With frequency, reality competitions are accused of casting ringers and the latest controversy comes with Glee alum Heather Morris competing on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. Morris toured as a backup dancer for Beyoncé and, against her, we pity poor Mr. T and the other contestants’ chances of getting anywhere near that Mirror Ball Trophy.
This season’s DWTS cast announcement has raised fans’ eyebrows who believe that the deck is stacked in Morris’ favor. The actress, who portrayed Brittany S. Piece on the Fox program, previously made it to the “green mile” on So You Think You Can Dance and under her one and a half-year tenure with Beyoncé performed on The Today Show and at the American Music Awards, among others. With her background as a professional dancer, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that she and partner Maksim Chmerkovski are going to be a force to be reckoned with this season.
But is it fair?
That depends on how you look at it. In the past, there have been plenty of other contestants on the show who seemed to have an edge on the competition. For instance, look at the boy banders, who are typically known for their dance skills: 98 Degrees star Drew Lachey had a dynamic second season as he was crowned the champion; *NSYNC’s Joey Fatone was the runner-up in season 4 while Lance Bass finished third in season 7; Joey McIntyre of New Kids on the Block finished third in the first season; while Backstreet Boys star Nick Carter was the runner-up in season 2; Boyz II Men’s Wanya Morris finished fourth in season 22; and Big Time Rush alumni Carlos PenaVega (season 21) and James Maslow (season 18) both finished fourth in their respective runs.
Then there are the winners: Alfonso Ribeiro, a Broadway star in The Tap Dance Kid before portraying Carlton on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Jennifer Grey of Dirty Dancing (who even carried a watermelon in a nod to her role of Baby in the film), and former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger all had a head start on those competitors with two left feet (we’re looking at you Geraldo Rivera, Kate Gosselin and Master P — who set a record for the lowest scores in history during season 2 with an 8 out of 30).
Looking at this season’s cast, there are other possible contenders with some credible experience of their own. There is no getting around the fact that contestants skilled in choreography — gymnasts and ice skaters, for example — definitely have a better chance than most of perfecting their cha-chas than others. For that reason, Olympic gold-medal gymnast Simone Biles has a good shot to repeat the victor her teammate, Laurie Hernandez, accomplished last season. And don’t rule out ice skater Nancy Kerrigan (remember, Kristi Yamaguchi ruled season 6 and speed skater Apollo Ohno won season 4).
But let’s be real here: Morris has obvious skills and she is partnered with the very talented Chmerkovski. This combination is going to be tough to beat. Still, Morris told Entertainment Tonight that she believes the competition is even and “completely fair,” noting Biles and Charo as her biggest competition. Whether or not Biles or Charo will coochie-coochie tango to the finale remains to be seen, but there is no denying that when it comes to technical points it won’t be long before judge Bruno Tonioli exclaims, “Ten!”
Dancing With the Stars premieres March 20 on ABC.