Who will win ‘Dancing With the Stars’ season based on first dance? James Van Der Beek
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 21: Actor James Van Der Beek arrives at the 2019 "Dancing With The Stars" Cast Reveal at Planet Hollywood Times Square on August 21, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Planet Hollywood International)
This season involves no current Olympic athletes, which helps give everyone else a shot. (Then again, last season Bobby Bones won so there's that.)
And the first night showed it is a reasonably wide open landscape with scores ranging from 11 (basketball player Lamar Odom) to my call for winner "Dawson's Creek" star James Van Der Beek (21).
Easy to say it won't be Sean Spicer or Lamar Odom.
Who will likely be in the finals
James Van Der Beek. Actors can do well on this show because people usually like them and they can "act" the dance even if their technical skills aren't quite there. He shows he has the basic dance moves that will only get better over the weeks. And he has charm to spare. His "Dawson's Creek" fans will help propel him to victory as long as he can build on this first dance. His dance partner Emma Slater has been around awhile and has one victory already in the can: Rashad Jennings season 24.
Hannah Brown. She seems like a likable "Bachelorette" who has a nice cross-promotional ABC fan base. She can dance, too, and seems intent on working to improve.
Kel Mitchell. The "All That" and "Good Burger" star showed all sorts of intensity during his tango. He looked super comfortable and ready to compete. He has all the making of a great dancer and a solid shot at the mirror-ball trophy.
Karamo Brown. The "Queer Eye" cast member has potential and though he only tied for fifth the first night, he seems like he could soar once he rehearses more and clicks into the whole routine. Personality matters as much as dance skills to garner votes and he'll get plenty of votes.
Middle of the pack
Lauren Alaina. The "American Idol" runner up has youthful energy and bubbly personality that got her far on that previous reality show. She showed tonight despite her protestations, that she could move on the dance floor as well. If her "Idol" fans from 2011 give her love, she might last awhile.
Ray Lewis. He is not a natural dancer but he was enjoying himself up there. Like many NFL players in the past, could finish in the top 5 or 6 if he uses his athletic prep skills properly, he could go far.
Mary Wilson. The elder stateswoman of the cast and Supreme has no chance of winning. But she is cool and dignified with the foxtrot and at age 75, she can move better than 95 percent of her peers. The aging demo of the viewers will help her stay a few weeks.
Kate Flannery. "The Office" is beloved but she was at best a tertiary character. Still, she is not a bad dancer first time out there. I see her leaving halfway through.
Sailor Brinkley-Cook. She had just three days to cover for her mom, who broke her arm rehearsing. And seriously, she did a good job so there's something there to work with for sure. Just that fact alone will get her some votes and might keep her around a bit. If she can improve sharply, she could stick around despite the fact she isn't all that famous.
Ally Brooke. She was part of Fifth Harmony but is not Camila Cabella. So will she have anybody voting for her? She has youth on her side and clearly is going to improve vastly. But that hasn't stopped other good female dancers from going home early.
Who is going home early
Sean Spicer. The former White House spokesman certainly is willing to humiliate himself with a fluorescent pirate shirt of extreme proportions. And his dancing was extremely poor as well though that does leave him with plenty of room for improvement. I suspect he may get some votes from Trump fans but he is such a bad dancer, that alone might ultimately prevent him from building a decent-sized voting base.
Lamar Odom. Yikes! The height difference doesn't help between him and Peta Murgatroyd and he looks super awkward dancing. Stiff and painful. It's hard to imagine him getting better quickly enough to turn this around.
About the Author
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years.