So last week, I formulated who wouldn’t last past the midpoint of the competition in part I of my season 11 preliminary power ranking. Today, I’ll reveal my top half – and who I think is going to walk away with that mirrorball trophy. Enjoy & dicuss!
6.) Florence Henderson & Corky Ballas – I think these two could be interchangeable with Michael & Chelsie, depending on how memorable Florence can be. No doubt Florence will likely be the better dancer – she’s had legit experience, plus the footage I’ve seen of her practicing so far looks reeeeaaally good. She seems like a very focused, hard worker. She’s also got the boon of being the oldest cast member, which seems to bring its own voting fanbase with it. The one problem I think Flo might have is the comparisons she’s likely gonna get to Cloris, since that’s been Corky’s only other partner – and she and Cloris are NOTHING alike, besides their older age. While part of Cloris’ appeal was her outrageous behavior, it’s something we’re not going to see out of Flo…like I’ve mentioned before, Flo is very demure and classy, and not the type to throw out off-color comments and innuendo. As for Corky and his fanbase…that’s a little harder to predict. He’s only been on the show once before, and it seemed like it was his partner’s outrageous behavior that kept them around so long. I’m not sure if Mark’s (or Derek’s, for that matter) fans are gonna throw any votes his direction, or if he has enough of a fanbase of his own to really make a difference. Regardless, I’m actually kind of excited for these two – it will be nice to see what a dynamite choreographer like Corky can really do with a partner that’s willing to work.
5.) Kurt Warner & Anna Trebunskaya – Now Kurt could be the worst dancer in the competition this season, and I still don’t think he’d get sent home any sooner than week 6 or 7, just due to being a former NFL player (the worst any of them have done is 7th place). On top of that, he’s the first quarterback we’ve ever had on the show, and the QB’s are typically the most well-known players on each team. But I think Kurt could actually be pretty good, if his work ethic during dance practice is anything like his work ethic on the football field. And really – Kurt just seems like a genuinely good guy. Comes from humble roots, evangelical Christian, family man, does a lot of charity work…I’m not sure there’s a more likeable guy in the competition. He also seems to have a goofy side (see The Great Previous Dance Experience Debate, Part II), which always seems to balance nicely with a serious work ethic. I think Anna has also beefed up her fanbase after having such a breakout season with Evan – people have warmed to her considerably, and she seems to have gotten a good deal more comfortable with her own choreography. But while these two will likely be Mr. & Mrs. Congeniality this season, I don’t think Kurt necessarily has the dance chops (or the explosive personality) to make it to the semifinals.
4.) David Hasselhoff & Kym Johnson – I’m saying this right now – I don’t think the Hoff is going to be a fantastic dancer. Decent, maybe; but not great. However, I do think he will be this season’s funny man, and that will take him farther than his dance skills will. From the bit of media that I’ve seen so far with him in it, I’m having flashbacks of Donny in season 9 – the Hoff is definitely hamming it up. Very chatty, cracking a lot of jokes, but seems enthusiastic…I do think he’ll make an honest effort, but I’m just not sure he’s got a ton of natural skill to pair it with. But that’s ok, because if there’s one thing Kym is really good at, it’s taking an okay partner and giving them choreography that really lets them shine – I think that’s exactly what she did with Donny & Warren, and I’m sure that’s what she’ll do with David. Plus Kym is quite possibly the most likeable female pro in the competition – mellow, sweet, and drop dead gorgeous. I think they’ll look good together, and will likely be one of the couples out there that is truly enjoying themselves – it probably won’t trump some of the better-dancing couples, but I could see it taking them to the semifinal.
3.) Jennifer Grey & Derek Hough – Looks like Heidi and I are in agreement on this one – Team Jenougher will probably make it to the finale, but just don’t quite have the juice to go all the way. Like Heidi, I agree that Jennifer’s age and recent health issues will likely hinder this pair a bit; however, I do think she will be a sentimental fave with the voters, and they will come out to vote for her in big ways…even if she isn’t the greatest. She does have a big advantage in having Derek; choreographically, I think he’s the strongest male pro and the one most likely to bring out the best in his partners. He’s also got an uber-strong fanbase, and they’re smart about how they vote. The only thing I can’t really predict is if there’s going to be any backlash from his win last season – I can’t decide if those that are still pissed about Nicole winning are going to refuse to vote for Derek now, even if they really do like what he’s doing with Jen. Ditto for the same people that are clinging to the (flimsy) notion that Jennifer is a “professional dancer” and that DWTS is strictly for stars with “no dance experience” (keep dreaming) – are they gonna refuse to vote too, just on principle? By the same token, are they gonna refuse to vote for Brandy, Florence, & the Hoff too? I would like to think that in a season like this, with a fairly level playing field, that people wouldn’t try to concoct conspiracy theories like that – but there’s always some renegades. That whole mess aside, I do think these two will be one of the stronger couples this season…but I’m not sure they’re going to have enough momentum to win.
2.) Brandy & Maksim Chmerkovskiy – I’m sure there will be shock, awe, and outrage over this one, but when it comes down to it I just don’t think Brandy is going to be the stereotypical “pop-star ringer” that everyone is saying she is. As we proved with the previous dance experience post, Brandy’s career has not been nearly as dance-heavy as, say, Nicole, Sabrina, or even Mel B’s. And unlike Nicole & Sabrina, who were still in the high point of their careers when they did the show, Brandy’s been out of the spotlight for a little while now…aside from an album she released last year that flopped, and the reality show she has with her family on VH1 (which I’m not sure paints her in the best light), she hasn’t really been up to anything “big” in over 10 years. I’m not sure how much of her original fanbase is still invested enough to come out and vote for her, which will likely cause her to rely heavily on pulling people in with great dancing. And from what I’ve seen from the media so far – Brandy seems like a focused, hard worker, but doesn’t seem to be a natural when it comes to ballroom. However, I do think she has an advantage in having Maks, who does have a large fanbase, and is a good choreographer – when he isn’t pissing off the judges or throwing fits (then again, like Heidi, I blame a lot of his less savory behavior last season on Erin, who seemed to bring out the worst in him, for whatever reason). However, it is encouraging to see Maks & Brandy practicing and no tantrums being thrown by either party – the energy between them seems much more synergistic than it was between him and some of his other partners. I daresay this will likely result in some really good, memorable routines. However, when it comes down to it, I think they’re no match for…
1.) Rick Fox & Cheryl Burke – Ok, pick your jaw up off the floor, and let me explain why I think these two could be the couple to beat this season. First off, athletes generally do well (duh) – and pretty male athletes tend to do REALLY well (think Jason Taylor, Apolo Ohno, Helio Castroneves). And when a pretty athlete teams up with a pretty female pro – watch out. I have already said multiple times that I think these two are going to be this season’s most handsome couple. Plus Cheryl is statistically the strongest female pro on the show – two wins, one 2nd place finish, one 3rd place finish, and 2 trips to the semi finals in her 9 seasons on the show – and she’s also one of the toughest, which Rick has said works well for him. I also have a sneaking suspicion that Rick is not completely inept in the rhythm department – ex-wifey Vanessa Williams was a fantastic dancer, and I can’t imagine that a little bit of know-how didn’t rub off on him during their 5-year marriage. Rick also has the boon of being a star not only from his basketball career, but also his acting career – he’s appeared on quite a few TV shows. Both he and Cheryl seem to have pretty good-sized fanbases on their own, too, which gives them a bit of an edge over couples where the celeb isn’t as popular as the pro, and vice-versa. Seems like this couple has a pretty good hand to play…but they do seem to be keeping their poker face up. Not a whole lot of media leakage on these two, which makes me think that they’re really trying to play up the whole surprise factor when Rick turns out to be pretty damn good. Cheryl seemed to do the same thing with Gilles, and look how he panned out. But I daresay it will be interesting to see what these two have up their sleeves
So there you have it – I’ve laid out my predictions for this season’s couples, without any of them having actually set foot on the floor. Definitely hoping for some surprises this season, since this is the most level the playing field has been in quite some time. But what do you guys think? Am I onto something? Am I full of crap? SPEAK UP!