Whenever you have expert judging, viewer votes that are based as much on popularity as on merit, and celebrities who aren't used to being rejected, you are going to get controversy, and such has been the case over the first eight seasons of Dancing With the Stars. Maybe a dancer overstayed his welcome. Perhaps someone behaved in a way that ruffled feathers. It has not always been a waltz in the park, as this look at the most controversial contestants in DWtS history will illustrate.
Master P (Season Two): The New Orleans rap kingpin stepped in when his son, Lil' Romeo, was injured just before the start of the season. To put it mildly, P did not display the work ethic viewers typically like to see in their amateur dancers, showing little in rehearsal and barely more onstage, and apparently regarding the show as a excuse to cross-promote and nothing more. Despite being widely regarded as the most inept dancer in show history, he lasted for four weeks, as some of the American Idol "vote for the worst" mentality carried over to DWtS.
Sara Evans (Season Three): The country singer was likely nearing the end of her run anyway at the midway point of her season, but chose to leave the competition in sixth place when she filed for divorce from her husband Craig. The ensuing salacious charges and countercharges were new territory for both the squeaky-clean Evans and for DWtS. Evans is still the only star to leave the show for reasons other than injury.
Jerry Springer (Season Three): The trash TV legend was not horrible, but he was easily the weakest dancer in the third season cast apart from the hopeless Tucker Carlson. In spite of this, Springer lasted all the way to fifth place, beating out the vastly superior Willa Ford and Vivica A. Fox, among others. He was an early illustration of the truism that real star power, and the ability to excel well outside of one's typical comfort zone, will often trump actual talent on DWtS.
Marie Osmond (Season Five): The irony of Season Five is that while it probably had the deepest talent pool of any DWtS, Osmond is typically considered to be the weakest dancer to get to the final round. While it was known she had a rabid fanbase, she gained even more sympathy as the season progressed following a fainting spell after one of her dances, and when she rallied after the death of her father. As she outlasted superior talents like Sabrina Bryan and Jennie Garth, the resentment of Osmond grew.
Kelly Monaco (Season One): If there was one moment that ensured DWtS would turn into something more than a summertime curiosity, it was Monaco's shocking victory in the debut season. The title had been all but granted to suave John O'Hurley, but something about Monaco's underdog story appealed to voters -- or perhaps it was a sudden influx of men who recalled her appearance in Playboy several years before.
Jerry Rice (Season Two): No one really knew what to expect when Rice became the first person associated with football to compete on DWtS, but his surprising second place finish was an indicator that gridiron fame would be easy to transfer to results on the dance floor. Rice became controversial for outlasting the extraordinary Stacy Keibler, a decision that the typically restrained judging panel practically booed.
Cloris Leachman (Season Seven): Everyone knew the viewers were likely to grade the 82 year-old Leachman on the biggest curve in history, and such was the case; she received the lowest score from the judges in nearly all of her seven weeks of competition. But in keeping with her late career image as the crazy old lady who will do anything for a laugh, Leachman's post-dance antics such as cursing, pretending to bribe the judges, and calling Carrie Ann Inaba a bitch were much more responsible for her long tenure than her limited skill.
David Alan Grier (Season Eight): The actor might have left a week or two early, though his departure wasn't a historic DWtS travesty. But his reaction to being voted out was unusually strong, as he blasted the judging panel in bleepworthy language during a post-elimination interview, while partner Kym Johnson looked like she wanted to be anywhere else on earth. This might have been an example of Grier's dry humor, but it certainly didn't come across that way.
Steve-O (Season Eight): The Jackass alumnus wasn't nearly as terrible as many feared he would be, but he probably caught a break early in his season when a minor injury left him unable to perform live. Instead, his score for the week was based on footage of him in rehearsal. While the score was deservedly low, fan voting kept Steve-O alive for that week and several subsequent weeks. Is it fair to keep a contestant on the show if they can't answer the bell?
Jason Taylor (Season Six): There have been several football players in the DWtS cast over the years, but Taylor is the only one who was still active in the NFL at the time of his appearance in the spring of 2008. This was not a popular decision with his then employers, the Miami Dolphins, who fumed that he should have been attending various offseason drills and meetings instead of learning the foxtrot. By the time fall came around, Taylor had a new team.