TV Recap

Running Man

On the season finale of ''Dancing With the Stars,'' smooth Emmitt Smith, a closet M.C. Hammer fan, gets more viewer votes than slick Mario Lopez

Cheryl Burke, Emmitt Smith, ... | COWBOY UP Former NFL player Emmitt evidently had the bigger fan base
COWBOY UP Former NFL player Emmitt evidently had the bigger fan base

The ''Dancing With the Stars'' finale: Touchdown!

Close your eyes and step away from the sequins. It's over. After 600 spray tans, one fake romance you couldn't pay me to care about, and 10 eliminated contestants, Emmitt Smith has been crowned champion of the third season of Dancing With the Stars. He got more viewer votes than the very talented Mario Lopez after tying him in the judges' votes, but Emmitt's win was absolutely deserved. As his cute little daughter told him, ''[Mario] might have dimples, but you've got style.''

Emmitt had more than style, though, which is a good thing, because toward the end of the competition, he had developed a startling willingness to don silky armbands and shimmering shoes. (He'd been so tame until then. I always imagined him uniformly dismissing every suggestion in the magical, possibly drugged-up funhouse that is this show's wardrobe department.) The style factor, a huge fan base, and a cute smile all worked in Emmitt's favor, but let's take this time to point out that Emmitt was also actually good at dancing. He was! Show me when he wasn't. You can't. Emmitt's a good dancer. Mario may have been more technically polished (he certainly had the waxen sheen down), but Emmitt was fluid, cool, and always fun.

Finale week was a bit underwhelming compared to the past few sessions. With just two competitors, going back and forth between similar dances got to be tedious. Tuesday night, Emmitt and Mario both performed a samba to the same song. Emmitt focused on footwork (after which we got a relatively awkward postdance zoom-in on ''the twinkle in his toes''). Mario pulled off some very impressive samba rolls, a term I cannot for the life of me type without thinking of sushi. Both guys repeated a favorite dance from earlier in the season, which I didn't really need to see but which did set Bruno up to use the phrase ''sun-baked Spanish plains'' regarding Mario's paso doble. At least I think he said that. I stopped taking notes on what Bruno says sometime last season. It's way more fun to take a big bite of food just as he begins to speak and let both that and whatever comes out of his mouth swirl around my consciousness for a while. No rush to digest. Just let it breathe....

Then there were the freestyles. Oh, the freestyles. These were very So You Think You Can Dance — nearly impossible to comprehend on any level but still endearing. Considering the inordinate amount of hype leading up to the freestyles, I was a tiny bit disappointed. Emmitt and Cheryl recycled an M.C. Hammer video, and Karina attempted to do hip-hop in four-inch heels while Mario slithered around giving the dance floor a much-needed wax. Unlike me, though, the judges nearly crapped themselves trying to contain their praise. (I was going to use a different verb there, but I know my editor won't let me, even though ABC keeps plastering the word across my screen during promos for Show Me the Money.) Len called Emmitt his ''dancing hero'' and then inexplicably told Mario, ''If that dance was a film, you'd win an Oscar.'' (Is Len clear on what an Oscar is?)

I'm an even bigger loser than Mario, so I dug the obligatory Loved Ones Montages for both finalists. Best part: George Lopez remarking that Mario had finally gotten people to forget Saved by the Bell about three seconds after Elizabeth Berkley appeared on screen. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who started bawling when Emmitt and Cheryl were thanking each other. I remember Cheryl saying something earnest and sweet, but before we could absorb that nice moment, whonk! Emmitt slammed us with exceedingly heartfelt lines of his own. It was as if he were playing the Whac-a-Mole arcade game and we viewers were the little gopher heads popping up for some sap-free air. Not yet! said Emmitt's big, soft mallet as he told Cheryl, ''I thank you for pushing me, even when I did not want to be pushed. I thank you for being patient, even when I was being stubborn. And I thank you for being you, because you being yourself allowed me to be me. I love you, and I thank you once again for being a friend.'' After that, I was a goner. And so was poor Mario. His subsequent tribute to Kadeena, who everyone kept hinting was more than just his dance partner, fell totally flat.

All of the booted contestants showed up Wednesday night for a big reunion in which they danced in two heats. Vivica, a fox, must have been pissed to be second-string. The entire time Shanna Moakler was up there I wanted to reach through my screen and hug her for having punched Paris Hilton. Monique executed about 50 steps for everyone else's 10, but it looked great. Harry Hamlin made multiple facial expressions! Even Tucker Carlson showed up to smirk heavily and, later, go down in DWTS history as the man who was holding Emmitt Smith's hand just before that brutal mid-''We Are the Champions'' cut to Day Break.

What was that, by the way? The lyrics cut out at ''No time for lo—,'' which meant there was not even enough time to pan to Mario, let alone finish the word ''loser.'' It's on with the next at ABC! I'm all for giving Day Break a chance (for, like, at least the next 15 minutes), but it does not have an animated crushed-velvet kaleidoscope simulation in its opening titles, so already I'm experiencing too much withdrawal to focus. Until next season, loyal disco ballers!

What do you think? Was Mario robbed? Which NFL trophy should the DB replace on Emmitt's shelf? And who should ABC recruit to ''star'' in season 4?

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Originally posted Nov 16, 2006
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