Kelly Monaco and Valentin Chmerkovskiy danced their faces off in last night’s Dancing with the Stars, but not even a tiny black Speedo could save this couple from controversy. During their Surfer Flamenco, Val stripped down and danced like a grand lunatic on the surfer themed podium of the DWTS dance floor, in the smallest and tightest black Speedo this side of an old age home’s visit to the beach. Bruno Tonioli, the campy and OTT judge died a thousand deaths inside during Val’s water splashing homoeroticism. The perfectly executed dance ended with a cacophony of screams and applause, but the judges didn’t agree. Bruno refused to acknowledge the dance as Flamenco, and instead called it an erratic (erotic?) Paso Doble. The judges’ understated critique resulted in Kelly and Val being awarded the lowest score of the night, and one of the lowest scores of their run on the 15th season. In fact, Kelly and Val’s average score of the competition stands at 26.2, which is 0.7 points above their 25.5 score of last night.
However, the drama cookies weren’t baked during the judging, but rather during the post-dance interview. The co-host Brooke Burke-Charvet, asked Val and Kelly what they thought about never having scored perfect 10, to which Kelly responded, “I mean, it really doesn’t matter. I thought it was funny. I was really giving Val a ten,” she held up her skirt and showed the camera her gold coated 10. Carrie Ann Inaba awarded them 8 points, Len Goodman awarded them 9 points, and Bruno awarded them 8.5 points. After the scoring, Brooke asked them what they thought of the scoring, to which Kelly responded, “Well, we’ve been in the bottom before, so we’ll fight our way up.” Val, on the other hand, responded much more adversely towards the scoring and said, “I think that’s pretty politically correct. I think that’s pretty unfair, but that’s just my opinion.”
Val’s rogue comment lifted a lid off the steaming excrement that boils behind the scenes of the show. His brother, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, took to Twitter immediately after the scoring and questioned whether the judges even knew what a Flamenco was, and then lambasted them for the scores by tweeting, “WTH ARE THOSE SCORES!?!?!?!? I’m almost sorry that Val’s last name is #Chmerkovskiy!” In another quick-fire Tweet, Maks wrote about another member of his family, “The hardest thing about being on this show is explaining to a crying grandma why @iamValC and @kellymonaco1 get bad scores…”
These tweets sent ripples throughout the Val/Kelly fan base, as many viewers of the show questioned the worth and knowledge of the judges. Critique of the scores is welcomed in any almost reality television talent show, but this is Dancing with the Stars, a show that is more focused on the celebrity value and draw than anything else. This season has been plagued by rumours of vote fixing, political voting lines, and contestant favouring. We wouldn’t put it past the producers of the show to keep the popular celebrities around, and kick off the less important ones by manipulating the viewers with the judges’ critique and scoring.
We’re not going to cry wolf and be the sad kid who gets eaten by said wolf, so instead, we’re going to ask the fans of DWTS to let us know whether they think the show is set-up to allow certain celebrities to advance further than others. Do you think there’s any value to Val’s comment about “political correctness”? Do you think his brother, Maks, knows what’s up? And also, do you think the three judges, Carrie Ann, Len, and Bruno, are being manipulated by producers in order to favour a specific celebrity? We’re on the fence on this one, especially if you take Kirstie Alley into consideration. She scored the lowest points of the season, but still managed to last until the 8th week of competition. If judges were favouring popular celebrities – Kirstie was one of the most well-liked celebrities of the season – why didn’t they give Kirstie better scores? On the other hand, Kirstie could have been used as smoke and mirrors and kept in the competition as an underdog, because everyone loves an underdog.
Executive producers of reality television talent shows fail to inform the viewers that their vote is constantly being manipulated by subtle nuances in the critique, the scoring, and/or the commentary. We’ve seen it happen time and time again, where a less important contestant survives until the bitter end due to being labeled as the season’s “underdog”. There are many editing techniques used in live shows which viewers are not aware of – a quick pan away from an emotional moment could have devastating effects on the contestant’s popularity, while a tight focus on an emotional moment could have a lingering and endearing effect on the popularity. There are also several archetypes used in reality television shows to make the characters more relatable. There’s always a villain (CeCe Frey X-Factor USA), a lover (Arin Ray X-Factor USA), an underdog (Kirstie Alley DWTS), a fighter (Kelly Monaco DWTS), and a victim (Bristol Palin DWTS).
These archetypes tell a story and a relatable tale of hardship and resilience. A reality television show would never work without these set archetypes, nor would the show have an ever lasting impact on the television arena. Take Survivor, for instance, the villain (Russell Hantz) is usually a polarizing figure, but his ultimate loss and returning loss on the show gave the viewers small opportunities to witness an epic good vs. evil battle.
Even reality television shows, live or edited, adhere to the rules of plot construction. There’s always a happy ending, an unhappy ending, or a literal ending – where the show reveals the archetypes at the start of the season, but eventually boils down to voting and inevitable fate (this is what Survivor does best). All twenty types of plots usually pop up during a reality television season, namely Quest, Adventure, Pursuit, Rescue, Escape, Revenge, The Riddle, Rivalry, Underdog, Temptation, Metamorphosis, Transformation, Maturation, Love, Forbidden Love, Sacrifice, Discovery, Wretched Excess, Ascension, and Descension.
All in all, Val’s commentary on the show could lead to a premature elimination of the couple. Viewers broadly dislike any form of deviation from the set voting structure, and Val’s commentary was a symptom of this general dislike. The first rule of reality television, never question reality television and the methods used to eliminate you. The second rule of reality television is the same as the first rule. There could be manipulation behind the scenes of DWTS, but in the end, they’re not playing with the lives of ordinary citizens (like Survivor), they’re glorifying celebrity and using it to draw a massive audience and set voting blocs. The result won’t have a lasting effect on anyone’s life, and it won’t really influence any future seasons of the show. It will eventually return to normalcy, and come 16th season, viewers will forget who they even voted for.