On Dancing with the Stars season 23, the professional partners who made it to the Top 5 were Val Chmerkovskiy, Sasha Farber, Sharna Burgess, Lindsay Arnold and Gleb Savchenko. On season 24, Val, Sasha, Sharna and Lindsay are all in the Top 5 once again, this time with Emma Slater. Clearly there’s a problem.

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This is nothing new. The show has always had some pros who always do well and others who don’t. Derek Hough makes it to the Final 4 in almost every season he appears. This year marks Val’s 10th season in a row finishing in the Top 6. Sharna has reached the Top 5 for five seasons in a row while Lindsay Arnold made it into the Final in each of the last three seasons.

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Meanwhile, newer male pros like Artem Chigvintsev and Keo Motsepe have each participated in five seasons, never finishing better than sixth place. The problem is twofold and it will take several steps for DWTS to avoid having the same, predictable pros make it to the end of every season.

Out With the Old, In With the New

The big problem, especially for newer male pros, is that the older male pros are still hanging around. Val and Maks currently represent the old guard, and the only reason Sasha has emerged as a serious contender for the past two seasons is that those are the times long-time pros Tony Dovolani and Mark Ballas finally took a break.

Compare that to the female pros, where relatively newer faces like Sharna and Lindsay have been able to excel while Peta Murgatroyd and Witney Carson can also shine because the old-school pros have mostly retired. The female pros who’ve appeared in the most seasons (Cheryl Burke, Karina Smirnoff, Kym Johnson, Edyta Sliwinska and Anna Trebunskaya) have only made rare appearances in the past few years.

The solution is simply for DWTS to mix up its pro line-up. They’ve started to do a better job by sidelining Tony, Derek and Mark, but the Chmerkovskiy brothers have to join that list so the next generation of male pros can take over.

At some point, the professional dancers who return season after season, have become more popular and famous than the “stars” they are paired with. The formula of the show works best when the “stars” are the actual stars, not their pro partners. We don’t need to spend so much time on Val’s feud with Len or Maks’ injury. When the pro starts to steal focus away from their star, it’s time for that pro to retire and a new one to come in.

Mix Up the Partnerships

The second major problem with DWTS is that the show seems to give the pros the same types of contestants over and over again. Val always gets a young woman with some level of dance or performance background (Normani Kordei, Ginger Zee, Rumer Willis, Janel Parrish, Zendaya, Tamar Braxton). He never gets stuck with the token old lady or some random pretty face with zero dance experience.

And Sharna’s recent success is probably due to her getting the attractive guy with a tragic backstory, whether it’s James Hinchcliffe and Bonner Bolton who both survived life-threatening injuries in their sports, double amputee war hero Noah Galloway or even Backstreet Boy Nick Carter and his troubles with addiction.

Then there’s Emma Slater, who we haven’t seen at the end of the competition for a very long time because she almost always gets the old man, but now that she is partnered with an NFL player for the first time, she’s a serious contender.

The NFL players are the key to how DWTS can fix this problem, because the show has done an excellent job of spreading them around to all of the female pros. Including Rashad Jennings, there have been a total of 19 football players who have appeared on Dancing with the Stars. Yet almost every female pro has only had one or two as a partner. The only exception is Cheryl Burke, who was partnered with an NFL player three times (but that includes Emmitt Smith twice, including his original run and the All-Stars season).

The show needs to diversify it’s partnerships. When they give Val and Sharna the same types of partners year after year, it’s no surprise that they both make it far while the pros who are stuck with older contestants (like Keo and Artem) go home early.

If Dancing with the Stars just rotates its pros and gives us different kinds of partnerships, maybe they can avoid having the exact same pros in the finale every season. Or maybe that’s exactly what they want.

Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.

(Image courtesy of ABC)

John Kubicek

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

John watches nearly every show on TV, but he specializes in sci-fi/fantasy like The Vampire DiariesSupernatural and True Blood. However, he can also be found writing about everything from Survivor and Glee to One Tree Hill and Smallville.