Even minus bona fide Stars, the ABC reality hit is livelier than a fox-trot
When the season 14 cast was announced for Dancing with the Stars, the show seemed to have shot itself in the foot, five or six times. The list was desperately low on actual stars. A Welsh mezzo-soprano named Katherine Jenkins? Extra host Maria Menounos? William Levy, Cuban-born star of the telenovela Triunfo del Amor? Well, not only has the show kept its light sparkle, but the nobodies have outlasted the (relatively) bigger names and given the ABC show a fresh, buoyant lift. ¡Un triunfo! Why? Because these dancers don't arrive with the familiar, somewhat frayed baggage of older stars who seize on Dancing to promote a comeback. There was a painfully naked moment, for instance, when Jaleel White, at 35 still identified with Family Matters' Urkel, sobbed about creating the role. "That's my Mickey Mouse," he said, comparing himself to Walt Disney. A celebrity overshare can be a scary thing. Meanwhile, slender, pretty Katherine Jenkins floats around the stage like a blossom. My money's on her for the May 22 finale.
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Kathy Griffin, a talented if challenging comedian, has done herself no favors with this new weekly show. Apparently she's expected to devote part of every hour to talking up Bravo's reality slate-only without the celebrities who squeeze onto the tiny set of Andy Cohen's Watch What Happens Live and do the same thing in campy high spirits. Griffin has to settle for a panel of associates, friends and neighbors who allow her to throw around barbed, often funny comments about Hollywood. As always, her dear old mother serves as Griffin's fond, poky sidekick. Kathy isn't a vehicle. It's a parking space.
YOU'VE GOTTA SEE THIS ...
Meltingly lovely Kerry Washington has to help the President out of his worst jam yet in the season finale of this fun drama. ABC, May 17.
MIKE & MOLLY
As the bighearted sitcom wraps its second season, Emmy-winner Melissa McCarthy heads to the altar with Billy Gardell. CBS, May 14.
AMERICA'S GOT TALENT
Will shock jock Howard Stern shake up the judges' panel with his knack for deadpan zingers? One can always hope. NBC, May 14.
MAD MEN'S JESSICA PARE
1 SHE'S SO SWINGIN' SIXTIES
As Megan, the new Mrs. Don Draper on AMC's retro drama, Pare captures the era's playful, elegant chic. You could imagine her lunching with Jackie Kennedy and supermodel Penelope Tree.
2 SHE'S COME A LONG WAY, BABY
Originally Don's assistant, Megan has risen in the office-she clinched the Heinz beans account!-while painstakingly establishing her independence from the boss. Pare walks this fine line with both shrewdness and girlish caution.
3 AND, YES, SHE'S HER OWN WOMAN
There are constant allusions to Megan's acting ambitions. Will Don be enough for her? Pare's work is so multilayered, she may be going places too.
YOU'RE DUE THIS FALL. DID THAT INSPIRE YOUR PREGNANCY ON THE SHOW?
Not at all. My character's baby came way before my baby. I had to wear a fake belly. As my own belly got bigger, the wardrobe people had to loosen the fake one. They were the first to know.
YOU BATTLED MORNING SICKNESS ON-SET.
I would turn green, and someone would rush in with peppermint tea. At the same time, filming did get my mind off [the nausea] a bit. I would be so focused on remembering my lines with pregnancy brain-which is no small task!-that it really helped me get through it.
YOU HAVE A 3-YEAR-OLD SON, GRIFFIN. HOW DO YOU JUGGLE?
The rule is, when I'm with baby, I'm 100 percent with baby, and when I'm at work, I'm 100 percent at work.
WILL YOU GO FOR FIVE KIDS LIKE YOUR CHARACTER AMY?
Absolutely no way! This is it for me.
Returning to his native Scotland for a week's worth of Late Late Show episodes, Craig Ferguson made sure to hit all of his old stomping grounds: his childhood home in Cumbernauld, the high school and, of course, the bar at Glasgow's Spur Hotel, where he was beaten to a pulp as a "wild" teen. "This guy found his girlfriend sitting on my knee, and he kicked my ass," recalls Ferguson, 50, with a laugh. "We re-created that scene using child actors with mustaches. It was very fun!"
And educational. During his March homecoming (the episodes air the week of May 14), the CBS host also visited historic spots like Greyfriars Kirkyard and Arbroath Abbey. "If it was all about me, then it wouldn't be about Scotland," he says. "We had to get that balance." Doing so helped Ferguson fall back in love with his homeland. "I had mixed memories about how I grew up," he says. "But I realized [the problem] was me! It's a much more fun place than I remembered. And that was a really nice thing to find out."