Melissa Rycroft a no-show, but ‘Dancing With the Stars’ goes on

No Melissa? No way! Fortunately, that wasn’t the way Monday’s Dancing With the Stars turned out, after Melissa Rycroft’s surprise non-appearance in the opening strut down the staircase. She’s got a hairline fracture in her rib cage, and she’s out this week. But apparently she can return next week.

At least, that’s the hope, given her stellar dancing and this show’s desperate need to keep its celeb hoofers on their feet. Does any reality TV competition suffer so much attrition as Dancing With the Stars? In part it’s because non-dance pros are asked to do difficult dances in a pressurized, highly competitive environment, and they train too hard and try to do too much. Clearly, adjustments should be made, such as allowing these contestants to dance into shape farther in advance of the show’s debut date.

But beyond that, if I were running this show, I’d cram the cast with at least two more celeb dancers. Then, if any fell by the wayside, as Steve-O almost did and now Melissa might do, I’d be covered — and if they didn’t, I’d have double-elimination weeks toward season’s end.

Since that’s not the case, we’re stuck with the mockery of having judges score a taped rehearsal performance, as they did with Steve-O earlier and with Melissa and Tony last night.

This was a disaster on many counts. First, no one is going to give their all in a rehearsal, and there’s no crowd to feed off of, and Melissa and Tony weren’t even in costume, and their routine was, at best, tepid. Then the judges kept insisting that they HAD to judge it as if they were performing right then and there with the place packed, and I kept thinking, say what? No, you allow for the fact that it’s a rehearsal. And clearly they did, anyway, by virtue of scores which would have been exceedingly generous had Melissa and Tony delivered such a performance live during the telecast. A lot of people try very hard and don’t get better than a 21.

But what really bugged me was the judges hammering home how bad they were because it was just a rehearsal, and never acknowledging that a good part of that reason, clearly, was that Melissa was in pain. Instead of noting how she was a trouper, they ignored that. Gimme a break. But at least viewer votes should save her for another week.

I did think Melissa got one unfair advantage, in that she still got the same aggregate score as two other couples for her “team” dance, for which Lacey (talk about troupers!) did a superb job as stand-in. I mean, at least with the rehearsal, Melissa did perform. Here, she did nothing, yet she got credit for a score. Explain that to me. It seems awfully unfair to the other dancers. But what else was the show to do? Either they score her or she’s out of the competition, and ABC didn’t want that.

Of course, neither do I, so here’s hoping Melissa returns in fine form next week — perhaps with one of those injections which helped Gilles so much. And speaking of the Frenchman, thank goodness for the team tango, to take the foul taste of his Lil Abner goofiness away. Great, Bruno — Gilles can be funny, though I’d call it oafishly hammy instead. But I’d rather see him dance with style, grace and sophistication. He’ll definitely be in the Finals, and if Melissa can’t make it, look out for Lil’ Kim. She’s cresting, and she has the best pro dancer as a partner in Derek.

But no matter how much she impresses, the thought of this former jailbird (and the story behind that) grabbing the trophy galls me. So get well, Melissa. We need you — and so does Dancing With the Stars.

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