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Dancing with the Stars – The History of Judges Scores, Part 1

Obviously, season 11 made a lot of people crazy, what with all the good dancers that left before a much lesser dancer. I’ve said over and over that the judges scoring was at issue – too high for some, too low for others – but lets take a look at if that’s really the case or not…and if it was at all out of the ordinary. The question is – was Bristol scored in line with previous younger contestants with little dance ability?? Or was she given an easy ride?? I put it in the context of Bristol because of the uproar her continued presence on the show created – many claimed that either there was a huge voting block for her (already debunked that one, IMO) or the judges were much easier on her than they were on similar contestants in the past (me included).

This is going to be a series, because once I started I realized that it was likely going to be too large of a project to fit into one post. So, it will be broken down by season, starting with Season 5, and then there will be a summary post at the end. What I am doing is -re-watching the seasons, starting each at episode 5 in order to weed out the really pathetic people. :-) I’m watching with an eye to the judges – how they score, do they have patterns, how they behave toward the contestants. I expect to note other, related patterns – have they always had the same bits that annoy/please them? Do they have a favorite pro? And so on. What we all (me included) will have to remember is that even though this will have the appearance of a scientific study, it is still highly subjective. There is only so much a bunch of numbers can do for you – at some point, personal bias comes into play during the analysis (like it does during the judging). Not to mention that there isn’t likely to be enough data for scientific validity anyway. :-)

Let’s start with the contestants and their scores for Season 5:

Season 5 Weekly Scores (Part I)

Celebrity Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8
Helio 23 (Rumba) 28 (Cha Cha) 25 (Tango) 27 (Paso Doble)
28 (Samba) 30 (Quickstep)
Mel B 29 (Samba) 30 (Rumba) 24 (Foxtrot) 27 (Tango)
30 (Paso Doble) 29 (Mambo)
Marie 21 (Samba) 23 (Paso) 28 (Quickstep) 24 (Rumba)
24 (Cha Cha) 25 (Jive)
Jennie 25 (Samba) 27 (Mambo) 25 (V. Waltz) 24 (Jive)
28 (Rumba) 26 (Foxtrot)
Cameron 26 (Rumba) 25 (Samba) 24 (Quickstep) 27 (V. Waltz)
27 (Jive) 24 (Cha Cha)
Jane 26 (Rumba) 22 (Jive) 24 (Quickstep)
26 (Cha Cha)
Sabrina 28 (Rumba) 25 (Foxtrot)
Mark 21 (Samba)

Season 5 Weekly Scores (Part II)

Celebrity Week 9 Week 10 Week Finale
Helio 30 (Foxtrot) 25 (Jive) 30 (Quickstep)
30 (Cha Cha) 29 (Freestyle)
Mel B 30 (V. Waltz) 28 (Cha Cha) 30 (Mambo)
30 (Paso Doble) 27 (Freestyle)
Marie 29 (Quickstep) 24 (Samba)
27 (Mambo) 22 (Freestyle)
Jennie 28 (Tango)
30 (Cha Cha)

At the time this season originally aired, many thought that Marie was a much worse dancer than Jennie. While I’m inclined to agree that she was not as good, the life and entertainment value Marie brought to her dances is no small thing either. I think the thing that sticks in people’s minds is the dreaded doll dance and the fact that Marie’s retorts to the judges made her one of the most annoying contestants in memory. I would say that, by week 6, the quality of dancing was pretty high, even including Marie. Her dances were pretty up and down in terms of score, but she gave everything she did a lot of life – something Bristol never did.

Now the judging – my recollections that I voiced during season 11 were correct. The did tend to judge harder going into the semi-finals and they did appear to have a favorite – Mel B. By week:

- Week 5: The judges pretty much shredded Helio’s rumba and Len was pretty critical of Sabrina’s as well – over the top was his comment. Agreed. Mel B was in the bottom 2 the previous week, so she got a 29 on a Rumba that wasn’t as good as the one Edyta choreographed for Cameron – in my personal opinion. ;-) I was actually pretty surprised at how good Cameron and Edyta’s rumba actually was.

The problem with comparing Cameron and Mel is, of course, they are not the same gender – what is required in the rumba is different for each of them. Mel was the best dancer of the season, but I think the judges were a tad generous in the interest of keeping her out of the bottom 2 (and yes, it was a REAL bottom 2).

– Week 6: Nothing much of note, here, except the judges all comment on Sabrina’s Foxtrot as being too hard – which coincidentally has always been my comment about her and Mark’s partnership.

- Week 7: The judges on a “the finals are coming up you have to do better” kick – they said something of that sort to both Jane and Helio. They said Marie’s Cha Cha didn’t have enough content (and I would agree) and they were pretty critical of Mel’s first dance. You’ll note that most of the couples have one high scoring dance and one much lower scoring dance. Of course, it wouldn’t be DWTS if the judges weren’t erratic; Cameron noticeably missed steps in his Quickstep, yet got the same score as those who did NOT miss steps, namely Mel and Jane. For some reason, they were much too hard on Jennie’s Viennese Waltz.

– Week 8: In week 8 I got the feeling that the judges had figured out who they wanted in the final two – Mel and Helio.  Now, Mel and Helio WERE awesome, but once they made their decision it seemed they judged accordingly, instead of judging the actual dances. That is, at least one of them played spoiler on the other couples. It is very hard to objectively look at these dances and say the judges were unfair – so remember, these are my feelings from watching the show a long time after they originally aired.  This is not commentary disparaging Mel or Helio – I loved both of them and think they, at the end, got scores they deserved. What I’m saying is that I think the judges were harder on those they didn’t see as good enough for the finale – regardless of how they actually danced.

Anyway, Marie’s scores were fair, although I think Len overscored her on her Jive. All three agreed she didn’t have enough content on her first dance and Carrie and Bruno said the same for her Jive. While I agreed with the comment Jennie got about her posture not being great, I thought a 24 was too low. Then, some of you may remember she did a lovely Foxtrot and Bruno, of all people, said he wanted to be “dazzled” and he wasn’t. Ridiculous. They said Cameron’s Cha Cha was too “hard and stiff” – maybe so, but a 24?  You can see they are indeed getting much tougher because it’s later in the competition – whether you agree with them or not.

- Week 9: Well, I guess if you actually make it to the semi-finals, they let up a little bit. :-)  Why do I say that? Well, all the judges comment on Marie messing up her footwork, yet she gets a 27 on that dance. Yet, Carrie Ann says she doesn’t see a connection between Jennie and Derek – who danced perfectly otherwise, and she gets a 28. Oookay.  I do think the judges also overscored Marie on her first dance.  Looking at the scores, it sure seems to me that they ranked the dancers. One part of me doesn’t have a problem with that – except I don’t see as much of a gap between Helio and Jennie as they do, and I see MORE of a gap between Jennie and Marie than what they actually scored.

- Week 10: And Marie’s scores plummet.  Of course, that doll dance was a nightmare and the 22 was being kind, but they also scored her Samba very low. I don’t disagree with that in the finals. If you’re in the finals you have to BRING it. I think they underscored Helio’s first dance by a point and overscored Mel’s freestyle by a point or two – that thing was BORING. But really – the writing is on the wall here in terms of the judging. I don’t think they are picking a favorite that was undeserving in the slightest. No storyboarding here. :-)

Season 5, in Summary: Well, they DID comment on the fact that they were scoring harder later in the season.  Several stars were victims of this, including the final 2.  So, when did this change – and do you agree it did change??  Other than that, I didn’t see anything seriously out of order with the judging, beyond the occasional wacky call.  I will say that the worst dancer in the final 6, Marie (IMO) was a MUCH better dancer than I remember and easily a more entertaining/better dancer than Bristol – yet she was scored tougher than Bristol.

Random Observations:

  • Up until Week 7, they did a real “bottom two” every week.  I think the reason they didn’t do a bottom two in the 7th week is because it was the week Marie’s father passed away – and she was in the bottom two but safe. After that, they realized they liked the drama of “in jeopardy” better than showing a real bottom two. And thus endeth my conspiracy theory for Season 5. :-)
  • Late weeks formula was to do the couples choice of Latin and Ballroom for the Semi-Final. Then in week 10 it was Judges Choice, Freestyle and then the final dance of the final 2′s choice.
  • I actually agreed with the judges most of the time. This will likely be significant later on.
  • I think Mel B might have been the best of all of Maks’ partners. I like how she handled him and how they were with each other.
  • The weeks where there were two dances, they still only had ONE package – this was before they got greedy and felt the need to keep the show at 2 hours no matter how many contestants there were. :-)
  • Cameron and Edyta dance a Viennese Waltz to the theme from Harry Potter in Week 8; this makes me realize that the crazy ass songs for certain dances is not a recent thing. Edyta’s doing? Or the producers? In more recent seasons – the producers.
  • In week 10, Maks wastes quite a few bars with Mel B in the audience – so when Courtney and I were commenting on it in recent seasons, it was not a recent phenomenon. :-)
February 9, 2011 I Written By

I'm a nerd and proud of it. Two degrees in geology also means I love BEER. :-) I'm also a Derek lover - proud of that too. So don't scream at those of us on this site and call us a bunch of "biased Derek-lovers" - it's just ME. :-) It may sound like I hate DWTS at times, but really, I'm just a snarky nitpicker from way back. And I'm cynical and jaded too. But I do love DWTS. :-)

DWTS – Anna Trebunskaya & Jonathan Roberts’s Do The Nate Berkus Show

Anna and Jonathan were guests on The Nate Berkus Show yesterday teaching him some dance moves. I can’t embed the video, but, you can see them dancing and shimmying with Nate and a few guests >>>>> HERE!!!

Anna and Jonathan also talked backstage about their idea of a perfect Valentine’s Day. Check them out. They are so cute as always.

Be sure to see today’s (Feb.9th) episode in full for more.

I Written By

I'm a fashion and music fan....and I have always loved dancing too of any kind. Dancing With The Stars seems to have this way of bringing all of those things together. One of my favorite dancing quotes at the moment: "No matter what, nobody can take away the dance you've already had...." ~Gleb Savchenko . For fun music and dance mixes, visit WilUnleashed Soundcloud.