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Sean Daly, Michelle Stark and Sharon Kennedy Wynne

Why so many hate that Bristol Palin may win Dancing with the Stars

23

November

mark-ballas-bristol-paling-dwts-11-abc.jpgWhy are so many so angry that Bristol Palin might win this fall's cycle of Dancing with the Stars?

Forget about the fans who have vowed to boycott the finale or the guy who shot his TV set upon seeing the "teen advocate's" win last week. Palin and pro dance partner Mark Ballas have faced insults, death threats and one new report -- now denied by producers -- that the voting process might change in the wake of her unexpected victories.

bristol-palin-and-mark-ballasjpg-074e2ae3b432a188_large.jpgGiven all this drama, its a wonder the pair managed two interesting dances on Monday; a spirited jive that got Palin her best scores of the season and an ambitious recreation of a classic scene from Chicago that once again looked mostly like Ballas was leading her around the dance floor. Charitably as the judges were about her efforts, Palin still landed at the bottom of their scores, eight points below front-runner Jennifer Grey's perfect 60 score.

All this heat may seem a little overblown to longtime fans who, in their most honest moments, will admit DWTS success often comes from an odd combination of dancing ability, improvement over time and appeal to the program's middle-aged, female fan base.

But while a certain daughter of a certain tea party leader may have brought new buzz to network TV's highest-rated show, her ability to knock off better-regarded dancers has threatened the show's thin pretense: that the performances matter as much as audience appeal.



Tonight's two-hour finale, in fact, features finalists who are embodiments of the three factors that count most on DWTS. Dirty Dancing star Grey is the best dancer left standing; Disney Channel actor Kyle Massey is the most improved and charismatic onstage; and Palin has an army of fans courtesy of her "Mama Grizzly" Sarah Palin who seem to have given her victory over dancers the judges rated higher.

palin1.jpgIn too many ways, this feels like an odd replay of the last election cycle, as Palin fans insist a liberally biased media is unfairly slagging a popular vote, and those who can't stand the Palins protest seeing the family notch an unearned victory just because it has an aggressive, motivated fan base .

For signs of how worried DWTS producers may be about a Palin win, see producer Conrad Green's brief media tour last week. That's where he insisted in interviews with the Los Angeles Times and New York Daily News that the show's voting process — half a contestant's score comes from judges and half from votes by viewers — eliminates ballots from fake e-mail addresses.

Because DWTS, like American Idol, doesn't release any voting details, there's no way to confirm his analysis. The information blackout may keep suspense high and results shocking, but it also means the younger Palin just might achieve what American Idol couldn't — hobbling the show's fan support by handing her a win big chunks of viewers suspect she doesn't deserve.

ABC just might be on the verge of outsmarting itself; using Palin's cult of personality to juice this cycle's ratings while ensuring a result that just might give the lie to everything Dancing with the Stars says it stands for.

Hope ABC executives have a lot of Maalox handy.

[Last modified: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 6:37am]

    

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