'Dancing With the Stars' Season 17: Bill Nye, Leah Remini and Valerie Harper face major changes
The most obvious one in Season 17 of "Dancing With the Stars" will be the ABC show's cutback from two weekly airings to one when it returns Monday, Sept. 16. The competition and the results will be merged into a single two-hour episode ... and if viewers in the western half of the country fear that might shut them out from voting, not so, explains co-host Tom Bergeron.
"What's going to happen," he says to Zap2it "is that the viewer votes from the previous week will be carried over, and then the judges' scoring from that night will be factored in. That's how it will play out, so there's not a time-zone issue."
As a result, returning judges Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli could have even more weight in determining a given week's outcome; by the time they give their opinions, viewers already will have had their say in the night's outcome. Thus, Bergeron expects each week's show to "build to a dramatic finish," similar to the way it worked in Season 1.
"We didn't have a [separate] results show then," he recalls, "and that worked fine. People have said -- and with some justification- - that when you get deeper into the season, and you're doing two hours on Monday and an hour on Tuesday, you start adding a little water to the soup. Now, we won't do that.
"A lot of the extra dances that we saw on Tuesday, we can integrate into the Monday show," Bergeron notes. "I think it'll make for a real solid two hours."
"We really wanted to focus and 'eventize " the series, adds ABC Entertainment chief Paul Lee, who says "Dancing" executive producer Conrad Green is "having a whole lot of fun constructing a night on the Monday that really will not just give you the dances but [also] give you the results on one night. We felt that would focus 'Dancing with the Stars' and help give it a hook going into next season."The celebrities participating in Season 17 include: actors Valerie Harper (who told ABC's "Good Morning America" of her health, "My brain scans are looking better and better"), Amber Riley ( "Glee"), Corbin Bleu, Brant Daugherty ( "Pretty Little Liars"), and Elizabeth Berkley Lauren and Leah Remini, who worked together on "Saved by the Bell."
Also: ex-NFL star Keyshawn Johnson; Bill Nye, "The Science Guy"; country comedian Bill Engvall; singer-actress Christina Milian; and reality-show personalities Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi and Jack Osbourne, whose sister Kelly is a "DWTS" alum.
As for the professional dancers who team with the stars, Kym Johnson -- who won the competition twice, as the partner of Donny Osmond and Hines Ward -- won't participate in Season 17, but that doesn't mean she won't stay connected to the show. She'll be a judge on the edition back in her native Australia, on which she was one of the pro dancers before joining the U.S. version in Season 3.
Co-host Brooke Burke-Charvet allows "it's a lot to cram into one night" as "Dancing" reduces its weekly schedule, "but I think for a viewer, it's going to be really exciting. Removing my love for the professional dancers' performances, what you want as a viewer to see is more of the competition.
"I think it gives us longevity," reasons Burke-Charvet, who won Season 7 of "Dancing" with partner Derek Hough. "Change is hopefully going to be good in this case. It all boils down to having the right cast, and I think you're going to see a lot more of them."
That likely would translate into seeing more of Burke-Charvet, too, since she conducts each postdance interview.
"When I stepped in [as co-host, replacing Samantha Harris], everyone embraced that, and I was really appreciative. I really understand what the dancers are going through, though, because I've been there. I know how scary and hard it is, and how it feels to be criticized or praised. There are a lot of emotions on our show, and that's why I think people get hooked into it."
Even with one less night of "Dancing With the Stars," Bergeron still is among television's busiest personalities. He also starts Season 24 of ABC's "America's Funniest Home Videos" Oct. 13, and he already is committed to his third stint presiding over PBS' holiday special "A Capitol Fourth" next July.
"The only change for me is that I get an extra day off a week," says Bergeron, who spoke emotionally on "Dancing With the Stars" about his native Massachusetts on the day of the Boston Marathon bombings in April.
"My wife was walking to the Fairmont Copley Plaza [Hotel] when the explosions went off," he remembers. "That was very close by, and our niece worked at the Trader Joe's [grocery store] right by the bomb site, so I was following Twitter and keeping aware of what was going on as it was becoming known."
Bergeron cites the subsequent "Dancing With the Stars" telecast as "quite a night. One of the things I loved about this year's 'A Capitol Fourth' was having some of those first responders from the marathon with me. And then, Neil Diamond doing 'Sweet Caroline' (which has become a Fenway Park anthem)? It was great."