It’s the 24th season of Dancing with the Stars! And this time they’ve got everything from Glee stars (Heather Morris) to T Stars (Mr. T). Yes, we said “T Stars”. It’s quite a lineup this year from childhood heroes to people who don’t even have a Wikipedia page, and we’re so excited to get back to the ballroom. The DWTS recap team split up the new cast for some Snap Judgments!
Simone Biles / Sasha Farber – Capitalizing on the popularity of last season’s winner Laurie Hernandez by getting one of her Olympic teammates for this season was a solid idea. Simone was also the biggest star on the team, which ups the ante even more. The pressure will be on both her and partner Sasha, who is coming off his most successful season yet…not to mention a marriage proposal on live TV. I suppose there’s some chance of Olympic gymnast fatigue, but my guess is the core audience of this show will eat this stuff up with a spoon. I expect them to go far. (Myndi)
Bonner Bolton / Sharna Burgess – For what might be the first time, a Dancing with the Stars competitor doesn’t have a Wikipedia page. He’s a professional bull rider and, for the second time in a row, Sharna is paired with somebody who almost died doing their job – Bonner was bucked off a bull in January of last year and was briefly paralyzed. So you know they’re going to milk that angle. It feels like bull riding is maybe not a skill set that easily translates to ballroom, but between the inspirational backstory and a popular partner, he should be able to coast for the first few weeks. And then if he’s got any kind of ability and/or charisma, he’ll make it past the midpoint of the season easily. (EJ)
Charo / Keo Motsepe – I feel like Charo was on TV constantly when I was a kid, and was surprised to find out she only on The Love Boat a mere eight times. But she was on every variety and talk show of the era, shouting “Cuchi! Cuchi!” and shaking her, um, maracas everywhere. Beyond the nostalgia factor, she’s become a gay icon over the years, which puts her right in this show’s sweet spot. I’m not sure what her fitness level is at 66, but we know she’ll have the enthusiasm to take on any challenge. Based on Keo’s spotty track record, it remains to be seen what he can do with this comedian and musician (don’t forget, she’s an accomplished flamenco guitarist), but I expect her to make it past the first few rounds at least. (Myndi)
Erika Jayne / Gleb Savchenko – So, this is a person I’ve never heard of – I’m not really familiar with the Real Housewives cast. I had to do some research and holy smokes you guys. She’s married to the eighty-year-old attorney who won the first million dollar medical malpractice case in the country and she’s had nine number one singles on the dance charts. I watched some of the videos to figure out what’s going on, and they are…. Not good. (Sample titles: “One Hot Pleasure”, “XXpen$ive”, “How Many F***s”.) Maybe I just don’t like dance music, but they are hard to listen to. I’m not sure what to make of her – she might be a marketing genius or she might be incredibly annoying. Beyond that, she does dance in her videos, and even though it’s a million miles from ballroom, sometimes that’s an early leg up. And it’s entirely possible that she’s more famous than I know if she’s dropping hit singles – she might actually be good. Partner Gleb has only been on the show twice before, which surprised me. I don’t know if he has enough of a fanbase to move the needle one way or another, so it’ll be interesting to see how this all goes. (EJ)
Rashad Jennings / Emma Slater – Rashad is a football man, though he’s currently described as a “free agent”. Which basically means “unemployed” if I understand correctly. His Wikipedia is almost entirely stats that don’t mean much to me, along with the tidbit that his high school GPA was .6 at one point. But at least there aren’t any scandals, which is nice – it’s always a bummer when you know you’re going to be spending weeks writing about somebody with a DUI or domestic violence charge. From what I can tell, Rashad seems to be a firmly average football player. He’s paired with Emma, who has a history of disastrous partners – Billy Dee Williams, Rick Perry, Bill Engvall (who made it to 4th, but not because he could dance). NFL folks tend to do well on DWTS (with some notable exceptions), so he’ll probably be in the average-to-good camp. (EJ)
Chris Kattan / Witney Carson – The post-SNL years have not been kind to Chris Kattan. His comedy career, whether we’re talking movies or TV, never really materialized, and he’s not a standup. The guy’s had trouble personally, too, with one very short-lived marriage and a DUI followed by a rehab stint. At least we know he will have a lot to draw from for his “most memorable year” dance and, if he somehow makes it a long way, the redemption arc will be an easy one to write.That said, I’m not even banking on the talented Witney to be able to choreograph for this guy and make it great. Unless he can find a way to really amp up the comedy to resonate with the audience, he’s my pick for being first out. (Myndi)
Nancy Kerrigan / Artem Chigvintsev – I don’t know much about sports, but even I followed the Nancy Kerrigan / Tonya Harding story back in 1994. In the event you’re too young to remember those weird days, the short version is that the husband of Kerrigan’s main rival for a spot on the Olympic Figure Skating team hired somebody to hit Kerrigan in the knee with a police baton and knock her out of the competition. (Was Tonya Harding herself involved? Accounts vary to this day!) Kerrigan went to the Olympics anyway and won a silver medal, Harding also went to the Olympics and came in eighth. Kerrigan arguably insulted Disney after the Olympics and Harding went on to do a celebrity boxing show where she fought the woman who accused Bill Clinton of sexual harassment. The whole thing is very weird but at the time, we as a nation were very invested in Nancy Kerrigan (except for my friend Tim Wolma who was Team Tonya all the way).
All that aside… she’ll probably be pretty good. She’s retired from skating, but that seems to be a skill set that translates pretty well to the ballroom world. Her partner, Artem, has never placed higher than 6th, but he tends to be paired with nice women in their fifties and beyond who never had a shot (Lea Thompson, Patti LaBelle) or hot messes (Mischa Barton). Nancy could be his best shot at the finals yet. (EJ)
Normani Kordei / Val Chmerkovskiy – Normani is a member of the dance pop outfit Fifth Harmony, a group formed on the reality singing competition X-Factor back in 2012. They’ve had some pretty big hits in the last couple years, so she could have a decent fanbase. Val also has a following, so this is certainly a duo that will likely go far before they even step on the floor, unless of course Normani can’t handle ballroom choreography for some strange reason. (Myndi)
Heather Morris / Maksim Chmerkovskiy – I feel like this might be the biggest ringer this show has seen in a long time, possibly ever. You see, if you know Heather, it’s probably from her role as dumb as a stump Britney on Glee, but she got that job due to her extensive resume as a professional dancer. Her big break came while dancing backup for Beyonce, specifically in live performances to support the release of the mega hit “Single Ladies.” It feels like this pairing was an outright bribe to get Maks to come back this season, since he and Peta just had their little bundle of joy. Without Derek, they probably feel like they need Maks, and a partner like Heather practically guarantees he’ll make the finals. (Myndi)
David Ross / Lindsay Arnold – Being a diehard Cleveland Indians fan, it’s going to be a little tough for me to cheer on the former catcher for the World Champion Chicago Cubs, even if he is reportedly a really nice guy. My guess is that David is in good enough shape to do well despite his “advanced” age of 39. But baseball players don’t have as extensive a history as football players on this show, so if he has the typical bad knees of a retired catcher, that might be a detriment to his success. Lindsay is a miracle worker, though, and can do a lot with a little if she needs to. This guy should coast for a bit on some goodwill from everyone but Cleveland fans! (Myndi)
Mr. T / Kym Johnson – I can’t even tell you how excited I am about this. I am just the right age where Mr. T was towering figure in my childhood. The A-Team, the Ruby Spears cartoon, and just, you know, the actual Mr T. Could I still sing the commercial for Mr. T Cereal? Most likely, yes. And I’ll admit I haven’t thought about Mr. T all that much in the intervening years, but when they announced him for the show, it just made me so happy. It’s like I’m ten years old again. I still have such enormous affection for T, which is one of the many ways in which I’m basically Homer Simpson.
I didn’t even want to do any research because if I found out that he’d had some sort of scandal, it would have broken my heart. Luckily, there is no scandal. Just a story that he stopped wearing gold chains because he went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and decided that it’s offensive to flaunt his wealth when other people struggle. I’m also going to assume he sold his gold chains and bought new houses for people, though there is no evidence of this. But the point is, Mr. T has kept it clean since the days when he was on my lunchbox, and that does my heart good.
I am honestly giddy that I’m going to get to recap Mr. T, and this is tempered only slightly by the fact that he is in his sixties and has never exhibited any talent for dance. But how do you not vote for Mr. T? It’s been years since I’ve actually voted (and mostly for whoever was partnered with Anna Trebunskaya), but I will totally put his number on speed dial. And, just putting it out there, what if Kym hadn’t married her previous partner and instead held out for Mr. T? Best celebrity couple ever? I think so. (EJ)
Nick Viall and Peta Murgatroyd – I think Nick has been on more season of the Bachelor franchise than Chris Harrison at this point. I just can’t watch that show, but I have surprisingly strong opinions on Nick because I listen to the Rose Buddies podcast so I just take the lead of hosts Griffin and Rachel. Basically, Nick was kind of fun at one point but became less and less interesting the longer he hung around the show. He also said something about how being white doesn’t mean he’s not a minority, so I feel like I’ve already had enough of Nick. Bachelor folks have been all over the place on this show, but generally the Bachelorettes have been pretty good and the Bachelors have been… Jake Pavelka. I don’t have high hopes for ol’ Nick. At least he’s partnered with a fan favorite in Peta. But she had a baby like ten minutes ago and probably needs her rest. I can’t imagine Nick will do that well, so she’ll be back home with the little one in no time at all. (EJ)
The show is back on Monday – in the meantime, let us know who you’re rooting for. It’s Mr. T, right?