"Dancing with the Stars" producers realized its voting system last season wasn't ideal. Executive producer Conrad Green admits there were some "anomalous results" in season 17 after the results show was cut, which forced them to reveal the eliminated couple each week based on the combination of viewer votes from the previous week with the judges' scores from the current week.
In order to improve, they will introduce a new way to determine who will be eliminated each week. In the upcoming 18th season, the elimination will be based on both the judges' scores and viewer votes from the current week.
"Effectively, we will know who's going home Tuesday morning," Green says. "So what will happen is, every couple will compete the following week, but one of those couples will be the one who is carrying the black mark of elimination with them, as it were. And there's really not much they can do."
He admits, "None of these systems are ideal ... but I do think at least this way the public gets the final say and they get to vote in response to the judges, rather than the judges having effectively the final say."
The new voting system is not the only twist to be introduced in the 18th installment. Green says more changes are on the way, reasoning, "When you're a show reaching its 18th season and its ninth year, I think you have to keep changing things up every so often just to make sure that the experience doesn't become too familiar."
Another of the twists is "The Switch Up." At some point this season, the stars and pros will switch partners for at least one week. Voters will get a chance to determine the new pairings. "It's always a question that superfans of the show have, which is, how much is the celebrity good because they're with that partner, or how much is it because they're good themselves?" Green explains. "It's a very good test of the stars, how good they actually are at dancing. And also, it's a real test for our pro dancers."
The show will also have Erin Andrews as a new co-host, Ray Chew as a new band leader replacing Harold Wheeler, and a new ballroom look. The show ditches the proscenium arch and has a much bigger video screen as well as a smaller stage near the band for more intimate performances. The skybox is back as well.
"We've re-jiggered the ballroom quite a lot," Green gushes. "It's going to feel like a much bigger, deeper ballroom."
Meanwhile, returning pro dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy says he's back with a new attitude. Promising to keep his time on the show drama free, he explains to PEOPLE, "Listen, I'm a sweet guy. I'm just intense at work. I have nothing but the end result in mind. My entire career has been like that."
"I have come to realize very late in my DWTS career that that doesn't exactly translate in television format," he adds. "People are tuning in to see the progress and what happens during the rehearsals and don't want to see drama. Well, I think I've given the viewers enough drama in the last nine years. Now I want to give them a season that's drama-free - nothing but smiles and laughter and a great time. Let somebody else be dramatic."
Of his new partner, Olympic ice dancing gold medalist Meryl Davis, he says, "I'm having a blast with her."
"DWTS" season 18 premieres Monday, March 17 at 8/7c on ABC.