Can train-wreck comic Andy Dick, Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones, ’70s Olympic skating darling Dorothy Hamill and five-time Grammy winner Wynonna Judd save ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” from ratings oblivion?
How about comedian and former CNN show host D. L. Hughley, Disney Channel starlet Zendaya, “General Hospital” alum Ingo Rademacher? Or more athletes such as boxing champ Victor Ortiz and Olympic gold-medal gymnast Aly Raisman? Or reality-show vets like “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” dramatist Lisa Vanderpump and former “American Idol” finalist Kellie Pickler?
ABC hopes so — that’s the lineup for the spring round of the show, as unveiled on Tuesday’s “Good Morning America.”
Once the country’s most watched program, “Dancing” has suffered multiple consecutive season of declining ratings. Last fall’s solution — an all-star edition — wrapped with a finale that clocked only about 17 million people. That’s down nearly 30 percent from the franchise’s previous fall edition.
More troubling to ABC is the show’s precipitous drop the past several seasons among 18- to 49-year-old viewers. They’ve never been the show’s strongest suit, what with it being a ballroom competition, but they’re the currency of television advertising sales.
An all-star edition — in which previous-season winners and fan faves were brought back — was supposed to shore up the show as it faced NBC’s singing competition/ratings magnet “The Voice.” But that “didn’t work out,” Jay Rasulo, chief financial officer of ABC parent Disney, acknowledged in December at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference.
Apparently the Seven-Figure Boys at the company didn’t listen to the millions of us who thought an all-star edition was the bunk, because the fun of the show is watching celebs who don’t know their left foot from their right learning how to dance — or not.
“We thought it was a great idea,” Rasulo told confab participants, according to reporters who were there.
“Turns out people didn’t want to see people who could dance. They wanted people who couldn’t dance. . . . It’s not easy to be a taste-master in programming at a network,” he revealed, as if it were rocket science.
Also different for this spring edition: The show is benching some of its pro dancing regulars, including love him/hate him Maks Chmerkovskiy.
“I just want to set the record straight to all of my amazing fans that I will unfortunately not be returning for this season of ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ ” he said Tuesday in a statement, adding that he’s going to “explore other opportunities” like “producing and acting.”
Show pros Anna Trebunskaya, Chelsie Hightower and Louis Van Amstel were also missing from Tuesday’s announcement but, so far as we know, they did not think it merited issuing a statement. ABC, however, did send out one, in which it assured fans tthat he four remain part of the show’s “family.”
Minutes before the new “Dancing” cast was revealed, cable network Starz announced that “Dancing” pro Derek Hough — who is back for the spring edition — and former “Dancing” regular Julianne Hough will exec-produce and choreograph the new Starz series “Blackpool,” about the dark side of international competitive ballroom dancing, set in Blackpool, England.
That’s because 17 million viewers might be a troubling “Dancing” number for ABC, but it’s a goldmine for Starz.
“Viewers are going to see a twisted, sexy, funny, dark and passionate side of the drama and politics in the world of ballroom dance that delves deeper than spray tans and sequins,” Derek Hough said in the Starz announcement.