[Shakes] When I heard the name Gladys Knight coming from Brooke’s mouth, I literally shouted GLADYS KNIGHT????, and it had nothing to do with the fact that she is several decades older than Tristan; it has to do with the fact that DWTS finally landed the first mega-superstar – and she is going to be dancing with Tristan! Excited doesn’t begin to cover it. I immediately tossed my deliciously hot and sweet caffeinated beverage into the air which meant substantial time doing cleanup in Aisle 7. I also began doing a little happy dance right in front of my television, fervently hoping that Tristan could see through it to me. But then I realized that Ms. Gladys is so much better a match for him on the dance floor than I am. First of all, she has talent. I don’t. Second, she’s gorgeous. My sweatpants and wild hair couldn’t begin to have the same effect or compete with her extraordinary beauty (have you taken a look at her Twitter background? WOW). Third, she is a star with star power who has the ability to lasso in millions of viewers. Surprisingly, I don’t have any of that, so from my perspective, Team Gladys and Tristan (or whatever name they come up with) is going to rock!
[SWAT] The cast has been announced, and I must say for once that I'm not at all disappointed. Let's be honest here. Am I the only one that's ecstatic about the fact that there are no reality stars in this cast? I didn't think so. On A-Day (Announcement Day), I started my day as I always do, carpooling with the kids and my hubs to work. On this particular morning I knew that once I got to work, I would have a little email present in my inbox from my partner in crime, Shakes, and this email would have the full confirmed list of this season's celebs and their pros. This list is actually a pretty solid line up. Some surprising, some not surprising, and some just downright RADICAL! Now that the list is out, almost every DWTS “expert” and entertainment website have put their two cents worth in on how these couples are stacking up against each other. Some look like they'd fare better than others but honestly, this cast to me is the most evenly ranked so far. It really is anyone's ball game.
It is in the spirit of our great constitutional right of freedom of the press that allows us, Shakes and SWAT, to embark into our first foray into serious journalism and give everyone who is listening our professional opinions on the 12 couples who are going to be battling it out on the dance floor. So let the bloodbath begin....okay that sounds too serious....let the bubble bath begin.
Melissa Gilbert and Maksim Chmerkovskiy
[SWAT] I was more than a little surprised by this pairing. Rumors about Melissa being on the show were front and center a couple of weeks before the actual cast announcement so it's not the fact that she is part of the cast that surprises me. Half-Pint definitely meets the DWTS criteria for being a good choice as a celebrity cast member. She was a big deal on Little House on the Prairie but then she just kind of faded like my favorite blue jeans. Even though she is still very active (even being President of the Screen Actors Guild for several years), it was time for her to get back into the limelight, so why not do it here? I am just surprised that she is paired with Maks. She has the goods to do well, but I wonder how this pairing will do once tempers flare and frustrations peak. Ladies and Gentlemen, it ain’t gonna be pretty. We have Maks who is prone to making his partners cry, and Melissa who is a seemingly fearless fiery redhead, and she just might give it back to him. Done correctly, however, they might channel these tense moments into their dancing, and then they could create some serious chemistry on the dance floor. Otherwise, we could have another Maks/Hope Solo repeat on our hands, and the viewers may get sick of the drama. I’m betting Carrie Ann goes in for the smackdown this time. My choice for a team name? Team Friction!
[Shakes] I’m thinking Half-Pint might be wearing the pants in this relationship. Little Laura Ingalls is all grown up and isn’t going to put up with any crap from Mr. Maks and instead of tears from Miss Melissa, we’re more apt to see a punch straight to the old bread basket. I’m thinking her back surgery isn’t going to keep her from performing well – did you see how easily Maks dipped her during the cast announcement? My personal opinion is that Maks was not scheduled to be on this season, Tristan was going to be Melissa's partner, and when Gladys signed on The Powers That Be decided there was no way a Gladys/Maks pairing was going to happen. Hence, in steps The Man Who Saved the Day – Tristan.
Melissa and Maks aren’t going to go through this process smoothly; she’s tough and spirited, and he is almost as cranky as Len. Whereas Tristan’s philosophy is that it’s not about being your best, it’s about doing your best, I’ve always believed Maks’s philosophy is that being the best is the only acceptable choice. That’s going to cause problems because not everyone has the same skill level. Tsk, tsk, Maks. Their team name? Team Half-Cranky.
Martina Navratilova and Tony Dovolani
SWAT] Okay, I love Martina and I know what she contributed to tennis back in the day. For the most part, she was a total badass, although as we have seen in the past that sometimes the female athletes have had issues finding their inner swan. Monica Seles anyone? I'm going to give Martina props already because I can see that she's in great shape and has glammed herself out pretty well. If Tony can help her master some solid choreography then Martina could really surprise us. We all know that she's got the drive. We also know that Tony is always very optimistic and supportive of all of his partners. I always find myself rooting for Tony, with the exception of when he was with Kate Gosselin, and then I was rooting for them to be voted off so he could be put out of his misery. But again, I love Tony! For this reason I think this team deserves the name Team Match Point.
[Shakes] I think Tony and Martina are going to rock, rock, rock! Between his blinding white teeth and her display of pure guts for even taking on this challenge, I think they are going to be the surprise of the season. I’m not saying they will win – but they are going to bring some sexiness, some power like nobody else, and inner strength that I so love. Then there’s that whole determination thing that will propel them forward week after week. Martina is a rock star; Tony deserves this. I’m named this team Team Kick Ass. Next to the Tristan and Gladys match-up, this might be the most inspired pairing for Season 14.
Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas
[SWAT] Ironically enough, Katherine was the one to belt out a beautiful version of O Mio Babbino Caro when Tristan and Peta did their amazing waltz during Season 12's Classical Music Week. The irony alone seemed almost too perfect and suggested a Katherine/Tristan pairing, but she was assigned to Mark. This is not that surprising really. Mark, like his counterpart Derek, pretty much always has a pretty young thing on his arm every season; someone who already knows how to dance a little bit, who has 0% body fat, or who has performing credentials which translate into a bit of an advantage. Katherine is most definitely one of the most talented celebs to compete on DWTS, and I hope that Mark sees how classy and musically gifted she is and really lets her shine without adding all of the modern crazy macabre choreography that he tends to throw out there. I'm not quite sure about her fan base, but if she dances well I can see these two being contenders for the finals. For that reason I call them, Team No Emo Guy Liner Please.
[Shakes] I may be way off base here, but I think that this is the strangest match-up of all. I can see the gorgeous and very talented Katherine Jenkins with Dmitry, Damian, or Jonathan (yes, I know he won’t be back, but I can still see it). I think Mark will bring out the spats every week which will make me want to jump off the roof. Then he will probably way over dance as he has a tendency to do – particularly in the early stages of the competition. I think Katherine is the sophisticated graceful lady who will approach this whole thing cautiously, and I’m not sure that Mark will be able to bring out the beautiful dancer in her. At first I wanted to call them Team Burrito because of mental confusion the other night when I called SWAT’s little poppets (kids) burritos by mistake. That’s kind of how I feel about this team. Confusion, for a lot of reasons. Mark pouts as much as Maks – any score below an 8 results in the pouty sad-sack face, and that’s annoying. Believe it or not, sometimes the dance just sucks and the scores are deserved. Sorry guys, I love you both, but you’re not entitled just because you think you are. So knock off the whining. If I had wanted 2 more kids, I would have had them.
So anyway, I hope I’m wrong about this pairing because I think that Katherine is a terrific addition to the cast, but I do not think that they will last very long this season. I might give them bonus points if she wore the spats instead of him, but nah, spats within ten feet of him is just overkill because there can be too much of a good thing. For lack of any idea whatsoever of a team name for this team (because I’m not feeling it at all), I am calling them Team No Spats or Pouts.
Jack Wagner and Anna Trebunskaya
[SWAT] I'm not quite familiar with Jack Wagner mainly because I've never been a soap opera fan. Shakes and Phantom did go on for ages about how awesome he was when he graced the covers of teen magazines back in the early 80's when he sang the hit All I Need. This nostalgic teenybopper-ness from them was bouncing off the walls of MacManiaLand for days when Jack was still rumored to be doing the show, so I figure I should definitely pay attention. I don't think they could have given him a better partner either. Anna is one of my favorite pros and she's got the beauty, the smarts, and the toughness to get Jack far. I believe I'm the most intrigued about this couple, mostly because I know the least about him, but I want to know more. And let's face it, both Jack and Anna are both smokin' hot individuals. My name for them....Team Slow Burn.
[Shakes] Okay so I like Jack Wagner, but I didn’t go on for days and neither did Phantom. I just gushed a little for a few hours. I’m not a soap fan either, but I confess to watching Frisco Jones on General Hospital during my baby-making days (not while actually making them, of course, while raising them). He was hot. He still is actually, and I imagine that at some point he and the stunning Anna will dance to All I Need. That’s fine with me. Anna is my female favorite pro with none of the others even coming close, so in my mind, she can do no wrong. I would like nothing better than for Anna and Jack to get that number 2 spot right behind Tristan and Gladys. I also think that Jack and Anna will have the most chemistry of all the couples and based on what I’ve seen from the early photos, his posture, his intensity, and his everything else are spot on. This is Team Red Hot (besides the red hair, both of them sizzle).
Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd
[SWAT] Once again they gave Peta an athlete. Last season I was very sad to see her and her celebrity partner, Metta World Peace, leave the competition during week one. Peta is very talented, and I was thrilled to see that she was coming back. Normally NFL athletes do well in this competition so the fact that she has a celeb partner like Donald Driver shows me that silver lining that she didn't have last season. Not only do the football players tend to go far, but he also plays for the Green Bay Packers, and who doesn't love those Cheese Heads? Green Bay fans are also notoriously loyal so I have a good feeling about this partnership. If anything, the Cheese Heads will pull them through. For that reason I call them Team More Cheese Please.
[Shakes] Peta rocks. Heck, anybody who has Damian rocks. But she’s also my second favorite female pro. I love her cute dimples, I’m insanely jealous of those legs that go up to her neck, and I think she and Tristan have more chemistry than is probably legal. I don’t know much about Donald, but I knew I liked him when I saw how he was dressed for the cast announcement. The man is taking this thing seriously, and I like him already. I think this pair will be around awhile, but there is no question that Peta is the boss. Meet Team Peta’s Driving.
William Levy and Cheryl Burke
[SWAT] When I took a look at the celebrity roster and saw William Levy’s name on it I couldn't help but laugh. He is a serious hottie and is known for the long, sensuous smoldering looks that he gives his female costars. He is so sexy that Joel McHale fromThe Soup put a big ol' Bulls Eye on his forehead, and therefore he's been the subject of much poking on The Soup for seasons now. Most of the time you see Joel critiquing Mr. Levy during a segment called “Clippos Magníficos”. This is where I'm sure William Levy will make Joel McHale and The Soup eat their words. Partnering him with Cheryl, however, is, dare I say it, predictable? How many sexy and hot male celebs has she been partnered with so far? It's not exactly a stretch of the imagination, and at this point, I don't find their partnership interesting. William will most likely own the Latin dances, he will make all the ladies swoon (the men too), and he and Cheryl will Cha Cha forward week after week. I hate to give away the end of the season that hasn't already started yet, but this is Cristián and Giles all over again. For that reason I'm calling them Team Season 6/8 Rerun.
[Shakes] I have to admit that I’ve voted with my hormones a few times. Okay, more like a few thousand times, and Mr. Levy is one tall and sexy drink of water. I personally think he would have been better suited for Anna, but I think everybody is better with Anna. Here’s my concern. Remember Albert Reed? Sex-on-a-stick, he could dance, he had the best pro (Anna), and he was barely there long enough to give my hormones a jumpstart. That may happen here. William is gorgeous, but if he can’t master the hip movement and the fast footwork, he may be out the door before you can say, “Hasta luego.” Meet Team Chevy (that needs an oil change). This one was just too easy
Sherri Shepherd – Val Chmerkovskiy
[SWAT] Here's the thing with me. If I don't like the celebrity, chances are I'm not going to like the pairing. I don't dislike Sherri per se, but I kind of feel like The View was running out of stuff to talk about so somebody pulled some strings and got Sherri put on the show so they'd have something to talk about every morning. Yes ya'll....boo hiss...you can hate me if you want, but every year there are a few celebs that I just don't care about, and Sherri is one of them. Am I knocking her character? Heck no. She's high energy, funny, and charismatic, but I just don't feel the love with this pairing. Poor Val, he's really grown on me, mainly because I loved how he gushed all over Nancy back when she had him at her studio last season to help her practice. So for Val's sake I hope this one works out just a little bit, but it is an odd odd odd pairing and I don't see them going all that far. Who knows though? Sherri does have a large audience of the DWTS demographic tuning into her every morning, so she may be around longer than we'd think or like. For that reason I'm calling them, Team Val With A View.
[Shakes] Talk about an oddball pairing. I’m not feeling this one at all. That doesn’t mean it won’t work, but Sherri is going to need a pushy type pro to make this work, and Val isn’t that. Maks would be better. Louis would be the best choice. I bet we see lots and lots of drama here, and not of the good variety. She'll probably make Val cry instead of the other way around. I love Val,and I love Sherri, but oil and water don’t mix. I don’t think we’re going to be seeing a single spark, must less a flame. For lack of something better, this is going to be Team Uh Oh Spaghetti-O.
Gavin DeGraw – Karina Smirnoff
[SWAT] Okay, so maybe I've been living under a rock, but I just now figured out who Gavin DeGraw is. I know I know...where have I been? But I do recognize Gavin's Not Over You, which I've been belting out in my car every time it comes on the radio. So I actually am a little interested in seeing how Gavin will do at ballroom dance. Karina is a solid teacher but I don't know how their chemistry is going to be. I almost feel like they should have switched Karina and Cheryl's celeb partners, and they would have each fared better. Oddly enough, ABC still won't answer my offer to be their official pairing consultant so I guess the Gavin/Karina match-up is all I have to work with. I do however like Gavin's hat collection. It's kind of like Tristan's rock t-shirt collection, and the Gavin Hattage has kind of become a trade mark. We'll see if the costume department at DWTS is going to oblige Gavin and give him and Karina some interesting matching hats to wear. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt on that score and give Gavin and Karina the name Team Hat Hair.
[Shakes] I love Gavin DeGraw, and I love Karina. I do not love this pairing. In fact, it strikes me as kind of lukewarm. I don’t know that there’s a better pro, however, to bring out Gavin’s potential inner dancer. I give the guy kudos, though, for doing this. He’s a major artist, he’s a big name, and he has guts for even attempting this while touring at the same time. I hope I’m wrong and they stick around a while, and I think they might be loads of fun. Besides, it will be funny to see Gavin waltz in that hat. I’m just calling them Team Dance With Your Hat On.
Roshon Fegan – Chelsie Hightower
[SWAT] Just because you are a Disney star doesn't mean that anyone knows who the H. E. double hockey sticks you are. The Disney Channel has really nothing to do with the Disney I know, and therefore all of these Disney Channel stars are still complete mysteries to me. I never pull for them because I'm still pissed that Disney fills their TV lineup with cheesy tween shows that have nothing to do with the Disney that I love. Therefore, sorry Roshon, but I don't care. I know it sounds harsh but give me someone who doesn't know how to dance and does the voiceovers for The Little Mermaid, and then I'll be excited. Chelsie is a great dancer but her partners are always hit or miss. Ty Murray was her greatest partner to date and a prime example of how DWTS should be. He didn't know how to dance, but he was a leading man and gave it his all. I'm sure Roshon is a great dancer, but I don’t want to see someone who's already a great dancer; I want to see someone who I can root for. I hate to say this, but my Team name for these two is Team Ehhhh.
[Shakes] Here is our ringer, and I don’t even care. I know he can dance, and he’s a heck of a dancer. The problem is I have no idea who he is, and that didn’t change after the cast announcement. I still can’t remember his name. My favorite Chelsie partner was Ty Murray – that worked, she performed miracles, and they did their best. Since then, it’s been unmemorable for me. Louie Vito was cute, but I can’t remember a single dance that he and Chelsie did. I’m still miffed that people blamed Michael Bolton for the dog house fiasco; uh people, he didn’t choreograph it. I’ll give them a few weeks. The team name is a problem for me. Every time I put Ro with Tower, all I can think of is Team Roto-Rooter so that’s going to have to be it.
Maria Menounos – Derek Hough
[SWAT] Here's one that I think ABC missed the mark on. As always ABC refuses to teach this old dog (Derek) new tricks and picks out (as in most seasons) a gorgeous, model-esque partner, someone who Derek can once again mold into a passable dancer, gain momentum with her progress, and make it to the finals by default. I'm not knocking Derek at all, even though that's how this might sound. I just never felt like Derek stretched himself as a teacher, because he's always paired with celebs that aren't as much of a challenge to teach. The problem here is that Maria and Derek seem like a big bowl full of boring leftovers - the kind of leftovers that you like eating at first, but then you realize that you've been eating them over and over, and now you want something different. ABC dished out another season of said leftovers and now we are stuck watching the same limp noodle team dance that I have become bored with. We then are supposed to believe that Derek miraculously turns the beautiful Maria into a dancing queen. It's just typical, and not something that I want to watch season after season. Therefore I find it only fitting that they be called Team Ramen Noodles.
[Shakes] I’m not sure about this one at all. She’s gorgeous, he’s cute, and I don’t think there is going to be a single speck of chemistry here. Derek is extraordinarily talented, yet I’ve always felt that he was dancing alongside his partner but never with his partner. In other words, he does the steps, and she does the steps, but they don’t connect. It’s not that he over dances; he is actually an amazing performer - it is just that I have never felt any chemistry between him and his partner since the Jennie Garth days. Not that he’s boring because I thought during the Michael Jackson tribute, he was some kind of wonderful, but when he dances with a partner, I just don’t feel it. Make sense? Probably not. The following description of how I came up with the team name will make even less sense.
For those of you familiar with our road trip adventure/disaster (SWAT and I), Arby’s has a place close to my heart. A few days ago, I drove past Arby’s and the place was boarded up, closed down, and moved out of town. Weird. So I got to thinking – an always dangerous prospect. I still hold a bit of a grudge about DAD and how that turned out. I also feel like Maria has already faded into the background, and they haven’t even danced yet. So my name for this team is Team Arbys. That’s because it’s been shut down and run out of town. Oh yeah. DAD will be ours this season!
Jaleel White – Kym Johnson
[SWAT] Want to bet that Jaleel White has completely regretted playing his wildly popular Urkel character more than once in his lifetime? Well here he gets a chance to show the rest of the world that he is someone totally different than Urkel! Not only has he grown into a very handsome man, but Kym Johnson just can't help but exclaim to the masses that Urkel is ripped. I'm not at all that surprised. Remember how Urkel began as a gangly, scrawny nerd boy in highwaters and suspenders - not to be at all compared to the hotter than hell, glorious, knee slapping suspenders that Tristan wore last season - and then by the show's end Urkel was really 25 with biceps roughly the size of a muffler on a Big Rig. The point here is that Jaleel might just be the Ringer this season. He's this season's Ralph Macchio - or the once hugely famous pop culture star that really brings out everyone's inner nostalgia. Kym is his partner, and I think she's a good choice, although Jaleel is one of those celebs that you could partner with anyone really. Both Kym and Jaleel are widely liked, and it's because of that that I call them Team Jello because everyone loves them some Jello.
[Shakes] – I think this is one of the best pairings overall; everybody loves Kym, and everybody loves Jaleel. He’s lovable and funny, and I think Kym knows just how to bring that side out . She’s also a good sport and can take the criticism better than almost anybody. Jaleel doesn’t seem like the type to take himself overly seriously, so I’m thinking they will end up at least in the final 5 and maybe higher. My only concern with this fun couple is the overuse of fringe on Kym’s costumes which might result in strangulation or tripping hazards. Remember how it almost took out Tristan in the Mr. Know It All Dance? Just as a reminder of this problematic issue that could plague them all season and keep them from winning the MBT, I’m calling them Team Frightening Fringe.
Gladys Knight – Tristan MacManus
[SWAT] Oh Tristan, Tristan, Tristan, how I adore thee and thy enthusiasm. I will say this. When I received Shake's email the morning of the cast announcement that merely exclaimed, “GLADYS KNIGHT???” (that's really all the email said), my simple reply back to her was “LMAO F-whaattt?!?!?!”. It wasn't a bad “f-what” but more of a really surprised, even pleasantly surprised “f-what”. All night long we had speculated that Tristan was going to become Team MacButter, or Team MacSpencer, so you can imagine my confusion when they threw out the Gladys Knight bomb on us. My surprise soon turned into the next email that I sent to Shakes...”NO FREAKIN' WAY, THAT'S AWESOME!” I mean what's not to love about this pairing? Forget the age difference which is soooo 4 seasons ago. Tristan proved with Nancy that you don't have to be a spring chicken to kick arse on DWTS, and I have a feeling that Gladys Knight is going to pull out her sultry Motown moves on the rest of the competition. Both GK and Tristan are extremely positive people and I know their high energy and bright personalities on the dance floor are going to leave us all with smiles on our faces week after week. Friends, Romans, MacManiacs, let me introduce you to Team Afterglow!
[Shakes] This is the best match-up of the season. Who really cares how old she is and how young Tristan is? She is arguably the biggest star ever on DWTS, and her appeal is universal. Tristan is arguably the hottest and most talented new star ever on DWTS and they are going dancing. It doesn’t get much better than this. Think about it. Can you really see the Empress of Soul with Derek, Mark, Val, Maks, or Tony? Tristan is the only fit for Ms. Gladys, and I’m thrilled with the pairing. A simple team name will never do. We need titles, subtitles, and constant updates. For now I’m calling them Team Watch and Learn From the Master.
Our final 5. For once, we agree on something. We would suck as writers for the Tristan MacManus fansite if we didn’t pick him to win. Always. So here you have it:
Winner of the MBT – Tristan and Gladys
2nd – Anna and Jack
3rd – Kym and Jaleel
4th – Melissa and Maks
5th - Everybody else – they are all about the same.