In 2019, Dancing With the Stars won't have a spring season for the first time since the series began in June 2005. Not too long ago, I'd have been devastated by that news. But at this point, it's a smart move for the ABC reality show.
After the abbreviated spring Dancing With the Stars: Athletes Season 26, and the WTF surprises of the fall Season 27, the show needs to take a step back, and take a serious look at what does and does not work before coming back refreshed in fall 2019 for Season 28.
ABC just released its midseason 2019 schedule, not mentioning Dancing With the Stars. TVLine confirmed that DWTS won't be airing a Spring 2019 season. There was no reason given for skipping the spring season, but it's possible ABC execs or the DWTS pro dancers will share more of what they've heard. Host Tom Bergeron had already prepared fans for this news, posting on social media that the show was "unlikely" to return in the spring but "hopefully" would in the fall for Season 28.
Dancing With the Stars had a weird 2018 across the board. For the first time, they did an all-athletes season instead of a normal spring season, and it only lasted four weeks. To some fans, that was already kinda skipping the spring season. In the fall, we had a normal season in terms of length and mix of stars, but one with baffling shockers -- like the elimination of Juan Pablo Di Pace and Cheryl Burke -- and live voting during the one-night finale.
Normally DWTS ends with a two-night finale, but this fall it was all crammed on one night, and only revealed who won -- Bobby Bones and Sharna Burgess, despite their lower scores. That was enough of a shock for one night. It was only after the finale that DWTS revealed that Milo Manheim and Witney Carson had come in second place.
The Dancing With the Stars Season 27 finale only aired last month, but it left many viewers with a sour taste. I'm not in favor of the show ending, by any stretch, but rushing into planning for another season after the mess of the past year would not be a good idea. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, when we have time to forgive, forget, and believe that next time will be better. Acknowledge that 2018 was an off year for DWTS and help us move on and remember the good times.
In 2018, ABC also launched the spinoff Dancing with the Stars: Juniors, which aired for nine weeks during the fall to modest Sunday night ratings. The show averaged 4-5 million viewers a week with ratings around 0.6 in the 18-49 demographic. It's not clear yet whether ABC will renew Juniors for another season. I didn't watch that show at all, for various reasons, including other TV shows that I watch Sunday nights. Plus, with the exception of Project Runway Junior, I'm not that into youth competition shows. No offense to the young stars, and the fans who support them.
It's clear I wasn't the only one to skip Juniors, since the viewership was fairly low compared to the mothership show. DWTS Season 27 had around 7 million viewers a week and around a 1.0 rating. According to TV Series Finale numbers, last fall's Season 25 averaged a 1.37 rating and just over million total viewers. In its heyday, including Season 12 in 2011, Dancing With the Stars averaged more than 20 million viewers, with a 4.8/12 rating/share. It was one of the most-watched shows on TV. (So was American Idol, back then. #ThoseWereTheDays)
Dancing With the Stars is still a hugely popular show, with a loyal fan base that has stayed glued to the glitter for 27 seasons. That's amazing. But the show has clearly fallen from its lofty heights in terms of viewers and demo ratings. That's been true for a while, but the show just had too much going on in 2018 and most of it was not what fans wanted.
Viewers haven't stuck with the show for two seasons a year since 2005 for spinoffs, specialized seasons, and frustrating results. (Actually, maybe we do tune in for frustrating results, since that's definitely not exclusive to the most recent season.)
Every year the show manages to find a mix of nostalgia, sports, music, pop, and reality stars -- including some "stars" most of us have not heard of until DWTS makes them stars. Sometimes those dancers end up fan favorites. It doesn't seem like Dancing With the Stars is struggling to find talent, but it does seem to be struggling with its voting system. This is a perpetual issue, but it really came to a head with some baffling calls in Season 27.
When Dancing With the Stars comes back, it should do so along with announcements about new voting rules, to give fans more faith in the nine or 10-week process. DWTS has always been at least partially a popularity contest, but there was such a frustrated outcry to Season 27 that The Powers That Be should take the criticism to heart and come back with some new ideas.
The rest of the show doesn't need to change, in my opinion, since it's that core foundation that keeps bringing fans back. Tom Bergeron has been host since Season 1, and original judges Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba, and Bruno Tonioli seem to be sticking it out. They started together in Season 1, and -- apart from some absences from Len Goodman--- outlasted other guest and former permanent judges like Julianne Hough.
I may disagree with the judges' calls from time to time (every season), but that consistency is what makes Dancing With the Stars comfort food. Hopefully the show gets back to basics in Season 28, which is still expected to premiere in fall 2019, with another beloved Mirror Ball trophy finding its forever home. Here's what else is on the schedule for midseason 2019.
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Gina grew up in Massachusetts and California in her own version of The Parent Trap. She went to three different middle schools, four high schools, and three universities -- including half a year in Perth, Western Australia. She currently lives in a small town in Maine, the kind Stephen King regularly sets terrible things in, so this may be the last you hear from her.