Give dance a chance tonight

The stars will pull out all the stops as they compete in the Dancing With the Stars finale. Their performances should move viewers.

By Kate Brassfield, Times Staff Writer
Published November 26, 2007

Watch it
Dancing With the Stars airs at 8 tonight and at 9 p.m. Tuesday on WFTS-Ch. 28.

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Can 20-million viewers be wrong?

The Dancing With the Stars finale is tonight. Tomorrow the winner will be presented with the oh-so-tasteful Disco Ball of Glory. If you're one of the few who wasn't planning to watch, put down War and Peace. Turn off the judgments, turn on your sense of humor, and give dance a chance.

Remember, this isn't Olympic-level competition. It's people with other things in their lives learning two dances a week and performing them on live TV. Can you do that? So don't look for perfection. Look for heart - and improvement.

The pleasure in watching Dancing With the Stars isn't in watching A-listers show off. It's in seeing people surprisingly like us go from awkward to incredible, with a little help from their friends. The cast list may be easy to mock when a season starts - a soap star? a Cheetah Girl? But you wouldn't really want to watch Angelina Jolie or George Clooney. They're too perfect. This show is about transformation.

Where else would you see an Indy car driver dressed in tails, Marie Osmond shaking her hips and Scary Spice doing a Viennese waltz?

Don't worry if you can't tell a cha-cha from a quickstep or a mambo from a samba. That's what the judges are for. The best performances capture your interest - and keep it - with energy and personality.

The judges, by the way, are no American Idol clones. Carrie Ann Inaba is most likely to be moved by an emotional performance, but she's a stickler for the rules. Bruno Tonioli's bombastic style masks a keen eye for detail. He hates to be negative, so a quiet Bruno signals a poor showing. Head judge Len Goodman specializes in weird Britishisms ("this takes the biscuit!") but no missed footwork or broken hold gets past him. If he says something is so, trust him.

Then there are the pros. They get the music early in the week and must make up the routines even while teaching the dance steps to their celebrity, arranging cute photo-op field trips, and hoping their costume won't come unglued. Their style, athleticism and outright hotness are mesmerizing. If you end up with a crush on Maks or Julianne, you won't be the only one.

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Who's who on Dancing With the Stars

The finalists: 

Marie Osmond and Jonathan Roberts
Breakout dance:
Came out strong in Week 1, when Bruno called her "classy yet sassy."
Judges' comments: "When I saw you were dancing I didn't think you would be much good. That shows you what I know!" - Len Goodman.
Memorable moment: Fainting on the dance floor, then sitting up and saying "Oh crap."
Why she's still here: Surprising level of stamina, legions of QVC doll fans.
Personality quirk: Oddball, self-effacing sense of humor.
Dance floor specialty: Using acting abilities to lend character to each dance.
Strategy to win: Add more difficulty to her routines to wow judges and raise her scores.


Helio Castroneves and Julianne Hough
Breakout dance: His engine ran hot and cold the first few weeks, but his cha-cha in Week 6 proved he was a contender.
Judges' comments: "Helio, when you dance, you make me happy to be alive." - Carrie Ann Inaba, on his Week 4 waltz.
Memorable moment: His paso doble, for which Julianne brought the race car driver his own dancing pit crew, a squad of professional dancers to whip into shape everything from his cape work to his attitude.
Why he's still here: His athlete's competitiveness.
Personality quirk: Eternal happiness.
Dance floor specialty: Grinning like a madman while performing difficult routines.
Strategy to win: Trust his coach. Julianne's a proven champ and she can guide him to victory if he lets her.


Melanie Brown and Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Breakout dance: Her paso doble, for which she earned a perfect score. "My jaw was on the desk," judge Bruno Tonioli fawned. "Top that!"
Judges' comments: "That was perfected, inspected and dissected, and as far as I am concerned it will not be rejected." - Bruno, on Mel's rumba.
Memorable moment: Her tango. Where else are you going to see a Spice Girl dance a tango to Depeche Mode's Personal Jesus?
Low point: Being in the bottom two after her waltz Week 4.
Why she's still here: Love/hate relationship with Maks adds emotion to every dance.
Personality quirk: Grabbing host Tom Bergeron's rear whenever she can.
Special challenge: Working around a demanding Spice Girls schedule.
Dance floor specialty: Showing off her natural ability, fiery personality.
Strategy to win: Scary Spice has to hope her fan base is as strong as her dance floor prowess.


The stars that the finalists have managed to outlast, and when they made their exits:

Weeks 1 and 2: Curse of the Models - Being a model on Dancing With the Stars is like being the best friend in a horror flick: Your purpose is to get picked off first. And so it was with pretty faces Josie Maran and Albert Reed, out in the first two weeks, respectively.

Week 3: inspiring old guy - Danke schoen but no danke schoen, Wayne Newton. His vocal performance after he was voted off was tragic, but his willingness to try something new was incredible. He could be sitting home collecting residuals, but he was out on the floor giving it all he had. He may be decrepit, but he's a dynamo. He was hoping to be back for the reunion in the finale, but a heart virus will keep him sidelined.

Week 4: Dukes Are the Hazard  - Boxer Floyd Mayweather had a fighter's spirit but couldn't shake his fighter's posture. Practicing in sneakers didn't help his dancing, but he still got plenty of chances to plug his December pay-per-view bout.

Week 5: Dancing Maverick - The billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban, went in Week 5. Doing the show just after having a hip replacement provided convenient cover for his dancing weaknesses. Mark was like the kid in the back who knows he's not the smartest so he goes for the class clown title. Dorky and fun, he exemplified the show's work ethic better than anyone.

Week 6: Season Shocker - When Cheetah Girl Sabrina Bryan went home in Week 6, an uproar ensued. Sabrina was widely agreed to be the best dancer. But as a tween star, her fan base may have been too small. Plus, she started out too good. With no improvement, there's no story, and she's so young she hasn't learned what Marie and Jane know: You dance with your heart, not just your legs.

Week 7: Elegant Exit - The oldest female contestant ever, Jane Seymour was more Bond Girl than Medicine Woman. Her beauty and elegance wowed from the start, but at some point you have to show some fire out there - other than starting a tiff with the judges over whether or not her feet left the floor in an illegal lift, that is.

Week 8: He's a Bird, He's a Pplane - He's the last one kicked out before the semifinals. Built like Superman but dancing like Clark Kent, as a judge told him, soap star and professional eye candy Cameron Mathison made immense progress but couldn't overcome the fan-base juggernaut that is Marie Osmond.

Week 9: Demons BanishedBeverly Hills 90210's Jennie Garth entered the competition petrified of performing in front of people and weirded out by the need to have chemistry with her teenage pro partner. She left last week after earning her first perfect score, her transformation complete.


The hosts:

Tom Bergeron: This master of the ad lib keeps the mood light and never takes himself - or anyone - too seriously. He knows the score, but he's not above embarrassing himself a little to get a laugh. He's like your neighbor's dad: a little odd, but good-hearted and always in control.

Samantha Harris: Her sophomoric ramblings make you want to holler at your TV screen. Every show needs a villain, and in this everybody-wins-because-gosh-darn-it-we-all-work-so-hard setup, Samantha's it. Her vapid interviews leave you wondering how exactly she got that journalism degree. "If you liked their quickstep, then quick step over to your phone" is her idea of wit.