“This will be a celebration of all your favorite bits, but it will continue to innovate,” ABC show’s executive producer Rob Wade tells TheWrap of Season 20
“Dancing With the Stars” did something this season that many long-running reality competitions have failed to do: reverse a downward ratings trend. It’s a boost to the show as it readies for its upcoming 20th season and 10th anniversary next spring.
Tuesday’s finale was the show’s highest-rated Mirror Ball Trophy-awarding episode in four seasons. The finale earned a 2.9 rating/9 share in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic — up a whopping 21 percent from 2013’s fall finale — and 15.8 million total viewers. Both were highs on the night. The series has been beating NBC’s “The Voice” for four consecutive weeks.
Still, the dancing competition’s executive producer Rob Wade isn’t using the show’s ratings wins as an excuse to rest on his laurels.
“I don’t think I’ve done my job to be honest,” Wade told TheWrap. “I think we’ve got a lot of work.”
“I still think there’s a way’s back to get it to the confidence level that we had in past seasons,” he added. “I’d like to get the viewers back that left the show, quite frankly, and that’s going to take a couple of years.”
TheWrap spoke with Wade about the season’s ratings victories and what he has planned for the 10th anniversary season.
TheWrap: “Dancing With the Stars” has been able to recover from falling ratings this season, something other competition shows like “American Idol” and “The X Factor” have been unable to do. Why do you think the show has been able to turn around the trend?
Rob Wade: I don’t live or die by the ratings. I just felt that the show has been really good this season. And more importantly, it’s building across the season. It’s growing and getting better. That’s the goal of an EP on a show. We have great celebrities, as well and people who are passionate about the show and invested in the show and wanting to win. It makes for compelling television.
There were some doubts about the changes you had made to the show. Is there some vindication in the show’s growing ratings for you?
This is a brand and a show that’s part of American culture. And also, I’m very honored to be a part of it, but I’m very aware that the success of the show is down to a thousand small things, not one big thing. In the beginning of the season, people would point out the bigger changes and say that those are the reasons the show will fail. I don’t subscribe to that. The big parts and the small parts work in unison. And, that’s pretty much what we’ve done. I still think there’s a lot more for the show.
What’s your vision for the 10th anniversary season?
My vision is that it’s going to be a celebration, but we’re still going to be innovating. It’s still going to be fresher than ever. I want to build on what we’ve done this season. I want to build on the performances. I want more fun, more humor. I really want the cast to pop. I really want the show to embraced the madness. I think that’s what we do very well. It’s a competition, and I take that part very seriously, but at the same time all the extra things we’ve done this season — the fun we had with Halloween, the surprise packages, the dancers. Those are the things that make the show and make the show where the viewer wants to be. I really think that our viewers like to be in our ballroom and they should. It’s the funnest place to be on television. That’s what really the 10th anniversary is all about.
This will be a celebration of all your favorite bits of “Dancing With the Stars,” but it will continue to innovate; it will continue to be fresh. We will continue to work on what we’ve been working on for the last couple of seasons to make it a relevant and fun show. I really want the focus to be very much aimed on it being a family show. I’m very aware of that and I want this to be a show that you can sit comfortably and watch with your whole family.
What themes and tricks do you have planned for Season 20?
I think it’s the best of “Dancing with the Stars” and supersize it. It gives us an excuse to bring back some of the favorite themes — Disney, for example. We want to do Disney again. We wanted to give it a rest this season, specifically because we wanted to bring it back for that year. We want to bring back Latin night, which is a great, exciting night as well. Again, this isn’t definite, but there could be classical night as well. It also gives us a chance to bring back our pros, whether it’s all-time pros or ones that appeared in challenges, some of the faces, perhaps, that you haven’t seen for a while.
Head judge Len Goodman took off several weeks this season and Julianne Hough joined the judges’ panel full-time. What do you have planned for the panel next season?
Len will be back for the whole season. The reason he took a few weeks off was that he had to travel to London [to shoot the show’s U.K. version]. He doesn’t have to do that for next season. At the end of Season 18, he was kind of on the fence and really wasn’t sure he wanted to do this at all with the travel and his age. Len’s a great guy and we love him. And thankfully, he gave us the weeks he did this season, because we think he’s a wonderful judge. He’ll be back in the spring and I can see the judging panel staying as it is, particularly since Len got back it’s really gelled.
I had a conversation with Len yesterday and he was saying, “God, it took me bloody two years to work out judging and Julianne’s got it in two weeks.” It’s a difficult job, you have to get a tempo, you don’t have much time to say stuff. It’s very easy to have your words perceived in the wrong way and at the same time you need to gel with the rest of the panel and you need to think about what they’re saying. It’s a tough job. But as a panel, I couldn’t be happier.
“Dancing With the Stars” will return to celebrate its 10th anniversary with its 20th season in 2015.