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Carrie Ann Inaba

Carrie Ann Inaba

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DANCE YOUR ASS OFF: C+What's better than one reality show knockoff? Two, of course.In the new series "Dance Your Ass Off," premiering tonight at 10 on Oxygen, the cable network attempts a fusion of the popular series "Dancing with the Stars" and "The Biggest Loser." Twelve overweight contestants are matched with professional dancers.

Each week, they are judged by their weight loss and dancing prowess.

The contestant with the lowest combined score cha-chas his or her way home.The winner gets $100,000 - but most are there for a different kind of prize.

"I'm at the point now if I don't start losing weight, I'll die," contestant Warren says.Marissa Jaret Winokur, who competed in "Dancing with the Stars," hosts the series with a frenetic enthusiasm.

"This competition will actually change your life," she tells the contestants at the beginning.

They clearly appreciate the fact that Winokur, who won a Tony for starring in Broadway's "Hairspray," has had her own struggles with weight.

"I love that she knows where we're coming from," contestant Pinky says.In addition to their professional dance partner, the contestants are provided with a doctor, nutritionist, fitness trainer, choreographer and costume designer.

They each get their own individual lofts and a well-stocked common room that features an "eat" cabinet full of fruits and healthy snacks, and a "cheat" cabinet full of doughnuts, potato chips and candy bars.

"We want them to get used to saying no on a daily basis," Dr.

Rob Hulzenga says.Like any good reality show, the dance part of the competition has three judges.

Mayte Garcia and Lisa Ann Walter, who is also an executive producer on the show, fill the Carrie Ann Inaba role - they're encouraging but always pushing the contestants to try harder.

Danny Teeson tries to be a little snarky like Simon Cowell or Len Goodman, but he doesn't really have it in him.So far the dance routines are fairly rudimentary, which is understandable but doesn't make for the most exciting viewing.

That may be why the camera constantly cuts away to show reaction shots of the audience, other contestants and the judges.

The fact that the performances are not live also takes away from the excitement.Some of the costumes the contestants are put in seem unkind.

Many of them would have been better served by flattering attire rather than belly-baring ensembles.The passionate contestants are fun to watch.

Warren confesses that the hardest part has been giving up meat.

"I love my bacon," he declares.

After her routine, Trice proudly declares, "I'm shaking what my mama gave me!"While the show may not yet be riveting TV, the contestants' accomplishments are sure to be inspiring.
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