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“Dancing With the Stars” has stepped past NBC’s “The Voice” in a big way, as last Monday’s show averaged 17.6 million viewers compared to “The Voice’s” 11.8.  That’s good news for DWTS fans, who may have been dismayed by headlines about the ABC dance competition opening to lower numbers than last season.  It did, but no tears.  The season-opener was still the second most-watched show of the week, behind only “NCIS.”  That is largely thanks to Grownup viewers.  Of DWTS’ total viewer number of 18.5 million for that premiere, 11 million were in the 55+ Nielsen category.

Yes, DWTS continues to be one of our favorites.  Last season, the show averaged 16.8 million viewers watching live and same day.  Of those, 10.1 million were in the 55+ demo, according to figures supplied to AARP.org by Nielsen.  That’s a whopping 13.5 percent audience share of the 55-and-up age range.

Certainly the array of 50+ celebrities who’ve cha cha’ed onto the DWTS leader board through the show’s 14 seasons account for part of its appeal – including feisty Cloris Leachman, competing at 82, suave George Hamilton and John O’Hurley, inspiring Buzz Aldrin, plus Wayne Newton, Priscilla Presley, Florence Henderson and more. This season’s contest still includes 50+ stars Gladys Knight (67) and Jack Wagner (52).  Of course, the heaping helpings of behind-the-scenes drama served up on DWTS are as much of a lure for Grownup viewers as anyone, as is host Tom Bergeron (56), with his witty remarks and Peck’s Bad Boy twinkle.  And then too, for many of us, ballroom dancing has always been enticing, as participants (ah, to hear my parents talk of the halcyon days of waltzing at the old Hollywood Palladium) and/or appreciators.  With Fred and Ginger and Gene and Cyd, through Patrick Swayze and DWTS winner Jennifer Grey, (50) we’ve had some of the times of our lives.