Ten years ago, viewers were introduced to the world of Dancing With the Stars—and tonight, the series’ 20th(!) season, featuring the youngest competitor to date (The Hunger Games‘ Willow Shields), a fomer Olympian (Nastia Liukin), and even a farmer (The Bachelor‘s Chris Soules), premieres on ABC.
Here, host Tom Bergeron previews the newest cycle, reflects on the popular franchise, and chooses his top 5 Dancing moments—in a way that only Tom could.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What can we expect from this new season?
TOM BERGERON: I think you should expect that there will be stars dancing. Many of them will be spray tanned and scantily attired. That mishaps will occur on live television, and I will be there with my metaphorical mop.
Do you know of any changes to the format this season?
I’ll be honest with you: Apart from knowing that there will be certain popular theme nights coming back, and that in May the results show will return—so there will be three of them, in addition to the finale on a Tuesday—no. Not that I’m aware of, which is not to say that [showrunner] Rob [Wade] and company aren’t scheming things that they just haven’t told me yet. I do like to be surprised, but I’m really looking forward to it. I stopped by the other day and walked on the stage, which isn’t quite a stage yet. They’re in the process of reconstructing it for [the premiere]. I love getting back on that stage with that group of people. I really do. But I’ll spend most of the off-camera time twisting Len’s arm to reconsider about leaving after this season.
What do you think about this cast?
I’m very happy with the cast. I think it’s a wonderful, ecclectic group. From all indications, the early rehearsals have been pretty entertaining, so I’m looking forward to this…. Fans of the show are going to be richly rewarded for it, and even new viewers will find something they can make appointment television out of.
Can you name an early front-runner?
Oh, no! And even if I could, to be completely honest with you, I wouldn’t tell you. Why piss off the rest of them just to make your story better? [Laughs]
Is there anyone you’re particulary excited to see compete this season?
Suzanne Somers…. I did a show for FX called Breakfast Time. It was back when she was really pushing her ThighMaster. It was a live show done in a functioning loft apartment in New York City in the Flatiron district. I said to her on live TV, “If you can go five minutes without mentioning the ThighMaster, I will go into that shower and take a shower fully clothed.” She did. And I did. [Laughs] So it’s great to see her. It’s also great to see Patti LaBelle and just the range of people from Willow Shields—who’s the youngest contestant chronilogically if not emotionally. Robert [Herjavec] from Shark Tank and I have seen each other at a few events, and he has been in the audience before. So I knew he was a fan. I didn’t know if he was willing to go this far and commit. But clearly he has!
So if and when ABC finally tells you it’s the last season of the show, will you trade in your hosting duties to compete?
No! I would never do that. I would never actually put in that much work. [Laughs] I’m not averse to the idea of doing what I did back in season 2, which was a one-off. I did a comedically designed quickstep because I wanted to experience what they went through. It really helped my hosting. But the idea of being an actual contestant? There’d be two problems. One, I don’t think I’d last past week four. And two, I would not enjoy watching someone else host the show. [Laughs]
Does it feel like it’s been 20 seasons?
No. It really doesn’t. I was over at ABC just a few hours ago doing some stuff for them, and we were talking about that very thing. It kind of boggles your mind that this unlikely franchise, which seemed to many—even within the network—to be a bad idea [laughs] and certainly one that wouldn’t be around long has lasted a decade. And it still has, if you pardon the pun, strong legs.
Anything else you want to add?
Just knowing how engergized all of us within the show were at how well the last season ended. It was our strongest finale in two years. We’re hoping to take that momentum and that affection for the show forward into a season which does two things. It’s going to be not only a celebration of the 10 years, but a real indication of how much life this show has going forward. It’s a really creative group. They amaze me every week when I go in and see the sandbox they let me play in.
And now, Tom Bergeron’s Top 5 Dancing With the Stars moments, as written by Tom Bergeron:
- No. 5: I love the smell of spray tan in the morning (apologies to Robert Duvall)
- No 4: Making the Broadcast Standards team sweat during the R-rated dress rehearsal (“He won’t say THAT on the air, will he???”
- No. 3: Trying to guess when Carrie Ann will burst into tears and/or fall out of her chair
- No. 2: Seeing how long I can stretch out the word “LIIIIIVE!”
- No. 1: Fainting Osmonds
Dancing With the Stars premieres tonight at 8 p.m. on ABC.