Pros and Cons: Talk-show host and political commentator Smiley is no stranger to the small screen, but his buttoned-up style, his age (49) and even his official cast portrait don’t exactly scream “future Mirrorball champion.” Burgess, meanwhile, couldn’t get Olympic ice-dancer Charlie White past fifth place, which makes it hard to envision her doing better with Smiley.
Michael Waltrip (with pro Emma Slater)
Pros and Cons: Slater managed to get fiftysomething Bill Engvall to fourth place back in Season 17, which is good news for Waltrip, a 51-year-old Daytona 500 winner and NASCAR analyst. Still, his aggressively flirtatious demeanor during Good Morning America‘s Season 19 cast announcement made us a little uneasy about his chances of enchanting the ballroom faithful.
Sadie Robertson (with pro Mark Ballas)
Pros and Cons: If the Duck Dynasty star has any natural dance ability, Ballas ought to be able to make use of it: He’s a two-time winner previously paired with Olympians Kristi Yamaguchi and Shawn Johnson, and was runner-up with opera star Katherine Jenkins. Trouble is, “real people” types like Robertson who lack sports or stage training often struggle to impress the judges. (See Kim Kardashian, Kate Gosselin, etc.)
Tommy Chong (with pro Peta Murgatroyd)
Pros and Cons: Stoner comic’s Cheech & Chong movies made him a household name, and his recurring That ’70s Show role introduced him to a new generation of fans, though none of the above indicate an immediate affinity for ballroom dance. Murgatroyd, for her part, took home the Mirrorball in Season 14 — but has failed to reach the finals since.
Betsey Johnson (with pro Tony Dovolani)
Pros and Cons: At 72, the wacky fashion designer might seem up against it vs. teen and twentysomething rivals. Then again, how many septuagenarians perform cartwheels and splits in public? One-time winner Dovolani has specialized in “women of a certain age” pairings, but rarely takes them farther than a mid-pack finish.
Jonathan Bennett (with pro Allison Holker)
Pros and Cons: Bennett’s best-known role in Mean Girls came a full decade ago, meaning he’ll need to ooze charm and good humor — and avoid unappealing rehearsal meltdowns — to connect with voters who might otherwise ask, “Who is this dude?” Yet while Holker may be a newcomer to the DWTS stage, she’s one of the most beloved (and expressive) alumni of So You Think You Can Dance — and shouldn’t take long to spellbind ABC viewers, as well.
Lea Thompson (with pro Artem Chigvintsev)
Pros and Cons: The Back to the Future star should appeal to the nostalgia-loving DWTS faithful, but her work on ABC Family’s Switched at Birth gives her a second surge of popularity for fans who’d need a time-traveling DeLorean to remember a 1985 film. First-time pro Chigvintsev, meanwhile, is a bit of an unknown quantity, but managed to win Britain’s Strictly Come Dancing in his first attempt back in 2010. Don’t underestimate this duo.
Bethany Mota (with pro Derek Hough)
<B>Pros and Cons:</b> Fashionista and motivational speaker has 7 million YouTube subscribers and almost 2 million Twitter followers — though whether that will resonate with <I>DWTS</i>’ aging demographic remains to be seen. Nevertheless, getting paired with five-time champ Hough is the closest thing there is to finding a golden ticket to the finale — unless viewers get agitated by ABC’s decision to hire Hough’s sister Julianne as a judge!
Randy Couture (with pro Karina Smirnoff)
Pros and Cons: While Smirnoff got booted early in Season 18 (finishing 11th with hockey pro Sean Avery), she’s made it to the finals three of the last six years (including a win with J.R. Martinez). And while MMA champion Couture’s crossover appeal with the DWTS viewership is uncertain, his pro-athlete status at least ensures his readiness for the show’s grueling training regimen.
Lolo Jones (with pro Keo Motsepe)
Pros and Cons: As one of a handful of athletes to compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympics — in track & field and bobsled, respectively — she’s proven her athleticism and versatility. Yet while the DWTS masses love themselves an Olympian, her first-timer pro partner won’t bring much of a pre-existing fan base to the table.
Janel Parrish (with pro Val Chmerkovskiy)
<B>Pros and Cons:</b> The 25-year-old <I>Pretty Little Liars</i> actress hails from a white-hot show — and her singing background may be an added boost in a show where musicality counts. Chmerkovskiy, for his part, has made it to the finale on two occasions over six seasons — with Zendaya and Kelly Monaco — and with big bro Maksim on the sidelines for Season 19, perhaps it’s his turn for Mirrorball glory?
Antonio Sabato, Jr. (with pro Cheryl Burke)
Pros and Cons: While Burke is one of the best-known pros in DWTS history, she hasn’t taken home the Mirrorball since scoring back-to-back wins in Seasons 2 and 3. Still, with the impossibly handsome model/actor Sabato, Jr. in her corner, it’s not hard to envision Burke fashioning a similarly successful run to her partnerships with Cristian de la Fuente (third place in Season 6), Gilles Marini (runner-up in Season 8) and William Levy (3rd place in Season 15)
Alfonso Ribeiro (with pro Witney Carson)
<B>Pros and Cons:</b> Sure, <I>The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air</i> went off the air almost 20 years ago, but “The Carlton” has lived on — and kept the goofy Ribeiro among the more recognizable members of the Season 19 cast. Add his dance background — he was Broadway’s <I>The Tap Dance Kid</i> — and sweet second-time pro Carson (a Top 6 finisher on <I>So You Think You Can Dance</i>) and you’ve got a partnership with the goods to go very deep into the competition.