Pop Culture

Jerry Springer: Gentleman till the end

“Dancing With The Stars” (ABC, Tuesdays/Wednesdays, 8 p.m. ET) can be perplexing. Bad dancers stay while good dancers leave, scoring seems questionable, and costumes are carefully designed only to wind up making people look ridiculous. But on Wednesday night, logic ruled. Jerry Springer, surprisingly graceful in spirit but not in body, went home at last, leaving four good dancers to battle it out.

This week’s elimination was unusual, of course, because it followed last week’s non-elimination, which in turn followed Sara Evans’ decision to abandon the competition in light of her heavily publicized family problems. Last week’s scores were to be stacked with this week’s scores, putting Joey Lawrence and Jerry Springer, who were last week’s final two, at a disadvantage.

Of course, it’s never as simple as the results when it comes to the results show. This week’s obligatory performing pop icon, younger and more female than usual — not to mention more relevant — was Martina McBride, whose ubiquity as a covered artist on “American Idol” has made her familiar to reality-television audiences everywhere.

Here, McBride opened with “This One’s For The Girls,” a hymn in which she explains that girls are mean and that wrinkles indicate character. (Interestingly, McBride was accompanied by several bland backup dancers, and based on the fact that the men were fully dressed while the women were in bikini tops and fringe skirts, it was unclear what exactly was “for the girls.”)

When it was time for the first two couples to be pronounced safe, there were no surprises — Mario and Karina were through to next week, and so were Emmitt and Cheryl. So the celebrities vulnerable to winding up in the bottom two were Joey and Jerry, last week’s bottom two, plus Monique, who may or may not have slid down to a bottom spot after the judges scored Joey so high on Tuesday night.

Even more filler-tastic than McBride’s work was a dance to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” performed by the students of ex-contestant Willa Ford’s partner, Maks. The students were eager and competent, but the routine left something to be desired. Among other things, no one has apparently informed them that we are a few years past the expiration date for moonwalking that is done without irony.

Tysonia, of the ongoing Slim-Fast Challenge, visited the set to meet the celebrity dancers and the professionals. This is worth mentioning only because in fairness to the Slim-Fast Challenge and to Tysonia, it must be said: Tysonia is shrinking. Inspirational story or frightening example of embedded advertising gone awry? There are arguments to be made on both sides.

McBride returned to sing “Rose Garden” while Joey’s partner Edyta performed a sort of cowboy jive with her partner Alec Mazo, known to “Dancing” fans as the first-season champion who helped Kelly Monaco best John O’Hurley. Alec was as delicious as ever, but of all the dances that he could have performed, this was not the one most likely to delight fans. If you’re going to bring back a former champion, you might as well go for the gusto and give him a rich, steamy tango. While Alec and Edyta did their best with what they had to work with, there’s only so much that can be mined from inoffensive light radio hits.

Real men can danceOn a brighter note, as has happened before, an apparently silly segment turned surprisingly amusing when the four men who remain talked about dancing and masculinity. While Jerry quickly disavowed any connection to the testosterone pumping through the competition, the others admitted to some misgivings. Joey not only blamed his brothers for hassling him, but he copped to being called on his “jazz hands” by his friends. Emmitt pointed out that a man who can wear pink is a man who has confidence, while Mario assured us that male dancers watch football, too. Whew!

Emmitt concluded with the statement that while some may think real men don’t dance, in fact, “a real man tries to do something he thinks he cannot do.” Who could have expected such eloquence to arise from a segment on ballroom manliness? Well played, Emmitt. Well played.

Before we could learn who was in the bottom two, previous contestants returned to provide their insights for a segment about how much more difficult it is to learn two dances in the same week. It was fun to see season two’s Drew Lachey, Lisa Rinna and Jerry Rice as well as season one’s Joey McIntyre, even if they did little but repeat over and over again that it’s very, very difficult to learn two dances in the same week.

Host Tom Bergeron, of course, took the opportunity to remind viewers that there is a “Dancing” tour scheduled for the post-season — perhaps coming to a town near you! — and as it happens, Drew, Lisa and Joey will be there. Never let it be said that ABC doesn’t know about synergy when it comes to marketing.

And then, it was time to learn who was in the bottom two. As many expected, Monique had indeed slid past Joey, and she landed in the bottom two with Jerry. Would bad dancing actually take a powder, or would the last woman leave the competition?

In the end, Jerry was given the entirely appropriate boot. He thanked everyone for supporting him, and then he thanked everyone for “letting [him] go home.” Good-natured to the end, Jerry has to be seen as one of the show’s most successful characters, because he was delightful to the end and went out right when his act was starting to get old. He didn’t go out on the foolish paso doble of last week, but stayed around long enough for a couple of lovely performances on Tuesday night. On this show, that qualifies as a happy ending.

Linda Holmes is a writer in Bloomington, Minn.