Don’t get it twisted: NeNe Leakes will compete on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” The two-hour premiere of Season 18, which airs Monday, March 17 at 8 p.m. EST, will also feature two Olympic gold medalists, two teen-heartthrob crooners, two TV faces from Generation X’s youth, two American icons, two American heroes and Drew Carey.
Below, we make a few predictions about the cast and competition.
But first: the controversy.
The franchise is replacing Seasons 10-17 co-host Brooke Burke-Charvet (who also won Season 7) with “FOX College Football” host Erin Andrews (who competed in Season 10). The change is rumored to be part of DWTS’s effort to attract young male viewers. Because, you know, it follows that if dudes will watch a woman talk about sports, they’ll also enjoy her thoughts on dancing.
The reality competition also fired long-time bandleader Harold Wheeler and his entire 28-musician orchestra — if they were serious about getting young men, they would have replaced the entire band with Richard Sherman.
Season 18 Contestants
• Sean Avery: former pro-hockey player, model, hunk; Partner: Karina Smirnoff
• Billy Dee Williams: actor, singer, legend, Lando Calrissian; Partner: Emma Slater
• Candace Cameron Bure: “Full House” actress (D.J. Tanner), Kirk’s sister; Partner: Mark Ballas
• Drew Carey: “The Price Is Right” host, comedian, formerly fat; Partner: Cheryl Burke
• James Maslow: Nickelodeon star, boy-band member (Big Time Rush); Partner: Peta Murgatroyd
• Meryl Davis: Olympic gold medalist in figure skating ice dance, America’s Sweetheart; Partner: Maksim Chmerkovskiy
• Charlie White: Olympic gold medalist in figure skating ice dance, America’s Sweetheart; Partner: Sharna Burgess
• NeNe Leakes: Real Housewife of Atlanta, diva, giant; Partner: Tony Dovolani
• Danica McKellar: “The Wonder Years” actress (Winnie), first love of all men ages 35 to 40; Partner: Valentin Chmerkovskiy
• Diana Nyad: first to swim from Cuba to Florida (outside of a cage), 64-year-old, badass; Partner: Henry Byalikov
• Amy Purdy: snowboarder, double-leg amputee, “Amazing Race” contestant, badass; Partner: Derek Hough
• Cody Simpson: singer, youngest DWTS competitor, 17; Partner: Witney Carson
Season 18 Predictions
• The injuries:Marie Osmond fainted, Steve O hurt his back, Bill Nye injured his quad, and just about everyone has broken a toe. So who will hit the dirt this time? We think it will be Sean Avery (to work the crowd); Billy Dee Williams (he’s 76); Drew Carey (in a pratfall-gone-wrong); and Diana Nyad (because she doesn’t know how to compete without pain — the woman survived full-body stings from a jellyfish that can kill you with one tentacle, and kept swimming even when she lost consciousness, like a tenacious robot)
• The opening-dance skits:DWTS knows how to a essentialize its competitors — kind of like the way we did above with bullet points. So we bet we see these opening-night numbers:
1) Fred Savage introduces Danica McKellar via voiceover.
2) Before accepting her partner’s hand, NeNe Leakes purses her lips, and waves her finger at him.
3) James Maslow runs onstage as if he’s escaping a throng of screaming girls.
4) Diana Nyad gets a standing-O — she outswam sharks at 64.
• Most likely to have body issues: NeNe Leakes will mention, several times, the difficulty of dancing with enormous breasts.
• Most likely to get a spin-off:NeNe. Based purely on precedent.
• Most likely to win:20 percent of all winners have been athletes. So that already narrows it down to Meryl Davis, Charlie White, Sean Avery, Amy Purdy and Diana Nyad. Amy Purdy might take it — obviously, she has faced bigger challenges. Also, she’s paired with Derek Hough, who’s won five times, which is three times more than any other pro dancer. Then again, Meryl and Charlie have literally won gold medals in dancing.
• The twists:
1) At some point in the season, for the first time, America will be able to vote to have the contestants switch professional-dancer partners. There’s no way that, in the melee, the producers will not find a way to have Meryl Davis and Charlie White pair up for at least one dance.
2) After failing four or five times — while her friends, family, and the press watch — Diana Nyad will inexplicably come back and win the whole thing.