It’s a show of the highest caliber. It offers unexpected drama, sharp humor, and exquisite costumes, plus Emmy-worthy production values. No, it’s not Downton Abby — it’s Dancing with the Stars, BBC Worldwide Production’s ultra-popular reality-competition program that airs on ABC.
Executive Producer Conrad Green has been the showrunner from the beginning, and he is understandably proud of what the quality show has accomplished in its 14 seasons.
“We take great pride in bringing back an unashamedly old-fashioned entertainment show,” Green says. They have done so with high production values for a show that is worthy of praise in so many categories: directing, choreography, music, set design, costumes, makeup, lighting, the entire technical team, and the brilliant multi-tasking Host Tom Bergeron.
Green explains, “It pushes the envelope technically and creatively. While it looks like it harkens back to the golden age of television, it’s really state of the art.”
The scale of the show has grown over the years. The first season was just six hours long. “Now we do six hours in the first two weeks,” Green says. “It’s monumental to do three hours of live television every week, with so many dances that have a completely different score, and completely different video screen and floor content, and then there’s the wardrobe and props. It’s all done to support the vision and creativity of our dancers and celebrities.”
Musical Director Harold Wheeler is one of the great creative forces on the show. Green says, “It is incredible what he does. Every week, for every dance, we give him the music and he scores it by air.” Sometimes there are 15 dances, and Wheeler works out what every instrument is doing, and adapts it for the orchestra.
Green is glad the TV Academy instituted the reality competition show category to encourage quality in the genre. DWTS certainly deserves the spotlight in that group, especially since the live performance show has production challenges that the taped competitions don’t have to deal with. But it’s tricky, because it’s hard to inform people of the hard work that goes into pulling off a live show. Green says, “Sometimes I think we’re a victim of our own success because we make it look so easy. The whole process of hundreds of people making a live show of this scale is about trying to make it look effortless.”
Obviously they’d love to win an Emmy for the program, but Green emphasizes what is also long overdue is recognition for DWTS directing and choreography.
“Our Director Alex Rudzinski has an incredibly punishing workload. Our dancers come in with their choreography and in just a few days our director has to work out how his cameras can capture every bit of every dance. Alex Rudzinski and his Assistant Director Kate Moran do that each week, scripting the cameras to the beat of the music. It’s a logistical mindscape and he competes against those who have a relatively straight forward directing effort.”
Regarding the choreography, Green says, “It’s mystifying that none of our dancers have won a choreography Emmy, when you think of all the amazing routines and what the show has done for the knowledge and appreciation of dance. They are not only choreographing brilliant routines but also trying to turn celebrity beginners into professional dancers in just a matter of weeks.”
It’s a great show, with people of the highest caliber of talent making it work behind the scenes and on camera. And because they are so good at their jobs, they make it look effortless. That deserves more than a mirror ball trophy.