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Posted at 06:30 PM ET, 02/28/2012

‘Dancing With the Stars’ politico-free, reality star-free cast unveiled [Updated]

Next month ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” will head into battle with NBC’s ratings monster “The Voice” on Monday nights without its arsenal of polarizing politicos and docu-soap reality stars.

 That’s right – no Kate Gosselin, no Bristol Palin, no Tom Delay, no The Situation – not even a stray Kardashian.

 Instead, the show’s BBC producers have populated the upcoming 14th edition with an army of likeable television stars, sports figures, kids stars and singers – even an opera star.

 Where’s the fun in that?

 This year’s lineup, in alphabetical order:

1) Gavin DeGraw. Pop star/“One Tree Hill” theme song singer.

 2) Donald Driver. Super Bowl champ/Green Bay Packers receiver.

 3) Roshon Fegan. Disney Channel star.

 4) Melissa Gilbert. “Little House on the Prairie” child star.

 5) Katherine Jenkins. Mezzo soprano.

 6) Gladys Knight. Former Gladys Knight & the Pips lead singer.

 7) William Levy. Star of Univision’s No. 1-rated telenovela, “Triunfo del Amor.”

 8) Maria Menounos. Host of celebrity suck-up show “Extra.”

 9) Martina Navratilova. Tennis great.

 10) Sherri Shepherd. “The View” co-host.

 11) Jack Wagner. “General Hospital” and “Melrose Place” star.

 12) Jaleel White. aka Urkel, on aged sitcom “Family Matters.”

 “Dancing’s” ratings tend to rise and fall based in large measure on the celebrities who are cast. And polarizing political figures and docu soap reality stars seem to generate a lot of publicity for the show, though popular sports figures and former TV stars tend to actually win the competition. The most watched edition to date was No. 12, which aired in spring of 2011, and which was won by Pittsburgh Steeler Hines Ward, with former “Cheers” sweetheart running Kirstie Alley coming in a close second.  That edition averaged 23 million viewers.

 This relatively non-polarizing cast of celebs isn’t entirely by design. Earlier this month, a rep for former GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain said he had decided to turn down an offer participate in the dance competition series because “He can’t dance in an eight-count. He can only dance in a nine-count” – as in 9-9-9.

 Not to be outdone, former GOP presidential hopeful, Rep. Michele Bachmann has said she too had decided not to participate in the upcoming season of  “Dancing” even though she won a polka-dancing competition in the 10th grade at her high school in Anoka, Minnesota – although it appeared the show had not actually gotten around to inviting her.

 A Bachmann aide explained she got a jump on turning down the show just to quash the buzz out there, so she could get back to the more serious issue of “repealing the government takeover of health care.”

 The folks on “Dancing” are counting on this likeable bunch to pull in strong ratings for the show which for the first time will air in the teeth of NBC’s soph singing show “The Voice,” which has a head start with a post-Super Bowl launch.

 Tuesday’s celeb-cast unveiling means that, officially, the most controversial participant on the 14th edition of “Dancing” is its professional dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Just last week Maks was quoted saying he still hadn’t gotten word if he’d be back -- keeping alive the drama that started last season when the irascible hoofer suggested to the show’s much-loved senior judge Len Goodman that maybe it was time to retire. Moments later, Maks told show co-host Brooke Burke Charvet, “With all due respect, this is my show.”

 This upcoming edition, Maks has been paired with Gilbert, who, in addition to being a former “Little House on the Prairie” darling, also is a two-term Screen Actors Guild president.

 As the new celebs were unveiled Tuesday morning on ABC’s infotainment show “Good Morning America,” “Dancing” host Tom Bergeron asked Maks how he felt about his new partner.

 “My partner's alright,” Maks said unenthusiastically.

 Gilbert rolled her eyes.

 “And here we go!”  “GMA’s” Robin Roberts said giddily.

 Then, as though remembering some script he’d been told to stick to, Maks added, “Listen, you know, I love being back. I love the new cast. I think it's going to be a phenomenal season. And I’m looking forward to seeing everybody dance.”

 And the angels wept. 

 

By  |  06:30 PM ET, 02/28/2012

 
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