Dancing with the Stars contains a bunch of elements I’d normally crave: senseless decadence, an even more senseless selection of celebrities, and an out gay judge who seems awesome.
But because of its hokey harmlessness, DWTS feels like it belongs to the aunts and great-aunts of the world, not gay men. Strange. There’s also the added problem of too many participating celebrities who aren’t compelling. Jack Osbourne? Happy he’s on the show, but I don’t need to see his foxtrot. Same goes for the defiant but physically fallible Bill Nye, who was thankfully eliminated last night after suffering a bad leg injury.
I gave the current season a viewing, and I realized something: This may be its greatest season yet for gay viewers. I’m not saying Barney Frank and Harvey Fierstein are contestants or anything, but I think there’s a lot to mine for us this year. Here’s what I’m loving.
1. Elizabeth Berkley IS Valerie Cherish.
Let me direct you to my pal Christopher Schleicher‘s Vine of last night’s episode, where participant Elizabeth Berkley and her partner Val Chmerkovskiy (brother of Maksim, natch) rehearsed a Foxtrot set to “Come Fly With Me.” Berkley wore a turquoise flight attendant costume (think “Toxic”) and admirably sashayed, but more importantly she outed herself as somebody who speaks in hashtags all the time. Guys, This is a Mariah Carey-level infraction.
I am getting delicious Valerie Cherish vibes from this. While The Comeback was often cruel to its protagonist (played by Lisa Kudrow), it also showed us a popular ’90s actress making her way in the present day with pluckiness and (fleeting) self-awareness. For now, Berkley is adorably plucky. I just hope she never has to square dance. We all know what happened the last time geometry got to Jessie Spano.
2. The show opted to use a version of “Crazy in Love” that sounded like the Chicken Dance.
The music on DWTS. Man. Always a shockwave to the senses. It’s like Lawrence Welk’s band decided to learn the catalog of Billboard’s Hot R&B Singles chart. Last night our man Brant Daugherty and his partner Peta Murgatroyd quickstepped to a lively, yet hopelessly square rendition of “Crazy In Love.” Naturally it’s from The Great Gatsby soundtrack, because Baz Luhrmann would have no problem turning a Beyonce jam into the Muppet Show theme. God bless.
3. Love is all around Valerie Harper
Dear gay humanity: Valerie Harper is a goddess alive, and she’s gracefully and decadently dealing with a bleak cancer diagnosis. She’s downright ebullient. And funny and cool and lovable. In fact, she’s kind of like that character she played on Sex and the City, the gregarious mother of the lame guy Carrie was dating. You’d suffer through a few tepid interactions with a dude for major facetime with Val Harper, no?
Last night, Valerie’s dancing left a bit to be desired, but she dealt with the criticism in an expectedly fabulous way: by accepting it! She threw her arms up and declared, “You have [to judge] based on what you see.” Once again, it’s only fair to call her Rhoda The Beautiful. But speaking of love being around Valerie Harper…
4. Lesley Ann Warren is ALSO around Valerie Harper.
EXCUSE ME. EXCUSE ME.
That is Lesley Ann Warren in the audience nonchalantly rooting for Valerie Harper. This is a real thing that happened on TV that I noticed and pinpointed and solved. That is a gay mystery I gumshoed. Now we have Oscar-nominated Clue actresses cheering on Tony-nominated portrayers of Tallulah Bankhead. Yeah. Now this show is good enough for us. Dust off your character shoes, boys.
5. Quit the denial and realize: Tom Bergeron is one of the funniest people on TV
The theme last night was Hollywood Night, and host Tom Bergeron deadpanned, “More like ‘Frederick’s of Hollywood Night.’” Then during Elizabeth Berkley’s hasthag rampage, he retorted, “Hashtag stop.” There is actual laugh-out-loud snark occurring in the undertones of Bergeron’s melodic emceeing, and we don’t appreciate it enough. (Though the Emmys have, thank God.) He’s like Pat Sajak without the disappointing Republican staunchness. Phew.
6. It’s satisfying to watch Glee stars face off in the dance arena against pop stars.
Amber Riley vs. Christina Milian. That is worthy of a “The Boy is Mine”-style stank war. Both are very good singers who can really move, and to see Riley busk for votes using saucy dance chops while a confirmed Billboard hitmaker like Christina Milian works her pop star machinery with very good form feels like a philosophical battle. Who should win? The nervy Broadway-for-TV diva or the sultry Billboard-and-burlesque-ready dame? Will journal about this later.
7. If gays don’t act soon, Brant Daugherty will be booted off the show
It’s always nice when a resident DWTS hunk gets more likable every week. Daugherty is a stud we’re right to love. And he was almost kicked off the show! Bill Nye nearly outlasted him! This means two things: 1) Daugherty needs to rip off his shirt more often and give Bruno Tonioli the glistening areolae he signed up for; 2) we need to vote to keep him. I’m ready to do it.
Are you watching this season?