Can 'Dancing With the Stars' save the series by going toextremes?

Image: Dancing With the Stars Kelsey McNeal / ABC
"Dancing With the Stars" is offering up a lot of changes this season, but there are no tweaks where it may be needed most: the panel.

Sometimes glitz, glam and ballroom basics just aren't enough. After 15 seasons as one of the top contenders in the world of reality TV competitions, "Dancing With the Stars" last season saw a steady decline in viewers. In fact, the season 16 finale had the lowest ratings for any season ender since the show began.

So what's a ballroom bash to do? Apparently, when the ratings get down, "Dancing" gets desperate. And that means changes — big ones — are on the way.

The first hints that the upcoming season would have a distinctly different feel were revealed before the last one wrapped. Back in May, ABC announced its fall schedule with one glaring omission. "Dancing" would be back in its usual two-hour timeslot for Monday nights, but Tuesday's results show was nowhere to be seen in the lineup.

Cutting back to one night per week turned out to be just one extreme measure the show had in store for fans. The others became clear just a week and a half ago, when the new, somewhat-star-studded cast was revealed.

Harking back to the sort of polarizing personalities from much-talked-about seasons past (think Kate Gosselin, Bristol Palin and, of course, Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino), this time around, "Jersey Shore's" former party girl, Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, will bring her A-game to the ballroom. (Here's hoping she leaves her "Jersey turnpike" routine behind.)

It seems the "Dancing" powers-that-be intended the season to be packed with several shockers. In addition to Snooki, actress Leah Remini, who recently made headlines for her split from the Church of Scientology, is set to hit the dance floor. And if multiple sources connected closely with the show are to be believed, there was even an attempt to get embattled celebrity chef Paula Deen to sign up for the season too.

But in the end, the most shocking casting coup the show pulled off was nabbing actress Valerie Harper — a mere six months after she first revealed her battle with terminal cancer. While her doctors recently declared that she was "pretty close to a remission," the 74-year-old's condition certainly makes her stand out as a contestant unlike any other the show has featured before.

  • Slideshow Photos

    Image: KEYSHAWN JOHNSON, NICOLE "SNOOKI" POLIZZI, BILL ENGVALL, VALERIE HARPER, JACK OSBOURNE, CORBIN BLEU, CHRISTINA MILIAN, BILL NYE, ELIZABETH BERKLEY LAUREN, BRANT DAUGHERTY, AMBER RILEY

    'Dancing With the Stars' season 17 cast

    The ballroom beginners set to battle for the mirror-ball trophy this season include Valerie Harper, Bill Nye "The Science Guy" and Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi.

  • 'Dancing With the Stars' season 17 cast

    of

    Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff -

    He's already proved himself a triple threat on-screen in Disney's "High School Musical" series, and the 24-year-old will now get to prove his ballroom merit with Karina Smirnoff.

    Craig Sjodin / ABC
  • 'Dancing With the Stars' season 17 cast

    of

    Valerie Harper and Tristan Macmanus -

    Despite an ongoing battle with terminal cancer that her doctor only recently revealed to be "pretty close to a remission," Harper will be part of the season 17 cast. The 74-year-old will be joined by returning pro dancer Tristan MacManus.

    Craig Sjodin / ABC
  • 'Dancing With the Stars' season 17 cast

    of

    Bill Nye and Tyne Stecklein -

    Actor, television host and all-round "Science Guy" Nye, 57, will groove with "Dancing" first-timer Tyne Stecklein.

    Craig Sjodin / ABC
  • 'Dancing With the Stars' season 17 cast

    of

    Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi and Sasha Farber -

    The 25-year-old reality TV star will follow in the footsteps of her former fellow "Jersey Shore" cast member, Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino," by taking the "Dancing" stage. She'll work with former Troupe member and first-time pro Sasha Farber.

    Craig Sjodin / ABC
  • 'Dancing With the Stars' season 17 cast

    of

    Brant Daugherty and Peta Murgatroyd -

    The "Pretty Little Liars" star, 28, will waltz with Peta Murgatroyd.

    Craig Sjodin / ABC
  • 'Dancing With the Stars' season 17 cast

    of

    Amber Riley and Derek Hough -

    The 27-year-old actress and singer, best known for her role as Mercedes Jones on "Glee," will learn from "Dancing's" only four-time champ, Derek Hough.

    Craig Sjodin / ABC
  • 'Dancing With the Stars' season 17 cast

    of

    Christina Milian and Mark Ballas -

    The 31-year-old actress, singer-songwriter and social media correspondent for "The Voice" will dance with two-time pro winner Mark Ballas.

    Craig Sjodin / ABC
  • 'Dancing With the Stars' season 17 cast

    of

    Bill Engvall and Emma Slater -

    Actor-comedian Engvall, 56, will move to the music with newbie pro Emma Slater.

    Craig Sjodin / ABC
  • 'Dancing With the Stars' season 17 cast

    of

    Elizabeth Berkley and Val Chmerkovskiy -

    The 41-year-old film and television star behind memorable parts in "Saved By the Bell" and the now-cult classic "Showgirls" will hit the floor with Val Chmerkovskiy.

    Craig Sjodin / ABC
  • 'Dancing With the Stars' season 17 cast

    of

    Keyshawn Johnson and Sharna Burgess -

    The retired NFL wide receiver, 41, will learn the ballroom basics from Sharna Burgess.

    Craig Sjodin / ABC
  • 'Dancing With the Stars' season 17 cast

    of

    Jack Osbourne and Cheryl Burke -

    The 27-year-old reality TV star, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2012, plans to show fans his dance-floor skills alongside two-time champ Cheryl Burke.

    Craig Sjodin / ABC
  • 'Dancing With the Stars' season 17 cast

    of

    Leah Remini and Tony Dovolani -

    The former "King of Queens" actress, 43, who made headlines when she left the Church of Scientology earlier this year, will learn the steps with hoofer Tony Dovolani.

    Craig Sjodin / ABC

Just as notable as the show's efforts to lure viewers back to the dance battle are the efforts it's not making.

Sure, cutting out a second weekly show (that was often filler-packed anyway) isn't a bad idea, as long as there's time enough for all of the performances, a fitting elimination and a hefty share of wisecracks from host Tom Bergeron. And jaw-dropping casting choices are an old standby that's helped before (even if Harper marks a new twist on the theme). But what about other changes fans have been clamoring for?

Why are there no alterations to "Dancing's" imperfect panel? Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba have spent more time bickering than offering up constructive criticism in recent seasons. And why not bring back old fan-favorite pro dancers — such as Maksim Chmerkovskiy or Edyta Sliwinska? The familiar faces would be welcomed alongside the growing trend toward first-timers. And lastly, why not replace co-host Brook Burke-Charvet (sometimes called the "Brooke-bot" by bored "Dancing" fans) with a rotating selection of stars who've appeared on the show in the past? Because ... well, just because.

Only the bigwigs behind the ballroom staple really know why not, and only time will tell if the current changes are enough to send the ratings swinging back in the right direction. But if they're not, at least it's clear the show still has plenty of room to really shake things up.

The new season of "Dancing With the Stars" kicks off Monday night at 8 p.m. on ABC.

TOP