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Handicapping season 14 of ‘Dancing With the Stars’ with Jaleel White, Gladys Knight

Jaleel White is still best known as Urkel. CREDIT: ABC

Jaleel White is still best known as Urkel. CREDIT: ABC

Who are the three DWTS contestants you're most looking forward to seeing? (Pick up to three)

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Based purely on star power, this is one of the dimmest years for “Dancing With the Stars” in many seasons. That doesn’t bode well for ratings.

(”Everyone just needs to take a beat,” DWTS senior producer Deena Katz told USA Today in pure defensive mode. “It doesn’t have to be the biggest name. It’s who you fall in love with on the show.”)

Even then, there are a few potential favorites and a couple of wildcards in the mix. And yes, a relative unknown in war hero J.R. Martinez won last season.

Here is my handicapping for the 14th crew using selected footage from their first rehearsals, who their partners are and all sorts of other semi-arbitrary factors based on past shows.

LIKELY TO LAND NEAR THE TOP

Roshon Fegan. Disney folks tend to do well on the show for several reasons. They’re youthful and multi-talented, can learn dance steps quickly and have TV-ready personalities. Fegan is on a show called “Shake it Up!” Monique Coleman finished fourth season three. Cody Linley also finished fourth season seven. Kyle Massey came in second season 11.

William Levy. I’m placing a positive bias on this Cuban actor finishing near the top not because he was a telenovela star but because he’s got sex appeal, charm and Latin dance steps in his blood. The voters (presumably mostly women) should be excited by his very presence. And he looks good in early footage.

Jaleel White. He has a lot going for him: cult popularity from his days as dorky Urkel on “Family Matters,” his fundamental, spirited likability and his relative youth at age 33. His opening rehearsal footage ABC provided was not encouraging but watch him on this video of Cee Lo Green’s “Cry Baby.” He can follow choreography and has basic rhythm:

MUDDLED MIDDLE

Donald Driver – Like Disney actors, most NFL players have done very well on the show. Athleticism is a given and casting tends to look for charm, too. There’s past winners Emmitt Smith (season 3) and Hines Ward (season 12), runner-ups Jason Taylor (season 6) and Warren Sapp (season 7), fourth-place finisher Chad Ochocinco (season 10 ) and fifth place finisher Kurt Warner (season 11). Then again, two did middling: Lawrence Taylor (seventh place, season 8 ) and Michael Irvin (season 9). Still, none have left early.

Melissa Gilbert – Best known as Laura Ingalls in the 1970s show “Little House on the Prairie,” she has since specialized in Lifetime “women in peril” movies and ran the Screen Actors Guild. She’s up there relatively speaking in age (48), but if she shows reveals a warm personality, her fans will vote for her. Then again, expect fireworks now that she’s paired with tough-love dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who has gotten close to winning twice with Mel B and Kirstie Alley but has never taken home the mirror-ball trophy.

Jack Wagner – A 52-year-old soap star on shows such as “General Hospital” and “Melrose Place,” he’s also known as Heather Locklear’s squeeze. Regardless of his dance skills, his fans may keep him alive for a few weeks but for him to go further, he’s going to have to exhibit more than expected for a man his age.

Sherri Shepherd – She is the closest to “controversial” in this group but more for saying inane things on “The View” like doubting the fact the earth is round. She appears nimble in videos and could surprise people despite her less-than-svelte body type.

Maria Menounos - She may be gorgeous and co-hosts “Extra” with former “DWTS” runner up Mario Lopez, but I have no clue if she’s a good dancer. Hot-looking women don’t always do well on the show, but Brooke Burke, another attractive TV host, did win one year. Her biggest upside is her partner: Derek Hough, who has never finished lower than sixth and has won three times with Jennifer Grey, Nicole Scherzinger and the aforementioned Burke.

dancing-with-the-starsGladys Knight – She looked good in the rehearsal footage. As the token elder in the group at age 67, she matches up with the typical viewer of the show. And she is an R&B legend.Those factors would make me think she is virtually guaranteed a middle-of-the-pack finish.

LIKELY TO GO HOME EARLY

Martina Navratalova. While athletes tend to do very well in this competition, she looked surprisingly clunky in the early rehearsal footage. The only other tennis player to participate was Monica Seles, who never looked natural on the dance floor and came in 11th. I just can’t see her lasting very long even though she was a pro for many years from 1975 until 2006 (with some retirement years in between).

Katherine Jenkins – While she’s popular in crossover/classical music circles, especially in England, I don’t think those are circles that would bring in a big voting contingent. I know nothing about her. She could be a great dancer but with no knowledge otherwise, we can expect a relatively early exit.

Gavin DeGraw. Sure, this singer has a couple of major hits under his belt (”I Don’t Want To Be,” “Not Over You”) but he’s hardly a personality the typical DWTS viewer would know. So to stick around, he needs both a sparkling personality and great dancing skills. I’m not sure he has either, even though musicians should have a natural leg up over folks from other genres.  Unfortunately, the rehearsal footage ABC provided was not encouraging.

TV preview

“Dancing With the Stars,” 8 p.m. Mondays, ABC, starting March 19.

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By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk

43 comments Add your comment

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Pitchy

March 19th, 2012
8:26 pm

Oh well, no one’s blogging this evening. Nice dancing so far.

Sparkler

March 19th, 2012
9:51 pm

Really entertaining show tonight…pleasantly surprised by the quality of dancing and performance.

Pitchy

March 19th, 2012
9:57 pm

I am so dang pleased. This is going to be THE BEST season EVER. Everyone is good, and with this being the first dance for everyone, I can only imagine what their performances will be with more direction and confidence…WOO HOO, WOO HOO! No one was bad, looked foolish or stiff as a board. Eliminations all through the season is going to be difficult.

Pitchy

March 19th, 2012
9:58 pm

DAMN, DAMN, two 9’s already. This is a first!!!!

Pitchy

March 19th, 2012
10:00 pm

Who will be eliminated? My bet is on Gavin McGraw???

Sparklerina

March 19th, 2012
10:06 pm

My favorite part was the Pips giving Gladys a standing O! Martina won’t last long…. very entertaining tonight. We need more bloggers Pitchy!

Pitchy

March 19th, 2012
10:08 pm

Sparklerina, more bloggers will probably be on in the morning….who was your best one tonight?

Pitchy

March 19th, 2012
10:12 pm

You should have seen me hoping Gladys Knight did well. I was glad, Mama Knight did very well.

I think my best for the night was (1) the football player (Donald somebody), (2) Ricky Martin, (3) Mama Knight, (4) and Jaleel White in no particular order. Oh, let’s not forget the comedic timing of Sherri Shephard. Thank goodness she’s no Cloris Leachman!

Sparkler

March 19th, 2012
10:14 pm

Roshen was terrific… Jaleel was great….the blond singer was very good. I enjoyed almost every dance though. The pros did a great job with this group.

Katelyn

March 19th, 2012
10:16 pm

I Love You !!!!! Jaleel WHITE !

Katelyn

March 19th, 2012
10:18 pm

My Mom Watched You When You Were Little And She Was Little On FAMILY MATTERS , And Now I Watch
ITTT.

Tiberius

March 19th, 2012
10:19 pm

Very impressed with EVERYBODY tonight (although William Levy got higher votes from Bruno and Carrie Ann for his looks rather than his dancing).

Gladys Knight was fantastic!

Jaleel White and Katherine Jenkins looked like they were already at Week 3 or 4 standards.

Pitchy

March 19th, 2012
10:24 pm

Tiberius – I too was impressed with everyone. The show has come a long way since horrible Master P and “can’t control his mouth” Evander Holyfield. No clowns this time straight out the gate.

Tiberius

March 19th, 2012
10:33 pm

Did anyone else notice that the LOWEST score for the evening was a 20?

20!!!!

After some truly horrible first nights on DWTS (didn’t someone once get a 13?) where we’ve seen our share of 5’s being given out, the lowest score was a 6 and a rare one at that.

I will say that best line of the night was Carrie Ann thanking ABC for her job after William Levy danced. But she’s got to pay better attention to the DANCE rather than the DANCER. She even missed a clear lift when both of Peta’s feet left the floor early on Donald Driver’s dance.

REA

March 19th, 2012
10:39 pm

Everyone pretty good so far.

Pitchy

March 19th, 2012
10:43 pm

Tiberius – my neighbor came over because she knew I was watching and said watching with her 13 year old son was boring. We both commented how no other season had first time results in the 20’s. You know this is going to be a great season. Heck, the contestants can only get better.

REA – I agree.

Pitchy

March 19th, 2012
10:51 pm

RHo, where’s the write up for Ricky Martin? His looks have changed. He looked really tired, but still handsome.

Tiberius

March 19th, 2012
10:59 pm

I’ve gotta say that having the stars dance at least twice is something I’ve called for since the beginning Yeah, there are some (Master P, Metta World Peace and Jeff what’s-his-name who did the Worm) who were never going to get better, but even some of the worst scores in other years had potential but obviously had a bad first night. I’m glad they’re going to get that chance this season. Martina has potential (as does Gavin), but they were too cautious like many on their first dance. I’m looking forward to seeing better from them next week.

Pitchy

March 19th, 2012
11:00 pm

Thank you Sparkler, Katelyn, Tiberius and REA for blogging with me. It’s been quiet, but it has been fun. Great show.

I think we’ve done good without a moderator this evening….good night.

SuzeC

March 19th, 2012
11:18 pm

Wow! Great night of dancing. I thought Jaleel White had the best, most natural performance, but was also really proud of Georgia-girl Gladys Knight. I hope I can still move like that at 67!

skeeter

March 19th, 2012
11:32 pm

Jaleel will be the last standing and Martina will be the first to exit. Football players are very competive, so Donald Driver will probably be one of the finalists.
Kudos to Ms Knight, she made us boomers proud. :-)

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]

johnnywad

March 20th, 2012
8:22 am

My dog, boner loved it…..

KAR

March 20th, 2012
8:30 am

The night belonged to Gladys, Gladys, Gladys. You go girl. She’s my favorite singer now she may be my favorite “older” dancer. She has the moves. BTW Jaleel White will win if last night was no fluke. He was fantastic and so smooth.

Tman

March 20th, 2012
8:42 am

Katherine Jenkins was the best. Such a beautiful smile and great footwork. She will go further than people think. She has such a warm personality and a great partner.

Mercedes S.

March 20th, 2012
9:06 am

Except for the tennis player, the-earth-is-flat yapper and Gladys Knight, I have no idea who these people are… but checking in in the show every now and then last night, they all seemed to have rhythm!

Pitchy

March 20th, 2012
9:14 am

Good morning. Need to correct something. I thought Ricky Martin was performing but kept telling my daughter that he looks so different and tired. Lo and behold Ricky Martin wasn’t there. I believe I was talking about William Levy, the other nice “eye candy.”

@Mercedes S. – that’s the difference this season, “they ALL have rhythm” and that’s why it’s going to be an exceptional season! What a way to kick it off.

Fan

March 20th, 2012
10:36 am

I thought that this season of DWTS has a great cast. Eveeryone brings a different element to the table from funny, charming, posed, elegant to eye candy. Each and one of them brought their desire to dance to the table and it showed. The scores for the first night were amazing. I will admit that I am a big William Levy fan since 5 years ago and just watching the public’s response last night made me happy. I really enjoyed seeing everybody dance and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next show.

Pitchy

March 20th, 2012
11:24 am

Well, guess this convo is over.

Cubana

March 20th, 2012
11:54 am

A Pitchy

You are mistaking Ricky Martin (who is Puerto Rican) for the Cuban actor Guillermo (William) Levy.

Caramel

March 20th, 2012
12:26 pm

The dancing was fantastic! My husband even watched and he hates these kind of shows. I wanted him to turn his head though while I was drooling over William Levy! This man was fine as wine and was using his hips very well!! Overall a good looking group and I look forward to the season!

Tech Man

March 20th, 2012
1:33 pm

What about “World Peace”? He was voted off first.

Clyde Drexler?

gunga din

March 20th, 2012
1:34 pm

hope they dump that fat little loud mouth Sherri Shepherd first. dances like a cow with epilepsy!!! her poor partner has no chance. if he tries to dip or lift her, they better have the medics on standby.

Dee T.

March 20th, 2012
6:21 pm

I was very impressed with Gladys…….home girl did great!

Dee T.

March 20th, 2012
6:23 pm

I only saw one negative comment (regarding a contestant’s weight). Why can’t we comment without being mean-spirited?

b4life

March 20th, 2012
6:44 pm

I happen to disagree, Rodney, and think this is one of the better casts. There are no “reality”, drama inducing people or politicians and I think that’s refreshing. I barely watched the last two seasons because there was noone who captured my attention. I have my pick this time. I’m looking forward to this season and put my money on Jaleel White.

thomas

March 21st, 2012
11:50 am

Worst Cast Ever!

Feliza

March 21st, 2012
12:29 pm

Nice, positive comments or constructive criticism is better… cheap remarks unnecessary