Dancing With the Stars did it! They managed to successfully pull off a full season in the middle of a pandemic. Many people thought it couldn't be done considering dance is a contact sport, but with daily COVID-19 testing and keeping the couples in a bubble, the show was a success.
While not every change landed well, the producers, cast and crew should be proud of what they accomplished. For two hours every Monday, they sprinkled a little joy in a world that weary of the news around them. DWTS did it without politics entering the ballroom this season, which was probably the smartest choice of them all.
The host switch was not without controversy. The show asked Tyra Banks to fill Tom Bergeron's shoes as well as Erin Andrews' job with a splash of Tyra somewhere in there. It took a while for Tyra to find her groove, but her hosting smoothed out as the show reached the latter part of the season. If there's a Season 30, viewers should expect Tyra back at the helm.
The judging panel looked a bit different this season as well. Derek Hough took the lead judge position as Len Goodman was benched due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. His short segments each week were welcome, but it makes us wonder if we will ever see him back judging DWTS full-time. Carrie Ann Inaba also made waves with criticism of Kaitlyn Bristowe and Artem Chigvintsev, which ruffled a few feathers. It was reminiscent of last season's kerfuffle with Hannah Brown and Alan Bersten. Coincidentally, both couples wound up winning the Mirrorball trophy.
Fifteen contestants might have been too heavy of a cast as the first few weeks felt burdened by a lot of dances and a lack of time getting to know the celebrities. However, it also gave us fifteen of our beloved pros on the job. Daniella Karagach and Britt Stewart made a big splash as first-season pros and brought their choreographic flair to the ballroom. It was also a welcome return to the ballroom for Artem and Sharna Burgess, who were both unceremoniously left off the Season 27 roster. Artem proved that his setback was a set-up for a major comeback.
While the show relied on gimmicky sketches, it also lacked the pro group numbers that normally open the show. We watched longingly at Strictly Come Dancing, which filmed all of their pro numbers ahead of the season. If COVID-19 protocols are still in place next fall (Please no!), let's hope the producers prioritize those big opening dances. They were sorely missed, along with a live studio audience with an energy that can never be replaced by canned applause.
As Season 29 comes to a close, this will always be a season that many thought would never happen. Yet in the end, it might be one of the most memorable seasons of all. The contestants and pros will always have crazy memories of masks, plastic dividers separating them in the balcony and the realization that a pandemic DWTS will probably never be replicated again.
Before you go, click here to find out if Cheryl Burke is retiring from Dancing With the Stars.