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Posted at 06:05 AM ET, 05/23/2012

‘Dancing With the Stars’ 2012: Donald Driver named the winner


Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd, champions of Season 14. (Adam Taylor - ABC)
Did a country-themed routine and a rapping cowboy just help pave the way for the new “Dancing With the Stars” winner?

Well, that’s our theory and we’re sticking to it. A day after wowing the judges with a wildly entertaining, country western-themed freestyle on performance night, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver was named the champion of Season 14.

A somewhat surprising win, given that Donald had just started to really pick up steam in recent weeks — particularly with Monday night’s flawless freestyle, featuring music by rapping Cowboy Troy.

Of course, athletes are known to do extremely well on the show. Donald is the third football player to win the competition. And he definitely wins for best reaction to the news: As soon as Tom Bergeron announced Donald and his partner, Peta Murgatroyd, had won, Donald immediately started running around the ballroom and joyfully rolling on the floor.

“Amazing! Wow! This is awesome!” Donald exclaimed when Tom Bergeron finally wrangled him near a microphone. Moments later, Donald was surrounded by his family and castmates as confetti fell down. Last but not least, we got an adorable shot of Donald hugging his sobbing baby daughter, no doubt overwhelmed by the number of bedazzled outfits, along with the hideous-yet-coveted Mirror Ball Trophy her father just won.

In second place was classical singer Katherine Jenkins, a judge favorite who consistently scored the highest points all season with partner Mark Ballas, though they lost some momentum later on. And scoring a third place win: William Levy, the dreamy telenovela star who caused more screams in the ballroom than anyone, most often when he appeared in a completely unbuttoned shirt. If he had been shirtless more often, like his partner Cheryl Burke suggested in the beginning of the season, it’s possible we would have had a different champion.

Anyway, here are some other highlights from the season finale:

* Proving that Donald’s victory is a bit of a surprise, here’s some commentary from the judges when asked to rate the three finalists earlier in the episode. Carrie Ann Inaba on William: “William is a phenomenon...I’ve never heard the audience go this crazy for anyone in 14 seasons.” Len Goodman on Katherine: “Katherine is one of the most technically advanced dancers we’ve ever had,” with Bruno Tonioli chiming in: “It’s like watching poetry.”

As for Donald? Judges: “Donald’s like a gladiator coming out to do battle...Great physique, great posture, great presence.” Nice words, but not quite as glowing as the other two.

* The rest of the Season 14 cast returned to dance again, with the producers spending more time with some contestants than others. Roshon Fegan and Jaleel White had special extended segments showing rehearsal footage. Sherri Shepherd, a judge favorite voted off early on, also had her own segment as she rehearsed for a routine to “It’s Raining Men.”

Footage included her in a “Chmerkovskiy sandwich” with brothers Maks and Val, and making lots of double entendres. Still, she was undeniably fun to watch — she sang along to the classic tune while dancing, in a shiny raincoat and even gaudier silver fringe dress. Plus, who doesn’t love watching dancers fall from the ceiling, like rain?

* The two-hour finale also ran like an extended clip show, with lots of flashbacks to moments throughout the season, including injuries. And some soundbites — we got to see Bruno screech “Hottest package of the season!” to William again, in at least two different montages.

* Benedict Cumberbatch sighting! He wished Katherine Jenkins good luck when the finalists got special video messages from friends. Regular readers of the TV Column know why this is exciting.


The final two couples. (Kelsey McNeal - ABC)
* Before naming the winner, the final three had to perform one more time with a “24-hour challenge.” It ended up not mattering too much, points-wise, as they all scored perfect 30s from the judges: William and Cheryl with a salsa, Katherine and Mark with a jive, and Donald and Peta with a cha cha cha. Though we did see some final rehearsal footage, as a couple dancers (Peta and Katherine) broke down in tears at the thought of the competition ending.

* And finally, a look ahead to Season 15, debuting this fall. As previously announced, it’s all-star season. Tom Bergeron tells us that means bringing back “champions, finalists, fan favorites and controversial characters.” When mentioning “controversial characters,” a screen appeared with images including former contestants Chaz Bono, Bristol Palin, Nancy Grace and Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino. Oh, what we wouldn’t give for a season like that.

And here’s one more look at Donald and Peta’s stellar country-themed freestyle:

More from the TV Column:

‘American Idol’: Phil Phillips steals final performance night

NBC’s ‘Smash’ culls cast for second season reboot

Bristol Palin reality show set for June 19 on Lifetime

‘Dancing With the Stars’ winds down non-controversial, super-competitive season

By  |  06:05 AM ET, 05/23/2012

 
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