Olympics athletes, ’90s actresses, teen singing sensations, all gearing up to wear mildly embarrassing sparkly outfits: Time for another round of “Dancing With the Stars,” which debuts March 17 on ABC.
Tom Bergeron announced the cast with new co-host Erin Andrews on Tuesday morning, and there were lots of familiar names out of the dozen new dancers: “Price is Right” host Drew Carey; “Real Housewives of Atlanta” star NeNe Leakes; former kid actresses Danica McKellar (“Wonder Years”) and Candace Cameron Bure (“Full House”); Olympian ice dancing partners Charlie White and Meryl Davis; and U.S. Paralympic Team snowboarder Amy Purdy.
There was some quick banter about whether White and Davis were ready to compete against each other (apparently there’s been trash talk “brewing”), but also news of a big twist: For the first time ever, in the middle of the season, contestants will switch partners. Given that the pro dancers become visibly jealous of their fellow pros who have the better amateur dancers, this will likely lead to some delightful drama.
Speaking of drama, “Dancing With the Stars” has already had a contentious season and it hasn’t even started yet. Last month, the show fired longtime co-host Brooke Burke Charvet, replacing her with sportscaster and former “DWTS” contestant Erin Andrews to join Tom Bergeron. Charvet later tweeted her shock: “weird day….Shocking pre-season elimination #DWTS…ME. @Tom_Bergeron didn’t even read my name. I won’t be returning to the show this season.”
Meanwhile, many viewers were also upset that members of the show’s 28-piece live band were also fired, and will be replaced by a smaller band along with many recordings.
So, not a great way to kick off a new season, especially an aging reality show that desperately needs a ratings boost and not to make its core viewership angry. Here’s a rundown of the contestants and pro partner pairings that ABC is banking on, and their chances of winning based on nothing except our embarrassingly in-depth knowledge of this sparkly competition series (and leaving talent out of it, because this is essentially a popularity contest.)
Danica McKellar/Val Chmerkovskiy
Occupation: Actress, math genius
Best known for: Playing Winnie Cooper on “The Wonder Years,” one half of the most adorable teen couple on TV with Fred Savage’s Kevin Arnold
Chances in the competition? Middling to high. Though her Winnie Cooper days will bring the vote for all the now-adults who were had crushes on her as a kid (and her later years as a math genius/textbook author should make some middle school teachers very happy), she better bring the personality if she wants to stand out in a nostalgia-heavy crowd.
Cody Simpson/Witney Carson
Best known for: Being an Australian pop star
Chances in the competition? Okay. He’s by far the youngest one in the contest, and that could work against him.
Billy Dee Williams/Emma Slater
Best known for: “Star Wars” franchise
Chances in the competition? Good, not great. As the oldest member of the competition, that will buy him some leeway for awhile, but about halfway through, patience and excuses run out from the judges and viewing public.
Diana Nyad/Henry Byalikov
Best known for: Breaking records as a champion distance swimmer, swam 100 miles Cuba to Florida without a shark tank
Chances in the competition? Just okay. Unfortunately, she’s one of the least-recognizable names in a field of flashy celebs and new Olympic stars, and we’ve seen people of her caliber go home early.
NeNe Leakes/Tony Dovolani
Occupation: Reality star, actress
Best known for: “Real Housewives of Atlanta”
Chances in the competition? Pretty great. A powerhouse personality who has also established herself as a dynamic actress, we could see the audience (even though who never watch Bravo shows) warming to NeNe.
James Maslow/Peta Murgatroyd
Occupation: Actor, singer
Best known for: Playing James Diamond on hit Nickelodeon series “Big Time Rush,” and a member of the show’s real-life boy band
Chances in the competition? Iffy. I know, there were some serious SCREAMS when he walked on to the “Good Morning America” stage, but his teen heartthrob looks will only get him so far — especially since the “DWTS” viewers are usually older.
Drew Carey/Cheryl Burke
Occupation: Actor, game show host
Best known for: “The Drew Carey Show,” “Price is Right,” proponent of Cleveland rocking
Chances in the competition? Good to great; he’s a fan favorite and as he boasted during the “GMA” segment that “Since I lost the weight, all I want to do is physical stuff.”
Candace Cameron Bure/Mark Ballas
Best known for: Playing DJ Tanner on hit show “Full House” in the 90s.
Chances in the competition? Pretty decent. Nostalgia factor can be high, so she’s gotta milk the “Full House” memories for all they’re worth. (Or make a call to Dave Coulier to see if he can be in the audience one night. What else does he have to do? As she hinted to Andrews during “GMA,” she has “very supportive” co-stars.)
Sean Avery/Karina Smirnoff
Best known for: Being a former NHL player on the New York Rangers, among other teams; also, he interned at Vogue. Oh, and he’s engaged to Hilary Rhoda, local high school field hockey star turned Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.
Chances in the competition? Excellent. Athletes tend to do very well, and something tells us Avery will have his share of women fans on this female-skewing show.
Charlie White/Sharna Burgess
Best known for: Getting a gold medal in Olympic ice dancing in Sochi with partner Meryl Davis
Chances in the competition? Pretty okay. It’s hard to tell how sarcastic he was being on “GMA” when he said he could apply what he knew in ice dancing to an actual dance floor, even though it involves totally different kinds of movement.
Meryl Davis/Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Best known for: Getting a gold medal in Olympic ice dancing in Sochi with partner Charlie White
Chances in the competition? Pretty good, similar to partner-turned-rival Charlie; plus, her partner is the ever-volatile Maks, who is returning after two seasons. Remember Hope Solo? Sympathy for having Maks as your partner can get lots of votes.
Amy Purdy/Derek Hough
Best known for: U.S. Paralympic Team Snowboarder
Chances in the competition? Pretty great. Again, athletes usually do pretty well, especially if you have a compelling backstory. As an interview with TeamUSA says, as “Currently the only double amputee competing in the international para-snowboarding field, she will become the first U.S. Paralympian to appear on the hit reality television show.”