Was Removing the Judges’ Save On Dancing With the Stars a Good Idea?

ABC/Christopher Willard

Season 32 of Dancing with the Stars ushered in quite a few changes. Host Tyra Banks quickstepped out of the ballroom. Alfonso Ribeiro shares hosting duties with former pro dancer, and judge, Julianne Hough.

Head judge Len Goodman retired at the end of Season 31 of DWTS. Unfortunately, the beloved judge passed away in April 2023 from bone cancer. During the Season 32 premiere, the show unveiled the new Len Goodman Mirrorball Trophy. The pro dancers will also celebrate Len later this season. DWTS decided to stay the course with the three remaining judges. Bruno Tonioli, Derek Hough, and Carrie Ann Inaba warmed up their scoring paddles.

Another big change to the show? The elimination of the judges’ save. US Weekly reported that the save might not be gone for the whole season. It could reappear at some point. Let’s look at why removing the judge’s save could be good for the show.

Why the Judges’ Save Was Instituted Eric McCandless/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

First, pro dancer Sharna Burgess was due for a Mirrorball win. Just not this way. Bobby Bones, a radio host, won the coveted trophy. Even though he had consistently low scores, he advanced to the finals and won Season 27.

According to TV Line, for Season 28, the format was tweaked. Viewer votes were still combined with the judges’ scores. But Len, Bruno, and Carrie Ann would decide who, out of the bottom two couples, would samba home.

This fail-safe was instituted to keep a talented dancer from being eliminated early in the competition. Some strong dancers didn’t have enough fan support and landed in the bottom two. It sometimes bedeviled the judges and caused them to choose between two excellent dancers.

During Season 30, the judges had to choose between contestants Suni Lee and Amanda Kloots. Both were talented. Finally, the judges saved Amanda.

The judges’ save allowed the panel to consider the competitor’s entire season of work. That piece was critical for saving couples who were showing growth in their dancing.

With This Judging Panel, It Isn’t Needed ABC/Eric McCandless

During Season 31, there was a four-judge panel. As for the judges’ save, Len played a pivotal role. If there was a tie, he would decide which couple would stay. This would, theoretically, keep dancers who were improving on the show.

But that damn fan vote sometimes gave the judges a headache. Often the worst dancers garnered a ton of votes. So, the panel would have to send home a dancer with potential.

For Season 32, DWTS is back to a three-judge format. This feels right because no one can replace Len.

And while there will be guest judges sitting in, for the most part, it will be Derek, Carrie Ann, and Bruno wielding the paddles. After several seasons of the judges’ save, it is refreshing to just let the judges score, and advise, the contestants.

Not Having a Judges’ Save Builds Suspense ABC/Eric McCandless

DWTS viewers are once again voting to save their favorites. And if they don’t? There is a real chance they will be sent home. Even if they are at the top of the leaderboard.

Without the judges’ save, the couple with the lowest total score goes home. Period. No safety net.

This has invigorated the show and pumped up the suspense. Not only do the dancers have to impress the judges, but they must motivate their fan base to vote. It heightens the anxiety that the competitors feel.

And when the bottom two dancers were announced, fans felt the tension, too. I know that I did.

Having a Save Guaranteed Good Dancers Would Return ABC/Christopher Willard

The biggest positive about the judges’ save was that it tried to prevent a controversial ending. While some fans might have been elated when Bobby Bones won, most were upset that a contestant who could barely dance took home the Mirrorball.

Having the judges decide between the bottom two couples makes sense. No one wants to watch DWTS if there are only sloppy dancers left. With the judges’ save, some promising dancers won’t have to waltz out before their time.

But I think that removing the judges’ save was a good idea for Season 32. While the judges’ save does work, it also drains some of the excitement from DWTS. Fans want to know that their vote counts. And waiting until the end of the show to find out if their favorite made it through is thrilling.

I think that the judges’ save should be used again in an upcoming season. But for now, let’s live on the edge and see who triumphs on DWTS.


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