Are You Ready to Rumba?

Why America loves a dance contest that dares to be corny

Solar radiation does funny things to the brain. It was in summers past that we fell for the Macarena as party starter, Regis Philbin as fashion icon and Howard Dean as Democratic front runner. If you need further proof that the ozone layer is thinning, look to the summer TV season of 2005, in which ABC got 15 million rapt Americans to watch Dancing with the Stars, the most proudly bizarre song-and-dance show since Pink Lady and Jeff.

Consider, first, the title. The dancing is done by professional hoofers partnered with hastily prepped celebrities, some of whom would be just about...

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