From the brave to the blah, Mary Tyler Moore Show/Rhoda actress Valerie Harper and a mess of Disney alums were this morning revealed on the next round of ABC’s struggling dance competition series Dancing With The Stars. Harper was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in January and given three to six months to live but is now said to be “nearing remission,” as she and her doctor explained it to NBC’s Today recently while plugging Valerie’s Story — A Meredith Vieira Special, set to air September 19 on that network. Speaking of NBC, Sharon Osbourne’s son Jack — who was yanked from a reality competition series on that network when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis — is joining Harper on Dancing. His sister Kelly was a finalist on the show in 2009.
Many of the celeb dancers’ names had been leaked before this morning’s reveal on ABC’s morning infotainment show Good Morning America. Bill Nye the Science Guy was in none of those reports and he’s maybe the morning’s biggest surprise. Not at all surprising was Leah Remini, whose name was first leaked. Remini, maybe best known for starring in CBS’ sitcom King Of Queens has more recently been making headlines for her exit from Scientology. She appeared on this morning’s reveal via satellite, looking very subdued. Glee’s Amber Riley, no longer a regular on that Fox series, is looking for her next career move on Dancing; ditto Jersey Shore alum Snooki and The Voice social media correspondent Christina Milian. Ironically, it’s The Voice’s move to Dancing’s time slot that’s been giving it such a ratings headache the past several seasons.
Not surprising are the Disney alums, who always abound in the ABC dance franchise. This edition includes High School Musical‘s Corbin Bleu and Pretty Little Liars star Brant Daugherty. Former Saved By The Bell star Elizabeth Berkley is in as well. Comedian Bill Engvall said he’d set up a bank account for the Dancing judges to better his odds of surviving the competition; Keyshawn Johnson fills the traditional NFL dancer spot on the show.
ABC needs badly to get Dancing re-launched in the fall. The veteran dance competition lives or dies based on its celebrity casting, and the producers botched it pretty thoroughly in both editions last season. Ratings plunged to an all-time low as the show competed against NBC’s The Voice for the first time in the fall with the all-star edition. Turned out, ABC Entertainment president Paul Lee acknowledged recently — as did parent-company Disney’s CFO Jay Rasulo — viewers don’t want to see celebrities who can dance well competing — they want to see celebrities who can’t dance well, learning their right foot from their left. This had escaped the network, Disney, and show producers until it was too late. Any hope of real recovering in the spring edition fell flat with that edition’s limp cast, and the reality series only climbed back up to its second-worst numbers ever.
For this fall’s edition — the franchise’s 17th — ABC decided to bust Dancing down to one night per week, which at least minimizes its impact on the net’s primetime slate — now 9% instead of 14%. This season, a couple will be cut at the end of each episode by combining the judges’ score of that night with public voting from the previous week. The new season debuts on Monday, September 16.
One bit of good news: the re-launch of Dancing will not have to air opposite the relaunch of CNN’s Crossfire, as previously announced. CNN said yesterday it would move up its Crossfire premiere by a week. ABC has to be relieved. Kidding.