Some things stay the same
You know the saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," right? Much of what makes this season different than the last is simply a return to what's already worked, and that's a very good thing. Familiar faces, including judge Len Goodman, who sat out last season, returns to the judge's chair again this season, and surprise celebrity guest judges will be back too. Edyta Sliwinska, a favorite dancer who took time off to start a family, is back, as is sports anchor Erin Andrews, making her triumphant return since that whopping $55 million settlement for that creepy hotel room stalking ordeal. You won't see major format changes: You'll still see, by and large, the same theme nights, including Disney Night, Latin night, Judges Choice and the Switch Up. "We've gotten to a format viewers think is fair," says executive producer Rob Wade, "and they're comfortable with it, so we don't want to change it." Makes sense!
You know footballers have fared well on DWTS over the years, but that's not the entire reason this spring's lineup is so heavy on gridiron guys. Yes, this season features the most NFL players ever - Antonio Brown, Doug Flutie, and this year's Super Bowl MVP Von Miller - but, as Wade says, it happened by chance. "It wasn't planned as such. We obviously look for people with different careers," he says. They were in talks with Brown when, after the Super Bowl, they heard through his talent booker than Miller might be interested, and they pursued it. "Because who in their right mind would say no to the Super Bowl MVP?" he says. "[The players] are very different people, but we liked them all individually." So there you have it. This season also marks the first time an ABC News personality will perform in the competition. Ginger Zee, Good Morning America's meteorologist, will commute each week from New York -- just three months after giving birth. Talk about a trouper! The shows have a close relationship, Wade says -Robin Roberts was a guest judge in Season 18, if you recall - and the timing felt right. "She's very game for going out there trying weird and wonderful things."
Expect the unexpected
A lot of this will be a surprise, but expect more non-dancing content this season. Wade says DWTS will up the ante in terms of behind-the-scenes content and "editorial pieces" full of humor unscripted moments. "We're really going to embody the liveliness of the show," Wade says. Think more variety show than purely dancing competition. "We're not afraid to rip up rule book up a bit." To wit, All Access, the post-show, expands this season with more content, including breakdowns, interviews with the cast, and their after-party, streaming right after the TV broadcast ends.
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.