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"Dancing With the Stars": The painful exit of a champion

This Monday, May 14, 2012 photo shows TV personality Maria Menounos, left, and her partner Derek Hough performing on the celebrity dance competition series "Dancing with the Stars," in Los Angeles.
AP Photo/ABC, Adam Taylor
TV personality Maria Menounos, left, and her partner Derek Hough performing on the celebrity dance competition series "Dancing with the Stars," in Los Angeles, May 14, 2012 .
AP Photo/ABC, Adam Taylor

(CBS News) No matter who was going to be deemed surplus to requirements on Tuesday night's "Dancing With The Stars" results show, someone would be upset. (SPOILER ALERT)

Pictures: "Dancing With the Stars" season 14

That the eliminated party was Maria Menounos suggested a deep and certain unfairness that surely many could see and those who voted could hopefully regret.

Here was someone who had broken two ribs, fractured a foot, injured a chin and had still offered inventive dances week after week. And there was her partner, Derek Hough. In some eyes, the lesser of the two Houghs--well, sister Julianne does "date" Ryan Seacrest-- Hough knows what it takes to win and did everything to help Menounos. But he, too, was injured in unimaginable places, causing unimaginable discomfort.

Still, before the (predictable) injustice unfolded, we had some inside insight. We watched Katherine Jenkins gushing more water than the Trevi Fountain in apologizing again and again to partner Mark Ballas and, indeed, the world, for her sudden back spasm. There were only two choices for her. She was either safe or the classic misnomer: "in jeopardy."

She stood grimly, grinding her teeth, her face resisting spasm. When told that she was on her way to the finals, her body spasmed, but her back seemed just fine. She leaped around the stage, as if several lobsters had crawled up her skirt and sung the Welsh national anthem.

"I'm not a doctor, but her back looks better now," observed host Tim Bergeron. The minute you knew that Jenkins was safe, you knew that Menounos was the likely loser. Those who vote on this show often vote for desirable men-- even if they might not be the finest of dancers. Jerry Rice comes to mind.

Then it was the turn of the pros to criticize the "stars."

"William tends to forget what he's doing," was Mark Ballas' critique of William Levy's technique.

"Katherine's main weakness, for me, is her own mind psyching herself out," was Ballas' verdict on Jenkins.

"He's stiff. He's not agile and flexible." These accurate words were used to describe Donald Driver. And they were uttered by his own partner, Peta Murgatroyd.

In order to offer a little relief from this bizarre objectivity, Alanis Morissette sang. Her pleasant Canadian vowels restored some sense of (at least temporary) peace--although it would have been nice to see her lose the guitar and foxtrot down the middle of the dance floor. In the next series, perhaps.

"That was amazing. You didn't screw it up." Yes, these were the supposedly encouraging words of Hough after Menounos had finished her routine. It wasn't exactly unbridled praise. But it was the professionals' version.

Menounos had the highest scores from the judges. But the viewers were clearly more harsh. She was mouthing the word "jeopardy" even before Bergeron repeated it. Somehow, she seemed to know that this might not be her night.

Oddly enough, we had to pause in order to receive hype about "Rock of Ages", the very same movie hyped on "American Idol" last week. Now that's media buying power. Well, it does "star" "Dancing With The Stars" favorite Julianne Hough. And there was Mary J. Blige.

This was a performance of quite nuclear energy. The disappointment, though, was that Tom Cruise, who also dances in this movie, somehow didn't deign to appear on "Dancing With The Stars." In the next series, perhaps.

As if we hadn't seen enough stars--surely enough to create a contrast with the dancing "stars"--here was five-time Grammy winner Carrie Underwood performing her new song. It was one that would surely be reverberating across so many American states and trucks within minutes, if not days.

Then we focused on the boys.

While William Levy was dancing for his life, his little son had slept. Still, he was proud that his mother had watched the bum she'd made make something of itself. I say "itself" because the bum in question wasn't Levy, but his bottom, his posterior, his butt.

This had been much admired by judge Len Goodman the previous night.

Driver, on the other hand, was--at least according to Carrie Ann Inaba--the object of Bruno Tonioli's boy crush. Driver is the weakest of these four dancers. He is the least natural, the least fluid and the least lyrical.

Ah, but the voting ladies of leisure love him. It may well be that they don't love him quite as much, though, as they love Levy. The latter was told he was in the finals, while Driver was told he was in jeopardy.

But you knew-- if it came down to it-- that the ladies would vote for the man with muscles, rather than the girl with the hyena laugh.

Here's the thing that bears repeating: there was no suggestion that Driver was in the bottom two. This was entirely manipulative, baseless television. Yes, the sort we like best.

Menounos had that look of defeat. As Brooke Burke-Charvet was about to announce the results, Driver looked serene. Murgatroyd, on the other hand, looked like she was prepared to headbutt a camel just to get a drink of water.

The judges had voted for Menounos. The viewers had not.

The ballroom burst into boos.

"I loved, loved, loved dancing with this woman," was Hough's eulogy.

"I let my inhibitions down," was Menounos' positive verdict on herself.

It was sad to see her go because she proved to be both charismatic, talented and a willing partner for Hough's inventiveness.

I cannot confirm that Menounos went straight to Cedars-Sinai to have fourteen body parts replaced and three sewn back together again, but it would not be surprising.


  • Chris Matyszczyk

    Chris has been a multi award-winning executive creative director with some of the most celebrated advertising agencies in the world. His creative work has been recognized at the Cannes Advertising Festival, the New York Festivals, Clio, the One Show, as well as many other festivals around the world. His writing has appeared in such publications as the Financial Times, the European, the Sacramento Bee and The Singapore Press Holdings Group.

    He currently advises major global companies about content creation and marketing, through his company Howard Raucous LLC.

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