Tampa-raised Erin Andrews didn't quite make the cut on ABC's hit competition Dancing With the Stars, landing in third place during a two-hour live finale Tuesday that revealed a winner experts predicted months ago.
Top dancer Nicole Scherzinger emerged as an early favorite almost immediately, followed close behind by the evening's second-place finisher, Olympic ice skater Evan Lysacek. The pair traded the top spot on the show's scoring leaderboard almost throughout the competition, leading to early predictions they were the two to beat ("You actually seem surprised," cracked host Tom Bergeron, as Pussycat Dolls singer Scherzinger jumped up and down in celebration after her win was announced).
ESPN sideline reporter Andrews, daughter of WFLA-Ch. 8 investigative reporter Steve Andrews, worked hard to keep up, remaining competitive despite landing among the show's lower-scoring dancers a few times. After her departure was announced about halfway through Tuesday night's live finale, Andrews recalled starting on the show after almost a year of bruising tabloid headlines following the revelation that a man had secretly taken nude videos of her through a hotel room door's peephole.
"I came here under really crummy circumstances," noted Andrews, who debuted on Dancing with the Stars one week after the man who recorded the video was sentenced to 30 months in prison. "I just wanted to get my life back and my smile back. I just wanted to be myself again."
Her stint on the show also brought headlines of a different sort, as Andrews' close bond with pro dancer partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy led to rumors the two were dating — something the ESPN reporter has denied. Her revealing costumes also sparked criticism from an unlikely source; View co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who apologized after saying Andrews' video stalker might have just watched the show instead of filming her.
The success of Scherzinger, Lysacek and Andrews also irritated some longtime Dancing With the Stars fans, who complained that the three had dance training and expertise the other celebrities lacked. Scherzinger, as a singer with the Pussycat Dolls, has made a career of performing involved choreography in videos and onstage; Lysacek essentially dances on ice and Andrews, whose sister is a professional dancer, performed with a dance team at the University of Florida.
But Scherzinger's startling performances, which included a sizzling Tina Turner impression during Proud Mary, led the judges to dub this season the best cycle in the competition's five-year history.
Top 'Loser' wins big
Chicago resident Michael Ventrella took home $250,000 after winning top prize on the other reality TV competition concluding Tuesday, NBC's The Biggest Loser. Ventrella, 30, started as the show's biggest contestant at 526 pounds, shedding the most weight in the program's history to end at 262 pounds.