How to Make 'Dancing with the Stars' Feel New Again
How to Make 'Dancing with the Stars' Feel New Again
Ted Kindig
Ted Kindig
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
When Dancing with the Stars' sixteenth season lineup was revealed last week, I'll admit that I was largely underwhelmed. I don't mean for that to come off as an excessively negative start to the season: I don't doubt that the show will have its usual share of compelling choreography, and the prospect of putting the perpetually recovering and relapsing Andy Dick on live network television is certainly interesting. By and large, though, it feels like the execs in charge of casting are trying to fill the same set of roles each season with diminishing returns. My premature weariness with the DWTS line-up got me thinking about what a genuinely reinvigorating approach to the show might look like.

Create a Casting Theme

One way to shake up the formula would be to cast around a theme: rather than repeat the exact same all-quadrant dynamic each season, the show could do spin-off seasons built around specific celebrity groups, like the Real Housewives or the cast of The Expendables. The obvious downside is that this approach won't have quite the same broad, something-for-everyone appeal--you're not going to watch Dancing with the Stars of Seinfeld unless you're a Seinfeld fan, clearly--but a group-specific season has the advantage of a relatively even playing field and an established blend of personalities: while Martina Navratilova and Roshon Fegan were probably never anything beyond polite acquaintances, Brian Cranston and Aaron Paul vying for dance floor dominance would make for instant appointment television.

Change the Prize

Another potential game-changer would be to change the grand prize from an honorary trophy to something a bit more substantial. It's no secret that many of DWTS contestants are a bit past their prime, career-wise. Imagine the bump in dedication we'd see if the show's soap actors and reality stars were suddenly vying for a primetime sitcom or a role in Disney's newly acquired Star Wars franchise--I don't argue that this is a good idea artistically, mind you, but it would probably keep Andy Dick sober for rehearsals.

Season Shakeup 

Ultimately, DWTS' best shot at regaining its novelty might just be to dial back a bit. Having consistently run two full seasons every year for nearly a decade, perhaps it's time for the show to invest all of its energy, hype, and star-grabbing power into one big annual season. Host Tom Bergeron has suggested this change before, and it makes sense: keeping the show on year-round can make the seasons blend together for casual viewers, and by waiting for one big season ABC could make each new line-up feel more like an event. Sticking to one season a year also allows for better recruiting behind the scenes, and better training for the onscreen talent.

I'm clearly not a savvy network executive, and in all likelihood DWTS' forty-first season in 2025 will have the same mix of actors, athletes, musicians, comedians and Disney Channel stars that we've come to expect biannually. Still, I wouldn't mind seeing just a bit more personality in the seasons along the way.

Dancing with the Stars returns March 18 at 8pm on ABC. Be sure to add it to your personal watch list with the free BuddyTV Guide app

(Image Courtesy of ABC)