No polarizing politico on 'Dancing With the Stars' - but Williams brings drama

Ralph Macchio is best known for his starring role in
Ralph Macchio is best known for his starring role in "The Karate Kid."
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Monday, March 21, 2011; 11:59 PM

"Dancing With the Stars" returned to ABC's lineup Monday without a polarizing political figure - to the everlasting disappointment of the media.

There was, however, plenty of drama on the season debut.

Talk show host Wendy Williams - this season's diva - on tape asked her pro dance partner, Tony Dovolani, who he was, as though he were one of the little people who are part of her retinue. She then proceeded to have a good cry during rehearsal to release her tension, she said as she was mopping up her tears with her wig.

After her surprisingly timid performance - like someone making her way around a crowded dance floor, only there were no other dancers there - she complained: "I had no idea our [taped] piece was going to play me getting upset!"

"Surprise surprise! Welcome to 'Dancing With the Stars'!" retorted judge Carrie Ann Inaba .

Even though - as judge Len Goodman pointed out - Williams's "dumplings were boiling over" in her gold miniskirted get-up, the judges savaged her performance. It got worse backstage, when Williams nearly came to blows with co-host Brooke Burke, who seemed surprised Williams had wept. "You don't watch my show enough," Williams said dismissively. Then she began to prattle on about how many times she's cried at her studio audience - only Brooke, seeing the clock ticking, cut her off to ask: "How does this feel?"

"Fine!" Williams barked, sending a withering look Brooke's way.

Despite the drama, there's no getting around it - there wasn't a politician or politician's daughter in sight, as the press had been banking on before the lineup was announced.

Yahoo, for example, called the new lineup a "stumble" and said that the names of this year's participants had been revealed "to, let's say, an underwhelmed public." And by "public," Yahoo meant "the press." It cited disappointed reviews of the lineup by the New York Times and Movieline.

Which, some would argue, is not "the public" - by a country mile.

Which is why, as we've said before, covering TV is best left to professionals.

Serious students of TV know that the fall edition of "Dancing With the Stars," which was made infamous by the surprising success of Bristol Palin - professional abstinence advocate, daughter of maybe-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and darling of tea party bloggers - is not the most-watched season of the dance competition. In fact, it falls behind two seasons whose celeb lineups are as free of polarizing political figures as this season, whose participants (besides Williams) include:

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