PureDWTS Season 28: What The Show Needs to Do to “Fix” Itself

After an 8 month hiatus (the longest in the history of the US version of the show), the next season of DWTS is upon us! Admittedly, I enjoyed the break – aside from the reprieve it gave me in my already-busy work/school schedule (I graduate in October with a bachelor of science in social media marketing…does this officially make me an expert blogger now? 🙂 ), it gave me time to ruminate on just how season 27 went so far off the rails, and what needs to be done to get DWTS back on track.

One opinion I heard quite a bit in the off-season? “Bobby is the reason why season 27 sucked!” While I agree that Bobby seemed to dry-hump my last nerve on a weekly basis last season, here’s a revelation I had…

…Bobby wasn’t the reason season 27 sucked. Bobby was simply a symptom of a much bigger problem: the show neglecting its core audience in favor of foolishly pursuing a wider, younger audience by tinkering too much with a formula that already worked pretty well on its own.

This isn’t something that happened overnight – I’d estimate it probably started about ten years ago, with season 9 (aka “the kitchen sink season with wayyyyy too many couples” – and also my first season here at Pure), and has simply gone through a cycle of snowballing and slightly receding since then. We had season 9 that threw a whopping 16 couples at us, absurd new dance styles and challenges, and the biggest ringer (Mya) and biggest ego (Donny) we had seen to date. Then we had the pared-down season 10, with only 11 couples and relatively normal dance styles.  Season 11 brought our first truly “controversial” contestant – Bristol Palin, whose continued presence (and only mediocre performance) seemed to polarize even the most laid-back fans. Season 12 was a return to form, casting-wise, but was the first time we saw the invisible ABC family hand pulling the strings to keep a Disney kid (Chelsea Kane) in the game despite them simply not having the votes. Season 13 gave us a pro shakeup, but otherwise seemed relatively tame; season 14’s agenda seemed to include making William Levy “happen”, despite being a fair-to-middling dancer that was a relative unknown to the show’s audience. Season 15 was the dumpster fire many of us recall as the All-Star season; season 16, aside from its unexpected outcome, was also fairly tame in the grand scheme of things.  So was season 17, which ended up being a pleasant surprise despite a cast that seemed pretty ho-hum initially. Season 18 saw the Meryl & Maks PR machine; season 19 gifted us with some great dancing and a cast that seemed to get along really, really well. Season 20 was “Val’s Rumer’s season” from the jump, and seemed to get extra nasty with the ringer finger-pointing. Season 21, aside from some shady partner-shuffling and Tamar being…well, Tamar, was relatively uneventful. Season 22 had a great cast, aside from there simply being too much competition; season 23 saw the rise of a previously-unknown-but-later-much-beloved star (Hinch), only to get felled in the end by a contestant that had been rather inconsistent throughout the season and conveniently was going on tour (Laurie). Season 24, which I like to refer to as “chock full o’ ringers”, was a good season, aside from being a bit of a thought experiment on what happens when you throw an ungodly number of female ringers in with a bunch of men that have absolutely no dance experience; season 25 was the last season I remember that was good on the whole, with great dancing and a generally quite likeable cast. And then the hammer dropped: ABC made the dumbfounding decision to pick up the defunct American Idol, hire Katy Perry to judge, and then fall all over themselves to cater to her demand for a whopping $25 million salary…and things start to get dicey REAL quick…

…2018 rolls around, and we’re told that we’re getting a paltry 3-week spring season of the show with just athletes, and it ends up being a pretty predictable (and snoozeworthy) endeavor. We’re treated to the delightfully un-manipulated DWTS Juniors airing concurrent with the fall season which is…a dumpster fire of epic proportions. Terrible dancers with obnoxious personalities defy logic with their staying power (Joe & Bobby), one ringer (Tinashe) quickly gets eliminated while production struggles to keep the other ringer (Alexis) in the game with a schlocky and painfully-forced showmance with her partner. The one really good male celebrity (Juan Pablo) is unsettlingly “juan-note” and just seems to do the same routine each week, and the full package of skill, personality, and fanbase (DeMarcus) gets injured and never quite gets his mojo back. By the time Bobby got his trophy, the wheels had completely fallen off season 27.

When you take season 27 in the bigger context of what has been happening on the show the past ten years, it’s easier to see what went so horribly wrong: the show was likely going through its usual “make a stupid change, regret it, change it back the next season” cycle, and the arrival of the albatross that is American Idol simply put a brick on the accelerator: what probably would have been a relatively minor snafu turned into a flaming pile of garbage instead.

The news surrounding the new season seems to indicate that they knew they messed up with season 27, and to quote dear ol’ Tommy Bergeron “We hear you.” Do they, though? I’m seeing the same promise we hear season after season that they’re “going after bigger celebs” and “making format changes”– and I’m not sure that’s what the show needs. Hell, I’m fairly certain it’s not what the show needs – I think we need a “back to basics” season like season 10 to cleanse our palates. This show has never been about getting “big stars”; its early success was built on a bunch of has-beens and d-listers attempting to learn how to dance while giving us all a shot of nostalgia. Part of me wonders if we’ll lose a bit of the magic if they actually do manage to get a current A-lister on the show (I’m dubious that they’ll actually pull it off). As for format changes – the only changes I want to see are a return to simpler times, when they didn’t do wacky stuff like the dance-offs, immunity, live voting, etc. What I think we might end up with: a judges’ save, which doesn’t really do anything but piss off the fans.  But as is DWTS is wont to do – they will probably make some nonsensical choices and call them “improvements”, and we will probably be eye-rolling and shaking our heads once we hear about all these super-duper top secret format changes.

All complaints aside, if this 8 month hiatus has done anything, it’s given me a clearer slate and a lot more of an open mind for the season to come.  I’m willing to give it a fair shake – whether I continue to do so depends entirely upon these “changes” we’re being promised and how they manage to play out.

Thoughts? Feelings headed into the new season? I’ve got more content queued up for the coming days and weeks…stay tuned 😉