Odds Sapp wins Dancing With the Stars? Slim
Can a charming, crowd-pleasing 300-pound ex-football player snatch victory in TV's biggest dance contest from two better dancers?
After Monday's competition, the answer doesn't look good for former ex-Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive star Warren Sapp, who gave two spirited performances that were, unfortunately, a step below his competition.
Indeed, judging by the two dances Monday, the contest has come down to a fight for second place -- with newly resurgent 'N Sync member Lance Bass coming on strong in the final episodes. The judges' scorecard gave first place to actress/model Brooke Burke, a surprising front-runner who had led the show since the other pro athlete favorite, Misty May-Treanor, injured herself during a rehearsal and had to drop out. Bass and Sapp are tied for second -- with Sapp's audience popularity and overall charisma balancing Bass' better dancing.
Perhaps because they so consistently top the ratings, the show's producers have grown increasingly lazy about how they pad these lengthy finales. Saddled with just three finalists who can learn, at most, two dances per episode, producers now use reed-thin justifications to rerun huge chunks of previous shows in the first hour -- on Monday asking the finalists to choose two of their favorite dances from weeks past.
Stuff like this doesn't make sense in a TiVo-filled world, where regular fans are increasingly encouraged to tape the show and spin through all the filler. Why watch week after week in real time when there's so little new material -- better to record it all and skip the old stuff, along with the commercials. Yet another example of network TV cutting its own throat when it counts.
The judges Monday followed the First Commandment of Reality TV Finales: Thou shalt not criticize too harshly in the last episode. So we saw the panel disregarding past faults to shower love on the contestants, even when they repeated mistakes that had gotten them in hot water before.
So what if Bass took criticism -- especially from old fogy judge Len Goodman -- for being too modern in past dances? This time, his hip- hop freestyle dance drew nothing but kudos from the curmudgeon, who looked ready to ditch his image as the series' Scrooge and get down to Run D.M.C.'s "It's Tricky" all by his bad self. And who cares if Sapp's freestyle take-off on Tina Turner's Rolling on the River featured a little too much of the gregarious giant twirling his lithe pro dancer partner? Goodman cranked off a 10 grade just for entertainment! Talk about ginning up a competition.
Seems to me that Bass hurt himself with a hip-hop freestyle that wasn't as impressive as expected. My prediction: after the audience votes are tallied, Bass comes in third, Sapp second and Burke takes it all -- both because she's clearly the best and most consistent dancer and because she has continually surprised everyone who last saw her picking through Axl Rose wanna-bes on CBS's ill-fated Rock Star.
I'm just hoping they keep Cloris Leachman away from the bar until tonight's episode is over.