''Dancing With the Stars'': An all-male semifinal
Welcome back to Dancing With the Stars, strangely sponsored in part by the founding president of Zambia, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda. Huh? Weirdest guest spot ever! Doesn't he know those seats are reserved for the casts of struggling ABC shows and Jessie Spano?
Anyway, Joey Lawrence is gone. I would normally take this opportunity to say, ''Whoa!'' because I've held back all season (impressive, really, because barely anything besides ''sailor pants'' and ''eternal flame'' comes to mind when I ponder Joey), but the truth is no one was surprised at his ouster. The judges decided to be nonentities this week, awarding the same boring, probably too generous score of 59 to all three semifinalists. Cue straight-up popularity contest, and it was goodbye to the Cracker Jack mascot. Joey did go out in style with a lively quickstep and a perfect-scoring rumba, not to mention extremely cute grandparents.
Love him or hate him, Mario Lopez is in the final two. I don't dig the guy's act whatsoever, but I'll admit he can dance. This week, his and Karina's cha-cha was fun but underwhelming I kept watching her gyrate while he mostly stood around and occasionally turned directions. (I liked the end of that dance much more: ''Who's bad?'' Quick cut to George Lopez.) But Mario's tango was easily one of the best dances of the season. I loved how we got a close-up of their footwork for a good 30 seconds. If anyone's still searching for proof that Mario's a good dancer, I guess this would be it. Or if you're in the mood for something less subtle, consider Bruno's reaction to Mario's tango, the first dance of the night: ''We truly began with the champion!'' It's tough trying to figure out who Bruno wants to win....
Just kidding we all know Bruno praises the crap out of everyone. My favorite line of his tonight was after Emmitt Smith's waltz. ''You're like the Grand Canyon! Every time you look at it, you're amazed. What's next?'' Interesting question. I'm guessing the Grand Canyon will continue to sit there. But Emmitt who knows? With his popular vote, he's just as likely to take home the meaningless disco ball as Mario. Emmitt's waltz looked great to me, but that could have been because I refuse to take my eyes off his easy-breezy-beautiful smile. (Lame! So what? You do it too.) And once I recovered from the shock and awe of glimpsing leopard-print armbands around Emmitt's billowing arms, I got a huge kick out of his cha-cha. Emmitt's obviously not as technically gifted as Mario, but he's much more likeable.
This show loves geeking itself out for holidays, and Election Day was no exception. Tom Bergeron kept egging on the viewers: ''If 45 percent of you feel guilty about not voting, vote for our stars!''...''Do the patriotic thing tonight!''...''Unlike certain areas, our electronic voting machines actually work!'' Oh, that Tom. In the spirit of the show, these quips were funny and a little sad at the same time. The three couples also took the ''campaign'' theme and ran with it to exotic locales like Texas and Anaheim. Joey and Edyta twirled in front of Cinderella's castle, Emmitt and Cheryl mounted a stage at a NASCAR event, and Mario and Karina visited his old high school (sadly, not Bayside). The trips actually matched up to the dancers' fan bases perfectly. Children and seniors who are easily charmed but don't actually vote: Joey. People likely to spend time in stadiums: Emmitt. Teenage girls: Mario. Middle-aged women at my mom's suburban-Midwest hair salon: also Mario. (That last one wasn't featured this week, but I thought I'd share.)
Wednesday's results show was way better than usual. Love the Pet Shop Boys; hate that they were on this show. Love Anna and Jonathan; hate that they weren't on this season. And the studio audience's reactions were extra spicy. Elizabeth Berkley and the hot junkie from Brothers & Sisters showed up, and a woman somehow got on air saying this regarding Emmitt: ''Any man who can smile like that and make your panties fall off'' should win. Oh, and that ''tour preview'' exhibition had me in stitches, usually right after any cut to Lisa Rinna. She made me realize how much I've missed the element of crazy for most of season 3 Vivica got booted early on, so the only nutjob to focus on has been Samantha Harris. I say Sam and Lisa should switch roles for season 4. Lisa can host, and Sam can put her freakishly toned arm muscles to better use. Everyone wins! Except, I guess, easily irritated viewers.
What do you think? Does Emmitt or Mario deserve the trophy more? What man who can bring the crazy should be recruited for next season? And are there enough sequins in America to decorate our living rooms for next week's finale parties?