...watching it, that is.
Dear Dancing with the Stars: You're doing it wrong.
I used to be the biggest Dancing With the Stars (DWTS) fan of them all. Seriously. DVR'd every episode, watched all the press. Burned all the episodes AND interviews onto DVDs for posterity (and later re-viewing!) Even called in to vote!
But somewhere along the line, DWTS has lost its way. Season 15 (the All-Stars) WAS better than a few of the previous seasons, but now Season 16 is on the horizon, and after watching the GMA cast announcement, I looked at the pros and cons of continuing to watch, and I have to say that the scales have tipped. I'll no longer be watching. I have deleted the Season Pass from my Tivo, and will be moving on. (Although I will still read the deliciously snarky recaps on Television without Pity, …at least until those few contestants whose names I even recognize from the new cast are eliminated, and I no longer care at all.)
Keep watching DWTS ... or Quit?
The Ho-hum cast: 11 cast members were announced on Tuesday, 2/26/13, (on Good Morning America)– an odd number, both literally and figuratively – usually there is an even number of contestants on DWTS. Maybe ABC is going to pull another one of those gimmicky deals where America Votes! to select the remaining cast member – but it's getting a little close to the season premier date to announce another cast member – it would give the previously-announced cast the advantage of more time for training. Maybe ABC could only dredge up 11 people this season.
So let's take a closer look at the lackluster cast for Season 16:
DWTS tends to pluck cast members from the B, C, and D lists – because, obviously – A-listers don't need DWTS to perk up their careers and/or bank accounts, and even if an A-lister wanted to dance on DWTS, they are probably booked into other commitments that would prevent them from signing on for the duration of the Season (however long or short that may be for them). With that said, Season 16 has managed to do something no other DWTS season has done: I literally don't even know who more than half of this seasons contestants are! Which makes it kind of difficult to care!
- Zendaya Coleman – Never Heard of Her. Evidently, she is a Disney Star (ABC's parent company). More about that later.
- Andy Dick – I have to admit, I am a fan (or at least, I used to be) – I remember him from Less than Perfect, where he was absolutely hysterical. But he is now better known for his outrageous, unpredictable "behavior"….
- Dorothy Hamill - I am a huge fan of this legendary Olympic Gold Medalist (figure skating) – more about this later.
- D.L. Hughley – a comedian; not my cup of tea. At all.
- Jacoby Jones – Never heard of him. Apparently, he plays football. More about that later.
- Wynonna Judd – country singer. I hate country music.
- Victor Ortiz – no clue. Evidently, a boxer. More on that later.
- Kellie Pickler – don't know her. According to the internet, she was on American Idol. Which I don't watch.
- Ingo Rademacher – I'm a fan. Ingo played Jax on General Hospital for years and years, and between his gorgeous looks and that dreamy Australian accent, what's not to love?
- Aly Raisman – never heard of her. Apparently, she is one of the Fab Five. No clue. Turns out, they won a gymnastics medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics – which I didn't watch. I don't do sports. Plus, the only name I remember being associated with gymnastics last summer was Gabby somebody. And I don't care enough to look up her last name, because it doesn't matter. She's not on DWTS.
- Lisa Vanderpump – don't know her, but months ago I made myself a rule: "Never watch a TV show with a 'Vanderpump' on it". Whatever a "Vanderpump" might be. Why the rule? Because I had just been subjected to the bazillionith (what, it's a number!) awful, obnoxiously loud commercial on Bravo for something called "Vanderpump Rules" while trying to watch stuff I actually wanted to watch on Bravo. And I decided, "I think I need a Vanderpump rule: No Vanderpumps."
- Several days before the cast was announced on Good Morning America, ABC began running promos for the cast announcement. These promos featured judge Bruno Tonioli saying something like, "You think you know, but you don't know!" I took that to mean that the cast would be shocking! We'd be surprised, and excited! No way we could prepare for the shock! Turns out, Bruno meant it literally – I actually don't know (most of) them! And it's not just me: several press outlets have called the cast "Google-worthy", as in, the press also had to Google them to find out who they were! [Here's one.]
- On GMA during the cast announcement, Brooke Burke-Charvet stage-whispered to Tom Bergeron something along the lines of: "I was surprised at how rumors about the cast were on the down-low this season." OK – A) What she meant was, there hadn’t been as much speculation about the cast as in previous seasons. Just another example of Brooke's nodding acquaintance with the English language. And B) there wasn't much speculation about the cast, because they are boring.
The Casting is too formulaic. The way I see it, DWTS has certain categories/types of contestants that they "need" to fill each season (bonus points when a contestant crosses over into more than one category – it's up to you to figure out where these cross-overs are for Season 16!) (Note: any examples I provide from previous seasons are not meant to be all-inclusive.)
- The Pro Football player: Jacoby Jones – check! (see also: Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, et.al.)
- The Olympian: Aly Raisman – check! (see also: Kristi Yamaguchi, Shawn Johnson, Apolo Ohno, et. al.) – and yes, I have NOT included Dorothy Hammill here – I have a reason (stay tuned!)
- The Random, non football, non-Olympian athlete: Victor Ortiz – check! (see also: Louie Vito, Misty May-Treanor, Evander Holyfield, Laila Ali, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Monica Seles, Martina Navratilova, et. al)
- The ABC Soap star: Ingo Rademacher – check! (see also: Kelly Monaco, Cameron Matheson, JR Martinez, Susan Lucci, et. al.)
- The Disney Star: Zendaya Coleman – check! (see Kyle Massey, Roshon Fagan, Cody Linley, et.al.)
- The Reality "Star": Lisa Vanderpump – check! (see also: Bristol Palin, Melissa Rycroft, Trista Sutter, Kim & Rob Kardashian, Jake Pavelka, Audrina Patridge, et. al.)
- The Quirky one (e.g. the Incomprehensible choice): Andy Dick – check! (see also: Steve-O, Penn Jillette, Master P., Steve Wozniak, Jeffrey Ross, et. al.)
- The Old one: No obvious entry this season (see: Jane Seymour, Buzz Aldrin, Florence Henderson, Cloris Leachman, et. al.)
- The model/pageant girl: another overlooked category this season! (see Petra Nemcova, Paulina Porizkova, Rachel Hunter, Shanna Moakler, Shandi Finnessey)
- The Unwatchable one (probably not a viable category where DWTS Producers are concerned, but definitely a real category as far as I'm concerned – see: Nancy Grace, Niecy Nash, Sherri Shepherd, et. al.) I don't have an obvious pick for this category in Season 16, although Wynonna Judd is this >< close (and getting closer every time she does press for the upcoming season)! Much like many "unwatchables" who have preceded her (oh, like, say, Sherri, and Niecy), Wynonna is NOT as funny and cute as she thinks she is.
this frightens me
and . . .
- The Overweight one: Wynonna Judd – check! (see also: Kirstie Alley, Marissa Jarett Winoker, Ricki Lake, Kelly Osbourne, Sherri Shepherd, et.al.)
Here are my thoughts on the casting:
- As I see it, viewers who turn in to watch celebrity non-dancers dress up in sequins and Spandex and try to ballroom dance are NOT likely to be die hard ESPN fans. Of course, athletes also tend to be in the best physical shape, and are usually gifted with more grace and coordination than your average regular human (although DWTS has certainly had its share of exception to this "athletes tend to excel" rule. Certain tennis players come to mind…). And certainly gymnasts and figure skaters have a leg up, so to speak, when it comes to musicality and choreography. So I understand why DWTS pulls heavily from the sports world for its contestants - the athletes tend to be the better dancers. But on the flip side, I can't get excited about watching football players, boxers, basketball players, etc. on DWTS. I'm just not a fan! It's a sports thing – and I'm just not on board. (And a special note to Helio Castroneves: driving a car for a living doesn't make you an athlete any more than surfing the internet makes me one. Just sayin'. And yes, I know you won DWTS. But not because you are an athlete. But I digress.) I just really have to wonder how large the crossover is between sports fans and fans of spandex-clad, glittery, spray-tanned ballroom dancers.
- Footballers do well on DWTS. As do most athletes, especially Olympians. Which brings me to Dorothy Hammill. I grew up in the world of competitive figure skating (I could have been a contender if my Mother hadn't hated the cold weather in Minnesota, and made us move to the non-frozen, non-ice rink enabled Deep South!) and remember watching Dorothy Hammill win Olympic Gold at Innsbruck. Clearly, she has a few years on Aly Raisman – but Dorothy Hammill is an Olympian, too. So I was amazed AND horrified when several entertainment shows (sorry – I can't remember which ones!) trivialized Ms. Hammill's career and accomplishments by saying "I remember her famous haircut" (or something like that.) Seriously? You are reducing an Olympic Gold Medalist to a trendy haircut in the 1970s? (Of course you are, after all, Michelle Obama made news for 2 weeks last month when she got HER hair cut.) Yes, GMA made it clear that Aly Raisman is the Olympian on DWTS this season. But GMA isn't alone – other (print and TV) press coverage similarly discounts Ms. Hammill*, with statements along the lines of "Olympian Aly Raisman joins the cast", and adding Dorothy Hammill somewhere down the list. Yeah, this one really got under my skin. I understand that these 2 Olympic medal winners are separated by decades, and Ms. Raisman's physical conditioning and abilities are in the full bloom of youth. My point is, they are both Olympic gold medalists. Period. And I predict Ms. Hammill will do well on DWTS.
OK - the Hammill Horse (no relation to the Hammill Camel) is dead now - I will quit beating it.
- The Disney Factor – I'm aware that Disney is ABC's parent company. I get that these kids need something to keep them off the street (kidding!) – But I see the casting of these very young people as evidence that DWTS either doesn't understand or doesn't appreciate its demographic. I just don't see crowds of tweens (and younger kids) tuning in to this show. And I certainly don't care about these Disney kids. Maybe ABC is just trying to "grow" its demo by dipping into the tween set and the ESPN set – OK, but only at the risk of marginalizing and alienating others…
- The supermodels/pageant winners: I see this as another attempt (after casting football players and boxers) to pull in the male demo (much like Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Edition). These contestants are usually pretty awkward, with very little personality. Not sure why else they would be cast. Just sayin'.
One note about the professional cast – Maks Chmerkovskiy isn't dancing on Season 16. Maks was one of the best things about DWTS. He has personality, a sense of humor, unparalleled dancing skills, he's nice to look at – he is a delight to watch. He has drawing power. All other factors aside, if Maks were dancing this season, you wouldn't be reading this, because I would never have written it. I would be right there watching every week.
Moving on – let's look at some more reasons I've grown weary of Dancing with the Stars:
The Gimmicks: Theme nights, marathons – I'm just not a fan of the gimmicks. One theme night per season, I could handle, but every, single week? Make it stop! Movie night, rock night, country night, pick a style for your partner night, inspirational story night, choose a style for the competition night, and remember this one: "stupid theme night" (Caveman Hustle”? "Knight Rider Bhangra”? “Surfer Flamenco"? OK – maybe it wasn't officially called "stupid theme night" But it should have been. Agonizing, it was.)
I'm more of a purist: I tune in for the dancing (and personalities), and would really love to see all the contestants dance the same style on the same night. It makes it a lot easier for viewers to compare technique when everyone is dancing the same style! It's hard to compare Kirstie Alley's rumba with Melissa Rycroft's jive!
The Judging: Note: this is NOT about the judges. I love Len, Carrie Ann, and Bruno – it is wonderful to have talented judges who know what they are talking about when they provide critiques (pay attention, So You Think You Can Dance, with your stupid stunt casting in that guest judge's chair!)
This is about the judging itself: the DWTS judges are not consistent:
- Their judging is not consistent from contestant to contestant. The judges make it very clear whom they expect better performances and technique from, and score accordingly. A performance by a struggling contestant may receive an 8 or better, whereas the same level of performance by a better dancer may receive a 7 or lower, because the judges expect more from that dancer - this is not fair. Crappy dancing deserves a crappy score. This is not peewee soccer, where everyone gets a trophy just for showing up!
- The judges aren't consistent with each other. Carrie Ann shouldn't deduct a point for a lift while Len and Bruno give the same performance a 10 because it was "entertaining". Len shouldn't deduct a point for dropping hold (where same is not allowed) if Carrie Ann and Bruno are going to ignore it, because they were "entertained". Leave the subjectivity to the voting public - we all know it ultimately comes down to popularity, anyway (versus actually being 100% about the dancing)
- The scoring peaks too early. Contestants that are scoring 9s (or 9.5s, if the half-point paddles return) in week 2 and 3 have no room for improvement, yet are FAR from perfect. (But they were head and shoulders above the really bad dancers the judges shouldn't have given that 8 to...) When these overscored contestants do improve, the judges have to reward that improvement with a 10 because there is nowhere else to go, despite obvious technical mistakes.
Carrie Ann, Len, and Bruno, giving out those 10s
The endlessly-bloated results show: An encore performance? Please - we saw it less than 24 hours ago, producers! Musical performances by artists I don't care about? With some dancing by "the troupe?" Get rid of these - needless filler. And those crazy scripted intro/recaps Brooke and Tom read before announcing whether a contestant is safe? Complete with playback from the night before? Just stop. Macy's Stars of Dance - it's hit or miss, and if it's good? Showcase these exceptional performers on a Special - they don't need to be on DWTS. [I love what DWTS (and SYTYCD) are doing for dance - but I don't love how DWTS is doing it.] And all the manufactured suspense leading up to the elimination? Just boil everything down into a 30 minute show (which is still 20 minutes more than needed)
Thank goodness for my DVR – I would record the Tuesday night results show, then watch it on the DVR as soon as the live show ended, fast fowarding through all the filler and commercials to get the results. Took me 10 to 12 minutes.
Those orchestral versions of popular songs (with the dreadful singers): Ugggh. If Fox can get the real tunes for SYTYCD, surely ABC can, too.
Brooke Burke-Charvet: OMG. My Golden Retriever could give a better interview (because he's a better listener. Plus, everybody gets a big wet kiss - none of those Hollywood air kisses for Bailey!) Brooke is so eager to get out her canned questions that she frequently cuts off the responses, or actually responds inappropriately to what was said, because . . . she isn't listening. This is about the extent of Brooke's repertoire, and heaven forbid a contestant answers her in an unexpected way, because that throws her a major loop:
- How did you feel about your dance?
- How do you feel about your score?
- How much do you want to win?
Tom B. and Brooke B-C
Poor Brooke is nowhere without her script, her cards, and her earpiece, and she's still pretty lost with all of these prompts! Spontaneity is not her friend.
Bring back Drew Lachey! Please. Or give it to Lara Spencer! She'd be fantastic!
The Live Tweets, distractingly scrolling across the screen: This is a horrible trend that ABC has grabbed for all it's worth. They pop up like a visual assault, with their #s and @s and !s, hogging the screen.
Dear ABC: If I wanted to read tweets, with the squee-ing, hash-tagged, syntax-impaired blurtings of the fame-seeking TV-watching public, I would have a freakin' Twitter account. Get that crap off my screen. TV is not a social medium. I can form my own opinions! Quit trying to turn my evening entertainment into an interactive social event!
The good stuff:
- Tom Bergeron: a fantastic, professional host – great sense of humor, quick on the uptake, and just the right amount of snark and irreverence. He gets that it's just entertainment, and no one is "dancing for their lives."
- Dance Center: It's not as funny and edgy as it used to be, but it's still fun. Love seeing what the guys will wear, (or not wear, Shirtless Len!). DWTS needs more Dance Center!
Dance Center: Jerry, Kenny, and Len "skewer" the contestants
So back to my tipped scales: Not everything I've touched on impacted my decision – here's what it basically boiled down to:
Reasons to keep watching:
- Ingo Rademacher – I'm a real fan, and he's pretty
- Andy Dick – I'm sure he will provide some funny and unforgettable moments.
Reasons to bail:
- The cast is just boring. I don't know most of them, so I don't care what they do, or say, or how they dance.
- Wynonna Judd – her antics are already getting old, and that's just from 30 minutes on the GMA announcement show!
- The Results show – it is just too long.and boring
- Live Tweets – I hate, hate, hate them. Minor factor in my decision, but a really annoying trend on TV these days
- No Maks – this is the kicker. I gave it triple weight in my decision because, I said before, everything else aside, if Maks were dancing, I'd be watching. (Of course, if Maks were making an appearance to read from the phone book, I still might tune in....)
[If you enjoyed reading this manifesto, I don't write them very often - usually we are all about the jewelry here. But I did write one about a year ago, addressing issues I had with the now-cancelled ABC show, The Revolution. I calls 'em like I sees 'em.]