“Dancing with the Stars” stunned fans in July when Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews were fired in favor of new host Tyra Banks, but it was a move that showrunner and executive producer Andrew Llinares believes was necessary to help the series evolve.
“I think it’s all about evolution. I think any show like this that’s been on for many, many seasons needs to continue to evolve,” Llinares said Wednesday during ABC’s “VirtuFALL” virtual panel for the show. “I think changing the host was all about evolution. It was about making the show feel fresh, making it feel new, kind of make it reach out to a new audience, as well as the audience that’s been there for years.”
Llinares believes there’s a “real danger” when a long-running show sticks to the status quo year in and year out. “The audience almost gets bored of the rhythm of it. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it, just that it gets a little boring,” he said. “When a show has been on for this many seasons, it’s very easy to stay in a place where there’s nothing wrong, but actually does the show feel fresh, exciting and new? It’s tough. I’ve worked on many shows of this type and we’ve always been at our most successful when we continue to move things on.”
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Besides Banks, “Dancing” also tapped Derek Hough as a judge for Season 29. The former pro is ostensibly replacing Len Goodman, who is unable to travel because of COVID-19 restrictions, but Llinares revealed that the original plan was for Hough to join as a permanent fourth judge alongside Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli. Such moves, along with a new set, make the show feel “current” without alienating longtime fans, according to Llinares.
“We wanted to make the show feel relevant, but still hold on to the heart of the show. That’s what great about a show like this. When you have an incredibly strong format, the heart of the show, the purpose of the show stays the same. And then you build around that. You can make very significant changes as long as the format stays true. I think that’s what we’ve done here,” he explained. “The changes around it hopefully make the show feel like it speaks to a younger audience, broader audience while not alienating anyone who has been watching the show for many, many years. That’s been the challenge of trying to make the show like something that old fans of the show will still love, but bringing it to a new generation.”
Llinares thinks the switch to one host is “working brilliantly,” as it’s changed the pace of the two-hour episodes. “Tyra’s doing an amazing, amazing job. It’s just so wonderful to have her energy in the ballroom, her expertise as a host in the ballroom,” he praised. “I think she’s brought a new life.”
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Banks added that she feels “fortunate” to be part of the show and is having “such a good time,” crediting Llinares and casting director and co-executive producer Deena Katz for setting the “wonderful” tone.
“When I was asked to come on as host, I didn’t say yes immediately. I had to really think about it a couple of months and really think about it and make sure that I could bring something special, unique and different to a show that’s such an institution with this beautiful legacy,” Banks shared. “Now I am so happy that I made this decision to come on. I’m actually often the last person to leave the set, at least from the cast. I get that moment that Derek was talking about [during the panel] of the [set] being empty and walking in and just seeing it, and I’m just like, ‘Wow, I feel so fortunate.’ I often thank my mom because she’s the one who said, ‘Baby, you better do that show. Yes, you do have a lot to offer.'”
“Dancing” airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.
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