DWTS10 Preliminary Power Rankings – Part I

Good grief…where did season 9 go??? I feel like it was just a few weeks ago that I was trying my best to like Donny and was gunning hard for Kelly…but alas, season 10 is upon us, and you know what that means – it’s time for my preliminary power ranking of this season’s celebs!

For those of you who are new to the site (or don’t remember from last season), I do a weekly power ranking of the couples based on their performances that week – this ranking is basically a measure of how likely a couple is to stick around to the following week, and it’s based on several factors: how well they perform, how well-liked they are, how well-known they are, how strong their voting “demographic” is, how memorable they are, etc.  It is not necessarily a measure of who is the “best” dancer – we all know that the best dancer is not always guaranteed to win the competition, or even stick around week after week. 

As I did last season, I have also done a “preliminary” power ranking – it’s a bit different, as we have yet to see any of the celebs perform – that is basically my “forecast” of how I think the season will play out, based on the celeb’s backgrounds and popularity.  As evidenced by last season, things can change quite a bit during the course of the season – but it’s still fun to make predictions :-) So here’s my top six - the ones I could see lasting at least through the middle of the competition, and the ones I think will make the final:

1.)    Nicole Scherzinger & Derek Hough – I think Nicole has several big advantages in this competition: she’s got a dance/performance background (from her days with the Pussycat Dolls and also her experience with the lesser-known girl group Eden’s Crush), she’s young, she’s attractive, she’s decently well-known, she isn’t really doing anything else right now (PCD is on hiatus after several members left, freeing her up to focus solely on the competition) and perhaps most important of all if you’re a sexy lady in the competition – she’s inoffensive.  Anyone catch her as a judge on The Sing Off this past December? The girl is as sweet as pie – reminded me of Paula Abdul on Idol.  And I can’t recall any tabloid scandals about her (other than maybe being considered the “Beyonce” of PCD and the other girls in the group being jealous of it). She’s also got the juggernaut that is Derek Hough to lead the way – his choreography is some of the most fun & memorable on the show, and the ladies LOVE him (and as we’ve pointed out many times before – you need to have the female viewers on your side to win this competition!).  Their closeness in age also makes them more believable as a couple, which is a big advantage in the rumba (which is often the “make or break” dance when it comes to testing a couple’s chemistry).  Unless Anna busts out some incredible choreography, or these two have a major snafu (and I’m talking a snafu of Aaron-Carter-wailing-in-the-confessional-post-rumba proportions!), I could see these two easily making it to the final, and likely winning over Evan & Anna.

2.)    Evan Lysacek & Anna Trebunskaya – Some of you are probably going to strongly question me putting these two in second place (due to the winning nature of Olympians on the show, especially skaters, and also Evan’s wild popularity), but I really think this final is not going to hinge so much on the celebs as it will on their respective pros.  Let’s face it: while I adore Anna (she’s my fave pro and a fellow redhead), some of the viewing audience has found her to be cold & abrasive – and viewers don’t pick up the phone for cold & abrasive pros.  And her choreography, while brilliant from a technical standpoint, doesn’t quite have the same artistic “zing” and energy that Derek’s does.  If Anna was a more popular pro, I could see these two having a fighting chance against Nicole & Derek (although I still think it’s going to be close, given the circumstances).  But Evan will undoubtedly thrive in the competition, due mainly to his athletic background & popularity with the viewing audience – c’mon, it’s hard to hate an Olympian, especially a medalist (unless you’re that obnoxious Russian skater that lost to Evan)!   

 3.)    Erin Andrews & Maksim Chmerkovskiy – She’s a former Florida Gators dance team member, her sister is a professional dancer, and she’s a spunky, well-liked sportscaster – but Erin’s strongest advantage this season could very well be the sympathy vote.  After the mortifying peeping Tom incident back in July of ’09, this girl could have easily shunned the spotlight – but she managed to handle the situation extremely gracefully in the media and seems to have come back even stronger.  While female viewers have a tendency to “backlash” against pretty girls (like many of the models), they tend rally behind successful, likeable ones – especially ones that have endured some kind of public ordeal (think Melissa Rycroft).  Maks also still remains a popular pro (although probably not so much as Mark or Derek) – however, a string of early eliminations due to weak partners may have taken him off some voters’ radar in recent seasons. And let’s pray he doesn’t make poor Erin cry…he always seems to get voted off not long after that happens…anyway, Erin’s skill could take her far, but I fear that Maks choreography is going to look a bit dull up against Derek’s flashy moves and Anna’s impeccable technique.

 4.)    Chad Ochocinco & Cheryl Burke – I’m still having a hard time trying to figure this couple out – part of me says they could do really well, part of me says they might be a complete train wreck.  But for the sake of optimism, I’m gonna go with the former – that, and Chad’s ostentatious personality and endless competitiveness.  I don’t think anyone can argue with the fact that Chad is a character (anyone who admits that they are “hoping to get fined” in their next game is definitely a doozy!) and also a tremendous athlete (he’s a 6-time pro bowler).  NFL players have traditionally done well in the competition (4 have made it to the finals, and none have finished worse than 7th place) due likely to sheer determination.  Chad also has an edge with Cheryl, who is the winningest pro currently doing the show.  However, Chad’s charisma can also come across as, well, just plain obnoxious – he wasn’t voted the #1 showboater in the sports world by ESPN for nothing.  He has been known to be a little on the cocky side, and is not above trash-talking the competition…which doesn’t always sit well with the voters.  I’m predicting they make it to the semifinal based solely on their skill, but will lose out in the end to more likeable celebs like Evan, Nicole, & Erin.

 5.)    Niecy Nash & Louis Van Amstel – If last season was any indicator, Louis tends to thrive with partners that have a bit of an attitude – viewers may have yawned watching him dance with Trista & Priscilla, but who could forget his sassy interactions with Monique & Kelly? J And let’s just say Niecy has got attitude to spare – I have a feeling these two are going to be a hoot to watch! Viewers seem to overlook weak dancing if a couple is particularly entertaining (i.e. Cloris & Corky), so even if Niecy isn’t the greatest, I don’t think she will be going home quickly.  Not to say that she won’t be good – from the clips of her practicing, it’s clear the woman has rhythm, and I sincerely doubt she will struggle with “coming out of her shell” like Kelly did.  I think Louis also solidified him self as a pro favorite last season, with his unending support and camaraderie with Kelly, so he may have a bigger fanbase this year.  In the end, though, I think the stronger dancers will win out over the energetic-but-not-quite-as-technically-good ones, so these two better bring attitude & skill if they want to make it to the finale.

6.) Jake Pavelka & Chelsie Hightower – Not gonna lie – I definitely cringed when I heard Jake’s name announced as the 11th participant this season.  I almost wonder if he was a last-minute addition when they needed to fill one more slot, and the fact that they were announcing the contestants during the Bachelor finale was just a happy coincidence (for them, not us).  While Jake does have a bit of a dance background (he’s taken dance lessons, allegedly – not sure what kind), I fear that everyone that was on Team Tenley is not going to be quick to support Jake – if the tabloids covers splashed with headlines of “Villainous Vienna’s” exploits are any indicator, the voters may be hesitant to stand behind him (and his choice in women).  Petty? Maybe – but look at what happened to Jason Mesnick after he jilted Melissa.  The guy became a social pariah! Fans of The Bachelor are definitely passionate about their faves, which could be good for Jake if enough of “Team Vienna” is voting this season.  Chelsie also has a knack of taking mediocre partners (Ty Murray, Louie Vito) and improving them enough to keep them around until at least midway through the competition.  This couple is a bit of a toss-up for me – which is why they’re right in the middle.  I guess time will tell whether they sink or swim…

So there’s my predictions for the top 6 – tune in tomorrow as I detail those who *gulp* may be in a bit more peril of getting sent home :-( But what do you guys think? Who do you think will come out on top?