Why is a show about semi-famous people learning to dance so addictive that after 17 seasons it’s still the most-watched reality TV show in the U.S.?
DWTS is down from its 20 million heydey, but it’s still bringing in a bigger audience than every other reality series. There are shows that would kill for DWTS’s more than 13 million viewers a week. DWTS has a fiercely loyal base of hardcore fans. They’re passionate viewers who know every inch of every season and love to dissect, debate, and complain about the action. Why, though? What keeps us coming back? Here are a few reasons.
1. Great Dancing
There’s nothing like a showstopping DWTS routine. Unlike it’s half-sister show, So You Think You Can Dance, DWTS features non-aspiring pro dancers of all ages who have to train quickly to attempt what it usually takes years to perfect. They also have to perform live and immediately be judged on a 1-10 scale, which no other show requires. It’s nerve-wracking just to imagine, and it goes wrong as often as it goes right. So when things go very right, it feels special and exciting. Think of all the iconic routines we’ve seen since 2005 — Drew Lachey and Cheryl Burke’s “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” Freestyle, Nicole Scherzinger and Derek Hough’s 1950s Paso Doble, Hélio Castroneves and Julianne Hough’s Quickstep, Mel B and Maksim Chmerkovskiy’s Paso Doble … the list goes on and on.
2. Bad Dancing
Sometimes the bad routines of DWTS are so bad you have to watch them through the cracks of your fingers over your eyes. But you have to watch them. There’s a trainwreck factor to watching Master P give a textbook example of how not to dance, or cringing as poor Michael Bolton crawls out of a doghouse, Bristol Palin somehow makes it to the Finals with lackluster moves, and Marie Osmond derails her own chances with a bizarre Freestyle idea. The bad dances of DWTS are just as memorable as the good ones.
3. Watercooler Drama
We don’t watch DWTS for the rehearsal spats and fights, but we do kinda look forward to the judges squabbling with each other, Len Goodman getting booed for something not being his cup of tea, the pros barely holding back their frustration, or some kind of shocking score/elimination/injury/twist. There’s always some kind of drama to get us talking, season after season, even when it seems like nothing could surprise us anymore. No wonder this show inspires so much commentary on Twitter!
4. The Pros!
For some people, this would be right at the top. The pros are the real stars of DWTS, and we’ve come to love all of them. It’s like comfort food to see them every week, but also intriguing to imagine how they will choreograph their umpteeth Cha-Cha-Cha to make it feel new and personal for that season’s celeb. And just when we think we could never live without This or That amazing/funny/hot/sweet/talented pro, new ones show up and we fall in love with them too. Maks joked that it was “his” show, but it’s chugging on OK without him, as well as other beloved pros including Edyta, Anna, Chelsie, Lacey, Dmitry, Louis, and Julianne. Derek has won five times, but the show survived without him for the first four season, and the most-watched season, Season 12, was the one he sat out. No one pro makes this show, and yet they all make it what it is.
5. It Stays Fresh
We’re creatures of habit, and every time there’s a change on DWTS we brace for impact. But DWTS deserves props for maintaining that delicate balance of staying fresh while keeping the core elements the same. We’re still watching a lot of the same dance styles they had on Season 1, but they’ve added things like Contemporary, marathons, team dances, instant dances, fusion dances, and other twists that have sometimes worked and sometimes not worked. They’ve spruced up the ballroom a bit, changed the way the show opens to be more active and less like they’re introducing prom couples, experimented with the Celebriquarium and other interview techniques, and added fresh voices as guest judges.
We’re not thrilled with the lack of a Results Show, but neither are the producers. That was a network choice and DWTS has done as good a job as possible in packing all the elements we love into one hour, even ensuring the pro troupe still gets a great showcase for their talents. The Powers That Be seem to understand and care about the longtime fans’ concerns about voting, scores, casting, and saving time for the pros. They know it’s impossible to make everyone happy, but bless them for trying.
Are you addicted to DWTS? Why do you still watch the show season after season? Share your reasons in the comments!