Dancing With The Stars, Tom Bergeron
If there's one guarantee every Dancing with the Stars season, it's this: There is always a backlash against one contestant.
"They're freaking out about Bristol Palin. They're freaking out about Kate Gosselin. They're freaking out about Nicole Scherzinger. Now, it's Chaz [Bono]. Pick a season, pick a freakout," Tom Bergeron tells TVGuide.com. "Just relax already. It's a ballroom show, for God's sake! I have no idea why Chaz being on is a problem. I sort of expected there to be a reaction, but nothing this big. Chill out."
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Still, it's not the massive hostile response to the transgendered activist's participation that is the most shocking to the Bergeron, but rather the casting department's ability to snag Bono in the first place. "I'm constantly impressed, and impressed with Deena Katz at this point, six years and 13 seasons in," the quick-witted host says. "They still manage to come up with casting announcements that generate buzz and press and interest."
This season's crop is one of the most eclectic ever. Others hitting the hardwood include David Arquette, Ricki Lake, Elisabetta Canalis (aka George Clooney's ex-girlfriend), Hope Solo, Nancy Grace and Ron Artest — "or whatever the hell he's calling himself this week." Ryan O'Neal was supposed to be on too before dropping out with a knee issue, but Bergeron hopes he'll come back next season.
"I was really pleased to hear about Hope because it was such a timely booking after this summer [with the World Cup]," Bergeron says. "David Arquette, I was surprised to hear about. Ricki, I knew, because I had taped her pilot for her talk show and she told me then. Nancy Grace surprised me. I had never met her and the first thing she said to me at the announcement during rehearsals was, 'I want to get this out of the way: I'm a big fan of America's Funniest Videos!' I'm not sure if she was buttering up to the host!"
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The cast also features three new pros, Maksim Chmerkovskiy's brother, Val, and last season's troupe members, Peta Murgatroyd and Tristan MacManus. But the biggest fresh face may not be human at all — there will be a brand new set. "It's like a logical expansion of our original set," Bergeron says. "It's bigger, better, but still recognizably Dancing with the Stars."
Bergeron admits he liked the old set the way it was, but thinks the change-up — coupled with the cast — will reinvigorate the show and is ultimately necessary during a very stacked fall. "It's nice to freshen the paint, particularly when you're coming into a strong, competitive season with The X Factor and The Sing-Off [which airs opposite Dancing]," he says. "There are a lot of reality shows all around us, so it's a good time to brighten our look. I'm not going to sneeze at improvement."
With the focus, not to mention money, going into revamping the set, Bergeron doesn't foresee the show changing the set drastically to reflect the weekly themes like they did last season. But you can expect theme weeks to remain — and perhaps see some new ones too.
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"They've always worked well for us," he says. "The producers have always expanded the range of the show while keeping the essence intact. Like the classical week last season — I was so worried about that! Oh my God! I was calling it Find the Remote Week! But I was so wrong about it and I was happy to be. Everything was top-notch. The production values were as much stars as anyone else in the cast. I hope that'll be back this season. We always do a few new ones each year, so I'm sure there will be those as well."
There is one Dancing tradition he thinks, or maybe more accurately hopes, is over: Chmerkovskiy pinching his butt. (Chmerkovskiy insists in his TVGuide.com blog that it most definitely is not over.)
"Maks said the era of the butt-pinch allegedly ended last season, so I'm taking off the Kevlar underwear," Bergeron says. "We'll see what happens. That might be a bad idea!"
Dancing premieres Monday at 8/7c on ABC.