'Dancing with the Stars' Is Back -- Are You Looking Forward to Watching?

Sweat, spandex and sequins! The ABC show returns with a whole new cast of soon-to-be dancers on the quest for the Mirror Ball Trophy

As Dancing with the Stars premieres tonight (at 8 p.m. ET on ABC), season 14 is already standing out from the others. Sure, the sequined costumes will be as flashy as always and the judges' comments will be spirited, per usual, but at first glance, the new cast lacks a polarizing tabloid target. And among the show's substantial fan base, glass-half-empty types aren't pleased.

Clearly, producers weren't able to wrangle any huge stars. (Not that they didn't try -- consider the high-profile rejections they got from Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain.) 
The internet rumor mill even has it that just last week, producers were desperately trying to sign Courtney Robertson on as a last-minute addition to the cast. (The gorgeous, much-reviled Bachelor villainess certainly would spice up the proceedings.)

But it's host Tom Bergeron's job to see the glass as half full, or actually, just plain full of tantalizing reasons this season will be worth watching. "Having a controversial cast member is another arrow in your quiver and you can always use that when you think it's a good idea," Bergeron told TVGuide.com"I think coming off a season or two where we had used that arrow ... that it's smart to take a breather, take a detour that in some ways harkens back to the earlier seasons."

Truth be told, the cast does contain some interesting choices. (At The Huffington Post, check out this exclusive video of the contestants meeting their dance partners for the first time.) At 55, Czech tennis champion Martina Navratilova may not be familiar to younger viewers, but her participation is still a little fascinating. She was such a physical powerhouse on the court in her day, it's tough to imagine her letting pro Tony Dovolani lead on the dance floor! Melissa Gilbert may not be a megastar, but come on, she's instantly recognizable: Who doesn't remember her as Pa's "half pint" on Little House on the Prairie? Well, okay, her partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy doesn't.

And a couple of this season's stars have made some recent, if mild, entries into gossip columns. Jack Wagner's been in the tabs for his split with Heather Locklear, and Sherri Shepherd's already been accused of cheating to win the Mirror Ball trophy. On The View, Shepherd admitted she'd taken lessons at Maksim Chmerkovskiy's dance studio, but that it was long before she was in the running to participate on the show. She added that she was glad that she took lessons because "it showed me if I was up for this challenge."

Actually, Maria Menounos is the odds-on favorite to win this season, though she'd rather not accept that pressure. "Now expectations are so high, and I'm not a dancer!" she told TVGuide.com. "I'm literally learning from scratch and it scares me."

Here's the full cast list of season 14:

-Jack Wagner, star of Melrose Place, is dancing with Anna Trebunskaya

-Former child star Melissa Gilbert is dancing with Maksim Chmerkovskiy

-Tennis champion Martina Navratilova is dancing with Tony Dovolani

-Donald Driver, Green Bay Packers all-time leading receiver, is dancing with Peta Murgatroyd

William Levy, telenovela star, is dancing with Cheryl Burke

Sherri Shepherd, cohost of The View, is dancing with Val Chmerkovskiy

-Welsh opera star Katherine Jenkins is dancing with Mark Ballas

Gavin DeGraw is dancing with Karina Smirnoff

Roshon Fegan, Disney star, is dancing with Chelsie Hightower

-Maria Menounos, TV host, is dancing with Derek Hough

Star of Family Matters Jaleel White -- yes, Steve Urkel -- is dancing with Kym Johnson

Legendary singer Gladys Knight is dancing with Tristan MacManus

If you feel this list is too light on big name stars, senior producer Deena Katz has a message for you: Stop taking the title so literally. "The idea of the show is that by the end," she told USA Today, "you're enjoying people you never knew."

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