After several days of speculation (which turned out to be pretty accurate), ABC has revealed the pairings for the upcoming season of Dancing With the Stars. Many fans like to muse about potential love matches in the cast, but that's not looking especially promising this time around (I sure don't want to go there with Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas). But it's always interesting to see whether the veteran pros with a solid track record have been paired up with the most intriguing celebrities.
But what many who haven't been keeping up with the latest gossip will find most startling about these pairings is who isn't mentioned at all: Edyta Sliwinska, the only pro who had appeared in every season of DWtS. While there is now some disagreement about the level of anger involved, it does seem as if her departure should be considered permanent. It's unfortunate that she was never able to win, and a certain segment of the audience will miss the uncanny way she was able to come across as almost completely undressed while still staying on the right side of the FCC. But truth be told, she was probably not a good enough choreographer to ever win unless she was given a can't-miss ringer. And as the series shows no signs of aging, the producers need to slowly bring younger pros into the mix. Farewell, Edyta: you and your backless/sideless gowns will live on in our memories.
And now, the pairs for the upcoming season:
Michael Bolton/Chelsie Hightower: Chelsie has yet to be given a major contender in any of her first four seasons, and I doubt the overwrought crooner will end that streak. What makes this pairing so uncomfortable is the age difference between the two. As long as the 21-year-old Chelsie still looks like a teenager, they need to be careful about partnering her with a guy who was singing babymaking ballads when she was just a zygote herself.
Brandy/Maksim Chmerkovskiy: Maks got into the finals last spring (and that wasn't all he got into) with Erin Andrews, and he's probably the pro that more fans want to see win for the first time than anyone else. Despite a lack of obvious dancing experience, there will be high expectations for Brandy because she's a young woman with a pop/R&B background, so Maks will need to bring it right out of the box. Another trip to the finals is a strong possibility.
Margaret Cho/Louis Van Amstel: These two are closer in height than most pairs on the show, but this was something of an inevitable teaming: the famously gay-friendly comedian, and the man who spent last spring as the foil of Niecy Nash and endorsed same-sex marriage on the air. As long as Margaret doesn't talk incessantly about her "jiggly parts," or bring up any of her famous pet names for certain other parts, they should charm viewers.
Rick Fox/Cheryl Burke: Cheryl easily has the best track record of any female pro, as she's won twice and gotten into the top five every season she's had a partner under age 60. So landing her was a huge break for Fox, who starts out with a lower profile than most of the men, and a less DWtS-friendly sports background than Kurt Warner. There's a significant height difference between the two, but Cheryl is a good enough choreographer to work around that.
Jennifer Grey/Derek Hough: Well, if you hadn't already guessed that DWtS sees Jennifer as a major frontrunner, her pairing with a two-time winner who has never finished in the bottom half of any season would cinch it. For all his hamminess, Derek is easily the most interesting choreographer among the pros, the judges love him, and he probably has the biggest fanbase of his own. It could very well be a second straight title for him.
David Hasselhoff/Kym Johnson: Many viewers will be happy to see Kym back, as she never got to defend the Mirror Ball Trophy she won with Donny Osmond. She's a solid teacher, easygoing, and knows what it's like working with a show business legend; so if she can stop The Hoff from making cheesy moves on her, and keeps him out of bars, she could be a solid asset for him. But anything higher than the midpoint of the season would be awfully surprising for the pair.
Florence Henderson/Corky Ballas: While it's perfectly OK that Chelsie dance with her grandfather, DWtS doesn't want any of its usual rotation of male pros working with a septuagenarian, and thus the middle-aged dad of Mark Ballas and former partner of the even older Cloris Leachman has been brought back for Florence duties. Corky showed himself very willing to heighten the weirdness in order to keep Cloris freakshow going, which might not bode well for this pairing.
Kyle Massey/Lacey Schwimmer: Lacey was given last spring off and looked as if she was out this season too, but she was apparently the beneficiary of Edyta's sudden departure. She's polarizing with some fans, but she's worked well with dancers who can match her athleticism, and the young Massey might be a good partner for her. They're still going to be major longshots, though.
Bristol Palin/Mark Ballas: Things could get interesting here. Mark has won twice before, but clearly isn't being given the same favored treatment as Derek; he seemed impatient working with Melissa Joan Hart last fall, and had even worse luck this past season with Shannen Doherty. Now he's got a teenaged mom who most believe has no business on the show. He can help Bristol if he doesn't check out mentally, but I wonder if Mark forgot somebody's birthday, or did something else to anger his superiors.
Audrina Patridge/Tony Dovolani: Tony's reward for having to put up with Kate Gosselin last spring? It should have been the TV equivalent of the Congressional Medal of Honor, but instead he was granted Audrina, who is unlikely to be able to combine fanbase with dancing ability to last any longer than Kate did. We already know he has a saint's patience, and he'll need that with a young woman whose default setting on The Hills was a vacant stare.
Mike Sorrentino/Karina Smirnoff: These two could be fun together: a dancer with a strong personality, teamed with a man who has been known to liken women to various animals. Karina sat out last season and still hasn't gotten near the top since she worked/played with Mario Lopez, but she might be good for The Situation, who needs someone no-nonsense to keep him in line. She might do at least as well with him as she did with Aaron Carter.
Kurt Warner/Anna Trebunskaya: Anna has spent most of her long DWtS career paired with also-rans, but this marks the second straight season (after Evan Lysacek) that she has been given the most promising man in the field. Her other big success story was her pairing with Jerry Rice, so something about her with athletes must click. Ah, that's not innuendo -- no jealousy worries here for Warner's famously fierce-looking wife.