'Dancing With the Stars' host Tom Bergeron: Controversy comes with the territory

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"Dancing With the Stars" host Tom Bergeron, who was admittedly surprised about Brandy's Week 9 kick-off, is not worried about this season's shockers affecting the fate of the series. He's seen it before.

"I'm trying to remember which season had people saying, 'This isn't fair, I'm never going to watch again,'" Bergeron tells Zap2it. "Oh, every season. You can do a historical analysis of the message boards and the blogosphere, and every season you get 'this is a conspiracy.'"

"Next season will be a new conspiracy," he says. "And the people who'll never watch again will watch again to tell us they'll never watch again."

Unless they shoot their televisions.

The conspiracy theorists, buoyed by Brandy's semifinals exit, are threatening to abandon the series because of Bristol Palin -- who has a spot in the finals, despite being the lowest scorer for seven weeks running. Bergeron doesn't see the big deal.

"Early in the season, I would not have picked Bristol," admits Bergeron. "Whether it's Bristol or any number of other people over the course of almost 11 full seasons, it's just fun to watch people who come into this show with little or no background in dance or performance. You get to watch a story arc of growth. This one's been muddied a bit by the political elements, but I think, that aside, you can't deny she's come quite a ways."

That growth has been particularly noticeable in her footwork, something Bergeron says judge Len Goodman has brought up with him at several points throughout the competition.

And though that footwork still may not be good enough to rank her above remaining contestants Jennifer Grey and Kyle Massey, everyone on Team "DWTS" has to remind fans that the voting is just as important as scores.

"We make a big push about votes," says Bergeron, "and I'm very candid about my feelings about people who piss and moan and then don't vote. That's true in a reality show and anywhere else."

The finale is when scores do count a bit more, especially where the freestyle is concerned. Bergeron isn't in the game of handicapping his contestants, but he knows which ones might really benefit from the loosely defined routine.

"This is going to be the ultimate challenge for Jennifer and Derek," he says. "It's not a lack of commitment, but she might not be physically up to what, say, Kyle might be able to pull out. Look back at Mark [Ballas] and Shawn Johnson or Cheryl [Burke] and Drew [Lachey]. I believe they won based on their freestyles."

Who the dance might make or break this season is anybody's guess.

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Photo/Video credit: ABC