How to Fix the 'Dancing with the Stars' Scoring System
How to Fix the 'Dancing with the Stars' Scoring System
John Kubicek
John Kubicek
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
Something is seriously wrong with Dancing with the Stars this season. The judges' scores don't seem to matter at all as high-scoring stars like Christina Milian and Elizabeth Berkley get eliminated, yet Bill Engvall (who has had the lowest scores for the past four weeks) is safe.

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Why does this keep happening? How is it possible that Bill can be 14 points behind Elizabeth and still be safe? The fault seems to lie in the formula DWTS uses to decide which couple goes home, and I have a suggestion for how to change it.

How It Works

The formula for Dancing with the Stars is quite simple. There are two halves, the viewer votes and the judges' scores. For the votes, they simply take whatever percentage each couple gets. That number is added to the percentage of the judges' scores the couple gets. To get this, take a couples' score and divide by the combined scores of all dancers for that week

So for week 9, the judges gave out a total of 315 points. As such, here's the percentage breakdown for each couple:

Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff: 18.41 percent
Elizabeth Berkley and Val Chmerkovskiy: 17.78 percent
Jack Osbourne and Cheryl Burke: 17.14 percent
Leah Remini and Tony Dovolani: 17.14 percent
Amber Riley and Derek Hough: 16.19 percent
Bill Engvall and Emma Slater: 13.33 percent

As you can see, the percentages are all fairly close. For this week, it means Bill had at least 4.45 percent more viewer votes than Elizabeth, Amber had at least 1.6 percent more and Jack and Leah had at least 0.65 percent more votes. Those numbers seem quite small and easily achievable, so at the end of the day, it just seems unlikely that judges' scores will shake things up too much. In week 9, one point on the leaderboard only represented 0.3 percent of votes.

Things are even worse when you look back at past eliminations. With the judges' scores, the difference in percentage between Bill and Snooki when Snooki was eliminated was less than 1.5 percent. And when Christina Milian was eliminated at the top of the leaderboard, the difference between her and the lowest score that week (Leah Remini) was only about 2.5 percent. The judges' scores are all so close, based on the percentages, that viewer votes most likely dictate who goes home every time.

The Problem

The inherent problem in this combined voting format is that the two halves are not equally weighted. When it comes to the public vote, viewers are comparing dancers and choosing one over the others. However, it is incredibly obvious that the judges do NOT adjust their scores comparing the dancers to one another.

For instance, look at this week's individual dance scores from Len Goodman. Jack got a 10, Corbin and Leah got 9s, Elizabeth and Amber got 8s and Bill got a 7. Were Elizabeth and Amber's individual dances worth the same? Were they both worse than Leah, Jack and Corbin and only one point better than Bill?

Len pointed out that, based solely on his paddles, Elizabeth was at the top of his leaderboard this season. But that doesn't matter if the judges don't score comparatively and equally. Because people like Jack and Leah started off as less-skilled dancers than Corbin, Elizabeth or Amber, they are held to different standards. This means that a "good" Leah performance is roughly equivalent to a "great" Corbin performance, according to the judges.

The only way this would be fair is if all stars, regardless of past achievements or ability, were judged equally. Instead, of comparing their performance to what they've done in the past, they need to be compared to one another.

How to Fix It

My solution for fixing this problem is to keep the judges' scores, but change the way they are tabulated for the results. For each round, the dancers should be ranked according to the leaderboard and get points and percentages based on how they stand similar to the points awarded during dance marathons.

For example, let's look at this week. In the first round, there were no ties, so Bill would get 1 point, Amber gets 2, Elizabeth gets 3, Leah gets 4, Corbin gets 5 and Jack gets 6.

In the second round, Bill would once again get 1, Jack would get 2, then there's a tie so Leah and Amber would both get 3.5 (splitting the 3 and 4) and then there's another tie, so Corbin and Elizabeth would both get 5.5.

At the end of the night, here would be the scores and percentages, based on the total of 42 points awarded in my system:

Corbin: 10.5 (25 percent)
Elizabeth: 8.5 (20.23 percent)
Jack: 8 (19 percent)
Leah: 7.5 (17.86 percent)
Amber: 5.5 (13.1 percent)
Bill: 2 (4.76 percent)

Those percentages are more varied than the ones they currently use and more accurately reflect the difference in judges' scores relative to one another, which is how it should be done. It would severely penalize the truly terrible dancers, but as you can see, the other couples would be within a reasonable proximity where the viewer votes could switch things up, but only if the percentage is sizeable.

As it stands, the fact that less than 5 percent of the public votes can sway the result one way or another no matter what the scores are seems too slim, especially when the leaderboard is so drastic. A spread of 14 points from the judges was only equivalent to less than 4.5 percent of the public vote, and that seems too small, doesn't it?

My system would weigh the judges' scores the same way as the public vote, comparing the dancers to one another. The percentage of viewer votes needed to alter the judges' decisions would become greater and thus allow a fairer season that rewards quality dancing and punishes weak dancers who rely on power voting from organized fan bases.

I don't know if my solution is the best one out there, but something needs to be done. When a star like Bill Engvall can rely entirely on his blue collar fans to vote him to the end despite being the worst dancer by far, the show loses any credibility. Why do we need judges, scores or even dancing? At this point, the show can just become a popularity contest to see which celebrity has the most supportive fans.


(Image courtesy of ABC)

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