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Joey’s enthusiasm is not enough on ‘Dancing’

Emmitt Smith will take on Mario Lopez in next week’s finale. By Linda Holmes

“Dancing With The Stars” (ABC, Tuesdays/Wednesdays, 8 p.m. ET) ended in an suspenseful tie on Tuesday night, much like a couple of Senate races. Unlike those races, the dance contest was decided with a new round of phone-in voting, and by Wednesday night, we had a final result.

The judges scored three dances perfectly last night, so in allowing the usual encore that graces every results show, they had plenty to choose from. In the end, they went with Mario and Karina’s tango, bypassing Joey’s ho-hum rumba and Emmitt’s sexy cha-cha. Mario looked like he stumbled a couple of times in the tango where he hadn’t on Tuesday night, but of course, it no longer mattered.

The show’s actual fresh content took a while to get off the ground, but when it did, the first group number was surprisingly successful. Too often, the professional exhibitions are forced, in that they attempt to mix ballroom dancing with something to which it seems unsuited (’80s flashbacks, for example). But here, three couples danced to the classic James Bond theme, and the combination of James Bond and ballroom is, of course, perfectly natural. The dancing was sexy and interesting, everyone looked gorgeous, and there’s nothing not to like about three professional ballroom dancing men in tuxes. The awkward plugging of the latest Bond movie made it all seem a little artificial, but the final product managed to transcend those less than honorable intentions.

Every week, members of the Tuesday audience offer their reactions after the performances, and every week, clips of those reactions add little to the Wednesday show. This week, however, was the exception.

Outside the realm of national politics, it’s just about guaranteed that nothing on television this week will be as flat-out bizarre as hearing the president of Zambia diplomatically explain that he liked all three of the famous American men dancing about in their shiny shirts. Even as part of a show that carries a good measure of “just when you think you’ve seen it all…” to begin with, this moment still managed be abidingly weird.

Are you ready for the ‘Dancing’ tour?Next, we were treated to a lengthy preview for the upcoming tour, which will unite stars and pros from all three seasons. We saw Lisa Rinna, Harry Hamlin, Willa Ford and Joey McIntyre, and their partners Louis, Ashly, Maks and Kym.

The jive, performed to “Footloose,” proved a few interesting things. Lisa is still an awful lot of fun to watch, and she and Louis still transparently adore each other. Her husband Harry is substantially less terrible when he doesn’t have the pressure of competition bearing down on him. Joey McIntyre needs a refresher. And, of course, Willa and Maks are totally into each other, not that you didn’t read this in your favorite tabloid.

What would a Wednesday results show be without a visit with Tysonia, the affable heroine of the Slim-Fast Challenge? Tysonia has been learning to dance all season, and we left her last week just after she learned that she would be performing a rumba in a public competition. In this week’s installment, Tysonia took on the rumba without fear, and she and her partner finished in second place. And, all credit to Slim-Fast for marketing purposes, Tysonia did look fabulous. I suppose we can consider that our happy ending.

The only figures on Wednesday’s show earning a more heartwarming and unlikely welcome to a ballroom than Tysonia received were The Pet Shop Boys. Little seen in the United States since the late 1980s, the Boys are back with a greatest-hits album that’s just been released in this country, so they were happy to provide a performance of the one song for which they are best remembered here: “West End Girls,” which sounded surprisingly similar on stage to the way it sounded 20 years ago. What this had to do with ballroom dancing was a bit difficult to discern, but that has been something of a theme this season.

The filler threatens to bend the time-space continuumThis took us to 8:37 p.m., leaving the show 23 minutes to fill, no more performances, and exactly one thing of interest to announce: which guy was going home. Thus began a parade of padding impressive even for this often bloated program.

First, a lengthy list of celebrities (Rachael Ray, Jimmy Kimmel) and people who are famous for talking about celebrities (hosts from “Access Hollywood” and “Extra”) offered their opinions about why the show is a phenomenon. That’s right: people who frequently talk about the show talked about why people talk about the show. And they did it on the show, meaning that they could presumably later cover the show, including their own appearances on it, possibly including comments on their own comments about themselves commenting on the show. This seems like a dangerous game, in which one might accidentally bend time and space.

In fairness, Ray’s typically nonsensical ramblings about how she’d love to discuss the show with her dog were at least noteworthy, while Kimmel scored twice: once by saying that if he had been told a few years ago that Jerry Springer would one day be ballroom dancing on television, he’d have left the planet on a spaceship; and once by admitting to having had crushes on both Mario and Joey since he was “a little girl.”

Still, the very idea of a segment in which a show discusses the phenomenon that is itself seems ill-conceived. The parade of scandals and gossip (Maks and Willa! Mario and Karina! Poor Sara Evans! Shanna Moakler fights Paris Hilton!) was similarly unnecessary, but 23 minutes are 23 minutes, and options are limited.

Now, with miles to go before there could be an announcement, the three finalists were examined in turn. Everyone talked about everyone else. What does Mario think of Joey? What does Emmitt think of Mario? What does Cheryl think of Emmitt? What does Karina think of Mario? How many times can we see the same clips? These segments tend to be endless and devoid of content, and this one was as well.

Finally — finally — after another set of commercials, it was time to announce who was going home. Mario and Karina were informed that they were safe, leaving Joey and Emmitt and their partners to sweat. Tom promptly announced, in a tone that seemed perhaps a little too mournful for the occasion, that Joey and Edyta would be going home. Joey took it well, most likely less than surprised, and he and Edyta graciously went over for their final chat. Joey spoke of his great affection for Edyta, reminded us that he would be “rocking it out” on the tour, and exited stage left.

This, of course, leaves Mario and Emmitt in next week’s finale. The football player and the scandalous Romeo, facing off, the way nature intended. Raw talent has to be said to favor Mario, but personality gives an edge to Emmitt. Prediction: the judges expand the scoring range so they can give every dance three scores of “Ten and a half!” and it all comes down to the audience vote. This will be the first opportunity to see which of these two guys has more fans, and it certainly seems like it could be a tight race. Brace yourself for the recount.

Linda Holmes is a writer in Bloomington, Minn.