Does Jennifer Grey's win salvage Dancing with the Stars reputation?
Looks like the conspiracy theorists got it wrong.
Instead of handing a controversial victory to dance-challenged competitor Bristol Palin, ABC’s Dancing with the Stars crowned actress Jennifer Grey the show’s 11th season winner Tuesday – neatly sidestepping a controversy which threatened to hobble the show.
Host Tom Bergeron said voting for the show’s finale crashed the network’s website Monday, as fans responded to the possibility that Palin’s popularity might hand her a win her dancing didn’t earn.
The daughter of conservative firebrand Sarah Palin drew death threats and fan ire when she landed in the finals instead of R&B singer Brandy. On Tuesday, Palin consistently fell at the bottom of the judges scores for two performances -- a past dance redone and a cha-cha choreographed to a tune revealed that night.
“Here’s a woman who got in her truck, drove five days to Los Angeles and landed in the finale,” said Bergeron in praising Palin, echoing a supportive tone struck by the judges all night.
In the end, however, Palin landed in third place, leaving the final choice between ex-Disney Channel star Kyle Massey and Grey, who had notched a perfect score in Monday night’s competition.
Grey’s win continued a streak of competitors with previous experience in dance coming out on top, as the 50-year-old Dirty Dancing star admitted to Bergeron that she nearly didn’t compete Tuesday, after struggling with injuries.
While some press reports suggested that blocs of Palin supporters may have figured out how to amass huge vote totals using an array of made-up email addresses, producers would only admit that the large volume of votes Monday briefly crashed their online and telephone voting systems.
Producers insisted the problems affected every contestant equally and did not extend the voting times.
Tuesday’s show unfolded, as most DWTS finales do, like a heavily-padded array of time killers, using the show's past contestants to fill up most of the two-hour show until the final results are revealed in the last ten minutes.
That meant viewers were subjected to a sports-themed dance-off featuring ex-quarterback Kurt Warner and former basketball star Rick Fox, a big opening number that the cameras struggled to cover adequately (don’t they rehearse these things somehow?) and a musical number featuring past contestant David Hasselhoff singing. Seriously.
(At least past contestant Michael Bolton had the good sense to schedule a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London, so he didn’t have to endure this cavalcade of cheese.)
Palin fans may grouse that she didn’t deserve the wave of dismay and anger which greeted her success. But Grey’s win helped save the DWTS franchise, by assuring fans that dance ability still plays some part in who takes home the coveted mirrorball trophy.
And producers got one of their highest-rated seasons yet, fueled by fans’ passionate reaction to save a show they still believe should be, on some level, a test of skill rather than a measure of popularity.
Wonder if Mama Palin is paying attention?