By Gina Carbone
There’s a reason No. 2 stands for turd. It stinks. No one wants to be runner-up. He or she usually fades into the mist as the one who almost made it, but no dice. Handshake. Thanks for stopping by.
Except for 2009. From “American Idol” and “Dancing with the Stars” to “So You Think You Can Dance” and last night’s “Survivor: Samoa” finale, this is the year when coming in second was the real win.
Let’s take a look:
Winner: Kris Allen
Second: Adam Lambert
Verdict: Please. Kris is a sweetheart and very talented, but the star of “American Idol” season 8 and the rest of the year, was Adam Lambert. He got the magazine covers (before and after coming out), the controversy (calm down, ABC) and during last week’s “So You Think You Can Dance” finale, Adam got the coveted finale night performance spot when Kris had to settle for the week before. Plus — and this is the biggie — Adam’s debut album has outsold Kris’ by a wide margin. We have our winner.
DANCING WITH THE STARS — SPRING
Winner: Shawn Johnson & Mark Ballas
Second: Gilles Marini & Cheryl Burke
Verdict: We were told it was the closest ever finale – there was less than 1 percent difference between first and second. But first was little Olympian Shawn Johnson instead of the smoldering and memorable ratings bait that was Gilles Marini. He made his name with the season (nice job, bare chest!) and got more air time in the fall DWTS season when pro dancers name-dropped him as the person to channel when doing Latin dances. Shawn is still just the cute little gymnast without much pizzazz. I don’t remember a single one of her dances but Gilles — we all talked about Gilles.
SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE — SUMMER
Winner: Jeanine Mason
Second: Brandon Bryant
Verdict: Jeanine was a huge crowd favorite, so this is not as much of a major upset as some of the others. Except to me. I loved
Brandon from season four, when he never quite made it through. He and Kayla Radomski were the most talented and consistent dancers in an otherwise weak season five. Jeanine wasn’t even on the radar for most of the season but seemed to blow everybody away by twirling around in her final solo. Not enough for me.
Winner: Ed Swiderski
Second: Reid Rosenthal (OK, it was actually Kiptyn Locke, but Reid came back on the finale anyway)
Verdict: Reid was neurotic, but he was honest. He was real. He was adorable. Ed, on the other hand, left Jillian Harris halfway through the season then changed his mind. According to tabloid reports, while he was away he was playing with some ladies back in Chicago. I have a feeling if Jillian chose Reid she would not have had to do so much tabloid deflection. Ed is kind of sketchy and wears creepy short shorts. Reid, you were robbed of the girl and your chance to be the next Bachelor. Hope the real estate thing is working out for you.
BRITAIN’S GOT TALENT
Winner: Diversity dance group
Second: Susan Boyle
Verdict: Some people don’t seem to realize Susan Boyle didn’t win her show. America took to her like Simon Cowell to Botox and we never really checked over the pond to see what else was going on. While we were crying over YouTube, a dance group called Diversity went and stole Suzie’s win on “Britain’s Got Talent.” No idea what they can do but I’ve seen and heard plenty from Susan Boyle since her “loss.” She gets a standing ovation just for showing up to “sing” whether live or recorded. She had the top YouTube video of the year and one of the top selling albums of the year — if not the top selling album. Her name has even been tapped for the next Bond theme. If that doesn’t say “big winner” then you tell me what does.
DANCING WITH THE STARS — FALL
Second: Mya & Dmitry Chaplin
Verdict: I love Donny and he was quite the showman, but there is no question the best dancer of season nine was Mya. She was on fya the whole time. Some people griped that she had dance experience and others griped that she didn’t show enough personality or progression because she started out great. I always looked forward to her dances and the other contestants were terrified of her talent. Derek Hough even showed Joanna Krupa video of Mya dancing to point out what Joanna should do. What does that tell you about the best dancer of the season? I voted for you, Mya.
SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE — FALL
Winner: Russell Ferguson
Second: Jakob Karr
Verdict: Very similar thing going on here. Russell was the underdog krumper who had a kind of shaky season, but did gain skills and always put on a great show. He had to deal with multiple partner changes, due to their injuries, but still worked through everything with a smile. But Jakob is probably the single best dancer SYTYCD has ever had. He was magic out there. He owned the season. I can’t imagine anyone could argue otherwise. He elevated every partner he danced with, and judge/executive producer Nigel Lythgoe suggested he join a pro dance company so he could dance with others of his caliber — acknowledging that there was no one on his level on the show. But he was always a generous partner, never hogging the spotlight, even when he could. That’s a winner to me.
Winner: Natalie White
Second: Russell Hantz
Verdict: I saw this coming, even if Russell and his minions did not. Russell played an outstanding game of “Survivor” but he played it hard and obvious and “Survivor” history tells you how frequently this backfires. Natalie was the quiet threat who came off as a non-threat. And to a bitter jury, tired of Russell’s near constant lies — from being a Hurricane Katrina victim to making and breaking alliances on a daily basis — Natalie was a breath of fresh air. Some anti-cynicism for a tired group. Nineteen seasons into a show, you can’t bank on everyone rewarding you for playing by your own personal strategy. That said, Russell was in complete control of Samoa from day one. He may not have won, but he was the star of the season and the real leader of Foa Foa who got his teammates to the finals. He will be remembered. Natalie will not.
This year did feature some good decisions, including “Bloody Eyeball” Nicole Fox on “America’s Next Top Model” and Irina Shabayeva in the weak L.A. season of “Project Runway.”
UP IN THE AIR
“America’s Got Talent” — Barbara Padilla or the actual winner, Kevin Skinner? I can’t decide anymore.