July 28, 2005

'Dancing' bows to controversy, adds results show

LOS ANGELES - A day after coming under critics' fire about the "Dancing With the Stars" voting procedures, ABC said it will return the hit competition with a results show next season.

The 30-minute results show will follow an hourlong episode in "Dancing's" second season every week. There will be two dances per hourlong episode with judges' scores and comments, followed by a period of viewer votes via telephone and Web site. The couple with the lowest combined score will be eliminated at the end of the results show every week, the network said.

"Dancing" has been a big hit for ABC this summer, pitting celebrities with no ballroom dancing experience with professionals to train and then perform as couples.

But the show, which became a competition between "General Hospital" actress
Kelly Monaco and former "Seinfeld" personality John O'Hurley, raised eyebrows among some viewers -- and Television Critics Assn. attendees -- about whether the voting was somehow skewed to favor the ABC personality. Network executives and the judges vigorously denied the charge.

Still, ABC and "Dancing" executives believed there could be some changes when the show returns for a second season. A premiere date hasn't been decided yet. Producer Izzie Pick said Tuesday that with the U.K. show, there's only one time zone, so it's easier to have everything happen in one show compared to the continental U.S., with three time zones. But the "Dancing" show in Australia, which also has several time zones, has a results show.

"In an ideal world, we would have a results show," Pick said.

ABC granted that wish Wednesday afternoon in a decision that was hailed -- literally -- at the TCA summer press tour at the Beverly Hilton. Several critics, who had a day earlier pressed ABC Entertainment president Stephen McPherson and "Dancing" producers about the judging, cheered when the results show was announced.

In an interview following the announcement, McPherson said the critics' concerns were only a part of the decision. It had been in the works anyway. He said there weren't any other big changes on the table for the show.

"A lot of it is great, so we don't want to fix what isn't broken," McPherson said.

Blondie and Dagwood to celebrate 75th anniversary

CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla. - Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead are about to celebrate their 75th anniversary as one of the world's most popular couples and many of their cartoon colleagues are coming to the party.

Garfield, Hagar the Horrible, Dick Tracy and Beetle Bailey are among the characters who will join the Bumsteads on Sunday, Sept. 4.

President Bush and his wife Laura will appear a week earlier, according to Blondie cartoonist Dean Young. He said the strip appears in over 2,300 newspapers in 55 countries with a readership of 250 million in 35 languages.

And Blondie and Dagwood will show up in several other comic strips during the next few weeks as they prepare for the big event.

"I'm hoping it will be a lot of fun for the readers," Young said in an interview at his studio in Clearwater Beach, Florida.

Blondie was started by Young's father Murat "Chic" Young in 1930. Dean Young, 66, took over the strip in 1973 when his father died.

"He created these wonderful characters. He was a genius," Young said of his father.

Chic Young had worked on other strips including "Beautiful Bab" and "Dumb Dora" before "Blondie."

When the strip debuted on September 8, 1930, its heroine was Blondie Boopadoop, who was pretty and single. Dagwood was the playboy son of a railroad tycoon and one of her several boyfriends.

Blondie was popular at first but interest in a strip about rich characters declined as the Depression spread.


In 1932, Chic Young had Blondie and Dagwood fall in love. They were married in 1933, but Dagwood's parents disapproved of Blondie and disinherited him, forcing him to go to work and live a middle class life.

Their son Alexander was born in 1934 and daughter Cookie joined the family in 1941. Both children grew until they became teenagers while Blondie and Dagwood remain in their early 40s.

Young said he tries to keep the strip contemporary with the characters using computers and cell phones.

In 1991, Blondie got her first job when she started a catering business with her friend Tootsie.

But many of the jokes in the strip focus on recurring themes. Dagwood knocks over his mailman running to work and gets interrupted when he tries to take a nap or a bath. He still works for the J.C. Dithers Construction Company even though his boss yells at him and never gives him a raise.

"The strip is ageless and enduring, continuously reinventing itself to stay current while remaining true to its core," King Features Syndicate President T.R. Shepard said.

Young said at the heart of the strip's success was the couple's relationship. "Blondie and Dagwood love each other. It's nice to see that," he said.

The strip's popularity led to a series of 28 Blondie movies between 1938 and 1950 as well as radio and television shows. Blondie was featured on a stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service and in a Library of Congress exhibit. The characters are even seen on casino slot machines.

Young said he hopes Blondie can continue for many more years. He said one of his daughters may take over for him some day, but not anytime soon.

"I love being a cartoonist," he said.

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