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Jennifer Grey wins: moral order restored to nation

November 23, 2010 |  8:53 pm

Although accusations of "tea party" rigging briefly sent “Dancing With the Stars” onto the front pages of the national media, Tuesday’s inevitably drawn-out and often tedious finale put it all into proper perspective. When it comes right down to it, how politically significant can any show that features the song stylings and slow-motion shirtless charms of David Hasselhoff honestly be?  

Not so much, as it turns out -- Bristol Palin and her partner, Mark Ballas, came in third, Kyle Massey and his partner Lacey Schwimmer came in second, and consistent high scorers Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough took the trophy.

So everyone can just settle the heck down and start watching some TV that actually matters. Like “The Middle” or “The Good Wife.”

As anticipated when her name was first announced as a contestant, Palin not only drove up ratings for the already unbelievably popular show, she also brought a whole new level of scrutiny and Internet-driven weirdness to this season’s proceedings. When the clearly accomplished and high-scoring Brandy got the boot last week instead of the slower-footed and less-polished Palin, many viewers and, more important, bloggers, lifted their heads from their tweets and texts to howl in fury. One man shot his TV set and more than a few others called for, if not a Supreme Court-settled, chad-challenging recount, then an overhaul of the system that seemed to give the supporters of Palin mere the power to control the fate of Palin fille.

Whether or not fans of the former vice-presidential candidate saw “Dancing With the Stars” as a straw poll, we’ll never know, though in other Palin-related reality TV news, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” saw a 40% viewership drop for its second episode. Make of this what you will.

For all the sudden strange socio-political cred, Tuesday’s episode was just as fabulously ridiculous as the show itself. Not only did Hasselhoff make not one but two return performances (like the Palins, the Hasselhoffs will soon be the subject of their own reality show) but we got to spend a little more time with The Situation, some of it shirtless, which is always a treat.

The high points of the show were provided by Christina Aguilera, showing everyone how it’s really done and, of course, shilling for her upcoming film “Burlesque.” (Forget “the next 'American Idol,' ” with all these publicity-driven appearances, “Dancing With the Stars” is in danger of becoming the next “Ellen DeGeneres Show.”)

Meanwhile, poor old Jennifer Grey, who danced her way through physical breakdowns and memories of Patrick Swayze, will inevitably take a back seat to Bristol — the news being, of course, not that Grey won, but that Palin didn’t. Sad, but also fitting — Grey is not only a very talented dancer, she is a trouper, in the old and best sense of the word. A performer whose career did not sustain the lift-off of “Dirty Dancing,” she has, nonetheless, stuck with it. And if she seemed the most well-trained and naturally gifted of all the contestants this season, she also seemed the most joyful. People go on this show for all sorts of reasons but Grey actually seemed less interested in winning than in just dancing. And that, as much as the light grace and undeniable nostalgia, was what made her worth watching.

-- Mary McNamara

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