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  • Writer's pictureKristyn Burtt

How the Pandemic Forced 'Dancing With the Stars' to Level Up

Did it take a pandemic to shake the dust off of Dancing With the Stars? That's sure what it looked like on the Season 29 premiere show. Even without an audience, the series felt rejuvenated in a way viewers haven't seen in years.

With the controversial move of letting longtime host Tom Bergeron and co-host Erin Andrews go still fresh on everyone's minds, Tyra Banks came in and added her spin to DWTS. There might have been a few awkward moments of trying to keep the show flowing, but she came up with insightful interview questions for each of the contestants. It's impossible to compare Bergeron to Banks, it's more about embracing DWTS in a new direction.

The 15 contestants were probably the biggest surprise. It's going to be a battle to get to the finale and it's going to be hard to figure out who to send home in the coming weeks. This cast of celebrities arrived fit and ready to dance — whether they've had prior dance training or not. The one thing DWTS is already promising is that the eliminations will be brutal.

If the cast and new host weren't enough, DWTS producers made sure to bring back the winningest pro ever on the show. Derek Hough proved his mettle behind the judges' table by providing constructive criticism and an understanding of the stress and hard work it takes to be a DWTS pro.

The show obviously wanted to keep Tiger King star, Carole Baskin, until the last possible moment of the night. She won't be bringing home a Mirrorball Trophy this season, but there will be plenty of water-cooler buzz and late-night talk show monologues about her performance. The "Eye of the Tiger" Paso Doble was as theatrical as expected and she relished every moment out there on the ballroom floor.

With COVID-19 being the 16th contestant on the show, ABC has done a spectacular job of pulling off a season that many doubted would happen in 2020. While the show may no longer deliver Top 10 ratings anymore, it certainly brought two hours of joy in a year that's been a challenge for so many.

Check out our Week 1 Dancing With the Stars Aftershow with Variety reporter, Angelique Jackson — available now on Patreon.


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