Why 'Dancing With the Stars' Is Returning to TV Amid Writers' Strike

The competition show is returning to TV despite the ongoing writers' strike.

ABC and Disney+ are pressing forward with their plans to launch a new season of Dancing With the Stars next week, despite the ongoing writers' strike.

A source close to production tells ET that everyone’s focus is to keep 500 people employed. The one WGA writer on the show who works with the hosts will be back to work as soon as the strike comes to an end. The show is otherwise largely unscripted. During the last strike in 2007-2008, Dancing With the Stars remained in production, and similarly re-hired its writer once the strike was over.

The dance competition show is set to return on Sept. 26, with a two-and-a-half-hour premiere simulcast on ABC and Disney+. The decision to proceed with the show's return has stirred controversy as the WGA continues its strike, which has now entered over 140 days of stalled negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

The Season 32 cast of DWTS features several members who are part of SAG-AFTRA, including Alyson Hannigan, Jamie Lynn Spears, Barry Williams, Matt Walsh, Mira Sorvino, Ariana Madix, and Xochitl Gomez. Variety reports, in light of the SAG-AFTRA strike that is also taking place, the show will not include any video packages showcasing the cast members' past TV and film projects to comply with union rules that prohibit the promotion or discussion of former SAG-AFTRA projects.

The decision to move forward with Dancing With the Stars has not been without criticism, especially on social media platforms. WGA members have voiced their concerns, noting that the show is covered by WGA representation, making it a WGA-covered production. Some writers have referred to the show as "Dancing With the Scabs" or "Scabbing With the Stars" in reference to the use of non-union or "scab" writing labor during the strike.


Former Dancing With the Stars professional dancer Cheryl Burke expressed her belief that the show should pause until the strike is resolved. She emphasized the importance of unity among entertainment industry professionals to bring about significant change.

As the strike continues, negotiations between the WGA and the AMPTP are set to resume on Wednesday. Dancing With the Stars season 32 is a significant return to ABC after the show's exclusive run on Disney+ last season and a shift to Tuesday nights following a lengthy run on Mondays.

Although DWTS is moving forward, after announcing their plans to resume production despite the ongoing SAG-AFTRA/WGA strikes, several talk shows are pausing their return and pushing back their previously planned premiere dates.

On Monday, Bill Maher took to social media to rescind the previous announcement that his HBO political talk show, Real Time With Bill Maher, will return to the air without writers amid the ongoing WGA strike.

"My decision to return to work was made when it seemed nothing was happening and there was no end in sight to this strike," Maher said in a statement shared on X (formerly known as Twitter). "Now that both sides have agreed to go back to the negotiating table I'm going to delay the return of 'Real Time,' for now, and hope they can finally get this done." 

Maher previously told followers that he would be leading a stripped-down version of his show, without several writer-driven segments, including his monologue and his end-of-show editorial piece. "And I'll say it upfront to the audience: the show I will be doing without my writers will not be as good as our normal show, full stop," Maher said last week.

On Sunday, Variety reported that The Jennifer Hudson Show had also pushed back its previously planned Sept. 18 premiere date and paused production amid backlash during the writers' strike.

Hudson’s nationally syndicated show planned to begin its season without writers and intended to welcome WGA writers back once a new contract was in place.

On the same day, The Talk announced that it will pause the premiere of the upcoming season, amid the Writers Guild of America strike. The daytime show, hosted by Amanda Kloots, Akbar Gbajabiamila, Sheryl Underwood, Natalie Morales and Jerry O’Connell, was set to return for season 14 on Sept. 18. In support of the strike, the show went dark in May.

"The Talk is pausing its season premiere scheduled for Sept. 18. We will continue to evaluate plans for a new launch date," CBS told ET in a statement. 

Before the announcement, the show was set to move forward with the fall premiere of its new season. Last Wednesday, dozens of Writers Guild members protested a rehearsal show.

"The reality is that bringing a show back without your writers is an attempt to devalue our labor and devalue the work that we do," WGA captain Chris Hazzard told The Hollywood Reporter. "And there's no way to make a show without writing. So whether that's picking guests or talking about who's going to speak when or doing pre-interviews to update your hosts about what the topic is going to be, all of that is writing. And so that work being done is scabbing and we will be out here with a picket sign until it stops."

The talk shows' decisions come after Drew Barrymore shared that she is pausing the return of The Drew Barrymore Show after receiving feedback from others in SAG-AFTRA and the WGA.

For more on the ongoing SAG-AFTRA/WGA strikes, see ET's coverage below.