Could this be the worst Dancing With the Stars cast in awhile?
There was an unexpected result from the injuries that forced two celebrities to drop out before the start of Dancing With the Stars' eighth season Monday night -- something we couldn't know until every contestant strutted their stuff in ABC's live hit dance competition.
This may be the show's worst field of competitors in a long, looong while.
Bad enough that Playboy model Holly Madison and former Bachelor contestant Melissa Rycroft had less than a week to prepare for the competition -- combined -- after singer Jewel and Access Hollywood anchor Nancy O'Dell dropped out last week due to injuries.
But a surprising number of last night's Dancing contestants were seriously disappointing: we expected clunkiness from rodeo rider Ty Murray and Apple computer co-founder Steve Wozniak (judge Bruno Tonioli pronounced beefy Wozniak's dance "like watching a teletubby go mad.")
Still, model/actress Denise Richards looked like a stiff-armed deer caught in the headlights (didn't help that they showed her pro dance partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy making her cry during rehearsals), singer Belinda Carlisle was compared to last year's 80-ething comic relief Cloris Leachman, comic David Alan Grier tried dry humor but just came off as uncomfortably weird and Jackass star Steve-o was, well, the guy from Jackass.
Even the leading dancers, gymnast Shawn Johnson, rapper Lil' Kim (at left) and top scorer Gilles Marini offered performances that would have fallen somewhere in the middle of the pack during past seasons. Previous champions such as Olympic skater Kristi Yamaguchi and model Brooke Burke dominated their cycles from the very first episode; this time, there's a lot more mediocrity clogging the dance floor.
And did ex-con Lil' Kim really need to send a shout out to "all my girls in the Federal Detention Center?" Did host Tom Bergeron have to follow up with a shout out to Rikers Island? (Okay, maybe he had to do that.)
Indeed, last-minute addition Rycroft -- a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader who was shown getting dumped by Bachelor Jason Mesnick on national TV just last week -- may be this competition's biggest threat, nailing a graceful if unambitious routine with just two days' practice after getting the gig Friday. Imagine what she'll do with twice as much rehearsal time.
We won't see anyone ejected from the show until next week -- when the bottom two dancers will see their judges' scores from tonight and next Monday thrown out for a dance-off a week from Tuesday. Whoever gets the lowest votes that night goes home.
So our struggling crew has about a week to raise their game before the jilted girl from the last Bachelor starts making them look like chumps. Hmm . . . maybe this will be a fun competition to watch, after all.