Why Tyra Banks Works as ‘Dancing With the Stars’ Host

(Image credit: ABC)

Swapping out Dancing With the Stars host Tom Bergeron for Tyra Banks was about evolution, said Andrew Llinares, Dancing executive producer. Long-running shows run the risk of feeling a bit stale, and personnel changes can offset that. 

Dancing With the Stars premiered in 2005. 

“Changing the host is all about evolution, making the show feel fresh, making the show feel new,” he said Wednesday during ABC’s VirtuFall event. “I think it’s working brilliantly.”

Dancing opened Sept. 14 with a 1.3 in viewers 18-49, its best premiere in three years. The second episode got a 1.0. Season 29 dancers include Carole Baskin of Netflix’s Tiger King, Backstreet Boys singer AJ McLean, former NBA star Charles Oakley and rapper Nelly. 

Llinares said Banks has brought a faster pace to the program. “I think it’s changed the rhythm of the show in a really exciting way,” he said. “I think she’s brought a new light to it.”

Llinares also said that the pandemic has pushed producers to try new things amid an empty studio, such as a new set and updated film packages. “COVID has propelled us creatively to a place we probably wouldn’t have gotten to,” he said. 

Banks is executive producer in addition to being host. Her dramatic costume changes are a new wrinkle to Dancing. She credited stylist Brendon Alexander. “His mind is bananas,” said Banks, former host of America’s Got Talent and America’s Next Top Model

“I don’t personally care about fashion,” said the former supermodel. “On that stage, I don’t think I’ve ever had this much fun with fashion on television, including America’s Next Top Model.

Derek Hough joined the judges’ table this season, with Len Goodman unavailable “in light of current circumstances,” ABC said, presumably the pandemic. “The heart of the show is that relationship between the pro and celebrity and their journey,” said Hough. “The heart is always there and I don’t think it will ever change.”

Llinares said Goodman is “definitely part of the family of the show. Who knows what will happen next year.”

Dancing will offer theme nights in the coming weeks. Oc. 12 is ‘80s Night, celebrating the decade’s music, fashion and movies. “It’s a real ‘80s explosion, which I think will be really fun,” said Llinares. 

Oct. 31 is Villains Night, with dancers dressed as famous fictional bad guys to celebrate Halloween. 

In terms of the ratings increase, Carole Baskin has been a big draw. “People were fascinated with Tiger King, especially during the quarantine,” said Deena Katz, co-executive producer. “Everybody watched the show, everybody talked about the show.”

“There’s a lovely side to Carole,” she added. 

Llinares said people are looking for a bit of fun amid all the misery in the news right now. “It’s a place to make you smile and feel really good for two hours,” he said.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.