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Originally published Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 5:31 PM

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No dirt in 'Dancing' cast this season

ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" has announced the cast list for the 14th season, which includes football player Donald Driver; former child star Melissa Gilbert; singer Gladys Knight and tennis great Martina Navratilova. Oh, and of course the bad-boy dancer, Maksim Chmerkovskiy.

The Washington Post

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Next month, ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" will head into battle with NBC's ratings monster "The Voice" on Monday nights without its arsenal of polarizing politicos and docu-soap reality stars.

That's right: No Kate Gosselin, no Bristol Palin, no Tom DeLay, no The Situation — not even a stray Kardashian.

Instead, the show's producers have populated the 14th edition, which kicks off March 19, with an army of likable television stars, sports figures, kid stars and singers — even an opera star.

Where's the fun in that?

This year's lineup, in alphabetical order:

• Gavin DeGraw: pop star/"One Tree Hill" theme-song singer.

• Donald Driver: former Super Bowl winner and leading receiver in Green Bay Packers history.

• Roshon Fegan: Disney Channel star.

• Melissa Gilbert: former "Little House on the Prairie" star.

• Katherine Jenkins: mezzo-soprano.

• Gladys Knight: former lead singer, Gladys Knight & the Pips.

• William Levy: star of Univision's No. 1-rated telenovela, "Triunfo del Amor."

• Maria Menounos: host of the celebrity suck-up show "Extra."

• Martina Navratilova: tennis great.

• Sherri Shepherd: co-host of "The View."

• Jack Wagner: former "General Hospital" and "Melrose Place" star.

• Jaleel White, a.k.a. Urkel: star of ABC's long-running former TGIF sitcom, "Family Matters."

"Dancing's" ratings tend to rise and fall based in large measure on the celebrities who are cast. And polarizing political figures and docu-soap reality stars seem to generate a lot of publicity for the show, although popular sports figures and former TV stars tend to win the competition.

The show's most-watched season was No. 12, which aired in spring 2011, and was won by Pittsburgh Steeler Hines Ward, with former "Cheers" sweetheart Kirstie Alley coming in a close second. That edition averaged 23 million viewers.

The relatively nonpolarizing cast of celebs isn't entirely by design. This month, a rep for Herman Cain said the former GOP presidential hopeful rejected an offer to participate in the dance-competition series, because "he can't dance in an eight-count. He can only dance in a nine-count" — as in his 9-9-9 plan.

Not to be outdone, former GOP presidential hopeful Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota has said she, too, decided not to participate in the upcoming season of "Dancing," even though she won a polka-dancing competition in the 10th grade at her high school in Anoka, Minn.

Bachmann said that, even though it appeared "Dancing" had not gotten around to inviting her. A Bachmann aide explained that she got a jump on turning down the show just to quash the buzz out there, so she could get back to the more serious issue of "repealing the government takeover of health care."

The folks on "Dancing" are counting on this likable bunch to pull in strong ratings for the show, which for the first time will air in the teeth of NBC's soph singing show "The Voice," which has a head start thanks to a post-Super Bowl night launch.

Tuesday's celeb-cast unveiling means that, officially, the most controversial participant on the 14th edition of "Dancing" is its professional dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Just last week, Maks was quoted as saying he still hadn't gotten word whether he'd be back. That kept alive the drama that started last season, when the irascible hoofer suggested to the show's much-loved senior judge Len Goodman that maybe it was time to retire. Moments later, Maks told show co-host Brooke Burke Charvet, "With all due respect, this is my show."

For this edition, Maks has been paired with Gilbert, the child star who was a two-term Screen Actors Guild president.

As the new celebs were unveiled Tuesday morning on ABC's infotainment show "Good Morning America," "Dancing" host Tom Bergeron asked Maks how he felt about his new partner.

"My partner's all right," Maks said noncommittally.

Gilbert rolled her eyes.

"And here we go!" "GMA's" Robin Roberts said giddily.

Then, as though remembering some script he'd been told to stick to, Maks added: "Listen, you know, I love being back. I love the new cast. I think it's going to be a phenomenal season. And I'm looking forward to seeing everybody dance."

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