Racecar driver Helio Castroneves and his partner Julianne Hough claimed the checkered flag - so to speak - to bring home the mirror-ball trophy Tuesday night.
Castroneves, aka Mr. Charisma, whose smile never seemed to leave his face during the competition, won over America to edge out Spice Girl Mel B and her partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy.
Did America get it right? I say you did.
No, Helio wasn’t the best dancer. That honor went to Mel B. But, the facts are these. Helio is a racecar driver who had never danced before. And by end of this journey, he looked like a pro. Every time he stepped on the floor, he and Julianne lit up the audience. If you watched the audience during any one of their routines, it was wall-to-wall smiles. The bottom line: They were the most entertaining couple, consistently, in part due to Julianne’s inspired unique choreography and in part due to Helio’s loveable personality and sense of humor. During Monday’s finale, both of their routines energized the audience so much that they got two well-deserved standing ovations, despite a harsh criticism from the judges on their first routine.
That said, I am sad for the M&M team. This was the first finale in the history of the show, where I was truly torn on who I thought deserved to win. I would have been equally as pleased if Mel and Maks had won. But, Mel did have prior dance and performing experience. And frankly, their performance in the finale Monday was disappointing. I had high hopes for their freestyle that it would wow us, but frankly, that hip-hop routine wasn’t worthy of them.
Did Maks drop the ball with the choreography? Did they not have enough practice time due to her Spice Girls schedule? Did Maks’ back injury interfere? I’m not sure. Yes, their freestyle had death-defying lifts, but I agree with Len that it was too disjointed. It had some great moments, but as a whole, it was just OK.
In contrast, Julianne and Helio’s freestyle was everything a freestyle should be. Playing on the racing theme, in the beginning they dressed as race car drivers and by the end, they were both seated at the wheel. Julianne’s choreography was beyond creative. It was at another level. I think they should give a choreographer award each year, and this year it would belong to her.
I do feel bad for poor Maks. This is the second time he’s gotten close to claiming the mirror-ball trophy, but failed to make it all the way. It’s a good thing he’s got a healthy ego and a pretty face to help him get through the disappointment.
I’d like to take a moment to thank you, America, for not giving Marie Osmond the dancing title. I knew you’d come around. We all know this is a popularity contest; that was evident when Emmitt Smith took the title over Mario Lopez, but thankfully, it isn’t just about popularity.
Marie’s wind-up baby doll themed freestyle was so bizarre that judge Bruno sat stupefied, saying it wasn’t a dance. “It defies criticism,” he told Marie and Jonathan. “It’s like Baby Jane and the bride of Chucky.” I agree. That routine was fun, but it wasn’t ballroom dancing. The routine earned two sevens and an eight, the lowest score ever in a finale.
Then, Marie got sassy with the judges. My pet peeve with Marie was that she constantly talked back to the judges. And my rant against the judges is that they always told her she was a great entertainer, even when her footwork was faulty, but they didn’t extend that same compliment to Helio, when he had the crowd on its feet at almost every dance.
In short, Monday’s finale was an overall disappointment. With the exception of Helio’s freestyle, it was simply not up to the past season’s finale in terms of entertainment and talent. I was longing for the days of “Save A Horse Ride A Cowboy.”
Here’s a rundown of some other musings from this season and Tuesday’s show:
--Sabrina and Mark were the most missed couple. When they danced the cha-cha Tuesday, the crowd erupted in to such ovation that host Tom Bergeron gave up and said, “The hell with it, let them cheer!” Even judge Bruno held up his “10” paddle.
--Best line ever from Dancing With the Stars: When Mel yelled “God” in frustration during a rehearsal and her cocky partner jokingly quipped, “Just call me Maks.” Priceless.
--Maks may have lost the trophy, but he wins the award for hottest dancer. That push-up move on top of Mel in their final dance when he kissed her, inspired female fantasies all across the nation.
--I always thought Albert Reed went home too soon, and it was so good to see him and his gyrating hips back in action for his reprieve dance. A “little less conversation and a little more action” indeed.
--Cameron Mathison kept his promise that if he made it to the finale, he’d shed his shirt. After his final reprieve dance, he ripped it off to reveal a perfect six-pack. (Eat your heart out Maks.) This then prompted Bruno and guest Drew Lachey to reach for their belts and start their strip teases. If you ever doubted it, skin is in on Dancing With the Stars.
--Note to ABC, the constant plugging of Bruno and Carrie Ann’s new dance show was annoying after about the third time. By the end of the two-hour finale, it was positively unbearable. Not even the show’s host, the always-entertaining Drew Lachey, could get me to watch.
--Speaking of hosts, I’m so disappointed that Lachey can’t be Tom Bergeron’s co-host. I mean no disrespect to Samantha Harris, but the hosting thing just doesn’t seem like a good fit for her. Sorry. She cuts off the dancers constantly in the interviews, and she rattles on incessantly about the voting. We’ve been watching this show for years, Samantha, we understand that we have to vote. Geesh. And she doesn’t have Lachey’s humor or easy-going chemistry with Bergeron. In Tuesday’s show, Harris cut off Helio three times and turned the mic back to the other contestants, after she asked Helio a question. Clearly frustrated, Helio pleaded, “Can I please talk now?” She returned the mic to him just in time to pull it away again and throw it back to Tom. Thankfully, the cameraman stayed on Helio, as he threw down his hat and walked away, smiling of course, as everyone, including him, erupted in laughter.
--I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Florence Henderson has been in the audience constantly. I’m guessing she’ll be a contestant next year.
--Does Celine Dion have some kind of deal with ABC? She’s been all over the tube this week, from Oprah, to All My Children to the Dancing With the Stars finale.
--Now that Julianne is a two-time champion, like Cheryl Burke, expect her to get saddled with a Master P or a Kenny Mayne next season.
So, what did you think of the finale? Are you happy? Do you think the best dancer should always win or the hardest working, most improved?
Discuss among yourselves.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007