In the sports world, there is a prevailing, if unsubstantiated claim among fans that the leagues pull for certain teams to make big charges toward their championship rounds. The reasons are all about money, as a World Series match-up featuring the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers will generate excitement and higher television ratings than a pairing of, say, the Minnesota Twins and the San Diego Padres. This same argument could easily be applied to the various reality competition programs that flood our television, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the the final rounds of Season 14 of "Dancing With the Stars."
When Donald Driver danced away with the Mirror Ball trophy on May 22, fewer viewers witnessed his feat than was the case with his predecessors, and the evidence points to a lackluster final lineup as the culprit.
Driver, a wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers, continues a tradition of athletes faring well on ABC's hit reality series, but his is not anything like a household name outside of Milwaukee and the attentive NFL fans. Even so, Driver is a veritable top-shelf celebrity when compared to fellow finalists Katherine Jenkins and William Levy, who finished second and third, respectively. Jenkins, with roots in classical music, and Levy, a product of the Mexican soap opera juggernaut, simply lack the level of previous exposure needed to draw in fans based on the curiosity factor alone. Throw in a lack of splashy headlines this spring, and it's little wonder that audiences greeted the "Dancing With the Stars" finale with a collective yawn.
In truth, ABC has struggled throughout 14 seasons of "Dancing With the Stars" to produce a show that truly lives up to its name. The biggest stars in all walks of entertainment (Brad Pitt, Adele, Peyton Manning, Steve Carell, etc.) have largely eschewed the dance floor and left the ballroom wide open for big names of previous generations, athletes, and those prone to stirring controversy. That formula has worked well for the network because there always seems to be one intriguing character who prances all the way to the final show of the season. As this spring's events show, though, viewers won't always tune in just because it's "Dancing With the Stars." There needs to be a compelling reason to watch, and closer attention to true star status would help in that regard.
Of course, even as it stands, "Dancing With The Stars" has hardly donned a new set of emperor's clothes, and even this recent slide left them with 17.5 million viewers for the finale. That was good enough to beat the first part of the "American Idol" season finale, and it likely means that there is plenty of opportunity for a strong rebound next time around.
Still, a little more star power never hurts, particularly when your name promises as much.