Contestant ranking in this show is based on a combination of the judges' scores and the fan votes, so popularity counts just as much as skill.
That's what makes it tricky to predict which of the stars will make it to the finals and on to the ultimate prize: a tacky disco ball trophy.
This season's stars include several actors, an R&B singer, a few sports champions, and even an illusionist/comedian. Some of them have experience dancing, others benefit from the discipline of athletics, and all have performed in front of a crowd.
Priscilla Presley - Presley studied ballet when she was younger which should give her an edge. And maybe she learned a few hip-swiveling moves from her famous ex-husband. She could get the nostalgia vote if Elvis fans are watching.
Kristi Yamaguchi - Ice skating requires grace and fancy footwork, so Olympic medalist Yamaguchi will nail lyrical dances like the waltz as well as the intricate moves of the jive and the quickstep. Skating fans are likely to enjoy "Dancing With The Stars" - and assure Yamaguchi some votes - so she should end up one of the favorites. Several betting sites have already pegged her as the winner (see more odds below.)
Adam Carolla - As a former Golden Gloves boxer and high school football player, Carolla has athletic experience. He just doesn't look like the kind of guy who would be light on his feet, and on the surface he appears too goofy to take the competition seriously. But, he's paired with two-time winner Julianne Hough, and might be able to rally his radio listeners.
Marlee Matlin - Matlin says her hearing impairment will help her focus on the dancing, and keep her from becoming distracted by everything going on around her during the competition. In ballroom dancing, the woman must follow the man's moves, so as long as she follows her partner, she could do well. She is a respected actress, but may not be popular enough to have a built-in fan base.
Shannon Elizabeth - Elizabeth studied dance when she was a girl, and was an athlete in high school. She also studies Krav Maga, the martial art developed by the Israeli Defense Forces. She's got discipline and her sex appeal puts her at an advantage with fan votes.
Steve Guttenberg - He starred in the notably awful "Don't Stop The Music," about disco icons The Village People, so there's a chance he can at least do the hustle. Other than that, he doesn't have much going for him.
Monica Seles - Speed and discipline she's got, but she doesn't appear particularly graceful. She's also 5'10", which doesn't help, but at least her professional partner is Jonathan Roberts who is around 6'0". If tennis fans tune in, she'll have more of a chance.
Penn Jillette - The hulking illusionist/comedian might turn out to be a dark horse. He's an accomplished juggler and there's certainly grace to that skill. Many big fellas are known to be much lighter on their feet than expected, so don't rule him out yet.
Mario - The 21-year-old R&B/pop singer shows off some smooth moves in the music video for his mega-hit "Let Me Love You," which spent nine weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 chart a couple of years ago. That, along with the fact that he's paired with the sizzling Karina Smirnoff, should give him a nice advantage. He's definitely one to watch this season.
Jason Taylor - Emmitt Smith won season 3 and fellow NFL legend Jerry Rice was the runner-up in Season two. Will 6'6," 255-pound defensive end Taylor be able to have the same success? He towers over his 5'6" partner, Edyta Sliwinska, which doesn't help, but he does have his own set of fans and the edge of being a disciplined (and handsome) athlete. The sexy Silwinska ain't chopped liver either.
Cristian De La Fuente - Cristian says on his MySpace page that he's "always wanted to learn how to dance," so it doesn't seem like he's had past experience (although he was involved in athletics at school). He's lucky to be paired with Cheryl Burke, the professional partner who won with Emmitt Smith and Drew Lachey. He'll earn fan votes for being a hottie - especially if he has an opportunity to take his shirt off.
Marissa Jaret Winokur - She won a Tony award for playing the starring role of Tracy Turnblad in the Broadway production of "Hairspray" and before that she was Jan in the touring company of "Grease." So she has dance training and - based on the choreography of those two musicals - she'll probably do really well with the high-energy jive and swing. But, in a competition where fan loyalty can easily trump the judges' approval rating, Winokur could be at a disadvantage.
Likely to make the finals: Yamaguchi, Mario, and Elizabeth
Possible surprises: Jillette, Winokur
Fan favorites: Taylor, De La Fuente, Presley, Seles
Likely to leave early: Guttenberg, Carolla
Odds To Win (Via Sportsbook.com)
Kristi Yamaguchi 7 - 4
Jason Taylor 3 - 1
Mario 7 - 2
Marissa Jaret Winokur 6 - 1
Shannon Elizabeth 6 - 1
Cristian de la Fuente 8 - 1
Monica Seles 8 - 1
Priscilla Presley 10 - 1
Marlee Matlin 15 - 1
Penn Jillette 15 - 1
Steve Guttenberg 20 - 1
Adam Carolla 30 - 1
By Judy Rosen