'Dancing With the Stars' postmortem: Season 11 concludes, integrity intact

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From the moment she was rumored as a cast member for Season 11 of " Dancing With the Stars," Bristol Palin was something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The imbalanced media attention (guilty), blind support from some of the political right, endurance in the competition, general presence of her mother and the ensuing outrage from dancing "purists" over all of the above seem more likely to be part of the series' master plan than a case for its compromised integrity.

The only real surprise is that she wasn't actually awful. She had a rough start, and there were more than a few bumps along the way, but in diplomatic hindsight, Palin easily bested expectations.

And that combination of moderate talent and sensationalism brought her all the way to the finale, where her attendance easily helped buoy the series to some of its best ratings in several seasons. But with that mission accomplished, it was also an appropriate time to send her on her way, shifting the focus in the last moments to the two contestants who -- aside from maybe  Brandy -- belonged there the most.

I've been open about how blindly I went into this season of "DWTS." The appeal had always evaded me, so I never bothered. But after devoting much of the last 10 weeks of my life to it, I realize why it's sustained its hold on viewers, 200-plus episodes in.

There is very little event television left out there. But "DWTS's" unique amalgam of water-cooler talk, controversy, careful casting, slick production and, yes, Tom Bergeron continues to hold onto viewers in a way its contemporaries have not -- despite the questionable two-seasons-a-year schedule.

And that doubling up isn't all bad. Because I'd be lying if I said I wasn't sort of excited for Season 12.

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Photo credit: ABC