All-Star Season 15 of "Dancing With the Stars" is over, and after 10 weeks, the best dancers among the celebrities -- the first finals with only women celebs -- hoofed it out for the championship.
At the end of a very entertaining finale, host Tom Bergeron simply said, "Now you've got one, too," and Melissa Rycroft and Tony Dovolani, who finished third in Season 8, were named the Season 15 champions. The couple grinned, laughed and jumped around as confetti and streamers covered them. All of the other celebrities and pro dancers rushed out to celebrate, boosting the pair on their shoulders. Finally, Tom got their attention and formally presented the new blinged-out All-Star Mirror Ball trophy, which Melissa and Tony held high and then began celebrating all over again. For a couple who thought they would be out at Week 4, it was a huge accomplishment and showed their determination to succeed.
The pair beat out 12 other celebrities, including seven previous season winners. As the three finalist couples stood nervously, Kelly Monaco and Val Chmerkovskiy were eliminated, finishing third. That finish was still very good for Kelly, who was the champ of summer 2005's Season 1 and only had to dance six weeks but who came back seven and a half years later to make a strong challenge for the championship. Her final remarks about Val brought laughter from the crowd. "He taught somebody, who has no idea how to stand on both of her feet and talk at the same time, how to dance gracefully," she said. Neither admitted to a romance, with Kelly earlier describing their relationship as a "great friendship," while Val said it was "unconditional love for one another, but doesn't have to be a romance."
Then it was down to the final two couples -- Shawn Johnson and Derek Hough, and Melissa and Tony. Ironically, both Shawn and Melissa were finalists in Season 8 when Shawn won with Mark Ballas. While the odds favored Shawn and Derek, the judges and viewers evidently were not dazzled by gymnastics masquerading as dance. That was the risk that Shawn and Derek said they were willing to take to please the audience, and they finished in second place. However, both said earlier in the program that the season was very special, no matter how it ended, and that their relationship helped each of them with a lack of confidence.
Leading up to the results, the three couples performed an "Instant Dance" for the judges to music and styles selected from a "mirrorball bowl." Kelly and Val chose jive to "Cat and Mouse," Melissa and Tony picked a samba to "Life is a Highway," and Shawn and Derek selected a cha cha to "Respect."
While they went off to practice, a variety of dances from the season were performed by the eliminated couples. There were repeats of the "Gangnam Style" and "Call Me Maybe" group dances, and a clever "time travel" routine by Joey Fatone and Kym Johnson, but the best dance was one by Drew Lachey, Anna Trebunskaya, and Drew's 6-year-old daughter, Isabella, who was born after he was crowned champion of Season 2.
The judges -- Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli -- were as tough on the dancers tonight as they had been during the season. Kelly and Val's jive was called "fantastic" by Carrie Ann and "clean, crisp" by Len, and received three 9.5's for 28.5 and a total with Monday night's scores added in of 87.5. The samba by Melissa and Tony was not quite as smooth as the previous night's samba, but Bruno said Melissa did "a great job." Their score of three 9.5's for 28.5 was added to their perfect 60 for a total of 88.5. Finally, Shawn and Derek's cha cha had all the flair and impressive moves that the couple showed all season, all three judges declared it "perfection" and scored it that way with three 10's for a perfect 30 to be added to Monday's 57 for a total of 87. But it was the viewers who pushed Melissa and Tony to the top with their votes, which counted for half of the final score.
The idea of an All-Star season turned out to be a terrific competition, with only a few doubtful dancers who didn't have time to rehearse (Pamela Anderson), relied on previous popularity (Drew Lachey, Joey Fatone, Helio Castroneves), or hoped for votes from her mom's supporters (Bristol Palin). There were the same number of doctor visits or rushes to the hospital for injuries to ribs, ankles, necks and backs as in any previous season, but none of the celebrities or pros had to leave the competition permanently.
Most of the weekly shows moved right along, with lots of dancing taking center stage, and the only show with much filler was the finale -- the appearance several times of "Dance Center," with Kenny Mayne, Jerry Rice and Len Goodman in bits that were not very funny, has worn-out its welcome.
During the season, there were plenty of "back stories" to keep fans happy. There was a "showmance" -- or real romance, who knows -- going on that had viewers taking bets on whether Val Chmerkovskiy was going to find a way to kiss Kelly Monaco during each evening's routine. Kirstie Alley, who admits that she's not a great dancer, and partner Maks Chmerkovskiy added enough humor and spontaneity each week that they were not voted out until Week 8 of the 10-week season. Incredibly, People's Choice addition Sabrina Bryan, with partner Louis van Amstel, was voted out on Week 6 -- the very same week she was booted in Season 5 -- while Hurricane Sandy disrupted voting across the East as phone lines went down, power went out, and homes and lives were destroyed.
Host Tom Bergeron remains the king of quick wit, with just the right zinger or compliment to suit each situation. Hopefully, the producers realize what a gem he is and compensate him properly. Co-host Brooke Burke-Charvet managed to keep her left hand off her hip most of the time, wore more stylish (and not weird) gowns, improved her questions for the dancers as the season went along, and showed her bravery in blogging about her diagnosis of thyroid cancer and impending surgery without mentioning it on the air.
Now it will be up to the casting director to find a new batch of celebrities willing to put in the hours and hours of work to take home that Mirror Ball trophy at the end. If what Brooke and Tom said at the end of the show can be taken for fact, the show will return in the spring with Season 16. Do you think the right couple won? What did you think of the All-Star season? Who would you like to see on next spring's show?