Then & Now: Things We Learned From the DWTS Season 4 Re-Runs on GSN
Dancing With the Stars just started airing reruns, beginning with Season 4 on the Game Show Network (GSN). Even fans who’ve seen every season aren’t likely to be carrying around total recall of every episode, so it’s fun to compare then to now — five years and 10 seasons later. As we prepare for the March 19 debut of Season 14, let’s look back at things learned from reruns of the Spring 2007 season.
THINGS THAT ARE THE SAME
Bruno has always been naughty: Italian judge Bruno Tonioli has not changed, physically or verbally, in the last five years. The complaints about his comments may ebb and flow with each season, but back in 2007 he was already yelling at Leeza Gibbons for failing to be more of a “tramp” in her Mambo and telling Billy Ray Cyrus “You were like a crazy bear lost in a swamp” after his premiere night Cha-Cha-Cha. Instead of being offended by the “crazy bear” comment, Billy Ray decided it was a fun new nickname. (Maybe he’d feel differently if he were compared to a penguin?)
The judges have always been inconsistent: They have a hard job and their decisions don’t always make sense. Sometimes it does seem like they are motivated by sensitivity and expectations. For example, just the fact that Heather Mills didn’t fall over seemed to give her extra points on both Week 1 and Week 2, while the judges seemed especially tough on naturally talented Ian Ziering, probably because he was paired with back-to-back champion Cheryl Burke. Len Goodman told Season 2 and 3 winner Cheryl she was lucky to keep getting such great partners, making her the original Derek Hough. Like Ricki Lake with Derek on Season 13, Ian felt immense pressure to live up to Cheryl’s record.
Entertainment value has always trumped talent: Nowadays, it’s de rigueur to whine that the best dancers keep getting eliminated in favor of crowd favorites, but when has that not been the case? Billy Ray’s “I Want My Mullet Back” Cha-Cha-Cha got a bargain basement score of 13 — one 5 and two 4s — with the judges chiding him and Karina Smirnoff on their lack of actual Cha-Cha content. They called him the most improved dancer on Week 2, mostly because he wasn’t quite as much of a trainwreck. Billy Ray lasted all the way to Week 8, where he still landed himself a score of 5.
Meanwhile, the first eliminated dancers of the season were stiff, incredibly nervous Paulina Porizkova and her serious(ly hot) partner Alec Mazo, followed by the equally stiff Shandi Finnessey and (remember him?) Brian Fortuna. Lower-scoring dancers like Clyde Drexler and John Ratzenberger were kept around based on sheer popularity and entertainment value.
The audience has always booed any negative comment: And the judges have always responded to the audience with frustration. Len called Paulina’s Mambo “stiff and starchy” when he wanted raunchy — and the audience booed him. Weirdly enough, at one point Bruno leaped to Len’s defense, which you don’t see him doing that often nowadays. The audience at the top of the ballroom — redesigned before the start of Season 13 — seemed especially fired up on Week 2. Tom Bergeron joked that the air was thinner up there.
Celebs have always been in the audience: Miley Cyrus was there to support her father, Billy Ray. Sela Ward was also cheering on Billy Ray. Brian Austin Green mentioned how sexy he found Laila Ali. British singer Robbie Williams dissed Leeza for her “lazy” legs.
THINGS THAT ARE DIFFERENT
Half the pros are gone: It’s weird to see old faces again and not seeing others. Previous competitors Anna Trebunskaya or Louis van Amstel were not on Season 4. Chelsie Hightower, Dmitry Chaplin and Lacey Schwimmer had yet to be plucked from So You Think You Can Dance. Julianne Hough was making her DWTS debut (which would go very well for her) but her brother, Derek, and their partner in crime, Mark Ballas, wouldn’t show up until the next season. However, we did get to see Elena Grinenko, Brian Fortuna, Alec Mazo, Jonathan Roberts and Edyta Sliwinska. Kym Johnson had platinum blonde hair at the time (making her a little too matchy-matchy with Julianne), while Cheryl and Karina both had very dark hair. It was nice to see future exes Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Karina getting along, since they no longer speak today.
Maks didn’t always think he was Sex on a Stick: Maks and Laila Ali had a classic little battle over who was the “boss” of their partnership. Before their Mambo, Maks said he felt the need to bulk up and add some weight to look good next to his 5’10” boxing partner. Maks and Laila went to the gym and she put him through the paces. Backstage, she joked to then co-host Samantha Harris that Maks may play tough for the audience, but he was crying at the time. Maks told the audience it was all about the end result, and flashed his guns. So his ego was always there, just not quite at Sex on a Stick stage yet. Their Mambo ended up getting a 27, the highest score of Week 2 — which should’ve shown Maks’ Season 13 partner, Hope Solo, that you can be a tall, tough, muscular athletic woman and still be a sexy powerhouse on the dance floor.
There was more time to talk backstage: Long before the Celebriquarium was built, Samantha talked to the couples backstage. It’s interesting to relive how much time they spent going back and forth answering questions, whereas nowadays Brooke Burke-Charvet asks maybe one rushed question before they get their scores and move onto the next thing. It was nice to see a more relaxed feel, even toward the start of the season when there’s a lot to get through.
You can see what happens next: Spoilers are fun, but they haven’t done DWTS fans much good — other than to “spoil” who will be dancing with whom before the season starts, when paparazzi cameras follow the pairs into the studio. Other than that, you can’t really spoil a live show. But you can spoil Season 4 easily enough!
It’s fun to watch the show back, knowing who will be eliminated when and who will eventually win. You can piece together what worked and what didn’t work, and if you are dying to know what scores a certain couple gets in the next episode, you can just look it up online. If we were celebs considering a run on a future season of DWTS, we’d be taping these shows and studying them like homework assignments. Beats watching the seasons back one dance at a time on YouTube!
Watch Tony & Elena, Maks & Karina, Brian & Kym and Alec & Edyta dance together in this Season 4, Week 2 Results Show performance to Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now":
Be sure to catch more episodes of DWTS Season 4 on Saturday 6 pm ET on GSN.