Dancing with the Stars is an odd show. As I’ve stated earlier, the stakes are lower than any other reality show on television. These people aren’t playing for money. They’re already relatively famous. Do these things make the competition better or worse? Maybe the lack of discernible pressure allows for a more relaxed group of competitors and, therefore, a higher quality competition. Maybe the lack of significant monetary motivation allows the viewers to witness a more pure contest. Who knows? There are a number of reasons why the national audience may find Dancing with the Stars so involving, and, as I’ve written before, it’s likely a combination of a number of factors. This year, however, produced a wide variety of experiences, making for an interesting season.
Tucker Carlson was the first competitor voted off and this made me happy for a couple of reasons. First, no self-respecting political pundit should go on a celebrity dancing show (as if there were such a thing as a self-respecting pundit). And, second, I plain don’t like Tucker Carlson. Perhaps I had a terrible bow tie incident when I was younger. You can never be sure about these things.
The darling of the early weeks was none other that Jerry Springer, the former Mayor of Cincinnati and talk show host. His charm and humor kept him in the good graces of America’s voters, keeping him around much longer than his dancing ability warranted. The frustrating thing about Dancing with the Stars sometimes (and I suppose this goes for a number of competitive reality shows) is the popularity contest aspect of the voting. Oftentimes, dancers who deserve to stay are booted and undeserving ones remain.
Vivica A. Fox was ousted a couple weeks too early, as was Willa Ford. Of course, this is all a matter of opinion, but anyone would find it impossible to lay out a legitimate case for Springer being better on the dance floor than either of those two ladies. The refreshing part about this season was the diversity of the competitors and the lack of any that were wholly pathetic and washed up.
Even Harry Hamlin, whose career has been non-existent for the better part of a decade, was amiable and well-bronzed in the mold of George Hamilton. He was a little ridiculous, but no one else came close to being pathetic.
Monique Coleman was the surprise member of the final four and someone who I thought was worse than both Willa Ford and Vivica A. Fox. She did get better as the competition moved along, but I’m glad any controversy was averted when she was eliminated, allowing for a final three that included the far and away three best dancers of the season. The Dancing with the Stars all-male final three was the best final three the show has ever had.
Joey Lawrence, who has aged gracefully as far as child stars go, was far more inoffensive than one might have guessed coming into the season. It’s good to see a child star like him realize that the best parts of his career have come and gone. He has embraced it, shaved his head instead of getting the typical hair plugs that embarrass so many fans of once popular stars. Although it made him look like a younger version of the current Howie Mandel, his dancing was flashy, if a tad bit unpolished. His athleticism was on display and he completely deserved his spot in the final three. It’s not his fault that the two other finalists outclassed him on the dance floor.
I have a soft spot in my heart for Mario Lopez and always will. I used to watch at least two episodes a day of “Saved By the Bell” during my middle school years and have therefore seen every episode in which Mario portrays the great AC Slater. Slater was a legendary athlete at Bayside High School and Mario, amazingly, lived up to this billing. Whether or not Mario received extensive dance training in his younger years is irrelevant; Mario was the finest technical dancer on Dancing with the Stars this season. If the winner were chosen solely by serious judges I see no way that Mario could lose. It’s unfortunate for him that he came across the crowd-pleasing juggernaut that was this year’s champion.
Emmitt Smith is a freak of nature. Most NFL Running Backs retire in their early thirties because they literally find it hard to move their bodies after years of getting pounded by 300-pound lineman and behemoth linebackers. Yet, somehow, Emmitt managed to stay in the league long enough to become the league’s all-time leading rusher and come into retirement seemingly unscathed, health-wise. There has been some backlash among sports fans regarding Emmitt’s involvement with Dancing with the Stars, fans claiming that Emmitt has sullied his reputation and made a mockery of himself. I disagree. NFL players are by and large anonymous. The league likes to keep it that way. The NFL likes to market its product and its teams far more so than their players. This is for a number of reasons. One, there is a heavy turnaround in players every year since injuries are a devastating reality in the game of football. Also, criminal records have reared their ugly head far too often for the NFL to put faith in their players to remain commercially viable.
However, the most important reason players remain anonymous is something so simple that it is often overlooked. The players wear helmets. No one knows who they are. We rarely see the faces of the warriors of the NFL and, as a result, their personalities are tough to get a read on. No one knew how likable, jolly, well-spoken or wholly decent Emmitt Smith was before Dancing with the Stars. I sure didn’t. And now that I got to know the real Emmitt, the family man, the dancer with style, I’m ecstatic that he chose to compete on Dancing with the Stars. He truly deserved to be crowned champion, if only because he entertained the hell out of everyone almost every time he stepped out on the dance floor.
Dancing with the Stars will be back with another season in March. Let’s all hope that it will be as good as this one was.
BuddyTV Senior Writer