One warm June afternoon back in 2005, a New Kid, a Bachelorette and a soap actress sashayed onto an L.A. sound stage and the world of ballroom, competitive dance and spray tans was never quite the same.
When the concept of Dancing With the Stars was first floated, the premise was met with a healthy dose of skepticism, even a few outright laughs from the host of a well-known L.A. morning radio program. Sure, they'd scrounged up six celebs to commit weeks of their life to learning the cha-cha and the tango and they were names you'd at least heard before (read: Rachel Hunter, Evander Holyfield, John O'Hurley), but would anyone really take time out of their summer evening to watch Seinfeld's J. Peterman shake it in sequins, much less call and vote to keep him around?
A resounding 13 million people said yes, tuning in to see exactly how this experiment borrowed from British TV would turn out. By the second episode, it was the biggest show on network TV and so many viewers loudly voiced their judgment of the July finale that victor Kelly Monaco and runner-up O'Hurley agreed to a dance-off two months later.
Now, in the 17 years and 30 seasons since its premiere, Olympic gold medalists, Super Bowl champions and Grammy-, Tony- and Oscar-winning stars have swathed themselves in sparkle and spray tans in the hopes of being named the best in the ballroom. There have been sprained ankles, pulled muscles, broken ribs, countless strips of false lashes and some 24 million sequins that have donated their lives to the cause.
Through it all, stars have been made (hello, Julianne Hough, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Cheryl Burke) and rediscovered and, as a happy bonus, more than a few showmances and actual real-life relationships have bloomed in the ballroom.
While some of the partnerships were a clear grab for extra votes and several sputtered after the finale aired, more than a few danced their way right down the aisle. And some, like Sasha Farber and Emma Slater, have waltzed their way apart.
Nonetheless, one could argue that the competition series might actually be a more reliable matchmaker than that other ABC darling.
Here, we present our case:
A version of this story was first published on Friday, May 29, 2020 at 8:53 a.m. PT.