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'DWTS:' Why Bristol couldn't win

Wow.

That was incredible.

Of course, I'm talking about the Hoff's performance. And to think that he's got a new reality show arriving next week. Almost makes you shudder. It made me.

But I digress: What of Bristol Palin?

Now that everyone's presumably settled down, and have their minds set on tomorrow instead, allow me to state the obvious - there was no way she was ever going to win.

Yes, hindsight is always 20/20, but as I think I've said over the years, the real power base of "Dancing with the Stars" lies with the judges. It's subtle and clever how "DWTS" masks this power, but it is there and far more potent than that of the judging panel on "American Idol," which is basically just a bully pulpit after the Hollywood rounds.

Once again, let me explain: The judges score half of the vote, except on the two-part season finale where they effectively score three-quarters of the vote.

Think about it (if you can any more): Viewers get their input only on the first night's performance, while judges get the entire vote on the second. Invariably, who wins the judges' tally on the final night of the season wins the entire season. There was only one exception, as best I can recall: The very first season, when John O'Hurley actually outpointed Kelly Monaco in the judges' tally on the final night, and yet Monaco went on to win. In that instance, the viewers made the difference. But that season actually had a dance-off, long since ended. There have been a couple of ties, viewers probably did make the difference there too - but ties between superior dancers.

The judges didn't care which way it fell.

You're wondering why I'm going into this much detail, and I'll tell you right now: ABC, and "DWTS" never had any intention of letting Bristol Palin win this thing. They knew she'd be a lightning rod, but didn't know how much lightning she'd actually get. They knew she'd get votes, and knew those votes would propel her along - but unless she was a spectacular talent, which of course she was not, they also knew she would never win.

Again, I've done the math, sort of: To overcome the judges' scoring deficit last night, Palin would have needed to secure between 40 and 50 percent of the popular vote. That was never going to happen, and show producer, Conrad Green said as much last week, when he told me voting was "consistent" with past seasons. If true, that meant a judging front-runner like Grey was at least getting as many votes as Palin, or at least within  Palin's  range, while Kyle Massey was obviously getting millions as well.

Also don't forget: "DWTS" changes the finale judging procedure every year. That's right. It's their show and they can make up the rules as they like. There's no independent council saying what is or should be, or what votes should count. They are the ones who determine what is a valid vote, not you. Their scores last night were expressed as a total and not as a percentage - giving their final scores even greater weight.

I write all this for a few reasons.

First, to establish that ABC and "DWTS" pretty much knew what they were doing all along, which is turn this thing into a circus that would command a great deal of unwarranted media attention, and pump ratings to the max.

Mission accomplished. It was brilliant.

Second, ABC and Disney knew there'd be a large contingent of Palin voters that would push her along week to week, superceding the judges' votes in part. They knew this because the judges' votes - on an individual week basis - do only count for 50 percent. A strong Palin turnout easily catapult her pass someone viewer cared less about, like Audrina Patridge.

Third, there was likely no "conspiracy." To game this system would have been immensely complex - especially complex to avoid detection. I don't know that for a fact. It just seems like common sense. Of course Sarah Palin supporters voted for her.

 (What's especailly intriguing here is what happened with ABC's website on Monday night. Jason Gershman, an assistant professor of mathematics and statistics at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale and who has studied the voting - and who says Palin could have pulled this off - writes me saying, "Supposedly there were
issues with the website ABC.com being down for a good portion of the prime online voting period so that probably had the greatest effect on Bristol because supposedly Team Palin was utilizing the web voting in prior weeks to make its wave felt.")


Fourth, ABC and “DWTS” never had any intention of letting “special interests” hijack the show, or turn it into some sort of Tea Party referendum. But they do have pay tribute to the most loyal constituent of the show’s viewer base – Republicans. That’s why Tom DeLay or Wayne Newton have been on the show. Still, we’ll never know what the real votes are, will we? And probably never know what happened Monday night to the website or those on-line votes either.

That’s it. No more. Happy Thanksgiving.

 

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