There is a fine line between competitive reality show results that shock us, and those that irreversibly undermine the fidelity of the vote tabulation process. ABC’s Dancing With the Stars toed that line, right up until Tuesday night’s penultimate elimination, when “teen advocate” Bristol Palin’s bid for the mirrored-ball trophy came to an end.
Because while Bristol’s improbable longevity as a Dancing star delivered titillating headlines, knitted the brows of her detractors, and created a degree of “controversy” incommensurate with the global significance of a reality show, the fact is that had she emerged as the winner, DWTS would have suffered a devastating blow to its credibility.
As is, a chorus had formed in recent weeks clamoring for a modification to the DWTS voting system, saying that too much weight is assigned to the judges’ scores. And if one were to give conspiracy theorists an ear, it’s easy to posit that ABC had much to gain from Palin’s ongoing presence on the show, polarizing as it was. It has been asked, “Who independently vets the viewers’ votes?” But with DWTS, like most such shows, the tabulating takes place largely under the producers’ and network’s purview.
In the end, ABC got what it needed out of Palin’s noisy run with the show. The proverbial watercooler was bubbling on a weekly basis. Viewership was high. Headlines fed headlines, as Bristol responded to those who were responding to her previous response about somethingoranother. But fortunately for DWTS, Bristol bowed out just in time, before the biggest thing to happen to the 11-season-old competition became the most crippling thing.