It’s a sad world these days, with even the people who entertain us dropping like flies lately, but Dancing With the Stars will take another turn around the ballroom in its usual attempt to razzle dazzle us, with even results shows back for the first two weeks. And thankfully there’ll even still be Len Goodman there to head the judge’s table, having apparently decided against making the previous season his last. Though it will now officially become a four-judge panel, with Julianne Hough joining the other three permanently, much to the displeasure of at least one of the pros(Karina), who is understandably worried about whether she’ll be able to always be objective over Derek. In the pros line-up, meanwhile, most of the cast from last season has stayed, though Maks as expected has gone back into retirement, and poor Henry Bylikov is out, with Artem Chigvintsev, after filling in for Mark during rehearsals and potentially during a performance last season, getting his turn to be rotated in from the dance troupe in his place, and two more new pros will also make their debut.
Karina Smirnoff: Randy Couture, the UFC fighter. We’ve had one ultimate fighter on the show, who won some hearts but was a terrible dancer, and also a pro wrestler, who was more or less okay. But will Couture be willing to go the route Chuck Liddell went, shedding the tough guy image and embracing the pink, if he can’t be at least as good as Chris Jericho was? And even if he does, Liddell still didn’t last that long…
Emma Slater: Michael Waltrip, the race car driver. The last race car driver to compete on this show won, but a repeat doesn’t seem that likely. Helio was younger, dancing during a less competitive era of DWTS, and then he didn’t even do that well in the votes during the All-Star Season. But Emma’s reached the finals with an older man before, so who knows?
Val Chmerkovskiy: Janel Parrish, the current TV actress. Apparently also a singer, so hopefully she’ll have some musicality, but dancing ability is another matter. The two of them combined probably have enough fans to give her time, but she’ll still have to be able to dance to make it through more than half the show.
Mark Ballas: Sadie Robertson, the reality TV star. Poor Mark; isn’t one famous right-wing teenager who was sent back to him during the All-Star season enough for any man to put up with during his life? Though at least we’ll all be spared the voting charade that resulted, if only because ABC now verifies your emails. But now we must all now dread the prospect that he might be able to make a good dancer out of her and then we’ll be stuck with her for who knows how long.
Cheryl Burke: Antonio Sabato, jr., the soap opera actor. Difficult to predict his dancing ability, but Cheryl has done well with more obscure actors, at least when they’ve come to her with at least a basic competence. Not sure about his fanbase, though; his main run on General Hospital was a bit of time ago. Hers may have to suffice, and it may eventually prove a problem.
Witney Carson: Alfonso Ribiero, the 90s TV star. I suspect after Candace Cameron Bure’s success, we’re going to have more of these. Also apparently he is not entirely without dancing experience, which hopefully will help counteract his age. If she can put it to good use, they’ll probably at least make the second half of the season.
Peta Murgatroyd: Tommy Chong, the comedian. The comedians seem to be trending old these days, which sometimes works(Bill Engvall), and sometimes doesn’t(Drew Carey). But even if he’s not too old to dance well, I’d honestly worry a little bit about his politics and the voting, especially since DWTS seems to be favoring its red-state fanbase with selections like Sadie and also Lolo Jones. Just for that, I hope he stays longer than he really should.
Allison Holker: Jonathan Bennett, the B-list actor. For her first assignment, she has been handed a guy who definitely has no fanbase, and while apparently she has attracted some notice in the past from So You Think You Can Dance, I’d definitely worry about the voting. And that’s even if he can dance, which we can’t be certain about. Unless he proves brilliant, this pair may get kicked out even before they deserve to.
Artem Chigvintsev: Lea Thompson, the older actress. Geek alert on this one for her role in Back to the Future. But like Allison and Jonathan, between her not having a real fanbase and him being new, this pair may have trouble getting votes, even if she can dance. But while there’s certainly no guarantee of that, it should never be assumed that these older actresses can’t; sometimes they surprise you.
Sharna Burgess: Tavis Smiley, the TV host. Sharna’s actually lucky to be here; she wasn’t in the initial cast, much to the chagrin of her fans, then was added as a “lucky” thirteenth pro. But a man near 50 who’s mostly been on BET and public broadcasting probably isn’t the best partner either skillwise or votewise, especially when it seems the TV hosts only do well when they dance with Derek, so it’s a definitely question whether she’s going to stay very long.
Keoikantse Motsepe: Lolo Jones, the Olympic athlete. Not the worst match in the world for DWTS’ first ever black pro. When he doesn’t even have SYTYCD in his background, he might have perhaps liked someone with a more solid fanbase, but Olympic athletes often do make good dancers, Jones’ fellow runner Maurice Green did very well all things considered, and she’s shown herself to be flexible about trying new things in new settings by doing her bobsledding. He might make her good enough to last, or at least provoke indignation about getting voted off too early.
Derek Hough: Bethany Mota, the YouTube personality. She’s young(but unlike Sadie, not underage, so the costumer can do what he wants), she looks like she’s in good shape, and he’s Derek. He may not have gotten a ringer this season(if only because there really don’t seem to be any ringers in this cast at all), but they didn’t try to make it difficult for him this season either. Unless she proves completely incompetent, more likely than not he’ll take her to the final where she’ll dance like she was a ringer.
Tony Dovolani: Betsey Johnson, the (hopefully) cool old lady. And once again they handed Tony a partner whose dancing potential is suspicious, if only because of her age. Unless she really defies expectation and precedent, the only competition-related question will be how much longer will she stay than she deserves to by her dancing. But the more important question, of course, is how entertaining and endearing she proves.