Every season of Dancing With the Stars includes the same debates: Fans grumble about the judges' scores, then grumble about their fellow viewers' voting tastes. Season 17 is close to ending, and the debate is even louder because so many high-scoring dancers are leaving — often on the same night when they had fantastic routines.
Part of this is due to the awkwardness of having no Results Show. Fans are voting based on last week's routines, so if you weren't at your best last week, you could be going home after your best night — even if fans would've loved to vote for you right then and there.
The Results Show is not going to return as long as ratings continue to decline, and ratings will probably continue to decline if people are so fed up with wonky scoring and voting.
How can this scoring snafu be fixed? Here are some ideas, but you may have better suggestions, so share 'em in the comments.
Remember when they tried the judges' save thing, like American Idol and The Voice? Considering Len Goodman said Elizabeth Berkley was the best overall dancer to him, he may have saved her this week, leaving whoever was next in line to leave. For all we know it wasn't even the low-scoring Bill Engvall, but it would offer a bit of a safety net to make sure this show doesn't turn into a pure popularity contest completely divorced from dance skill.
CHANGE THE PADDLE POINTS
We rarely see paddles below 5 or 6 on any given season, so too much ends up stacked in the 7-10 zone. Season 17 had 9s on Week 1 and you can't really compare them to all the 9s on Week 9 or 10. At the very least, they should bring back the half-point measures, but even that might not be enough. What if instead of ranking people from 1-10, they changed the paddles to 1-20, or some other number giving more distance between scores so they're not all clogged together, essentially rendering them meaningless.
AMERICA'S WEEK — NO SCORES
Maybe DWTS could offer a different kind of balance, where sometimes the judges have more power, and other times they have none. What if one week the judges could just offer commentary, but no scores, and everything is dependent on the votes. This would also need to be done without an elimination at the end of the night, so the votes would reflect that night's dancing. At the very least it could get people to appreciate the judges' scores more!
SPECIAL ELIMINATION WEEKS
It's exciting to have eliminations at the end of every show night, but they also tend to dominate the entire evening. We forget about the great dancing and focus on who just left. It's also incredibly frustrating to be voting one week for that night's dancing and have it affect what happens the next week. If a couple dances first on Week 10 and you vote for them, your votes may not even mean anything by the end of the night 'cause that person could go home. Not everyone just votes for their favorite couple — even before they've set foot in the ballroom — a lot of people do watch the routines and vote for their favorites.
So let everyone dance, let fans vote, and then eliminate someone at a predetermined time, like, Week 5. So the entire cast gets to keep dancing until Week 5, with all of their votes and scores tabulated together — which should separate the percentages a bit more. Then you eliminate half the cast, or a large number, and keep the rest dancing until the Semifinals. Then you eliminate one couple and the rest compete in the Finals.
BuddyTV recently did a story suggesting the scoring system be changed to include rankings. Right now the system is a combo of judges scores and viewer votes, with the scores showing a percentage of what each couple got from the total points awarded that night.
For example, as they showed, the judges awarded 315 points on Week 9, leaving Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff at the top with 18.41 percent of the judges' scores. At the bottom were Bill Engvall and Emma Slater, who had 13.33 percent of the scores. That percentage is still fairly close, and it means Bill would've had to (and did) get at least 4.45 percent more viewer votes than the departing Elizabeth Berkley, who ended up with 17.78 percent of the scores.
Long story short, it means you don't even have to be that popular to overcome the scores.
How to change that, they suggest, is ranking the couples at the end of the night. So in the first round of dance this week, Jack Osbourne would get 6 points for being at the top, then Corbin with 5, down to Bill with 1. In the second round, Corbin and Elizabeth would both get 5.5 at the top since their scores tied, and Bill would get his 1 again. The final tally would leave Corbin at the top with 25 percent and Bill down at the bottom with 4.76 percent. That would certainly reward good dancing and make it more difficult for the less skilled dancers to get enough votes to stay in.
But on the downside, it would reward the “best” dancers right out of the gate, instead of rewarding the journey of dance, leaving fan favorites like Bill in the dust, probably a long time before the Semis. (Like, Week 1.) And what if you have an off week like Amber Riley did, ending up with 13.1 percent of the vote in this ranked plan? In order to save someone like that, you'd have to vote hard — and how can you do that when that night's elimination is based on last week's voting?
What do you think about any of those ideas? What’s your plan to fix this scoring/voting situation, or do you think there is no plan better than what’s being done right now? Share your comments below, and watch Dancing With the Stars Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.