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Can Kirstie Alley finally turn 'Dancing With the Stars' into a winner?

March 22, 2011 |  8:53 am

Kirstie alley dancing with the starsNever mind for a moment the prospect of Kirstie Alley winning on "Dancing With the Stars." The real cliffhanger is: Can the double Emmy champ help the Emmy-snubbed program finally claim TV's highest honor in a top category?

"Dancing With the Stars" has tripped up five consecutive years in the Emmy derby. It not only lost the race for best reality-competition show each year, but -- worse -- the trophy for best choreography too.

From 2006 to 2009, "Amazing Race" zoomed past "Dancing With the Stars" to win best reality show. Last year, "Top Chef" pulled off an upset. "Dancing" lost the choreography Emmy for the past four years to a rival hoofer program: "So You Think You Can Dance." Before that, in 2006, it lost to "High School Musical."  Tom Bergeron has contended three times for best reality host, losing each time to Jeff Probst ("Survivor").

The show has won seven Emmys, but none of them in a top race; all victories were in the crafts categories, for makeup, hairstyling, costumes and technical direction.

On Monday night's episode, audiences watched such luminaries as "Karate Kid" fan-favorite Ralph Macchio, talk show host Wendy Williams, boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard, pin-up Kendra Wilkinson and model Petra Nemcova dance the fox trot and the cha-cha-cha. The inclusion of Kirstie Alley was the most interesting to Emmy fans, though.

It's been over a decade since Alley spent time in the Emmy spotlight -- she's better known these days for tabloid antics and her battles with her weight -- so it can be easy to forget she spent most of the '90s walking the red carpet, with a total of eight nominations.

Her starry duet with Emmy began in 1988, when she earned a nomination for best actress in a comedy series  in her first season on "Cheers" following Shelley Long's run. She would be cited four more times -- 1990-1993 -- finally winning in 1991, which she capped by blurting out an infamously bawdy acceptance speech.

In 1994, she switched to drama and won best actress in a TV movie for "David's Mother." Thereafter, she was nominated as best supporting actress in a TV movie/miniseries for "The Last Don" (1997), and she returned to the lead comedy race for "Veronica's Closet" (1998).

Alley has proven she's aces at comedy and that she can deliver the drama. She's capable of grabbing headlines and luring viewers. Will her special brand of chutzpah finally push "DWTS" over the top with Emmy voters?

-- Tom O'Neil