It was bad enough when Gretchen beat Mondo on "Project Runway." And I'm still reeling from the night when Raven lost out to Tyra Sanchez on "RuPaul's Drag Race 2." So I don't think I could've handled another reality-competition upset this calendar year. But thankfully, the proverbial shark did not jump across my TV screen tonight. I am happy to report that Bristol Palin--who made it to the Season 11 "DWTS" finale despite consistently receiving low scores from the judges for weeks--didn't triumph on "Dancing With The Stars," as I (and, I am sure, many nervous ABC execs) had feared. Instead, with 118 points to Bristol's 104 (and second-place contestant Kyle Massey's 110), the wonderful and deserving Jennifer Grey prevailed and snatched up that coveted mirrorball trophy. I'd been rooting for Jen from the moment she broke into sobs reminiscing about her former fallen dance partner Patrick Swayze, and I'm thrilled that America's voters rallied behind her as well.
Now, I'd like to put politics aside here, and not turn this into a red state/blue state, liberal/conservative sort of debate. My personal feelings about Bristol's abstinence campaigning or her hockey mom Sarah are not relevant here. What is relevant, you ask? Dancing, something that Bristol just didn't excel at, at least not compared to Jennifer, or Kyle, or several other "DWTS" contenders this season--particularly the robbed Brandy, who really should've been competing in the finale this week in Bristol's place. Bristol should not have even come in third, but hey, at least the right woman won in the end.
Sure, Bristol improved week to week on "DWTS." (So would I, come to think of it, if all I did was rehearse with a professsional dance partner for 10 hours a day.) But she just did not improve enough. Plain and simple, Bristol didn't get as far as she did on "DWTS" because of her fancy footwork, or her can-do attitude and pure grit, or because she wanted to win more than anyone else on the show (it was obvious from the crestfallen expression on Brandy's face last week that she'd craved victory just as badly, if not more). No, Bristol ultimately made it to the finale because of her politically mobilized fanbase.
So I guess politics and culture wars can't be entirely ignored in this case. At the very least, Bristol appealed to viewers because she kept insisting she was a regular girl-next-door from Alaska, not some disparaged "Hollywood" type like movie star Jennifer or pop diva Brandy. Yes, Bristol played that anti-showbiz card many times, quite cunningly. Maybe she's a shrewd politician herself.
But you know, America adores underdog tales about overcoming adversity, regardless of that underdog's political affiliation. And that's what the two ladies of the "DWTS" finale, Jennifer and Bristol, had in common. Bristol had her haters, her doubters, her harsh judges' critiques and low scores, but she kept her chin up and kept on dancing (albeit not all that gracefully at times). Jennifer had her painful injuries to overcome, but she too stayed on her feet. So I can see how, in their own ways, Bristol and Jennifer were resilient role models for "DWTS" viewers. I'm just very, very relieved that this year's model was Jennifer, in the end.
And hey, the fact that David Hasselhoff returned to "DWTS" tonight to sing the "Baywatch" theme flanked by dancing swimsuit girls, Margaret Cho got rainbow-rific, and The Situation mambo'd to Right Said Fred, stripping to the waist because he apparently thought he was too sexy for his shirt? Well, that just makes me glad that the show didn't jump the shark tonight, so that there can still be a Season 12 and we can enjoy more crazy moments like that next year.