Shooting your television
because you don't like Bristol Palin
on "Dancing With the Stars
Mailing threatening letters
to Bristol with mysterious (but harmless) white powder?
The participation of "teen activist" (who is now 20, but whatever) Bristol Palin has propelled ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" from just another popular reality show into the political realm, with accusations of voting conspiracies
and occasional appearances by the woman who got her there: the former Alaska governor, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee and the star of her own travelogue reality show on The Learning Channel, Sarah Palin
But seriously, folks, this is not a contest to decide the leader of the greatest country in the free world. That happens in 2012 and likely involves Bristol's mom.
It's a dance competition. It's a dance competition in which half of each team is not even a professional dancer. It's a dance competition in which fans get a significant say -- via multiple votes on multiple platforms -- in who wins each and every week.
And as DWTS host Tom Bergeron
pointed out on Twitter last week you can
change the channel -- no one's making you watch.
For those of us intrigued by this season's show, and the season finale pitting Bristol and her pro-partner, Mark Ballas, against "Dirty Dancing" actress Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough and Disney star Kyle Massey and partner Lacey Schwimmer, well, read on.
Clearly, taking a chance on "Dancing With the Stars" is a huge win for Bristol
. She's in the finals as a result of hard work, not just her mother's network casting about for votes. And that casting about for votes wouldn't have worked if Bristol displayed the sort of total ineptitude of, say, ESPN's Kenny Mayne or the physical inability to dance as demonstrated by Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Josie Moran
, whose partner described her as "deceptively unfit."
Despite the occasional need for an obscenity "bleep," rehearsal footage portrays Bristol as earnest and hard-working. There's none of the whining and pouting that Kate Gosselin
became known for last season, and virtually no tears, which virtually all women stars seem to dissolve into at some point.
That hard work in rehearsal -- "Staying focused on the 4 dances we have! Long hours at the dance studio, but wanted to send a quick thank you for all the supporters! :)
" Bristol posted to her Facebook page
Saturday -- has paid off. She is the most improved dancer on the show, and that's saying something.
The biggest issue Bristol has faced is her lack of entertainment skills. She definitely doesn't have her mother's charisma and perky demeanor. Her ill-fated monkey costume moment
may have drawn praise from some of the judges in the taking-a-risk category, but it also proved a turning point in another way. Since then, the dances Bristol and Ballas have performed have taken a serious tone, no more attempts at smiling, happy frivolity for this girl.
Instead, it's been piercing eyes and a straight-faced demeanor, paired with dramatic black outfits designed to show off her legs, which judge Carrie Ann Inaba raved about the first week of competition
Much has been made of allegations that Sarah Palin and her troops are somehow conspiring to ensure Bristol's victory. In an interview with Annie Barrett of Entertainment Weekly, DWTS executive producer Conrad Green defended
the show's voting system.
It might appear that you can make up a thousand e-mail addresses and send them in, but we have a number of security checks in place that go over all of the internet votes before they're calculated. In this particular case, we can spot an IP address, and if one computer sends in a crazy amount of e-mail votes, we just discard them. These things can happen for any of our contestants. It's not like only Bristol's fans could do that. It could just as easily be happening for Jennifer's or for someone else's. But either way, those excessive votes are not being counted.
Perhaps the one external factor that could harm Bristol is potential backlash from the past week of media saturation. As Green points out, it would be just as easy for voters to mobilize against her on Monday. That backlash might not just be in response to her success on DWTS but to the Facebook brouhaha involving Bristol and her younger sister Willow.
As TMZ.com reported
, the two lit into a young man who criticized their mom's new TLC show, "Sarah Palin's Alaska," with Bristol using a range of expletives
and Willow tossing in a few gay slurs. Bristol apologized on Facebook, saying, "Willow and I shouldn't have reacted to negative comments about our family. We apologize. On a nicer note, thank you for supporting the great competition in Dancing With the Stars!"
And Bristol's response to the voting controversy carries a bit of her mother's thin-skinned defensiveness
. "Thank you supporters who continue to support. The haters are already pulling out all the stops this week to destroy," she said on Facebook Wednesday, followed by this on Thursday: " 'May we always be happy, and may our enemies know it!' "
Another factor that potentially works against Bristol is the different organization of the finals. The three couples will compete as usual with fan voting Monday night. On Tuesday, one couple will be eliminated with the two others competing against each other with a final dance before the judges that will determine the winner of the Mirrorball Trophy.
Dallas Mavericks owner and former DWTS contestant Mark Cuban pointed out on his blog
last week that the winner this season will come down to viewer votes. But in Las Vegas, the oddsmakers are betting
on Grey and Hough to win it all.
Whether Bristol wins or loses, the attention she -- and her mom -- have brought to "Dancing With the Stars" will likely mean more political participants in the future. Former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's foot injury
forced him to drop out of the competition last fall. But Bristol's success could mean a star turn for other politically connected participants.
Can you say Christine O'Donnell or Al Gore?