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Viewers Lap Up 'Dancing's' Off-Screen Drama

By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, October 19, 2006

A record number of viewers sat drooling like Pavlov's pooches through the entire 1 1/2 hours of "Dancing With the Stars" Tuesday in order to get their liver treat at the end -- an exclusive interview with one of the semi-washed-up "celebrity" contestants of whom most had never heard until she joined the hit series and then quit abruptly, citing her husband's alleged infidelity, porn viewing, interesting nude self-portrait work and even more interesting Craigslist entries.

"This week a second unexpected departure rocked the series as country superstar Sara Evans made the difficult decision to leave 'Dancing With the Stars' behind! Tonight she explains why!" Voiceover Guy said at the very top of the show.

Pant, pant, pant. Drip.

"As you heard mentioned at the top of the show, our friend Sara Evans has left the competition for personal reasons. What you have not heard is what Sara has to say. We've got her only interview, coming up later in the show," host Tom Bergeron said about three minutes later.

Drool, drool, drool. Slurp.

Bergeron again at 8:10: "Plus, I sit down with Sara Evans for an emotional and exclusive interview!"

Bergeron at 8:51: "And also, the only place to get Sara Evans's story is from Sara Evans. Our exclusive interview is later."

Bergeron at 9:18: "Sara Evans opens up in an exclusive interview to reveal the reason why she left 'Dancing With the Stars'!"

Pant, pant, pant. Slosh.

Ironically, Evans was former House majority leader Tom DeLay's pick to win this round of the popular dancing competition. Shortly before this edition debuted, DeLay launched an e-mail campaign urging people to vote for Evans because her kind "represents good American values."

More than 21 million people watched Tuesday's broadcast in hopes of hearing Evans say more about her husband. By the time Bergeron got around to "interviewing" Evans, the crowd had grown to more than 23 million. That's the show's biggest night ever, excepting the Seasons 1 and 2 finales. The first-season finale edged it out by only 1 million viewers. And DeLay says "smut has no place on television" -- ha!

During her prerecorded "interview" with Bergeron, Evans said, "I'm completely against divorce" and while there were "some things in motion" about her marriage to Republican wannabe-officeholder Craig Schelske, "it was always my intention to continue to try to take things very slowly."

But then, after last week's results show, she said, "something happened. It was something personal and traumatic and hard for my children. Things went drastically downhill -- 100 miles an hour." She did not elaborate.

So she decided she had to quit the show.

"Somehow, 'Mommy has to go disco dance' might not have been the thing," Bergeron suggested.

"I would have had a nervous breakdown," Evans agreed.

Which, ironically, is just what the woman whom Evans claims her husband had an affair with -- that would be her children's nanny -- says Evans has had already.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News Radio -- and don't you just love synergy? -- Alison Clinton said the singer "had a hard time back in December" and "kind of had an exhaustion breakdown, and then in January we started a Bible study together."

Speaking to Bergeron in that Tuesday "interview," Evans said, "I believe I was put on ['Dancing With the Stars'] for a reason."

We're betting ABC thinks so, too, after seeing the numbers on Tuesday's show, and we suspect they spent the afternoon offering their sincere and most humble thanks to the TV god.

* * *

Hey, have you caught CW's new drama series "The Runaway"?

Of course you haven't, silly, which is why CW has yanked the show after just three broadcasts, sending trade papers into pun overdrive: " 'Runaway' has run aground," "The CW has sent 'Runaway' packing," " 'Runaway' flees CW sked," "CW Cuts 'Runaway' Loose" and, our personal fave, " 'Runaway' dead."

The move also fells in one swoop half the fruits of Dawn Ostroff's labor in her maiden season as head of CW. The network -- begat of the late WB and UPN -- only has one other new series on its fall schedule, the comedy "The Game."

"Runaway" starred former New Kid on the Block Donnie Wahlberg as a guy on the lam with his family, which includes at least one idiot child who does not seem to understand "Dad's wanted for murder so we're on the lam" means no cellphoning girlfriends. Anyway, the show averaged just 1.7 million viewers.

Bye, bye.

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