I know we’re all still reeling from the whiplash of Pro Watch – old pros are sitting this one out, entirely new pros are being brought in, troupe members are getting promoted, and the status of some pros seems to change from “out” to “in” and back again on a daily basis. The general question on everyone’s lip: “WTF is going on at DWTS??!!!”
While I don’t have a ton of insider info about what’s going on with the casting (even the insiders seem to be somewhat in the dark this season!), I do have a theory or two, and some knowledge of previous seasons to help back up said theories – and I’m about to share one with you that may or may not put things in perspective, and may or may not help ease your concerns…but it’s one that at least makes some sense, given what we’ve seen unfolding the past week or so and what we know of previous seasons. Take it with a biiiiig grain of salt, as I’m not 100% confident in the veracity of some of the claims made in it. And Maks fans of the hypersensitive persuasion should probably just stop reading right now. :-)
First, let’s go back in time to about 2.5 years ago – the week or so leading up to the season 11 cast annoucement. Lacey had tweeted something cranky (and characteristically “Lacey”) about not being part of that season’s cast, and we were led to believe that she would be sitting that season out. About 36-48 hours later, we were smacked in the face by the news that Edyta had suddenly quit DWTS, and Lacey was then excitedly tweeting that she was back in as one of the pros. What happened??? Allegedly (and I’m using this as a precaution, as the info I’m about to share has been culled from multiple sources – some more credible than others, and not all of it matches up), Edyta had tried leveraging in her negotiations with TPTB – some think she was upset that her husband Alec wasn’t getting asked back as a pro, some say she was upset about the partner she got (which confuses me – read on), some say she was holding out for more $$$, who knows. Whatever it was, I guess Edyta tried to throw her weight around as the longest-tenured pro on the show (at the time) and gave the producers an ultimatum: “You give me [insert demand here] or I quit.” To which the producers replied, “K, bye then!” I’m guessing Edyta wasn’t expecting them to call her bluff, and she also doesn’t strike me as the type who will swallow their pride easily, so of course, she had to follow through on her promise, and out she went.
Besides the obvious problem of being short 1 female pro, Edyta’s sudden exit had some shock waves that resonated through the cast that season. Edyta, who was 5’7″ and had sucessfully partnered the 6’6″ Jason Taylor in season 6, was allegedly supposed to partner the 6’7″ Rick Fox (who is still in a 3-way tie for the record of tallest person ever to do DWTS); the only other tall female pro on in the cast that season, Kym, had been promised to David Hasselhoff as part of his contract. The powers that be had to do some fixing, and they had to do it quick – so they brought Lacey back to fill Edyta’s vacancy. But at 5’3″, there was no way Lacey could partner Rick – and that would have been a very odd couple to watch, don’t you think? At 5’4″, Cheryl was at least up to the challenge (and made a very pretty pairing with Rick), but that left her original partner, Michael Bolton, without a partner. Michael was both short in stature and had a reputation of being a bit difficult to work with, so he was given to the 5’2″ and oh-so-calm Chelsie, who was originally supposed to be paired with Kyle…and Kyle was given to Lacey, creating one of the most memorable partnerships we’ve ever had on DWTS…and they have Edyta and her tantrum to thank for that ;-)
So you see now what kinds of problems the exit of ONE PRO caused in an otherwise normal season – it required a lot of shuffling around of partnerships, and one pro that was originally told “you’re out” was suddenly back in. Now let’s apply the same logic to this season – which is arguably NOT a regular season. The show is in transition: they want to bring in new blood, but at the same time keep some old favorites to keep loyal viewers watching. Some pros are on the verge of moving on to bigger & better things, and some of the pros are, for lack of a better term, just stagnating on the show. They need to create a lineup that is both new and exciting to viewers, yet still follows a bit of a “something for everyone” formula: they need a bad boy, a boy next door, a sexy foreign minx, a wholesome girl-next-door type, a rebel, etc. They need a cast that is going to pull in viewers and keep ratings strong after a lackluster all-star season. Now as much as I LOVE Anna & Chelsie as human beings, I’ve got to be honest: neither one ever seemed to reach their full potential on the show. Blame it on the partners they were given, blame it on bad music, wacky themes, whatever – Chelsie placed the highest in her first season on the show, and then was never able to achieve any higher than 5th place again; and as I heard many of you remarking after last season, Anna seems to have a renegade competitive streak that has a tendency to both create friction with her partners and to make her appear unintentionally cold to viewers. As much as it pains me to say it – perhaps TPTB had seen the best they were going to get out of these two ladies, and it just wasn’t enough. I doubt their exit was anything personal – it was just the price of doing business. Enter Lindsay & Sharna – one was basically Chelsie 2.0, a blonde Mormon fresh off of a stint on SYTYCD; the other was basically a Lacey 2.0 – since TPTB seem to have phased out their former “rebel child”, perhaps they thought it time to reintroduce some of that rebel energy to the ballroom.
As for Kym & Derek – as I’ve heard from multiple people close to the show, they are both VERY highly thought of by TPTB, and are the type that can afford to step away from the show for a season (or more) and know they will always have a pro slot waiting for them back at DWTS…if they want it. They create entertaining dances, are good teachers, are easy to work with, and are the epitome of being a professional. According to Deep Throat (our insider at the show), Kym had been expressing a desire to move on from the show and return to Australia for a few seasons now – and I’m guessing that when the opportunity to do Celebrity Apprentice: Australia knocked at Kym’s door, she thought now would be a good time to answer. I’m guessing that she perhaps wasn’t banking on getting voted off so early (we’ve heard she was eliminated after the 3rd or 4th challenge), and TPTB figured out a way to work around any taping obligations she had for that show, so she probably said “Sure, why not?” at the prospect of returning to DWTS. As for Derek – after his wistfully and bittersweet interview about Shawn at the end of the all-star season, I think he felt very torn about leaving DWTS: he felt like he had to do it in order to grow and move on to bigger & better things, but at the same time felt very attached to it, as it’s where he really seemed to grow as a choreographer…and it’s an outlet that allows him to really experiment with his choreography, with a captive audience. I think for all of the reasons mentioned above, TPTB were probably willing to be a bit more flexible if it meant getting these two back as pros – the problem being that it’s not always as quick as “Sure, we can work around your 5 bajillion other projects, Derek!!!” There was likely a lot of back and forth and compromise going on in the board room before they could sign either of these two back on for season 16 – which is why it probably took awhile for us to get a straight answer on them. That, and they probably didn’t want to give any of the viewers false hope.
Now here’s the big question that I’m seeing a lot: “What about Maks???” Let me first say this: I have good reason to believe that Maks was originally supposed to be part of this season. Can’t go into detail, but let’s just say he was originally on the roster – TPTB wanted him back, and Maks was planning on coming back….as of about a week ago. I’m guessing that SOMETHING went down between then and now…and it was something that was a deal-breaker for Maks, TPTB, or both. My guess? It was Edytapocalype, redux – either Maks disliked the partner he was given, or demanded more money, or made some other sort of ultimatum, and the consequence of TPTB failing to comply would be his exit…either for good, or just for this season. However, I don’t know that Maks was necessarily prepared for TPTB to call his bluff – and if they did it with Edyta, I’m guessing they did it with Maks, too…because they, like us, know that this show is bigger than any 1 pro. They’ve done seasons without Derek, seasons without Maks, seasons without Kym, seasons without Lacey, Chelsie, Anna, Karina, Tristan, Peta, etc. – and the show has been fine. I have to wonder if Maks, upon hearing “K, sit this one out then, byyyyeeee!” from TPTB, was suddenly a bit…rueful. And if he had Lizzie whispering in his ear, I’m guessing that, as TMZ was reporting he had “quit”, he and Lounge Lizard Grubman were already trying to come up with a strategy to get Maks back in the game…but they needed to buy some time, and they probably needed to do it in such a way that they made Maks come out smelling like roses (that’s what PR folks are for, right?) The story of Maks “quitting” broke on Friday, and Maks was allegedly supposed to make a statement today…which we have yet to hear. I’m guessing they (Maks & Lizzie) were planning on approaching TPTB with a new proposal, or were just going to agree to whatever stipulations TPTB set forth in order to secure a spot. What they likely weren’t banking on, however, was TPTB hiring a Maks 2.0 – a brand new tall, dark, handsome Russian for the ladies to swoon over. Notice that the news of Gleb joining the cast just broke today – my guess is that over the weekend, TPTB decided to pull one of their many irons out of the fire in order to fill the gap left by Maks. And believe you me, they do keep many irons in the fire – my bf flew out to interview for a pro spot back in 2009, and while they didn’t offer him a spot outright, they did ask “If we have any positions that open up in the next few seasons, is it ok we if keep you on our list?” And they have called – sometimes they need dancers for pro dances, sometimes they’re looking for people to audition for the troupe, sometimes they want pros for things like the cruises & the Vegas show, etc. The bf hasn’t been able to pursue any of those opportunities (kind of hard to drop everything and leave the students at his studio to go dance in one results show dance), but it does go to show that at any given time, TPTB at DWTS do have a “little black book” full of names to call upon if they need them.
Then again, I could be totally wrong, and maybe Maks just decided he wanted a break. We may never know for sure :-P But hey, if nothing else, I got you guys thinking, and maybe put some of your fears at ease…or helped you regain your wits after the craziest pro watch we’ve ever had here at Pure ;-) Be sure to keep an eye out for my cast announcement live blog – I’ll be commencing the festivities at 7 AM EST (lord help me) and will be updating the page periodically until they actually announce the cast – I believe Heidi will also be tweeting the cast as its announced from the @puredwts Twitter account. You won’t want to miss it…here’s to the wait being over in less than 12 hours!!! :-D
ETA: Heidi here to add an update to this subject before we can hopefully move on to the season and all the weirdness surrounding it. ABC issued a statement that makes it clear that (supposedly) Maks just wasn’t asked back this season because, as sometimes happens, they didn’t have a partner for him. They equate it to what happened to Chelsie, Anna and Louis – to name three. Although he certainly was not expecting it, going by the Extra interview he did last last week, Maks offered a very gracious statement thanking the show, the producers and the fans. What this says to me is that we can expect to see Maks back on a future season, whether he was pissed or not by the developments over the last week or not. If you’re pissed and done, you react more like one of his friends did on twitter. ;-)
Almost every season, the Ukrainian-American hothead generates headlines by suggesting he won’t return to the ballroom. It looks like he finally got his wish, though ABC warns not to read too much into his absence since he won’t be the only pro sitting on the sidelines this season.
“We frequently rotate the professional dancers, so it is not unusual for them to rest a cycle,” according to an ABC spokeswoman. “As we consider who will be matched up each season, there are a lot of factors that dictate which couples make the best pairings. We appreciate each of our dancers dedication to the show, so this is a very difficult decision. Anna, Chelsie, Maks and Louis continue to be a part of the Dancing With the Stars family.”
“I just want to set the record straight to all of my amazing fans that I will unfortunately not be returning for this season of Dancing With the Stars,” Chmerkovskiy said in a statement after the cast was revealed on Good Morning America. “I’ve been a pro dancer on the show for about seven years now and am eager to explore other opportunities that have been made possible because of Dancing With the Stars. I’m going to take this time to dive into producing and acting, while fulfilling my sponsorship obligations.”
“A big thank you to all of my fans for your never-ending support,” he added. “I also want to thank the entire cast and production of Dancing With the Stars.”
Here’s Maks on Access Hollywood talking about his dating status and his exit from DWTS. I say again – Lizzie is one aggressive publicist. I’ve never heard someone talk so much about what they’re NOT doing. LOL! And it’s shows like this that perpetuate this myth that poor Maks never gets good partners. :::rolls eyes::: This is an interesting interview from what he’s trying really hard NOT to say. Who be spinning now, Maks? ;-) I get the sense that he’s being very careful, and if he’s not, he’ll be in trouble. Pesky contracts.
Here’s an interview where Derek is asked about Maks’ not being on the show and he gives the standard company line. What is MORE interesting than that, though, is what comes later in the interview. Because there is a significant cut in the video, it’s likely that Derek is NOT talking specifically about Maks (because he doesn’t have a history of being that way), despite how ET tries to give that pejorative spin. It’s interesting to hear how all the pros (and probably judges, hosts and field producers and the like) met with the producers and were told that this season they were going to try to get some of the innocence of the show back. Listen to the whole thing – interesting, and possibly enlightening regarding the cast and the infusion of Sharna and Lindsay…if you really want to read the tea leaves. (I watched the whole thing and it appears that Derek is the only one asked about Maks – I wonder if he has a 500th job as show PR?? :-) )