×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sean Spicer’s ‘Dancing With the Stars’ Casting Is a Terrible, Cynical Ratings Grab (Column)

ABC’s announcement that its newest “Dancing With the Stars” cast will feature Sean Spicer, former press secretary for Donald Trump and frequent punchline, got immediate heat. The show’s tweet sharing the news was immediately flooded with derision and calls for reconsideration given the fact that Spicer gained his modicum of fame from defending some of the president’s most toxic policies and spreading pernicious lies in the process. The backlash got so immediately bad that even host Tom Bergeron felt compelled to say something, though his statement professing that he had nothing to do with the casting failed to mention Spicer by name and ended on a “why can’t we all just get along?” sentiment that missed the point of the protestations entirely.

That reaction, overwhelmingly negative though it may be, is exactly why “Dancing With the Stars” cast Spicer in the first place. Even if viewers don’t stick with Spicer week to week (and who knows how long he’ll actually last), there will inevitably be a burst of initial curiosity to boost the premiere ratings. The number of headlines surrounding his mere casting — yes, including this one — guarantee an outsized amount of interest in a season whose biggest cast members otherwise include James Van Der Beek and a Bachelorette. To give the producers an extraordinary benefit of the doubt, they may be a little confused about why Spicer’s any different from other controversial figures they’ve included before, most notably Tucker Carlson (albeit in his less odious 2006 iteration) and Bristol Palin (twice). The crucial difference that they and Bergeron (whose statement spoke vaguely of not wanting the show to indulge in “inevitably divisive bookings from ANY party affiliations”) either fail to understand or refuse to acknowledge is that Spicer’s previous life as a professional liar should really disqualify him from public life, period.

At this point, Spicer may be best known for scolding the press about underreporting Trump’s Inauguration Day crowd (they didn’t), Melissa McCarthy’s impression of him on “Saturday Night Live,” and his subsequent appearance during Stephen Colbert’s 2017 Emmys hosting gig. In other words, Spicer quickly became known as a pop culture character rather than the political failure he was, and he in turn quickly found ways to cash in with media appearances and a book deal. But in his original role as a mouthpiece for Trump’s insecurities, Spicer didn’t just lie about something as inconsequential as a crowd. He lied about voter fraud, a near-nonexistent issue Trump’s administration has continually tried to gin up into a true crisis despite constant debunking. He lied about Trump’s conspiracy theory that Barack Obama bugged Trump Tower. He lied about Adolf Hitler, whom he claimed “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons” despite an incredible amount of evidence to the contrary. Over and over again, Spicer used his pulpit to bully the press and ignore the facts, maintaining a dangerous precedent of dishonesty that has remained a cornerstone of the Trump administration today, to increasingly horrifying effect.

So, no, casting Sean Spicer on a show marked by “kitschy charm” (as Bergeron put it) isn’t harmless. It only helps to re-contextualize his place in American history as a ridiculous oddity rather than the loathsome truth of his ascendance.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • The Plague Season 2 Spanish TV

    Telefonica, Atresmedia to Create Content Factory Behemoth

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — In a game-changing move for Spanish-language production Telefonica, Europe’s third biggest telco, and Atresmedia, the original co-creators of “La Casa de Papel,” are uniting to create a new joint contents production giant. Aimed at gaining more scale and uniting the two companies’ talent relations – writers, directors and producers – the 50/50 [...]

  • Media Company Formed Through Merger Given

    KKR-Backed German Media Conglomerate Takes the Name Leonine

    The KKR-backed German media company formed through the merger of Tele München Group, Universum Film, i&u TV, and Wiedemann & Berg Film has been given the name Leonine, it was revealed Friday. Fred Kogel, CEO of Leonine, said: “When choosing the new brand as our company name, the following aspects were decisive for us: it [...]

  • PERFECT LIFE

    San Sebastian: Leticia Dolera on Canneseries Winner ‘Perfect Life’

    SAN SEBASTIAN —  “La Casa de Papel” (“Money Heist”) may be the most seen of Spanish series this year. Leticia Dolera’s still-to-bow “Perfect Life,” however, is the most laureled, sweeping at April’s 2nd Canneseries TV festival both best series and best special performance for its female leads, Dolera herself, Celia Freijeiro and Aixa Villagrán, from [...]

  • Screen writer Beau WillimonMary Queen of

    Beau Willimon Re-Elected as President of Writers Guild of America East

    Beau Willimon, the playwright and showrunner who launched Netflix’s “House of Cards,” has been re-elected without opposition to a two-year term as president of the Writers Guild of America East. Willimon also ran unopposed in 2017 to succeed Michael Winship. Kathy McGee was elected to the vice president slot over Phil Pilato. Secretary-treasurer Bob Schneider [...]

  • Dickinson First Look Teaser

    TV News: Apple Drops New 'Dickinson' Trailer With Hailee Steinfeld (Watch)

    In today’s roundup, Apple TV Plus’ “Dickinson” series released a new trailer and Netflix released the trailer for the fifth season of “Peaky Blinders.” DATES Related TV Ratings: 'Dancing With the Stars' Premiere Flat on Last Season Sean Spicer on 'Dancing With the Stars' Backlash: 'I'm Used to That' The “Cash Cab” revival will come [...]

  • Jennie Snyder Urman, Katie Wech Team

    Jennie Snyder Urman, Katie Wech Team for Medical Drama in Development at CBS

    CBS is developing a medical drama that hails from writer Katie Wech, Variety has learned. Currently titled “Good Sam,” the series follows a talented yet stifled surgeon who embraces her leadership role after her renowned and pompous boss falls into a coma. When he awakens and wants to resume surgery, however, it falls to her to [...]

  • Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent,

    Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent, Dies at 88

    Jack Gilardi, a longtime ICM Partners agent who represented such stars as Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone, Jerry Lewis, Charlton Heston and Shirley MacLaine, died Thursday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 88. Gilardi was known for his gentlemanly style, love of the Los Angeles Dodgers and his skill at representing top actors. He [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content