Dancing With The Stars

Bristol Palin's implausible run to third place on Dancing with the Stars surprised us all, really angered one guy and had many fans citing it as a "jump-the-shark" moment for the show. But has Dancing traded ballroom heels for water skis for other reasons?

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Take Sarah Palin's eldest daughter out of the equation (or imagine she wasn't on Season 11 at all!) and you are still left with a season overstuffed with gimmick after gimmick, week after week. Coming off a strong Season 10, producers kept everyone — contestants included — on their toes with new twists, such as Acoustic Week (with a round stage, natch), Rock 'n' Roll Week, TV Theme Week, and the much ballyhooed and successful Instant Dance, in which dancers received their music 20 minutes before hitting the stage.

The new elements all lend themselves to the theme of the season: unpredictability. But did they also take away from — and affect — the dancing? When the pros are complaining about the strenuous and exhausting schedule, it could be time to dial it back a notch. Remember the good ol' simple days when everyone just went out and danced? No fuss, no hassle. That is, ultimately, what the show is about, right?

Dancing finale: Tom Bergeron relishes the unpredictable season

"I don't think [the themes] hurt us at all," host Tom Bergeron tells TVGuide.com. "I think all of them kept the show interesting. And when you say a lot of gimmicks, the show is a gimmick! Let's face it. When you're doing a paso doble to Led Zeppelin, that's a gimmick! Everything else is just icing on the cake.

"I don't think there's an overboard to go with this show. We spray-tan people within an inch of their lives, we dress them in glittery fabric remnants," he continues. "They dance to songs that normally wouldn't be associated with the dance. I don't know where the shark is."

Ratings: Dancing finale soars, wins night easily

Bergeron, who concedes that the pros seemed "more tired than I've seen in the past" this season, points to the show's robust ratings — the finale drew 24.1 million viewers, up 23 percent over last fall's — as a sign that the ABC hit is still on top of its game. And while he was not a fan of every new element — Acoustic Week's round stage was raised too high, he says — he suspects they will all inevitably be back one day. And more will be on the way.

"I think they're wisely establishing enough variations on the themes so they don't have to dip into the same bag every season. Maybe [we'll do] Instant Dance in two seasons," he says. "It's very difficult to produce a show that lasts for a while. The plus side is that people still seem to like the show, but the pressure is how do you keep it fresh and engaging and not rest on your laurels and sit back and assume the audience will continue to come along the ride with you. I think they're being really smart about it and I've loved all the changes."

What do you think? Does Dancing have too many tricks up its sleeve? Should it turn its focus back on the actual dancing? Or the more twists the merrier?