Chaz Bono, born a female but now legally and physically a male, will be a guest on the pop-culture cult classic "Dancing With the Stars." The controversy has already begun. "DWTS" can anticipate a surge in viewership when Chaz appears with his dancing shoes.
Communications experts, ranging from writers like myself to public relations gurus like Jack O'Dwyer, have a wonderful phenomenon to analyze what gets, keeps, and grows followers in this over-connected era. After all, "DWTS" happens on the old-media platform of television. Yet, two days in a row its doings have dominated digital and mainstream headlines. Yesterday the buzz was about legal television anchor Nancy Grace being a "DWTS" guest this fall. Today, of course, it's all about Chaz.
- Positioning the trival or even silly as an pursuit done with great earnestness and by big brandname folks. The juxtaposition traps us between the intersections. Remember when buttoned-down conservative Tucker Carlson worked up a sweat, both practicing and actually performing. He also accepted feedback with great gravitas.
- Bringing back the glamour and glitter of ballroom dancing. There are the fancy dress, the formality, and the civility. This is a world in which we economically wounded warriors can feel safe and dignified.
- Creating mystery about who will be next on the show. Will Hillary decide it's her time to dance? During Campaign 2012, will Rick Perry or even the Barack Obama [should his polls go low enough] do a one-night gig? At Apple, Steve Jobs turned mystery into a core marketing device.
- Milking the suspense about who will win. There have been surprises. One never knows.
Clearly, the medium of television, if programmed in an offbeat way, has a lot of runway left. Just as in the 1950s, some of us have our lives scheduled according to what's on the small screen. Sunday nights are reserved in my household for AMC's "Breaking Bad."