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YMMV / Dancing with the Stars

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  • Actor Shipping: A good amount of the fandom tends to ship the pros with either each other or their celebrity partners (if they don't already have significant others), and the show often contributes in adding fuel to the fire. Val is the most common victim of this, being shipped with his Season 16 partner Zendaya ("Valdaya") and Season 19 partner Janel Parrish ("Janelskiy"). Other examples of this are Sharkaroo (Robert Herjavec and Kym Johnson, which did turn out to be Romance on the Set after all) in Season 20 and Switch-Up pairing Alemma (Alek Skarlatos/Emma Slater) in Season 21.
    • Alemma aside, Season 21 did a decent job in averting this by being the first season to have a married couple (Carlos and Alexa PenaVega) competing against each other, as well as featuring plenty of dances dedicated to significant others (such as Tamar's rumba in Week 4) and two pregnancy announcements (Allison in Week 4 and Nick Carter's wife Lauren Kitt in Week 8).
    • Perhaps one of the most well-known examples of a classic Dancing showmance is the partnership between Meryl Davis & Maks Chmerkovskiy, the eventual winners of Season 18. Everything about them indicated a romantic relationship in the making for them, to the point that, during the finale, Maks even mentioned the possibility of marrying Meryl and having kids named Boris and Oleg with her. None of it came true (Maks did eventually become a father, but it was with Peta Murgatroyd rather than Meryl), but they still seem to be good friends.
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    • Thanks to a bit of flirting in their first package, Sharna and Bonner got this treatment in Season 24, with many believing the people voting for their "showmance" got them farther into the competition than they would have otherwise.
    • Hannah Brown and her professional partner Alan Bersten got this treatment in Season 28 to an extent, due to the chemistry they shared in dances with each other (both confirmed, during the time of the season airing, that they weren't dating). It probably helped that Alan previously had a showmance with Alexis Ren in Season 27, while Hannah just finished up with the Bachelorette before Season 28 aired.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • Martina Navratilova's Girliness Upgrade. Many people's reactions were that she looks beautiful, others especially lesbian fans of a certain age rather disliked the look and demanded why she wasn't allowed into a tux.
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    • Heather Morris in Season 24. Her packages and performances showed her to be friendly and humble. However, some viewers resented her for the simple fact that she was a celebrity contestant... by way of being a professional dancer. She may well have more impressive dance creds than some of the pros on the show. In week 4 the audience comments caught on camera were "which one's the celebrity and which one's the professional", and the other pro dancers were caught commenting on how she was better than her fill-in partner. This may have been a contributing factor for her being the only person to ever be eliminated as the highest scorer.
    • Carrie Ann's insistence on taking off a point for having a lift in a dance that doesn't traditionally include lifts. Some fans see it as a necessary evil for her to balance out the judging panel, since otherwise Len is the only judge enforcing adherence to the traditional dances. Others see it as excessive and unnecessary, especially since she counts even a split second of feet off the ground (which is sometimes even accidental on the part of the dancers) as a lift and will often end up scoring a dance even lower than Len does because of it. In later seasons, she seems to have lightened up a little bit on the accidental split-second lifts.note 
  • Creator's Pet: While there's no denying he's a talented dancer and choreographer, the constant shilling of Derek Hough (to the point where the judges declared that he and his professional dancer partner deserve to win before the other finalists got their last dance) turned off many fans.
    • The shilling, plus that he has, thus far, been given reasonable contenders while even the other "wonder triplets", Julianne Hough (his sister) and Mark Ballas (Mark's parents raised Derek and Julianne), have been handed less-than-stellar (or popular) partners.
    • Zigzagged, Len (the head judge) is not the biggest fan of Derek, sometimes Len's criticism has nothing to do with Derek's partner at all. Nor is he a big fan of Mark Ballas who took creative risks (just listen to him criticizing the zombie paso doble routine.)
    • During the Hough-less Season 22, we instead get a Network's Pet in the form of Ginger Zee, who got Val as her pro partner and, despite delivering less-than-stellar dances most of the time, receives more praise than the fanbase feels she deserves, just because she's the chief meteorologist on Good Morning America, which tends to report quite a lot on Dancing.
      • She also received the first perfect score, and made it to the finale, against arguably a much more talented cast. Articles were written questioning whether there was some sort of "fix."
    • Val himself seems to be developing into one; between seasons 19 and 24 he's won twice and been consistently given one of the best female stars of the season. The only time he missed the finals in those seasons was with Tamar Braxton, and even that was not because of her skill level (she easily could have made the finals) but because she withdrew due to medical problems.
  • Elimination Houdini: Marie Osmond, Master P, Michael Irvin, Cloris Leachman, Billy Ray Cyrus, Bristol Palin, Kendra Wilkinson, Hope Solo, Melissa Gilbert, Bill Engvall, Chris Soules, etc.
    • Season 21 avoided this to a certain degree, with all of the weakest celebs being eliminated during the front half of the competition. Still, a lot of people weren't pleased to see Alek Skarlatos, who among the remaining celebs wasn't exactly the best, in the final three just because of his personal story, much like what happened to Noah Galloway in the previous season.
    • Season 24 had two big ones in Bonner Bolton and David Ross, both of which clearly weren't the best dancers, but kept being saved by the public vote. At least a case could be made for David, a funny and likeable guy who was well aware that he wasn't up to par with the rest of the contestants but still enjoyed himself and developed a sweet partnership with his pro, Lindsay Arnold. Bonner, on the other hand, didn't have much of an excuse, as he remained stiff even in later weeks and never really seemed to try connecting with the audience.
    • Season 27 had two of these AGAIN with Joe Amabile and Bobby Bones, who were also not the best dancers (Joe got the lowest scores for almost every single week he was on the show) but were saved by the public vote (resulting in Joe only being eliminated at the Semi-Finals while Bobby ended up winning the competition entirely despite having the lowest scores out of all the finalists in the Finale).
    • Season 28 had one in Sean Spicer, who was one of the least-talented dancers that season and consistently had low scores, but was constantly saved by the public vote...until he ended up in the Bottom Two for Week 9, where the judges promptly eliminated him from the competition (the judges had the power to "save" one of the two couples in the Bottom Two from elimination at the time).
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Sharna Burgess, who is considered one of the better pros and even nicknamed "Lord Sharna" by a good portion of the fanbase, but didn’t score a mirrorball until season 27 despite making it to the finals several times. Troupe member Jenna Johnson could also qualify.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: To say this show made Bindi Irwin popular in North America would be an understatement. It really is no wonder she was her season's champion.
  • Growing the Beard: After losing its audience share due to the overblown double night set-up and a general negative reaction to reality shows, the change in format to have only one show a week has paid off, as has getting Erin Andrews to take over the sidekick role from Brooke Burke.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • In week 2 of season 20, Nastia Liukin and Derek Hough danced a rumba to "Thinking Out Loud". Season 20 was the season the dancer on the song's music video, Brittany Cherry, made her official debut in the troupe.
    • During Nick Carter's first dance in Season 21, his pants' button popped out, reminding him of Joey Fatone's microphone coming loose during his first dance in Season 4, which was set to the Bee Gees' "You Should Be Dancing". Guess what song Nick ended up dancing to on Famous Dances Night five weeks later?
    • Back in season 19, Sadie Robertson, Mark Ballas and Emma Slater performed a trio Foxtrot to "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" by Frankie Valli. Fast forward to season 23 and Ballas was absent from the pro list... but only because he was to to be the final actor to portray Valli in Jersey Boys as the play completed its historic 11-year Broadway run.
    • During the 10th anniversary special episode in Season 20, some of the most notable football players to do the show, including Jerry Rice, Kurt Warner, past winners Hines Ward and Donald Driver, and Jacoby Jones, performed a special Paso Doble group number with Anna (who had previously been partnered with Jerry in Season 2 and Kurt in Season 11), Karina (who was Jacoby's partner in Season 16), and, for some reason, Emma. Her inclusion in the performance is all the more interesting after her victory with Rashad Jennings in Season 24.
  • Hollywood Pudgy: Former pros Lacey Schwimmer and Cheryl Burke for a time underwent backlash because of their weight, though that obviously didn't hinder their dancing skills.
  • Ho Yay: Ubiquitous. Lest we not forget Mark Ballas and Val Chmerkovskiy going head to head.
    • The Madonna dance by Carson Kressley with the Chmerkovskiy brothers is dripping with this. There's no doubt it was intentional.
    • What likely started it was the season with Steve Guttenberg. One week, his partner, Anna Trebunskaya, had to take a day off. To avoid having him fall behind, her then-husband, Jonathan Roberts, filled in to help Steve. This led to them performing their all-male Tango (which Tom dubbed "The Man-go,") on the results show that week.
    • Then there was the (in)famous kiss between Bruno and Donny Osmond.
    • Bethany Mota's samba: Derek Hough and troupe member Sasha Farber's accidental(?) kiss.
    • Season 21 also had its fair share of homoerotic undertones, for the most part involving, oddly enough, Carlos PenaVega (who's not only married to a woman but was also competing against said woman), such as the footage of him and Val practicing hip action for Carlos' salsa with his actual partner Witney, and an entire montage dedicated to Carlos and Alek's bromance in the finale.
    • Team Bruno's tango had Jodie Sweetin dancing with Peta Murgatroyd and a shirtless Nyle DiMarco dancing with an also shirtless Keo Motsepe for a bit. As some people have said, that was the most Bruno thing anyone has ever seen.
    • Season 24's finale gave us a whole montage of Peta's partner Nick Viall and his love for Peta's fiancee Maks, including him and Maks wearing matching "I ♥ Maks" and "I ♥ Nick" shirts.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: Every season will have someone notable enough to be cast that will encourage viewers to tune in.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Marie Osmond's freestyle dance a.k.a. the Dreaded Doll Dance. Makes a grown man cry indeed...
  • Shocking Elimination: For a popularity contest, sometimes it is bound to happen.
    • One of the most notable ones was the elimination of Sabrina Bryan in Week 6 of Season 5, which shocked and brought tears to everyone. And it happens AGAIN, in the SAME WEEK, to her in the All-Stars season, and exactly five years to the day she was eliminated the first time, no less!
    • Season 17 suffered a nasty chain of them starting from Christina Milian (who got the first 10 of the season that week) to Elizabeth Berkley (got a perfect score in 1 of her dances and had a 14 point lead over Bill Engvall).
    • Season 18 had a run of them as well when Danica McKellar, Charlie White and James Maslow getting eliminated one after the other despite higher marks than Candace Cameron Bure, who was often the last to be called safe. What’s more was when Charlie was eliminated, this trope was bound to happen as the other contestant in the bottom two was his skating partner Meryl Davis, who was often the top of the leaderboard.
    • Despite constantly getting judge praise, almost getting the first perfect score of the season (in the Most Memorable Year week she had a 39), and being one of the best dancers, Season 20's Willow Shields was eliminated in the seventh week, to the shock of everyone on the show and most people watching.
      • Even before the elimination was announced, the highest scoring contestants of that season thus far (with the exception of one winning immunity that night) were the last ones to be called safe from elimination.
    • Season 24: Heather Morris' elimination not only came right after her pro partner Maks returned to the show after a calf muscle injury forced him to take a four-week sabbatical (Morris danced with troupe member Alan Bernsten in the meantime), but they'd got the first perfect 40 of the season that week. Many feathers were ruffled that night.
      • Note that in all of her performances bar Disney nightnote  she had been in the top three, and was the highest scorer for both dances in the week she was eliminated (compared to Nick, who was the lowest scorer in both dances that week). In all weeks prior, either the lowest or second-lowest couple was eliminated, and the show has never seen someone with a perfect score be knocked out (outside of finals).
      • Even more feathers were ruffled after Simone Biles was eliminated in the semifinals, despite geting a perfect 80 from her two dances that night, a full ten points more than the other contestant up for elimination. Unfortunately, that contestant, Cubs catcher David Ross, may well have the most fan support in the history of the program.
    • Season 27's eliminations of Tinashe, who was eliminated in Week 4 despite her being one of the highest scoring contestants so far, and Juan Pablo Di Pace who was eliminated during the Semi-Finals, despite a total of FIVE PERFECT SCORES and being the ONLY contestant to have two perfect scores on the night he was eliminated. Both of these were only made worse once the winner was revealed.
    • Season 28 had James Van Der Beek's elimination in the Semifinals, despite him being a fan-favourite, consistently having good dances, and being considered a lock-in for Finals, if not actually winning the entire competition.
  • Tear Jerker:
    • Jennifer Grey's emotional first dance that paid tribute to her late Dirty Dancing costar Patrick Swayze.
    • The reaction of Hines Ward after he and Kym Johnson completed their Argentine Tango three days after Kym nearly broke her neck.
    • JR Martinez's rumba to "If You're Reading This". The dance was dedicated to his fellow soldiers who didn't come home from Iraq and Afghanistan. There wasn't a dry eye in the house when the dance was done.
    • Chris Jericho's Rumba dedicated to his late mother. For this performance, he was introduced by his birth name of Chris Irvine.
    • Katherine Jenkins' waltz dedicated to her late father.
    • Len Goodman's story on how he can no longer dance due to his knees...then joining in on Nastia Liukin and Derek's Viennese Waltz in his honor.
    • Sadie Robertson's Viennese waltz to "Married Life" during Movie Week in season 19.
    • Speaking of Most Memorable Year week, Lea Thompson's contemporary to "Dance with my Father".
    • Nick Carter and Sharna Burgess' Foxtrot to "Comin' Home, Part II", dedicated to Sharna's father and grandmother, during Hometown Glory week.
    • Nick & Sharna's week 8 contemporary dedicated to Nick's wife, who he calls his rock, especially since he grew up in a very dysfunctional family.
    • Back to Hometown Glory week, Alexa PenaVega and Mark Ballas' rumba to the theme from Somewhere in Time, which was a tribute to Ballas' parents, the great professional Latin dancers Corky and Shirley Ballas.
    • Bindi Irwin's contemporary to "Every Breath You Take" in Most Memorable Year Week. For that matter, the package beforehand counts as this too. There probably wasn't a dry eye in the audience after the package and dance. Turned Up to Eleven after her freestyle to "Footprints in the Sand", when Derek surprised her by having a picture of young Bindi with her father displayed prominently on the wall at the end. Bindi took one look at it and crumpled into tears in Derek's arms.
    • Most Memorable Year Week strikes again in Season 22, with Doug Flutie's tribute dance to his parents (who died literally within an hour of each other after being married for decades), set to "The Rainbow Connection".
    • Two weeks later, during Switch-Up Week, it was Nyle DiMarco who turned on the waterworks as he and Sharna danced a Viennese Waltz to "I Get to Love You" and scored the first 10 of the season.
      • Not to mention Nyle's freestyle, set to Disturbed's version of "The Sound of Silence."
    • Laurie Hernandez's foxtrot in the semi-finals of season 23. Her pre-performance package showed how her grandmother (whom she was very close with) had passed away that week. Her dance was so emotional - she even wiped away a tear in the middle of it - and as soon as it was done, she started crying. Tom, Carrie Ann, and Julianne were all visibly moved by her performance.
    • James Hinchcliffe's freestyle in season 23, set to narration by James about his life-threatening accident.
    • Florence Henderson attended the season 23 finale to meet up with Maureen McCormick, who played her daughter on The Brady Bunch. Florence would be hospitalized the day after the finale, and would die of heart failure the day after that.
    • Season 25's "Most Memorable Year" night got pretty emotional all around.
      • The dances Frankie, Nikki, and Victoria did were all uplifting, but it was hard to watch the packages beforehand as they talked about their struggles with memory loss (Frankie), near-paralysis (Nikki), and everything Victoria's had to go through.
      • Terrell's waltz for his late grandmother, who died in 2012 after spending years with dementia. And he burst into tears afterward.
      • Lindsey Stirling's waltz for her late father, which also had Mark wearing one of her dad's old hats and scarves, which also made it her last dance with her father. And she burst into tears afterward.
      • Jordan's contemporary was dedicated to his grandparents, who became his adoptive parents after his mother was declared unfit to raise him. He burst into tears before the dance after watching his own package declaring how much he loves them, and immediately ran to them in the audience after finishing the number.
    • Season 28, Week 6 had a lot of tears:
      • Lauren Alaina's Contemporary was danced to a song she wrote for her late stepfather, and that night happened to be the anniversary of his death. And she burst into tears afterward.
      • Sailor Brinkley-Cook's shocking elimination in Week 6 resulted in her breaking down into tears, and even Ally Brooke, who was also in the bottom two with her at the time, was in tears. Sailor's professional partner Val immediately hugs her and comforts her, with the judges even giving her encouragement that she should be proud of how far she's gone in the competition. Everyone went up to Sailor to comfort her.
    • Season 28 Semifinals as well:
      • Kel Mitchell’s Contemporary to Whitney Houston’s cover of "I Will Always Love You". He dedicated it to his childhood friend Sam who was shot and killed at age 16 as well as to anyone who has ever been affected by gun violence. He not only got a perfect score, but Len, who is not overly fond of contemporary dance in the ballroom, gave him a wordless, standing ovation.
      • James Van Der Beek during the video package before his second dance sadly revealed that just two days earlier his wife Kimberly suffered a miscarriage. He wasn’t sure if he could dance for that night, but she encouraged him to go on and use it to help cope with his feelings. The result was an emotionally packed Foxtrot to Hozier’s "Take Me to Church" that ended with him and Emma tearfully holding each other, as well as all the other contestants and judges in tears.
      • And if that wasn’t enough, the bottom two that night were him and Ally Brooke, two of the higher scorers and fan favorites of the season. The judges didn’t want to eliminate either, but in the end chose to save Ally due to her higher scores throughout the season. Ally tearfully even tried to give up her spot to James, upset that he had to go home after all he had gone through, which not only did the rules prevent, but James himself also turned her down, telling her she shouldn’t give up the opportunity after all her own hard work.
    • Season 29:
      • Skai Jackson's Foxtrot to John Legend's "Ordinary People", which was dedicated to her late friend and Jessie co-star, Cameron Boyce. In the video package before the dance, she revealed that Cameron and his love of dancing was a large part of why she wanted to participate in the show. The dance itself ended up getting the first 10 of the season.
      • Chrishell Stause's Contemporary to "Stars" by Grace Potter & the Nocturnals. The dance was dedicated to the memory of her parents, both of whom she lost within a year of each other due to lung cancer.
  • The Scrappy: Every season seems to have at least one contestant who serves as the lightning rod for audience hate.
    • Bobby Bones, without a doubt, has to be the Dancing Scrappy to end all Dancing Scrappies for being a huge Elimination Houdini who won Season 27...and ironically is not by any fault of his own, since Elimination Houdinis on this show are specifically created when people vote for lesser skilled dancers to progress on the show.
  • The Woobie: As the first (and the only one until Season 27) black professional dancer on the show, many fans were excited about Keo's introduction in Season 19...only for him to be immediately eliminated in week 1. As of Season 29, Keo has been the first to third eliminated in every season he's competed in, with the exceptions of Season 22 with Jodie Sweetin (they made it to 6th place) and season 27 with Evanna Lynch (which, while he made it to the finals and 3rd place, lost to Bobby Bones who had the lowest ranking scores amongst all that season’s finalists). Even Erin once mentioned it in a blooper from dress rehearsals: "It's the first elimination of the season, which usually means Keo's going home."

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