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Bristol Palin's survival on Dancing with the Stars threatens survival of the franchise



brandy.jpgWhile TV critics have focused their ire on conservative hero Sarah Palin's campaign commercial-as-reality show on TLC, daughter Bristol has been busy driving a stake in the heart of TV's most successful program, ABC's Dancing with the Stars.

That's because the junior Palin, who really doesn't qualify as a dancer or a star, has been busy knocking out better and better-known competitors throughout the show's run -- most recently, beating R&B star Brandy Tuesday, despite her clear status as an inferior performer.

The smart bet says the elder Palin's supporters -- who are pretty much Dancing's core audience of middle-aged women -- are keeping Mamma Grizzly's cub in the running, even though other competitors are more deserving.

1117-bristol-mug-abc-bn.jpgI'm not shooting my TV over it like this guy did (thank you, TMZ!), and ABC has got to be loving ratings that made Dancing the most-watched 9 p.m. show Tuesday. But I'm wondering about the long term implications.

It's an odd circumstance, given the Tea Party's disdain for unfair advantage and entitlements. How exactly does it make sense to elevate a competitor because of who her mother is, regardless of how lame her actual performance may be? (let's not even think about the absurdity of the teen mom's billing as an abstinence advocate working with Jersey Shore hound dog Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino)

Of course, Tea Partiers aren't adverse to illogical populism, either, so they likely don't care that they're rewarding nepotism and thinly veiled hypocrisy. But Dancing's producers may care a bit more.

That's because most so-called "reality TV' shows depend on a thin veneer of pretense to maintain their manipulative illusions. In the case of Dancing with the Stars, it's the contention that the show is somehow a dancing competition rather than a popularity contest. And for most results that matter, the audience voting has kept up that unreal proposition.

But Palin's success baldly gives the lie to that notion. If you doubt that idea, watch the clip of Tuesday's ejection episode, as the judges and Brandy's professional partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy struggle to spin a clearly unfair result. The real question at the heart of this farce was written all over Brandy's face:

How did I lose to her?

Such unfairness becomes a major issue now, with Palin now among the show's three finalists with Disney Channel star Kyle Massey and longtime favorite Jennifer Grey.  If a clearly less-talented Palin lands in the top two competing against Grey, the battle of popular vs skilled will be outlined in sharp relief.

With the limited credibility of one of TV's highest-rated shows hanging in the balance.

[Last modified: Wednesday, November 17, 2010 2:59pm]


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