CLEVELAND - The first dances are revealed for the 17th season of "Dancing with the Stars," which returns in convenient, condensed form Monday night. While the popular show might be cut to just one night a week now, I promise to continue to be the critic who dares to say what the others won't.
I suspect this season will belong to the ladies. Be it interest factor, sideshow factor, sex factor, or emotional factor, the gals have it in spades this time.
TV actress Valerie Harper and partner Tristan are rehearsing a foxtrot. Harper definitely has the emotional factor. The 74-year old TV icon, who played Rhoda on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," is battling brain cancer. She got the clear from her doctors to compete.
I'll disclose my bias here: I want Valerie to make it to the finals. I actually met her at a TV station in December 2005, and although she had no idea who I was, she warmly hugged me instantly upon introduction.
This competition may be the swan song for our beloved Rhoda, so I hope she reminds us why America fell in love with her in the 1970s. I trust the sitcom spitfire who can put brain cancer into remission can effortlessly handle a dance competition. She's also partnered with the most gentle and patient pro on the show, Tristan.
Actress Elizabeth Berkley may have the sex factor. She and partner Val are working on a contemporary. Val has shown that contemporary is a strong dance for him in past seasons. He's also gone far with sexy partners, like Kelly Monaco, and Elizabeth definitely fits the bill. She also has something of a dancing background… I guess… I mean, if you count "Showgirls," where she famously stated, "I'm a dancer!" after famously asserting, "I'm not a whore!"
The sideshow factor will belong to Snooki, hands down. "Jersey Shore" castmate Nicole Polizzi and partner Sasha are practicing a cha cha. This woman has made a career out of having no observable talent or skills, so I'm sure being a train wreck will get her halfway through the season. Snooki tweeted, "Kisses to everyone supporting us with your kind words & love!!!! Can't wait to show you our dance." Dance? If that's what you call it, Snooki.
TV actress Leah Remini may garner some interest factor. She recently left and famously trashed Scientology. Leah and partner Tony are touching up a foxtrot. Poor Tony always seems to get saddled with challenging partners. Hopefully, Leah doesn't fit the bill. Leah tweeted, "Thank you already for all of your support! I'm scared!!!! Lol #DWTS ." Scared? Of what – the Scientology cult?
TV actress (wow – a lot of those this year) Amber Riley will probably claim some entertainment factor. She and partner Derek – the Golden Boy – are working on a cha cha. The Golden Boy always seems to get the odds stacked in his favor with an awesome partner, and the "Glee" star is also a dancer, so they'll likely go far. Amber tweeted, "Gotta get a gnite sleep, tomorrow I am ready to MOVE! This curvy woman is about dance dzown on that floor! Let your haters be motivators!"
I trust singer (also dancer!) Christina Milian will snag some entertainment factor. She and partner Mark have a contemporary, which is a strong suit of his. Christina tweeted, "Our big performance on Dancing with the Stars is just HOURS away! I can't stop saying it... But OMG!!! Lol!"
NFL star Keyshawn Johnson and Sharna are working on a cha cha. Keyshawn tweeted, "Thanks to the loyal fans of Sharna and I for your support, we will put on a great dance Monday night. I'm a gamer and MONDAY its GAME ON!!!!" Game on, wide receiver? I see what you did there.
TV actor Brant Daugherty and Peta are touching up a cha cha. Brant tweeted, "Finished our first rehearsal on the big #DWTS stage this morning! It's finally happening in two more days!"
Reality TV star (and son of Ozzy) Jack Osbourne and Cheryl are working on a foxtrot. Let's hope Jack does well; he's battling multiple sclerosis, which is a condition that directly impacts a person's ability to move. Ever irreverent, Jack tweeted, "Having a little COD Black Ops 2 therapy before the madness tomorrow #DWTS ."
Bill Nye, the "Science Guy," and new pro Tyne are polishing up a cha cha. The Science Guy tweeted, "Four more days Bill, only four more days... #DWTS ."
Disney star Corbin Bleu and partner Karina are rehearsing a contemporary. Corbin is also a "High School Musical" star, so his resume is pretty much dancing and performing.
Comedian Bill Engvall and Emma are practicing a foxtrot. Bill tweeted, "Less than 24 hrs til we dance. Thanks for all the support Emma and I really appreciate y'all. #dwts @EmmaSlaterDance #engvalldwts ."
The competition kicks off Monday night at 8 on ABC. The results and first elimination take place next Monday, Sept. 23.
More information can be found at: http://abc.go.com/primetime/dancingwiththestars/index