'Dancing With the Stars' producer defends Bristol Palin: 'I'm very confident that the votes that are getting through are valid'
Conrad Green, executive producer of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, is “mystified” by this week’s Bristol Palin vs. Brandy brouhaha. Green called EW to address rumors of a so-called Tea Party conspiracy designed to help Bristol Palin advance into Monday’s season 11 finals.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This week, there’s been a lot of outrage that it’s too easy to exploit the voting system at ABC.com. Do you have any plan in place to correct that?
CONRAD GREEN: It’s already corrected, to be honest with you. It might appear that you can make up a thousand email 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 email 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.
Are you saying that it might look to people like their excessive votes are getting through, but because they’re using the same IP address the votes actually wouldn’t count?
Exactly. And there’s a number of other security checks they can do. I’m not gonna reveal all of them, because it might encourage people to try to find a way around them. But there are tons of checks done by every one of our vendors — the phone people, the text people and the internet people. They do discard anything that looks suspicious. Sometimes people just can’t get through because the phone lines are busy; the local exchanges get overwhelmed. But that affects everyone equally. Unfortunately, it’s a huge country with a huge infrastructure, and those kinds of things are going to go wrong. Our servers have gone down on the internet during voting a lot. I’m very confident the votes that are getting through are valid.
Would you ever consider giving more weight to the judges’ scores in the future?
You’ve watched the show for a long time, so you’ve seen every little brouhaha we’ve had along the way. With the amount of times people have screamed blue murder about the scores of the judges have given, do you really think the complaining would stop if the judges had the final say? What it comes down to is, we add the share of the judges’ scores each night to the audience’s votes. And if you look at the spread this week between Jennifer, who got 60, and Bristol who got 53, and the other two in between, I think the share Jennifer had of the judges’ vote was like only three and a half percent more than Bristol had. I think the share that Bristol had was only one and a half percent less than Brandy’s. So all Bristol had to do was get more than one and a half percent of the popular vote than Brandy, and then she’s through. That isn’t that surprising. I’m kind of mystified about why everyone is finding this such a bizarre thing to happen.
Do you think Bristol might win?
Of course. She’s got the same chance as everyone else now. The slate has been wiped clean, every show. She’s improved every week. I think a lot of people are ignoring the fact that she’s actually a decent dancer. What I think is annoying people is that maybe she’s not as vivid a performer as some of the other dancers on the show. Kyle is quite a performer, but Bristol is probably in terms of technique a better dancer than Kyle. But she’ll never get credit for that. The thing is, when you look at her, she’s actually quite shy. Watching someone develop stage presence is actually quite fascinating to watch, and I think that’s why some people are rooting for her. You see her gradually unfolding and unfurling and all, as a performer. I can assure you that she’s really enjoying doing it. It’s not like she doesn’t want to be here. Far from it. I think she just feels uncomfortable with a lot of the things you see on our show — wearing tiny costumes, being over-the-top. She just feels slightly embarrassed doing it. She just doesn’t come from this world. I think that’s one of the things that’s absorbing about watching her.
So you think it’s just a case of America loving the underdog?
We have no way of knowing why people are voting for Bristol. If you look at it, young contestants on the show are always popular. Shawn Johnson won it. Kyle happens to be in the final as well, which everyone seems to have overlooked. You’ve got 19- and 20-year-olds in the show who have both made the final. People like young contestants, contestants who aren’t from the mainstream, who have got a tough story, who have come from no dance training. You’ll remember, this time last season, everyone was furious about Nicole being on the show because she’s got too much experience. There might be an element of her vote that’s from Republicans, but there might be an element of her vote she’s not getting because of Democrats. She was working at a dermatologist’s office in Alaska, whereas Jennifer Grey was in a movie beloved by millions of women around this country who are now our target audience. She hasn’t got any fan base to speak of. If there are a few Tea Party people getting behind her, how is that any different from Marie Osmond’s fans voting for her, or rodeo fans voting for Ty Murray, or Brandy’s fans — five million albums sold — who were voting for her? You could argue that [Bristol]’s got no constituency. People are being melodramatic about this. If she was Kenny Mayne, yeah, that could be an issue. Or Kate Gosselin — with the quality of her dancing, that would be a bit bizarre. But she’s a good dancer, Bristol. I thought she did great on Monday. Here’s a 20-year-old girl who everyone’s screaming at. This should be the best week of her life. I really feel for this girl. Everyone’s acting like she’s getting together with Dick Cheney, trying to start an evil empire. It’s crazy. It’s a dancing competition. She’s a lovely girl. Give her a break!
A lot of fans are flipping out on the internet and insisting they’ll never watch the show again if Bristol wins. How do you respond to that?
Unfortunately, people get pissed on this show. It’s the nature of it. Your favorite gets kicked off and you think it’s unfair. There’s a massive difference between “unfair” and “something else going on.” Life isn’t always fair. You could probably nominate the best dancer after only two shows — you might as well just stop the season right then. It’s about improvement, it’s about where people go. Bristol’s our most improved dancer. People threaten to leave the country if the next government wins the election. They tend not to. At the end of the day, they should be mobilizing their friends, getting their children to vote, talkimg about it in the office, you know? Make those calls. It’s a pretty easy process. It’s very easy to influence the results of this show if you’re passionate about it. The fans have always had a say in the past about who wins, and frequently someone wins who they don’t agree with. I haven’t always agreed with the person who’s won. Everyone has their favorites. That’s the nature of it. Get involved!
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