Since 2008, “Dancing with the Stars” and the “Bachelor” franchise have shared ABC’s Mondays-at-8 slot, alternating every season (as in weather, not TV): “Dancing” has it in the fall and, until 2019, the spring, while “The Bachelor” takes over in the winter and “The Bachelorette” holds down the fort in the summer. They’re both synonymous with ABC Monday nights. But with the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on film and TV productions, they may collide on the network’s fall schedule.
With production on Season 16 of “The Bachelorette” postponed, Rob Mills, ABC’s head of alternative programming, confirmed that, pending loosened restrictions, TPTB are hoping to film “The Bachelorette” in one location over the summer for a fall premiere. That means it would coincide with the 29th season of “Dancing” — should it be safe for the series to get off the ground since, you know, dancing requires contact and can get very, very sweaty. Mills believes it doesn’t have to be an either/or situation with the two shows, especially with scripted production up in the air.
“It’s all preliminary, but I think you can have room for both ‘Bachelorette’ and ‘Dancing with the Stars,'” he told our sister site “Variety.” “The big question is who knows when scripted will be back, so there might be a need for ‘Bachelorette’ and ‘DWTS’ to co-exist at the same time. I think we will look at every different scenario, but clearly, we love ‘Dancing’ and we love ‘Bachelorette,’ and to be able to have them both on at the same time is a high-class problem.”
“Dancing” and “The Bachelor” have aired on the same night before: Seasons 10-12 of “The Bachelor” followed Seasons 4-6 of “Dancing” on Mondays from 2007-08 before ABC slotted Season 4 of “The Bachelorette” in May 2008, kicking off their rotating schedule. The only difference is that “The Bachelor” used to be one hour then, but now episodes can be up to three hours long, though they’re usually two. Reduced to once a week since 2013, “Dancing” episodes are two hours long, which means the shows wouldn’t air on the same night if this all comes to pass unless one of them is shortened. Plus, if there is still a dearth of new programming by then, it would behoove ABC to spread out the shows during the week.
“Dancing” hasn’t officially been renewed yet, but it was expected to return in the fall pre-pandemic, as Mills and ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke have openly discussed it. Recently, two-time champ Cheryl Burke shared, “As far as I know, ‘Dancing’ is planning on going ahead with their fall season, but these things change week to week right now.” Even if social distancing is still in place in the fall, the pro thinks “Dancing” could do a virtual season.
“I think there is a creative way of doing things. Everyone is really into taking 15-minute classes,” Burke said. “If [the show can’t return], we’ve gotta do [it virtually]. We’ve got to do it like this. At the end of the day, I can teach [my husband] Matt [Lawrence] how to dance. I think it’d be really cool to teach your loved one at home how to dance. It could be a different type of experience, but I think we kind of have to go with the flow when it comes to changing.”
Mills has spearheaded some of the virtual programming in recent weeks, like ABC’s Disney celebrity singalong and “American Idol’s” virtual performance episodes, and is currently trying to do some of ABC’s game shows remotely, so it certainly feels like a virtual “Dancing” installment is doable. But for Mills, it’s a fine line of giving people new content and oversaturating the network with unscripted shows.
“There’s a lot of stuff in flux on the broadcast networks, in terms of what the TV season is going to look like,” he said. “It’s definitely been busier because this [alternative programming] is the stuff that can be produced quickly. But obviously, you want everything to come back. We certainly do not want ABC to turn into an alternative network. We need all of our scripted shows sooner rather than later, but for right now, this is how we can get some new content up.”