Friday, November 26, 2010

Dancing With Alaska

I do not like most reality TV shows because they generally are not very real. I also do not like most competition-based TV shows like “Survivor” and “Biggest Loser” because so many of them lace the competition with fake drama.

But this post is not exactly about TV shows.

I do not like Sarah Palin. She is dumb and annoying and I believe many of her public statements are as much about getting attention as they are about trying to make our country better.

But this post is not exactly about her either.

The 2-hour “Dancing with the Stars” finale was on TV Tuesday night and much to my surprise I watched the entire show. Bristol Palin, Sarah’s daughter, came in 3rd. That’s what this post is about.

More precisely, these observations are about what appears to be a real coming-of-age experience of a young girl who happens to be famous. Most “stars’ during the 11 seasons of that show are or were famous in some way before competing. Some are actors and singers who are past their prime, such as Michael Bolton and Marie Osmond. Others are famous in areas other than entertainment, like former astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

Bristol Palin is famous because she was the pregnant, unmarried daughter of an ultra-conservative former Alaska Governor/former Vice Presidential candidate. Her mother’s publicity machine must have something to do with Bristol even being on the show. I am convinced that Mom’s publicity team is behind the high scores in the viewer voting part of this DWTS season because the judge’s scores would likely have led to her elimination in the early episodes.

Regardless of the reasons, viewer scoring kept her in long enough for her talent to develop. She began as a shy, clumsy teen with self-confidence issues and finished as a fairly confident 20-year-old who now really can dance. That transformation is amazing and it seems genuine and real, unlike most back-stories.

My own conspiracy theory says Mom persuaded her to enter and she reluctantly agreed. The flashbacks from the first behind-the-scenes rehearsals and dance lessons revealed her ‘why am I even here?’ attitude, in my opinion. Other flashbacks also made it look like she was thinking “well I’m here and I’m just going to be myself and I don’t care if Mom likes it or not.” But then she started to learn the dance moves, gained confidence and seemed to realize that maybe she’d get to the finals because of talent as much as from Mom’s behind-the-scenes voter manipulation. To counterbalance this a little, she also said something about being in the competition to prove a point to people who hate her mother. Whatever.

It was clear that Jennifer Grey was a better dancer and that opinion was not influenced by her role in “Dirty Dancing.” A Palin win would have convinced me that Mom was behind it. But 3rd place represented a fairly true balance of all the factors.

And I’d have to give Crystal top score on the reality scale. Her drama seemed real. Grey’s was real in the sense that she was overcoming some physical pain but I thought the crying was largely an acting ploy. Kyle Massey was just fun all the way around. He was my favorite of the three.

Further evidence of Bristol’s “realness” came from her answer to a George Stephanoplis question Wednesday on Good Morning America. He asked each of the three what music video they would want to be a background dancer in. She said, somewhat sheepishly but without a bit of hesitation or irony, “I like country music, so I guess Gretchen Wilson’s Red Neck Woman.”

Kudos to Bristol for bringing some much-needed reality to “reality TV.” I wonder where she learned honestly and sincerity. Certainly not from her mother.

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Here is a video clip of the 3 finalists on Good Morning America the next morning.

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