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A Whole New Cha-Cha: Nancy Grace Goes ‘Dancing With The Stars’

Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life.
August 30, 2011

A guppy in a thimble is effectively a whale, and Nancy Grace on Dancing With The Stars is a huge celebrity. Maybe not the kind of huge celebrity you’d normally expect to sign up for a spray tan and a pair of sparkle pants, but someone who has made her own headlines — and not ten years ago.

No, Nancy Grace’s current claim to fame is her outrage over the acquittal of Casey Anthony, found not guilty in July of murdering her daughter Caylee. “She was very vocal about that child murder; let’s teach her the foxtrot!” is a profoundly bizarre idea at first glance, but veterans of true public-sphere controversy are nothing new for this show, which formerly featured one-time Speaker of the House Tom DeLay (who quit with foot problems), cable TV pundit Tucker Carlson (who was the first sent home in his season) and, of course, Bristol Palin, who finished third behind Jennifer Grey of Dirty Dancing and Kyle Massey from the Disney Channel.

The analysis is generally always the same: Grace, like those before her, will draw both fans and detractors. Much like the opposite of love is not hate but indifference, the opposite of a great reality show contestant isn’t a despised reality show contestant but an ignored one.

Also likely to draw a certain amount of controversy is Chaz Bono, probably the most famous transgender man in America right now. His inclusion has already drawn praise from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which also praised the inclusion of Carson Kressley, who’s openly gay. Kressley, by the way, is a more traditional Dancing contestant, having seen his greatest fame almost ten years ago during the short but white-hot burn of Bravo’s first big reality hit, Queer Eye For The Straight Guy.

Perhaps the best story in the cast is of the least familiar name: J.R. Martinez, a retired soldier who suffered severe burns in Iraq and later became an actor on All My Children. Here’s a prediction I think is a no-brainer: Between what a genuinely (genuinely!) inspiring story he has, the current wave of affection for All My Children as it approaches cancellation, and his likely athleticism, if the guy can move at all and has any kind of personality that translates, he’s going to be around for a long time.

Of course, some of the cast is made up of the usual suspects. You have your low-rent reality personalities, Kristin Cavallari of The Hills and Rob Kardashian of various Kardashian-related franchises (if you are surprised that there even is a Rob Kardashian, then you are ahead of the game, meaning-of-life-wise); you have your former movie star and former talk show host, Ricki Lake; and you have your one-time pop star, Chynna Phillips, who’s been enjoying a little fame bump after the prominent role Wilson Phillips plays in the summer hit Bridesmaids.

And then there are those where you have to know why they’re there to know why they’re there, if you know what I mean. Gorgeous Italian model Elisabetta Canalis had me totally flummoxed until I was reminded that she’s George Clooney’s ex. Well, then. That makes total sense. Formerly dated a HUGE star? You are the equivalent of a small star! (There is some kind of transitive property that involves diminishing returns, but the math is hard — you couldn’t be Rob Kardashian’s former girlfriend, because there can’t be enough reflected glory when there’s not a lot of glory to begin with.)

It wouldn’t be a season of Dancing without some athletes, and this season they include L.A. Lakers star Ron Artest (currently embroiled in a legal battle to change his name to Metta World Peace) and Hope Solo, the goalie from the USA women’s soccer team that came so close this summer to winning the World Cup. As many have noted, she also may have the best athlete name of all time. Expect her to hang around a while, too.

And finally: David Arquette. Actor, wrestler, participant in troubled celebrity marriage. Look forward to his dignified waltzes? Maybe?

All in all, it’s actually a more famous cast than they’ve usually had. Bono and Grace are pretty current names, and Artest and Solo are pretty current athletes. The stragglers are inevitable, but if you’re going to produce this goofy show, you can at least produce potential bad (and good) dancers people have heard of.

In my fevered dreams, the ones I indulge only when it’s late and I’m tired and I’m emptying my thoughts and therefore speculating about possible outcomes of celebrity dance competitions, this ends as a head-to-head battle between Chaz Bono and Nancy Grace. JUST BECAUSE. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

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