Where Have You Gone, Dancing with the Stars? Heidi Rants.

Well, I feel I have to get something off my chest.

I loved (yes, past tense) Dancing with the Stars. Unashamed and openly. But what the current producers have done to this show has made it unrecognizable. A mere shadow of its formerly great self.

It started small. I’m not even sure I can put my finger on WHERE it started. There were signs for years that DWTS was, at it’s core, a reality show – for sure, a reality show that is highly produced. But it was so subtle, so nuanced – there weren’t competing agendas that impacted the direction of the show, such as the tour.  It featured ballroom dancing by celebrities from all walks of life. It showed, very clearly, to the masses that professional dancers are elite athletes with highly conditioned bodies and sublime talent and creativity. It introduced us to the talents of people like Derek Hough, Mark Ballas, and Julianne Hough – the three who took a ballroom dancing show and pushed it to the next level. All the professional dancers upped their game and pushed themselves to be better, more creative, dancers. They all were responsible for bringing ballroom dancing to gorgeous, entertaining heights and into, at times, 15 to 20 million households (back in the day).  We met celebrities that were often B list at best – and grew to love them more than they had ever enjoyed before, in some cases. It redeemed many celebs, humanized them…and showed us journeys of growth and friendship and camaraderie. The celebrities that caused me to roll my eyes or guffaw with laughter when they were announced, often turned out to be some of my favorite contestants ever on the show. Sadie Robertson…Rob Kardashian…Tommy Chong…Kelly Osborne…Bill Engvall…Snookie…the list is really too long.

So, what happened to that show? Was it as simple as a change at the top? The departure of long time executive producer Conrad Greene?  Where did it start? I know some would point to the very obvious pushing of some celebrities to the MBT. The agenda was often plain. We need pro X to win, because he’s going to be a judge on the show…or he’s going on tour. That might be part of it, and certainly a huge factor in those wins was a subtle manipulation of the audience. That’s what happens when you have multiple, conflicting agendas and you’re trying to serve them all. You can’t afford to let some seasons play out naturally because you need someone in particular to win – or NOT win. And it’s not particularly new – taking it all the way to the winners circle aggressively may be new, but that subtle manipulation certainly isn’t. And it’s not constant. They can’t afford to manipulate the MBT OUT of someone’s hands who is killing it in votes. That’s cutting off your nose to spite your face. No, they can’t do it all the time, but it’s fairly obvious when there’s a man behind the curtain.

But that doesn’t account for what started last season and climaxed (god, I HOPE that was the climax) this past Monday night. This past Monday night, Dancing with the Stars actually made me sick and want to turn away from the TV. This is a DANCE show. DANCE. It’s not the Bachelor. It’s not Real Housewives…it’s not Keeping up with the Kardashians. If I wanted to watch those shows, I would WATCH THOSE SHOWS. Good lord. First, it was the never-ending saga of Tamar and her “pneumonia”. I put pneumonia in quotes because while I do believe she is sick and has been for a while – I doubt very much that it is pneumonia. Do you really believe that she got clearance from a doctor to dance in that short period of time between the middle of dress and when she got back to the studio? Have you ever driven in LA?? I don’t imagine how she even made it to a full-blown hospital.

Listen, I don’t blame Tamar for any of what actually played out on TV – not at all. She wasn’t THERE. This post isn’t about that. She felt bad, fed up, whatever and left. She should have told the producers and Val, sure – but that’s a separate issue. They (the producers) took a situation that was dicey…and played up for all it was worth on national TV. I imagine Rob Wade in a back room rubbing his hands together and cackling with glee over the ramping it up into this huge manufactured DRAMA.

Think about it – all they had to do was say, “Tamar has been sick and has gone to see a doctor.” Period. Carry on with the show. But no, we had constant updates on where Tamar was and what she was doing. Was she going to make it in time!! Is she going to dance!! Oh lawd, whatevah will we do!! You run the damn show, that’s what you do. You have plenty of material so you won’t run short. You played Tamar’s dress run for her individual dance and one of the pros could have stood in for her during the duet dance. At the end of the show, you give a little update of how she is and that’s it. But no. You had to overshadow a night of brilliant dancing and fun packages. Despite how I felt that Nick’s dance didn’t have enough quickstep, it was still good dancing. Bindi and Alexa were brilliant. Alek improved and he actually made Carlos seem like a human being. I’m sorry but the drama with Tamar made it seem like you took a brilliant dance like the Chicago duet and took a big smelly dump on it. Pardon the expression.

But that wasn’t even the worst of it. At the end of the show, they did what Courtney and I predicted way back when Carlos and Alexa were announced – only they took that cheap, unnecessary shot and made it a THOUSAND times worse. They whipped out the stealth cam and turned on their mics during the commercial break. The last time I saw something that sleazy on TV was…well, last season when they used it on Robert and Kym. Is this DWTS or TMZ?? Disgusting. Appalling. Forget the OTT behavior of Carlos, and to a lesser extent Alexa, and look at what the producers did with it. Turned it into a freakin’ circus.

And this was just the lowest of the low points of the last few seasons! I shudder to think what the next two weeks will bring – kneecap Bindi and then zoom in on her face and ask her how she feels? I’m actually SHOCKED that they didn’t air the footage they have of Sharna checking her petals in the makeup mirror (and isn’t that the whole point of that mirror camera anyway?)! That should tell you something about my opinion of the producers on this show. Craven. Cynical.  And it’s infected a lot of people who work on that show. You don’t get much more cynical than attacking Derek on national TV for what was very clearly a strategy to make sure that all the couples get to dance what they want to dance in a stupid assed dance off. It was obvious to anyone who knows Derek. And, as he said in his blog, all the pros discussed it. But Tom’s and Erin’s (and Julianne’s) reactions were ones of “You can’t do that, you’re playing tricks….etc” Treating him like he was being shady and keeping harping on it. Julianne even faulted Carlos and Witney for going along. Think about it. It’s not a huge thing, no. I doubt it had much impact. But THINK about what all was said and how it reflects the character and intentions of the people on the show. Erin and Tom protesting and Julianne questioning why Witney went along with it speaks to the real goals of the show – drama, conflict and anxiety. As soon as Derek tries to level that all out, he comes under fire. Witney whispers to Carlos “You wanna mess with them?” and that is the *accepted and expected and desired* behavior. So much for camaraderie and family, eh? So much for a family show, eh?

I have to laugh, now, at the pros who whine about Derek always getting good partners and winning too much. Without Derek and his perpetually sunny outlook, this show would truly be in the shitter. Derek, Bindi, Alek and Alexa. The rest are intense, dramatic and playing into the BS surrounding this show, and in some cases starting it. Um, how about you start complaining about the over dramatization of Tamar and Carlos/Alexa last night? How about you protest the stealth cam footage of Kym and Robert. Or how about you be HONEST about the judging – and not just when it pertains to Derek, but to ALL of the pros. How about you NOT play into the marriage proposals, the baby announcements, the (shudder) gender reveal, the innuendo about relationship that only exist for the sake of votes, the subtle reminders of which pros haven’t won, the pee wee baseball mentality and the sob story packages designed to plea for votes.

Seriously, did any of the pros watch the show last week/night and not see what was going on? The judges’ agenda has never been clearer, when they got every single dance off WRONG. Did they not see the constant repetition of Tamar’s “I’m the best dancer” video for what it was? They did it to Nastia last season and this season was Tamar. Derek mentioned (in a very “Derek” way) it in his blog, Val blew a gasket over it the other night…and still they do it. Instead of whining about Derek winning all the time, how about you kids all pitch a Val style fit when the packages are utter bullshit. You can’t do it on TV, most likely, but you can in private. And let’s face it – this show has moved on to where YOU are the stars of the show now. All of you. Instead of whining about Derek, how about you all stick together?

You can roll your eyes and say, “Ah, but this is just a silly dance show” and so not worth getting so upset about. Sure. Sure thing. But it’s a silly dance show that people will stop watching…which means the pros will in many cases be unemployed and those of you pooh poohing this post won’t be able to watch any more. One thing I can say with utter certainty is that I ain’t the only one disgusted by this turn of events.

Worst of all, DWTS is becoming one of the things on TV that is a reflection of a lot of the worst of society. Pitting people against each other, using a moment of weakness against someone, tearing down people who attempt to be KIND, egging people on to “mess with” each other, BULLYING. You don’t think that Tamar felt bullied when they kept playing that line over and over again? Of COURSE she did!

Yes, DWTS used to be a fun silly dance show. If only it still was.