‘Dancing With the Stars’ needs more than a foxtrot to beef up ratings
BY LORI RACKL TV Criticfirstname.lastname@example.org February 26, 2013 6:06PM
"Dancing with the Stars" hosts Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke-Charvet announced this season's celebrity dancers including Jacoby Jones, Wynonna Judd, Andy Dick, D.L. Hughley and Lisa Vanderpump on "Good Morning America" onTuesday on ABC.
Updated: February 26, 2013 8:09PM
“Dancing with the Stars” on Tuesday unveiled its new celebrity cast — a constellation of, ahem, “stars” that isn’t likely to reverse the show’s stumbling ratings.
ABC’s long-running dance competition, which kicks off season 16 on March 18, has seen its audience get smaller — and grayer — over the past several runs.
The show still manages to pull in an impressive 16 million viewers, but erosion has been especially steep in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic that drives advertiser spending. Last fall’s “All-Star” edition didn’t help; the median age of viewers was over 60 years old, according to Nielsen numbers.
“I do think that the old stars made it a bit older,” ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee told TV critics earlier this year. “We have the ability for casting fresh to bring in younger audiences again.”
Five of this season’s 11 celebrity steppers are under the age of 30, including former “American Idol” contestant Kellie Pickler and Baltimore Ravens football player Jacoby Jones, both 28. The youngest is 16-year-old Disney star Zendaya Coleman.
This season’s line-up, as usual, is light on bona fide stars. Contestants with the greatest name recognition arguably are Wynonna Judd, 48, who’s likely to lure in some loyal country-music fans, and Chicago-born ice skater Dorothy Hamill, 56, as well as comic Andy Dick, 47, a Joliet native whose unpredictable antics could make for interesting live TV.
Having bigger stars rumba for the mirror-ball trophy would undoubtedly gin up viewer interest, but let’s face it: Big stars don’t need to go on the show; people looking to take a hit off the publicity pipe do.
To make “Dancing” feel fresh, ABC needs to shake things up in other areas, namely the judges’ table. Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli have been around since the get-go — and have become predictable along the way. Other shows, such as “Idol,” have seen a ratings bounce after adding new faces.
At least “Dancing” has done some spring cleaning when it comes to the stars’ professional partners. This season, a trio of new pros will make their debut: Sharna Burgess (Dick’s partner), Lindsay Arnold (paired with boxer Victor Ortiz) and Gleb Savchenko, who’ll be gettin’ jiggy with it alongside “Real Housewife” Lisa Vanderpump. Ballroom bad boy Maks Chmerkovskiy, long a fixture on the show, bowed out this season.
Other new contestants include stand-up comic D.L. Hughley, 49; soap opera star Ingo Rademacher (“General Hospital”), 41, and 18-year-old Olympic gold-medal gymnast Aly Raisman.
What’s likely to be the show’s biggest challenge in finding its footing with new viewers has less to do with the action on the dance floor and more to do with the action on NBC. The peacock net’s younger-skewing hit “The Voice” launches its fourth season March 25, when it will be singing versus “Dancing.”