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With the Dancing With the Stars semifinals right around the corner, who better to weigh in on the action than season one breakout John O’Hurley? The actor, who finished second but later triumphed over General Hospital’s Kelly Monaco in a dance-off, tells OK! the competition is fiercer than he’s ever seen.

“I see snippets of it and this year just totally amazed me and the results more so than any other season. The people were totally extraordinary, the talent has been extraordinary this year and yet somehow it doesn’t get move them beyond,” John tells OK!, alluding to the eliminations of such conceived front-runners as Sabrina Bryan and Cameron Mathison.

To win, the stage vet advises Melanie Brown, Helio Castroneves, Jennie Garth and Marie Osmond to “‘wow’” the judges from here on out. “You’ve got to ‘wow’ ‘em. You’ve got to stretch yourself. You can’t play it safe because they’re looking for one reason to knock you out now.”

Cameron was John’s first pick to win it all as he believed the All My Children star’s network connections would have pulled through for him, perhaps similar to Kelly’s win.

“They kind of have a built-in advantage because everybody’s logged onto ABC.com with their user-names and their passwords, so it’s an easy mechanism to vote many, many times, so that’s why the ABC people have always had the upper hand,” he says. “But it didn’t pay off this time — I’m very surprised.”

The 53-year-old expects Mel B to emerge the victor now and doesn’t think her performance background with the Spice Girls ought to be used against her because numerous factors go into deciding the ultimate champ.

“I think people take that into account,” John says. “You have to look at some of the other people that have won and Joey Fatone didn’t win. Yet if you watched him from the beginning, you said, ‘Well, he’s a shoo-in. Everybody, go home!’ But not so. I think people look for the progress too and the emotional journey just as much.”

This is one of the reasons Marie has stayed on so long, he says, citing her weight loss, personal strife and improvement over the weeks. “It’s been kind of a resurrection. I think there’s always a story in that and I think the viewers appreciate that.”

The other reason is — what else? — the fan base, which John feels is pivotal this season.

"Never doubt the Osmond fan base! I was just in Salt Lake City — surrounded by them," he jokes. "Never doubt the Osmonds!"

By Joyce Eng

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