Top 5 Ways to Improve 'Dancing with the Stars'

With another season almost upon us, it’s time to break down the Top 5 ways “Dancing with the Stars” could improve as a competition and a reality show…

#5 Age of Contestants

DWTS is arguably just as famous for its racy sequined costuming as it is for the polar ages of its contestants. “Age is just a number” is one of the repeated mantras you will hear when a super young or mature in years, contestant performs. Then the judges and hosts will express wonder over the routine they just saw due to the contestant's age.

Actions speak louder than words and age has a tendency to factor into the scoring process no matter what is said. It has been repeated countless times that the judges are only supposed to judge what they see. If what the contestant does is not up to par with other contestants or is exorbitantly superior, leave it at that and stop making excuses or exalting praise, using age as the reason.

Secondly, the continued trend towards casting young teens for the show has grown increasingly problematic. One of the common and accurate critiques they face is lacking the maturity to deal with the romantic aspects of the dances and understandably so, they are minors. What is not being said is that it is also an uncomfortable situation to watch. 

The pro dancer is oftentimes considerably older than their underage partner. The show really needs to consider limiting the contestants’ age to 18. That way all of the cast members are legal adults doing adult things. If ABC wants to showcase kid talent, a teen centric spin-off featuring complimentary teen pros might be the answer. 

#4 Better Music Selections

There are two major issues going on with the song selection on DWTS. The first is that certain songs need to be retired from the line-up. The “Dirty Dancing” theme “Time of My Life”, 80s pop staple “Walking on Sunshine” and KT Tunstall hits “White Horse and a Cherry Tree” and “Suddenly I See” have been played repeatedly and it needs to stop. There are thousands of songs that have not been played once, while these have been played countless times. 

If the issue is the expense of licensing, there are tons of indie artists that could use the exposure. The second issue with the music is that in a bid to seem more “hip”, DWTS has been incorporating songs that do not gel with the family friendly vibe of the show. Case and point, Iggy Azalea’s “Black Widow” was played during a recent season’s team dance. Straw meet camel.

#3 Sync the Dance Styles 

Comparing routines is impossible when each couple is performing a completely different style of dance. Split the styles up so at least three of the competitors are going head-to-head with the same type of dance and let the judges’ scores determine the grouping. Hence, the top scorers would duke it out against each other and so on. This would help the cohesion of comparison exponentially. It is also time to pare down the cornucopia of new routines that have been introduced over the last few seasons. Certain styles are redundant and have added little in comparison to others. Another issue that has arisen with the flood of new styles is that couples have had to miss out on performing certain fan favorite routines, such as the Paso Doble.

#2 Initiate a Technical Threshold 

There’s no getting around it, DWTS is primarily a popularity contest with the judges’ scores giving the show a sense of skill validation. As easy as it is to be taken with a performer’s charisma, chemistry with their partner or gifts as an entertainer, they need to be held to a technical standard that requires them to demonstrate certain abilities on the dance floor. The routine itself should be graded for its difficulty by the judges during rehearsals. 

So for example, if the choreography is graded with a difficulty level of a 7 out of 10 and the contestant executes it to its fullest potential, the most their score could be, would be a 7. There is no way a contestant executing a level 5 routine should be scoring 9s for their performance. This would help cap the sky high marks that propel middling performers further into the competition, than they deserve to be.

#1 Three Judge Limit 

Having three judges provides a natural tie breaker that is completely disrupted when there is a panel of four. There are simply not enough diverse opinions to be shared about a single performance that three judges cannot cover it. It also takes up too much time to talk to four judges. It inevitably subtracts time from a judge like Bruno, whose sound bites are one of the main reasons to watch the show and listen to the judges’ comments, in the first place. 

The guest judges, who are commonly used to bring the number of judges up to four, are another detriment to the show. They disturb the dynamic between the judges, altering the core chemistry and seldom offer an honest or diligent assessment of what they saw.

[Image by ABC]