And it’s about damn time! We’ve never really understood the appeal of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars franchise, but we had basically resigned ourselves to the fact that it would probably be a staple of ABC’s lineup until our twilight years. After all, with the way the celebrity machine works these days, there won’t be any shortage of B- and C-List stars willing to subject themselves to wearing bedazzled jumpsuits in an attempt to
cash a paycheck stay in the public consciousness. And as far as ABC is concerned, DWTS is a network cash cow; sort of like The Jay Leno Show for NBC, it’s cheap to produce and is a relatively risk-free ratings draw. However, while the show still inexplicably manages to draw 17 million viewers to each of its episodes, the program is showing the first signs that its popularity is finally waning: So far this season, ratings are down almost 20 percent in the key 18- to 49-year-old demo.
Don’t get us wrong, most of the major networks would be putting in calls to find out how much it costs to lease a G5 if they knew that 17 million Americans were watching their programs on a weekly basis. But when you start to contextualize that data against the show’s performance in fall 2007 (during which time the show averaged 21.5 million viewers), ABC’s executive team would probably concede that that sort of viewer erosion makes them nervous (that is, if they actually decided to comment on the Los Angeles Times story). So who’s to blame?
The most likely culprit is the show’s casting department. This year’s roster of pseudo-celebrity hoofers hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. The biggest star, former politician Tom DeLay, hasn’t turned out to be much of a draw at all: According to the LAT story, a whopping 24 percent of Americans have no idea who he is, which probably means that someone in the casting department didn’t do a good job of analyzing DeLay’s Q rating. Veteran reality-show producer Scott Steinberg admits as much, saying that “this cast probably is not as interesting as the casts they’ve had in the past.” In other words, the show’s producers need to focus more on the “stars” and less on “dancing” if they don’t want to have to figure out how they’re going to fill three additional hours of programming each week.