by Joe Shea
December 1, 2010
EVEN IN SECRET, AMERICA LOOKS GOOD
BLOOMSBURG, Pa. -- Almost all children hear a set of conflicting statements from their parents, relatives, and friends. They're told if they study hard, if they work hard, they can achieve whatever they want. It's the "American Dream." But they're also told that life isn't always fair.
It probably wasn't fair that Bristol Palin, 20-year-old unwed mother with no discernible job skills, was selected over thousands of other celebrities for ABC-TV's "Dancing With the Stars." It had nothing to do with fairness or her ability; it had everything to do with a reality that Palin's presence on DWTS would bring in ratings, and ratings bring in advertising income.
The first show brought in 21 million viewers who watched 30-second commercials from companies that paid almost $190,000 each, among the highest on all television-broadcast or cable.
To assure that Palin had a chance to stay on the show for at least a couple of weeks, the producers gave her a special advantage - her professional dance partner was Mark Ballas, DWTS champion twice in the previous 10 seasons.
Even with one of the best professional ballroom dancers as her partner and coach, Palin was still at the bottom of the judges' ranking four times, and near the bottom most of the other times.
According to the scoring system, each of three judges give each contestant pair - a celebrity and a professional - a score of 1 to 10. A perfect score is 30. But, viewers can vote by phone, Web site, or by texting. Their vote is worth half the total score.
Neither Sarah nor Bristol Palin made any special requests of the viewers that we know about. They didn't have to. Hundreds of conservative blogs and talk show hosts did it for them, urging their flocks to vote. Many may have even scammed the system.
At least one viewer told the Washington Post he not only had used fake emails to vote hundreds of times, he also told others how to do it.
Willing accomplices and accessories, of course, were the producers who made sure that Mama Palin was seen on several shows - sometimes with speaking roles, sometimes with as many as nine cutaway shots.
The audience did as they were told. For nine weeks, Bristol Palin, one of the weakest dancers in the show's 11-season history, defeated celebrity teams who had perfect and near-perfect scores.
The week before the finals, it finally seemed destined that Bristol Palin would be off the show, having again placed at the bottom of the judges' scores. But it was Brandy and professional dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who had done near-perfect routines, who were voted off.
Shocked, the audience began booing. It didn't matter. Palin was now one of three celebrity finalists.
The last half hour of Part 2 of the Finals drew 24.6 million viewers, highest for any entertainment program this season. Palin had said before the show that if she won, "it would be like giving a big middle finger to people who hate my mom and hate me."
However, it wasn't the audience who got the finger. Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough, who had finished at the top of the judges' lists several times, finally won.
Second were actor Kyle Massey and Lacey Schwimmer; Palin and Ballas finished third.
It makes little difference if numerous celebrities weren't selected for Dancing With the Stars because the producers gave the slot to the less talented Bristol Palin.
It doesn't even matter that more talented celebrities were eliminated from the show because a cult of the home audience voted for Bristol Palin.
In the American election system, the best candidate, for any of a thousand reasons, including blatant lies and distortion by the opposition, often doesn't win an election.
It doesn't seem fair. It's just the way it is.