Moving Pictures
Sep 29, 2010, 07:22AM

ABC Agonistes

Dancing With the Stars "Boo-Gate" averted.

So the boos heard ‘round the world on Monday night’s Dancing with the Stars weren’t for Sarah Palin but rather the show’s judges. Longtime viewers of the program—of which I am not one—maintain that the ABC show’s judges are regularly booed by the studio audience whenever they disagree with the scores handed out to such “stars” as Trista Sutter, Giselle Fernandez, and Adam Carolla.

Yet on Monday night, while DWTS co-host Brooke Burke interviewed contestant Jennifer Grey, loud booing could be heard, which many interpreted as directed at Palin, on set to be interviewed by co-host Tom Bergeron about her daughter Bristol’s performance on the show.

The Net predictably came alive with reports that the audience had booed Palin mère, with just-as-predictable outrage being voiced in some quarters. One of the less predictable of these was Entertainment Weekly, whose Karen Valby scolded the audience: “…Booing Sarah Palin on live TV in front of her young daughter, [italics hers] with her other daughter waiting in the wings to perform for you, is ugly and enraging behavior …. [that] makes you look small.”

See? Now you’ve done it! You’ve enraged Karen Valby!

But it didn’t end there. ABC plainly felt a need to prove that no one would dare to boo a Sarah Palin, at least not during one of their broadcasts; after all, there’s still an outside chance she could be president some day. Bergeron went back to what’s apparently the show’s unofficial house organ, EW, to explain that another camera angle of Boo-Gate would be shown on Tuesday night’s edition: “We are going to show footage from another camera angle. Thank God we had a camera on the grassy knoll!”

After the presumed laughter died down, he continued: “It was taken out of context. I can see how people made that assumption. That’s the great thing about live TV. You never know what’s going to happen. As innocuous as it may be, sitting down and talking to the mom of one of the contestants, regardless of her notoriety, it’s turned into this major imbroglio. You gotta love that!”

Well, that and Bergeron’s big vocabulary.

The entire “imbroglio” still leaves a bad taste in the mouth, regardless of one’s political affiliation. ABC is of course in the business of getting ratings, and seizing on any self-generated controversy—however “innocuous”—to pump up the overnights comes with the territory.

Yet one wonders if the same considerations would have been made if, say, Brandy’s or Margaret Cho’s mother appeared to have been booed. An on-air clarification would certainly have been made, but would we have been treated to Zapruder-esque different camera angles? Hundreds of news reports? The Wrath of Karen Valby?

Probably not. But with the nation still coming to grips with just how seriously it’s taking this whole Tea Party thing—Christine O’Donnell may have already devolved into a bad joke, but there are still plenty of others out there, including Palin—ABC wasn’t going to take any chances. It’s likely that the whole thing will be replayed on Sunday’s ratings-challenged This Week with Christiane Amanpour, with slightly embarrassed smirks to accent the backslapping over how the network did Sarah right.

Palin has proven time and again that she’s big enough to handle almost anything thrown her way; a chorus of boos, directed at her or not, is child’s play. By twisting itself into knots to prove that the DWTS audience isn’t anti-Sarah, ABC comes off looking much more foolish than it did when it first decided that Bristol Palin qualifies as a “star.”

Still, I understand that last night’s episode ended with the dismissal of Michael Bolton. Now that’s something we can all get behind.


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