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‘Dancing With the Stars’ keeps plans to premiere next week despite backlash from WGA

Amid calls from the Writers Guild of America to delay the premiere amid the ongoing writers’ strike, ABC and Disney+ are staying the course with plans to premiere a new season of “Dancing With the Stars” next week, Variety has learned.

“Dancing With the Stars” employs a team of 500 people and employs one WGA writer.

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Sources close to production say this Variety that the show will operate in accordance with SAG-AFTRA rules, and a key focus is not to put talent in a difficult position, as many season 32 cast members are part of the actors’ guild. Another key consideration was to ensure that the large workforce was not left out of work, insiders said. ABC declined to comment.

“Everyone is aiming to keep 500 people employed,” says a production source Variety. This person says the WGA writer will be back to work once the strike is over.

The WGA writer of “Dancing With the Stars” is working with the hosts. The show is otherwise largely unscripted, given the live nature of the dance competition.

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During the last strike in 2007-2008, “Dancing With the Stars” remained in production and similarly rehired its writer once the strike ended.

SAG-AFTRA rules mean that talent is still allowed to appear, as participation on “Dancing with the Stars” is governed by the Network Code Agreement, which is not part of the current strike. The season 32 cast includes multiple members of SAG-AFTRA, including Alyson Hannigan, Jamie Lynn Spears, Barry Williams, Matt Walsh, Mira Sorvino, Ariana Madix and Xochitl Gomez.

“Dancing With the Stars” typically features episodic video packages that showcase cast members’ previous TV and film projects. Under current strike rules, former SAG-AFTRA projects can’t be promoted or discussed, which could make ‘DWTS’ packages tricky — but a source confirms this season won’t include footage from previous shows or movies, to comply with the union rules . (For example, don’t expect flashbacks from “Brady Bunch” when he introduces Williams to his rumba, and Hannigan won’t talk about her time slaying vampires in “Buffy” while she’s on the dance floor.)

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“Dancing With the Stars” has recently become the subject of online chatter among WGA members on social media. Over the weekend — as news broke that “The Drew Barrymore Show,” “The Talk” and “The Jennifer Hudson Show” were backing out of plans to return during the strike — WGA members called “Dancing With the Stars ‘, noting that it is a WGA-covered show, meaning it has a WGA-represented writer on staff. WGA member David Slack’s tweet went viral, noting that “’Dancing with the Stars’ is a WGA-covered show. The writers are on strike and they can’t make the show without scab writing. Other writers mentioned the show variations of “Dancing with the scabs” or ‘Scabbing With the Stars’.

Former series pro Cheryl Burke said this on Monday morning Variety that she thought “Dancing With the Stars” should go on hiatus until the strikes ended. “At the end of the day, we have to stick together because that is the only way we will ever make significant change,” she said. “I don’t think it will be good for the show, to be honest, in the long run. I understand what they’re thinking and I get it. It’s a business, but there’s no business without the rest of the business… I think they need to hold on tight. I think we should stand as one. We really need to unite and not just say we are united.”

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After a month of stalled negotiations, the WGA will meet with the AMPTP on Wednesday, marking day 140 of the strike.

“Dancing With the Stars” will debut with a two-and-a-half-hour premiere on September 28 on ABC and simulcast on Disney+. The season represents a return to ABC for “DWTS,” which moved exclusively to Disney+ last season, as well as a shift to Tuesdays after a long run on Monday nights.

Variety has contacted a WGA spokesperson for comment.

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