“We made it!” Erin Andrews, the co-host of Dancing With the Stars, exclaimed Monday night. There was a slight note of surprise in her voice. The show—now entering its 20th season, and having given rise to a fitness DVD series, a companion book, and a nearly inevitable spinoff named Skating With the Stars—is one of those rare phenomena that manage to be simultaneously ahead of its time and behind it. Launched in 2005 as an American version of the British hit Strictly Come Dancing, Dancing With the Stars has always been something of an outlier within the genre of reality TV: more earnest, more self-aware, more charming, and more spray-tanned than its fellow shows combined.
DWTS, as its fans know it, hasn’t changed much in premise over its decade on the air: 12 celebrities (or, more often, “celebrities”) are paired with professional ballroom dancers. The pros teach the newbies how to dance; they choreograph routines and coordinate themes and costumes and otherwise prepare the stars for the physical and psychological demands that comes with performing a samba on live TV.
The show airs twice weekly. The Monday night episode, broadcast live, features the competition itself: the stars and their partners fox-trotting through routines and getting judgment from a panel of four dance experts. (Think American Idol, only with exhortations to stick one’s turns.) The Tuesday night episode, which also airs live, is known as the “results show.” It features polished performances from the show’s in-house dance troupe, but its main point is to inform the couples whether they will be moving on to another week of competition. (Eliminations are based on a combination of the judges’ scores and, as the show like to emphasize, “your votes, America.”) Both nights of DWTS are studded with mixed-genre dance performances, interviews with the celebrities and the pros, and behind-the-scenes presentations of the training the stars endure to prepare their routines for mass consumption.