Dancing With the Stars

Should 'DWTS' judges get the ballroom boot?

Nov. 7, 2011 at 8:43 AM ET

Adam Taylor / ABC /
This season, "Dancing With the Stars" judges Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli have routinely given inflated scores for subpar dances.

Bad moves in the ballroom are nothing new to “Dancing With the Stars,” but this season, some of the worst ones have nothing to do with the flawed footwork on the dance floor. Instead they involve the people flashing the score paddles after each routine.

That’s right. It’s not the hoofer hopefuls or even the hot-headed pros that are the problem. According to many “Dancing” fans, who haven’t been shied away from sharing their opinions on our Facebook page and during our weeklychats, the judges are the ones deserving the dreaded ballroom boot.

Whether it’s routinely inflated scores, criticism that centers more on the person than the performance or just matter of appearing to pick favorites — or all three (Hi, Carrie Ann Inaba!) — the spotlight is on the panelists now.

And the complaints aren’t limited to vocal viewers. While no one was surprised when “Dancing’s” resident bad boy, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, sounded off to head judge Len Goodman after a recent post-performance critique — after all, it’s exactly the sort of rant Chmerkovskiy is known for — few would expect a quieter albeit similar beef from pro Lacey Schwimmer.

“It’s hard to take this competition seriously when the judges are so inconsistent,” Schwimmer said during a post-ouster “Good Morning America” interview.

Her former celebrity partner, Chaz Bono, agreed, but it wasn’t just inconsistent evaluation that got to him. Instead, Bono accused one judge of body bashing.

“I got a lot of references from (Bruno Tonioli) about things that would indicate the fact that I’m overweight, you know, a roundness,” he said. “I was called a basketball, a penguin, an Ewok, and I just didn’t appreciate it. If you want to critique my dancing and give me some constructive advice so I can try to improve the next time that I’m there. ... But I don’t really know how to be less penguish.”

Of course, Tonioli has long made a habit of outrageous commentary — sometimes to a more entertaining effect than others — but that has nothing to do with what might be the worst judicial offense of the season. Even when he and the other paddle-holders remain focused on the routines, they often lose sight of the scores.

Padded, feel-good scores leave a leaderboard with just a few points separating the best from the worst. For instance, during the Halloween performance night, the judges were unanimous in handing out 7s to “Dancing” dud Nancy Grace and 9s for a near-perfect performance from Ricki Lake. It’s hard to imagine anyone, much less someone with the five decades of ballroom experience that Goodman has, believing that the range of between bad or even fair to great falls between a 7 and a 9.

Then again, the judges aren’t just there to dryly hand out (much more accurate) scores and nitpicks. Their personalities are just as important as anything else they bring to the ballroom. So maybe the best bet isn’t to give them the boot, at least not yet.

Instead, have Goodman and the gang do what they so often demand of the dancers — take a look at their faults and work hard to fix them.

What do you think of the “Dancing” judges? Does the panel need improvement or a complete overhaul? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.


Related content: