How to Fix DWTS – An Open Letter to Producers (Part 4)

This post is the 4th and final part of a series where I basically tell the producers of DWTS how they should change the show – it’s for their own good. :-)  This part is more to the audience, but also for the producers.  If you want to read parts 1, 2, and 3 you can find them here:

How to Fix DWTS Part 1

How to Fix DWTS Part 2

How to Fix DWTS Part 3

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.

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I’ve never been one to believe in a high degree of manipulation of the show via the packages. I mean, let’s face it – no one MADE Maks be an ass with half his partners. And I’ve had people who work on the show tell me that what you see is usually what you get. Not to mention that after many seasons on the show, these pros know if you give the producers exciting footage, they are going to USE it. So, don’t be stupid. Take up the song “The Camera’s really on me now” by Derek Hough and Nicole Scherzinger. And suck it up. I get that the job of the producers is to get ratings. You get ratings by getting people talking. Be it a showmance or a knock down drag out fight. If you’re not smart enough to realize that camera really is recording everything you do, then it’s on YOU.  Maks and Hope really WERE awful, Karina and Apolo (sadly) really were stressed out and boring, and Drew and Anna were indeed too intense and serious.

That said, they find plenty of other ways to manipulate the audience’s view of the show, and that does include the packages to a limited extent. For one thing, the couples rehearse 40 hours a week, more or less – using all footage from a ten minute time frame as the entire package?? Yeah, that can give a rather skewed perception of the couple, if that’s the only time they cried or the only time they fought out of the entire week.  But it doesn’t necessarily have to be bad. There was week 5 or so of All Stars, when in her package, Melissa mentioned Shawn’s name and how hard a time she was going to have being as good throughout the entire thing. Shawn’s name was mentioned about 5 times in that 30 to 60 second package. Yeah, beat it into our heads that Shawn has a supposed advantage and beg for that sympathy.  No, I haven’t counted yet how many times Tony and Melissa mentioned that neither had won before. I sense it was a LOT.  They talked about how they couldn’t compete with Shawn’s tricks so they would have to do something different. So they proceeded to do….tricks. I did actually count. Melissa did *8* tricks in her lindy, to Shawn’s 4 in her mambo. So, STFU already about the tricks.

I’m sure there are tons of other examples. And it’s not just the packages, it’s every single word that is said on the live show. What Len, CAI and Bruno say has an impact on the audience, although I don’t know if we should give them so much credit for intelligence as much as a very simple desire to make their favorites (and non-favorites) known. I challenge all of you this upcoming season to open your ears and listen to everything that is said and think about it and it’s potential impact on the outcome of the show. Not that the outcome is always bad – sometimes the crap they say make people vote harder. But sometimes it does work against a couple.  Take notes. I’m sure we’ll be having this discussion again. :-)

Of course, there is the “fan” filter that will make you (and me) pre-disposed to think your favorite is being picked on. This is a much fluffier area than ridiculous scoring. But in hind sight, what helped your favorite?? What hurt the competition? Not just the judges, but what Brooke says in the celebraquarium – remember, she has producers talking in her ear all the time telling her what to say.  Do you think it hurt or helped Derek and Shawn when Brooke asked Derek if it was “fair” that Shawn is a gymnast?? Do you think that when some members of the audience heard that they might have thought “Hey, wait a second!! That’s totally not fair!!”  How’s come we never heard discussion about the fact that Melissa was a cheerleader who had experience in both dancing and gymnastics?? Not on the same level as Shawn, of course, but she wasn’t some neophyte. Melissa had a lot of advantages – being taller and of Len’s preferred body type for a dancer not being the least of them. But all that got play was how Melissa was the underdog. Hell, WE even portrayed Melissa as the underdog on this site – but we don’t have an audience of 16 million. :-)

That question of Brooke’s to Derek is, I’m sure, FAR from the only example of Brooke doing damage or a favor to a couple. It’s just one that keeps coming to mind because as soon as the words were out of her mouth I started swearing at her. As soon as you start to imply that there is ANY fairness in DWTS at all, you’re off your rocker. How fair is it that Shawn was continually underscored and criticized by Len while Melissa got rave reviews even when she blew a lift?? I dare you to go listen to what Len says to Melissa after her Lindy. Then listen to what he says to Shawn after, say, her Rumba. And why was Derek never asked about Len?? He’s been asked that before, more than once.  “What do you have to do to please Len?” At least acknowledge that Len was a bastard to Shawn much of the time. Undeservedly so.

Here’s another one – do you think it hurt or helped Kelly and Val that Brooke kept harping on the showmance??  I think it helped them, at first, but later became neutral when Kelly and Val bought their own PR and started playing it up.  That’s an example of the Law of Diminishing Returns. Do you think that Kelly would have lasted that long without the showmance card?? I don’t.  Maria clearly didn’t want to talk about all her injuries, but Brooke kept harping on them – help or hurt??  Okay – give me more examples.

Now, I don’t know that the producers are SO Machiavellian as to use this commentary to affect the outcome, or if they are just going for ratings and PR beyond the show. But if they want people to perhaps watch the show again, maybe they should put more thought into what is said by their Brooke puppet.  Of course, it’s entirely possible that they let Brooke go off script and ask her own questions – if that’s the case, STOP.

It’s also possible that only in the All Star season would this sort of manipulation be an issue. Let’s face it, most of the time we have a pretty good idea of who is going to win before they even step on the ballroom floor. We can at least call the top three. But in an All Star Season, everything becomes important. I would say that I hated the All Star Season for this reason and all the reasons outlined (in all parts) – but it’s hard to hate a season that showed Derek’s best work. The best choreography in the history of the show thus far – and no, I don’t think that’s my bias talking. Time will tell, of course.  Derek, win or lose, raised the bar once again and I think that the remaining pros will have a difficult time making the same impact. But besides that…yeah, in hindsight I did kinda hate the all star season. It just brought to light how little reality there is in this “reality” show.  Before, it was just something I sensed – now it’s something that is glaringly obvious. And maybe the ratings are down because I’m not the only one who caught a glimpse of Oz the Great and Powerful and realized he was just a balding, over weight guy pulling levers.

In any case, I think I’ve exhausted this subject for myself – I’ve had my say. They likely won’t listen, but I did get it off my chest.  I DO hope that the show gets its mojo back, stops with the games and lets the next crop dance. Just dance and get scores they deserve. I hope that Derek stays off the show and becomes hugely successful in whatever he decides to do – or ALL that he has decided to do. I hope that for most all the pros, actually – those are creative beyond this show or those who aspire to be. Then this show will really have made a great contribution to ART. That’s not a bad legacy, really.

Now, maybe if you all ask nicely, Courtney will share her thoughts on the All Star Season.