How to Fix DWTS – An Open Letter to Producers (Part 3)

This post is part 3 of a new series where I basically tell the producers of DWTS how they should change the show – it’s for their own good. :-)  If you want to read parts 1 and 2, you can find them here:

How to Fix DWTS Part 1

How to Fix DWTS Part 2

 

A reminder for those easily induced into righteous indignation – this is NOT about the various couples but about the JUDGES and the Producers – I’ve provided examples of problems that I remember from season to season. If you get your knickers in a twist about Melissa or Shawn or Mya or Nicole or Maria, I’m not going to waste time arguing with you, I’m going to call you names (maybe to myself, maybe publicly - we’ll see) and then ignore you. Keep it on topic.  And by all means – if you remember other instances of fishiness, feel free to share. I can’t guarantee we will agree, but I would be interested to hear.

Dear DWTS Producers (cont.)

We’ve talked all about the stupid scoring methods the judges have, although not really touching on how much you producers influence that scoring. It’s really hard to say what is Len being an ass and what is producer directed underscoring with the goal of drama, making it a horse race or holding on to the contestants who grab viewers attention, albeit not necessarily actual votes.  Who’s doing it and their ultimate goal? Don’t know, kinda care, really wish you would CUT IT OUT. I think it’s obvious. One only has to compare how Len scored Shawn, Nicole and Mya to see a pretty distinct pattern. I didn’t look much farther than those three, initially, but after my last posting I had to look at another talented dancer, Jennifer Grey. Jennifer didn’t suffer from the same scoring bullshit as the other three ladies. Why? Well, my guess is that she wasn’t anywhere close to “guaranteed” win (in the producers and judges eyes, mind you) that the other ladies were. She was 50 years old at the time and had some rather serious medical issues – almost didn’t dance in the finale, if you recall. Falsely crapping on her dances would seem…well, heartless.  She started the show as the sympathetic character with a very nostalgic feel. The other pseudo ringer that season was Brandy – she learned to dance for a movie, like Jennifer, and went to a performing arts high school – like Jennifer. Keeping in mind that I haven’t seen her dances since her season aired, you will note that she was getting consistently beaten by Jennifer in scoring up until week 5, when she beat Jennifer. She also beat Jennifer in week 6, then tied her in weeks 7 and 8, before being eliminated. I’m tempted to say that she had the Len curse that season….but since I haven’t watched the dances in a while I can’t really make the call. Looks like it though.

Brooke and Kristi were the high scorers nearly every week they were on the show, season 5 was all over the place, and Gilles seemed destined to win season 8, which leads me to believe that this little game didn’t really start happening until after that season. Were they getting tired of sure things, even though Gilles ended up not winning? Decided to make the game more interesting? Totally pissed that Shawn won and Gilles/Melissa didn’t?  I wish they would quit it. It’s always nice to have excitement on a show, but not at the expense of reality.

Season 12 was weird. Looking at the scoring for that season and it seemed like it really WAS a horse race, for a little while. Ralph was kicking butt the first few weeks, before they started tanking him and propping up Chelsea.  Why? Who knows. She is “family” in that she worked on a Disney program. That season was a mystery. Seasons 13 and 14 also were more about over-scoring not great dancers than intentionally underscoring someone to make things interesting – as discussed in parts 1 and 2. There was no huge ringer that Len felt he had to keep down, but they did work to keep certain people around. I think that Maria, and occasionally Katherine, were overscored Season 14…and we all remember the William lovefest. :::shiver:::  They always showed Kirstie a lot of love, giving her a much easier time than they did others that weren’t quite so popular. It all comes to the same end, doesn’t it?? Messing around with the scoring for the sake of some other agenda.

Agendas. That leads me to my next topic.

Quit tinkering with the rules/themes/scoring during the season, damn it!!

I can’t be the only person who watches the show who suspects your constant changing of the rules and the season progresses can I?? And actually, I *know* you did it this past season because you weren’t even subtle about it. Plus I hear things. :-)

You hear lots about DWTS being “fixed” mainly because you DO change the rules or add elements during the season. Even if that isn’t your intent, it IS the end result because it just looks bad. It’s like having an election and one person is winning…but you don’t like that person or don’t want them to advance, so you added “special scoring” to reward the better contender.  Oh. Wait. You already did that for Chelsea Kane!!

How do you NOT understand how that looks? Maybe you don’t care…but you all were the ones whining about the sagging ratings at TCA not that long ago. You think we just want “bad” dancing as much as good dancing?? Are you frickin’ crazy??  People want to see the journey, they want to see people learn and they want to see dancing. Sure, there’s a trainwreck element to it at times, but if people really wanted to see “bad” dancing, the bad dancers would last longer (without help from the judges) than they do. That you even spout that we want to see bad dancing rather confirms my theory on your tinkering with the judges scores, doesn’t it? Yes. It does.  Seriously – did it ever occur to you that we see what you’re doing and are tired of the bullshit and are just turning the channel??

Of course, this is only my opinion, but I think you’ve forgotten that your viewers aren’t total morons. Of course, there are a few in every crowd, but by and large – no, we are not morons. So quit acting like we are and maybe you’ll see an improvement in ratings. Although it may be too late for that, and same day viewing for the networks is down across the board.  But hey, you can stop the slide, if you want.  Take an honest look at what you *appeared* to do just this last season alone.

-          You tinkered with the number of points to be awarded for one couple for the group dance – then copped out completely and gave it to Kirstie, which only Kirstie fans believed. I heard several different numbers floated around before you settled on 2. I have to wonder if there was some kind of argument back stage (or if you were listening to twitter), because deciding on 2 points and then giving them to Kirstie does absolutely NOTHING other than to make Kirstie feel good. It did nothing to “save” anyone – although it might have saved Sabrina, unless you knew that 2 points wouldn’t be enough for her.  But why Kirstie?? She stuck around for two weeks after that.

-           You gave the new dances styles with a  theme in week 9, which is fine. And it might have been that way all along. But then you told Derek and Shawn they couldn’t use *anything* from the Knight Rider (maybe you should have checked on that detail earlier?).  So, in this case, are you handicapping….or just sloppy?? Most of your viewers understand copyright infringement – but I think they would also expect you to check on that before you hand out that particular style.

-          Yes, the bunch of so-called crazy dance styles/themes for week 9 would have been fine, if not for one couple getting the hustle and one couple getting Lindy Hop – two dances that HAVE been done on DWTS before, compared with Jazz and Bhangra, the latter having never even been heard of before. Which also had a theme that was made impossible, as outlined above. Luckily, Derek is a genius…if it had been anyone else, it could have gotten ugly. Instead we got my favorite dance of the season.  Oh, and Flamenco, which was just a barely disguised Paso when done by Kelly and Val. So, really, it was only Apolo and Karina that got screwed. Nice.

-          You did a similar thing in Week 4, handing out contemporary and Bollywood with the likes of Mambo and Jitterbug. Good thing you had contestants pick for each other, since it hardly seems fair to hand some pros dances they know and others dances they’ve got no clue about.  It’s still not fair, but at least YOU don’t get to choose who’s doing what. Or do you…

-          The instant dance?? What a freakin’ farce. A little birdie tells me that it was originally supposed to be a choice between any of the 10 “regular” dances (waltz, tango, foxtrot, quickstep, V. waltz, cha cha, samba, rumba, paso doble, or jive), but you copped out and picked samba, Cha Cha and Jive.  Knowing perfectly well, of course, that Melissa was doing samba for her regular dance that week. Why did only Melissa get a dance that she did the night before (not to mention being the only celeb to do a single dance style THREE times during the course of the show)? Not only that, but Kelly got Jive which she did as Trio earlier in the season, and Shawn got Cha Cha which was done with the country theme – so both had to come up with NEW choreo, where as Melissa could (and did) recycle.  She had  the ability to recycle all three styles; her samba and jive were regular dances and her cha cha was part of a fusion with Tango where Tony didn’t actually fuse the two styles, he did one then the other.  No, you don’t rig the show at all!  Then, to top it off, the ball breaks open as Melissa is going to choose. Not only have those little mirror balls never broken open before (seems most have a hard time opening them), but every time they’ve had to pick before in that season, they were always half-mirror balls that were face down. Why the switch?? Unless of course you wanted Melissa to do Samba since it would be (supposedly) easiest for her. Kinda funny that she STILL blew it…but the judges took care of that with their scoring.

-          That little birdy?? Also told me that Melissa’s country dance was originally “Home” by Blake Shelton – which would be a Rumba. She was overheard talking about it during Country Group rehearsals. Same week that Sabrina KILLED her rumba. No matter, no worries – we’ll just switch what Melissa is dancing. Kirstie danced to Home that week. Odd.  Wonder which dancer they were trying to help, Sabrina or Melissa?? Or Kirstie? Kinda similar situation to the one where NONE of Derek’s fans believed he would ever dance that Quickstep a 3rd time for the finale. He’s never done a dance three times in one season as part of the competition (and has said it’s a bad idea). And it was a rule breaker. Most people who have been fans of Derek’s for YEARS expected him to pick the one dance that he didn’t get to do with Shawn – which, coincidentally, is some of his best choreography – the Paso/Tango fusion.  Then there’s the fact that Henry told After Buzz earlier in the week that Derek and Shawn were dancing the Fusion. But no – it didn’t happen. Derek – arguably the smartest pro on the show for how it works – pick the rule breaking quickstep to dance a 3rd time. And gets docked again. Gee, that’s not funky at ALL.

-          In that same vein, I expect you want us to believe that Shawn, Melissa and Kelly ALL decided to pick their week 3 dances in the finale. Just a coincidence? Just like during season 11 when all three couples picked Argentine Tango??  Well, that season made a bit more sense in that all three dances were amazing – but this season? Yeaaah…no.

The last few seasons you’ve thrown in curve balls at seemingly the last minute and it appears to many that you do it in order to benefit one couple over the others. Like throwing in an extra 15 points that Chelsea Kane was almost guaranteed to get. Your viewers aren’t stupid. A lot of them aren’t paying as close attention as we are and might not sit back and go “WTF?”  But those that are?? I wonder if they’re still watching the show?   With Derek possibly (hopefully) not coming back, I wouldn’t be watching the show – but I like mocking it. Yes, you have reached the same level as The Bachelor – to be watched and mocked. And to create cool drinking games.

You want to avoid the feeling that the show is fixed??  You should, since I think it results in many people just changing the channel.  Yes, the whining about ratings is a bit stupid, since ALL TV is down across the board (check out AI’s ratings for their premiere) and you still have a top 10 show.  But you used to have a Top 5 show that occasionally hit number one. Not so much any more.  You want to change course?? Remember – perception is reality. What you “intend” doesn’t matter as much as how people perceive it.  If they perceive what you’re doing is “fixing” in favor of a particular couple and not making changes for some other, more pragmatic reason? Then you’re the one with the problem at the end of the day. And it’s your own fault cuz you want everything to be “shocking”. Get over it.

Here’s an idea. You’ve been on the air for 15 season. Take a hard look at everything you’ve done and take what seems to have worked well. Lay out Season 16 – all of it. The dances, the scoring, the themes (if you must), the team dances, the group dances, etc.  Then put it ALL in a pre-season press kit or press release so everyone can see it. And then, most important of all – DON’T MESS WITH IT. Stick with the plan.  If you find a show is running short and you need to throw in a group dance like you did this past season? Fine. But DO NOT change the rules constantly throughout the season.  You think it’s fun to keep the celebs and the pros on their toes??  The celebs have never danced before – at least not ballroom – they are already on their toes!!  As for the pros – you’re not doing them any favors, you’re just risking burnout and injury. This belief that we want to see bad dancing? Wrong. We might find it amusing for a week or two, but then we want to see great dancing. We want to see people improve and grow. And all the other great elements of the show. Hire people for the show and LET THEM DANCE. Score them fairly. Don’t keep changing the rules….and don’t manipulate what the audience sees and hears to get a particular outcome.

But we’ll talk about that in part 4. :-)