Dancing with the Stars Season 19 – “What do you mean I’m a ringer??” Update

Introduction

A couple of seasons ago, I created a set of criteria with which to measure the benefits some dancers on DWTS have compared to the other dancers. That is, ringers versus non-ringers. I attempted to be as logical and scientific as possible, although it’s impossible to remove all subjectivity from the issue. But it’s far better than simply saying “so and so isn’t a ringer, IMO”. In your opinion? If your opinion is purely subjective with no effort at logical or rational thought, then what good is it??

No good at all, actually. The original series sprung from an effort to debunk the old, tired and stupid claim that the only reason Derek does well is because he gets all the good partners and no one else gets them. Utter BS, of course. It would be a good idea to read that series before starting this one as I can’t guarantee that I’ll include all the same rationale this second time around and I don’t take well to discussing a subject with someone who is so rude as to not read the blogs.

Ringers Part One

Ringers Part Two

Ringers Part Three

Of course, certain people who didn’t like the results of that research tried desperately to turn the argument around and claim: “Well, Derek never gets any ‘bad’ partners, like Kate Gosselin”. Um, there has only been ONE Kate Gosselin and ONE Wendy Williams – it’s not at all like everyone is getting those kinds of partners except Derek. Tony is the only one who gets them and there’s good reason for that one, I would say.  But that’s a different subject altogether. 🙂

Things to Remember When Discussing “Ringers”

  1. How do we define a “ringer”? Well, we define it as someone who has a clear advantage of some kind over the other contestants, be it dance experience or size of fanbase. Sure, there are lots of other possible advantages – one person is really likeable (Kellie) while another person is a bitch (Joanna) – but that is neither measurable nor objective. Not even close to objective. For every person who loves Kellie, there is probably one who thinks she’s an idiot. And for every person that claimed to hate Joanna, there were more who really like her or grew to like her as they saw her on DWTS. Do all athletes have a clear advantage and are therefore ringers? Of course not. They might have the work ethic, but many of them have characteristics that work against them being a good dancer and a lot of them don’t have a fanbase that overlaps with the DWTS demographic. Football players, for example, may or may not have large fanbases, but most don’t overlap with the DWTS demo. And not all of them have gone far on the show – their success depends heavily on their personality and dance ability – therefore you can’t really label them ringers. It’s not a “guarantee” of success. Then there are the athletes who have some sort of dance training as part of their sport training – like Ice Dancers and Figure Skaters. And if you put them on the show shortly after they win gold? Look out. And seriously look out if they are hugely popular even years after winning gold, like Kristi Yamaguchi.

 

Think BIG, clear advantages over every day advantages. Advantages that, on paper, appear to put that person out in front of the others.  On paper, for example, Brandy and Jennifer Grey are the same, with the exception of Jennifer being 20 years older than Brandy. Both went to a performing arts high school. Both learned to dance for a movie. But what advantage did Jennifer have over Brandy? Dirty Dancing – an iconic movie with iconic characters. Brandy? Cinderella. No contest. So, Jennifer is a fanbase ringer and Brandy isn’t really a ringer at all. Could both be labeled dance ringers? Well, I suppose they could, but Brandy would win the label on that one, since Jennifer’s ‘one dance for a movie’ was 25 plus years ago AND she has screws and plates in her neck. Learning one dance for a movie is hardly the same as dancing on Broadway or dancing in a boy/girl band. When you’re in a movie, you get as many takes as you need to get it right. Dance on stage and you better know what the hell you’re doing cuz there are no ‘do overs’.  For that reason, Brandy isn’t really a ringer, while Marissa Jarret Winokur is a low level ringer.  Another example?? Donny Osmond. I think Courtney and I knew he was going to win the instant he was announced. Why? Extremely rabid fanbase who directly coincides with the DWTS typical demographic AND ballroom lessons before the show started. Therefore, he’s a dual attribute ringer – about as close to a guaranteed win as one can get on this show.

  1. Sometimes advantages are cancelled out by larger disadvantages. What good does your dance experience do you if you’re 50, 60 years old? Probably not much, when competing against younger, equally talented people. Seriously, if you don’t believe this then old age karma is going to get you.  You gonna call Florence Henderson a ringer? I don’t think so. 🙂
  1. Hind Sight is 20/20 – avoid revisionist history. The big thing to remember when talking about ringers and horrible partners is that hind sight is 20/20 – it’s very, very easy to point and complain when the season is already over and revisionist history has set in. The best example of this phenomenon is when Derek was handed Lil’ Kim and Maks got Denise Richards. Oh such happiness that Derek the golden boy had gotten the ex-con, controversial woman who surely couldn’t dance, while Maks got Brooke Burke reincarnate. She was beautiful and young, so surely she could dance, right? Ummm….LOL. Then they made the exact same mistake with Joanna Krupa. This proves the point that you can’t tell from just looking at some people whether they’re going to be great on DWTS or not. And it also proves that Karma will get you if you rejoice in the apparent misfortune of others.

Remember – these people don’t actually do a dance audition to get on the show. People that seem like they might be good (Denise Richards) can turn out to be horrible and vice versa (Lil’ Kim).  So, how can one complain about Kate Gosselin when you didn’t know she would be a horrible dancer just from looking at her? I suppose that those who watched her show could suspect that she was a horrible beyotch, but would that have mattered if she turned out to be a great dancer? Not to Tony and not to Tony’s fans. It only matters now cuz she was a crappy dancer too.

  1. How does the contestant look on paper? I attempt to look at the contestants ‘on paper’ and think of how they appeared before they had even danced a step. It’s difficult, and I may not always get it right. There are contestants that I waffle on to this day, such as Joey Lawrence.  However, if you want to argue with me about who’s a ringer and who isn’t, you’re going to need PROOF – saying “in my opinion” doesn’t cut it in this instance.   You also need more than a Wikipedia entry, as I can go in and change those things myself. For example, on paper there is no difference between Jennie Garth and Shannen Doherty. None. Similar backgrounds, similar age – only difference is that one had Derek and one didn’t. Was Jennie better liked? Maybe – but you can’t vote *against* someone on DWTS. When it comes to actual advantages (which is the definition of “ringer” on this site), they’re pretty much on even footing.  Likewise Denise Richards and Joanna Krupa. Joanna went farther and she’s the one with the supposed big negative stacked against her.
  1. Dance “ability” is not the same thing as dance “experience”. This is a big one that a lot of people who are not prone to critical thinking have a lot of trouble with. The latter makes you a ringer, the former doesn’t. Brooke Burke – lots of natural talent, NO actual experience. Same with Kellie Pickler, Audrina Patridge, Chynna Phillips….there’s a long list.  But really, if you’re not paired with Derek and end up being a good dancer, you’re less likely to get labeled a ringer in any case – even if you ARE a ringer.  This is where the “all Derek’s partners are ringers” idiotic argument comes into play.
  1. Just cuz you sing, it doesn’t mean you dance too. This is where a few lines have to be drawn. There are lots and lots of singers in the history of DWTS and the tendency some have is to label them all ringers. Not so. I would say that most of them AREN’T ringers, actually. Trust me when I say I had to watch a lot of (bad) music videos to make my determinations on the singer ringers (ha) versus non-ringers. Swaying to the beat or walking to the beat is NOT dancing. The Pussycat Dolls and Spice Girls do a form of dancing. Aaron Carter and Romeo really don’t.
  1. Don’t talk to me about Performing Arts High School unless the person in question is in their early 20’s. Seriously, not everyone is Derek Hough and does everything well. Now, if someone went to a performing arts high school and continued dancing right up to their appearance on DWTS? We can talk.

For how I determined who was a ringer of some type and who wasn’t (besides the list above) read “What do you mean, I’m a Ringer, Part II” as I don’t want to take the space to discuss it again and my methods haven’t really changed.

Update on the Ringer Stats

Here are the category breakdowns, complete with qualifying asterisks (Click to enlarge):

As you can see, I don’t believe that all ringers are created equally. I think this should be obvious.  Is someone who was a professional cheerleader the same as someone who danced professionally – like, say, Melissa versus Mya??  Well, I sure don’t think so. I think there is a level of complexity to what Mya does versus what Melissa does – but both clearly have an advantage over someone like Jennie Garth or Denise Richards.

The same goes for people with huge fanbases. You should know by now that the key demographic that watches DWTS is middle aged women. So, intuitively, you should recognize that someone like Jennifer Grey is going to have a leg up on someone like Cody Simpson. Sure, Cody had a couple million Twitter followers to Jen’s tens of thousands – but Jennifer starred in an iconic movie years ago that matches up perfectly with the DWTS demo. Cody? Not so much. The youngsters aren’t watching this show that much.

Of course, the DWTS fans can grow to really like someone whose fanbase doesn’t necessarily coincide with the typical demo and carry them a long way on the show. And some young fanbases are cray cray – see Zendaya and James Maslow. Both have huge, young fanbases who clearly voted like crazy. But it wasn’t enough to win.

This is where I insert a side bar: too many people confuse votes with ratings. This is ridiculous. The youngsters may not always be good voters, but they most certainly will watch the show if the object of their affection is on. Like we harp on constantly here at PureDWTS, a huge twitter following doesn’t guarantee a long stay on the show, nor a win. I think it can carry you a few weeks if you can dance, for sure. But no guarantees. But this is NOT the same thing as those folks bringing in the ratings. I’ll be doing a separate post over the next day or so that discusses ratings, but I have to lay it out there: there is a reason they continually do things and get celebs that appeal to a younger demographic – IT WORKS. If it didn’t they would stop doing it.  They bring in these young folks with the huge twitter followings (Cody, James, Zendaya, Bethany, etc) to up the ratings in the key demo. But think about it – that doesn’t guarantee a win because the average viewer is a middle aged woman and the show has 13 MILLION viewers – Cody’s 2 million twitter followers is chump change in that setting. If his followers aren’t good voters, he doesn’t stand a chance. But they’re still watching, aren’t they.  Yes. This is why I laugh when certain fans say that the ratings will crash if their pro isn’t on. Um…none of the pros have more than 600k followers and you think that a single one of them has a bigger impact on the ratings than all the other celebs and pros combined? More than those with the huge twitter followings? Get real. Here’s a hint: there was ONE person who had a noticeable, measurable and POSITIVE impact on the ratings outside the margin of error and his name is Enrique.

ANYWAY, I digress. The female pros clearly get the short end of the stick when it comes to ringers. As I’ve said in the past, the reasons for this should be obvious. They are dancing with men, who are less likely to get involved in dance from an early age and onward. Which is sad, IMO. To this day there are some parents who won’t put male children (even those who show a desire and an aptitude) in dance classes out of fear. Fear that they will become gay or are gay or whatever. It’s sickening. I speak from personal experience here, unfortunately. Enough said. Anyway, the male pros are predisposed to have a higher number of ringers simply because they are dancing with women and even in the women who aren’t working in dance, they often have some level of experience in dance. Not always, of course, but the odds are higher than they are for the men.  Let’s look at the female pros first:

Yeah, an actual paucity of ringers. Yowza. Really, what is there to say other than Karina has been fortunate. Karina is also the female pro most likely to get hosed by the judges. As for the dancers this season, Whitney is the only one to get an actual ringer, but that is only barely.  I researched this one a good bit and while Alfonso claims to be a professional tapper, I can find NO video of him tapping over the age of ten, or however old he was when he was on Broadway.  And don’t give the “carlton” as experience. I’ve watched several videos of him and “the Carlton” and if you can teach it to a flash mob of non-dancers it ain’t all that. He is BARELY a ringer – the fact that he is 42 years old and was on Broadway 30 years ago, I felt bad even labeling him as that. Courtney helped me out and we couldn’t find any REAL experience for the rest of them. Tommy might know a salsa, but he’s 72 years old. Betsey goofed around…but again, the lady ain’t no spring chicken. As for fan favorites – I don’t know if any one of the men qualifies as an audience ringer. I guess Alfonso might be the closest, but I’m a bit skeptical.

As for the Male pros? Well, they’ve been blessed. Everyone has gotten a ringer or two – no one’s been left out, at least not the current or recent pros.

Talking about this season, for a moment, we couldn’t find anything at all on Sadie or Lolo.  Betsey seems like she goofed around when she was young, but now she’s 72 and anything she did before the age of 50 is pretty moot. Bethany? Well, as much as people would love to point and scream ringer, the girl had hip hop and jazz dance lessons when she was 13. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing different than what MOST pre-teens, including myself, had. And certainly far less than Janel, our resident ringer with dance training. And lots of it, apparently – jazz, tap, broadway, ballet and hip hop. Much more current than either Bethany or Lea. Speaking of Lea – this is also an experienced dancer. Ballet to be precise. Of course, her ballet was more than 30 years ago so it’s kinda ridiculous to put her in the same category as Janel.  She did have little bits of Broadway style dancing in recent years, but nothing tremendous.  In terms of audience, I would say that Bethany has a leg up on her competition, but the question with such a fanbase is if they will actually vote.

When I look at this chart, I have to laugh at those who say Derek always gets the best partners. I mean, we can argue about which level a ringer someone should be, but that doesn’t change the fact that Derek has had a wide spectrum of partners with vastly different ages, experiences and sizes. It’s quite surprising seeing it in print. What is also not so surprising, in print, is the fact that Val has been extremely blessed with ringers. Why he raises his hands to the sky to thank god for Janel is beyond me. Not that she’s not great, she is – but most ALL of his partners have been great.  Hell, Val has had more ringers than Alec had actual partners. I wonder what Louis, who always bitched about Derek’s partners, would say about Val’s? Or has he been drinking his own koolaide? I suspect yes.

Even poor, poor Tony (snerk) has had a couple ringers and more than a couple “lucky gets” – I’m so shocked to see that they’ve not all been Kate Gosselin! (End Sarcasm)  🙂 And for those of you who were praising god that Maks “finally got a great partner” last season – well, you might want to invest in some ginkgo biloba. He’s done as good, if not better, than Derek in both ringers AND lucky gets.

At the end of the day, there are many factors that go into who gets what partner. Yes, there is some degree of putting the popular pros with people likely to stick around – but that’s no longer just Derek. Hell, it was NEVER just Derek. I dare you to try to convince me otherwise while sounding rational.  They have REASONS for why certain pros get certain partners – of course a lot of it has to do with personality, height and other mysterious factors. I still maintain that, aside from last season, they don’t care who wins the show. But they do want the pros with serious fanbases to stick around for a while, so those fanbases stick around for a while. But far more important is the celebrity’s fanbase, if they have one. In many cases, the celebrities have fanbases that far outshine the pro’s they are dancing with (and sometimes the reverse is true). The celebrities who have huge fanbases (or who are just seen as good gets by the producers) often ask for particular pros.  See Derek/Jennifer, Derek/Nicole, Maks/Erin, Maks/Kirstie and probably many more we don’t know about or that I’ve forgotten.

What’s the deal with Val’s partners, because he seems to be the anomaly and he certainly hasn’t been around long enough to gain the popularity of Derek, Mark or Maks? Well, perhaps they’re trying to replace Maks and they need to get him to stick around so people can grow to love him? (Doubt it – even I prefer Maks to Val.) Or perhaps they’re leveling the playing field? Let’s face it – Derek goes to the finals or semi-finals most of the time regardless of his partner. Mark and Val can’t say the same. They can be fairly confident that Derek will stick around for a while no matter who they hand him – the same can’t be said, yet, for Val.  Or perhaps Val’s great partners are a result of Derek’s needs (and they’ll meet his needs to keep him). He’s pretty adamant that he needs to be inspired, challenged. So they gave him Amy, a woman with no feet. Then they give him Bethany – a young woman who is an entrepreneur, who was bullied, and who pulled herself up and made something of herself before the age of 18. That leaves the “ringers” to Val – and I have to say, Val seems to need the ringer (and the potential win) far more than Derek does. I think part of Derek’s partners – and as a result, Mark and Val’s partners – are also about keeping Derek challenged. And a happy Derek is a Derek who continues on DWTS well past the time he should have moved on.

But besides all that…..Really, I have to commend the producers because if there is one thing they seem to do well these days, is put the right celeb with the right partner, from a personality standpoint. Most of the partners seem well matched, such that everyone is happy. And shouldn’t that be their goal?? Happy celebs, great entertainment? It works for me. 🙂