Amid calls from the Writers Guild of America to push back its premiere during the ongoing writers strike, ABC and Disney+ are staying on track with plans to premiere a new season of “Dancing With the Stars” next week, Variety has learned.
“Dancing With the Stars” employs a crew of 500 people, and has one WGA writer on staff.
Sources close to production tell Variety that the show will be working in compliance with SAG-AFTRA rules, and a key focus is not to put talent in a tough spot, given that many Season 32 cast members are part of the actors’ guild. Another major key consideration was ensuring that the large staff would not be out of work, insiders added. ABC declined to comment.
“Everyone’s focus is to keep 500 people employed,” a production source tells Variety. This individual says that the WGA writer will be back at work as soon as the strike comes to an end.
The WGA writer on “Dancing With the Stars” works with the hosts. The show is otherwise largely unscripted, given the live nature of the dance competition.
During the last strike in 2007-2008, “Dancing With the Stars” remained in production, and similarly re-hired its writer once the strike was over.
SAG-AFTRA rules mean that talent are still allowed to appear, as “Dancing with the Stars” participation falls under the Network Code agreement that isn’t a part of the current strike. The Season 32 cast includes multiple members of SAG-AFTRA, including Alyson Hannigan, Jamie Lynn Spears, Barry Williams, Matt Walsh, Mira Sorvino, Ariana Madix and Xochitl Gomez.
“Dancing With the Stars” typically features video packages within episodes that showcase cast member’s past TV and film projects. Under current strike rules, former SAG-AFTRA projects cannot be promoted or discussed, which could make “DWTS” packages tricky — but a source confirms that this season will not include any footage from past shows or movies, in order to comply with union rules. (For instance, don’t expect to see “Brady Bunch” flashbacks when introducing Williams for his rumba, and Hannigan won’t discuss her time slaying vampires on “Buffy,” while slaying on the dance floor.)
“Dancing With the Stars” has recently become subject to online chatter among WGA members on social media. Over the weekend — as news broke that the “The Drew Barrymore Show,” “The Talk” and “The Jennifer Hudson Show” backtracked on plans to return during the strike — WGA members called out “Dancing With the Stars,” noting that it is a WGA-covered show, meaning a WGA-represented writer is on staff. WGA member David Slack’s tweet went viral, noting that “‘Dancing with the Stars’ is a WGA-covered show. Its writers are on strike, and they can’t make the show without scab writing.” Other writers called the show variations of “Dancing With the Scabs” or “Scabbing With the Stars.”
On Monday morning, former series pro Cheryl Burke told Variety that she felt “Dancing With the Stars” should pause until the strikes finished. “At the end of the day, we have to stick together because that’s the only way to ever make any significant change,” she said. “I don’t think it’s gonna be good for the show, to be quite honest, in the long run. I understand what they’re thinking and I get it. It’s a business, but there is no business without the rest of the business… I think they should hold tight. I think we need to stand as one. We need to unite for real and not just say we’re united.”
After a month of stalled negotiations, the WGA will meet with the AMPTP on Wednesday, which will mark day 140 of the strike.
“Dancing With the Stars” is set to debut with a two-and-a-half-hour premiere on Sept. 28 on ABC and simulcast on Disney+. The season reps a return to ABC for “DWTS,” which had moved exclusively to Disney+ last season, and also a shift to Tuesdays after a lengthy run on Monday nights.
Variety has reached out to a WGA spokesperson for comment.