Let the Drama Begin: Dancing Kicks Off Tonight!
03/17/2008 AT 12:00 AM EDT
Four months ago Dancing with the Stars fans saw IndyCar driver Helio Castroneves speed away with the season five disco ball trophy. Who will succeed the fiery Brazilian? A whole new cast is set to hit the ballroom floor Monday night and already buzz is circulating about who’s hot, and who's not.
The show kicks off a two-night season premiere starting Monday on ABC. The six male celebrity contestants will dance the first night, while the six female celebrity contestants will perform Tuesday. On March 24, all 12 celebrities will perform again and the next night, Dancing will have its first-ever double-elimination results show. Viewer votes combined with the judges' scores from both weeks will send one male and one female celebrity packing.
Back for a sixth season of hosting the live dance competition is Tom Bergeron, who told PEOPLE at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation's 29th College Television Awards Gala on Saturday, "There's going to be some really great personalities here."
Indeed, the lineup includes outspoken entertainers like Penn Gillette and Adam Carolla, along with mild-mannered sports powerhouses Monica Seles, Jason Taylor and Kristi Yamaguchi. Actors Cristian de la Fuente and Steve Guttenberg, R&B singer Mario, and actresses Marlee Matlin, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Priscilla Presley and Shannon Elizabeth round out the cast. (See all of them here.)
Last season, viewers experienced live television like never before. Marie Osmond fainted after performing the samba with partner Jonathan Roberts. Drama continued when Jennie Garth fell during a live performance and later when Cheetah Girl Sabrina Bryan -… an early frontrunner -… was shockingly eliminated from the competition in week six.
Can the show top itself?
"I don't know that you can think of it that way because you can kill yourself trying to top it," Bergeron says, noting that this season's musical guests include Sheryl Crow, The Jonas Brothers, Def Leppard, Ashlee Simpson and Rascal Flatts. "There's an element that's really the unexpected element when you get 12 personalities together. They will or they won't mesh in a certain way that's interesting."
Prepping for opening night has been trying for some of the contestants. Seles, a former tennis great who wore sneakers for decades, is wearing nothing but heels until her ballroom debut. Gillette has dropped 47 pounds and Matlin is counting steps in her sleep. Yamaguchi's skating background may give her an edge on the dance floor, but, Bergeron quips, "to get her out of those skates was a pain. She was ruining the dance floor." -- Monica Rizzo and Alondra HernandezJohn Stanton/WireImage; Brian Ach/WireImage