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Image: "Dancing" contestants compete in a group performance
Adam Larkey  /  ABC
A second dance, whether it's a group performance or an individual act, is preferred to mindless filler.
By
TODAY contributor
updated 11/1/2010 2:26:08 AM ET 2010-11-01T06:26:08

Monday night marks a special milestone for “Dancing With the Stars.” After five years, 11 seasons and countless spray tans, the celebrity ballroom battle broadcasts its 200th episode.

Many past performers will be on hand for the festivities, as will a few of their classic routines. There’s even a dance-off planned for the current competitors. All in all, it’s set to be an evening of self-congratulatory fun for the “Dancing” gang.

Then it’s back to business as usual. That is, unless sometime after the ballroom back-patting comes to an end, the “Dancing”-powers-that-be take a look at what made those 200 episodes work and what it might take to put 200 more under their collective, bedazzled belt.

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It may fly in the face of don’t-mess-with-success logic, but even the frequent ratings leader has room for improvement — quite a bit of room with those two-hour episodes each Monday night.

Filler-free
Two hours may not seem like a lot of time at the beginning of a season. It takes a while to air 12 couples worth of rehearsal clips and new routines. But as the show draws near the halfway point in the season and fewer faces require the spotlight, every extra minute drags.

Eventually, when there’s no other choice, the show shortens for the final stretch of the season. Until then, performance night borrows heavily from results night and packs the bonus time with dreaded time-fillers.

Bristol Palin 'shocked' to still be 'Dancing'

Monday night lacks the Macy’s Stars of Dance or pop act of the week, but there’s certainly no shortage of clip segments featuring extra-gabby judges. To make matters worse, the recent trend is to fill the first 30 minutes of the competition with those segments ... not that it can really be called a competition if the ballroom wannabes are waiting around in the wings for the real show to start.

If “Dancing” has any hope of holding out for another 200 episodes, the filler has to go, or at least remain relegated to its Tuesday night home. Performance night should be about the performances. Double dances, extended rehearsal footage and even the always-awful group routines are fine, but no matter how much time is left, the “How Far the Dancers Have Come” and “A Closer Look at What We’ve Already Seen” spots are always a bad idea.

And if filler-free isn’t an option, here’s hoping spreading the filler throughout the show is. It’s just not fair to force viewers to wait so long before catching a glimpse of what they came for — dancers dancing.

Shirts are overrated
After all, that’s what it’s all about — the stars, or reasonable facsimiles, and the pros proving what they can do on the dance floor. OK, it’s also about how they look on the dance floor.

Image: Pro dancers perform
Adam Larkey  /  ABC
Yes, a few chests have been on display this season thanks to pros, from left, Derek Hough, Louis Van Amstel and Damian Whitewood, but not nearly as often as before.

Skin-tight, sparkling and barely there costumes are as much a part of the bash as sambas, the live band and grumpy head judge Len Goodman. The old “sex sells” adage is alive and well in the ballroom (and of course, everywhere else). So why is it that “Dancing” looks a bit more covered up lately?

Oh sure, skimpy outfits continue to take center stage and the occasional shirtless stud makes his way into the works, but it’s nothing like the rapid-fire rounds of half-nude Maksim Chmerkovskiy and three-quarters nude Edyta Sliwinska of seasons past. One reason for that is the obvious absence of Sliwinska this season. (Note to the ballroom bigwigs: Bring her — and the tiny strips of cloth she calls costumes — back if you want to make it to the 400-episode mark.) But the other part of the problem is a case of bare-chested backlash.

Last season, Chmerkovskiy’s near-weekly exhibitionist tendencies got under one judge’s skin. Goodman groaned about it, telling the pro, “I’m fed up, Maks, with the shirts coming off!” That man speaks for himself, but he knocked a couple of points off an important routine while he was at it. Maybe that’s why there’s only been one completely shirtless Chmerkovskiy sighting since then.

So, to help ensure the future of the show and to satisfy fans wading in the shallow end of the ballroom pool (Hi!), forget the fabric. Shirts are overrated.

Revolving-door co-hosts
Another thing the production could use substantially less of is the current co-host.

For all the complaints viewers and critics had about host Tom Bergeron’s previous on-air partner, Samantha Harris, she wasn’t any worse than replacement Brooke Burke. Where Harris had her bizarre updos, Burke has her distracting dresses. Where Harris had trouble making it through a sentence flub-free, Burke has trouble making through a single segment without asking someone, “How did that feel?”

Just imagine 200 more episodes of that. Perhaps the time has come to get rid of the regular co-host gig. Bergeron, aka the greatest live host in the history of live hosting, can continue to handle the bulk of the camera time. As for those backstage chats, why not change it up? Recently eliminated contestants, stars who’ve left their dancing days long behind them or any other celeb could stand in for a short co-host stint.

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The best part of the revolving-door approach to co-hosting duties is that a stinker would never stick around for too long.

These aren’t big changes. The fact is the basic “Dancing” formula works. A nip here and tweak there is fine. What “Dancing” doesn’t need to do is ditch the perfect balance between cheesy fun and legitimate ballroom moves it established in episode one. There’s no such thing as too much spray tan or too many sequins. There will never come a day when a perfect waltz feels unwelcome. The formula needs some fine tuning, not an overhaul.

Ree Hines would like to kindly ask Len Goodman to shut it on the subject of shirtlessness. These people are professionals. They know what they’re doing. Follow @ReeHines on Twitter and share your show suggestions.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Video: Audrina on 'Dancing's' tough judges

Photos: 'Dancing With the Stars' season 11

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  1. Bristol Palin

    Bristol Palin, former first daughter of Alaska, first entered the national spotlight when her mother, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was selected to be John McCain’s runningmate in the 2008 Presidential election. After giving birth to her son, Tripp, and becoming a single teen mother in 2008, she became a spokesperson for the prevention of teen pregnancy and for other teen issues. Palin recently guest starred as herself on an episode of ABC Family’s "The Secret Life of the American Teenager." Her partner is Mark Ballas. (Bob D'Amico / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Kurt Warner

    Kurt Warner is the first quarterback to participate on "Dancing with the Stars." In 1999, led the St. Louis Rams to a victory in Super Bowl XXXIV. He eventually moved on from the Rams to the Giants and finally to the Arizona Cardinals in 2005. In 2007 he led the Cardinals to their first ever Super Bowl and was voted to his fourth Pro Bowl. He is partnered with Anna Trebunskaya. (Bob D'Amico / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Jennifer Grey

    Nobody puts Jennifer Grey in a corner! Grey starred as Frances "Baby" Houseman in the iconic 1987 box office hit "Dirty Dancing" with the late Patrick Swayze. Some of her other films include "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Red Dawn" and "The Cotton Club." Her partner is Derek Hough. (Bob D'Amico / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Kyle Massey

    Kyle Massey stars as Cory Baxter in the Disney Channel sitcom, "Cory in the House." He originated the role of Cory in Disney's "That’s So Raven," the first show in Disney's history to produce over 100 episodes. He will partner with Lacey Schwimmer. (Bob D'Amico / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Rick Fox

    A three-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, actor and producer Rick Fox has appeared in a number of film and television projects, sharing the screen with actors ranging from Whoopi Goldberg to Henry Winkler, Angela Bassett and Shia LeBeouf. His partner is Cheryl Burke. (Bob D'Amico / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Brandy

    Brandy is a platinum-selling R&B and pop singer, actress, songwriter and record/television producer. In 1994, at the age of 15, Brandy released her eponymous debut album, selling over 6 million copies. She is currently filming Season 2 of the VH1 reality show "Brandy and Ray J: a Family Business." She will dance with Maksim Chmerkovskiy. (Bob D'Amico / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Michael Bolton

    He can sing, but can he dance? Michael Bolton has sold more than 53 million records, released 18 studio albums, won multiple Grammys for Best Male Vocalist and countless other honors, all while selling out arenas worldwide. His partner is Chelsie Hightower. (Bob D'Amico / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Florence Henderson

    Florence Henderson will always be best known in syndication worldwide as "America's Favorite Mom" and matriarch Carol Brady on the classic TV series "The Brady Bunch," which aired for five seasons (1969-1974). Henderson has been a celebrity spokeswoman for Oldsmobile, Tang, Polident, Rain Soft, Pepsi Light and Wesson Oil and maintains a busy schedule as a sought after motivational speaker. She will be partnered with Corky Ballas. (Bob D'Amico / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Margaret Cho

    Comedian Margaret Cho first performed stand-up in her native San Francisco at the age of 16. Her best-selling tours include the off-Broadway hit/concert film "I’m the One That I Want," "Notorious C.H.O.," "Revolution" and "Beautiful." She is also a regular cast member of the Lifetime series "Drop Dead Diva." She will dance with Louis Van Amstel. (Bob D'Amico / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. David Hasselhoff

    Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as "The Most Watched TV Star in the World," David Hasselhoff has gained international fame in music, television and film. Hasselhoff got his start in entertainment on the soap opera "The Young and the Restless" and was pursued to play the lead role of the 1980's cult favorite, "Knight Rider." His famed skyrocketed thanks to 11 years in a swimsuit on "Baywatch." Don’t hassel the Hoff! He will dance with Kym Johnson. (Bob D'Amico / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Audrina Patridge

    Audrina Patridge starred in six seasons of the MTV reality series "The Hills." The aspiring actress made her debut on the big screen last fall in the thriller "Sorority Row." Other film credits include "Into the Blue 2" and "Honey 2." Last summer, Patridge made headlines steaming up TV screens in a commercial for Carl’s Jr. Her partner is Tony Dovolani.. (Bob D'Amico / ABC) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Mark Ballas, Bristol Palin
    Bob D'Amico / ABC
    Above: Slideshow (12) 'Dancing With the Stars' season 11
  2. ASHLY COSTA, BUZZ ALDRIN
    Adam Larkey / ABC
    Slideshow (19) ‘Dancing’s’ worst outfits

Discuss: What do you think "Dancing" needs to do to last another 200 episodes?

Two-hundred is quite the milestone, and though the show is nearly perfect, it could use some tweaks. What are your suggestions?

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