International craze “Dancing With the Stars,” which takes mildly notable celebrities, pairs them with professional dancers and then asks them to strut their stuff for America’s approval, is back for a third season. It’s the largest field yet — 11 couples — and the show has taken more of a wacky, “Surreal Life”-type casting approach. Joey Lawrence? Tucker Carlson? Jerry Springer?
We consulted Bill Jones, manager of the Fred Astaire Studios in Mesa, to help handicap the field.
Tucker Carlson: MSNBC anchor and pundit who was once called a “partisan hack” (and worse) by Jon Stewart. Jones says it’s a toss-up between him and Jerry Springer for first elimination.
Monique Coleman: Both Jones and I weren’t totally sure who this is, but my research tells me she was in “High School Musical,” which means she probably has some dancing background. Could be a sleeper.
Sara Evans: “She’s going to be awesome,” says Jones. Evans’ partner is Tony Dovoloni, a Fred Astaire Studios alumnus who came in third with former WWE “Diva” Stacy Keibler last season. Evans’ participation on this show is confusing — unlike most other contestants, who are on the downslope of their careers, this country singer’s actually quite successful.
Willa Ford: Wannabe Britney Spears who was famous for about a week five years ago, when being a wannabe Britney Spears was still worthwhile. Jones picks her as a candidate for early exit.
Vivica A. Fox: “She’ll probably win it, she can really move,” says Jones. Fox could use a break; she’s been known in recent years more as 50 Cent’s older (now former) girlfriend than for any of her acting roles.
Harry Hamlin: Seemingly only here because his big-lipped wife, Lisa Rinna, did pretty well last season. A plus: He’s paired with dynamo Ashly DelGrosso, who did the work of 10 dancers when saddled with Master P. Still, Jones isn’t expecting much from the former “L.A. Law” star.
Joey Lawrence: “The women will love Joey Lawrence,” Jones predicts. Yet the former “Blossom” star now sports a shaved head, which might scare away the bored housewife voting bloc. “Whoa,” indeed.
Mario Lopez: “He’s dancing with a really good dancer (Karina Smirnoff). Talentwise, he’s up there for sure,” notes Jones. Another aging teen heartthrob, the one-time A.C. Slater (“Saved by the Bell”) is in it to win it: He’s been dancing since he was a kid, and oddsmakers have him as an early favorite.
Shanna Moakler: Former Miss USA and “Meet the Barkers” reality show star recently divorced from her drummer husband, Travis Barker. Jones sees her as another possible early cut.
Emmitt Smith: “He’ll be the guys’ favorite, of course,” says Jones. Last season Jerry Rice proved that ex-football players could cut a rug, if necessary, and as a bonus, Smith is partnered with Cheryl Burke, who won last year’s competition with Drew Lachey.
Jerry Springer: Filling your “awkward yet lovable old person” quota, played in previous seasons by George Hamilton and (original champ) John O’Hurley. If he hangs on, it’ll probably be just for the weirdness factor.
The third-season premiere of “Dancing With the Stars” airs 7 p.m. today on ABC.