‘Dancing With the Stars’ recap: Mischa Barton forgotten in ‘Most Memorable Year’


Bless your cold, traditionalist heart, Len “Cranky Pants” Goodman. You have a role to play here on “Dancing With the Stars,” now that you’re back after a single-season hiatus, and you never retreat from it.

Not one to be swayed by an emotional backstory or a catch in the throat, Goodman critiques the steps, the form, the lifts, the kicks, the flicks. Even when he knows he’ll fan the hissing flames of the assembled adoring crowd, he charges ahead with his stickler analysis and his exacting scores.

I would imagine that’s even tougher on the perennial fan-favorite theme night, “Most Memorable Year,” when the contestants bare lots of intimate details of their lives, talk about their darkest struggles and headiest triumphs and dedicate performances to their nearest and dearest. (There’s almost always a dead relatives dance.)

Does Len care? Len don’t care. He’s ballroom dance royalty, and he’ll judge those celebrities based on their footwork alone, not their “personal journeys.” So boo him all you want, fellow fans. Just remember: we need him.

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Since there is no designated villain on this long-running series, now in its 22nd season, he’s the one to spout the necessary reality-show trope, under his breath, of course: “I’m not here to make friends!”

I’ll be your pal, Len, as long as you keep holding that hard line.

But as long as I’m talking about villains here – by that I mean someone to actively root against – no one did it “better” than Mischa Barton. Good riddance to The Girl with the Terrible ’Tude, sent packing on Monday night after blaming everything and everybody except her own incompetence.

Sweetheart, that career revival that happens to so many “DWTS” alums? Do not hold your breath. And while you’re at it, fire your “people,” who obviously didn't impress upon you that this was a stellar opportunity not to be blown. Or if they did, maybe they should ditch you?

On to this week’s episode.

For as long as it’s been part of this ABC series, “Most Memorable Year” equals waterworks. That’s a bunch of years, and it’s easy to see why as, on Monday’s show, there were tales of loved ones lost, shattered lives rebuilt and bright stars born. Take a gander:

Ginger Zee and Val Chmerkovskiy

Contemporary to “Home” by Phillip Phillips

The “Good Morning America” meteorologist chose 2013 as her watershed year because that’s when she met her husband and started a family. She wanted the routine to reflect her joy at being a new mom and a happy partner, she said during the pre-taped package. Len would’ve liked more fluidity in the arms, but Bruno Tonioli found it completely “believable.” Carrie Ann Inaba found the joy “contagious.” Ginger’s infant son made an appearance, bawling his little head off, moments after she finished her dance. And Val looked terrified.

Score: 21

Doug Flutie and Karina Smirnoff

Waltz to “Rainbow Connection,” originally by Kermit the Frog but sung live by guest star Andra Day

Flutie, a former NFL great, wanted to honor his parents with his performance because he lost them in 2015 – both unexpectedly and tragically in the same day. His mother died of a broken heart, he said, but it was a great love story of six-plus decades with his father. Pardon me, there’s someone peeling onions beside me, but I managed to see that lovely waltz (lovely, mostly from the Karina side of the equation). But Flutie’s trying, and he bobbled but recovered. Bruno said the first week that there was nowhere to go but up, and Flutie took that as stage direction. He’s improved every outing. Carrie Ann gives points “when you rip our hearts out,” and said he shone brightly in the routine. Len said it was “a little unstable,” but also elegant and stylish.

Score: 20, boos for Len’s 6

Kim Fields and Sasha Farber

Foxtrot to “The Facts of Life,” dancing to the sitcom’s earworm-catchy theme song.

In 1976, Kim booked her first gig at 7 years old when she beat out Janet Jackson and a bunch of other young would-be actresses for a Mrs. Butterworth’s commercial. That kicked off her entire career, she said during the video package, leading to the iconic sitcom. No, she did not do the foxtrot on roller skates, but some of her former cast members – Charlotte Rae! – cheered her on from the crowd while she and Sasha twirled around a set made to look like the family comedy’s well-worn living room. Carrie Ann loved the nostalgia, and Len called it “smooth and tasty,” to which Kim started screaming and jumping up and down like Tootie. Bruno also dug it, but picked on her shoulders and posture.

Score: 22

Von Miller and Witney Carson

Contemporary to “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins

Winning the Super Bowl and becoming the MVP was huge, but it didn’t happen in a vacuum, Von said during the rehearsal video in which he snitched on his mother for letting him play youth football against his dad’s wishes. Mom was obviously onto something. Another inspiration? Phil Collins. Phil Collins? Co-host Tom Bergeron could barely believe it. Len liked Von’s “100 percent” commitment and said the lifts were “brave.” He found it “charming” that a hulking guy could be so graceful. Bruno nearly lost his mind at the shirtless “sculpted to perfection” Von, but told him to work on his balance. Carrie Ann didn’t think he was in the zone, but she found it “pleasant” rather than powerful.

Score: 20

Marla Maples and Tony Dovolani

Jive to “Happy” from Parrell Williams

Marla, who had met and married Donald Trump long before he was Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, wanted to celebrate the birth of their daughter, Tiffany. And she seemed as intent on showcasing her time as a single mother, since she and Trump split when Tiffany was 6. She hoped to make her daughter proud, and she poured a tremendous amount of energy into that jive. It was kind of exhausting but fun to watch. Bruno called her a “zesty hot canary,” all dressed in yellow, but warned her not to go flat-footed. Carrie Ann loved that she didn’t take shortcuts and that there was “a lot of content” in the routine. Len declared: “I’m happy,” and Tony hopped over the desk to give him a peck on the cheek.

Score: 21

Antonio Brown and Sharna Burgess

Foxtrot to “7 Years” by Lukas Graham

In 2007, Antonio broke some college football records on the same day his first son was born, so that was his milestone year. He talked in his video package about not having his own father around for support and how important it is to him to be a role model for his children. “Football will come and go, but my family will last forever,” said the tearful NFL star. Antonio Jr., in a tiny silver suit to match his dad’s, nearly stole the scene, but the fancy footwork really took center stage. Carrie Ann saw “much more refinement,” but Len didn’t agree. He thought it was “competent.” Bruno said the mini-me was “a weapon of mass enchantment,” but that Antonio started skipping at some point, losing his form.

Score: 20

Paige VanZant and Mark Ballas

Paso doble to “300 Violin Orchestra” by Jorge Quintero

Poor Mark! He had to sit out last week because of a back injury, and last night he had to rumble in the octagon. Please don’t kill him, Paige, Bergeron asked nicely. (He finished the performance with his spinal column and his man-bun intact.) Paige talked in the pre-taped video about being bullied in high school, and how finding mixed martial arts changed her life and restored her confidence. Len called it “a wonderful performance” but it “didn’t look like a paso doble.” Bruno thought he was watching Wonder Woman, and he loved the power. Carrie Ann said: “That was bad-ass!”

Score: 23

Jodie Sweetin and Keo Motsepe

Foxtrot to “Rise Up” by Andra Day

Beloved sitcom “Full House” ended and the former child star didn’t handle it well, she said, abusing drugs and alcohol and slipping into darkness. Now sober, she can “shine again,” choosing the most recent year as her landmark. Bruno called it her “best performance to date,” and Carrie Ann called it “the most inspiring performance of the night.” Len thought she portrayed the emotional story in the routine, but found it too melodramatic toward the end, with some muddled foxtrot. Co-host Erin Andrews thanked her for being “so real.”

Score: 23, tied for the lead with Paige and Mark

Mischa Barton and Artem Chigvintsev

Samba to “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus

The former star of seminal Fox hit “The O.C.” wasn’t enjoying her overnight fame in the late 2000s, so she decamped to England for a year of “self-exploration.” Well, at least she won’t need to worry about that level of attention after this TV foray. A sympathetic Peter Gallagher, her “O.C.” co-star, said in the pre-taped segment that she should get points just for showing up. I disagree. She was as stiff as a board and never once on the beat during that number, and no amount of professional dancers could hide that. She recently wrote in her “People” magazine blog: “There has been a huge learning curve for me while working on this show. I think reality TV is a little tougher for me than I thought it would be,” which is the most (only?) honest thing she’d said during the whole “DWTS” fiasco. Why a judge like Carrie Ann would continue to prop her up – effectively rewarding her bad behavior – is beyond me. Len said it was her “best dance,” which is damning with faint praise, even from Goodman.

Score: 18

Wanya Morris and Lindsay Arnold

Waltz to “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Boyz II Men

It was shortly after a violent attack at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta when Boyz II Men sang the national anthem at the closing ceremony. So, no pressure for the Philly kids who had cut their teeth singing on the streets and in subway stations. The audience would be millions. And they crushed it. Remember? Wanya wanted to recreate the success in dance 20 years later, and Lindsay, no stranger to flag-waving performances, choreographed a flowingly beautiful dance. Patriotic confetti in the background! Len thought he lost his posture on occasion – he led with that, and the audience, predictably, booked. But then he compared him to ice cream on a hot piece of pie. Carrie Ann called him “the rocket’s red glare.”

Score: 24, highest score of the night

Nyle DiMarco and Peta Murgatroyd

Tango to “Verge” by Owl City

Four generations of Nyle’s family is deaf, and yet he’s always been encouraged to be fearless. He traveled the world in 2012, alone, with no sign-language interpreter, and chose that as his breakthrough year. Peta, still stinging over some harsh criticism from the previous week, told him that they’d have to be head-and-shoulders above to land great scores. Of course she was right. So they landed that routine like an Airbus. Then Carrie Ann backtracked and sort of withdrew her “musicality” comment from last week. Bruno called it “breathtaking,” with “such passion,” “such connection.” Len noted that he lost his frame at a few points and said he would’ve liked a little more stillness in the tango. Oh Len, never change.

Score: 25

Next week: Corporate Synergy Night! I mean, Disney Night!


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