Last month, during Disney TV’s upfront conference call, ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke revealed that there will be “fun format changes” on the upcoming 28th season of “Dancing with the Stars.” Burke wasn’t at liberty to share what those shake-ups were, but all we can say is: It needs to be voting changes.
Format changes could involve anything from the types of dances the couples have to do to various challenges (trio, marathon, etc), which would freshen up the show. But anyone who watched Season 27 knows that the elephant in the room that needs to be addressed is the voting structure. Great performances and high scores were rendered meaningless last season when the low-scoring Joe “Grocery Store Joe” Amabile and Bobby Bones safely advanced through the competition while better dancers were axed, ending with Bones taking home the Mirrorball trophy. The backlash was swift from all sides — fans and “Dancing” alums, including former champ Alfonso Ribeiro, who called on producers to change the voting system.
There are many factors that created a perfect storm for Bones’ win, including his massive fan base. But as we previously explained, one of them is the fact that “Dancing”‘s audience, like that of every broadcast show, has plummeted considerably from its heyday (20 million vs. 7 million now), creating an imbalance of viewers and voters. Fewer people watching = fewer people voting, leaving an opening for someone with a big fan base like Bones to slide right on through. The show has always partially been a popularity contest, but without that wider viewer base to offset voting blocs now, you might as well not even have scores.
We already offered a few ideas to fix the voting structure in November, but there are lots of ways they could go about this to come back refreshed and stronger. And this is their goal after a controversial season and a spring hiatus. Burke also shared that the longer break has allowed producers to focus on booking bigger stars in addition to brainstorming changes. “It’s still the show that audience knows and loves but they’ve got some good ideas in terms of how to surprise people in new ways,” she said.
Bigger stars and surprises are all good and well, but they’re all going to be smoke and mirrors if the actual issue isn’t addressed.
“Dancing with the Stars” will air Mondays at 8/7c this fall. A premiere date will be announced later.