It’s that time again… A new season of “Dancing With The Stars” is about to kick off with a lot of changes. If you tuned into the announcement of the professional dancers a few weeks ago on “Good Morning America”, you undoubtedly noticed that there are three new faces joining the lineup this season. There is also the much talked about absence of Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Sometimes change can be a good thing, but after 18 seasons, many viewers tune in just as much for the professional dances that they’ve come to love as they do for the celebrities. I know that I have my favorites, one of them being Maks, but nothing will be keeping this self-admitted DWTS junkie from tuning in.
Another big change is the addition of a forth judge. Last season we saw a rotation of guest judges, which I enjoyed. Some of them offered more than others, but it was enjoyable to see the different perspectives. Now Julianne Hough, who has guest judged two times, will be permanently joining the panel of judges. We can definitely all agree the two-time mirror ball champion and Emmy nominated choreographer has the experience to judge the contestants, but there are some that are skeptical. In her guest appearances as judge, she ruffled some feathers with a couple of the professional dancers (Mark Ballas and Maksim Chmerkovskiy). Professional Karina Smirnoff, who won the competition in season 13, questions how ethical it is for Julianne to be a judge when Derek Hough, her brother, is competing. Of course, Carrie Ann Inaba admittedly dated new professional, Artem Chigvintsev, so that could be considered a conflict as well. Personally, I see them both as professionals and expect them to act as such as judges.
So Thursday morning the anticipated announcement was finally made – who are the celebrities for season 19? As always there were plenty of rumored stars. I always take those rumors with a grain of salt. About one fourth of the rumored celebrities actually appear on the show, consequently I try to ignore most of the “talk” and wait for the official announcement.
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This year’s cast has several surprising faces. Of course, I have my opinions on everyone, and how long I think they can/will last. Right now, looking at the cast, I think there could been some interesting competition. Here’s where I stand:
Jonathan Bennett (Allison Holker) – This would be one of those that I didn’t recognize the name, but I knew him once I looked him up. I’m not sure how many people will have the same response that I did, but he’s a cutie. Facts are facts, folks! I think he is going to be one of those that can hang in there like Brant Daugherty and James Maslow the past two seasons. I don’t think he’ll pull out a win, but I think he’s going to definitely hang in there through most of the season, probably until the semi-finals.
Tommy Chong (Peta Murgatroyd) – This name got several members of the newsroom to perk up. The eldest of the celebrities, he’s beloved from his days as part of the legendary comedy duo “Cheech and Chong”. There is no doubt in my mind that he will provide plenty of entertainment, but on a dancing front I don’t see this one as a contender. Like has been the case in just about every season, this is the cast member that holds on for three or four weeks because of who he is, offers some laughs, and then fades away.
Randy Couture (Karina Smirnoff) – I knew absolutely nothing about this one. I don’t follow MMA fighting; I’m also not a big action movie fan, so his name meant nothing to me. After doing a little research, I don’t see him lasting long. Maybe the second or third elimination will see him leaving the competition. I definitely don’t see him lasting much longer than that. That’s not to say he can’t dance, I’m basing his exit on lack of popularity pulling in fan votes.
Betsey Johnson (Tony Dovolani) – When I saw her on the cast list, I had to laugh. She’s a character! I think she’ll bring a lot of fun to the competition, but I think her staying power will be directly tied to entertainment, not dance ability. And, although we all know her name, fan popularity will definitely come into play. If she can pull viewers in, no matter how good or bad her dancing is, then she’ll hang in a few weeks. If she doesn’t, she won’t be around for long.
Lolo Jones (Keo Motsepe) – Over the course of the show, Olympic athletes fare well in the competition. Almost all of them make it to at least the semi-finals. With that in mind, I can’t help but believe that the same will hold true for Lolo. It surprises me that they placed her with one of the newer professional dancers instead of one of the veterans, but I don’t think that should negatively impact her too much.
Bethany Mota (Derek Hough) – If her YouTube following is any indication, she will do well in this competition. Personally, I can’t say that I follow her, but she definitely does have quite the following. I think that will benefit her in this competition. The fact that she’s paired with Derek is also a good sign of her life on the show. History has proven that women paired with him almost always make it to the end.
Janel Parrish (Val Chmerkovskiy) – Following in the footsteps of Brant Daugherty and James Maslow, like Jonathan Bennett, I think she will do well with the younger viewers. Her stage experience on Broadway should be a benefit to her in the competition. My early prediction sees Janel quite possibly making it to the finals. She has a strong partner and a strong background to help her along.
Alfonso Ribeiro (Witney Carson) – Everyone do the Carlton! Lets face it, no one can see Alfonso without picturing his dance moves as Carlton Banks on “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”. People love him, but this is another one that won’t be seeing the finale. We’ll see him stay in the competition, quite possibly through the halfway mark, but that’ll be it. Fan votes from popularity will probably keep him in longer than his ballroom dance skills. I do think that we will see the Carlton dance at some point before he leaves.
Sadie Robertson (Mark Ballas) – For me this is a big toss-up. I’ve gone back and forth on my thoughts with her. There is part of me that thinks the popularity of “Duck Dynasty” will help her, but I’m not sure it’ll help her enough to keep her in the competition long term. This is one that could either last till near the end or could be an early exit. I’m still on the fence with her.
Antonio Sabato, Jr. (Cheryl Burke) – And the women will swoon… Right now I’m not doubting that he will have the vote of many women, if for no other reason than to see him take his shirt off. I also think he will have plenty of moves to bring to the dance floor. I’m hesitant to say that he will make it to the finals, but I think there is a good chance that he could make it to the semi-finals, or close to them.
Tavis Smiley (Sharna Burgess) – There is no denying he has a following and many people like him, however, I don’t see that translating to votes on the show. Personally, I don’t see his “world” crossing over to the dancing world. I could be completely off base here, but I’m predicting this is an early exit from the ballroom, possibly even the first.
Lea Thompson (Artem Chigvintsev) – You can’t say her name without me first thinking of “Back To The Future” and then thinking of “Caroline in the City”. She has quite the resume, including Broadway and dance. I’m actually very excited to see her in this competition. I think she could be one of those contestants that is completely unexpected and surprises everyone by going a long way.
Michael Waltrip (Emma Slater) – I’m scared to make any early predictions on this one. He is definitely popular, and not just when it comes to racing. He could very easily be a surprise like Bill Engvall was. While I don’t see him winning the competition by a long shot, he could easily hang in the competition for awhile. It’ll really come down to fan support on this one, and if he proves to be entertaining on the dance floor.
There’s no scientific method to my thoughts. All opinions are my own and come from my observing the popularity of the celebrities as well as trends over the past seasons. Some seasons can be surprising, and there are a lot of variables with this cast. We could see plenty of surprises; it could make for an interesting season.
So, when all is said and done, who do I think will walk away with the trophy? I honestly can’t decide right now. I’ll go out on a limb, though, and make my prediction for the final three. Those would be: Lolo Jones, Bethany Mota, and Janel Parrish. My alternate would be Jonathan Bennett. Granted, this could completely change after seeing the first episode. Keep posted and we’ll see how my opinions change.
This year the celebrities will all perform two weeks before elimination. That’s something I always prefer, especially since some are better at one style (ballroom or latin) over the other. The show is also promising that we’ll have a bigger say in the show throughout the season. That’s something they started last year, so it’ll be interesting to see how it continues. All of the fun kicks off Monday, September 15 at 8pm.