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'Dancing With the Stars' recap: Rumer takes trophy on jam-packed season finale

May I make a tiny suggestion, “Dancing With the Stars” producers? Actually it’s more like a wholesale change in the Grand Finale, a top-to-bottom redo that would cut out about 98% of the musical performances and frivolous filler and – gasp! -- a passel of professional ballroom dancers.

Give the mirror ball trophy out during the first 10 minutes and let those two hoofers – obviously the ones that audiences most want to watch – dance for roughly 110 minutes, minus ad breaks. Costume changes, viewer reaction and judges’ fawning comments – but no scores! – would be permitted.

How about it? It surely would save some bucks.

And that way, we could’ve all seen glamorous winner Rumer Willis strut her stuff in a lovely, long, lyrical victory lap. She deserved it!

It’s no spoiler by now to announce that Rumer and Val Chmerkovskiy won the 20th season of “DWTS,” in what turned out to be a much closer contest than I would’ve expected. Noah Galloway hung tough until the very end, and Riker Lynch, still adorkable, was quite the sturdy competitor! But when it was all tallied and totaled, the purists won, as did Rumer, the most technically proficient of the finalists.

Couldn’t the powers-that-be have given her the floor? Let her showboat with Val, who won his first trophy out of three prior trips to the finale and eight seasons on the show?

Oh, wait. Redfoo did a thumping version of his “Juicy Wiggle,” making me rethink my new-and-improved Grand Finale concept. How could I begrudge America an earworm ditty – and an unruly hairdo -- like that?

But, oh no, wait again. Former contestant and model-Carl’s Jr shill Charlotte McKinney showed up to remind us how horrifying she was the first time around in some semblance of a cha-cha-cha to “California Gurls.” Had she improved any with time? Nope! Only redeeming feature of that number: Sasha Farber in a crab costume. Sasha in a crab costume!

One more wait: the always delightful Alfonso Ribeiro popped by and proved why he’s so darn watchable. That was another of ABC’s incessant cross-promotions, though, letting viewers know that Ribeiro will be taking over for Tom Bergeron as the new host of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” in a few months. Nothing like getting a jump on marketing the fall schedule.

Alleged/suspected lovebirds Robert Herjavec and Kym Johnson took a break from their filthy rich and fabulous lives, and Jason Derulo proved that auto-tune isn’t just for recorded music. Prince Farming Chris Soules busted out his one dance move while Witney Carson popped the buttons off his shirt to the strains of “Footloose.” Suzanne Somers traveled back to the Copacabana, sans unwieldy headdress, and Patti LaBelle went to “da club” but still didn’t dance much. Couldn’t we have done without those?

But it was nice to see Amy Purdy and to know that Derek Hough is fully back on his feet after bone bruises and double sprains. That guy heals like a superhero.

As for the repeats of quality dances from the season, including the Mark Ballas-Willow Shields “Alice in Wonderland” and frightening White Rabbit pairing: Isn’t that what YouTube is for?

Nastia Liukin did prove, though, that she belonged in the finale with that subway-set routine. How much more relaxed was she this time? She even trotted out a little personality, which she’d kept fairly well hidden during her time on the show.

Kicky disco from Rumer and Val, complete with her super-hot sparkly, flesh-colored body suit: more, please! Fifth Harmony’s lip sync to some forgettable tune and shirtless pros, the “DWTS” answer to beefcake extravaganza Thunder From Down Under: less, please!

We still didn’t get to see Sia because she’s continuing her high-profile PR tour to support her solo record by continuing to hide her face. She belted out “Elastic Heart” beautifully, though, as a soundtrack to a powerful routine by siblings Derek and Julianne Hough. It’s another piece of evidence that “DWTS” has matured in its choreography, putting it more in award-winning “So You Think You Can Dance” territory than it ever has been before.

There were new dances from the three finalists via the first-time 24 Hour Fusion Challenge that had them mashing up two seemingly incongruous dance styles. They’d had only a day to choreograph, learn and practice the numbers. Riker and Allison Holker’s salsa-quickstep hybrid stood out, but they were consistently entertaining to watch all season, and the manic energy did not subside.

Rumer and Val’s foxtrot-paso doble combo, the final performance of the night, was as sharp as glass. Len Goodman said she was “as good as anyone who’s ever been on ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ ” and Julianne said Rumer makes her “want to be a better dancer.” She admitted, too, that the judges had dissected Rumer’s work this season. “We’ve been the toughest on you because we believed in you and we pushed you really hard,” Julianne said. “You do that when you see talent.”

Weren’t scores a bit meaningless for that round? OK, completely meaningless.

Results didn’t come until the final few minutes of the program – way to build that dramatic tension! – with Noah and Sharna landing in third place. The audience broke out into a spontaneous chant, “Noah, Noah, Noah!” and a rowdy standing ovation.

Riker and Allison came in second, graciously, and Rumer and Val got hoisted upon shoulders to celebrate their win. The Demi Moore-Bruce Willis family contingent in the studio went wild and shippers indulged in all kinds of wonderful fantasies.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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