For 16 seasons, Tom Bergeron has been the maestro of the circus that is Dancing with the Stars. And even he says that the changes the show has made for its 17th season — including returning to a single-night format and changing the layout of the ballroom — have taken some getting used to.
"It's a little weird," Bergeron tells TVGuide.com of the show's new structure.
With Keyshawn Johnson and Sharna Burgess becoming the first couple to get the boot last week, the competition is down to 11 pairs. TVGuide.com checked in withBergeron ahead of Week 3 to get his thoughts on how the season is progressing.
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What's your overall assessment of the season so far?
Tom Bergeron: We're still kind of settling into this new everything on Monday format and kind of changing the rhythm of the show. I'm really enjoying the new format of the show, doing it all on Monday and having Tuesday off. As far as the casting's concerned, I love them.
Last week was the first of cramming the performances and eliminations into one show. How did it go?
Bergeron: I think that's the one area where it was evident that we haven't done this before. The timing was a little crunched up. We don't have quite the time to spend with the couple that we've just said goodbye to, because then we go into a whole recap of all the survivors. I think we'll probably chat about how to make that a little smoother, but for the first time out of the gate, it wasn't that bad. We got off on time. We got off so Castle could get the proposal done. (Laughs).
Yeah, it got a little rushed at the end as Keyshawn was saying farewell.
Bergeron: That's part of the fun of live TV, that you can see some little wires hanging from behind the curtain. You can see some of the mechanics of it. From the standpoint of us in the show, there's no need to be bashful about, "This is how it works, boys and girls." As we move through the season and we have a bit more time because there are fewer couples, that kind of thing that happened last [week] will be less of an issue. We'll be able to, later in the season, bring in some musical acts and things of that nature that you typically would have seen on a Tuesday show.
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What about the new layout of the ballroom and structure of the judges' feedback? Is that working well?
Bergeron: It's a little strange. The feng shui of it all, being on the other side of the ballroom and having Carrie Ann closer to me than Bruno. ... But I kind of like having everything happen right away, so [the dancers] get their comments, they get their scores, we can chitchat briefly. But yeah, it's a little weird being on that side of the ballroom.
Do you think the dancers enjoy getting feedback right away?
Bergeron: I'm not sure. I haven't really talked to them about the logistics of it so much. I would imagine it's got to be a bit of a relief to get it all done quickly. When you've just done the dance, it's nice to know where you stand pretty quick, I would say.
Brooke is kind of all over the place this year.
Bergeron: She is. She's getting a workout. She's getting cardio. On the Tuesdayshow we tended to be together more. On the Monday show, we always were together at the beginning and together at the end. ... So that's not really that different, but we miss that aspect of the Tuesday show where we get to hang out together more. But I think it's an interesting idea to have her doing the interviews sometimes before a dance, or maybe later in the show well after the couple has danced, looking back at the competition in the training area. We've got some sort of relationship with Facebook where she's got a wall full of monitors now. So she's sort of the roving reporter on the show now.
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We learned last week that Julianne Hough will be a guest judge later in the season. Has anyone else been finalized?
Bergeron: There'll be at least one other guest judge, and I can't give you a name [because] I don't know that the contracts have been signed. But if it's the person they told me is likely to do it, I'm very excited about that.
Based on the audience reaction in the ballroom, who are some of the crowd favorites early on?
Bergeron: I wasn't prepared for how much of a big deal it was to have Bill Nye the Science Guy. The dance [he and Tyne Stecklein] did in their first week, I think when we went to air [last Monday] it had had over 3.2 million views on YouTube. And my youngest daughter watched the premiere episode. She doesn't even watch for me anymore. She's used to Dad being on TV, but she wanted to see Bill Nye the Science Guy. Within the ballroom though, everybody has their people that they've had come to cheer them on, and it becomes almost a communal experience. It's a very generous audience we have in the ballroom. They'll cheer for people that they might not even vote for.
Who do you think gave the best performance last week?
Bergeron: Jack Osbourne really did a great job. Leah [Remini] did. Bill Nye waswonderfully eccentric with all his Mensa supporters in the audience. Valerie [Harper]and Tristan [MacManus] are just an absolutely lovely pairing. So I'm very impressed. I'd be hard-pressed to say anybody was disappointing last [week]. I think they all brought a lot of effort and energy into the second week.
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What about "Snicole," as you've been calling Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi?
Bergeron: Here's my theory behind that. When they told me she was coming on the show, I said, "Oh, that's great. Snooki's coming on." And then they said, "She might want to be called Nicole." I said, "But doesn't she have a show called Snooki & J-Woww?" "Yeah." "Well, then why would we just call her Nicole?" So it just occurred to me on the air last week. How about Snicole? That way she's happy and I'm happy.She's a riot. I love watching [her and partner Sasha Farber's] training packages. The chemistry with her and Sasha is really funny. It really is. We've got some really good couples, in terms of that. But they're one of my favorites.
How does Jack Osbourne compare to his sister Kelly, who's also been on the show?
Bergeron: [Jack has] a wonderful dry wit, which I always love. I love that kind of dry British humor. There's almost an elegance about the way a Brit can undercut you, and Jack has that. It's directed mostly to himself, but he's absolutely charming. It was great to see his mom, his dad and his sister there cheering him on, too. I think he compares to Kelly in that Kelly and Jack both evidenced real leaps in comfort and growth. You look at Jack Week 1 to Week 2, and you look at Kelly going back to the season she did, [from] the first week out into the latter weeks that she was in the competition, and you could see the real growth and the improvement and the confidence. I think in that respect, they definitely are similar.
Do you have a favorite performance from this season so far?
Bergeron: No, not really. I like different performances for different reasons, but none that I'd have to say stood up above the others. You kind of look at them based on their individual growth curves and personality, so it's sort of apples and oranges. As we get deeper into the season and there are fewer couples and then the pressures are on, the more equally matched, then it's a little easier to pick a favorite. ... I think Jack improving as much as he did Week 1 to Week 2 was a real nice surprise. Amber [Riley] is dynamic. The spirit of Valerie just being there at all continually impresses the hell out of me. So those are three certainly that come to mind immediately.
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.