In honor of this impossibly slow sports day, I present to you a contestant-by-contest handicapping of the upcoming season of ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars.” You were expecting NHL trade deadline talk? I’ll pass, Barry Melrose.
Note: This list will be updated as the cast fills out. Opening night is Monday, March 22.
Pamela Anderson, Actress/Playboy Bunny
We’ll start with the big guns (pun absolutely intended). Hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since Super Pam graced the centerfold of America’s most tastefully trashy magazine. Once seemingly omnipotent on daytime TV, the noted decline in “Baywatch” and early “Home Improvement” reruns combined with a lack of starring roles in sum 15 years have forced fans to other mediums to get their Pam fix – namely, the Internet. She’s fallen on hard times of late, appearing in didn’t-know-it-was-see-through garb on her own Comedy Central Roast and plowing through two marriages since 2006.
Pros: Limber by all accounts; will kill in the 13-30 demographic, and has nostalgic appeal for anybody who’s ever found a stack of illicit mags under their older brother’s bed; high charisma – turns heads and owns the room; nabs the animal lover vote; her generation’s quintessential blonde
Cons: Hard to steer a top-heavy ship; Hepatitis C bad for samba routine; will not play well with an 8 p.m. crowd; excess baggage taints image association
Odds to Win: 12/1
Kate Gosselin, TV Mom
Just days after ABC announced her participation, the TLC star summoned the spirit of Joe Willie Namath by guaranteeing victory, despite a corresponding admission that “I can’t dance.” Lucky us if Kate goes the distance. Since network execs passed on her talk show pilot with butter guru Paula Dean – and the viability of “Kate Plus 8” hangs in the reality TV balance – future opportunities for prime time (or any time) exposure could be few and far between. Relish these moments, people. Relish. These. Moments.
Pros: stuck it out with a douchebag for 10 years, so judge Len Goodman should be no problem; continued feminist rage from Tiger fallout could hoist her sails – pulls the Elin Nordegren demo; had six babies simultaneously, suggesting edges in willpower, courage, and pain threshold
Cons: Child-bearing hips don’t bode well for salsa; divisive figure in equal measures loved and hated; high potential for involvement in Tonya Harding-like pipe scandal
Odds to Win: 12/1
Nicole Scherzinger, Singer/Dancer
Better known to you as ringleader Pussy Cat Doll, Scherzinger made her first splash as Queen of the Louisville Barrio Fiesta, a competition for Kentucky’s Filipino population. Sure, kind of like being the Budweiser in a fridge of PBR, but she’s gone on to bigger and better things with America’s finest cabaret dance troupe. Call her raunchy. Call her scandalous. Call her an adult dancer. But whatever you do, don’t call her a stripper. In an interview with Asian News, she said, “People think I’m from Pakistan.”
Pros: Swings the Pakistani vote; a professional dancer, so should excel in a dance competition; popular with younger audiences as evidenced by appearance on three top 20 singles; like Anderson, charismatic and head-turning; diverse ethnic background plays well in U.S. territories Guam and Puerto Rico.
Cons: Turn off to Indian demographic; a brunette, poor woman’s version of Pamela; lacks name recognition; has judged talent competitions in the past (“The Sing-Off”) – thus, potential for alpha-dog jealousy on the part of judge Carrie Ann Inaba
Odds to Win: 7/1
Chad Ochocinco, NFL Wide Receiver
The artist formerly known as Chad Johnson is coming off a comeback season of sorts in which he made his sixth Pro Bowl for a surprise team that won its division. Highly competitive, the Bengals receiver once kept a list in his locker entitled “Who Covered 85 in ’05” and sent Pepto-Bismol to opposing cornerbacks. Chad is now 32 and on the downside of his career, and though his grill is as gold as ever, his measurables – speed, agility, celebration creativity – have been on the decline for three years. We’ve seen him do the cha-cha in his youth, but it remains to be seen if one’s football prime aligns with one’s dancing prime.
Pros: wide receivers (and football players in general) have a decorated “DWTS” history; black people are inherently good dancers; appealing personality – genuinely likable despite attempts to prove otherwise; established relationship with Disney employees Michael Wilbon, Tony Kornheiser, and Brian Kenny; favorite of the football fan forced by his wife to watch a dancing competition
Cons: could call out his dance partner should things go awry early; dearth of recent touchdowns translates to reduced practice time; one-partner competition leaves no room for third dancer, Ochocinco’s Ego; potential for name change mid-competition could confuse voters
Odds to Win: 5-1
Shannen Doherty, Actress/Cougar
Talk about nostalgia. Brenda Walsh broke big the exact same year as Miss Anderson. Cast by TV mogul Aaron Spelling in an iconic “90210” role, Doherty parlayed her four-season run as high school bad girl into the more appropriate role of witch in the also-Spelling-produced “Charmed” in the late ’90s. When she’s not bickering with fellow castmates, Shannen enjoys driving drunk, posing nude in Playboy and talking to Howard Stern. And long walks on the beach. In 2004, the E! Channel honored her by recognizing Brenda as the No. 1 Most Wicked Woman in the history of prime time.
Cons: inebriation could undermine dance moves; “divisive” would imply that there is a sect of society that likes her; will have to fight popular opinion that she should be replaced with Tiffani Amber Thiessen; just gonna say what everybody’s thinking: she’s a total bitch
Odds to Win: off the board
Evan Lysacek, Figure Skater
The No. 1-ranked skater in the world, Lysacek is coming off a memorable Vancouver Olympics in which he captured gold against flamboyant Russian skater Evgeni Plushenko, who captured platinum. Lysacek, to the surprise of Casualtists everywhere, dates bombshell Tanith Belbin and was previously linked to Olympic star Nastia Liukin. In this sense, he’s the Jackie Robinson of figure skating – but not so for “DWTS” figure skaters should he win the whole shebang. Kristi Yamaguchi finished first in Spring, 2008.
Pros: riding a wave of momentum; Olympic hero; both Italian and a figure skater, which means he’s the hands-down favorite of judge Bruno Tonioli; ice dancing translates well to the dancefloor as evidenced by Yamaguchi; recent gold medalists (Apolo Ohno) have history of success; more experience with female partners than profession would suggest; wears glitter well
Cons: potential candidate for Gosselin hit job; possible Tonioli jealousy issues i.e. what you can’t have, you give low scores
Odds to Win: Even
Erin Andrews, Sideline Reporter
Once spunky and vivacious, Andrews has toned down her sex appeal since a hotel perv ruined it for all of us. Her story is a creepy, tragic one that began with a stalker taping her sans-clothes through a peephole and ended with a horde of shameless Internet goers scavenging every nook of Google for the video. Excuse me while my skin writhes. Before Web infamy, the daddy’s girl was a studly member of Zeta Tau and then bang-up ESPN reporter who caught many a Steve Spurrier off guard with her perky personality, nextdoor looks, and pointed questions. Now she’s a bang-up ESPN reporter minus the perky personality. Here’s hoping her “DWTS” run is an exercise in mojo recovery.
Pros: heavy sympathy vote candidate even when she turns in stellar performances; the pick for “husbands afraid to vote for someone too good looking in front of their wives”; attractive, charming and hardworking; dance background as member of Gator Dazzlers; UF alums have winning “DWTS” pedigree, and winning pedigree in general
Cons: Disarming lack of confidence and perk since hotel incident; thought of being ogled by millions of Americans has to be awkward at best, excruciatingly uncomfortable at worst; will be “outsexed” by other female competitors; men are pigs
Odds to Win: 3/1
Buzz Aldrin, Astronaut
As 79-year-old Neil Armstrong was determined unfit for the bright lights of prime time television, ABC executives opted to go with Armstrong wingman Buzz Aldrin. Buzz is 80. His inclusion, along with that of ESPN’s Kenny Mayne in a previous season, makes you wonder about the criteria for selection, and the sausage-making that goes on behind closed doors. Still, it’s great to have a true American hero involved, and his inclusion means that we’ll probably see multiple clips of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Like Dorsey to Shockey, it gives me chills every time.
Pros: bionic hip should come in handy during the mambo, tango and waltz; married to same woman since 1988 – will do anything to prolong stint with hot, younger blonde; can-do attitude plays well with WWII survivors
Cons: not used to the physical limitations of gravity; looks very much like an 80-year-old man with a history of alcoholism and depression; always a bride’s made, never a bride; will have to fight off Larry Doby association; hardcore Republicanism doesn’t jive with judge Tonioli
Odds to Win: 50/1
Aiden Turner, “Actor”
In true soap fashion, the English actor plays a character named “Aidan” on ABC’s daytime drama “All My Children.” Don’t let the spelling fool you – Turner is just as dashing in real life as he is on a cheap production set. In 2004, he shocked housewives everywhere when he took a leave of absence from the show so that he could be with his ailing daughter. He was then replaced by actor Tom Archdeacon, who besides from having a comical surname, also looks shockingly like Turner. Aiden has since reclaimed his spot and appeared in both a Geri Halliwell video and a CoverGirl commercial with Molly Simms. In other words, he’s a man’s man.
Pros: heavy voting favorite for middle-aged women who forgot to turn the TV off five hours earlier; ABC ties present conflict of interest/unfair advantage; like Lysacek, will be favorite of at least one judge; women fawn over him; English accent
Cons: stale dialogue forecasts stale dance moves; not impressive in the Halliwell video; that his role as Aidan Devane is interchangeable with other actors suggests that he’s not particularly gifted as a soap star… he’s going to win a dance competition against the likes of Lysacek and Ochocinco?
Niecy Nash, Actress
Any fan of “Reno 911” is already aware of Nash’s prime assets. For the rest of you, let’s just say that she could have the same difficulties as Pam Anderson. Further keeping you abreast of the actress’s career, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that “911’s” Deputy Raineesha Williams also frequently appeared on “The Bernie Mac Show” and as a regular correspondent for Jay Leno. These potential red flags can be combatted karma-wise by the fact that she’s a spokeswoman for Mothers Against Violence in Schools. Nice work, Niecy.
Pros: again, black people intrinsically know how to dance; charismatic figure with a pearly smile and great hair; looks like she fell from a well-nourished grapefruit treat; comedic background plays with audience and judges; ability to be alternately sassy and self-deprecating will endear voters
Cons: maneuverability an issue; African American women have lackluster track record on reality competitions, a fact that shames our color blind society; lack of name recognition
Odds to Win: 30 to 1
Jake Pavelka, Airline Pilot
Chesley Sullenberger is fuming at this apparent snub. Aiming to capitalize on Pavelka’s current run on ABC’s “The Bachelor,” network producers ignored Hudson Plane Lander and U.S. Air legend Sully for a guy who makes his bones courting floozies. Pavelka seems like a nice enough guy. But passing on sweetheart/Bob Papa enthusiast Rozlyn Papa for Vienna Girardi suggests that he’s lacking in the judgment department. All that you need to know about Girardi is that she use to dance for tips and may or may not have cheated on her marine beau before commandeering all his money.
Pros: riding momentum; seems to find self in ideal situations; potential for ABC fix could make him reality legend; takes dance lessons in spare time; works well with women
Cons: choosing Girardi turned off a huge portion of his female constituency; people who don’t watch crappy television have never heard of him; history against – only “Real World/Road Rules Challenge” contestants have pulled off multiple reality TV runs, and they get a prolonged break in between seasons; The Sports Gal is not a fan
Odds to Win: 25-1
For Sports Casualties, this is your trying-to-get-a-life-but-failing-miserably correspondent signing off.