Whether you like it or not, the 13Th season of ABC's reality show/gravy train/collective IQ dropper "Dancing With The Stars" will be upon us soon and, yes, Chazz Bono, the program's first transgendered cast member, will be there.
No doubt, ABC is counting on the controversy to drive the show's ratings through the roof and give them reams of free publicity. The Suits at the network are businessmen, after all, and it's not your high toned Shakespearean adaptations that bring in the viewers.
However, over shadowed by all the hubbub of Bono's participation is a contestant who's presence on this bi- annual cheese-fest should give people more reason to pause:
Yes, Nancy Grace.
The fire breathing Grace can be found Monday through Friday on HLN dispensing opinions, advice and perspective on the major legal issues/cases of the day. She's no Clarence Darrow, and her critics are legion, but her cable perch has turned her into one of the country's best known legal analysts.
Sober, thoughtful jurisprudence is not Nancy's style. Each segment of her show is pitched at ear shattering decibels and Grace isn't shy about letting the viewers at home know which side she's on or how she'd handle the case if given the chance.
Guests foolish enough to be interviewed by Nancy are often pounded mercilessly into pulp. Grace especially seems to have it in for clueless chumps like Jon Gosselin, who Nancy memorably grilled during his struggles with estranged wife Kate during his (admittedly long delayed) efforts to rein in the effects of reality TV on his kids.
Fixing Gosselin with a look of regal hauteur that would do Queen Mary proud, Nancy repeatedly dismissed the father of eight's parental concerns with a stony "I don't buy it". Then she waved him off the air, implying, "Be, gone! You no longer amuse me."
On a more serious note, Grace was accused of sensationalizing the Casey Anthony trial and famously opined that "The devil is dancing tonight" when the woman she dubbed "Tot Mom" walked away free.
Besides dispensing legal acumen, Grace regularly fields questions about parenting, discipline and shoring up the family unit whenever she makes guest appearances on other programs. She's probably no more or less out of her depth on these issues than any other TV chatterbox, but Grace's legal degree and career as a prosecutor give her a patina of authority and expertise that, bless their hearts, Tyra Banks or Sharon Osbourne just don't have.
Which makes her participation in "DWTS" such a puzzler.
The stated appeal of this show is watching America's "favorite stars" cut a rug on TV. From its inception, "DWTS" has struggled mightily to prove that its featured "stars" are indeed "stars"--especially when the likes of MTV's Steve-O, Priscilla Presley, self promoting "reality royals", former sitcom actors, soap opera hunks and a clutch of singers who've been absent of late from the Top Ten dominate the cast list, while Julia Roberts and Richard Gere are nowhere to be found.
Furthermore, most of these "stars" were probably swayed to join "DWTS" because of the money ($130,000 or thereabouts just for signing up, regardless of how long you last) and the promise of career rehab than a deep love of dancing to awful cover tunes.
But Nancy doesn't need the money or the exposure. She's a serious person, a voice of authority and not a tabloid train wreck.
So why participate in such a tacky travesty, especially when doing so could hurt her cherished reputation as a learned, legal mind?
Maybe Nancy's agents felt appearing on "DWTS" would soften her hard as nails image. Maybe she's a big fan of the show and has always dreamed of tripping the light fantastic to "Sugar Shack" or "Rock Around the Clock". Maybe the "DWTS" people felt having a brainiac like Nancy on the roster would soaked up some of the cheese grease usually provided by the likes of "The Situation". Or, in the words of "DWTS" alumni Tom "The Hammer" DeLay,"Conservatives like to have fun, too."
Perhaps. Yet you can't help wondering if Nancy ever stopped to consider the former lawmaker's appearance on "DWTS" was before she signed on the dotted line herself.
DeLay's attempts to shake his hinder to "Wild Thing" caused the nation's collective jaw to drop. Karl Rove was aghast. Even the indulgent Fox News threw up its collective hands in dismay. Neither DeLay's public image nor his political reputation were enhanced; instead, the one time Capital Hill power broker found himself the butt of senility jokes. It was an ugly, ugly scene.
If she's not careful, Nancy could find herself picking up where Tom left off and then some.
Why? Because you can't have it both ways.
You can't tart yourself up like a Vegas show girl and shimmy to "The Copacabana" and turn right around and dissect oral arguments without something--like your professional reputation--suffering in the process. Maybe a self-promoting "reality royal" could pull it off, but you expect more from a legal expert.
And that they would expect more from themselves.
The only people who really benefit (if that's the word) from dabbling in reality TV are those with nothing to lose: show boating heiresses, social climbing housewives, self-involved ladies men and nut cases short on marketable job skills. Because their reputations were so dubious to begin with, if they made utter nincompoops of themselves on national TV, nobody cared.
But Tom DeLay was a nationally known politician, not cast member of "Jackass". Tucker Carlson, another "DWTS" alumni, was a well-known conservative commentator, not a member of the Kardashian family. After these gentlemen tripped the light fantastic on "DWTS", any professional standing they had was in shreds.
Grace would be advised to take note. She may get to have some fun, she may even collect that ugly Mirror Ball Trophy. But if she believes her credibility as a legal eagle will remain unblemished after debasing herself on "DWTS", she's in for a rude awakening.
Just ask Tom DeLay and Tucker Carlson.