Monday, November 1, 2010

Mirror, Mirror, on the Ball

This week the 200th episode of "Dancing with the Stars" will air, and we will definitely be watching it.

We started following the show at the beginning of Season 5 because we're amateur ballroom dancers.  We weren't particularly interested in the celebrities; as one comedian said, in some seasons the title of the show could well be "Dancing with the Vaguely Familiar."  We initially admired the choreography and the exhibitions by the pros.  Over time, though, we've been sucked in by the characteristic that makes "Dancing with the Stars" different from the vast majority of competition shows: the "nice" factor.

If you haven't ever seen the program, it superficially resembles many other reality contest shows.  Each week another contestant and his or her partner are eliminated until the finale, when one couple is selected as the winners of the "coveted mirror ball trophy."  The twist is that the dancers are scored partly by a panel of professional judges and partly by votes from the television audience.  The judges evaluate the celebrities' performance quality and dancing technique; the audience seems to vote for the dancers they find most likable.

Early on we noticed that whiners and stars who heaped abuse on their professional partners didn't have much longevity, regardless of how well they danced.  As time has gone by and the fans have become more fond and (presumably) more protective of the most personable pros, one week of surly or insulting behavior by a celebrity can spell abrupt elimination.  The professional judges are also generally supportive rather than vitriolic a la Simon Cowell.  This is one show where nice guys definitely don't finish last.

Of course, someone is choosing and editing all the rehearsal clips we see, so some of the "nice" stars may very well be just as unpleasant in real life as the ones whose misbehavior the audience gets to view, but we enjoy watching a program that at least seems to be rewarding hard work and positive attitude rather than naked greed and unbridled aggression.  On the dance floor, good sportsmanship is apparently still alive and well.

"One man practicing good sportsmanship is far better than 50 others preaching it."  ~Knute Rockne

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