Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Season 12: "Dancing with the Stars": it's down to viewers' vote

Dancing with the Stars
Season 12 Series Finale
Hines Ward vs. Chelsea Kane vs. Kirstie Alley

A flat-footed tie in judges scores between actress Chelsea Kane and football star Hines Ward will leave it up to the viewers tonight to determine who wins the coveted Mirror Ball Trophy on the finale of "Dancing with the Stars". Kane and Ward were tied with 59 out of 60 judges' points.

"Cheers" alum Kirstie Alley did an impressive free-style dance, finishing in third place and would have to be considered a long-shot to win the competition.

All three will do one more competitive dance for judges scores, although the winner may already have been determined by last night's viewer vote.

Tonight's finale will cap off a season where there was never a clear-cut favorite, although Pittsburgh Steeler wide receiver Hines Ward always hovered at or near the top of the leader board.

Ward and partner Kym Johnnson shouldered on through a brutal rehearsal injury to Johnson's neck two weeks ago. That Johnson is out of the hospital, let alone dancing, is a miracle in itself.

On balance, Ward and Johnson have been the best team throughout the season, but the "Dancing with the Stars" point system doesn't reward consistency or body of work.

Actress Chelsea Kane might be peaking at the absolute right time. Kane and partner Mark Ballas seem to have all the momentum leading up to the finale.

We commend Kirstie Alley for an incredible season and finale, but we don't see her winning from the third-place position. No one has ever won the Mirror Ball Trophy after ranking 3rd in Judges score in the finale. Viewers votes count a lot, but they can't propel someone from 3rd to 1st.

So, that leaves us with Hines vs. Chelsea; the Super Bowl MVP vs. the Disney Kid.

Who will the viewers vote for ?

Tough call. On the surface, Ward has a bigger following and public profile, having been an MVP in a Super Bowl. And Pittsburgh Steeler fans are among the most loyal fans in sports. The problem, however, is that football fans in general don't watch "Dancing with the Stars" and certainly don't make up a large part of the voting blocks.

But then there's this theory put forth by Billy Bush of "Access Hollywood" : the dramatic scene of Hines rushing to the hospital to get an update on Kym Johnson's condition and his subsequent dance floor tears after they completed their next dance might have locked in "the sympathy factor".

"Women love 'man-tears'", Bush said. And women are the voting bus that drives reality shows like "Dancing with the Stars".

Will the teenage and 'tweenage voters who watch Kane on the Dinsey Channel rock the vote for Kane ? It's hard to say. But Kane's position closely mirrors that of Season 8 champ gymnast Shawn Johnson who maintained a very low profile during the season and snuck in at the last minute with perfect scores to take the championship. The common denominator is their demographic and that they both had the brilliant Mark Ballas as a partner.

So who will win ? In a razor-thin vote, I give the edge to Hines Ward. I think viewers will recognize that he was the most consistent beginning to end.

Aside from the crowning of a new champion, the most anticipated part of a "DwtS" finale is the returning of the season's competitors. Psycho Mike Catherwood, Wendy Williams, Petra Nemcova, Chris Jericho and Ralph Macchio will all be back to strut their stuff one last time.

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