'Dancing with the Stars' casting: How do you top a polarizing contestant like Bristol Palin?

bristolImage Credit: Adam Larkey/ABCNo time to rest on one’s laurels: The producers of Dancing with the Stars returned to the drawing board this week to begin casting the show’s 12th edition that’ll bow in late March. Executive Producer Conrad Green and casting guru Deena Katz definitely have their work cut out for them: Though the show has featured its share of headline-grabbing contestants (Hi, Marie Osmond, Melissa Rycroft and Kate Gosselin!), no one has been quite so polarizing – and great for ratings – as season 11’s Bristol Palin.

“Each season we try to assemble a cast of characters that brings us something new,” Green told EW. “That was the thought behind Bristol. We hadn’t had someone quite like her, and it worked. There’s a peculiar alchemy and there’s a lot of luck involved.”

Though Green and Katz don’t follow any hard and fast rules when it comes to casting the show, patterns have emerged over the years. The show tries to find someone for everybody, which is why we’ll always see a contestant who appeals to younger viewers (Kyle Massey, Monique Coleman, Sabrina Bryan), as well as someone for older fans (Florence Henderson, Cloris Leachman, Buzz Aldrin), reality show groupees (Jerry Springer, The Situation, Kim Kardashian), music lovers (Donnie Osmond, Nicole Scherzinger, Mel B, Michael Bolton) and sporty types (Kristi Yamaguchi, Apolo Ohno, Chad Ochocinco and Rick Fox).

One thing’s for sure: It’s gotten a lot easier to recruit contestants because Stars offers a much richer salary then it did in those early days. Though the producers have never commented on how much those B- and C-level stars can earn for doing the cha cha cha, a source close to the production told EW that each participant can gross a minimum of $100,000. Escalators are also attached so each hoofer has the potential to make more for each week they manage to survive, though the last three dancers who end up in the finals earn the same amount. So Palin may not have taken home the mirror ball trophy, but she definitely earned as much as winner Jennifer Grey and second-place finisher Massey. (ABC won, too: The results show on Nov. 23 attracted more than 24 million viewers – its biggest audience in six seasons.)

There are plenty of polarizing newsmakers who could fill the void left by Palin (Heidi Montag comes to mind) but sadly, the producers never divulge potential candidates. Jamie Lee Curtis seems especially ripe for the picking – after all, she was there every week this season to cheer on her buddy Grey – but alas, her publicist apparently told Stars’ Katz that the Freaky Friday actress was much too busy. Maybe Glenn Beck has a secret desire to wear fringe?


Comments (172 total) Add your comment
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  • B-

    Easy, you don’t. No more “polarizing” contestants who bring out the worst in people from BOTH sides. They need to focus on more engaging people who place putting hard work and effort into learning how to dance or in improving rather than someone who seemingly did not care to try hard. The show doesn’t cure Cancer, but it’s entertaining. All entertainment value vanishes though when you log on to see hateful fighting in recaps over nonsense.

    • Allison

      Very, very true. Good point.

      • UGH

        I’m trying to think of another person that can get fatter as the competition goes on…

      • Jamie

        Hey UGH – how about that “Teen Mom” who already is fat and just got busted for smacking around her baby daddy that looks ret@rded? She’d make a good target for the couch lovers of America.

    • John

      But the hateful fighting in recaps over nonsense IS my entertainment

      • Cult of Personality

        Totally agree with you John….I was voting for Bristol Palin without ever having watched the show just so I could read the hateful comments the next day.

    • orville

      I agree, but it seems to be a show that has to top itself with the casting each year. “Polarizing” has become a tradition unfortunately. I had heard a Lindsey Lohan rumor, but that may have just been wishful thinking on the part of the entertainment show I saw it on.

      • B-

        We’ve had far worse contestants that I wouldn’t even mind Lohan. If she is sober, off any drugs, and puts in work, it might be good for her.

      • naynay

        Or if she is drinking or on any drugs, even more entertainment.

      • jared4ever

        I would love to have Lohan, at least she’s a real celebrity, not just some politician’s daughter who’s only claim to fame is getting knocked up.

    • Sue1

      Exactly. Well said.

    • AD

      Perfectly said, B-. Give yourself an A+. Thank you.

      • Kyle


    • Kyle

      I 100% agree, B-. I really don’t like politics mixed with my escapism. However, the show got the ratings and the most votes they’ve ever gotten this season, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see more contestants who are just there to p!$s people off…

    • Adam

      Hear, hear! And shame on media outlets (yes, even like TV Guide here) for giving the producers a pass for turning entertainment into a political debate.

    • ks

      Thank you

    • Sara

      I agree. I couldn’t even watch last season because of Palin (Bristol AND Sarah). But I suppose if they DID happen to ask Porsche DeRossi and did go with a girl/girl partnership (as randomly reported rumors have it) that would be pretty polarizing. I, personally, would love it!

      • Jamie

        Good lord Sara – it’s not that hard to look up how to spell her name before making yourself look like a complete moron.

    • FromChicago

      Christine O’Donnell.

      • B.A.

        Not her-talk about polarizing! Escapist entertainment and politics do NOT mix.

      • jodipo

        she is a joke, not polarizing

    • Ann

      Agree with U. Unfortunately, this is run by BBC who does not give a s$%# about our country. I was an avid fan since season one but the last season left a bad taste in my mouth…I’ll be watching something else.

    • SXiPPY

      I’d love to see Barbra Walters shake her old mud flaps! Charlotte Rae, Kim Fields, or Lisa Welchel of “The Facts of Life” would be great. Nicole Eggert needs to burn the last of that fat off so she’d be good. I agree Portia DeRossi doing a girl tet-e-tet would be fab. Ashanti, because she ain’t doing nothing lately except collecting fat up on them thighs. Polarizing contestant…Snooki, Paris Hilton, Britney maybe?

    • henrietta

      I would drop everything to watch Tim Gunn on this show. In my dreams…

      • Katja

        Ooh, I would too.

    • Jam

      smuggled list
      Fantasia, Russel Hantz, Dennis Miller, Roger Clemens, Anson Williams, Dana Jacobson, Pia Zadora, Mark Conseulos, Lou Diamond Phillips, Paul Reubens, Joyce Dewitt, David Garrison, Christina Applegate

      • peewee lvr

        Pee Wee would be awesome! Tequila! ..oh yeah ..how bout Telia Tequila too?

    • stevenjaba

      Courtney Love. She would be tremendously polarizing and entertaining. Yes please!

    • Sally

      I can understand why the show casts polarizing celebs like Bristol Palin, but I think they are also walking a very tight rope. Eventually they will go to far and the faithful core audience will depart.

    • Garry

      It was a mistake to have Bristol Palin on the show in the first place, and another to have her reach the finals (yes, I do think the votes were rigged). First of all, it’s not a good idea to have ANY close relative of a political figure–especially one who is virtually running for president already. It draws the attention away from the show and into the back & forth trash talk by those who have different political views. It should be about DANCING.
      Secondly, because Bristol lasted so long, the controversy about her (and her mom) grew, and totally robbed Jennifer Grey of the attention and praise that she deserved for winning the damn thing. Not that I’m such a fan of hers. She’s been off everyone’s radar for years before this season. But she really had her moment in the spotlight robbed by all of the talk about Bristol making it to the final round. I bet a lot of people think Palin and not Grey actually won. It’s a shame.

      • Marj

        Garry gets an A+ too–hard to figure out ABC/DWTS’s exact definition of “celebrity” is the main problem: but the bottom line should be that anyone in the political arena should be banned. Enough damage was done this season. Glenn, down below, GREAT LIST!

    • robert

      let’s go after all the reality stars – especially on the Teen Mom show – more knocked up pseudo celebrities – let us celebrate the joys of infantile motherhood one more time

    • LeeLee

      All this means is that whomever they decide to cast in the “controversial” role will be pushed through to the finals in an effort to gain more ratings. That means that that person can basically drift thru each week without fearing they’ll be voted off. Shame. it was a good show.

  • LOL

    Cancel this crap.

  • Lisa Simspon

    No more Bristol Palins. She had a terrible attitude, and her lack of effort showed in her attempts at dancing.

  • glenn

    Younger viewers = Justin Bieber, older fans = Betty White, reality show groupies = Cat Deeley, music lovers = Sade, sporty types = Tiger Woods and polarizing contestant = Lindsay Lohan!

    • deedee

      Sade???? how random

      • henrietta

        @glenn – actually, i don’t think sade is a bad call at all. Formerly very hot, now not so much (career-wise), still very pretty, could use some exposure…blahblahblah. All the prerequisites of appearing on DWTS. She just needs to own up to the fact that she’s (unfortunately) at this level in the hierarchy…which must be very tough.

      • JKS

        Henrietta, you are wrong about Sade. Soldier of Love was number one for weeks last winter-and this was 10 years after Lovers Rock, their last album. So sorry, Sade Adu is not quite DWTS material yet.

    • Steff

      Young viewers – Raven Simone, Older Fans – Dick Van Dyke, Reality Show – Alex Van Kemp (NY), Music – Brett Michaels, Sports – Tom Brady,polarizing – Jon Gosselin!

    • jodipo

      the only one of those that would not work is Bieber… he actually has career right now. Maybe in 5 years.

  • Well…

    People I Want To See: NeNe Leakes, Kelly Brook, Omarion, Heather Locklear, Rob Kardashian, Snookie, Eric Roberts, David Henrie, Monica, Ed Hartwell, Tino Martinez.

    • Elizabeth

      Nice call on Tino Martinez!

      When he retires from being awesome, I nominate Omar Vizquel (currently with the Chicago White Sox). Need to get some baseball players!!!

    • Steff

      Right on! Nice list Well….

    • B.A.

      No Snooki! I don’t want to watch that pig dance.

    • Karen

      YES! NeNe or even Kim Zociak! That would be HILARIOUS!

  • song4ten

    I’ve no idea who would be more polarizing – except maybe Sarah Palin herself.

    What I get tired of is the casting of “ringers” – and giving them to either Cheryl or Derek.

    However, I think it would be fun to cast people like Dick or Jerry Van Dyke, Gavin McCleod, Donny Most, Katherine Bach, etc.

  • Nerwen Aldarion

    Need the politically polarizing person that everyone hates but brings in the big veiwers??? Easy.

    Rielle Hunter

    People will watch just to catch a glimpse of John Edwards’ love child.

    Not saying it would be a good thing to bring her on, I’m just saying that DWTS clearly enjoys bringing on candidates people hate.

    • orville

      Or the main Tiger Woods floozie–can’t remember her name off the top of my head. Rachel something?

      • Mellissa

        Rachel’s going to be on Celeb Rehab, starting tonight. Utchel or something?

  • Kim from Texas

    I continue my campaign for Kevin Bacon (footloose) to be on the show!!!

    • AD

      Too A list for this show

  • Bibi

    They lost me this year. They tried w/De Lay last year, but hit the big one with BP this year. I also can no longer stomach the judges and their “flap, flap, flap” about “cr*p, cr*p, cr*p”. There are some really good shows on TV, Too bad we never hear of them here.

  • Katja

    Please, Lord Mirrorballus, no more politicians/politician offspring!! No more reality people that are famous for being b*tchy! It sours the mood of the whole thing for me. I love Dancing With The Stars, but this was the least entertaining, most aggravating season I can remember. I know it’s good for ratings, but I would LOVE if they stopped casting “The One You Will Love to Hate” like Bristol or Kate Gosselin, because I do not get entertainment out of whining about these people. It just makes me mad. What I love about this show is the way it takes total C-listers, shows off their moves and their personalities, and turns them into likable people whose careers I suddenly kind of care about. I always get delighted when I see Cristian de la Fuente in anything. I look forward to seeing Kyle in future projects. I am happy to see Kelly Osbourne being happy. But people like Bristol just make me irritated (nothing against her because of her mother or her sex life – she just wasn’t a good contestant). Siiiiigh. They’re going to cast Rod Blagojevich, aren’t they?

    • iggy

      OH NO! You just jinxed it by speaking Rod B’s name! I couldn’t agree with you more about putting the kibosh on anyone political.


      Katja, I agree with everything you said. I used to have a big smile on my face throughout the whole show. Now, it usually just makes me grumble a lot.

      BTW, I was thinking about Cristian de la Fuente. What do you see him in?

      • Leah

        He’s on In Plain Sight on USA (which is not in season right now, but is fantastic) and he recently did a guest spot on Private Practice.

    • B.A.

      Ditto! :)

  • Jamie

    If you want polarizing, you need someone who will get through every week from fan votes even though they don’t deserve to stay based on their dancing. So you need someone with a crazy fanbase that no matter what will vote for them. A bonus would be if they were unlikeable. Therefore, the best polarizing contestant would be (not that she would ever actually go on the show):

    Kristen Stewart

    • Ember

      She would make Bristol’s interview segments look Emmy-worthy!

  • AD

    To continue their very loose definition to the words “Stars” to include anyone whose ever been in the news or on TV even if peripherally, how about Paris Hilton?

  • grandpajoe

    They should have a theme dancing with stars – take one of the shows that was on channel 7 like the love boat or even one of the current shows and have the women against the men : ie castle, desperate houswives or some of the older shows.

  • Sina

    How about the man who was running for governor of NY. His party was The Rent’s Too D*mn High, Jimmy McMillian. He would be polarizing.

  • Stevie

    How About Chuck Norris? Should we start a Facebook campaign?

    • Richard

      Brilliant! Chuck Norris for the win!

      • Anneka

        I would actually think about tuning in if Chuck Norris shows up

    • Sarah

      I was so about to say Chuck Norris until I saw this!!! Why has it not been done??????

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