Pop Culture

Does 'Dancing' need a complete ballroom reboot?

Adam Taylor / ABC / Today
"Dancing With the Stars" may have debuted a new ballroom for season 13, but the show could use a few more tweaks.

The “Dancing With the Stars” finals are at hand, and that means soon, one hoofer hopeful will be named the best of the ballroom beginners and waltz away with the sparkling mirror ball trophy.

It also means that the 13th season of the show will come to an end. And oh, what a season it’s been, chock-full of higher than usual tensions and lower than usual ratings.

Blame the bickering. Blame the reality TV stars. Blame the judges (and then some). The truth is this isn’t the first time the show's missed the mark. “Dancing” has had its share of ups and downs. But in the past, despite any amount of below B-list talent, grumbling judges or pestered pros, the cheesy, spray-tanned ballroom bash remained fun.

This time? As chatters and fans of our Facebook page have reminded us regularly, that’s just not so.

Frequently heard complaints first led us to take a closer look at the idea of swapping out the show’s founding panel. We’ve even contemplated who could possibly replace lackluster co-host Brooke Burke Charvet. Heck, even host Tom Bergeron, who stands as one of few "Dancing" elements that needs no help at all, put a possible show-improving idea out there — prevent ballroom overload by only airing the show once a year.

But would those changes solve all of the problems? Frankly, at this point, it seems even more may be in order. Forget a few major changes or a handful of tiny tweaks. Maybe it’s time for a complete ballroom reboot.

Some viewers may recall that the current season kicked off with the promise of big improvements. The prospect of bigger talent was a real possibility. That, of course, didn’t quite pan out. (I’m looking at you, Rob Kardashian.) Still, other upgrades did, like a stage redesign, new and improved seating areas, and a fancy-schmancy, light-up staircase that splits to reveal the band.

Why stop there? After all, those cosmetic changes only fixed areas that weren’t really problems before. There’s still room for real improvement.

Casting stars

A good place with any effort to make a better ballroom experience would be the “star” pool. Over the last few seasons, casting has gone strictly by the book, and the formula is getting old. There are always a couple of reality TV stars in the mix, an athlete or two, one model, one soap star, a polarizing figure and usually a female celeb destined to be the dance floor’s leading lady due to past dance experience (such as Nicole Scherzinger, Jennifer Grey and this season’s Ricki Lake). Lather, rinse, repeat.

Why not mix it up? While “Dancing” is destined to remain A-list-free (because we all know George Clooney has better things to do), that doesn’t mean the sort-of familiar faces have to be boring. Cast big personalities. Cast complete dancing newbies. Shake up the usual suspects. How about sci-fi stars, former child stars, popular voice actors (Who wouldn’t want to see “The Simpsons” stars on the dance floor?) and top notch reality TV talent (Tim Gunn, please)?

Spread the ringers around

And if celebrities with past dance experience remain a staple on the show, at least spread the talent around. In other words, golden guy Derek Hough doesn’t need them all.

It’s not that Hough isn’t a great dancer and an even better choreographer, but his three-time champ status owes much to what seems a whole lot like preferential partner picks.

Let’s face it: Pros overdue for a win, such as Tony Dovolani and ballroom bad boy Maksim Chmerkovskiy, could boast a similar record if they’d  had some of Hough's past partners. (See the leading ladies above.)

Change is good

But there’s no reason to stop there. Other areas ripe for changes include the in-house band, song selection and the usual list of classic dances.

Change is good, or at very least, it’s better than more of the same at this point.

Do you think the ballroom needs a reboot? What would change about the show? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.


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