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Looking Inside The Mirror Ball Toward The Future of “Dancing With The Stars”

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ABC took a chance on a hit concept from the BBC – combining professional dancers with celebrities to see who can win the hearts of the audience with their progression into dancing.  Only 6 celebrities took the plunge into what was supposed to be a summer filler show for the network.  What they got was the beginning of a ratings juggernaut – Dancing With The Stars.

The stars may not have been known to all back in 2005, but each had rabid followings from their work in front of a camera – from a memorable character from Seinfeld (John O’Hurley, who played Elaine’s boss J.Peterman), to a New Kid (Joey McIntyre), a former heavyweight boxing champion (Evander Holyfield), a known reality-TV star (Trista Sutter from The Bachelor, and yes she’s still married to her man),  a star from the world of modeling (Rachel Hunter), and a Soap Opera star (Kelly Monaco of General Hospital).  The dancing levels could not be expected to be great, but at times was much better than expected.  The fan bases of these celebrities plus the curiosity of ballroom dancing created some buzz which exploded when many felt O’Hurley should have won over Monaco – a hit series was born.

The show started to also become a platform to give certain stars another chance to be seen and potentially expand, or jumpstart, their careers.  O’Hurley has been a constant fixture of TV since his DWTS run (host of Family Feud from 2006-2010), and it had to help McIntyre remind a generation of his New Kids on the Block days – the band’s reunion tour and CD release of the last 2+ years has been a big success.

Season 2 gave the opportunity to Tatum O’Neal to save her acting career to be seen as something other than a former child star gone to drugs.  Yes she looked good, yes she landed a solid recurring role in the wonderful Dennis Leary series Rescue Me on FX during this time but the monkey came back in ’08 (crack cocaine possession).  She has bounced back with a part in the movie The Runaways last year and has a reality TV show with her dad on Oprah’s network, but would she have been looked at twice if not for DWTS?

Careers of Joey Lawrence, Joey Fatone (‘N Sync), Mario Lopez, Marie Osmond, and even Cloris Leachman were majorly rewarded from their DWTS run, making the show a place to be seen by over 20 million viewers.  These people have had more than 15 minutes of fame, and they wanted more, but can they dance?

Season 12 saw comedy from “Psycho Mike” Catherwood (part of my radio brotherhood), and the stiffness of Wendy Williams (also a radio vet – when am I getting the call to this show?) – Further proof that this show is not always about dancing.  Do I have to bring back the memories of Master P, Kenny Mayne, or Jeffrey Ross?  Yet the show’s evolution took a turn in Season 10 when we saw the best dancing talent possibly in the show’s history.

Olympic Gold Medalist Evan Lysacek brought his athleticism from figure skating to the show, while Nicole Sherzinger took her Pussycat Dolls act to the dance floor.  Could these two be “ringers” in a sense?  Lysacek has dance moves from his figure skating and Sherzinger’s act with her Dolls is all about dance.  This brings a show into focus – DWTS wants to entertain, bring interesting celebrities, and have some dancing come through this process.  There seems to be a formula going on now that the show has hit Season 13 – recruit athletes with personality (Ron Artest and Hope Solo), have a comic relief (Carson Kressley and David Arquette), bring in someone with a bit of past teen idol status (Ricki Lake), add in a “pop star” (Chynna Phillips), dive into reality TV (Kristin Cavallari and Rob Kardashian), don’t be afraid to grab headlines (Chaz Bono), and take care of the network’s own (ABC, ESPN, Disney) – usually through their soap opera roster (J.R. Martinez from All My Children).

Could DWTS be more entertaining with “Stars” that have more dancing skills?  ABC opened Pandora’s Box a couple seasons back, so here’s my roster for a Season 14 using the formula established and adding skills on the dance floor.  Sadly Paula Abdul probably will not be able to come on board with The X Factor preventing this, but she is an obvious first choice.

Phylicia Rashad (age 63) fills the void of the older female in the show (a la Florence Henderson, Leachman, and Kirsty Alley), comes from a family with dance skill (sister is Debbie Allen from Fame and So You Think You Can Dance on FOX), has major Broadway experience (Dreamgirls stands out), a classic TV mom (Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show) and is working a lot in supporting movie roles.

Taye Diggs is already in the ABC family on Private Practice and has the dancing skills from his work in Rent.  Shouldn’t this be a no-brainer?  What about his wife Idina Menzel?  She scored with her arch on Glee (Rachel’s found birth mother and Vocal Adrenaline coach), and has Enchanted 2 coming out soon.  Yes, she was in Rent with Taye and has extensive Broadway success.

Colleen Fitzpatrick is known to many as pop singer Vitamin C, who scored a Top-10 hit with Graduation (Friends Forever) some 10 years ago.  She has a dance background (showed her skills in the original Hairspray movie), and already works for the ABC family writing songs for Disney artists Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato and Miley Cyrus.

Aaron Rodgers was the Super Bowl MVP leading the Green Bay Packers to victory.  I know he may prefer the WWE (referring to his touchdown dance – YouTube it) but isn’t he worth a phone call?

Considering he’s not NFL employed but has his reality show on VH1 plus he may be broke, Terrell Owens seems tailor-made for a run here and would be my early favorite to become the 7th athlete to win the Mirror Ball.

Brenda Song may be the hottest rising star on the Disney lot after her part in the Oscar winning The Social Network.  Brenda has a following from her Suite Life series, and has the athletic skills from being versed in Tai Kwon Do.  Should Brenda record an album then she fits all the criteria for DWTS.

Why hasn’t Nick Lachey try to prove that he can be as good as his brother Drew?  Wasn’t Nick the sex symbol of 98 Degrees?  Isn’t Nick still trying to have a recording career?  This seems too logical for Nick to turn this down, unless his gig on NBC prevents this.

If Jillian Michaels is not coming back to The Biggest Loser, somebody better get her on the phone.  She may kill her dance partner (make for good TV).

Don’t expect dancing talent from the comic relief, but Kathy Griffin (My Life on the D List) brings your reality TV and funny together.

Just for the fun of it – Michael Symon!  He is one of the biggest stars of the Food Network!  Michael is on the new ABC daytime show The Chew and probably has no formal dance training that is known, but the ladies love him!

Calling ABC – get this done!

 

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