Have you ever noticed how easy it is to forgive surface flaws when you just really love something? It could be a badly designed website cluttered with outdated links and a truly unappealing style sheet; it could be a greasy spoon with bad service and tacky décor; or it could be a reality show with two-bit celebrities, nobody judges and a set that looks like it is on loan from the KCET fundraiser. That show, that irresistible, embarrassing show, is Dancing with the Stars on ABC.
The surprise hit that follows the same formula as American Idol is back in its fourth season, with one star paired up with a professional dancer. Every week, some brave soul is dumped by millions of Americans who are sitting on their sofas, eating pizza and watching the contestants move their bodies.
Is that why we like it so much? Because they’re doing all of the hard work and we almost feel like we’ve exercised just by watching them? Kind of like how we feel when we watch Survivor, like we’ve just lost twenty pounds on a diet of cornmeal and island rats?
Dancing with the Stars has no real stars to speak of – we’re talking Ian Ziering, Leeza Gibbons, Billy Rae Cyrus and the publicly shunned ex-wife of Paul McCartney, Heather Mills, who is described only as a “charity advocate” or something. The dancers themselves are just a few body parts away from resembling porn stars; certainly many of them could pass for porn stars.
But I’m here to tell you, even with all of that, it is one of the most watchable shows on TV. This season, for instance, Ziering, who once was a fringe character on Beverly Hills 90210 is magically transformed into a cheerful dancing student trying to impress his mother – and we root for him. Laila Ali, daughter of Mohammad Ali, is so charismatic and such a good dancer she threatens to not only steal the show but to launch an entire career because of it.
Even Ms. Mills, trying so hard to keep on her “fake leg” is dancing like she’s never danced before! All is forgiven, Heather. Forget about the millions you took from Paul, you sure look great up there.
When you get right down to it, the thing we respond to in Dancing with the Stars is the sincerity that goes along with someone who is really trying to do a good job. If the contestants on the show weren’t trying, or if they thought it was all a big joke, the show would be long gone. What keeps it afloat is that urge we all have to put it all on the line and challenge ourselves: do we have what it takes to keep our shoulders steady, our hips lively, our feet in time with the music?
When you’re making your mental list about how American TV is nothing but trash, and you are making your “throw out” and “keep” piles, think twice before you dump Dancing with the Stars. Try watching one episode without having fun. Who knows, it might even inspire you to get up off the couch for a few minutes and take a few turns on the dance floor.
Dancing with the Stars airs on Monday nights at 8 p.m. on ABC, with the elimination round airing on Tuesdays.