Yahoo! TV Q&A: ‘Dancing With the Stars’ host Tom Bergeron on guest judge Paula Abdul and the show’s ratings dip

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Sarah D. Bunting
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Tom Bergeron, whom you probably know from "Dancing With the Stars" and/or "America's Funniest Home Videos," is a triple threat. He's not just an Emmy-winning host; he's a hilarious memoirist ("I'm Hosting as Fast as I Can" was published in 2009), and a one-man first-aid squad for fainting contestants (Marie Osmond famously swooned on a 2007 episode of "DWTS"). Yahoo! TV talked to Bergeron for a few minutes last week about how you keep an all-star cast on its toes; what a hybrid "America's Funniest Dancing With the Home Stars" might look like; and whether Paula Abdul's loose cannon is going to hit him on tonight's broadcast. We couldn't get him to spoil any other guest judges, but he did have some theories on the season's ratings slide.

Can you tell me a little bit about the vibe on set for an all-stars season -- how it might differ from a regular season of "Dancing With the Stars"? More relaxed?

I think the first couple weeks it might have been more relaxed, and having taken note of that, we've starting throwing, as I call them, glittery curveballs their way. One of which, of course, is an addition to our judging panel for one week only with Paula Abdul coming on.

The other one, and I think this truly unnerved them, was the whole idea that other couples would be picking their dance style for this coming Monday, and there'll be more of these type of curveballs to come, all designed to make sure they're not too comfortable. Which could be a problem when you've got people who've done it before, many of whom have won it before. But I think seeing two former champions [Drew Lachey and Helio Castroneves] go this past Tuesday raised the anxiety level even more.

So it did start out as sort of a reunion feel, but now it's ratcheting up the tension?

Yep. Now it's like, "Okay, it's a real competition; I like you a lot, but you're going down."

So now it's "Rocky" instead of a reunion.

[laughs] Exactly right.

I noticed that the ratings have taken a dip this season; is any of this a response to that, and is the ratings dip a surprise to you?

It certainly is to me. And of course it's easy to be, you know, 20/20 hindsight, Monday-morning quarterback, if you will.


And we're kind of in the midst of it, so we're trying to get our head around it a bit. What I've heard from several people -- and I'll have to admit, I was so gung-ho for an all-star season, it didn't occur to me that this might be an issue -- is that people like to see people learn, and have an arc, and kind of struggle a bit. In most seasons when you have people come in who have never done it before, and you get to watch that sort of process play out, so maybe that's part of it? And certainly to that degree, we're trying to instill a version of that element into the season going forward.

I wouldn't have thought of that, that it's about the learning curve. I think I assumed that it was more of a scheduling issue, actually -- that it's bridging into the fall season.

Yeah, and it could be, and any one of those theories is as valid as the other, because the thing about programming TV, like with any business, it's almost like throwin' pasta against the wall to see what sticks. Everybody launches their fall season with the highest of hopes, and best of intentions, and some shows work, and some go by the wayside. This has been a little softer than we had expected, but as to the exact reasons why, any one of them could be valid.

Right. Or maybe the show just needs more squirrels hitting people in the nuts?

Yeah, we could do a hybrid show.

If you use that idea, I'll wait for my check.

Put all the dancers on trampolines and pogo sticks.

Surefire success! …Getting back to Paula Abdul for a second -- after an Osmond swoons during a live show, there's probably nothing that can rattle you, but Paula is kind of a loose cannon.

I can't wait, I can't wait. Actually we were hallway neighbors; when she was on ["American] Idol" she had the dressing room right across the hallway from me, so she has already promised to give me a hard time.

But do you actually think she's going to be a rollercoaster? I guess it depends on how you feel about rollercoasters.

Yeah, I like live TV rollercoasters; that's one of the reasons I love live TV so much. I'm ready and looking forward to it.

Are you allowed to spoil us on any other upcoming twists or guest judges?

I am not. Under penalty of spray-tan death.

"Dancing With the Stars" airs Mondays at Tuesdays at 8 PM on ABC.