And so in the end, it was Donny Osmond for the win after all. After ten weeks in Season Nine of Dancing With the Stars, after all the pratfalls and bouts of flu and scores of 30 for Mya, we got the result most of us had assumed would be the case back when the cast was first announced.
The onetime teen idol and representative of a famous performing family, who had just one week during the season where he was alone atop the judges' leaderboard, becomes at age 51 the oldest winner of DWtS by a wide margin. Osmond is the first man to win since Season Five, and the first male champ since Drew Lachey in Season Two to not come from the world of sports. His partner Kym Johnson is half of a championship pair for the first time in her seven seasons on the show. Singer Mya and partner Dmitry Chaplin, the pacesetters for almost the entire season, came in second; while reality show veteran Kelly Osbourne and Louis van Amstel finished in third place.
Osmond came into the season with the huge advantage of name recognition, and the knowledge, based on his sister Marie's third place finish in Season Five, that voters respond to his family. But he acquitted himself well on the show, if not as well as Mya, and is a defensible champion. He brought to DWtS several decades' worth of knowledge of how to connect with an audience, something Mya had difficulty with. What his routines sometimes lacked in technical merit, he made up for with crowd-pleasing elements that were never so shameless as to make one groan. Osmond did not complain when the judges called him out for mistakes, and sometimes mentioned his errors without being prompted. He also had the perfect partner in Johnson, who aside from her always strong choreography was tolerant of Osmond's work schedule in Las Vegas, patient when he battled illness, and good-humored as she attempted to get her straight-laced partner to overcome his reluctance to dance intimately with a much younger woman.
If Osmond's strong finish during Monday's show suggested he was a likely winner, the final judged dance on Tuesday confirmed it. The final three reprised dances from earlier in the season, with Osmond and Osbourne showing improvement on their tango and waltz respectively; and Mya doing as fine a job on her jive as she had originally. But the judges awarded the lead score of 30 to Osmond, with Mya getting the 28 and Osbourne the 26. It was as if the judges were attempting to bestow some legitimacy on a result they already knew was coming. Combined with Monday's results, Osmond's score was enough to pull him into a tie with Mya for the judges' portion of the final totals, meaning any lead he had among viewers' votes would be enough to give him the title. There was little chance he was ever going to trail Mya in the home popularity contest.
There's always a lot of time to kill in a two-hour finale, though the show dragged less than it could have. There was some unintentional humor when a recap of Monday's show was interrupted by a freeze frame of the back of Miss Piggy's head. Viewers saw a return of the "loser's club" made up of the first dancers kicked off DWtS, as club president Jeffrey Ross welcomed Ashley Hamilton into the fold (something tells me that Macy Gray, who was voted out in week one along with Hamilton, would be in no mood to play along with a sketch calling her a loser).
The previously voted out dancers got to hoof it one more time, getting showcased in rough order of their eliminations and given time onscreen based on how well they had performed (the ten or so seconds we saw of the hopeless Gray were nine too many). Highlights here included MMA star Chuck Liddell and martial arts actor Mark Dacascos performing with their partners before doing some fight choreography versus each other; and pocket-sized snowboarder Louie Vito dancing with cutiepie partner Chelsie Hightower while Osmond serenaded them with "Puppy Love," a hit for him nearly forty years ago. As was promised to him when he left the show due to injury, former House majority leader Tom DeLay got to perform a Texas two-step with Cheryl Burke.
Rather than getting a solo turn of her own, fourth-place finisher Joanna Krupa, whose body of work this season was second only to Mya's, performed a repeat of her competition mambo with Derek Hough -- but her fellow competitors this time were gag contestants from season past Cloris Leachman, Steve Wozniak, and Jerry Springer. It would have seemed disrespectful to Krupa if not for the joke at the end -- Krupa and Hough performing their signature head-bob, but with her bouncing his head this time. Michael Irvin performed a paso doble dance-off (set to the old Monday Night Football theme) against an old NFL rival, Jerry Rice from Season Two, and as the less rusty dancer Irvin was able to emerge on top (though Rice got a "best body" consolation prize).
The musical guest for the evening was Whitney Houston, and while it might be polite to ignore the stunning deterioration of her voice and ability to both perform and look conscious, ABC foisted her on us as entertainment, which makes her fair game. Houston's stamina is so poor anymore that she had to leave the chorus on "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" entirely to her backup singers, and her bangs were covering her eyes, which added to the overall disheveled impression she's been giving off for years. She keeps getting booked on television, but people need to stop trying to make this comeback happen. She's finished.
And Dancing With the Stars is likewise finished for another season. The format could use some tweaks (some new pros would be nice, and sixteen dancers this season was too many), but as long as there are ex-football players and Osmonds out there to cast, the show won't be going anywhere.