Samantha Harris allowed to talk but Marlee Matlin gets dubbed over on Dancing’s premiere

America’s number two reality series, Dancing with the Stars, returned last night, and despite the star power and their enthusiasm, was kind of flat.

The biggest surprise was that the show lets Samantha Harris talk but won’t let Marlee Matlin speak. In a clip package, Matlin was shown signing and mouthing words, but a disembodied woman’s voice was dubbed over top, and actually seemed to try to be lining up with her mouth in an attempt to fool us that it was Matlin’s voice. “Whether I’m deaf or not isn’t important,” Matlin signed and the voice said.

Marlee Matlin can speak, and does so frequently on prime-time TV, so why not let her, especially in pre-taped stuff? Are the producers afraid to let America hear a deaf woman talk? That’s especially weird because she’s perfectly articulate, and we all know the show lets people who don’t even make sense speak constantly.

Yes, bumbling co-host Samantha Harris was back–although even less audible than before. Maybe it’s just me, but it is essentially impossible to hear both her and host Tom Bergeron. Samantha has a low voice, which is fine, and mumbles and fumbles half her lines, which is not, and whoever’s mixing the sound has their audio so low that the audience’s applause and the band’s music drowns them out. And half the reason I watch every week is to hear Samantha flub up, so let’s get the sound fixed.

Anyway, after Adam Carolla basically gave up–he told Julianne, “Good news, you can hit the road and promote the country album this year, ’cause there ain’t going to be no three-peat in your future, baby.”–he joked that he hadn’t heard his scores yet, pretending that the 15 was for Julianne. “Hold on. Where are my scores? Because if I get 15, then we got 30, baby,” he said.

Here’s how our witty co-host responded: “We’re going to get those later on, that’s for the online version.” That’s a rough translation because she mumbled the middle part. Even better, seconds later, she essentially dissed Carolla’s morning radio show. “Many of you already are used to calling Adam on his radio show, so this is really no different here,” Samantha said. Yeah, calling a radio show to engage the host in conversation and calling a toll-free number that will hang up on you: no difference at all. She’d clearly rehearsed that line–or maybe it was even written for her–and it still didn’t make any sense.

But compared to previous flubs, that was pretty much nothing. And really, the premiere was pretty much nothing, too, with very little drama. The closest the show got to a surprising moment was when Bruno got all hot for Cristian de la Fuente, telling him, “She’s banged, you have to bang as hard as she does.” Tom Bergeron, ready to throw water on any fun, interrupted and said, “Hold on a second, Bruno, kids go to bed now!” Then Bruno said, “and we’re going to be on top of you until you do so.” Maybe this season has potential after all.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.