Is Dancing with the Stars unfairly hyping its biggest star, Kirstie Alley?
After watching Monday's debut of Dancing with the Stars' 12th season, I must call foul.
Not because I don't admire star Kirstie Alley's go-for-it spirit. At age 60, she's the oldest and most overweight contestant in this season's cast, as well as the most famous. So her courage and game attitude at jumping into a competition which trained professional athletes have found taxing, is nothing short of amazing.
And the fact that she earned the show's biggest ovation with her cha cha cha through Cee Lo's Forget You was exciting.
But her routine Monday had little technique and didn't seem that challenging. Because Alley had decent form and was dancing to an exciting song -- with one of the show's most exciting dancers, Maksim Chmerkovskiy -- she brought the house down with a dance that perhaps didn't warrant all the accolades.
I get why the show was so excited to see her do well. Alley is the show's biggest star, as well as a surrogate for the legions of female viewers who may be sitting at home, wondering if they could handle cutting a rug with Maks, too. But the judges don't need to place their fingers on the scales by giving her better scores for a performance which would have seemed merely okay coming from anyone else.
Elsewhere, Tampa resident and pro wrestler Chris Jericho landed somewhere in the middle of the pack with a score of 19 after a cha cha cha set to The Clash's Should I Stay or Should I Go? The judges weren't impressed with choreography that didn't require much technique from Jericho, with judge Len Goodman cracking "I think your hips are allergic to music." Fellow judge Bruno Tonioli added "I haven't had so much fun with leather...since the Village People."
Still, he scored better than Loveline co-host Mike Catherwood, the least-known competitor who also notched the lowest score, 13 out of 30. Expect to see him take the long walk next Tuesday, when one of the competitors is ejected. Karate Kid star Ralph Macchio emerged as the surprise front runner, with an energetic dance that earned him 24 points out of 30.
Check my commentary on the whole deal for NPR, recorded before Monday's episode aired and broadcast on All Things Considered: