I can easily imagine ABC executives sitting around a few days ago and envisioning A Ball To Settle It All. Now that's theoretically possible, since Kelly Monaco won the original ''Dancing With the Stars'' and John O'Hurley won this week's dance-off.
But I suspect they're now wondering if even a new season of ''Dancing'' -- due in January '06 -- is a good idea. A summer hit, ''Dancing'' proved less impressive in the ratings on Tuesday, when it was against fall programming. Some may blame that on disenchantment because of Monaco's controversial win this summer. (I still think she was better than O'Hurley, who even when he's dancing well looks a little comical, while Monaco knows where the drama is.)
Others may think, well, this was all right for the summer, but not on nights when there are fresh fall programs to pick from. And some may have just decided that the novelty has worn off. Any or all of those reasons are bad for ABC.
I don't object to O'Hurley's winning. At the end of Tuesday's show, I thought he had a slight edge. But I don't know if viewers actually judged that night's performances. ''Dancing'' has always had a weird approach to scoring, and the dance-off was odd in having people vote while the show was still in progress. At least ''American Idol'' makes you wait until all the numbers have been sung.
In any case, let's just call this a draw -- one for Monaco, one for O'Hurley. And not keep this going until we're stuck with the dance equivalent of ''Rocky IV.'' Whether we endure another set of ''celebrities'' or a world without ''Dancing,'' the show has had about as much impact as it ever will.
It gave us something amusing to talk about during the summer, and made ballroom dancing feel interesting again. Between this show and the movie ''Shall We Dance,'' my wife and I have been talking about dancing lessons. I don't think another round of ''Dancing'' will make us talk more.