Dancing With The Stars has had it’s fair share of shocking eliminations over the course of the show’s 28 seasons, but one of the most controversial eliminations ever took place last Monday night as the judges chose to eliminate James Van Der Beek instead of Ally Brooke when they were both in the bottom two.
In fact, Brooke broke down sobbing and begged to give up her spot in tonight’s finale to Van Der Beek.
“Can I give it to James, please?” she asked host Tom Bergeron.
The controversial decision prompted fans to take to Twitter. Many were extremely upset that Brooke was still in the running for two reasons; one, they felt Van Der Beek was a better dancer and two, the judges already saved her from elimination this season — twice.
And honestly, I’m right there with my fellow fans. Van Der Beek was never in the bottom two before Monday night and he’s objectively been a stronger dancer than Brooke for most of the competition. He should be dancing in tonight’s finale.
However, this isn’t a piece about whether or not I think the judges chose to save the right couple this past week. This is about Dancing With The Stars’s broken voting system and how – or if – it can be fixed.
Historically, the couple receiving the lowest combined total of judges’ points and audience votes was eliminated each week until only the champion dance pair remained. Sure, there were occasionally some shocking eliminations (Sabrina Bryan in season 5 immediately comes to mind), but they were far and few between. Most disagreement from fans was about who should have won the mirrorball in the end, but those were usually just a matter of preference – not who deserved to be in the competition.
But then season 26 – aka the four-week, all-athlete mini season – happened. What started out as arguably my most anticipated season easily became my least favorite season out of all 28. Sure, there were a few highlights: Josh & Sharna’s freestyle, the NCAA allowing Arike Ogunbowale – a current college athlete at the time – to participate AND get paid, a few of my favorite alumni making special appearances. But overall, I think back and remember a season full of gimmicks and questionable eliminations. It was also the first season where we saw no two-night finale, something I personally think has definitely affected who has ended up being declared the winner.
I’m not saying all of Dancing With The Stars’ voting problems come down to this specific season. I think the fact that they’ve also cast quite a few celebrities in the past few seasons with wildly supportive fan bases who will support them regardless of whether they deserve to remain in the competition also plays a huge role.
In fact, that’s why I feel like this voting dilemma is a lose-lose situation for Dancing With The Stars. Fan votes have always been a part of the show. So if the fans prefer to see Hannah Brown, Lauren Alaina and Kel Mitchell in the finale this season over Brooke or Van Der Beek, that should be enough of a reason for those three to stay in the competition. And it’s why I can’t really say anything about Bobby Bones being crowned as the season 27 champion, as much as I personally didn’t agree with the outcome.
But on the other hand, the show has always, first and foremost, been a dance competition. I tune in to see quality dancing week in and week out, and a lot of other fans do too. Unfortunately, it’s hard not to feel like this has been abandoned in favor of controversial contestants and gimmicks – essentially anything that will keep people talking about the show.
I could ramble on and on about this but I’ll just finish with one final thought: I feel like the show needs to figure out some way for the best dancers to be rewarded, regardless of fan input. I’m not sure exactly what that looks like and I don’t feel like the show should completely eliminate the fan votes. But I fear that if they don’t remedy the issue then the show is truly in danger of being cancelled sooner rather than later.
What are your thoughts on the way Dancing With The Stars currently handles fan voting? Let me know in the comments below.