Who’s going to win ‘Dancing With the Stars’ season 31? My bold prediction

The now commercial-free show didn’t markedly change in its move to Disney+

Disney did not mess much with the “Dancing With the Stars” formula now that it has moved from broadcast TV to its streaming service Disney+.

But they did have about 30 extra minutes to play with without ads.

They filled it two ways: longer dances and more cast members.

One thing is for sure: the decision to even move “Dancing With the Stars” to Disney+ is going to reduce the show’s audience significantly. (We’ll never know by how much because streamers generally don’t release ratings and even if they do, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison to traditional Nielsen broadcast/cable numbers.) The show has traditionally drawn the oldest audience among all reality competition shows and Disney+ is largely geared to Marvel/”Star Wars” fans, “Simpsons” addicts and kids.

Will “Dancing With the Stars” fans pay the $7.99 a month for Disney+ if none of the other content is appealing? (There are National Geographic specials, too.)

If they do, the show itself won’t feel markedly different except a bathroom break will involve pausing the show.

As noted earlier, producers brought in 16 so-called celebrities as season 31′s cast, a number they have tried only once before going back to season 9 more than a decade ago. The number for regular “Dancing With the Stars” seasons has generally ranged from 11 to 15.

Some of the top-line names certainly are well known such as 1970s “Charlie’s Angels” star Cheryl Ladd, actress Selma Blair, “Real Housewives of New Jersey” star Teresa Giudice and “Let’s Make a Dea” host Wayne Brady.

There are a few that are, charitably, celebrities largely in their own homes.

The producers made a dumbo decision up front: eliminating a dancer immediately on the first night. In fact, they opened voting up before any of the celebrities had hit the dance floor, which made no sense whatsoever.

That did not help Jason Lewis, identified as a “Sex and the City” actor. (He appeared in the final season for a few episodes and dated Samantha.) He was cut first. It certainly didn’t help that his dancing was saddled by poor footwork and hip action. He was in the bottom two with Giudice but the judges chose to keep her.

Weirdly, the show fell behind a bit and during the second hour, they started rushing the judges. Then again, this show is on a streaming service so does it have to land at a particular time?

Based purely on the first dance and past voting patterns (which might be entirely thrown off now that the show is on Disney+), here is how I think the other 15 celebrities will finish in order. This is something I do every season and my track record is middling at best. Last season, I picked “The Bachelor” Matt James to win. He finished 12th. (Ouch!) On the bright side, I did call three of the top five finishers.

And who do I think will win? Charlie D’Amelio. I bet her combination of genuine dance skills and TikTok following will get her to the top.

WHO WILL MAKE THE FINALS?

Charli D’Amelio, a massive TikTok star and competitive dancer. She has a competitive dance background (but not ballroom) and it shows in her cha cha. Her monstrous TikTok fan base should help her generate DWTS votes. She also has Mark Ballas as her pro, back for the first time since season 25. He has gotten his celebrity into the finals an impressive 9 times out of 19 times with creative, zesty choreography. Mark gave Charli a far more difficult choreographed dance compared to most of her peers and she pulled it off. The judges gave her the best scores of the night with 8s.

Jordin Sparks, season 6 “American Idol” winner. She has that actual dancing spark and a bubbly personality that certainly didn’t hurt her on “Idol” and should draw votes. For an opening cha cha, she projected confidence and pulled off the basic choreography that her pro dancer Brandon Armstrong gave her. The judges were enthusiastic and gave her two 6s and two 7s. Sparks has the ability to improve significantly and start pulling in 10s by week six or seven. I expect her to go deep in this competition.

Wayne Brady, comic, game show host and actor. At age 50, Brady can still move. He would frequently dance on “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” back in the day. Like co-host Alfonso Ribeiro, he is a natural performer. And his pro dancer Witney Carson let him loose. His cha cha is slammin’. He got the only 8 of the night from Bruno and 7s from the others. The judges critiqued him like a potential champion, meaning they gave him very specific advice to improve upon with the expectation he will take that advice. I see plenty of 9s and 10s in his future and a likely top 3 finish.

WHO WILL BE IN THE MIDDLE?

Gabby Windey, “The Bachelorette.” A couple of “Bachelor” stars have won in the past. Now that this show is on Disney+, will it matter as much? Who knows? She does have Val Chmerkovskiy as a partner and his popularity alone will help keep her around longer. And as a former professional cheerleader, she can really move well. Her opening jive was excellent and Derek Hough complimented her rotation. She got well-earned 7s.

Selma Blair, actor. She has suffered from multiple sclerosis in recent years so her arrival on this show is intrinsically inspiring. At age 50, she looks fabulous and her Viennese waltz felt truly emotional. The judges, other celebrities and many audience members got teary. Len called it fluid and beautiful. If she can build on that and endure the grueling process of the show, she could be around a long time. It would be criminal if she doesn’t make it at least into the top 5. She got 7s.

Credit: DISNEY+

Credit: DISNEY+

Daniel Durant, “Coda” star who happens to be deaf. Durant is the third deaf competitor on the show after Marlee Matlin season 6 (she finished 7th) and season 22 winner Nyle DiMarco, an actor and model. He can feel the beat and he shows impressive confidence during his tango. His fearlessness is infectious and if he builds his case week after week, he could last a good long while. The judges gave him great feedback and he finished with three 7s and a Len Goodman 6.

Shangela, drag queen. She is the first drag queen on the show and is paired with a male dancer ― also a first. During rehearsal, he is out of costume and identifies as he. During the performance, a glammed up Shangela identifies as she. Her experience on stage is very clear. She can dance with fierceness and commanded her salsa. She has power to last for awhile. The judges gave her deserved 7s across the board.

Cheryl Ladd, “Charlie’s Angels” star. At age 71 she is the token senior citizen on the cast. But she looks amazing and moves like someone 20 years younger. She is matched up Louis Van Amstel, back after seven years. He was an iconic early pro on the show and is the oldest pro on the show. The judges raved about her grace and youthful energy but said she needed a little more projection during her cha cha. Her scores were three 5s and a 6, a little tough. Her elegance and base popularity should effortlessly get her at least halfway through the competition.

Trevor Donovan, actor. He is an actor I don’t even recognize. He has a mortal fear of dancing, but came out fighting with a super energetic quickstep. The judges noted his innate talent while Len Goodman found it too manic and hectic. That sure beats the opposite. He might be around awhile for Len to go after some more. Carrie Ann Inaba penalized them for a lift and three of the judges gave him a harsh 5 while Bruno handed him a 6.

Credit: Disney+

Credit: Disney+

Joseph Baena, professional bodybuilder and Arnold Schwarzennegar’s son. He has a very thin Wikipedia page but he’s appropriately buff. His legs are super stiff during the jive. Len Goodman hated his footwork. Derek Hough liked his arms and Bruno appreciated his musicality. He is fun to watch and could garner votes aplenty for awhile. Three judges gave him a 6 and Len offered a grumpy 5.

Credit: DISNEY+

Credit: DISNEY+

Jessie James Decker, country singer, wife of NFL star. Decker in her first dance showed off all sorts of personality and was great fun. Technically, she was super sloppy, especially in the legs, and the judges penalized her with 5s. Decker is like some female dancers in the past that have gotten cut too early. She may also face some challenges because she is a mom of three so that might hurt her in rehearsal time.

Credit: DISNEY+

Credit: DISNEY+

Heidi D’Amelio, social media personality. She is known as the mom of a more famous social media personality and the mother/daughter gimmick is a first on the show. That alone might keep her around a few weeks. She had some dance training, she said, but not ballroom. Her first dance, a cha cha, is okay but relatively uninspired. The judges tell her to focus more and say she has definite potential to improve. The opening-week 6′s rule the day.

WHO WILL LEAVE EARLY?

Credit: DISNEY+

Credit: DISNEY+

Sam Champion, “Good Morning America” and WABC meteorologist. He’s the only celebrity with the tiniest of Georgia connections: he worked briefly at Atlanta-based The Weather Channel in 2015 and 2016. At age 61, Champion moves a bit like a dad at his daughter’s wedding. He lacks crispness in his moves and his foxtrot feels a bit flaccid. But he has a morning show cheer about him and he has Cheryl Burke has his pro dancer. She herself has a strong following and a great track record with dancers of all skill sets. The judges all give him a kind 5 out of 10.

Vinny Guadagnino, “Jersey Shore” star. He is the third “Jersey Shore” contestant to make it on the show after Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino (ninth place, season 11) and Nicole “Snookie” Polizzi (eighth place, season 18). He is definitely in shape and likes to attack the beat during his reality show. Unfortunately, club dancing doesn’t translate into ballroom dance. He has a long road to improve his technical skills and lacked punch. The judges attacked his salsa in a bad way, largely his timing or lack thereof. Judges gave him three 4s and a 5. Ouch.

Teresa Guidice, “Real Housewives of New Jersey” reality star. Previous “Real Housewives” alums on the show have had a middling record on the show, usually finishing in the middle of the pack such as NeNe Leakes (season 18, seventh place), Erika Jayne (season 24, ninth place) and Kenya Moore (season 30, 10th place). Two dropped out due to health scares. She is the weakest dancer of the alums to date. The table-turning opening was amusing but her tango was stiff and flat footed. Bruno Tonioli said she lacked passion and presence. She is not going to last long. The judges were too kind giving her 5s.

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