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"Dancing with the Stars" Kicks Off New Season Monday Night

ABC/ADAM TAYLOR(NEW YORK) -- The Dancing with the Stars ballroom will open its doors to 12 new celebrities Monday night.  The 17th season of the hit ABC competition begins at 8 p.m. Eastern time, with the stars dancing either a cha cha, foxtrot, or contemporary routine.

Valerie Harper is the most notable name in the cast.  The 74-year-old former Mary Tyler Moore Show star made headlines earlier this year by announcing her brain cancer diagnosis, but she recently said she feels like she's "winning" her battle with the disease.

Some of the other prominent celebrity competitors this season are former Jersey Shore star Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, Leah Remini, Jack Osbourne and Amber Riley.

Las Vegas odds maker Johnny Avello pegs former High Musical School actor Corbin Bleu as the early front-runner.  He argues that Bleu is "24 years old, he's a young, good-looking guy, that's certainly going to attract votes in itself.  He studied dance at a young age, ballet and jazz both.  And he's been on Broadway, so I think he brings some talent to the show."

Avello has far less confidence in Bill Nye.  He ranks "The Science Guy" last because Nye has no experience in music or dance.  However, The View co-host and former Dancing contestant Sherri Shepherd contends that Nye has enough charisma to be considered the dark horse in the competition.

Dancing with the Stars has a few new wrinkles in store for viewers this fall.  For starters, the show will air only one night per week, rather than the usual two.  Beginning with next Monday's edition of the show, one couple will be eliminated after the stars perform.

So how will the new format affect the season premiere?  Judge Carrie Ann Inaba explains: "On our first night, they will dance, and we will score them, but we will count the votes from that night, and add them to their next week's votes.  So they dance again next week, and then those audience votes will count with our judging scores from that week, and someone will go home based on the total scores."

Inaba also notes that the show has eliminated the sky box, where co-host Brooke Burke-Charvet would conduct post-dance interviews with the couples.

Dancing with the Stars will again be hosted by Tom Bergeron and Burke-Charvet.

Here are the celebrity-pro pairings for the new season:

  • Elizabeth Berkley Lauren, Saved by the Bell actress, and Valentin Chmerkovskiy
  • Corbin Bleu, High School Musical actor, and Karina Smirnoff
  • Brant Daugherty, Pretty Little Liars actor, and Peta Murgatroyd
  • Bill Engvall, comedian, and Emma Slater
  • Valerie Harper, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda star, and Tristan MacManus
  • Keyshawn Johnson, NFL star-turned-ESPN analyst, and Sharna Burgess
  • Christina Milian, actress, and Mark Ballas
  • Bill Nye, "The Science Guy," and Tyne Stecklein
  • Jack Osbourne, reality star and son of Ozzy and Sharon, and Cheryl Burke
  • Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, Jersey Shore star, and Sasha Farber
  • Leah Remini, King of Queens actress, and Tony Dovolani
  • Amber Riley, Glee actress, and Derek Hough

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