It really came down to two young, professional actors with dancing backgrounds, the two I pegged from day one to be in the finals: Corbin Bleu of “High School Musical” fame and Amber Riley from “Glee.”
Riley pulled out the victory, punctuated by a perfect 30 from the judges for her final dance Tuesday. She may not have a traditional lithe dancer’s body but she proved a heavier frame doesn’t negate dexterity, grace and energy. She possessed a competitive spirit that was readily apparent from her first dance to her final one.
Bleu, too, showed plenty of verve and athleticism. He finished with a 27 in the finale, falling short of what Riley was able to achieve after he messed up the cha cha cha near the end. That may have been the difference.
Another factor: Riley had one of the most popular dance partners on the show Derek Hough. He brings in his own fans. He has now won five times, more than any other dancer, and has a two-season winning streak. (His past winners: Brooke Burke, Nicole Sherzinger, Jennifer Grey and Kellie Pickler.). His dancers have never finished worse than sixth.
Bleu’s partner Karina Smirnoff has won once before (J.R. Martinez) and now has been runner up twice (Mario Lopez was the other one.)
In its 17th edition, “Dancing With the Stars” lost its results show, save for the finale tonight. It had to squeeze performances and eliminations on Monday nights. The good news: ratings were solid, averaging more than 13 million overnight viewers, about the same as the previous season. The show does skew amongst the oldest on broadcast TV with the average viewer well over 60 years of age.
Early on, the inspiring story of Valerie Harper, fighting brain cancer, carried the day, finishing 10th. (She did a sweet dance during the finale to “What a Wonderful Word” sung by Colbie Caillat.) Bill Nye the Science Guy was fun but injured himself and was out the third week. And Snooki was a decent dancer without a need to pump her fist (but plenty of booty shaking.) Leah Remini brought determination and humor.
Later, the big story was Bill Engvall’s incredible staying power, besting much younger, much better dancers week in, week out, until Monday night’s semifinals. He just missed the final three.
The third place finisher Jack Osbourne (who finished in the same spot as his sister Kelly a few years ago) had his own medical issues: multiple sclerosis. The good news: he held his own and earned his spot with no prior dance experience unlike Bleu and Riley.