'Dancing with the Stars' finale: Too close to call?
Heading into the finale of a reality competition series, any self-respecting Reporter Who Covers Television and Hates Surprises would naturally turn to one of her three most reliable reality-TV competition series results sources:
a) Realty competition series results forecasting Web site DialIdol.com
b) The assistant professor of mathematics at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
c) A Vegas odds maker.
But this year's "Dancing with the Stars" being the nail biter it is, we naturally turned to - all three.
Over at Dialidol, we weren't expecting much. Ever since the week "The Hills" competitor Audrina Patridge got the hook on "Dancing," the Web site, which became a household name among "American Idol" fanatics when it started forecasting the winner of that Fox singing competition hit, has been claiming each and every week with absolute certainty that any of the remaining dancers was in danger of being voted off because it was too close to call - 100 percent accuracy rate!
But Tuesday afternoon, DialIdol was actually predicting that "Dirty Dancing" star Jennifer Grey would win the competition, edging out Disney star Kyle Massey and daughter of famous polarizing politician Bristol Palin, who were virtually tied for second.
DialIdol works by recording phone votes for contestants. It records the results of every call placed by people who have downloaded its software - a vote or a busy signal - then takes the results from people all around the country to cough up a prediction.
Meanwhile, Wynn Las Vegas Director of Race & Sports Book Operations, Johnny Avello has declared Jennifer is the fave to win because, "there has never been a person who has won this competition who wasn't better-than-average," he said.
Avello produced these odds for Tuesday night's results -- for entertainment purposes only, naturally:
Jennifer Grey: 2 to 3
Bristol Palin: 7 to 2
Kyle Massey: 4 to 1.
For non-gamblers, this means that if you bet $3 on Jennifer and she walks off with the hideous-yet-coveted Mirror Ball trophy, you would win $2 - for a total of $5. Yes, you'd be putting up more money to get less, which, Avello explained, makes her a "prohibitive favorite."
But if you put $2 on Bristol and she takes the MBt, you would win $7. "7 to 2 is between 3 to 1, and 4 to 1," Avello said.
Speaking of 4 to 1, if you put $1 on Kyle and he becomes the proud recipient of the MBt, you'd win $4.
Yes, Avello is aware of all the chatter about conservatives who claim to have figured out how to game ABC's voting system for the show and cast up to hundreds of votes for Bristol. It's the same kind of chatter, he reminded us, that erupted during some of the earlier seasons of "American Idol."
On the other hand, he said, Bristol "may be the biggest vote getter of anyone in this competition."
"Her mom carries a lot of weight. A lot [of Bristol's voters] are followers of her mom. The Tea Party has some impact on this."
Jennifer, he forecast, got the votes of people watching the show who believe this competition is based on the best dancer - "or at least someone that's close to the best dancer. Because the best dancer doesn't always win this competition - sometimes the second or third [wins] based on your popularity," Avello conceded.
"Jennifer is the best the show has to offer," Avello said, while "Bristol Palin is at best in the middle of the pack."
People who want to see the best person win this competition were going to be "all-in voting" for Grey on the last night, Avello predicted. "I think they will outweigh anything Bristol has to offer because their feeling is 'enough is enough - let's put the person in that should win this.'"
Avello's personal favorite, however, is Kyle.
"In my personal opinion, that kid Kyle Massey has done an extraordinary job. That's what the show is all about - going from being 'nothing' to 'something.' The problem with Kyle is he had a good night [Monday] but not a great night. A great night would have been able to put him in a position to win this."
That said, Avello says there's no denying Bristol has had a profound effect on this show.
"I think what happened is Bristol grabbed so many votes every week the margin for error for other participants became smaller. That's why former NBA star Rick Fox got kicked off." Ditto reality starlet Audrina Patridge and former NFL star Kurt Warner.
"They probably lost by the slightest of margins," Avello said wistfully. "She has certainly changed this show over any I've seen over the past nine seasons."
Avello admits he had Bristol on the very bottom of his chart at the start of the season, before anyone had dance a step.
"Now, looking back at that, it was a mistake," he admitted. "I never thought she'd make it to the final three. I certainly misjudged the power of her mom and her political party."
Before this season started, Avello had picked Fox to win. Jennifer was his second.
Not so fast, says Jason Gershman, assistant professor of mathematics at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who gave an actual presentation to somebody about The Palin Effect.
In a typical season, it's pretty easy to predict who's going to win ABC's dance competition series, Gershman says.
The Palin Effect has changed all that.
"Looking at the data from last night's show, there is no statistical doubt that the greatest number of votes received in the 'traditional' way - from fans who vote via telephone after the show - was for Jennifer Grey," Gershman said.
"If this were any other season, I would declare her the champion for sure." He thinks "the Brandy voters all went to Jennifer." (Pop singer Brandy Norwood got the hook last week when she and Bristol were the last two dancers awaiting their fate in a surprising results show that left some audience members booing.)
But last night's finale drew so many voters - more than any other finale in show history, he claimed - that phone line saturation may have given Palin an edge. Monday night at least half the calls to vote were met with busy signals, he said. Meanwhile, the other three ways to vote on this competition - by phone during the show's broadcast, by text message and via the Internet - are all areas in which "Bristol's Tea Party factor has had its biggest impact, Gershman said.
"Based on data points, Jennifer [should win] but I would not shocked if Bristol won," Gershman said.
If The Palin Effect has been overblown, Jennifer will win, he predicted. But if The Palin Effect is real - "all the internet chatter, people shooting guns at their TVs, it's gotten out of hand this season - Bristol could win it, he insisted.
If that happens, Gershman expects the producers to "tinker" with the voting process "to avoid having this happen again."
"Bristol would be a great short-term gain, but a bad long-term loss for the integrity of the show," Gershman said.
But then, realizing he'd just used "integrity" and "Dancing with the Stars" in the same sentence, he added, "At the end of the day, it's a fun dance reality show. It's not life or death."
Lisa de Moraes
| November 23, 2010; 6:36 PM ET
Categories: Dancing With the Stars
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