JALEEL WHITE AND KYM JOHNSON
TV’s Urkel scored big time by landing America’s favourite Aussie as a partner. He’s probably one of the best-known members of this cast — and all he had to do was yank up his pants and tiptoe around on TV. Hey, wait — that show sounds like this show!
Potential handicap: ”Did I do that?” catchphrase could grow annoying in the Celebriquarium.
GLADYS KNIGHT AND TRISTAN MACMANUS
She was going back to find a simpler place in time — and here it is: A televised ballroom-dancing competition seemingly set in the 1970s. This is probably my favorite pairing of the new season: A 67-year-old singing legend and a luckily charming leprechaun less than half her age. We’ve all seen her dance — but will age catch up to her in the quickstep or jive? You know I’m dying for Gladys Knight to transform into some unprecedented role model for ”having glamorous stamina in your 60s” (Glamina?) and win it all.
Potential handicap: Could be ”Loving On Borrowed Time (Love Theme From Cobra)”
WILLIAM LEVY AND CHERYL BURKE
Okay, I’m getting a major flashback to Cheryl’s partnership with that great Chilean sea bass of a man, Cristian de la Fuente, from season 6 — and I like it! The 31-year-old Cuban-American actor and model may have major ”Who?” factor, but on the other hand, have you seen his abs? Google them. There they are. I’m hoping William will have no trouble infusing his Latin spirit into the cha cha, salsa, samba, mambo, and (ooh yeah) rumba.
Potential handicap: Could be predestined for a few shaky yet miraculous one-armed performances during the semifinals.
MARIA MENOUNOS AND DEREK HOUGH
Oooh! The pretty people. Maria has made quite the career out of establishing herself as a Hot Chick’s Who’s Ah-Ha-Ha So Awkward. Her dirty little secret is she’s not even that awkward at all, and I have a feeling that with Super Derek as her drill sergeant, she’ll become a fine little soldier who’s absolutely beautiful to watch in the Rectagon. You’ve seen how Derek works. His partners don’t have to be THAT talented. Go Maria!
Potential handicap: Could be seen as the season’s ringer — has too much experience embarrassing herself on TV.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA AND TONY DOVOLANI
What frightens me the most about this partnership is that maybe since Martina’s won a bazillion mirrorbillion shiny huge tennis trophies, she won’t understand how crucial it is to blindly worship the COVETED MIRRORBALL TROPHY of Dancing With the Stars instead. I mean, it’s a basic tenet of the show. Lust after that janky ball of glitter! You gotta want it.
Potential handicap: She’s a lefty? Oh, who am I kidding — Tony can handle it.
MELISSA GILBERT AND MAKSIM CHMERKOVSKIY
I’m not sure how I feel about this pair yet. It’s almost like this is the producers’ giant warning to Maks — NOW DON’T YOU YELL AT THIS LITTLE GIRL WHO GREW UP ON THE PRAIRIE! He does know how to behave; and a nonconfrontational partner who’s willing to work hard and focus on technique could be just the ticket.
Potential handicap: May mistake judges for buffalo.
DONALD DRIVER AND PETA MURGATROYD
The producers show a lot of faith in relative newbie Peta, who was eliminated first with Metta World Peace last season, by pairing her with season 14’s NFL stud. The 37-year-old wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers has star power in Wisconsin, and she’s got that huge hair — what could possibly go wrong? Maybe we can even expect a few new additions to Driver’s Quickie series of children’s books following his voyage to Planet Mirrorballus. Quickie Pulls His Groin in the Paso Doble, Quickie Gets Glitter In His Eye, Quickie Has a Quick Nervy B on Week 7… You know. Kids’ stuff!
Potential handicap: Giant visible ear gems could swell (considering the environment) and eventually overtake his entire head. But what a way to go…
GAVIN DEGRAW AND KARINA SMIRNOV
Gavin DeGraw is one of those blurry celebrities for me — I’m occasionally aware of him but never quite bothered to ”get the scoop.” If enough Americans consider him in the same way — and as long as he’s likable — I think this could be a fantastic partnership. Karina just won her first title with J.R. Martinez last season, so she’s hot to trot. Saddle up, Gavin DeGraw! You and I are about to become a LOT closer.
Potential handicap: DANCMSTR Len Goodman might consider Gavin’s endless collection of fashion hats a form of ”messin’ about.”
SHERRI SHEPHERD AND VAL CHMERKOVSKIY
The ever-effusive View cohost, 44, could be the one to finally pull the more reserved brother of Team Chmerkovision out of his shell. He’s such an excellent dancer and a little bird named EW’s Dave Karger (who hung out with Sherri at the Oscars) told me it’s abundantly clear that Sherri is really into this. That’s ultimately what voters are going to care about down the line. And if she can actually dance: Bonus!
Potential handicap: Lack of focus; possible personality clash with strict instructor.
KATHERINE JENKINS AND MARK BALLAS
This pairing seems about right — Mark gets a lot of pretty, tiny people. They’re a good fit: She’s a Welsh classical singer; Mark thinks he’s a classic British gentleman by wearing all those spats.
Potential handicap: Is that a wand she’s carrying? Overestimation of one’s powers can be fatal in the ballroom.
JACK WAGNER AND ANNA TREBUNSKAYA
My first thought was that these two will probably go home early in the season — a tragedy for Miss Tre-BUN-skaya who has long been my favorite female pro (ever since Lady Legwarmer left). But if enough fans want Anna to get that MBT and still have a crush on Jack from TV, who knows? Never underestimate the power of the soap-opera-fan voting pool. They haven’t had a good year, you know. They need a hero, and his name just might be Frisco Jones.
Potential handicap: Regularly darts out of rehearsal to try and find Melrose Place.
ROSHON FEGAN AND CHELSIE HIGHTOWER
Hooray, Chelsie’s back! That sentiment alone could keep this largely unknown (to older DWTS viewers, anyway) Disney Channel star, 20, around for a few weeks. He’s proven on Shake It Up! that he can dance. If Roshon buys into the spectacle of the show and shows maturity in the slower ballroom standards — which is totally possible no matter how old a contestant is — we could have another Kyle Massey on our hands. Oh look, there’s Kyle in the audience right now! Just settling in, camping out for a month. Kyle is in it to win it!
Potential handicap: No one cares.