Why Dancing With The Stars Should Change Its Scoring System

By Jessica Rawden 2013-10-15 14:38:52 discussion comments
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This week’s episode of Dancing with the Stars featured an incredible montage from the choreographers explaining how ABC’s celebrity dancing competition series really isn’t about being the best. Anyone who has watched the series again and again has seen talented dancers head home while average to bad dancers have continued to excel. According to the choreographers, the key to Dancing with the Stars is having a likeable story. Regardless, if Dancing with the Stars would just change the scoring up a little bit, it needn’t be that way.

The Voice’s media coordinator Christina Milian has crushed at dancing since the first episode of Season 17. During Monday’s episode, the singer brought her A-game to the table with professional dancer Mark Ballas, and earned the first 10 of the season. It wasn’t enough to save her though. Milian doesn’t have MS and she isn’t fighting against the tenets of scientology. She didn’t get robbed at gunpoint after a DWTS training session and she doesn’t have the genuine need and love for the show that Bill Engvall has exhibited every episode. In short, she’s been a solid dancer, but she’s also lacked in the story department, and she was sent home for it this week, despite her near perfect scores.

The way Dancing with the Stars is scored is skewed heavily in favor of the audience’s vote. Former competitor Mark Cuban put together the best blog I’ve ever read explaining the mathematics of this and if you want the fine print, you should check it out. Basically, the show figures out who goes home by combining the percentage of total viewer votes the player receives with the percentage of total judges points they receive. In theory, that offers a perfect balance between performance and likability, but thanks to the actual specifics of the math, it means it’s exponentially more important to be well-liked by the fans. In fact, as we saw this week, it’s possible to tie for the highest score given and still wind up getting booted, which seems all kinds of unfair.

It wouldn’t take much to even out the scoreboard. If Dancing with the Stars implemented a system where the top 1 or 2 highest scoring teams on the judges end were automatically immune to elimination, there would be much better balance between quality and likeability. Then, each week if a contestant crushed enough to earn straight tens or something close to that, he or she could breathe easy knowing he or she wouldn’t be going home. It would be a lot more fair to the dancers who work their butts off to present an epic dance onstage, and halfway through the competition, viewers wouldn’t be stuck still sitting through a majority of boring dances from C- competitors while talented people were sitting at home.

Dancing with the Stars is a well-oiled machine at this point. ABC obviously loves airing a show that is all about the stories, a show that is more emotionally based than logically based. We’re in Season 17 and it’s highly unlikely that the network will change its scoring objectives at this point. It’s also highly unlikely that audience members will, out of the blue, start voting for the best dancers rather than the most emotionally motivated dancers. But wouldn’t it be nice, just once, to cut through the bullshit and invest in the people that leave everything they’ve got on the stage rather than the people who have overcome an obstacle? I bet Christina Milian would vote “yes.”
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