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November 19, 2010

Tango with Howard Beale

Even before she took her first misstep, it was a given that Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol, the latest misfit on reality TV's insanely popular "Dancing with the Stars," would be a finalist.

Even before we knew if she was any good -- and the judges' consensus is, she isn't -- it was clear Bristol would send the ratings through the roof, and that the show's producers and ABC network officials would want her around until the very end.

And of course, that is what's happened. More than 20 million viewers have been watching this season, number 11, up 3.3 million viewers from the year before, according to the Los Angeles Times.

But when Bristol beat the sophisticated and elegant Brandy on this week's show to make it to the final round, people were surprised anyway. And mad. Really mad. (Eliminations are made through a "secret" formula that combines the judges' scores with viewer voting.) It was even reported that a fellow in Wisconsin blasted his television with a shotgun in response. (Extenuating circumstances: His wife told the Wisconsin Journal her husband has bipolar disorder.) NPR's Robert Siegel invited ballroom dance's Pierre Dulaine onto "All Things Considered" for his reaction to this stunning development and to offer advice to Bristol on how to improve. Ugh.

Conspiracy theory rumors are rampant that Tea Party activists flooded the voting, thereby insuring Bristol's win.

OK, everyone. Take a deep breath. This is not scientific polling. This is not an election. This is a reality TV show. What did you expect, really? 

Unlike some dance critics, I applaud "Dancing" and its fraternal summertime twin, "So You Think You Can Dance." I like them -- though hardly ever watch them -- because to me they are living proof that dancing is not a fringe activity. Dancing is an enormously enticing human need, I happen to believe, and having "Dancing with the Stars" up there drawing millions of eyeballs every week just confirms my belief. And it comforts me.

That said, I have a slightly subversive suggestion for all those who are so mad, they're not going to take it anymore. You probably see where this is going. My suggestion is this: Just turn off your television. Boycott the final show, which is this Monday, Nov. 22. Don't watch it. Rent a move: "The Red Shoes," or "The Turning Point." It would be even better to go see a live concert dance performance, but that's hard to find on a Monday. That's the only way to get your point across to the show's producers.

Or...rent the brilliant 1976 film "Network." Here's a rallying cry from TV anchorman Howard Beale, which is my inspiration for this suggestion:

"So you listen to me. Listen to me. Television is not the truth....We lie like hell....We'll tell you any shit you want to hear. So turn off your television sets. Turn them off now. Turn them off right now. Turn them off!"

November 19, 2010 8:03 AM | | Comments (2)


Brava, Laura!

Except that now you've got me interested. I shall endeavor to resist.

Thank you!
Ah well, I have a feeling ratings will be up tonight.

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