We have officially entered the post-Len Goodman era on Dancing with the Stars, and they have not attempted to replace him; we’ve gone back to a three-judge panel, which will be all the weaker for not having him on it. Kym Johnson has also left, and we have also lost Arftem Chingvintsev, and unexpectedly Peta Murgatroyd, who was supposed to be in this season, but pulled out only days ago with injury, although at least this means we’re not losing Allison Holker, who steps in as her replacement.
Perhaps to try to make up for it, though, we’re getting back not only Karina Smirnoff, who sat out last season, but also a trio of pros we haven’t seen for longer, including two for it truly has been far too long. Except that now, with the full cast list and partnerships out after a week and a half of early announcements, one of them has been burdened with a partnership that makes you wish for his sake they’d waited longer.
As well as that particular “What the Hell were the thinking?” choice, the celebrities include a few names at least somewhat familiar to most of the world, not one, but two singers whose siblings have been on the show already, and the show’s second attempt to pit a married pair of celebrities against each other(the first was in Season 8, when the initial lineup included then-married couple Ty Murray and Jewel Kilcher, but she got injured a week before the premiere). Who everyone got:
Derek Hough: Bindi Irwin, the daughter of the Crocodile Hunter. Mildly surprising they gave her to Derek instead of Mark, but it makes one suspect they really want her to be a big success. For someone who inherited her fame, she’s someone who’s gotten a lot of sympathy and goodwill, handling the spotlight the way she has following the tragic death of her father. But when she hasn’t been entirely without missteps either, you do wonder how many votes she’ll ultimately gather, especially when Derek is vulnerable to late-round shock eliminations.
Karina Smirnoff: Victor Espinoza, the recently successful athlete. Since there’s no Olympics for them to get someone in the flush of their 15 minutes from, this is a pretty smart replacement. It’ll remain to be seen, however, if he proves as good a dancer as many of those Olympic athletes; his is the kind of fame that doesn’t necessarily translate to votes, so they’ll have to be good to last.
Sharna Burgess: Nick Carter, the more famous singing sibling. Once upon a time, in fact, Nick would’ve been too famous for this, but it’s been a good decade and half, now, since the Backstreet Boys’ heyday. Still, there are still plenty of old fans out there who will no doubt provide him with a good voting base. Plus he’s bound to be a very good dancer, so add those things together and he should go very far indeed, especially considering how far his less famous kid brother Aaron got. There’s an argument he may even be the favorite, or the closest thing to one right now.
Emma Slater: Hayes Grier, the internet celebrity. Seriously, who is this guy? He is going come in without too many votes. He may be good enough a dancer(or social media genius) to get them as he goes on. They may have to hope her fanbase keeps them for the first week or so, though. And if he can’t dance, he really won’t stay long at all!
Mark Ballas & Witney Carson: Alexa & Carlos PenaVega, the B-list singers/actors. Both these two have resumes that indicate moving themselves about won’t be a new experience, and when Mark’s as good a teacher as he is and Witney has proved able to win this competition as well, either of these pairs could prove pretty good. Fanbase might be a problem especially for Alexa, but Mark has his own, which should give them time to gather support. Carlos, of course, has had bandmate James Maslow on the show already, who made the final, so right now he should be considered capable of doing the same.
Keo Motsepe: Chaka Khan, the older lady singer. One wonders if they’re going to keep handing for Keo such difficult partners, but on the other hand, she could always surprise and be a good dancer, or have the personality to make up for it. The very similar Patti Labelle did last season. She’ll have to; her kind of fame doesn’t translate into votes unless she’s liked, but it may even translate to the two of them staying longer than they ought, though after the fates he suffered in his past two seasons, it may be hard to begrudge Keo that.
Allison Holker: Andy Grammer, the current hit singer. It’s actually unfortunate for Grammer that he lost Peta; she would’ve likely gotten him more votes than Allison will. But when he has already gotten notice by the show’s fans for contributing to one of the highlight dances of last season, and he’ll probably prove able to dance pretty well, his chances are pretty good of at least making a deep run.
Anna Trebunskaya: Gary Busey, the older actor. Most of the show’s aging thespians have been female, but it’ll remain to be seen how he compares to them. Like with them, at his age, he’s unlikely to be able to dance very well, so how long Anna’s return to the show is going to last may depend on how much he charms people with his personality. At least we know already he’s got one.
Tony Dovolani: Kim Zolciak, the Real Housewife. Of course they saddled poor Tony with her, but hey, he really got the best out of the other Real Housewife he danced with. Not that either of the two who have been of the show so far were good at ballroom dancing, but Nene Leakes had the personality and attitude to make up for it, and perhaps Kim will be the same. Or perhaps she’ll be more like Lisa Vanderpump, and we’ll all sigh in relief when she’s gone. Poor Tony. Though for once, he’s not the most screwed of the pros…
Louis van Amstel: Paula Deen. UGH. The two right-wing teenagers were bad enough, but at least they weren’t the main source of their families’ craziness, unlike this woman. And really, producers, you snub Louis for way too long, and then, when you finally bring him back, you promptly saddled him with this kind of person, who is probably as homophohic as she is racist? We have to thank our lucky stars she probably isn’t going to be a good dancer, so hopefully even the racist vote will only keep her on for so long.
Valentin Chmerkovskiy: Tamar Braxton, the less famous singing sibling. Sister Toni went a little earlier than she ought to have, with the judges saying she never quite broke through despite her potential. But not only was this because of Chloris Leachman, but she was partnered with Alex Mazo, who wasn’t as good a pro partner as Val has managed to prove, and likely wasn’t pulling in votes the way Val should either. If she can just equal Toni in ability, the lesser sister might just prove the greater success.
Lindsay Arnold: Alex Skarlatos, the name recently in the news. First active military man on the show, though there have been plenty of retired ones. At least that means he’s sure to be in shape, and he’ll come in which much admiration, which will translate to at least some votes. Hey, when you consider how well the two guys who identified themselves primarily as military men did on the show, with the one with all his limbs intact beating a Kardashian in the final on viewer votes, so long as this guy can dance, he could make a very deep run.
I’m actually going to miss the first two weeks of this season, since I’m going to be traveling to Europe. I suppose it’s too much to hope for that by the time I come back Paula Deen will be gone?