Verne Gay Verne Gay

Gay is the television critic.

First things first: What's wrong? The 15th season of "Dancing With the Stars" -- you know it as the All-Star edition -- wraps Tuesday, and with it, a sense that a shark has been jumped.

About four million viewers or so have disappeared from what has been TV's most reliable viewing habit of the past decade. Whom to blame? Quite possibly the All-Stars themselves -- who in some instances were wildly erratic, or wildly predictable.

But enough about them. Monday's finale (8 p.m., ABC/7), the first all-female one in show history, features three deserving teams who are excellent in different ways. But only one will win.



The first season's winner found instant chemistry with Chmerkovskiy, and clearly a like-minded approach to the show -- namely a ferocious competitiveness. Monaco liked the taste of victory before, likes it even more this time. Some routines have been ridiculously theatrical but never dull.

Bottom line: She comes in second place this season.

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One advantage here all season has been Rycroft's partner: They obviously know each other well (they were partnered before) and have built on their obvious strengths. She's been the season's single greatest surprise -- and a happy one.

Bottom line: Her fans probably love her, but she's outclassed in this finale. Third place.

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This combination of two major stars -- one a great athlete, the other a more dazzling star than any of the all-stars -- quite possibly represents the best dancing team in the show's history. They are so good -- and electrifying, which is a word you don't often use in talking about any "Dancing" team, except at the risk of ridicule -- that they are preposterously unbeatable.

Bottom line: Your winners, easily.