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How real is ABC's 'Dancing with the Stars'?

Nick Carter, from left, Sharna Burgess, Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough onstage during the finale of "Dancing With The Stars" at The Grove on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, in Los Angeles.
Nick Carter, from left, Sharna Burgess, Bindi Irwin and Derek Hough onstage during the finale of "Dancing With The Stars" at The Grove on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, in Los Angeles. Invision/AP

Q. How real is ABC's television show "Dancing with the Stars"? It is unbelievable that the dancers can perform with only one week of practice at the level that they do. What's real and what's fake? — Anonymous

I'm not an expert on reality television programming, but, in this case, it seems to me the dancing part of "Dancing with the Stars" is some of the most real reality television fare out there.

Dancing is a teachable skill, and the show airs weekly. Even without an insider's view of the process, we can conclude something must be happening between one Monday and the next.

Even the real expert in this case, Hollywood Reporter's Daniel Fienberg, president of the Television Critics Association, had this to say: "I think 'Dancing with the Stars,' like 'American Idol' or 'Survivor' or 'The Voice,' is exactly as real as you choose to believe in your heart that it is. Either you trust in the integrity of the process or you don't, but that's more of a social contract between show and viewer or network and viewer than a legally binding contract and it needn't impact one's enjoyment."

We can speculate all day long on the reality of the televised drama, judges' scoring process or importance of the viewers' votes. At the end of the day, we watch these shows because how it makes us feel — entertained.

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Heidi Wiechert

Without an audience, the show's producers wouldn't be able to keep it on live television. And it is live, with plenty of commercial sponsors.

Last May, Business Insider featured "A day behind the scenes of 'Dancing with the Stars,' TV's biggest celebrity dance competition" and gave the rundown of what takes place in the hours before the telecast. Readers were treated to photos of the makeup room, wardrobe, and set changes.

It seems there's plenty of real effort in the nuts and bolts of the show.

According to various behind-the-scenes blogs about "Dancing with the Stars," the difficult part in the process is getting on the show in the first place.

Celebrities are carefully selected by the show's producers. If they are chosen to appear on the first show of the season, the word is they make $125,000. If they have the good fortune to appear in subsequent shows, they make even more.

In my heart, I believe the dancing and the money is real. As for the rest, I think it's pure Hollywood. What does your heart tell you?

Suggested reading: In "Solo: A Memoir of Hope by Hope Solo," written in 2012 by a U.S. women’s national soccer goalkeeper, it's alleged, among other things, that "Dancing with the Stars" is not as real as viewers believed it to be. Pick up her book to decide for yourself.

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