The words I have been hoping for since the third week of September were uttered by Tom Bergeron Tuesday night when he handed over the coveted Mirror Ball to Amber Riley and Derek Hough: our new champions of "Dancing With The Stars." Because, honestly, it could've gone either way.
Twice a year, I look forward to another season of "Dancing With The Stars" and every time, I'm never disappointed. But for most of Season 17, I was not a happy viewer. Sure, there were some great pairs with touching stories (Valerie Harper and Jack Osbourne), and some nice surprises (Nicole Polizzi is a much better dancer than her former "Jersey Shore" co-star, The Situation) but they were outnumbered by the ridiculous amount of upsets. And while I do not blame Bill Engvall whatsoever (he is pretty darn likeable), I did blame the people who voted for him. I really had no idea that rednecks would outnumber Guidos and Guidettes, "Saved By The Bell" fans and Scientology haters the way they did.
The fact that Bill made the semi-finals, upsetting the likes of Leah Remini (one of the most improved), Snooki (who should have, at least, made the semis) and Elizabeth Berkley (who definitely should've made the final) may have turned off a lot of viewers. (Tell me you weren't fast-forwarding through a huge chunk of the episodes.)
So I couldn't have been happier to see Bill go (despite loving his pairing with pro Emma Slater) and, after this up-and-down season, be left with a great final three: Riley and Hough, Osbourne and Cheryl Burke and "High School Musical" star Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff. But was anyone else shocked Corbin Bleu made it to the final two? Yes, he's a fabulous dancer, but he's clearly had previous training and "HSM" is soooo 2006. Who will take part in the next season -- a supporting player from "Lizzie McGuire," "Even Stevens" or "That's So Raven"? Seriously, though, I really thought his confident attitude, dance experience and Disney-ness would work against him but I guess I don't know how die-hard and loyal "HSM" fans truly are.
Overall, Season 17 wasn't that bad (with the exception of the cringeworthy Bill Nye performances), but it was the first season since Season 1 that "DWTS" wasn't on two nights a week. ABC pulled the Tuesday night results shows (which had more crappier filling than a hot dog) and producers had to find a way to cram an elimination into the Monday episodes.
It was a move that made sense for the network -- or did it? While the results shows' replacements -- "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," "The Goldbergs" and "Trophy Wife" -- have been successful for ABC, it may have dissatisfied us stodgy "DWTS" fans. I don't think ratings for "DWTS" results shows were that bad, but by taking away the Tuesday show, it didn't bolster the ratings like execs hoped it would. Numbers for the last 20 minutes or so of the new Monday format dipped, so not only did the show not gain any extra viewers during results time, it actually lost some. Did the overhaul into one big show mess with what used to be a sure thing? Maybe.
What may have been the show's downfall was the new voting format, which was forced to combine the public's votes from the previous week's dances with the judges' scores from the current week. Dancers have good and bad weeks all the time so every result could have been a coin toss. Perhaps the judges' opinions need to count for more so the dance competition doesn't become a joke.
Of course, with network television changing all the time, the folks at "DWTS" can't complain. Like most reality competitions, it is, for the most part, always clean-cut: performances and voting one day, results the day after. In the past, it allowed for more special guests to come into the ballroom and perform and promote their latest CDs (which I, personally, didn't quite enjoy but, hey, they had to fill the hour somehow), not to mention fun sketches like Dance Center (who else missed Kenny Mayne and Jerry Rice this season?). But I think the cast and crew would prefer being on the air for one night only than not at all so in that sense, the new format worked.
I guess us "DWTS" fans can't have everything. Will they work out the kinks by the time the next season rolls around? Definitely. I have nothing but the utmost confidence in them. The producers have rolled with the punches given the limitations so I'm sure we will get an even newer-and-improved version in March. After this season, though, I'm better prepared thanks to the old adage about expecting the worst.