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Posted at 12:05 AM ET, 11/16/2010

Bristol Palin gets viewers heated up on 'Dancing with the Stars'

By Lisa de Moraes

It's the most important vote since the mid-term elections. It's a bellwether for 2012. Expect instant analysis from political pundits.

Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas on "Dancing With the Stars." (ABC/Adam Larkey)

We're talking, of course, about ABC's "Dancing With the Stars." ABC's ballroom dance competition series has paso-dobled its way to the top of the TV ratings based on its quaint escapist appeal, but this season, with Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol among the "celebrity" dancers, it has become the most politicized non-political race of the year.

Bristol Palin is no hoofer. Week after week, the McCain campaign do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do poster child turned celebrity-in-training has wound up with the fewest points from the show's professional judges -- and, week after week, the tally of votes from viewers pulls Bristol back to safety. Other, far better celeb dancers with higher judge scores, are sent packing.

Who survives and who gets the hook each week on the show -- based on the Brit-hit "Strictly Come Dancing" -- is determined by some closely held formula that factors in both the judges' points and viewer votes. Ever since the show debuted in the summer of 2005, the network and producer BBC have steadfastly refused to disclose how America has voted. No tallies, no state-by-state breakdowns, no nothing.

While Fox's ratings behemoth "American Idol" has slipped badly in the ratings the past couple seasons, "Dancing" continues to find new fans. In its 10th edition, last spring, the ABC contest clocked its biggest audience ever -- nearly 22 million viewers each week. This season it's averaging around 21 million -- but that number will likely climb if Bristol makes it to next week's finals.

Tuesday night, viewers will find out if Bristol is going to make it to next week's final round; the winner of the coveted yet hideous Mirror Ball Trophy will be announced next Tuesday.

But already, the survival of America's top "teen advocate" to this week's semi-finals round has some accusing that social-networking conservatives have been voting for her mother, not her.

"By all means, let the Republicans conspire to fix this meaningless election...If Bristol Palin wins, while the judges gag at her weak performances, then finally, we'll be able to explain politics to the apolitical using concepts that they can understand!," liberal blog "the Daily Kos" boo-hooed last week.

Since the latest edition of the show debuted, in September, political Web sites promoting Sarah Palin's career have been getting out the vote for Bristol, including instructions on how to cast multiple votes via telephone, text message or online for hours after each Monday's performance show. "She's in the final four. Congratulations Bristol," read the home page of, which has every week instructed followers how and when to cast multiple votes for their gal's -- daughter.

The most popular non-political explanation for Bristol's improbable success: She's a plucky underdog. She's The Cinderella Girl -- just like Susan Boyle, only younger, prettier, and without the jaw-dropping talent.

"Dancing" executive producer Conrad Green says he has no way of knowing why people cast their votes for certain celebrities in the competition. But, he is obviously tickled that they do, gushing, "Bristol has been fascinating to watch dancing. We've gradually seen her blossoming as a person to become less and less shy...She's an enormously relatable person."

Additionally, Bristol's complete lack of sophistication -- in marked contrast to this season's other C-list dancers -- her occasional homesickness, and her voice like clotted cream -- have caused the show's many older female viewers to break out in a bad case of "gone maternal," Green asserted.

"She reminds them of their children and their grandchildren."

While he won't acknowledge the show has become politicized this season, Green noted that "for anyone who says she's got the Republican bloc, she would also be losing a lot of Democratic votes." For all we know, that may, in fact, be the case. But if Democrats are casting their votes against anyone named Palin, they don't appear to be well organized. Last week, for instance, four non-Palin competitors may have split any anti-Palin vote out there: pop singer Brandy Norwood, actress Jennifer Grey, Disney teen star Kyle Massey, and former NFL star Kurt Warner, who was sent packing.

This is not the first time politics has insinuated itself into the show like a snake into the Garden of Eden. In the fall of 2006, controversial former House majority leader Tom DeLay sent out a blast e-mail asking his supporters to vote for country singer Sara Evans, who was competing on the show, because Evans -- then married to a GOP fundraiser with political aspirations -- represented "good American values" and because "we need to send a message to Hollywood and the media that smut has no place on television" -- a reference to Democratic former Cincinnati mayor turned "ultra-liberal talk-show host" Jerry Springer, as he was described by DeLay.

Evans wound up quitting the show abruptly in order to divorce said husband after finding, Evans claimed, scads of photos of her husband, nude and aroused, on the family computer. DeLay himself competed on the show last season but only lasted a few weeks before resigning from that post, too, after suffering stress fractures in his feet.

But this is the first time the show has featured the daughter of a presumed presidential candidate -- seen wearing a Tea Party T-shirt on the show during rehearsal last week that clearly read: "Party Like It's 1773 with Rainy Day Patriots" -- the same week producers pixilated whatever was going on on the front of Kyle Massey's T-shirt. It's also the first time a presumed presidential candidate has been seen in the audience many weeks rooting for her daughter, in taped sequences at home, being interviewed by show host Tom Bergeron, watching her daughter rehearse, congratulating the show on reaching its 200th episode, etc., eliciting death where is thy sting-ish comments from ardent fans of the escapist fare.

"I will never be watching Dancing with the Stars again...Are people afraid to get rid of Bristol?," ranted an exasperated fan on a "Dancing" chat room.

"I have enjoyed the show and the judging since the program's inception. If this [voting for Bristol] continues next week...I will be finished watching and many folks I know agree," wrote in yet another.

"Dancing" exec producer Green disputes the idea the Palins have gotten special treatment on the show. He notes that the season in which Kelly Osbourne -- another young woman famous for her parents -- danced on the reality show, Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne were often seen in the audience, Sharon was interviewed by Bergeron, and the Osbourne parents also were shown at home.

Green says that so far as he is concerned, a celebrity is a celebrity, and his only concern is about their ability to draw viewers to the show.

Anyway, he added, he would love to have a Democratic political figure compete on the show, "but Bill Clinton turned us down very politely...I think [the casting director] got as far as 'Dancing With.' He would be my ultimate booking on the show."

What if Bristol wins? This question was just a laugh line until last week when she made it to the semi-finals. If the very thought seems an outrage, Green offers an outlet: "It's a very simple solution: Mobilize to vote for someone else." Green said he's been astonished when he's encountered people angry about seeing so much of the Palins on this edition of the show, "and I ask who they voted for and they say, 'No one'."

Typical. Even stargazing suffers from turnout problems. Says Green: "It's like an election."

(Scroll to :42 for clips of Bristol's "DWTS" performances")

By Lisa de Moraes  | November 16, 2010; 12:05 AM ET
Categories:  Dancing With the Stars  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Reality TV series star Sarah Palin: giving zombies something to think about but no match for Bristol
Next: 'Dancing With the Stars' semi-finals performances: We watch so you don't have to


For me you got this one wrong. I love Dancing with the Stars. The reason I love it is watching real people compete. The show is always seeded with people who are actually dancers. I was prepared to write Bristol Palin off. I am apolitical. I just thought she was hustling attention. Then as the show unfolds you see the first real person in a long time with no pretense. She is actually good and getting better. While she may not know what some of the other professional actors, and performers know, she is graceful, and getting better every week. She is just a kid and that is obvious. It is refreshing. It is what the premise of the show was supposed to be about. The biggest truth you could say to vilify her is that she was not a star. And that is why she is loved. I don't care who her parents are or what they do for a living. It is a pleasure to watch her live down all the unwanted attention in her life and do something wonderful of her own.

Posted by: gracefield | November 16, 2010 12:56 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, DWTS is the first time an award was given for political reasons to an undeserving candidate. Glad it wasn't something important like the Nobel Peace Prize being given to Barack Obama in 2009, or Al Gore in 2007. I mean those weren't politicized were they?

Posted by: Flyover_Country | November 16, 2010 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Bristol is the only contestant left who didn't have prior dancing or performing experience. You could tell she was not comfortable in front of an audience, but she worked hard, and she's the most improved of any. So, I'm very impressed with Bristol!
And, she's also a very sweet, charming, well-spoken person, too.

Posted by: ohioan | November 16, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Bristol be may most improved on Dancing with The Stars, she’s not the only one, Kyle is also most improved and he started improving earlier on and deserves to be there, but Bristol is totally fake and a hypocrite. She had no right to say that she’s not fake and not Hollywood. It’s insulting to the viewers and says so much about her. She thinks she’s better than everyone else; she’s a single teen mom, while preaching abstinence instead of trying to help other teen in coping with the pressures. She’s at a point now that she’s improved enough for the show, but she should have gone home a long time ago. She does not deserve to have made it to the finals.

Posted by: PRINCESSTB1 | November 16, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Okay, we have a lot of voters out there with two left feet or bad eyes. Did Bristol and her partner achieve a score of 30? and that tired last dance routine she performed with the black flowing dress on did a better waltz I believe it was, than she did. I vote the score you all put up for Bristol should go to her clothes. As for Brandy, mom always told us life was not fair, I know you are aware of this, but I bet you didn't think it was someone else's mom that would help make this saying come true. Good luck Brandy, I wish you the best. Take comfort in knowing that you are a fantastic singer and take comfort in knowing that Sarah cannot buy Bristol that talent. With singing either you have it, or you don't. No amount of dollars can buy a good singing voice.

Posted by: Pocora | November 16, 2010 10:57 PM | Report abuse

This was one of the worst outcomes I've ever seen. I will never watch this show again. I will ask everyone I know to switch it off!!!

Put the bear back in its cage!

Posted by: doctr | November 16, 2010 10:59 PM | Report abuse

It boggles the mind how anybody can possibly think that Bristol Palin dances better than Brandy.

Brandy, you're a class act and you did deserve to be in the semi finals.

DWTS, I'll never watch another show, it's obviously a bad joke. I now hope the bumbling fattish Bristol wins the whole thing to underscore the stupidity of the judges when they praised Bristol's horrible dancing.

Posted by: ann26 | November 16, 2010 11:10 PM | Report abuse

We have no way of knowing who voted for Bristol, political or not. There is absolutely no way of proving that it is political. She worked very hard to get to where she is. Just because some think she didn't deserve it, others think she did.

Posted by: christinemclane | November 16, 2010 11:52 PM | Report abuse

Let’s review…5 million people watch the premiere of Sarah’s Alaska series on TLC. Refudiate is named the New Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year. And Bristol gets to the finals of DWTS. Not a bad week at all. Hey, Barry, how’s your week going? LOL

Posted by: idesign | November 16, 2010 11:53 PM | Report abuse

How could Palin win out over Brandy? What a fix. Bristol has no class, poise, character, sense of humor, she is a dud. Who is kidding who. Was her mother behind this? I guess so.
Brandy is bubbly, exciting, vibrant, and classy. What a stunning blow to this show. It will NEVER be the same. I sure hope Brandy does not show up next week, she has more class. What a sin!!!Palin is NOTHING!

Posted by: arizonatrainman | November 17, 2010 12:09 AM | Report abuse

Not sure why so many of you are complaining about Bristol Palin's win. Everyone is free to vote for who ever they want to. It is obvious to me a lot of people are voting for Bristol because they like her and the way she dances.
I thought that was what this show was all about. So your pick did not win and you are going to quit watching! CHILDISH Bristol has done a great job for someone with no experience dancing. It is obvious that Bristol has lots of friends and fans.
Fair is fair, please quit the complaining.

Posted by: Sharon244 | November 17, 2010 12:31 AM | Report abuse

Here's the thing. Other voters, Democrats and Republicans alike, vote for the best dancer. Against a rigged system of voting, of course that doesn't win.

Green seems to think that viewers are so dedicated to DWTS that they'll all figure out a way to vote to defeat Bristol. What he's got wrong is that when you feel you've been manipulated, you simply turn off the show. That's the easiest way to get away from a situation that stinks (my solution).

If they have to hire political figures (I demur at calling an unwed mother a celeb), they could at least hire one that could dance.

Posted by: Catbird3 | November 17, 2010 12:36 AM | Report abuse

NewsBusters: 'Dancing' Fans Want Sarah Palin to Feel Death's Sting?

Posted by: StewartIII | November 17, 2010 12:59 AM | Report abuse

I realize DWTS is often a popularity contest, however this evenings choice of eliminating Brandy appears to be a real fiasco.
I've been watching this program from the the very beginning. There is true talent out there......and I don't think I was ever as disappointed as I was a few hours ago.
If Bristol does happen to win the competition, I will consider this show to be one that is unable to protect it's voting methods from being tampered with.
I've looked forward to each season, but I don't know if I will ever watch DWTS again.
It really is an uplifting form of entertainment, however when the judges, hosts and professionals exhibit real shock, one has to wonder if there isn't a better criteria to use during the final 2 or 3 weeks of the competition.
Granted, Bristol has shown improvement over the past few weeks, but she doesn't compair to Brandy's class and talent.

Posted by: NaimonSJN | November 17, 2010 1:29 AM | Report abuse

I realize DWTS is often a popularity contest, however this evenings choice of eliminating Brandy appears to be a real fiasco.
I've been watching this program from the the very beginning. There is true talent out there......and I don't think I was ever as disappointed as I was a few hours ago.
If Bristol does happen to win the competition, I will consider this show to be one that is unable to protect it's voting methods from being tampered with.
I've looked forward to each season, but I don't know if I will ever watch DWTS again.
It really is an uplifting form of entertainment, however when the judges, hosts and professionals exhibit real shock, one has to wonder if there isn't a better criteria to use during the final 2 or 3 weeks of the competition.
Granted, Bristol has shown improvement over the past few weeks, but she doesn't compair to Brandy's class and talent.

Posted by: NaimonSJN | November 17, 2010 1:30 AM | Report abuse

I am furious with this show, the only reason Palin is remaining on is because of her mother's influence, there has been so many people taken off who did not deserve to be taken off before her, it's the darn teaparty and their commitment to Palin's mother that keep voting her on, and she does not deserve it, and I can't see how she could think she is better than the last 4 couples that have been voted off. And why does the show keep showing Sara Palin? The show should not be about her. I am so disappointed with this show I can't bear to weatch it anymore.

Posted by: robertacasados | November 17, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

It is just appalling to know the extent that some shows will go to maintain top ratings, and DWTS has succeeded. There is no way in hell that Brandy should have been eliminated from the competition. This season was my first season ever watching this show and it will be my last. There is prejudice, discrimination, and downright racial oavertones going on here. Since Brandy(who was the best dancer to me) is gone--we know that Kyle will not win. So figure it out.
If it was left up to some of the DWTS production team, etc., there probably would be people like Brandy, Kyle, and others that look like them on the show at all. This is the mood of this country. Everything is mostly unfair, unjust, and just plain sucks!

Posted by: jmm_bowers | November 17, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Republicans-Making fat, stupid, and talentless the new American Royalty.

Posted by: DAMNEDGENTLEMEN | November 17, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

As for Bristol Palin being a unwed mother. Why would anyone bring that up, all of hollywood are having planned pregnancies first before marriage. Bristol Palin came into this competition with absolutely no experience as an entertainer. A singer has an understanding of the music, feels the beat and the emotion of the song. An actor is use to be in front of people and acting out a part. Jennifer Gray is a wonderful dancer, but I have seen the movie Dirty Dancing many times, and it take some talent to do the moves in that movie, plus the fact that Patrick Swayze was a wonderful teacher. This show use to be about celebrities with no dance experience. Vote for who you want. As the judges have said many times(and it seems they have forgotten themselves)it doesn't matter what their opinion is, it is the voter who make the decison. So if a girl with no experience comes along, and is known for her mother, isn't it OKAY for her to take advantage of the situation, and work hard and do something for herself and her son. It been great watching her improve this season.

Posted by: dl1223money | November 17, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

First and formost I enjoy watching the dancing on DWTS. I agree Bristol Has improved how could she help it. She stillk is not good and her personality oh right she don't have one. She is the most boring dancer to watch. As for past experice yes she had not as the same with Rick Fox or Curt W. and both of them were much better. I wasn't surprised that Brandy got kicked off since in the passed all the dancers that got kicked off were alot better then Bristol. I wasn't a Brandy fan but she could dance and this is a dancing show. I can't believe its because of who Bristols Mom is because no way are there that many dumb people out the that like her and cann't see through her idiot act. Please vote next week even though not sure it will help.

Posted by: rjb5749 | November 17, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Those of you who have harassed this young girl from the moment she came on the show by your mean spirited comments and hatred for her mother have no one to blame but yourselves! All you succeeded in doing was rallying the troops who felt sorry for her and came to her defense with their votes. I don't agree with Momma Palin either but the cardinal rule is NEVER TRASH SOMEONE'S Child!! YOU were the ones who politicized the competition. So what, she had a baby out of wedlock, like half of Hollywood hasn't?? Just look at the comment above "Republicans making fat, stupid and talentless the new American Royalty" totally uncalled for.

Posted by: Beenaroundtheblock | November 17, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

I am so saddened by the DWTS results last night. The network has taken a very popular program out of the realm of entertainment and into the political arena. Democrat vs. Republican, Liberal vs. Tea Party. And I have lost two of my favorite date nights with my husband (a avid sports fan who loved this show). I have to admit that I was curious about the timing of Bristol's appearance on THIS season's DWTS show. But, I was determined to give her the benefit of the doubt. She was awful. I tried to stay neutral as week after week she was voted back on DWTS. Where IS her fan base? She says she is a "teen advocate". So can it be that all those teens she talked to about not having sex till they were married are voting for her. Hmmmm? Ok, then I thought, "well, she is pretty and ......? Heck, she has no personality and she's still an awful dancer. But wait, why aren't the judges criticizing her like they do eveyone else? Even she has to start getting it. She is getting voted back on not because she is the underdog and has come a long way (David Hasselhoff could have improved as much) but because of something else. What is it? Well, I'm sorry Bristol, you are probably a nice person, but you have been dupped and used and I won't be watching DWSTever again. You are in my opinion a "chad". Remember Florida "chads"?

So I recommend watching "Raising Hope" in the future. Now that is entertainment!.

Posted by: cakepatti12 | November 17, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Sites that show source of votes for Bristol:
If you visit this Facebook page: "Get Bristol Palin Voted Off Of (sic) Dancing With The Stars," you will see a post by Dee Decker with a link to a Sarah Palin site that promoted voting for Bristol. The Sarah Palin site has since moved and edited this information, but you can see it there as it has been since September--at the top of the site. Shameful.
and this:

Posted by: kitwyk | November 18, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Bristol Palin is a big joke!!! Not only can she not dance, she has no personality and has many times said I just want to go home to my family (not Tripp) my son. Brandy and Audrina both were voted off and the two left feet Bristol still exists. I have always loved this show and could not wait until the next season but I think after this seasons fiasco it will be my last!!!! If it were not for her mother and all the Republicans she would not get to first base and this is totally unfair for her to win on her mother asking for votes for her. Poor Brandy was in total shock when it was annoounced and she had so much charisma when they ask her to dance on Tuesday she really didn't know what to do or say. She as well as everyone else knows she is MUCH better than poor little Bristol. She should have told then NO not only No but Hell no. You people are a bunch of cheats and I want no part of you ever again. Even Len bragged her up as he tore all the good dancers down. You can tell he is Republican. He ripped everyone else a new one and poor Bristol you have improved so much every week. What a crock!!! After Tuesday I have a feeling this will be my last DWTS viewer. This is a pathetic way to end a good show. I looked forward every Monday and Tuesday for a fun filled night now it has turned into a political mess. It seems as though the Republicans think they have to win everything and be in total charge (remember George Bush and the Florida elections) They are going to win no matter what. Cheating is nothing to them. Poor Bristol will have to live with this the rest of her life knowing she won only on her mothers shirt strings.

Posted by: pjseat56 | November 18, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

One of you got it right. Hell most of you are right! DWTS stands for Dancing with the STARS!! What in creation makes Bristol a star??? Let's get a grip, she should have been gone long ago and the results were a catastrophe! What crap, that everyone is always ripped apart by the judges and Bristol is handled with kid gloves. Let her have it! The judges can't have a look of shock when Brandy gets voted off when the whole system’s been corrupted this season. Going back to every single Tuesday since the beginning of the season, did you all see the look on Mark's face when they were voted back in. The professionals know this is all wrong...Derek's face said it all on Tuesday. I don't care that some of you feel that Brandy and Jennifer had an advantage, they are stars and therefore along with Florence, the Hoff, Jerry Springer, from seasons past, have all earned their right as celebrities to be on the show, hell even Doris! If Sarah wanted to be on the show then she should have gone on like a big girl and not used her daughter. Shame on you!! I also will be soured from DWTS if Bristol doesn't go home and it will have been my last season!! The only way to let them know that viewers care about the outcome is to turn your TV to a different show! There should be another way for the voting to be determined when it comes to the last few weeks of the show, this would keep it fair, not this fiasco. Bristol Palin GO HOME!! You have no personality; you're a hypocrite and most of all you have not earned the right to be there! There are many who have left and you are certainly not better than them. Everyone is discussed with your performance, lack of personality, whining behaviour and let's not mention you have emotional issues. Go see a therapist instead of wasting everyone's time on this show.

Posted by: PRINCESSTB1 | November 21, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

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