Ambushed outside a Santa Monica Whole Foods by TMZ, Tyra Banks announced that she’s leaving “Dancing with the Stars.” The host for the past three seasons appeared to break the news before a formal announcement could come from producer BBC Studios or Disney+. “I think it’s time to graduate from the dance floor to the stock market floor… from the ballroom to the boardroom,” she said. The move comes after original judge Len Goodman, who’d been on the show since its beginning in 2005, announced his retirement from the series.
For this writer and “Dancing with the Stars” superfan, there’s only one answer to who should be the next host: Tom Bergeron. The host of the first 28 seasons was the heart, soul, and DNA of the sparkly series, and he deserves a chance to come back. (When asked if Bergeron had been approached for the gig, his rep had no comment.)
Change can be a good thing, and there’s no question Banks grew into the role. She got even better once she had co-host and former “DWTS” winner Alfonso Ribeiro as a foil. And moving to Disney+ resulted in the best creative shakeup for the show in years, getting rid of those pesky commercials and streamlining the whole thing. With commercials, “DWTS” was the ultimate “DVR and watch later” show.
Continuity is a key part of the “DWTS” formula, as we see the same pros return year after year after year to shepherd D-listers into dance shoes — I’m still bereft that Jenna Johnson and Sharna Burgess were not part of the corps last season. We also witness the new stars rise from the ranks of the dance troupe that performs as filler between competitive numbers, and see how some are elevated to “pro” status — such as the great Britt Stewart. It’s fun to follow people over time and see how they evolve.
The same is true for the judges’ desk. Goodman’s departure is particularly sad because it represented the greatest continuity for any reality show’s judging team. He, Carrie Ann Inaba, and Bruno Tonioli served together for 17 years and 31 seasons. Longtime pro Derek Hough was added to the desk later on.
For a show that relies on continuity, the way Bergeron was dismissed after 28 seasons did not sit right with me and a lot of viewers. He hinted at the time that it was because he objected to the producers favoring political firebrands (or their relatives) as contestants to drum up heightened, TMZ-level interest. They were almost always right-wingers: Tom Delay, Tucker Carlson, Bristol Palin, Sean Spicer — perhaps in a move to court even more of the show’s (very large) older demographic. It was always a strange strategy. To appeal to people who wanted to “keep politics out” of mindless entertainment — the same people who’d object to Black athletes taking a knee during NFL games — they injected politics into mindless entertainment.
The show moved away from that brand of controversy-courting in the last three years, which means it’d be the perfect environment for Bergeron’s return. His exhortation of “Liiiiiiiive!” on each episode was reality TV’s primal yell, a howl from the screen into everyone’s living room that TV’s greatest ongoing exercise in camp endured in an increasingly non-sequined, non-spray-tanned, and non-spangled world. That cry of “Liiiiiiiive,” as essential to the show as the Mirror Ball Trophy itself, deserves to be heard again.
We deserve to hear it again. Come back, Tom.
The ballroom needs you.