(CBS News) When ABC announced the "Dancing with the Stars" season airing this fall would be the show's first all-stars lineup, the blogosphere lit up with everyone weighing in on their ideal mix of returning stars. The big announcement has finally come, with six former champions and six fan favorites in the competition. And in keeping with the show's user involvement format, a 13th contestant will be chosen by popular vote before the season kicks off on Sept. 24.
Quick thoughts from a veteran watcher of the show: It's an odd mix of second-tier champions who smiled their way to the winner's box, along with a few talented runners-up and some less-talented headline-grabbers.
Cutting to the chase: Yes, Bristol Palin is back. Palin, in case you just came to America from a land without television, is the daughter of polarizing pundit and former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Blank-faced Bristol made modest improvement through the course of her season, but was kept in the show through voluminous viewer support, presumably from red-state America.
Working up from the bottom of the talent pool we find Pamela Anderson, the busty bombshell who was a decent dancer but also managed to charm viewers with her deadpan approach to the show.
In the middle of the pack are contestants who have a significant background in dancing but have managed to convince the show's programmers that they qualify as "average" people experiencing the miracle of dance for the first time. This is a pet peeve of mine, but you can't hold "DWTS" to rigid methodology. ABC does what it wants, gets a lot of traffic, makes millions of dollars on the show and they don't care what I think.
So the ringers getting another chance to pretend they're learning to dance from scratch include Melissa Rycroft, the spurned "Bachelor" contestant who was also a professional cheerleader; Joey Fatone, the tubby former boy band member; Drew Lachey, a past winner and former boy band member; and possibly Sabrina Bryan, a former girl band member (she's one of the three hopefuls vying for fans' votes). I also throw in French hunk Gilles Marini, who was a suspiciously good dancer but claimed no previous experience.
Of the returning champs, there are several who managed to steal the disco ball trophy from more talented competitors based more on their gleaming smiles and crowd appeal: Emmitt Smith, Shawn Johnson and Helio Castronoves. Will lightning strike twice for these fan favorites?
Drama factor: What will Kirstie Alley's weight be when she returns? How much will she lose again on the "DWTS" regime?
And the winner will be: Apolo Anton Ohno, the crowd-pleasing Olympian who combined the work ethic of a champion with some actual dancing talent.
The returning champions are:
The remaining six are a combination of stars who went far in the contest based on actual dancing talent and a few who viewers kept in the game long past their performance worth:
The final star, to be chosen by America's votes, will be Kyle Massey, Sabrina Bryan or Carson Kressley. Results will be announced Aug. 27 on "Good Morning America."