‘Dancing with the Houghs, er, Stars’ returns on Monday

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First Posted: 3/17/2015

Let’s just rename the show “Dancing with the Houghs” and be done with it.

It’s the 20th season and 10th year of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” and brother and sister dancers Julianne (“I’m a judge now”) Hough and Derek (“I always make it into the semi-finals”) Hough will be there to celebrate, along with a new family member cousin R5 singer-songwriter Riker Lynch, who was named one of the celebrity dancers. Let’s keep that Mirrorball Trophy in the family, shall we?

It’s the big 2-0 for the little dancing show that could. Who knew it had legs to last this long? But it doesn’t matter if they bring back Disney theme nights, if they don’t get better celebrities, nobody will tune in.

In other words, things have got to cha-cha-change.

The show will premiere at 8 p.m. Monday, March 16, on ABC.

Recognizing the Houghs are its bread and butter, ABC added pro-dancer Julianne Hough as a judge last season. As if we needed a fourth judge.

Don’t get me wrong, the Houghs, especially Derek, are immensely popular. When it was originally announced that Derek, a five-time Mirrorball Trophy winner, wouldn’t be competing this year due to commitments to perform in the New York Spring Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall, many viewers were disappointed.

And many viewers missed the surprise announcement on “Good Morning America,” when the full cast announced that Derek, in fact, was juggling his schedule to return.

And, surprise, surprise, he got a fantastic celebrity contender to dance with in the form of Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin.

Eleven other couples will vie for the trophy. They are the afore-mentioned Hough cousin Riker Lynch with Allison Holker; U.S. Army veteran Noah Galloway, a double amputee, with Sharna Burgess; “Shark Tank” mogul Robert Herjavec with Kym Johnson; Singer Patti LaBelle with Artem Chigvintsev; Charlotte McKinney, the model who shot to fame in a racy Super Bowl ad for Carl’s Jr., with Keo Motsepe; “Party Anthem” singer and past guest judge RedFoo with Emma Slater; Football star Michael Sam with Peta Murgatroyd; “Hunger Games” actress Willow Shields with Mark Ballas; actress Suzanne “Thighmaster” Somers with Tony Dovolani; actress Rumer Willis, daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, with Valentin Chmerkovskiy and Bachelor farmer Chris Soules with last season’s pro-dancing winner Witney Carson.

It is the usual suspects once again: Teeny booper hearthrob and young actress (Shields at 14 is the youngest star to ever compete on the show, aging actress or singer, person who has overcome an illness (both Galloway and Somers, who battled breast cancer), comic relief RedFoo, football athlete, Olympic athlete and reigning Bachelor.

A-listers these are not.

Judge Len Goodman will be back this season, making it his last, as he also judges the U.K.’s “Strictly Come Dancing,” the show on which “DWTS was based.

But pro-dancers Cheryl Burke and Karina Smirnoff have hung up their dancing shoes. Burke, who dedicated her talents as a pro dancer since season two, announced in December she would leave the program to join a new variety show at NBC. Karina Smirnoff, a 16-season DWTS pro dancer, plans to write a book.

Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews are returning as co-hosts for the series.

The new season is billed as the biggest ever. Producers will bring back Disney and Latin theme nights and introduce a new Spring Break special night. Another new element is the addition of all-access cameras in the rehearsal studios, which will be made available on a live stream.

By the way, the Mirrorball Trophy has been redesigned in gold-plated fashion to celebrate the milestone season. Let’s see now: Derek has five of the old ones, but he doesn’t have the new one. At least, not yet.