ABC keeps ‘Dancing’ into 12th sea­son of pop­u­lar con­test

TV Week - - TV Q&A - BY JAY BOB­BIN

Can “Dancing With the Stars” top the Bris­tol fac­tor?

That’s the chal­lenge the pop­u­lar ABC competition now faces af­ter a widely dis­cussed 11th sea­son that had much of the pub­lic mar­veling — not al­ways in a com­pli­men­tary way — at the staying power of con­tes­tant Bris­tol Palin, daugh­ter of for­mer Alaska gov­er­nor and vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Sarah Palin.

As the show’s 12th round be­gins Mon­day, March 21, it’s a real ques­tion whether any of the new con­tenders can in­spire any­thing that even ap­proaches that buzz. Among them: box­ing icon Sugar Ray Leonard; ac­tors Ralph Mac­chio (the orig­i­nal “Karate Kid”), Kirstie Al­ley and Chelsea Kane (“Jonas”); model Pe­tra Nem­cova; and re­al­ity show star Ken­dra Wilkin­son.

Also: Pitts­burgh Steel­ers wide re­ceiver Hines Ward; talk show host Wendy Wil­liams; singer-ac­tor-en­tre­pre­neur Romeo; WWE vet­eran/rock star Chris Jeri­cho; and ra­dio per­son­al­ity “Psy­cho” Mike Cather­wood.

In terms of re­lated wa­ter-cooler con­ver­sa­tion, which ar­guably hit its peak with the im­me­di­ately pre­ced­ing sea­son — which “Dirty Dancing” alum Jen­nifer Grey won with part­ner Derek Hough (who’s sitting out the pro­gram’s new sea­son) — “Dancing With the Stars” has other sit­u­a­tions in its his­tory to point to. Here’s a look at sev­eral of them.

Sea­son 1 (2005): Ac­tor John O’Hur­ley (“Se­in­feld”) had been a fa­vorite through­out the maiden sea­son. When “Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal” reg­u­lar Kelly Monaco was crowned the vic­tor, ac­cu­sa­tions of un­fair­ness abounded, from charges of ageism to the be­lief ABC sim­ply wanted one of its own stars to win.

Sea­son 2 (2006): The judges — Bruno To­nioli, Car­rie Ann In­aba and Len Good­man — took is­sue with foot­ball icon Jerry Rice’s con­tin­ued pres­ence in the con­test, since they felt oth­ers’ per­for­mances sur­passed his. The pub­lic vot­ing process was con­sid­ered a pos­si­ble rea­son he re­mained, since the phone lines were open from the start of the tele­casts, and Rice of­ten danced first.

Sea­son 3 (2006): Coun­try mu­sic star Sara Evans bowed out of the competition af­ter six weeks due to her fil­ing for di­vorce at the time. Also dur­ing that sea­son, singer­ac­tress Willa Ford was elim­i­nated in a week when she had fin­ished in first place, ac­cord­ing to the judges’ scores.

Sea­son 5 (2007): In per­haps the sin­gle most-re­mem­bered mo­ment of “Dancing With the Stars” to this point, singer Marie Os­mond fainted on the air af­ter per­form­ing, prompt­ing stunned se­ries host Tom Berg­eron to toss to a com­mer­cial as soon as he could process what was hap­pen­ing. Os­mond had re­cov­ered by the time the break ended, and she con­tin­ued with that night’s show.

Also, ac­tress Jane Sey­mour missed an episode due to sus­pected food poi­son­ing, and Mark Bal­las dis­lo­cated his shoul­der while do­ing the cha-cha on a re­sults show. Ad­di­tion­ally, Os­mond and Sey­mour each lost one of their par­ents dur­ing the sea­son.

Sea­son 6 (2008): Ac­tor Cris­tian de la Fuente rup­tured a ten­don dur­ing a per­for­mance, and the judges based his scores on what he had done prior to the mishap.

Sea­son 7 (2008): When dancer Ju­lianne Hough was taken to the hos­pi­tal for what was thought to be a stom­achache, she ended up hav­ing her ap­pen­dix re­moved shortly af­ter­ward.

Sea­son 8 (2009): Singer Jewel and cur­rent “En­ter­tain­ment Tonight” reg­u­lar Nancy O’Dell proved they didn’t even have to step onto the “Dancing” dance floor to add drama. Both were in­jured enough in their re­hearsals that they had to with­draw be­fore the sea­son be­gan, though Jewel even­tu­ally would show her stuff in a re­sults show.

Olympic medal­ist gym­nast Shawn John­son, who won the con­test, was caught up in drama that largely un­folded off-cam­era. A stalker tailed her to the show’s stu­dio lot, and upon his ar­rest, he was found to have items that strongly sug­gested a po­ten­tial ab­duc­tion. Her fam­ily took out a re­strain­ing or­der against him, and he was charged on counts in­clud­ing felony stalk­ing.

Sea­son 9 (2009): For­mer House Ma­jor­ity Leader Tom De­Lay — a year prior to his con­vic­tion for money laun­der­ing — called it a day early on “Dancing” be­cause of full stress frac­tures in both feet.

Sea­son 10 (2010): Re­al­ity show per­son­al­ity Kate Gos­selin be­came a sym­bol for celebrity dancers who not only didn’t fare so well on the show but bat­tled with their pro­fes­sional dance part­ners ... in her case, Tony Do­volani, who ap­peared to give up on her af­ter one es­pe­cially colos­sal ar­gu­ment dur­ing re­hearsals.

ESPN sports­caster Erin An­drews de­cided to do “Dancing” to prove she would not be cowed by a stalk­ing in­ci­dent in which she had been video­taped, while un­clothed, through a ho­tel room peep­hole. An­drews stated in many in­ter­views that her “Dancing” par­tic­i­pa­tion was a mes­sage to women about not be­ing vic­tim­ized.

Sea­son 11 (2010): Con­tro­versy built through­out the sea­son be­cause of au­di­ence votes that kept Bris­tol Palin in the competition, though many crit­ics felt she didn’t fare as well as oth­ers elim­i­nated sooner (such as Brandy and ath­lete Rick Fox). Jen­nifer Grey kept up the sus­pense right to the end, rup­tur­ing a disk on the first night of the fi­nal per­for­mance week and not know­ing if she’d be able to per­form on the sec­ond night. She did, and she won.

Any­thing can hap­pen, then, when it comes to “Dancing With the Stars.” The na­ture of the show makes it im­pos­si­ble to fore­cast what will oc­cur ... and ABC is quite con­tent to have that re­main the case, as long as peo­ple keep tun­ing into it and talk­ing about it.

Pro­fes­sional dancer Anna Tre­bun­skaya is part­nered with re­tired boxer Sugar Ray Leonard in the 12th sea­son of “Dancing With the Stars,” which be­gins Mon­day on ABC.

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