A Lachey finally came out the winner in a reality TV show.
Drew Lachey, the boy-band mate and younger brother of divorcing Newlyweds star Nick Lachey, was crowned the celebrity king of the ballroom on Sunday's second-season finale of Dancing with the Stars on ABC. He shared the made-for-TV victory with his professional dance partner, Cheryl Burke.
Football legend Jerry Rice and Russian-born hoofer Anna Trebunskaya were the runners-up.
Citing preliminary Nielsen Media Research ratings, ABC said the finale was watched by 27.1 million, 12.3 million more than watched the Winter Olympics closing ceremony on NBC in the same 8-10 p.m. period.
Burke celebrated the big win by The normally airborne Lachey kept his feet on the ground. Not that the onetime pop star of 98 Degrees note wasn't excited to claim the mirror ball trophy he'd joked was "ugly." Said Lachey at the conclusion of the two-hour telecast: "Whoooooo!"
Moments later, Lachey reflected on his win and his impending fatherhood and formed an actual sentence, if one cribbed from Lou Gehrig.
"I'm the luckiest man in the world right now," Lachey said on the telecast.
Lachey, 29, was cheered on in the audience by very pregnant wife Lea, also 29, and older brother Nick, 32.
Lachey's soon-to-be ex-sister-in-law, Jessica Simpson, appeared via a Pizza Hut commercial aired during the broadcast.
Drew and Lea Lachey appeared on several episodes of Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson's MTV reality series, Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica. While the show raised Nick Lachey out of the boy-band ghetto, it made a superstar out of Simpson. Simpson filed for divorce last December.
Dancing with the Stars appears to have been kinder to Drew Lachey, who proved himself a worthy competitor to even a three-time Super Bowl champ.
"My hat goes off to Drew and Cheryl," Rice said on the show. "It's well-deserved."
Upbeat in defeat, Rice, who retired from the NFL after the 2004 season, said he was "very, very happy" he did the show, and "[took] a chance" on everything from the tango to the quickstep.
Rice's second-place finish was something of an upset in that WWE wrestling star Stacy Keibler and partner Tony Dovolani were in second on the judges' cards, and Rice and Trebunskaya in third, after Thursday's and Sunday's combined three final dances. ESPN anchor Kenny Mayne, returning to his frilly dance shirt after being the season's first casualty, joked, or maybe not, that the scoring system, which incorporates viewer votes, was "erratic."
Mayne's jab no doubt stung a bit. Dancing with the Stars was beset with voting-practice conspiracy theories during its inaugural run last summer. So loud was the outcry, and so great was the promise of big ratings, that first-season winners General Hospital actress Kelly Monaco and Alec Mazo were corralled by ABC to participate in a "dance-off" last September with runner-ups John O'Hurley and Charlotte Jorgensen.
Monaco lost the rematch but was in the audience on Sunday night, along with Mazo, to watch her crown symbolically passed to Lachey.
If the judges' scores are any indication, Lachey might not be dogged as much by suggestions he didn't really win. On Thursday's penultimate episode, Lachey and Burke scored perfect 10s across the board for their "Thriller"-influenced Paso Doble, as well as their "Hee Haw"-influenced freestyle.
On Sunday, Lachey and Burke settled for a trio of nines for their jive, while Keibler, looking no worse for a bum left ankle, and Dovolani led the way with three 10s for their samba.
Nevertheless, Keibler and Dovolani were eliminated about halfway through the finale. Dancing cohost Samantha Harris assured the wrestling diva that, loss or no, "now all of America knows the name Stacy Keibler." Hopefully, ABC does now, too. In a press release last December announcing the new cast, the network misspelled Keibler's last name as "Kiebler."
Dancing kicked off its second season in January. Through its first seven telecasts, not including the finale and last Thursday's show, the competition episodes were averaging 18.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. Last summer, heading into the finale, the show was averaging 15.7 million. Ratings for the second-season finale were up about 17 percent from the first-season closer.
As the dancing, if older-skewing and less-watched, American Idol, the trendy show prompted New Line Cinema not only to buy an ad on Sunday's finale for its upcoming dance movie, Take the Lead, but to get star Antonio Banderas to film an intro in which he made a case for Take the Lead being the movie for Dancing with the Stars fans.
With two hours to kill, and the Winter Olympics to overshadow, Dancing filled out its finale with numerous recaps, a pair of Mary J. Blige performances, and one last live look at the ballroom stylings of Master P.