Though the show has yet to receive an official greenlight for the 31st season, Deadline hears that DWTS is already looking for Llinares’ replacement.
Llinares joined DWTS in 2018 ahead of the all-athletes Season 26 but parted ways after season 30, which featured one of the most exciting finales in some time. Though JoJo Siwa was favored to win, Iman Shumpert became the first-ever NBA winner of the mirror ball trophy. Yet the season was still down 18 percent in viewers (6 million versus 7.3 million) and 25 percent in adults 18-49 (.9 versus 1.2) versus the prior year.
Llinares oversaw big changes on the aging franchise, including the decision to replace Tom Bergeron with Tyra Banks before season 29 and losing Erin Andrews as a partner-in-crime on stage. He also had the unenviable task of producing the show during the pandemic, which meant filming DWTS without a studio audience. One of the more memorable moments during season 30 was when Cheryl Burke and her partner Cody Rigsby contracted COVID-19, but still were allowed to compete via Zoom.
The show remains an important player to ABC though its days of raking in huge profits are over. Banks has polarized viewers with her awkward banter and indulgent gowns. Her grand entrances also replaced the traditional opening numbers, which didn’t go over well with the pros who were already miffed by the show’s decision to zhuzh up the performances with fancy lighting and busy backdrops.
“We’re not a music video,” one of the veteran pros tells Deadline. “We’re not the MTV music awards. We’re a ballroom dance show. The screensavers behind us are swallowing us. Like, this is not what ballroom dancing is. It’s an intimate sport. You’re missing the actual feeling from what we’re supposed to be giving the audience. You’re supposed to tap into our story and we’re supposed to tell it through movement. You lose the essence.”
DWTS, if ordered for a 31st season, is expected to return in the fall.