Dancing with the Stars returns for its 17th season Monday, after going through an overhaul this summer. In an attempt to curb the show's steadily declining ratings,Dancing has made a number of changes for the new season, including returning to a single-night format.
"Obviously it's always very challenging in ratings terms when shows mature," executive producer Conrad Green tells TVGuide.com. "I think the key is, you do need to keep innovating. You do need to keep trying new things."
But longtime fans shouldn't fret, in spite of all the modifications. "There will be changes. It will feel slightly different as a show to watch, but it will feel absolutely packed with incident and excitement," Green says. "Essentially, at core, it's going to be the show everyone knows and loves."
The most notable switch, of course, is combining the performance and results show into one two-hour block on Monday nights — a format that the show hasn't utilized since its breakout first season in the summer of 2005.
"While we're very proud of what we've put into the results show, we do understand that making one compact show with everything in it for the audience is an attractive proposition," Green says. "There are a lot of shows around that demand hours and hours of your attention over multiple nights a week, and it's quite nice to be able to say, 'Let's put everything into one really impressive two-hour show.'"
Each episode will open with a "massive dance number" and end with a pair being eliminated, with the exception of the premiere. "It'll probably make it a lot more nerve-wracking for people's performances," Green admits of the same-night elimination strategy. "But I think the benefit of that is, for an audience, the story keeps on moving." Another benefit? An extra day of rest "will probably make a huge difference in terms of people's sanity and hopefully will make the quality of dancing better," according to Green.
With Maksim Chmerkovskiy sitting out his second season in a row and Kym Johnson taking a break from the show, troupe members Emma Slater and Sasha Farber have been promoted to pros. "They've been on the troupe now for a number of years, so they really know the show well," Green says. "We've been really impressed by their dynamism and their choreography." Tyne Steklein, who appeared alongside Cher and Christina Aguilera in Burlesque, is the third new pro.
Other revisions include a new set design. Gone is the skybox; instead, the celebrity and dancer seating area will be situated on the floor near the judges' table — which will also be shifted to the opposite side of the ballroom. The show is also adding a makeup room and a rehearsal room, where co-host Brooke Burke-Charvet will chat with the contestants before and after their performances, while Tom Bergeron will run the show from the main stage. "Brooke will be moving a lot more around different parts of the studio, to get sort of a bit more of what's going on behind the scenes on the show," Green explains. "So, we're hoping the show will be more fluid and a bit less sort of predictable."
Viewers can also expect guest hosts and musicians throughout the season, though none had yet been finalized, as well as familiar theme nights, including Latin Night, Hollywood Night, Most Memorable Year of My Life Night.
"I genuinely think this cast is so packed with personalities, compared to many previous casts we've had, and everyone is sort of shining at the moment," Green says. "This is one of the strongest casts we've had in years, in terms of there really is something for everyone. There's lots of people you'll bump into who you'll grow to love, or you might see a different side of."
Dancing with the Stars premieres Monday at 8/7c on ABC.