BREAKING NEWS: Pro Anna Trebunskaya is preggers, which explains why she's not participating in the show this season. No word on who the baby daddy is (she split with husband, Jonathan Roberts, earlier this year.)
Yesterday was a big day for DWTS devotees like myself. The names of the 12 celebrities who will be competing on Season 17 were revealed on Good Morning America. Actually, "confirmed" is probably the more appropriate word because thanks to the good folks at TMZ I knew 9 of the 12 celebrities in advance. Spoilers rock! ;) So, what do I think of the latest crop of ballroom dancer wannabes? Overall, I'm pleased. There's a good range of ages and personalities, and there are several contestants who have previous dance experience and/or musicality to help them with this challenge. I'll just go ahead and admit that I prefer watching stars who have some natural aptitude for dance. Imagine a show full of Kate Gosselins and Master Ps . . . SHUDDER
So, let's break this thing down. Here are the 6 brave men and 6 courageous women who will be vying for the mirror ball trophy, starting Sept. 16th, along with my thoughts on their potential and my predictions on where they will place in this Battle of the Sequins! Ladies first . . .
Elizabeth Berkley (Actress, Saved by the Bell/Showgirls), paired with Val Chmerkovskiy - She's tall, which means she'll have great lines, she's relatively young (41), she's fit, and most importantly, she has dance experience (And no, I'm not taking about her stripper pole shenanigans in Showgirls, she was in a dance company when she was a kid and performed in many ballets and musicals.) Val's one of my fave male pros on the show (I think he's the best choreographer next to Derek) and he's on a hot streak since he made the finals the last two seasons. My prediction: FINAL FOUR
Valerie Harper (Actress, The Mary Tyler Moore Show/Rhoda/Valerie), paired with Tristan MacManus - She's a television icon, so there's a huge nostalgia factor with her, plus she started out her career as a Broadway dancer, so she's got that muscle memory and knows how to move. Sadly, she's battling a terminal illness, which has been much discussed in the news the past 8 months. She's doing much better than her doctors expected and she seems to be in great spirits. I admire her tremendously for taking this on and I will be rooting for her to do well. I just worry about the physical and emotional toll this will take on her. She's fortunate to have the very sweet and nurturing Tristan as her partner. My prediction: Middle of the pack
Christina Milian (Singer/Actress), paired with Mark Ballas - She's young (31), has a fun personality, and should have great musicality since she's a singer. Plus, she's got a sizable fanbase online (over a million followers on Twitter.) Mark's a fairly popular pro and he's good at coming up with edgy/different choreography that I think will suit Christina. My prediction: FINAL FOUR
Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi (Reality TV star), paired with Sasha Farber. A few years ago, I probably would have cringed at the inclusion of Snooki in the cast, but she's rehabbed her image quite a bit lately by becoming a devoted mom, losing weight, and leaving the Jersey Shore behind. She's a firecracker, and I think she'll be really entertaining to watch. I didn't realize that she was a gymnast and cheerleader (so was last year's winner, Kellie Pickler), which I'm sure will hold her in good stead. I think Snooki will surprise a lot of people on this show. My prediction: Middle of the pack
Leah Remini (Actress, King of Queens), paired with Tony Dovolani - She's outspoken and feisty and has been getting quite a bit of press lately over her leaving the Scientology fold and speaking out against them. I think she'll probably be a decent dancer (I read somewhere that she and her husband have taken salsa lessons.) I'm just not sure if the DWTS audience will embrace her. And I'm just not feeling her partnership with Tony. I know it's early days, but I didn't see much spark between them during their GMA bits. The other female competitors are so strong this year; I think Leah might get overshadowed. My prediction: Out early
FUN FACT: Leah and Elizabeth were on Saved by the Bell together back in 1991.
Amber Riley (Actress & Singer/Glee), paired with Derek Hough - She's spent the last few years learning and executing choreography on Glee, so I don't think she'll have any trouble picking up ballroom dancing. She's got the Gleeks behind her, and that is one hardcore fanbase. Plus, she's got DEREK as a partner and he wins almost every season! No way this girl isn't making it to the end. My prediction: FINAL FOUR
Corbin Bleu (Actor, Singer, Model & Dancer/High School Musical & One Life to Live), paired with Karina Smirnoff - This guy's a frontrunner if there ever was one. He was in High School Musical, people! And yes, I've seen all three of those movies, don't judge me. Corbin is adorable, he's studied ballet and jazz, and now that he's shaved off his signature 'fro, he looks like a young Ben Vereen. He will be gold on DWTS and he's the best bet the guys have this season. My prediction: FINAL FOUR
FUN FACT: Whenever Karina's been asked who her dream DWTS partner would be, she's always said "John Stamos or Corbin Bleu." So, she's finally getting her wish!
Brant Daugherty(Actor, Pretty Little Liars/Army Wives), paired with Peta Murgatroyd - I did not have a clue who this guy was when his name was announced, but he is major eye candy and seemed sweet in the GMA interview. So, I look forward to seeing what he can do. Fingers crossed that Peta doesn't oversexualize Brant in their routines (she's done this with other partners who were good-looking and it got icky quick.) Despite the pretty, I'm afraid that Brant's lack of name recognition will do him in. My prediction: Out early
Bill Engvall (Comedian/Actor), paired with Emma Slater - Historically, comedians have not done well on this show, so I don't hold out much hope for this poor guy. The fact that he's paired with a first-time pro (Emma was promoted from the troupe), who doesn't have a fanbase, isn't going to help matters either. And their goofy partner pose? GROAN My prediction: Out early
Keyshawn Johnson (Retired football player), paired with Sharna Burgess - DWTS loves its football players (3 of them won mirror ball trophies!) I'm not sure how well-known Keyshawn is or what kind of fanbase he might have. I just hope he's light on his feet and has a good work ethic like most of the athletes who've been on the show. His secret weapon will be Sharna who worked a miracle on Andy Dick last season. For the record, I have a total girl crush on Sharna and think her choreo is uh-mazing! If she could take Andy to 7th place, I'm confident she'll go even further with Keyshawn. However, I think he'll be bested by all of the celebs with dance backgrounds in the end. My prediction: Middle of the pack
Bill Nye (TV host, Scientist, Actor), paired with Tyne Stecklein - The Science Guy? Really, Dancing With the Stars? SIGH As a rule, middle-aged white men don't fare well on this show, but a little research told me that Bill is an avid swing dancer. Is he a good swing dancer? Who knows? But hopefully this means he has some rhythm. Still, I don't see him lasting long because his fanbase is mostly kids and they're probably not going to watch this show and power vote for him. Also, I have no idea who his partner is. Apparently, she was in the troupe before being promoted, but all of those troupe blondes blend together in my head. My prediction: Out early
Jack Osbourne (Television personality), paired with Cheryl Burke - Will Jack do as well as his older sister, Kelly, who made it to the finals and finished in 3rd place back in Season 9? Probably not, but I think he'll do a respectable job. He seems earnest, and Cheryl is a tough taskmaster, so I'm sure she'll pull the very best out of him. Jack was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last year, so I applaud him for attempting to do something like this. He's got guts. My prediction: Middle of the pack
FUN FACT: A feud erupted between Jack's mom, Sharon Osbourne, and Leah Remini, after the latter was dismissed from her hosting position on The Talk back in 2011. Leah said on Twitter that the firing was fellow co-host Sharon's fault. Sharon denied it and said Leah should move on. DRAMA! Their paths might just cross at DWTS this season as I'm sure Sharon will be there to support her son. Stay tuned . . .
Who will you be rooting for on DWTS this season? Do you have any early picks for the celeb who will be first out or the one who will take home that tacky trophy? What do you think about ABC eliminating the Tuesday night Results Show? Performances and eliminations on the same night - weird or wonderful?
P.S. I will, also, be watching clips of Strictly Come Dancing (the British mother show) on You Tube this fall. They just announced their cast of 15, and I didn't know a single person! That's okay. It's always fun to "discover" British celebs, like Harry Judd, the adorable drummer from pop group McFly, when I watch SCD. This season I'm planning to keep a very close eye on this hottie - former rugby player Ben Cohen.