We have been seduced by the dance. Dancing With the Stars (ABC, CTV, 9 p.m.) is already this summer's breakout hit and the show that has renewed the near-forgotten art of moving one's feet to music. The viewing public was hooked from the moment Evander Holyfield attempted the foxtrot.
Sadly, Evander was voted off Dancing With the Stars last week, but only after a good run. He was the best reason to watch the first few shows. There was just something precious about watching the bulky ex-boxing champ trip the light fantastic, with fierce concentration showing on his face throughout. Evander wasn't exactly light on his feet but he tried his heart out.
Maybe it's the heat, but it's difficult to imagine anyone disliking Dancing With the Stars, so far the most entertaining new series of TV's off-season. The show was an immediate surprise hit for ABC, right from its launch four weeks ago. And in that short time, according to the good folks at Entertainment Tonight, Dancing With the Stars has already spiked an increase among young Americans signing up for dance lessons. Dancing hasn't been this hot since Saturday Night Fever, or at least Dance Fever.
Dancing With the Stars arrived with a nifty concept: Six celebrities were paired with professional instructors to guide them through a weekly dance competition, with the judging split evenly between a panel of experts and viewer voting. It was set in a ballroom-style setting, with the dancers jiving away to big-band accompaniment before a live TV audience. And forget about the safety dance, this contest was divided into precise old-school disciplines -- the cha-cha, rumba, samba, tango and two versions of the waltz. Even Arthur Murray would be put through the paces.
Now four celebrities remain, each still paired with the same professional partner. The removal of Evander and reality-fixture Trista Sutter leaves model Rachel Hunter, soap actress Kelly Monaco, former pop star Joey McIntire and John O'Hurley, who used to play J. Peterman on Seinfeld.
In this instance, the assembled celebrities are an eccentric assortment of B-listers trying to cram years of dance lessons into a month. There's no grand prize at stake, save for bragging rights as the top celebrity hoofer, but they appear to be taking this seriously -- and some have to work harder than others. As a group, they've become rather endearing in their efforts to win the contest. It's not often you see celebrities really work for something.
Dancing With the Stars is a pleasantly lightweight addition to the summer retread schedule. Viewers are best advised to enjoy the show in its first campaign, while the concept is still fresh and before the onslaught of inevitable knockoffs. (Fox will debut its version next month, titled So You Think You Can Dance).
And if anyone's making an early bet, place the smart money on O'Hurley, partly because he's teamed with the best dance partner, the sultry Charlotte (pronounced Charlot-taye), but mostly because he looks terrific in a tuxedo. If you can't move like Fred Astaire, you can at least dress the part.
The American Masters documentary Quincy Jones: In the Pocket (airing on most PBS stations at 9 p.m.) confirms what people have been saying for years: Quincy Jones is one sharp cat.
It's an overly glowing treatment by PBS standards, although there's certainly no denying Jones his due. Narrated by Harry Belafonte, the program details Jones's career path from Chicago's South Side to the very peak of the music-industry heap. By some accounts, Jones is the most successful music producer who ever lived.
The program makes the repeated point that Jones's greatest gift is his ability to extract the extraordinary from an artist. He was the musical genius behind Michael Jackson's Thriller and the man who spearheaded the 1985 single We Are The World. The project brought together nearly 50 performers in one recording studio and raised $55-million (U.S.) toward Ethiopian famine relief.
The man's clout is evidenced by the company he keeps. The program includes interviews with several notable public figures, each professing a close personal friendship with Jones. Among the select group: former U.S. president Bill Clinton, poet laureate Maya Angelou, Sidney Poitier and Oprah Winfrey. And when you're friends with Oprah, you've got a friend for life.
Although the 90-minute profile seems to be swimming in statistics -- Jones has won 26 Grammys, more than any living artist, and has earned seven Oscar nominations for film scores -- success came with personal sacrifice. Two ex-wives attribute the failure of their marriages to Jones's various musical obsessions.
The filmmakers follow Jones to his old Chicago neighbourhood, where his childhood was reportedly most unpleasant. His music was the escape, and the poignant moment is balanced by recent footage of Jones, now 72, working in the studio and trying to find that new sound. The man is still consumed by that captivating rhythm.
This evening also brings the sophomore-season debut of Naked Josh (Showcase, 9 p.m.). The fine Canadian-made series is an offhand spin from Sex and the City, except the ongoing plotlines are constructed around one man, instead of four women, and the city in question is Montreal, not the Big Apple. Otherwise, it's all about sex.
Naked Josh is sustained entirely by David Julian Hirsh as Josh, the boyish but brilliant sexual anthropology professor whose own sex life is a mess. As the second season opens, Josh has found a new lady friend, a free-spirited artist named Samantha, but the relationship is tested when she pushes him toward posing nude in a photo shoot. For all his education, Josh remains a bit of a prude, which somehow befits a good Canadian lad. Welcome back, Josh.
Dates and times may vary across the country. Check local listings. John Doyle returns June 24.