- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Tonight’s the night

They’ve performed the pasa doble and waltzed into our hearts, but only one team of contestants — former Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith and his partner, Cheryl Burke, or actor Mario Lopez and Karina Smirnoff — will emerge as the third-season winner of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” airing tonight at 8 on WJLA-ABC7.

With an average of 20 million viewers tuning in each week (including those who cast votes last night), the stakes are high for the competitors — and the spin machines for Mr. Lopez and Mr. Smith are in high gear.

“I’m in it for the competition and just the thrill of the opportunity to learn something that I’ve never had a chance to learn before,” Mr. Smith, 37, said last week on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”

“I’ve worked really hard, and it would be my hope that my dancing would be enough, but it’s more than that,” Mr. Lopez, 33, told the Los Angeles Daily News. “It’s also a popularity contest, and Emmitt Smith is the best running back of all time. He was on America’s team, the Dallas Cowboys. He’s a really likable guy — everybody likes the jocks. Yeah, he’s a great guy. If you’re going to lose, you want it to be to someone like Emmitt Smith.”

Oddsmaker Pinnaclesports.com, which favored the dimpled Mr. Lopez until last week, predicts the dashing Mr. Smith will take home the trophy, with 4-to-5 odds, notes Cox News Service. On Monday, Mr. Lopez was at 11-to-10 odds.

For the participants, however, the stakes don’t seem that high. Unlike other reality talent competitions, “Dancing’s” winner won’t get a dancing contract, isn’t guaranteed a role in a Broadway show and won’t take home a $1 million prize for months of grueling training. Instead, the victor will receive a mirrored-ball trophy and a reportedly modest salary. A national tour, sponsored by Slim Fast and featuring participants from all three seasons, begins next month and arrives at the Verizon Center on Jan. 28.

Bad ‘Break’

Once “Dancing” wraps, ABC is hoping its millions of fans will stick around for the two-hour premiere of “Day Break” tonight at 9.

Many, no doubt, will. But they aren’t likely to stay with the new series, starring Taye Diggs, for the long run.

“Break” appears to be another failed show for the handsome star, seen two years ago in the short-lived “Kevin Hill” on the now gone UPN. He plays Detective Brett Hopper — a man who wakes up in bed with his beautiful girlfriend, Rita Shelten (played by Moon Bloodgood) before embarking on a never-ending nightmare. For starters, there’s an accident while shaving, but that’s the least of his worries. Hopper is arrested for the murder of the district attorney and soon finds himself at the mercy of a mystery man who tortures him and shows him video footage of Rita being shot. It’s an obvious setup. But who’s framing him? And why?

Unfortunately for Hopper (and for viewers as well), he’ll have to relive the moment over and over (four times tonight and twice more in next week’s episode) in what seems to be an odd take on Bill Murray’s “Groundhog Day.” The reasons for the replays gradually reveal themselves, but by then, few people, if any, are likely to care.

After a promising start in Broadway’s “Rent” and success on the big screen as the man who helped Stella get her groove back, we expected better things for the likable Mr. Diggs. He really needs a “Break” … but not this one.

Dancing to the top

The aforementioned “Dancing With the Stars” helped ABC finish a close second to CBS in last week’s prime-time ratings, Associated Press reported yesterday. The alphabet network also won easily among the 18-to-49-year-old viewers advertisers crave.

Yet, during the second week of the November sweeps, CBS held its customary spot at the top of the ratings heap. Eight CBS shows were more popular than any scripted series on NBC — and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” beat ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” on Thursday.

For the week of Nov. 6 through 12, CBS averaged 12.7 million viewers, ABC had 12.4 million, NBC 10.3 million, Fox 7.2 million and the CW 3.5 million. The top five shows, their networks and viewerships were: “Desperate Housewives,” ABC, 22.2 million; “Dancing With the Stars,” ABC, 21.9 million; “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 20.8 million; “Dancing With the Stars Results,” ABC, 20.6 million; and “Grey’s Anatomy,” ABC, 20.6 million.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse and Kelly Jane Torrance from staff and wire reports.

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