We really, really, really want Dancing With the Stars Season 16 to do well in the ratings, ‘cause that’s the best argument for ABC to keep the fall season alive. All-Stars wasn’t the hit the network expected, but they shouldn’t put all the blame on the All-Stars element, since DWTS' ratings have been creeping down for a while now.
While DWTS can’t stop other popular shows from airing (quit stealing our viewers, The Voice!), it can try to shake up the format. Rumor has it that The Powers That Be are considering a full “reboot” of the series, and we have some suggestions of changes they should make. It’s a delicate balance, since you don’t want DWTS to lose its identity — or lose the loyal fans who love DWTS just as it is — but you have to wonder if some adjustments would stop others from leaving and woo back those who decided to skip some seasons.
On that note, here are some things we hope DWTS considers for Season 16 and beyond.
1. Cast the right stars (and pros)
The pros have become the real stars of Dancing With the Stars, but the quality of the celeb cast is widely acknowledged to be key in getting eyeballs to the televisions. However, “stars” doesn’t necessarily mean Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson are household names and they were both eliminated first, while lesser-known stars like J.R. Martinez, Melissa Rycroft, Kyle Massey, and Chelsea Kane all ended up making the finals of their seasons.
The full list of names may bring people in, but viewers stay for the actual dance talent, personalities, and connection between partners. Fans want to watch an exciting, unpredictable show with likable people and good dancing. Skip the “ringers” and “controversial” folks and focus on which stars will be perfect dance matches for each beloved pro.
2. Change the judges in some way
We bicker about the judges' comments as much as anyone, but we'd miss Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba, and Bruno Tonioli if they were all gone. Besides, the devils that you know are better than pulling an American Idol/X-Factor, with new stunt celebs who are just there for ratings. But we're not opposed to new blood — just not "guest judge" blood, which is usually anemic. All guest judges do is love on everything without providing much constructive criticism. Besides, to be a good judge you should probably follow the progression of the couples from the beginning and not just add your perspective one week, then someone with a totally different opinion shows up the next week and tells a couple to do the opposite.
The couples need consistent, fair judging from experts who know ballroom dancing but have minds open enough to see beyond their own cups of tea (hint, hint, Grumpy!). Adding one or two DWTS pros to the mix could be a great idea. If the producers feel they need to replace one or even two of the existing judges, OK, but replacing all three might be too much change at once. Baby steps!
3. Maybe change the score/vote ratio ... in some way
No one can agree on the scoring situation, and we can’t think of a great solution, so we're open to new ideas. (But they should keep the half-point paddles; that was a good move.) Some fans think the judges should have more power — like 75 percent judges' scores to 25 percent fan votes. Some fans think the judges already have too much power and it should just be fan votes, or 75 percent for fans. Some people loved the judges' save, which they used on Season 14, some hated it. All we can say is, something’s wrong when Sabrina Bryan can’t make it past Week 6 even after two attempts, but Bristol Palin made it to the Season 11 finals.
4. Avoid the stunts
Stunt casting can be irritating, but stunt themes and dance styles aren’t that great either. Themes can be helpful to give pros direction — and we always love learning about the stars’s backgrounds during Personal Story Week — but too many themes can limit creativity and produce hectic, unsatisfying shows. All-Stars had more themes than ever, including those bizarre style pairings like Caveman Hustle. It was cool to see some of the new dance styles, and even Bhangra turned out to be fun to watch, but after a certain point it feels like they are just torturing the couples for the sake of drama.
5. Give us a chance to get to know the couples
Season 16 is already off to a good start, since the premiere is on Monday, March 18, but the first Results Show won't be until the following week, Tuesday, March 26. It’s always tough when we only have one night to figure out who should stay or go. It’s also tough when the cast is big and unwieldy, like the 16 couples back on Season 9. Smaller casts tend to work better, so the shows aren’t rushed and we can get to know the pairs and see what they’re capable of as partners.
Speaking of getting to know the couples, we always take note of the pros and celebs hanging over the balcony clapping or commenting to each other after another pair dances. We’d love to know what they're saying about each dance. Instead of just showing video confessionals during Results Shows, with the couples reacting to the judges’ scores and comments about themselves, why not let fans hear what the couples think about each other’s dances? Would the pairs dare be honest and candid about each other? They may have some great insights to share and could end up more influential than the judges.
6. Consider changing the music
The DWTS band is awesome, but sometimes the singers just don’t have the right voices for the chosen songs. So You Think You Can Dance uses recordings of the original music, like DWTS did on All-Stars for the Michael Jackson songs. We wouldn’t mind more of that, allowing DWTS to experiment with more edgy, unusual music. we'd also welcome more live singing from celeb artists, like during Classical Week when Katherine Jenkins sang live as the competing couples danced. That’s what they do for Results Show already — the pros dance while performers sing. Why can’t they do that on every Performance Show? Allow stars like Taylor Swift, or whoever, to promote their new albums while we watch celebs dance to their songs. Kill two birds with one stone — and bring in the musicians’ fans on top of DWTS fans.
7. Do we need three hours a week?
We all love DWTS, but after 15 seasons, the show could use some tightening up. Maybe we don’t need two-hour Monday Peformance Shows every week, plus one or sometimes two hours on Tuesdays for more DWTS background and Results Shows. Small doses of DWTS may be easier to swallow, and easier for casual fans to follow. What if they did one hour on Monday and one hour on Tuesday, including the eliminations on Tuesday, which wouldn’t just be a “results show” anymore?
What are your suggestions for how DWTS can improve?
Dancing With the Stars Season 16 premieres March 18, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
Gina Carbone is a contributing writer at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @ginacarbone.
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