Drew Lachey danced away as the winner of “Dancing with the Stars” Sunday night.
The former 98 Degrees pop singer out-hoofed pro wrestler Stacy Keibler, thought to be the favored finalist, along with NFL great Jerry Rice, as ABC’s ballroom hit wrapped its second season, airing live from Los Angeles.
With his professional dancer-partner Cheryl Burke, Lachey wowed the audience with a freestyle routine danced to “Hound Dog,” which concluded with him vaulting himself over his partner’s shoulders.
The couple racked up a total score of 27 out of a perfect 30 from the three-judge panel, which, combined with their score from Thursday’s pre-finale, gave them a total of 87 out of 90.
But it was viewers — whose vote carried half the weight — who settled the matter.
In somewhat of an upset midway through the two-hour finale, they eliminated the leggy, blonde Keibler.
Then, in the program’s final moments, host Tom Bergeron disclosed that Lachey was the choice over Rice.
“Woooooooooooooo!” yelped Lachey, who gratefully accepted the mirrorball trophy (which he had earlier acknowledged was “ugly”).
During the program, all seven of the previously bounced celebrities — ESPN sportscaster Kenny Mayne, actress Tatum O’Neal, news personality Giselle Fernandez, rap star Master P, actress Tia Carrere, tanned ladies’ man George Hamilton and talk-show host Lisa Rinna — returned for a last dance with their partners.
It was in January that “Dancing” began its new season with 10 competitors of sometimes dubious celebrity, each paired with a professional dancer for the show’s grueling choreography and performance regimen. Then, as the weeks passed, one couple after another was kicked off thanks to the verdict of the judges and viewer voting.
“Dancing” received a warm welcome from viewers — it ranks 7th in prime time for the season to date, according to Nielsen Media Research.
“Dancing” first kicked up its heels last summer as a surprise hit for ABC.
In its July season finale, “General Hospital” star Kelly Monaco and her professional partner upset odds-on favorite John O’Hurley, best known for playing J. Peterman on “Seinfeld.”
But audience complaints arose that the voting process was confusing and that Monaco, star of an ABC soap, got preferential treatment. This prompted a rematch, which, airing in September, gave viewers full authority. They awarded the title to O’Hurley.