After ten weeks, eight eliminations, one bedazzled sack of potatoes and countless tears, it all comes down to this. Haley Bracken, Damien Leith and Manu Feildel will all be fighting it out tonight amongst their eight returning peers and by the end of this massive three hour block, one of them will win Dancing With The Stars 2011. Let’s get our dance on one last time, people!
We begin our night with a brief recap of what this season has been about before the narrator tries to roll us all in with a powerful speech (that does go on a bit).
After the extended opening titles, Daniel and Sonia emerge down the stairs (which they should have done all season long) and welcome us to the show. Daniel claims this season is the most talked about ever, but how much of that ‘talking’ was done beyond the realms of Today Tonight?
We get a glimpse of the Mirror Ball trophy which cornily rolls out on stage in front of the camera before Sonia tells us one couple will be eliminated in a sudden death cha-cha-cha, leaving two to battle it out for grand final glory.
Sonia welcomes the ‘bedazzled’ guests here tonight before Daniel tells us that Darren Hayes will be performing tonight. Sonia then introduces those judges one more time before the hosts mooch over how good each other looks.
After a bit more banter, the three finalists come down the stairs; Damien, Haley then Manu! The hosts congratulate them on their efforts before they interview the contestants briefly but individually, asking the crowd who they think may win (many seem keen on Damien, but there are screams for all).
To kick off the finale tonight, Damien will be up and dancing first. Last week was a mixed week for Damien, but hopefully he can pull out a doozie this week, performing the redemption dance which will be the Samba. I’m guessing the idea for this dance is that they make the finalists reperform their worst dance of the season. Todd comes along to give the singer some support and he seems to get the hang of it.
To the stage and they are dancing to that ‘Ole, Ole, hot, hot, hot’ song! It starts off as a bit of a ‘strip club’ dance, but hey, its fun, Damien is enjoying himself a lot and they are just sparkling in talent tonight. It ends with Damien doing a hand stand and a bit of a hip thrust which gets the audience cheering, and what a great start to the end of the season!
But did they improve the dance this time? Let’s see what the judges think! Melanie seems to think they have. A bit of a note beforehand though, throughout this experience, Damien has managed to lose 10kg! Astonishing effort!
Finally to the judges and Todd loved the ending, calling it brave. Todd loved the routine as he could see Damien working on his worst parts. Todd thinks he has redeemed himself.
Helen agrees, saying he did a much better job tonight, acknowledging the complexity of the dance. She thinks he did much better.
To Josh and he says his hip action is illegal in some countries. He likes how Damien felt the dance but thought it was a bit repetitive and sloppy at times.
Damien heads into the green room where all the dancers from the season are waiting for him however we won’t see his scores until after the break.
After the break, Damien is waiting patiently in the green room for the results and the room has been donned up quite brightly with some streamers and balloons! Sonia banters with Damien, asking if he will do better tonight with the scores coming in afterwards.
Damien scores a great 23 which is a good start to the night as shown by the silly string and party poppers going off all over the place!
Up next with redemption song number two is Haley Bracken and really, is there any dance she hasn’t been able to pull off?
In the end, her Argentine Tango near the start of the series has been chosen for the redemption dance due to the fact it was meant to be a sexy dance but she wasn’t able to shake the Barbie image. Josh comes in to give his advice and then it’s time to head to the floor for the dance!
Well, Haley is certainly looking very serious. Her movements are very flexible and quick, and it looks very professional.
Does it look Barbie? I wouldn’t say so; it has a lot of sex appeal and with the slashed curtain in the background, it looks out of this world, like they are performing at the Latin championships!
They didn’t put a foot wrong and they maintained their professionalism all the way through. Daniel interviews Haley in an extended fashion before we go to the judges.
Josh said the dance was meant to be passionate and tonight, that is exactly what it was! Josh said she has improved her leg work and tells her she should be proud.
Todd talks about the Barbie thing, telling her she has definitely dropped the image, saying what she delivered was what he was expecting!
Helen liked the first Argentine Tango but said this one had character, saying it was a little better than the last one.
So in the green room we get the scores. Haley scores a nice 27 (I was expecting another 30) before Sonia asks her about all her bandages! There are a lot of them.
Back after the break, Daniel introduces us to Esther Anderson, George Houvardis and Rod Palmer from last season for no real reason at all before we move onto redemption dance three- Manu Feildel!
The judges have asked Manu to reperform the fox trot and like Todd did with Damien and Josh did with Haley, Helen comes in to offer her advice to Manu, even giving us a demo with him!
On the stage and it has been donned like the front of a 1940’s cinema! It certainly is a charming dance; I only hope it is just me who thinks Manu is a little stiff. His footwork looks good, but in the past I have said that and the overall dance has ended up being a failure. Overall, it was an enjoyable if not different dance.
It ends with a bit of a cheeky cuddle and a smile and it has the audience on their feet! Fantastic and Daniel yet again interviews Manu before asking the judges for their opinions.
Helen has a bit of a mix of words when she says a suggestive comment about judging him on ‘feel’ after dancing with him in the middle of the week. She tells him to be proud of himself as he has improved on last time.
Josh calls it a charming performance (oh, what a coincidence) and says it was safe and stunning.
Todd thinks he did well and the dance mixed well with the music choice, calling it bliss! He calls the dance ‘a whole package’.
In the green room, Sonia can’t understand what Manu is talking about, so she throws to the judges who score him a 28, the highest score of the night thus far! That means:
Doesn’t look like Damien will be winning another reality contest!
So after the break, we get to listen to Darren Hayes’ first of two performances of the evening. I love the fog and light effect of the stage but to Darren himself, well I think he could’ve sung a little louder. Still, he did a great job and his music always sounds unique.
After the lovely performance, Daniel gives the flamboyant star an interview where he reveals his mother is a Manu Feildel fan!
With that all over, we take another break before the contestants return to the stage for the sudden death cha-cha-cha (I cannot take the title of the segment seriously).
So we return with Daniel talking about the controversy this season has generated. He says it as if people haven’t already heard him say it. It was the most useless segue, as he passes to Sonia who interviews Nathan Bracken, the first eliminated contestant. He won’t be dancing tonight due to injury.
She sits him down in the SHAG (Supportive Husbands And Girlfriends) corner before we return to the stage where Daniel is interviewing Occy (eliminated contestant three) in front of a sparkling electrical curtain with the name ‘Occy’ blaring off of it (two of them actually).
Mark Occhilupo now takes to the floor with the Cha-Cha-Cha. I personally think they should have the ex- contestants dancing in elimination order but as we have it, there’s definitely nothing different about Occy’s dancing routine. He’s still emotionless and a little stiff however what makes this dance so entertaining is seeing him surrounded by three skimpily-clad women!
Straight after his dance, Daniel interviews eliminated contestant two, Jan Stephenson. They have a golf club with them as a prop and it isn’t long before Jan and her partner take to the stage with the jive.
I still think Jan was eliminated way too soon. This dance backs this notion up; it is fun, she enjoys it and she certainly has some top moves for someone at her age! She does however look like she took a tumble at the end there.
Up next is Dan Ewing and is it just me or does it feel like the show is trying to just get the ex-contestant dances out of the way as soon as possible? They are all coming one after the other with such speed. If Dan cut down his interview time and the dances were spread out across the show and not all just done at this point in time, it may feel less rushed.
The dance is full of great moves (being the Samba) and is very nice to watch with the fast pace and brilliant lighting. After the dance, we move quickly on to Nick Bracks and after an interview, Nick dances the rumba and while it is a little slow and at times a little sloppy, it does improve throughout the routine. Of course the ladies would love the ripping off of Nick’s T-shirt.
After the break, we continue on with the onslaught of ex-contestants and next up is Brynne Edelsten. The dance begins straight away with no interview. It looks as though her partner is just talking to the judges and I don’t know whether he was late to the stage or it was a rehearsed part of the dance, but it didn’t look very professional. Brynne will be reperforming the dance that caused the ‘media storm’ as Dan calls it at the beginning of the year (remember, the bedazzled sack of potatoes) and might I say, Brynne is looking very suave, coming in from the roof, donning a very revealing but tasteful dress.
Did they improve, well I don’t know because I actually didn’t watch the first dance, haha.
It looks much smoother than some of the dances Brynne gave and she looks like she has been practicing.
Of course Daniel interviews her after the dance before asking the judges if she improved. Josh said she was a ‘fireworks’ and congratulates her by giving her a (fake) sack of potatoes. My god, does this show want to allude to that ‘controversy’ that everyone has forgotten about any more?
Samantha Armytage quickly comes on stage, replacing Brynne in what is becoming a very rushed segment.
She is wearing that army uniform she wore earlier on in the season for one of her performance. She will be dancing the jive.
Now she isn’t competing, I reckon this is the best performance she has given all year! It was full of enjoyment, wasn’t too stiff and was just a joy to watch.
Once they finish, Dan quickly moves on to Lara Bingle who returns to dance the Cha-Cha-Cha. She too is enjoying the dance and boy can she move those hips! She has a lot of talent, and this dance is just spectacular. It is filled with so many lifts and spins, all of which were executed fantastically.
So with all the ex-contestants done for the night, we look at a highlights package of the season and I’m quite happy with the balance of concentration between the highlights and the controversial moments however I do still feel that with all the hype this show has given EVERY LITTLE controversy over the season, it was still cringe worthy to see the show announce them all again!
We then have a little, dramatic look at the Behind the scenes action of the sudden death Cha-Cha-Cha dance off that is coming up after the break. One person WILL be eliminated!
After the break, Daniel introduces the Sudden Death Cha-Cha-Cha and he crosses to Helen who tells us how the dance will work. We then see a more extended look at how these contestants prepared for the dance. It seems they will all be dancing at the same time.
They are all standing on the stairs and for this routine, they are ON THEIR OWN. No professional partners, well not to begin with.
It’s hard to tell who is doing better than who however Damien gets the crowd fired up after jumping over his partner’s head. After Damien, Haley takes to the stage with her partner in what is yet another stellar performance. Last up is Manu who just moves and does his thing with such enjoyment!
To end the dance, they all merge and dance in unison and it is quite a spectacular and memorable ending! I think they’ve all done well (the camera work is the only thing that could have been better).
So who will be eliminated? We’ll find out in a bit. Daniel interviews the contestants about their time together on the stage just then and then to the judges.
Todd tells them all three could win the competition for different reasons. He says Damien was a little cheeky but a little serious however he is just nitpicking at this stage. Helen also says they are splitting hairs, saying Damien was terrific. Josh loves how he danced with his whole body. Bloody hell, it’s as if these judges are being told to rush through their comments!
To Haley and Todd thinks she was technically brilliant as always also calling her cheeky, comparing her to an American Cheerleader. Helen tells her she hasn’t put a foot wrong since day 1. To Josh and he totally agrees with Helen, calling her a professional dancer.
To Manu and Todd thought he did brilliantly however he could hear him counting his steps. Helen says he has a lovely rhythmic tone to him with Josh saying he performs to the audience with charm.
With that, the judging is done and as the finalists make their way back to the Green room, the judges attempt to score the three.
In the green room, Sonia calls Damien, Damien Lethal! With a 23 in his belt, the judges score him an extra 27 points, taking his total to 50!
To Haley and after a 27 from the judges before, they give her an extra 30 points, taking her to 57! Last up is Manu Feildel and the judges give him an extra 27 points on top of the 28 he already has giving him 55 (or did I Calculate that wrong, the scoreboard says 54 for Manu).
Before going to the scoreboard, we finally get to see Manu’s funny impersonation of Josh.
After the break, we find out who places third!
The three are standing and waiting with the hosts in front of the silver veil. Daniel announces that Haley Bracken is still in the competition, leaving Manu and Damien in the bottom two. It is then announced that the third place getter is in fact Damien Leith! Well, he didn’t win this one, but he still has the bragging rights for making it to every finale on every reality television show he has ever appeared on!
Daniel interviews Damien (and you can really see how thin he has become) before he leaves backstage. He will reappear to perform in an unjudged freestyle later.
Manu Feildel and Haley Bracken are now left to perform and we are told that after the break, Darren Hayes will be performing live!
After the break, we hear Darren Hayes’ new song which Dan doesn’t even care to tell us what the title is but it is ‘Talk, Talk, Talk’. I think this performance was ok, but the constant ripple effect that occurred at change of scene really annoyed me after a while. There were a few other visual effects that do well with the colours and the use of the balloons at the end really caught my eye. Again, he could have been louder, but it was quite good nonetheless.
In an interview afterwards, Darren sticks by his mum and suspects Manu will win the trophy.
After the break is a freestyle routine by the finalists (including Damien) and we begin with yet another highlight package for Damien Leith who will be performing first.
It sure is a fantastic final performance for the singer, complete with great moves, terrific lifts and a lot of madness!
With that over, only Haley Bracken & Manu Feildel’s dances are left and these are the ones that count. You know, we could have seen another dance before this next ad break; it’s getting a bit pathetic now how many ad breaks there are.
After the break, Daniel is standing in front of a veil that is showing a glamorous look at Haley’s time on the show; so I guess she is next.
We get to see a highlight of her time in the contest and with the length of the highlights package, even considering it is at least the third highlight package we have seen tonight, I can’t help but feel this is just a time waster! They need to hurry this up. I don’t know why this show is 3 hours in length anyway!
In this highlights package, Haley was very emotional about her time in the competition, stating she will miss it. She also reveals her kid’s reaction to her performances, causing her to tear up more.
Despite the length of this highlights package, it is probably the most beautifully produced part of this entire season.
To the floor with her freestyle and it’s quite well, should I say, electrical. It is definitely something different, maybe something you would see on a So You Think You Can Dance finale. Still, it is engaging and yet another great performance Haley can add to her record.
After their dance, Daniel gives her a small interview where she reveals she has ‘busted out’, causing Daniel to cover her up a bit (!!).
I think there was a bit of a malfunction in the dance which I didn’t really care about because I didn’t catch it, but the judges talk about it so I guess there was one. Josh thought her dance was great, but he was a bit confused by the story.
Todd found the dance confusing and wanted to know more about it; if he’s being completely honest. He did think the routine was good, but it wasn’t her best work. He does reiterate that she is still the best contestant they have ever had on Dancing With The Stars.
Helen didn’t get the storyline either but loved how they have linked past dances into the routine. She takes time to congratulate all dances, especially Haley. A nice end to Haley’s critical reign on the show, she then returns to the green room.
Back in the green room, Haley caps off her time on the show with a 25, added to 57, she gets an 82.
We look at the twitter feeds and Sonia makes it sound like a person is accusing Manu of being the father of her unborn baby, shocking Manu, before revealing the tweet goes on to imply it isn’t his and the person just wanted to say they will be naming their kid after him. Umm… oooohhhhkkaaayyy.
Back after the break and we are about to see the final dance of the evening (as I know it), performed by Manu Feildel. Again, we see an extended highlights package of the finalist before he takes to the stage for the final time!
It is a very sensual dance and for Manu, the slow dancing has really paid off yet again. What a stunning end to the- oh wait; it was just a slow opening! The rest of the dance is quite fast, but not too fast, giving Manu room to shine.
His suit is all glittery; oh, what a showman.
He even has what I consider the best lift of the season in there somewhere and really; it just is the best way to end the show! They’ve saved one of the best till last. It also seemed like the fastest dance, proving how good it really was!
Daniel also says they’ve saved ‘the best til last’, so he’s gone one better than me and after interviewing Manu a little bit more, we move to the judges.
Todd says he has tears in his eyes, loving how Manu has a ‘I’m Manu and you’re not!’ attitude, saying it works for him. Todd kind of rambles on but it definitely sounds like he loved it!
To Helen and she says you can’t buy what he brought to the show. She seems to compliment Todd’s dancing as well during her comments but overall, she LOVED Manu’s dancing.
Lastly to Josh and he jokes, saying it was awful and horrible before telling them that it was an emotional dance, saying Manu’s lift was so hard to do, so fast, and did it SO PERFECT!! He calls him a star before thanking him for coming on the season.
Back in the green room, and the trophy announcement is only moments away. But before that, what did Manu get? Well, the judges score him a perfect 30, giving him an overall 85, meaning he has MADE IT IN FIRST PLACE! He’s not the winner just yet though.
It’s close but after the break, the result! Well, we are about to roll overtime and for some reason, they try to fit in yet another flashy look at the two finalists for no apparent good reason!
After the break, Daniel & Sonia join each other on the stage to name the winner. Everything has been worked out and to milk this baby out longer, Daniel goes on to the judges for final comments.
Josh says it was his favourite season ever (despite being his only one) and Todd mocks him a bit. Josh does something that makes Sonia go ‘Josh, you assume you’re coming back!’ Haha.
Helen says the season as a whole was so good, tonight is a real heartbreaker before Todd says that he has enjoyed the season with Josh, showering the new judge in weird compliments.
Daniel thanks the judges AND the orchestra and vocal band before we FINALLY get to the announcement.
The two ask Haley and Manu down to the stage for the final time, tells them congratulations and interviews them for the umpteenth time before looking back at their time tonight. My god, really, this is stupid. We do not need highlights for every single thing that has happened! WE ARE ALREADY OVERTIME! HURRY UP; I HAVE TO BLOG THE MC NY SPECIAL DAMN IT!
Ok, finally, we get to the verdict and Daniel & Sonia reveal that the winner of Dancing With The Stars 2011 is MANU FEILDEL!
And congratulations to him! Somehow, Haley Bracken was not able to transfer her hard work into a win but boy wasn’t it a tense finish! There are a few finalist interviews and a bit of confetti before the final finishes up!
So what a finale, some highs and some lows. To the positives and must I say, the production values have been so high this episode, definitely a difference to what we have seen in the past! The talent tonight has been wall to wall brilliance with Haley, Damien & Manu all performing above and beyond their expectations.
It was unfortunate that Haley stumbled at the last minute however I doubt this was the only factor determining this outcome.
Sonia was also on form tonight, probably doing a better job at hosting than the sometimes annoying Daniel McPherson.
As good as these elements were, there were a lot of things that bugged me. First and foremost, the running overtime factor that will probably be present for ALL reality television finals. There is just no need for the overrun. I begin with this point because fixing some other negatives in this show would also solve this problem.
Firstly, way too many highlights that were just way too long. Yes, it is necessary to look back at the season, but four highlights were needed at most- an overall highlights package, one for Damien, one for Haley and one for Manu. Other than that, there should have been no others, but there were at least two more.
Secondly, too many ad breaks. They just kept on coming and by the end, I don’t know if it was because I was exposed to so many, but it seemed as if they were occurring more often towards the end!
All the interviews Daniel was giving was also too much. He asked Darren Hayes two times what he thought of the contestants, asking him to allude to or announce who he think should win.
Shortening or eliminating all of these factors could have shortened the episode into its runtime.
I also felt that despite the fact it had to, this episode alluded to all the controversies it had produced as if it deserves some sort of medal. The finale IS the right place to do this, but Daniel has ruined it by mentioning the controversies including Brynne-gate and Manu’s sexist comments, so many times during the seasons. It just sounds corny and unprofessional.
I found Darren Hayes’ performances whist good, not brilliant. I didn’t like his pitch nor the soft voice he used. His second performance really was marred by the ripple effect the producers added to change scenes.
So overall, an average finale for what has been a season that has failed to shine on so many levels. While the dancing has been brilliant, the season as a whole has not been able to keep up with modern expectations when it comes to production quality and entertainment. Over the top controversies, while working for the show, were so last decade! People may say ‘well it helped the show achieve decent ratings’, but shows like MasterChef and The Block have been able to do this anyway without such help.
I still question the involvement of some of the judges (really, I think the whole panel needs a revamp) and even the hosts, but they have had their moments and I take my hat off to them having to sit through all these performances for two hours every Sunday Night.
The talent and commitment of the dancers this season cannot be overlooked and when the series returns with season twelve, I sure hope the next batch can outperform; but it’s going to be a big ask!
Courtney’s Verdict: 5.5/10
Courtney’s Dancing With The Stars Season Eleven Verdict: 6.0/10