On TV’s biggest , most fun night of the year so far, it was singers v. dancers. And to borrow from the idiotic boxing metaphor they pounded into the canvas on American Idol, the winner was Dancing with the Stars by a knockout. Actually, by several knockout performances by this season’s final trio of handsome, congenial hoofers.
Olympic gold medal figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi took home DWTS’ tacky mirror ball trophy—the show’s only prize—by being the judges’ fave from the first round 10 weeks ago. But it was Miami Dolphin Jason Taylor who clearly was the audience’s pick Tuesday night. The 6’6” Taylor was the surprise talent in the latest crop of beginner dancers. Like Emmitt Smith, the Dallas Cowboy who won the trophy several seasons’ back, Taylor proved to be a graceful and gracious ballroom dancer whose skills improved considerably under the shrewd coaching of professional partner Edyta Sliwinska. “The best coach I’ve ever had and I’ve had some good ones,” Taylor said in the show’s finale Tuesday night.
Coming in third was Chilean actor Cristian De La Fuente, partnered with two-time DWTS champ Cheryl Burke. Despite an injury to his left arm several weeks ago, he continued in the competition, with Burke tailoring the choreography to accommodate her virtually one-armed partner. Only after he was hurt, during a strenuous samba, did De La Fuente begin to earn high scores from the shows’ judges—Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonnioli.
Going into the final round of dances, Yamaguchi, whose figure skating career might have given her an almost unfair advantage over the other dancers, was drawing consistent 10’s from the judges. But it was Taylor who earned the loudest applause from the crowd after his last dance Tuesday evening.
Meanwhile, it was the much-ballyhooed battle of the Davids on Idol. Hammering the boxing imagery harder than Rocky Balboa on a side of raw beef, the show built up the final evening of competition as a face-off between finalists David Archuleta and David Cook. They even decked out the singers in ring robes and announced their weights: 17-year-old Archuleta comes in about 100 pounds; Cook, 25, is taller and heavier at 180.
They may have been mismatched in physical size, but Archuleta proved to be the heavyweight performer for the night—the last time viewers could cast phone-in votes for the winner. All three of this shows judges—Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell--gushed about Archuleta’s performances, particularly his closer, a soulful if abbreviated version of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Both of these feel-good reality/competition shows have been consistent top-raters for their networks. Fox’s total viewers for Idol fell off gradually as the season dragged on—some weeks the show was more than 10 million off of its previous season—but it still was a juggernaut compared to this and other broadcast network’s other anemic series.
ABC is producing two seasons a year of DWTS, meaning another dozen has-beens and C-listers will stumble through the cha-cha and the jive to get their shots at the mirror ball trophy in the fall.
Till then Tuesdays are going to be a yawn.