ABC celebrity competition begins its 28th round
It’s been the better part of a year since the “Dancing With the Stars” ballroom was last open, but it’s time again.
Though the ABC contest didn’t have a 2019 spring season, its 28th “cycle” starts Monday, Sept. 16. Hosts Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews are back, and the judging panel again includes Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba (now also a host of CBS’ “The Talk”) and Bruno Tonioli, with an occasional added judge possible. And the celebrities again constitute a diverse group.
Competing this time: model Sailor Brinkley-Cook (replacing her mother, Christie Brinkley, who broke her arm during rehearsals); actors James Van Der Beek (“Dawson’s Creek”), Kate Flannery (“The Office”) and Kel Mitchell (“Kenan & Kel”); recent “Bachelorette” Hannah Brown; “Queer Eye” cast member Karamo Brown; sports legends Ray Lewis and Lamar Odom; singers Lauren Alaina, Ally Brooke and Supremes veteran Mary Wilson; and former White House press secretary Sean Spicer.
“It’s been a year in the making,” the ever-amiable Bergeron reflects, “since the last time we were on the air was November 2018. We have a new executive producer and a lot of behind-the-scenes changes, and they’ve had more time than in the past to get the show up and ready.” Bergeron has noted that he is leaving any questions about casting decisions for the producers to address.
One tweak is that viewers won’t know who the stars’ pro partners are until “Dancing” resumes, but Bergeron is pleased that Peta Murgatroyd (now married to fellow “Dancing” veteran Maksim Chmerkovskiy) is returning to the lineup after two seasons away.
“When we announced the cast on ‘Good Morning America,’ ” Bergeron recalls, “one of the dancers came up to me and said, ‘Come on, Tom. You know who we’re partnered with, right?’ And I honestly didn’t. I’m in the dark, too … and that, I like.” A new set and “more ammunition” from the judges, per Bergeron, also are among the changes.
Not having had a “Dancing” season last spring was “OK, frankly” with Bergeron, he maintains: “I thought it was smart to rest the show. Just being pragmatic and looking at the (ratings) numbers over the seasons, it was indicative that a time-out was required, so I was fine with it.
“Also, when we did a four-week season – or ‘seasonette,’ as I call it — with just athletes, I didn’t think that played particularly well, so I thought it was wise to just give it a rest.”
Having taken part in such other ventures as a forthcoming Mister Rogers tribute album during the break, Bergeron is coming back to “Dancing” refreshed. “Erin and I were texting,” he says, “and we said that in some respects, it feels like we’re doing a new show inspired by ‘Dancing With the Stars.’ ”