‘Dancing’ With Fewer Stars, Higher Ratings
ABC's Dancing With the Stars (tonight, 8 ET/PT) seems to have regained its footing with this season's slimmed-down cast and new co-host.
After averaging 18.2 million viewers last season, Monday's two-hour opener pulled in 23.9 million viewers, the biggest audience in 10 seasons.
Last season's 13 percent drop in viewership "was on everyone's mind: Was it an aberration or an indication of long-term issues?" host Tom Bergeron says. "But with this cast, you can look down the list and see the likely reasons for the bounce."
The 11-member celebrity cast is down nearly a third from last season. But its higher-profile hoofers, including reality star Kate Gosselin, Playboy centerfold Pam Anderson, astronaut Buzz Aldrin and Olympian Evan Lysacek, make the show "appointment viewing television again," executive producer Conrad Green says.
Though Monday's shows could remain strong, DWTS' Tuesday results, which begin airing at 8 ET/PT this week, could be hurt by TV's top show, Fox's American Idol. "We're all realistic about Tuesday," Bergeron says.
Ratings haven't been the only early surprise. Green and Bergeron praise Brooke Burke, the Season 7 winner, who has taken over co-hosting duties from Samantha Harris. "What (Burke) understands is the pressure of people competing. She has the empathy and insights on what it's like," Green says.
DWTS considered rotating co-hosts and auditioned several. "It's a more difficult job than it looks," Bergeron says. As for Burke, "It's a dream gig for me - the most glamorous hosting gig for a female on TV."
Despite her featured role on TV's second-highest-rated show, Burke says there's less pressure - and more fun - co-hosting than competing. Dancing, "I was rehearsing seven days a week, up to eight hours a day. And it was the most terrifying time of my life. (Co-hosting) is so much easier."
Burke may be spending less time in the studio, but the mother of four has plenty on her plate. She's a correspondent on syndicated talk show The Doctors and co-CEO of parent-centric Modern Mom.com, and she will host TV Land's summer model-competition series She's Got the Look.
Burke isn't picking a DWTS winner yet. "We all have preconceived notions about celebrities," she says. "You have the bombshell (Anderson), the American hero (Aldrin), the Olympian (Lysacek). But you also have Shannen Doherty, the bad girl who comes out and her father's in tears, she's in tears. You see her become vulnerable and emotional - another side of people - and some beautiful moments. That's what the show is about."