4 Ways 'Dancing with the Stars' Can Get Its Mojo Back

The reality competition was short on stars -- and viewers -- this season. Here's what needs to be fixed.

Are you watching Dancing with the Stars (ABC, Monday and Tuesday, 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET) this season? It's possible: Over 13 million people still are. But it's more likely that you've moved on. Since 2006, ABC's sparkle-tastic dance competition has lost over half of its audience. TV industry types shook their heads at last fall's "failed" all-star installation, which averaged only 17 million viewers per episode. But even fewer people -- about 4 million less -- are tuning in for the likes of Kellie Pickler and Jacoby Jones (Zendaya and Aly Raisman round out the final four competing tonight). What's gone wrong? And how can ABC fix it? Here are four suggestions.

 1.   Dancing with the … who? Granted, this show has never run on star power. Even its most-watched season (Season 3) stretched the definition of "stars" to include Harry Hamlin, Willa Ford and Joey Lawrence. But over the years, the show has increasingly relied on cast members from trashy reality shows or Disney Channel celebrities unknown to anyone over age 15. This season's (slightly) more famous personalities, Wynonna Judd and Dorothy Hamill, were eliminated early in the competition. Sure, there's no doubt that the producers already work hard to snare the biggest stars they can. “The critical thing is to nail down the casting,” ABC Entertainment Group President Paul Lee told the press last week. That's great to hear! Now let's see if he's willing to put his money where his mouth is -- maybe offer contestants bigger paychecks in order to reel in bigger fish?

2.   Bored pros. The pro dancers have been tasked with choreographing so many cha-chas and paso dobles and sambas, they've literally run out of ways to make them compelling. Derek Hough keeps getting in trouble for breaking the rules, but can you blame him for trying to avoid repeating the same steps for over a decade? Change the dances, or change the pros.

3.   Too much filler. ABC has already taken a step in the right direction by nixing the painfully long results show. Bravo! If we lived in an age without iPhones, Facebook and a gazillion other channels, people might sit through boring filler to find out which couple was eliminated. But we don't, so we won't. This will make the one night of DWTS feel more special. An even more radical move? Cut the show down to once a year. Give us a chance to experience life without DWTS for a few months.

4. New hosts, please! Lose Brooke Burke, who's nice but bland. And while the amiable Tom Bergeron has shown signs of zest, he rarely gets to tap into his vast reserves of well-honed humor. (He must have this, after watching all those funniest home videos, right?) This show is kitschy and fun, and it revels in being cheesy. So give us some comedians who enjoy poking fun at the proceedings. Carrie Ann Inaba could use some good-natured ribbing, don't you think?

As for the judging panel ... ah, leave it alone. If there's one thing to be learned from American Idol's recent woes, it's that replacing the judges is hardly a quick fix. A better idea: Put the money into better "Stars" on the dance floor. If DWTS producers signed up Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban and Randy Jackson as Season 17 contestants, we'd promise to tune in!

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