that looked mediocre getting raves and high scores. Can’t be arsed to recall them all, though.
The episode didn’t show this as he had to be hustled off the stage for the double sendoff, but Johnny Weir reportedly was very upset at not making the final. Given that his traditional gender role-defying persona was never going to resonate with the fans, I think it’s remarkable that he lasted this long. It was a fun ride…all the weirdness of Bristol Palin with none of the political headaches…and I’m glad I was able to take it with him.
However, the real story is Britt Stewart, DWTS’ first ever black female pro. Over the years I’ve seen so many black women, regardless of the contest, flame out incredibly early, and it was downright depressing. Well, not only didn’t Stewart flame out, she nearly went the distance! This is really going to open doors for her in the future, and in an era where inclusivity and diversity should be a given, I’m all for it.
Oh yeah, Skai Jackson. Never was going to win this, but definitely lasted longer than I expected. Always smiled and never cracked under pressure. She can hold her head high.
Winner? Whoever has the biggest fanbase. Don’t anyone kid yourselves that what the judges think matters one rancid cockroach dropping on the final day. They picked Justina Machado over Skai Jackson (correctly, IMO), and with that, any and all influence they have over this contest is done. At this point the scores are so homogenzied that a contestant would have to fall off the stage to get less than a 9. Say it with me: “The final dances and scores are a meaningless exhibition that will change freaking nothing.”
So who has the biggest fanbase? Smart money says that Kaitlin Bristowe and Nev Schulman are finishing a resounding 1-2. Unfortunately, neither was ever in the bottom two, and with no vote totals or on-air polls or any other goddam information whatsoever, it’s impossible to say which one has the edge. (Primetimer consensus seems to be for Nelly, for whatever that’s worth.)
The one thing I can saw with 100% certainty is that Tyra Banks did not get any better.
And so here were are at November 23, 2020. This is the first season of any show I’ve seen in memory which felt like it was too short and too long at the same time. I honestly don’t remember anyone who went out before A.J. McLean, but I do remember excessive filler and way excessive Tyra Banks.
Welp, I’ve built a mild intellectual stake in this, if nothing else, and you know what that means…
0:00 We open to a predictable soft-focus montage set to the lilting strains of Flashdance, better known as the “what a feeling” song, and one of the highly coveted Songs That Are Required To Be Played Freaking Everywhere Forever and Ever. This particular song, you’ll remember, is from a movie released in the 80’s (specifically 1983). This will become something of a theme for tonight. (Boy, didn’t take long to completely kick Shut Up And Dance to the curb, did it? )
Quickie exhibition with 6 pro couples. ABC, of course, was aware of the alarming trend of them steadily becoming more famous while the contestants were almost entirely long-forgotten has-beens and obscure hometown heroes, a lot of whom weren’t too happy about being overshadowed. ABC’s solution was to completely marginalize the pros to the point of not even giving their full names, which had the result of the pros getting upset at being shafted for something that totally wasn’t their fault, the fans of said pros getting outraged, and me having no freaking idea who any of these people are. Hahh.
0:03 Tyra Banks enters to I’m So Excited (don’t have the exact year, but it was on the tail end of the disco craze, so yeah, old). Her costume looks absolutely ridiculous, but at this point it’s like saying that a Donald Trump supporter acted like an obnoxious infantile waste of oxygen. (Hey, may as well use it while I still can. ) She announces the start of the show in an incredibly grating tone of voice, which does not improve in the slightest at any point in the evening.
0:04 Recap of Kaitlin Bristowe, who gives off a catlike screech and an lunatic asylum patient laugh in the span of roughly 10 seconds. I am developing the first creeping feelings of overwhelming pessimism about this final. I don’t remember ever seeing any overt signs of pain or clumsiness, so I have to question how bad that ankle break truly was. Look, if she got lucky and it was only a mild sprain, I’m cool with that, but don’t milk a fake injury for sympathy or scores.
0:07 The first dance, to Toxic (2007), and I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not the good Toxic, it’s that throwaway bit of pop drivel. I’m honestly a bit puzzled as to how this became the definitive Britney Spears song; I recall Oops I Did It Again and Baby One More Time getting way more airplay.
Oh right, the dance. Skimpy outfit, plenty of lifts. Whatever.
0:15 Recap of Nelly. He really comes across as incredibly decent and honest, to the point where I’m surprised I haven’t heard more about him. (I remember when M.C. Hammer first blew up, and it was honest-to-god national news. What, a rapper so clean and wholesome you can take him home to your parents? Perish the thought!) Maybe it’s because he’s never been really overt about his type of music (which really strikes me as more as monotone singing than rap). Given the eternally byzantine politics surrounding the hip hop community (Can anyone explain to me what everyone’s beef with Vanilla Ice was in language that an actual human being might understand?), that was probably a wise precaution.
0:18 Rhythm of the Night (1985), utterly bog-standard dancepop which I actually think is beneath Nelly. He still fails to impress, but since the lowest possible score on the final day is 27, this doesn’t hurt him, which is redundant inasmuch as nothing a contestant does on the final day can move his or her chances one femtoinch in either direction to begin with.
0:26 Aaaaaaand here we go with Brain-Dead Zero-Humor Skit #1: Banks saying some stupid crap at a drive-thru window. Startlingly, she does (tangentially) raise a pretty thorny issue, in that when there is only ONE! ONE! ONE! ONE! ONE! (abbreviation: 11111) prize, there can’t help but be horrific injustices. Nobody who makes the final deserves to walk away empty-handed. Of course they all should win something. Why this show has never evolved one step in this direction in 29 seasons bewilders me.
0:27 Shot of Jeannie Mai, who has nothing to do tonight but Banks feels obligated to announce her presence for whatever reason.
0:28 Recap of Nev Schulman. He’s had some nasty allegations thrown at him, but none of them stuck at all, so I can’t really bust his chops for that. Or anything else, really; he sounds like the kind of high-spirited achiever who does his best in everything he does.
0:30 Swan Lake. Sheesh…why is it that whenever someone shows off a sculpted torso on this show, the judges act like it’s the first goddam time in their lives they’ve ever seen one?? You have white hair, Tonioli, we KNOW you weren’t born yesterday!
0:39 Recap of Justina Machado…
OKAY, TIME OUT - Stop calling it a “judges’ save”, dammit. American Idol had a judges’ save. It was an option they could exercise, at their discretion, once per season, and only before (IIRC) the round of 5. (This, you’ll recall, was a measure designed to protect against another Jennifer Hudson from slipping through their fingers, and it had a few unexpected consequences, in particular the “Sanchez Rebound”.) When the DWTS judges choose who stays, and, consequently, who goes, every week, no one is being “saved”. It’s all part of the normal mechanics of the contest. The judges are not doing the “saved” contestants a favor. They’re doing their normal job. Okay? Okay.
…who I’ve definitely grown to like, and I’m thrilled that she went the distance. The thing I like the most is that in the first or second episode she mentioned having to grow up with a negative body image …and that was it. It was never an issue again. And she never said a word about wanting to be treated as an equal and make it to the final completely under her own power…she just did it. No noise, no chest-thumping, no crying. And she’s 48 years old! And doing those moves! It’s rare that I want to see a DWTS contestant again after the show, but she definitely has me hooked!
0:42 And just like that, the song is…Respect (prehistory). AAARAGRHAGAHRRGLLLLLAGRLAG GODDAM FLIPPING MOST OVERPLAYED OVERRATED OVERUSED IRRITATING SONG IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE SHE’S FRAGGING LIP-SYNCING RRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAA
(Why does this show always do that to me? )
0:50 Retrospective of the season, which I have to mute because it 1. Has a lot of screaming, and 2. is set to Time of My Life (1987), a song which gives me Vietnam War-style flashbacks on account of it always being used in situations when I was forced to be insanely happy and positive about a thing in my life that I royally despised. Seriously, if my schools and parents spent a hundredth as much effort fricking making me happy as they did pointing a gun at my head and demanding that I pretend to be happy, all of our mental states would’ve been far better off.
All right, who do we have…Charles Oakley…somebody…somebody…I think that’s Anne Heche…somebody, somebody, somebody…and we’re done. Screw anudda wun bi da dus with a pneumatic drill.
0:54 Derek Hough doing his own thing completely alone with no one else. All right, I’ll level with you guys. He’s very good, there’s no questioning that…but how did this become The Derek Hough show? Am I the only one just a tad concerned that while all the other pros have been marginalized, minimized, cut down, suppressed, buried, he gets two lengthy segments all to himself? It’s as if ABC noticed one day that he had a following, so they decided to reward him, which led to a continuous self-perpetuating loop that’s now dangerously close to its endpoint. He’s already a judge, fer chrissake. I’m sorry, I can’t enjoy this. Not at this price.
(Eerily similar parallels to a certain other insanely popular hyperstar I’ve been following for the past several years. Bad, bad, bad sign.
0:59 Scoreboard, for some bizarre reason. Trivia: When has the final day not had a 3-way tie at the top after the first dance? (No seriously, has this ever flippin’ happened? It sound about as likely as Tom Bergeron approving of anything that’s happened this season.)
1:00 Commence freestyles, which are going to be different from everything else somehow! Cue needlessly maudlin farewells!
1:02 Nelly to some rap number I don’t recognize, but it’s not 80’s dancepop, so I’m cool with it.
1:10 Brain-Dead Zero-Humor Skit #2 about what the defeated contestants have been doing in the meantime. I put the over-under at the number of them who actually gained anything even marginally positive from the experience at, oh, 1.5 sounds reasonable.
1:15 Bristowe to…Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend?? That’s from a musical released in 1949! ABC is going with a song which predates the Baby Boomers! Now, I could go on a rant about how utterly sickening it is that it’s 2020 and we still haven’t completely escaped from this reprehensible I-earn-it-she-spends-it mindset that was completely bass-ackwards by around the Clinton Administration (never mind calling an adult woman a “girl” on national primetime television…seriously, who the hell does that anymore), but I don’t like to drag politics into Cafe Society, so I’ll just helpfully point out that the post-World War 2 era had the most goddam fracking boring insipid dull lifeless music in the history of the damn planet. Seriously, She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain would’ve been a better choice. Damn.
1:25 And just as I write that, here’s Schulman with Singing in the Rain (1952). Oh, look, the judges pretending that they know who Gene Kelly was, how cute.
1:34 Brain-Dead Zero-Humor Skit #3…writing stuff to Santa. Next!
1:36 Are we there yet?? Machado closes things out to Let’s Get Loud (2010), which I’m fairly certain ABC permitted because Jennifer Lopez performed it at the Super Bowl and that gave it gravitas. Hough takes the opportunity to demonstrate the purpose of the “1” paddle, which is to place it beside the 10 to protest being reduced to a yammering figurehead at the stage of the contest where freaking nobody is allowed to get less than a 9. Seriously, this show should’ve switched to rankings about 20 seasons ago.
1:46 Nelly is going to perform! Nelly is going to perform! I’m not a huge fan of his monotone style of singing, but I’m so starved for any positive energy whatsoever right now that I’m all but bowing at his feet. Doesn’t amount to much, two abbreviated songs, slightly over three minutes, but it’s a brief breath of fresh air and I’m grateful. Heck, I might actually look him up on YouTube someday!
And…that’s it? After this last commercial break, it’s time to give the damned trophy? So they’re not doing that bring-everyone-on-the-same-floor-one-last-time thing. Hmm. I’m of two minds on this. On one hand, we don’t have to force some geezer to try to learn this dancing thing again after two damn months of nothing. On the other hand, that means that we don’t get to see the really bad contestants again…okay, I was wrong, it’s an unequivocally good thing.
1:54 Final words of encouragement from friends of the finallists. Pretty diverse bunch, which is a good sign of the times. (Oh, cram a sock in it, Rowland… )
1:57 This is it! Fourth place…Justina Machado. No surprise there. She was an inspiration, but the only way she was finishing any higher was if the Republicans did succeed in throwing out millions of legitimate votes but mistakenly targeted this show instead of the election.
Third place…Nelly, which in turn puts Kaitlin Bristowe and Nev Schulman 1-2. Oh yeah, nailed it. One thing that always have to remember is that none of the factors that can elevate a darkhorse like Nelly in the early rounds are present in the final. No split loyalties, no vote-stealing sentimental no-hopes, no distractions. There are four people who’ve gone the distance and shown all that they’ve got, there’s no reason to vote for anyone other than to give him or her the title, and everyone’s long since made up their minds who to back. Yeah, there were some fears at Primetimer that Nelly would steal this, and since none of the three ever faced elimination, there was no way of knowing who was the front-runner, but he never had the look of THE WINNER to me. If anything, he’s a perfect illustration of why this show desperately needs a variety of awards, as no one was ever a more perfect example of a contestant who deserved to win something other than the Mirrorball Trophy.
And now…yeah, it’s Bristowe. It’s an unsurprising Bachelorette back-to-back. Schulman walks away with the absolute worst possible outcome for any reality show. Dammit, it was bad enough when it was Gilles Marini. He deserves better than this.
And that’s season 29. Verdict? The overall quality definitely went down, but honestly, not by much. The real question is if it can rebound once this damn Covid thing is finally under wraps. If ABC hires a real host and relegates Tyra Banks to a support role like they should’ve done in the first place, this old horse may have some life yet.