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Ghoul's gold: Emmitt's Halloween rumba scores a high numba

Guy just wants to have fun. Emmitt, Cheryl and last week's mambo.

Their fox trot got judged not so hot, but Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke regrouped with a show-stopping rumba to close out Tuesday's latest Dancing with the Stars.

It netted their second near-perfect 29 score, with Emmitt's old Cowboy mate, Michael Irvin, representing from the crowd. Judge Bruno Tonioli otherwise carried the ball with a big boo yah on Halloween night.

"You know how to play a woman!" he trumpeted. "No one can teach you anything. Strong yet gentle, confident but attentive."

As testament, one of Cheryl's earrings flew off at the end. Both were visions in white on a night when cleavage was king and some men were Kongs. Judge Len Goodman, a toughie for much of the evening, melted like a campfire marshmallow at the corseted sex kitten look flaunted by statuesque Edyta Sliwinska, partner of Joey Whatsisname.

"The costume -- you should wear that every week," he raved. Tonioli chipped in with "drop-dead gorgeous."

We pause now while Uncle Barky takes a cold shower and then tries to reclaim his sorely compromised manhood by doing 25 squat thrusts.

Now back to Len Goodman, who said he wanted to give Emmitt and Cheryl an 11 instead of the top-of-the-line 10. He was far less enamored of their fox trot, in which Emmitt at least dressed the part in a killer black tux and royal blue shirt.

"For me there was only about four bars of that whole routine in the ballroom mode," he sniffed, drawing a stern rebuke from from li'l Tonioli. "Bewitching," he said, and "appropriate for the evening."

Third judge Carrie Ann Inaba, still clearly smitten with Emmitt, judged him "a little too stiff" with his fox trot but just right with the rumba.

"Maybe Cheryl, we should switch positions or something," she cooed before oddly giving the pair just a 9 while the other other two judges rang up 10s.

Combined with a 25 for the fox trot, it gave Emmitt and Cheryl a 54-score in the show's Final Four showdown. That tied them for second place with Joey Whatsisname and Edyta, but both couples were just a point ahead of Monique Coleman and Louis van Amstel. That left Mario Lopez and Karina Smirnoff leading the pack with a 57 score going into Wednesday night's weekly elimination round, where viewers' and judges' votes will be weighted 50-50.

Emmitt said life has been hectic and his recognition level "off the charts" in the last month. "For dancing," he marveled. "Who would have thunk it?"

The NFL's all-time leading rusher remains determined to bring this trophy home, even though he supposedly can't even go to the bathroom anymore without thinking of dance rhythms. Or as Lawrence Welk so famously put it, "A one and a two."

Bob Barker bidding adieu

The Price of fame. Prized TV icon Bob Barker will hang it up in June.

Game show giant Bob Barker, in his 35th year of hosting CBS' The Price Is Right, has decided the time is right to retire. Cripes, what's next -- telling Pluto it's not a planet? Oops.

Barker, scheduled to turn 83 in December, has been signing annual one-year contracts with CBS for years on end. But finally he's had enough of the super-gaudy game he's been hosting since Sept. 4, 1972. TV's white-haired eminence will be signing off in June, when his parting words no doubt will be, "Have your pets spayed and neutered."

I've done numerous interviews with Barker over the years, and even played that putt-putt Price Is Right golf game with him in a weak moment. Has it really been a decade since he punched out Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore, thereby creating a whole new fan base of high school and college kids who will have a hard time accepting any substitute?

"You know what, he is legendary," CBS Corporation CEO Leslie Moonves told yours truly after Barker had re-upped for another year at age 81. "Probably because it's a game show in the daytime, it doesn't get the respect it deserves. But I'm very proud to know him. I really am."

The legend himself says he's long relished "the opportunity to create spontaneous entertainment. That's what I've done all my life. It's challenging and it's fun and I enjoy it. It's as simple as that. If I didn't, I would have quit a long time ago."

And yes, he digs the college kids because they juice him up with both their loyalty and their attendance at Price Is Right tapings.

"They add great, great energy to the show," Barker says. "We love them."

No replacement has been named yet. It'd be best if they keep it that way.

Cowboys-Giants try for a second ratings record

Third down and a makeable six yards to go. Could Oct. 23rd's Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants game become the first cable attraction ever to rank in the top 10 of all weekly programs?

It was close. But the Cowboys had the disadvantage of competing not only against themselves but Games 4 and 5 of the World Series. So ESPN's presentation of Monday Night Football came in 14th for the week (Oct. 23-29), or 13th if you factor out a No. 2-rated CBS Sunday NFL overrun.

Cowboys-Giants drew a grand total of 16.028 million viewers, making it the most-watched cable program ever. The record had been held for nearly 13 years by a contentious November 1993 Al Gore-Ross Perot NAFTA debate on CNN's Larry King Live.

In the overall TV universe, though, Sunday night's Cowboys-Panthers game on NBC beat cable's 'Pokes with 17.331 million viewers (No. 7 for the week). ESPN's Cowboys-Giants finished just below Game 4 of the World Series, which had 16.113 million viewers on Fox. The week's most-watched program, ABC's Desperate Housewives, drew 21.238 million viewers.

And now for something completely different: Romo "era" begins

You think these might outsell No. 81 this week? Just wondering.

A star is born on pro football's biggest TV stage. It's been a while since that's been said about a Dallas Cowboy. The team had been too busy recycling old stars until Tony Romo thoroughly impressed Al Michaels and John Madden on NBC's Sunday Night Football.

They named him "Rock Star of the Game," which has replaced the old "Horse Trailer" honors from ABC's now defunct Monday Night Football. And Madden said Romo just might have that hard-to-elucidate "it" factor that separates the "Dandy Don" Merediths from the Chad Hutchisons.

"Tony Romo may be that guy who walks in the room, sinks the 8-ball, takes the money and walks out," Madden deduced after Dallas had sealed a comeback win against the Carolina Panthers. And as for T.O.? "Now he's like a secondary figure," said Michaels as the game ended.

Old habits die hard, though. So the post-game interview was with Terrell Owens, who said he just wanted to have more fun on the field and had played the game for God. NBC then closed shop with a previously taped Skycam image of a winking, broadly smiling T.O. "There are some athletes who always know where the camera is," Michaels had said when NBC first showed the shot.

Still, solid progress was made in weaning the team from Owens' ham-fisted grip. By my count, Romo's name was dropped a total of 102 times during game coverage, with T.O. (54) holding off coach Bill Parcells (50) for a distant second place. If you count the constant sideline shots of Parcells, though, it was no contest between him and Owens. And the old coach came up big late in the game by smooching safety Keith Davis on the head while also showing uncommon affection for several other players.

"It's The Love Boat over on the Cowboys sideline tonight," observed Michaels, who laughed uproariously at the replays of Parcells' pecking order.

Romo otherwise got the marquee treatment. After all, quarterbacking the Cowboys is "one of the regal positions in all of American sports," Michaels told the country, which likely swallowed hard.

Romo, a Wisconsin native (hey, me, too), has long idolized Packers QB Brett Favre, and does an impression of him. And whaddya know, NBC just happened to have video of it after sideline reporter Andrea Kremer acted as though she had a scoop or something.

Michaels and Madden also marveled at Romo's cool under fire and his recent jilting by a girlfriend who sacked him over the phone a week earlier.

"I love that release," Madden said later, referring to Romo's passing style, not the breakup.

Coming out parties don't get any better. Michaels and Madden are still the best in the business, both at articulating a football game and having some fun with it. On Sunday night they brought Romo into full prominence while having the good sense to turn the heat down on T.O. The flamboyant receiver had a big night statistically, but for once didn't command center stage. Romo wasn't built in a day, but Sunday Night Football solidly laid his foundation.

Big-time blooper -- Coming out of a commercial break, Michaels recited a list of the game's sponsors, which include NBC's parent company, GE. Except that he at first said "GM" before quickly seeing the light.

"I can't blow that one," Michaels said, laughing. Say watt?

Friendly fire? Dave vs. Bill II

He's a big target. Did Dave lay a glove on him?

Boy, it's always something. Clinton vs. Wallace, Limbaugh vs. Fox. T.O. vs. the world. And for our featured Friday night fight, Round 2 of Letterman vs. O'Reilly on CBS' Late Show.

They first tangled in January, with David Letterman winning on points. In the end he landed a jarring left hook by telling Bill O'Reilly, "I have the feeling that 60 percent of what you say is crap."

The guest came better-armed this time, with a toy sword and shield and a willingness to play even after Letterman, as advertised, called him a "bonehead." The host pounced after O'Reilly said that Americans are depressed about the war in Iraq and would rather watch Bowling for Dollars or Dancing with the Stars. Then he asked Letterman whether he'd go on the latter show. Ergo, "You bonehead."

O'Reilly took it magnanimously, telling Letterman, "I teed you right up for that." He also kept saying that any animosity between them is "all an act." The two in reality are "buddies" who roll together in the same bowling league, O'Reilly said.

It's doubtful they're really pals. But one wonders whether all that parrying and thrusting is entirely on the level. Fans of the old Letterman show on NBC will recall the constant grousing of guest Charles Grodin. Many viewers didn't deduce that it was only a bit. For all they knew, Grodin really did see Letterman as just another in a long assembly line of detestable, phony talk show hosts.

O'Reilly, like Grodin, was promoting something. His latest bestseller is Culture Warrior, which Letterman brandished and later dismissed as a book about sailing or something. Nor has he ever seen The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News Channel, which he supposedly can't find on his TV.

Letterman was spoiling for a fight -- or at least a play-fight -- all night. After a sub-cursory handshake he came out swinging. People such as O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh "know it's all just a goof, right?" the host sort of asked. "You're just horsin' around. Am I right about that? You're doin' it because you know it'll be entertaining."

O'Reilly kept his calm, flaring up only briefly during the interview, but at the studio audience. "Knock it off" he snapped during give-and-take with Letterman on whether Iraq had become a "more heinous, dangerous situation" after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. O'Reilly opined that it's "pretty much a tie," but some in the audience apparently didn't get his sarcasm. Frankly though, it was hard to tell exactly what set O'Reilly off.

Letterman had some churlish moments as well. He kept interrupting his guest's attempted responses to sometimes rhetorical questions.

"Do you want me to answer?" O'Reilly asked at one point.

"I don't care," said Letterman, who even upbraided him for taking a sip from whatever is in the guest's official Late Show mug.

Near interview's end, O'Reilly said it's not a "black and white" issue in Iraq. Nor is it fair to brand the U.S. a bad country or President Bush an "evil liar."

"I did not say he was an evil liar," Letterman shot back. "You're putting words in my mouth, just the way you put artificial facts in your head."

O'Reilly let that one slide, too, again telling viewers that this is just a "big act" between two friends.

Letterman brought down the curtain with a jab at both of them: "I have no idea what I'm talking about. But I don't think you do either."

From this referee's perspective, O'Reilly narrowly won their rematch by letting a sometimes childish Letterman have his way. In the bargain, O'Reilly no doubt sold a few more books and Letterman got at least a one-night ratings fix. He needs O'Reilly more than O'Reilly needs him. Factor that in while watching an extended segment from their interview here.

Big dance: Emmitt in Final Four

Emmitt and Cheryl bask after Tuesday night's near-perfect mambo

Rugged all-time NFL leading rusher Emmitt Smith has shimmied, shook, waltzed and paso doble'd himself into the playoffs of TV's hottest reality show. Wanna crack wise about it?

"If someone came up to me and said, 'Real men don't dance,' I'm going to say to them, 'Real men try to do things that they think they cannot do," he declared on Wednesday night's Dancing with the Stars' results show. "That's the difference between another man and a real man."

Men still dominate the Final Four after overmatched Jerry Springer finally went down for the count in a bottom-two faceoff with the lone remaining woman contestant, Monique Coleman.

"Thank you for having me and thank you for letting me go home," said Jerry. Alas, he takes the show's cutest pro partner, Kym Johnson, with him.

Emmitt, whose Tuesday night waltz was dubbed "lovely jubbly" by judge Len Goodman, made an even bigger impression with his jiggly wiggly mambo. It scored a 29, good enough to be picked as the encore dance of the week. Only Bruno Tonioli's 9 kept Emmitt and Cheryl from a perfect 30. Even sunny Rachael Ray was pissed after witnessing it in person.

"That mambo. He got so ripped off," she said. "He shoulda gotten three perfect scores."

Emmitt and partner Cheryl Burke, who teamed with the last edition's winner, Drew Lachey, will be dancing two numbers per show from now until November's finale. His strategy, he says, is to "take care of my business, try to bring the best entertainment value that I can bring."

Some of his former Cowboy teammates should now suck it up and cheer him on from the live show's peanut gallery. Where's Troy? Where's Michael? Where's Moose? Where's Deion? Hell, where's Dale Hellestrae?

Speaking of Dales, Dallas sportscaster Dale Hansen is so soured on the current Cowboys that he might as well cover this thing the rest of the way through. After all, Emmitt is playing for Belo8's current home team, the ABC network. And his latter day athleticism is a throwback to sports at its purest, which is what Dale says he loves.

"Every week we try to come out and give a performance that's worthy of a good score," Emmitt said.

His last three opponents are Monique, Mario Lopez and Joey Lawrence. That's not exactly the San Francisco 49ers in their prime. But these days Emmitt'll take it.

Rush Limbaugh is a big fat idiot -- the sequel

Basic human compassion isn't one of Rush Limbaugh's strong suits, unless it concerns his own peculiar drug uses and abuses.

In that case, he wants us to pity the fool. Otherwise he's not quite as forgiving or understanding. Limbaugh's latest target, Michael J. Fox, took a sucker punch for his campaign commercial on behalf of Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill, who backs embryonic stem cell research. So does Fox, who's been battling the debilitating effects of Parkinson's Disease for the past 15 years. Now he literally can't sit still anymore, as was evident in the ad.

Fox, in full closeup, moves from side to side throughout the 30-second spot, which ends with him saying, "What you do in Missouri matters to millions of Americans. Americans like me."

Limbaugh, on his syndicated radio program, initially contended that Fox was "either off his medication or acting" in the ad. "I think this is exploitative in a way that's unbecoming of either Claire McCaskill or Michael J. Fox," he said.

Of course he blurted this out with his usual impunity. Later he backpedaled a bit. A transcript from Limbaugh's Monday show, published on his website, says in part: "All I'm saying is I've never seen him the way he appears in this commercial for Claire McCaskill. So I will bigly, hugely admit that I was wrong, and I will apologize to Michael J. Fox, if I am wrong in characterizing his behavior on this commercial as an act, especially since people are telling me they have seen him this way on other interviews and in other television appearances."

Limbaugh was back at it the next day, though, saying that Fox has admitted in his autobiography, Lucky Man: A Memoir, that he sometimes goes off his medication to make a point in public. Yeah, so? Limbaugh has no evidence that Fox "acted" his way through the McCaskill commercial. And anyone who's seen him in performances or interviews knows that his condition has greatly worsened in recent years.

Anyone of any political persuasion, including Limbaugh, is free to debate the morality or merits of stem cell research. It's also fair game to question whether it's entirely truthful for Fox to say that McCaskill's opponent, Republican Sen. Jim Talent, "opposes expanding stem cell research."

Instead Limbaugh first chose to brand Fox as a faker. And now, of course, he's dismissing any and all criticism as the work of the liberal "drive by media" he so loves to castigate.

In Limbaugh's view, "Michael J. Fox is allowing his illness to be exploited and in the process is shilling for a Democratic politician." And he deems this "much more offensive than Hillary's (Republican) Senate opponent implying that she's ugly."

There'll be no implying here. On the issue of Michael J. Fox -- to name just one -- Rush Limbaugh is a fathead. And a big, fat idiot, too.

Here is the Michael J. Fox ad:

Stepping it up: Emmitt in overdrive

No, he's not a shoe-in. But yes, he's going to win. Your faithful chronicler can feel it in his toes, which could use the manicure Emmitt Smith just got .

The ex-Cowboy and partner Cheryl Burke dominated Tuesday's latest Dancing with the Stars performance edition, serving notice that they're the new couple to beat among the hit ABC show's final five.

Their electrifying mambo merited a perfect 30, except that puny judge Bruno Tonioli unaccountably short-sheeted them with a 9 after raving, "Emmitt, the beast is unleashed!" The crowd's chorus of boos -- and this time they seemed genuine -- prompted host Tom Bergeron to jab, "Which of our low-paid staff members gets to start Bruno's car after the show?"

His fellow two judges scored it a 10, with Carrie Ann Inaba droolingly dubbing Emmitt "Sir Shimmy" after sticking him with "Twinkletoes" in the show's early going. Len Goodman called it the best dance he's seen during Dancing's ongoing third edition.

Emmitt and Cheryl, shown above doing the jive last week, warmed up with a smooth, assured waltz that nabbed a 28 score. Beforehand he joined Cheryl in getting a facial, a pedicure and some other soft touches at a Hollywood salon. "I think every man should get pampered," he said. "We should reward ourselves with some way of relaxing."

End result: "Oh yeah, I've got the prettiest male toes in all of L.A."

Let the record show he looked great in a long-tailed black tux, too. For the mambo, Emmitt switched to a shimmering red, open-collared shirt with suspenders and dark, pin-striped pants. We pause now for Uncle Barky to take a sedative and ponder the sad girlyman he's become while writing twice-weekly about Emmitt's post-football dance fever.

There, all better now.

The still smitten Inaba was the only judge to give Emmitt a pair of 10's. Said she: "Oh, the manly man does the waltz out there. And you nailed it. I was mesmerized by your footwork." Among other things.

Wednesday night's results show will tally judges' and viewers' votes on three dances. That's because ABC declined to evict anyone last week after country singer Sara Evans quit the show in the midst of messy divorce proceedings. Joey Lawrence and Jerry Springer were left hanging in the bottom two, with the talk show "icon" still sinking. His aggregate judges' score of 64 is by far the lowest. Emmitt's 82, which should be an 83, is second-best behind Mario Lopez's 84.

This was the night, though, that Emmitt moved into the pole position. Mario will be his only serious competition, but the deep-dimpled Saved By the Bell star won't be able to hold his ground against the NFL's all-time leading rusher.

Now Uncle Barky's going to re-sod a little hair on his chest by watching the World Series. The only dancing going on there is by Kenny "The Palm" Rogers.

The T.O. show -- good to his last drop?

Just give him the ball. Sometimes he'll even catch it.

Oh how ESPN would love to pencil in the T.O. Cowboys for each and every episode of Monday Night Football. Episode as in soap opera. As his world turns.

Only with T.O. can a network sports analyst feel free to invoke Satan. "The devil comes in many forms," Tony Kornheiser told America in his opening soliloquy on what Terrell Owens can bring to a team. "Jerry Jones knew that and bit from the apple anyway."

Last week, though, T.O. caught three touchdowns against the lowly Houston Texans. Duly noted, said Kornheiser. "Sometimes in good faith the devil will deliver before he claims your soul. Don't say you weren't warned."

And so it went, with a delectable side dish of starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe giving way to backup Tony Romo at the start of the second half. But no matter who ran the team, T.O. still ran the show. ESPN never missed a chance to elevate him above whatever otherwise was a pivotal game for Eastern Conference supremacy. To that end we were treated to a video montage of coach Bill Parcells dodging T.O. questions in what announcer Mike Tirico termed "life under the T.O. shadow."

Kornheiser, who like liver is an acquired taste, then savored "the utter dripping condescension that comes out of his (Parcells') mouth" when T.O. is the topic.

Later in the game, with Bledsoe still in it, Kornheiser noted that "T.O. is happy now because the passes are coming to him. That's what he wants on every pass."

But with Romo slinging 'em, a wide open T.O. muffed a key fourth down toss. It ended a crucial Cowboys drive and led to another New York Giants score. T.O. followed that up by falling down on a pass route. But the "devil" later delivered by snaring a Romo bullet in the end zone.

"Good thing he didn't drop that one," Kornheiser hissed.

"Always a show with T.O.," Tirico chipped in before Romo added a two-point conversion with a quarterback draw. That made it 26-15 amid thunderous cheers for the new QB. This of course meant it was time to talk about T.O. again.

"He has held the NFL hostage for three or four years now," Kornheiser observed. Therefore Parcells "still isn't sure" about him.

Tirico happily piled on after mockingly describing T.O. as "striding purposefully back onto the field."

"He's got a quarterback who likes him," he said. "Will he feed the T.O. monster? We'll be back."

Viewers also were treated to an "Odd Couple" montage. Oscar & Felix. Muhammad Ali & Howard Cosell. George Steinbrenner & Billy Martin. Shaq & Kobe. Bill & T.O.

Amazingly, verbose Joe Theismann mostly kept his mouth shut on all things T.O. Instead he debated the merits of Romo replacing Bledsoe, and whether it would stick. He thinks it will.

ESPN carried T.O.'s post-game press conference in its entirety, of course. "We're stinkin' it up in every phase of the game," he volunteered.

No one could be heard asking him about his own stinkin' contribution. Dropping that big 4th down pass from Romo sucked the momentum from his team and breathed it back into the Giants, who quickly scored another TD.

After T.O. had finished, ESPN displayed a telling graphic. In bold print, it said, Owens -- 6 catches, 98 yards. The adjoining smaller print noted, "Giants def. Cowboys 36-22."

That's called having your priorities straight.

Friday Night Lights: It's 'Hail Mary' time

RB Tim Riggins and QB Matt Saracen are back in play Tuesday night

Fall's best new series -- nipping Heroes by a hair -- is down by three touchdowns in the Nielsen ratings with just a quarter left to play.

NBC's Austin-made Friday Night Lights (Tuesdays at 7 central, 8 eastern) needs to rally in a hurry or have its season suspended. That's a big shame because this is a gem of a drama that shines on two levels. Yes, it's primarily about a West Texas high school football team's impact on a small town without pity for losers. But sports aside, Friday Night Lights also excels as a heartfelt, sometimes heartbreaking look at kids, coaches and their families.

Whether on a practice field or under stadium lights, the football action is the best you'll ever see on a weekly TV series. That's apparently scared a lot of people off. Sports-themed dramas are tough sells, even when a show takes pains to paint larger pictures outside those lines. Watch Friday Night Lights and you'll get a look at the real-deal sights and sounds of an America that's largely been dealt out of prime-time. Authenticity informs every frame of this show, which looks and feel like nothing else this fall. Actually, like nothing else in a long time.

Still, most viewers are looking away and missing out on some terrific characters and compelling storylines. Friday Night Lights is in a black hole of a time slot, facing ABC's Dancing with the Stars, CBS' NCIS and now Game 3 of the World Series this week. NBC plans to give the show a shot on Monday at 9 central next week, where it will sub for the network's flagging Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Realistically, only a significant ratings uptick can save Friday Night Lights from a benching before the Nov. 2 start of the four-week November "sweeps" ratings period.

As has been written before here, let's win one for this Gipper. Let's appreciate the stellar work by Kyle Chandler as first-year Dillon Panthers coach Eric Taylor. Let's get involved in the stories of paralyzed star quarterback Jason Street (Scott Porter), his wayward best friend, Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch), and poignant backup QB Matt Saracen, whose dad is in Iraq and whose infirm live-in grandma leans heavily on her grandson.

Let's get deeper into what drives the team's star running back, "Smash" Williams (Gaius Charles). Let's commiserate with Street's girlfriend, Lyla Garrity (Minka Kelly), who so much wants to believe he can walk again. And let's cheer the coach's wife, Tami (Connie Britton), who stands by her man but is no pushover.

OK, pep rally over. Only you can save Friday Night Lights. And you need to start right now. Otherwise game's over.

Song and Dance

Emmitt/Cheryl: Should he don a lux tux or dance close to the vest?
And the evictee is -- "neither of you."

Jerry Springer and Joey Lawrence were red-lighted in the bottom two, but everyone went home a winner on Wednesday's Dancing with the Stars results show. Translation: ABC just couldn't bring itself to shorten a hot, hit show by a week after country singer Sara Evans abruptly dropped out in the midst of nasty divorce proceedings.

"We think it's most fair that everyone -- everyone -- move on to the next round," said host Tom Bergeron, who may have been wearing tap dancing shoes. So the show's Final Five, including Emmitt Smith, of course, will be performing twice apiece next Tuesday, with judge and viewer votes carried over.

ABC stretched the show to an hour anyway, afflicting viewers with two songs by Lionel Richie and taped segments on the contestants' "body language" and costuming.

Emmitt said he leaves color selections to pro partner Cheryl Burke, "but the style is up to me. If you look good, you feel good, you dance good."

He began by wearing tuxes, but now is wedded to vests and bright, open-collared shirts. Enroute, the former Cowboys great has learned some "tricks of the trade." One of them is "the elastic inside the vest that ties right into the pants to keep the vest down." Pant-pant, tell us more. Well, he said, the show provides "little sweat pockets under the arms to try to keep the sweat at a minimum. Don't work on me."

OK, on to the seminar from "body language expert" Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, who actually exists. The woman is s-o-o-o-o-o observant. She noted that Joey Lawrence licks his lips a lot while standing before the show's three judges. Emmitt on the other hand "will actually clench his teeth." He'll also "touch either the side of his belt or the front of his belt, almost as if he's grounding himself."

Hope this is all worth it, Emmitt. Guess it had to make him feel pretty good, though, when Cheryl cooed, "Emmitt doesn't have to work at being a manly dancer because he has so much masculinity in him that it just comes out naturally."

Bet you a defensive tackle never told him that.

Emmitt jives live, Sara leaves

Emmitt Smith threw himself into last week's high-scoring samba.

Tuesday's latest performances on Dancing with the Stars seemed all but superfluous after ABC baited viewers throughout the evening with "an emotional and exclusive" goodbye from contestant Sara Evans.

Her abrupt withdrawal last Thursday, tied to an ugly divorce proceeding with husband Craig Schelske, had dominated the show biz gossip circuit ever since. So host Tom Bergeron waited until the last 10 minutes of another expanded 90--minute edition to commiserate on tape with the still shaken country singer. Her husband's alleged sexual transgressions, the tamest being adultery with the couple's ex-nanny, had left her in shock and in fear for "the emotional welfare of my kids," she said. And "the horrific thing" is that it's "all over the Internet."

"I just had to take care of my children," she said, emphasizing that no TV show could be more important than that. Still, she'll "come back for the finale if I'm invited," Evans promised, prompting Bergeron to issue an instant invitation. Also, her pro dance partner on the show, Tony Dovolani, will be choreographing her next tour, Evans revealed in his presence.

As for Emmitt Smith, he landed the night's second-best score, a 25, after dancing a nimble jive with Cheryl Burke. The performance ended with the former Cowboy great sliding on his knees for what looked to be about a three-yard gain. He then did the same maneuver in front of the judges, prompting Bruno Toniolo to trill, "Emmitt, you can boogie with the best!"

The shtick is getting thick, though. Preparing for the jive, Emmitt executed a few high kicks with two Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, who later approvingly shook their pom poms at him. In other trumped-up preliminaries, Mario Lopez loosened up at a dance club with a cackling Eva Longoria and Jerry Springer went to a "bloodless bullfight" to duel what turned out to be a calf.

Jerry's resultant paso doble proved to be painfully stiff and nowhere near as funny as he intended. He notched a lowly 18 score, with Tonioli opining, "It's been a perverse pleasure watching you butchering every dance. Tonight it was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

The five remaining couples capped their night with a group disco display after Emmitt promised, "We gonna bring some funk."

He did execute a nice lift, hoisting Cheryl overhead before catching her coming down in reverse. But Joey Lawrence did a cartwheel.

It seems as though a banged-up, increasingly Jerry-atric Springer will be the next to go. He keeps crying "Uncle," and his gimpy right knee looks ready to buckle.

In contrast, Emmitt keeps figuratively buckling on his chinstrap. You know how these pro athletes are. Some of them don't even like to lose at rumba.

Willa's out, Emmitt returns, Mike on ice

Sorry, Emmitt, but you'll have to share this Dancing with the Stars update with a Dallas Star and Wednesday night's surprise evictee.

Pop tart Willa Ford, rumored to be seeing Mike Modano while flirting with dance partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy, got jilted by the voting public after tying for first with three other pairs in the judges' earlier estimations.

Emmitt Smith, whose only close personal relationship on the show is with his chiropractor, will be disco-ing next Tuesday with partner Cheryl Burke. Their "booty-licious samba," in ringmaster Tom Bergeron's view, was more than enough to deliver them from the weekly bottom two. Instead, Willa and Jerry Springer occupied the show's climactic red light district until she went thataway while the audience jeered.

"Don't be sad!" said Willa, whose every move now will be dogged by Entertainment Tonight, Extra! and Access Hollywood among others. Will she or won't she pick Maksim over Mike? Or might she give him the old slapshot and let Mike score instead? Oh, Uncle Barky, aren't there more important things to write about? Yes, for sure. But this is all part of a well-balanced diet.

Male celebs now dominate the show's Final 6, by a 4 to 2 margin. But Wednesday night's results showed that truly no one has the competition in the bag. Brainiac here thought Joey Lawrence would be calling it a night. Maybe that'll happen next week -- or the week after -- or not at all.

Whatever the outcomes, these results shows now have more padding than Emmitt wore in his entire NFL career. But the ratings are still boffo, so ABC will keep dancing the night away.

Emmitt's super samba

Cracked back into working order by a chiropractor, Emmitt Smith Elvis-ized himself into a gyrating samba on Tuesday's fifth edition of Dancing with the Stars.

The show's judges in turn rewarded the increasingly game former Cowboy with a show-closing 27 score. That put Emmitt (doing the paso doble in the above ABC photo) and partner Cheryl Burke in a four-way tie for first among the remaining seven competitors.

"Sonofagun, you are a party legend!" blurted ever-overblown Bruno Tonioli. "You're strutting your stuff with the best of them!"

Fellow judge Carrie Ann Inaba, who clearly yearns to sack the married Emmitt off the field, responded by shaking her own software at him. Sorry, the guy's already taken. While two of the dancing pairs continued to make infatuation connections, married Emmitt went back to Dallas to watch his daughter score five goals in a kid soccer game.

"Five bucks," she then told him. Maybe Terrell Owens can cover that.

"I don't even know what the samba is," Emmitt had said before experienced pro partner Cheryl Burke told him, "It's all about pelvis action, moving forward and back."

A variety of his body parts soon were aching, sending Emmitt to a chiropractor for a snap-pop, pick-me-up.

It got no racier than that. Emmitt dressed like a veritable monk in a monastery, wearing an orange shimmy shirt under a buttoned black vest. Even Jerry Springer showed lots more skin, with his black puffy shirt unbuttoned well south of the border.

Celebrity competitors Willa Ford and Mario Lopez flaunted appreciably more stuff, both on and off the dance floor. She went to the beach with partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy, which spelled backward is "Brawny Lad." And Mario took Karina Smirnoff to a friend's very plush swimming pool, where he rubbed a li'l cocoa butter on her back before playfully pushing her in the drink.

Willa and Maksim supposedly are having a tempestuous affair. "We have great chemistry no matter what we're doing," she said when co-host Samantha Harris trolled for more hot dish.

The audience o-o-o-o-o-o-o-oohed at that, prompting another quick-on-the-draw ad lib from glib ringmaster Tom Bergeron.

"So Willa's dancing has improved, and her ability to dig a hole has improved," he said.

Wednesday's results show reduces the field to six, with viewers' and judges' votes split 50-50. Prediction: Joey Lawrence will be the next evictee on a show where built-in fan bases are the great equalizer.

Emmitt: Four down, six to go

Emmitt Smith and partner Cheryl Burke cake-walked through another Dancing with the Stars elimination round Wednesday night, leaving him game to find the end zone.

"We're all in this crazy world, and I love it. I'm not ready to go," he said shortly before learning he'd live to do either the samba or the rhumba next week. Eat your heart out, Neon Deion.

Given a thumbs up early in the show, Emmitt first had to withstand an interrogation from co-host Samantha Harris.

"Where did you find your inner matador?" she wondered, referring to the previous night's paso doble (above in an ABC photo).

"I had to go back to my roots," Emmitt answered as best he could. So he supposedly recalled the heated Dallas Cowboys-Washington Redskins rivalry, "a team that I definitely do not like." That enabled him to "conjure up some of that old negative energy to bring to the dance floor."

And if you believe that...

Punched out were Vivica A. Fox and pro partner Nick Kosovich, which reduces the original field of 11 to seven for next week's festivities. The night also saw a Dancing with the Stars no-no from Tony Dovolani, who's partnered with country singer Sara Evans.

"Oh (s-word)," he visibly exclaimed on live TV after learning they'd be back to dance again. ABC censors deftly used a delay button to silence him, but you can bet that Tony got a loud-and-clear lecture after the show.

Emmitt and the others kept their feet out of their mouths. And that's no small feat when you're asked about your "inner matador."

Bull rush: Emmitt does the paso doble

Steeled by a silly trip to the Texas State Fair, where he stared down a bull, Emmitt Smith and pro partner Cheryl Burke found a safe middle ground on Tuesday's fourth episode of Dancing with the Stars.

A vigorous but stately paso doble gave the couple their third serviceable score of 24. It put the former Cowboy deity in a three-way, fourth-place tie with actresses Vivica A. Fox and Monique Coleman. Topping the remaining field of eight was erstwhile renegade Mario Lopez, who had been a "bad boy" by this show's standards. This time, though, he largely followed the structured rules for the paso doble, tallying a 29 score that met with enthusiastic approval from ad hoc in-house cheerleader Eva Longoria of Desperate Housewives.

So far no NFL players have hit the peanut gallery to root for Emmitt, who shucked his usual tux and wore a shimmery red shirt with black, pinstriped vest. Last week, Emmitt and Cheryl had bombed with their tango (pictured above), prompting host Tom Bergeron to deduce, "For once in his life, the nice guy finished last."

Shown sprawling to the floor in paso doble rehearsals, Emmitt made a supposedly impromptu visit to the State Fair, where Cheryl felt he could develop a matador's attitude by getting close to a bull.

"He's slobbering all over me," said Emmitt.

Actually, the animal was busily slobbering all over himself. But Dancing with the Stars misses few opportunities to spread it thick. OK, Emmitt, be a good trick pony and say, "I feel like I can take this bull." Ole!

Emmitt again had his serious game face on, but this dance called for it. Ending on bended knee with Cheryl in his arms, he received a boisterous ovation that seemed to presage a higher score. But a so-so 24 it was, even though excitable judge Bruno Tonioli exclaimed, "Power, passion and command!" before dubbing Emmitt "The Raging Bull."

Re-smitten judge Carrie Ann Inaba declared, "You are a beast! That was amazing!"

Backstage, Emmitt said a score of 24 was better than last week's rock-bottom 19. A zippy quote-meister he's still not.

Meanwhile, game Jerry Springer danced to the Tennessee Waltz in honor of his soon-to-be-married daughter, Katie, whom he hugged at the finish. The judges were moved enough to give him a 22-score, two points better than the night's last-place finisher, country singer Sara Evans.

Another couple gets bounced on Wednesday night's results show. Don't worry, it won't be Emmitt. No bull.

Prison Break (Episode 7): Sudden Demise

"Tweener's" dead! And no, Fox 4's Clarice Tinsley didn't do it.

Hmm, no wonder they kept calling him a "guest star." Dallas native Lane Garrison's live-wire David "Tweener" Apolski took a fatal hit on Monday night's Prison Break episode, joining mobster John Abruzzi (Peter Stormare) as the second escapee to go down for the count on the show's Season 2.

Come to think of it, Stormare was always billed as a guest star, too. Well, duh.

Tweener bit it at the hands of increasingly crazed FBI agent Alexander Mahone (William Fichtner), who executed him after the kid conned him into thinking he'd be a stool pigeon. Mahone waited until the stark end of Episode 7 ("Buried") to get his revenge. He then emptied his revolver into one of the series' more arresting characters.

In real life, Garrison had taken up residence at the trendy W Hotel during this season's filming in North Texas. It's hoped that the young, likable actor has banked enough money to live somewhere other than a van down by the river while looking for another part. If not, he's welcome to hole up in unclebarky.com's upstairs home office for a while. We've even got a flush toilet -- and a sofa bed.

Monday's Prison Break also saw the emergence of guest star Clarice Tinsley, the venerable Fox4 anchor. She had three separate appearances on a TV newscast, reading a series of "Fox River Fallout" reports. Tinsley just might have had more dialogue than Prison Break star Dominic Purcell, whose Lincoln Burrows continues to act as though he's in a Charlie Chaplin movie. Actually, Burrows had a few more lines than usual Monday night before driving off on his own in hopes of reuniting with his teenage son.

Also of note: The other runaway cons finally uncovered the $5 million in buried cash they'd been after. But just when everyone was all smiles, kill-joy fugitive Fernando Sucre (Amaury Nolasco) pulled a gun on 'em.

Meanwhile, Gov. Frank Tancredi (John Heard) was left hanging -- and dead -- after viewers learned that his vice presidential nomination had been withdrawn. Um, Heard was listed as a guest star, too.

Prison Break now will take a three-week break for baseball's playoffs and World Series before returning to Fox on Oct. 23rd. Let's see, are there any more on-the-lam guest stars still breathing? Yes, there's still one. Silas Weir Mitchell, who plays childish escapee Charles "Haywire" Patoshik, has never been listed as a regular cast member either.

Good luck with all that.