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''Dancing With the Stars'': Kelly Monaco steps up

In the season finale of ”Dancing With the Stars,” sexy Kelly Monaco comes from behind and outpaces the deliciously cheesy John O’Hurley. (And was that Patrick Swayze?)

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Dancing With the Stars
Dancing with the Stars: Bob D'Amico/ABC

Dancing With the Stars

TV Show
Reality TV
run date:
Tom Bergeron, Carrie Ann Inaba, Bruno Tonioli, Len Goodman, Erin Andrews, Julianne Hough
Current Status:
In Season

”Dancing With the Stars”: Kelly Monaco steps up

In most competitions, winning is everything. But on ABC’s summer sensation Dancing With the Stars, the only thing separating first and second place are bragging rights — and, of course, the world’s most hideous trophy. Did you see that monstrosity? (Your weekend project, should you choose to accept it, is to gather the family and make a replica using a welding torch, the base of an old bowling trophy, a sheet of tin, and a disco ball.)

Bearing in mind DWTS‘s dubious prize, I can’t get too upset that my favorite couple, Seinfeld alum John O’Hurley and his partner Charlotte Jorgensen, went from cutting a rug during their breathtaking quickstep to having the rug yanked out from under them when the judges went overboard for Kelly Monaco and Alec Mazo’s freestyle dance.

And anyhow, I’ve got better things to do than to sit around lamenting that O’Hurley’s wobbly freestyle lifts might have cost him the gold. For starters, I’m still pondering the finale’s burning questions:

Was that actually onetime box-office titan Patrick Swayze gamely showing up to coach O’Hurley on his lifts, then cheering him on from the audience? When host Tom Bergeron announced that Monaco had won, I half expected Swayze to leap up, grab the mike, and shout, ”Nobody puts J. Peterman in a corner!” Or I was hoping he would, anyway.

Why on earth were we subjected to recycled costumes? Yes, I know both couples were giving encore presentations of their favorite performances from the season, but this is the top-rated show the summer, and Vegas-style excess is half the fun. Why not spring for a couple of new (and potentially hazardous) dresses for Monaco and Jorgensen? If any show can handle an additional dose of sequins, it’s DWTS.

How come nobody explained what would happen in the event of a tie score? Yeah, all those tricky rules are buried somewhere on the ABC website, but if the show’s writers had cut just one of Bergeron’s har-har-har jokes — ”If Rocky Balboa were really sexy, he’d be Kelly Monaco,” perhaps? — they could have told us what would decide the winner if the judges picked one couple and the audience the other one.

Are Joey and Ashly really not getting married? He’s already got a wife? Are you sure of that?

And finally, did the judges accidentally reverse O’Hurley’s and Monaco’s scores for the freestyle dance? Okay, okay, Monaco fans. I’ll give you this much: That backward, down-the-stairs flip she performed during ”Let’s Get Loud” was a thing of beauty. And even more awe-inspiring was the fact that she didn’t burst into tears when Mazo slammed her, knees first, into the ground to end the number. If that doozy was an error, it was a well-masked one, earning Monaco my award not only for Most Improved but also for Best Actress.

I’ll even give Kelly and Alec a slight nod in the basic chemistry department. As my sister Kathy (an alarmingly rabid O’Hurley fan) put it when she called me during a commercial break: ”They’re letting Kelly and Alec do freestyle? I’m worried they’re going to simulate intercourse!”

For me, though, nobody could touch John and Charlotte when it came to putting both the ”dancing” and the ”stars” into the show’s title. At the precise moment judge Carrie Ann Inaba told the duo that they ”embody the joy of dancing,” I was thinking almost the same thing. As for their effervescent freestyle routine to ”I’m So Excited,” while O’Hurley’s geek-to-dancing-king transformation was hilarious, his flashy footwork and effortless spins and dips were seriously good.

Even more important, by embracing the show’s Velveeta vibe, O’Hurley managed both to respect the competition (”We celebrated the human spirit,” he noted, straight-faced) and to revel in its bizarre excesses (how about that onstage explosion of sparks and gold confetti to celebrate Monaco’s win?).

With his unique brand of goofy charm, punctuated with a killer closing quip (”Do we get to keep our toll-free number?”), O’Hurley leaves the show a champ anyway. Though I wouldn’t have picked plucky underdog Monaco as DWTS‘ top dog, well, there are certainly worse ways to wrap the summer’s most unexpectedly delightful six weeks.

What do you think? Did the best dancers win? Do the partners deserve more credit? Why do you think this show was such a hit? And which stars would you like to see next season?