Although for this season the big news isn’t the celebrities; it’s the more regular faces. Brooke Burke Charvet has been exchanged for Erin Andrews, which is all well and good, and Harold Wheeler and the band are gone, which is very much not; it sounds like everyone will dance to recordings now, which just is not the same, it really isn’t. That’s bad enough, but with the cast reveal we also got the news that halfway through the show the viewers will vote to reassign the pros to what stars they want them to dance with, which isn’t nice either, if it means other pros can get credit for the hard work done by each pro early in the show. As for the cast of pros themselves, two more members of the dance troupe have been rotated in, including a much overdue Henry Byalikov, and Farber has gone back to the dance troupe, but mostly the cast is the same as last season, except Tyne Steicklin and more sadly Tristan McManus are also out, and of course we have a big comeback from Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who had previously looked liked he’d moved on for good, and if only he can stay with her he might have the biggest chance of winning. For now, the current partner assignments:
Maksim Chmerkovskiy & Sharna Burgess: Meryl Davis & Charlie White, the Olympic gold medalists. Now I have to say, this really is not fair. Singles skaters were one thing, but ice dancers learn ballroom as part of their training; there is no way these two don’t have a huge advantage over the field. This is probably the biggest chance either of these pros will get to win, provided they can hold onto their partners. Meryl & Maks may especially be a formidable team.
Mark Ballas: Candance Cameron Bure, the older actress. This is Mark’s third time dancing with an older actress. His success with the first two were very limited, but he’s still too good a teacher to count out. At the very least, he can hopefully make it to the halfway mark, when I suspect his fans will vote to pair him with someone else if Bure isn’t that good.
Valentin Chmerkovskiy: Danica McKeller, the still older actress. Given how far he got with a similar partner last year, and the shock it was when they were eliminated, he too has potential to at least reach the halfway mark, but, of course, she is not certain to have Elizabeth Berkley Lauren’s ability.
Henry Byalikov: Diana Nyad, the more obscure athlete. Not a bad partner for his first time out; athletes often do very well, although the last swimmer on the show was a bit of a disappointmend. Also, will he hold onto her if they do make it to the halfway point? I think she may be a prime candidate for reassignment.
Tony Dovolani: NeNe Leakes, the Real Housewife. I guess we’re stuck with having some of those on the show. Poor Tony, they’re always saddling him with bad partners. And if this Real Housewife was anything like the last one, they’ll be long gone before the reassignments happen.
Whitney Carson: Cody Simpson, the teen pop star. Like Henry, Whitney got a good partner for her first season competing; he may be young, but I’m sure he has some movement ability, plus if the Good Morning America reaction was any indication, they won’t have any difficulty with votes, at least for a while.
Cheryl Burke: Drew Carey, the TV personality/host. Sometimes Cheryl gets good partners, but sometimes she doesn’t. At his age, I suspect his dancing ability will be limited. Votes, if only from her own fanbase, might keep them a week or two past their appropriate exit date, but unless he shows some surprising ability they can only go so far; she may or may not make it to a better partner halfway.
Derek Hough: Amy Purdy, the Paralympian. Not the first disabled contestant, and if anyone can work with such a partner, it’s Derek; never count him out. Although I suspect the producers deliberately gave him her to make it a little harder for the guy who wins too much. If he makes it halfway, it’ll be interesting to see who prevails in the vote, those who love him and would give him Meryl Davis, or those who hate him and want to saddle him with someone impossible.
Karina Smirnoff: Sean Avery, the bad boy of the NHL. It would be Sean Avery who would be the first hockey player to make the cast in a season where apparently they couldn’t find a football player. It will certainly be interesting to see how he pans out, both in matters of dancing and in matters of who’s willing to vote for him; he remains one of the most hated hockey players for his early career, but since he mellowed out and started advocating for gays he has won some fans.
Emma Slater: Billy Dee Williams, the old guy who might be too famous for this. No doubt the geeks will love this one, but at his age, how good a dancer will he be? Yet Emma did make the finals her first time out with a older man last season, though this was not because of his dancing ability. Can his fame at least get her to the halfway mark?
Peta Murgatroyd: James Maslow, the B-list actor/singer. Although apparently he does have some fans. Still, if they want to make it to the halfway mark, he’ll have to be able to dance.