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'Dancing With the Stars' Season 18 cast includes Olympians Meryl Davis, Charlie White

Figure Skating - Ice Dancing - Gold: Meryl

(Credit: Getty Images / Ryan Pierse)

And just like that, we have a pair of frontrunners in the forthcoming season of "Dancing With the Stars," starting March 17: Olympic skating champs Meryl Davis and Charlie White have joined the cast. Of course, the only real question here is not whether they will be at the top of the leader board by season's end -- but which one will (likely) prevail? (They will be partnered with Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Sharna Burgess, respectively.) 

And this news: Billy Dee Williams (Emma Slater) will be on the show, and so will the 55-year-old Drew Carey (Cheryl Burke). Also: Sean Avery (Karina Smirnoff), formerly of the Rangers.

And more news still: Amy Purdy (Derek Hough), a snowboarding "paralympian" who according to ABC lost her legs to meningitis when she was 19, will be here, too. Expect her to be around for the long haul, especially with  Hough along for this ride. 

Here's the rest:

James Maslow (Peta Murgatroyd): The 23-year-old star of Nickelodeon's "Big Time Rush" has been chosen in an obvious attempt to "youth up" this very old show -- one of the oldest, in terms of audience, on the air, which has made "DWTS" a "sales problem" for ABC. Maslow to the rescue!

Cody Simpson (Witney Carson): Speaking of which ... another teen heartthrob joins; will do well because ABC will make certain he will. No early exit for Simpson, 17, who should bring in some boppers, who will make the audience (theoretically) a little bit younger.

NeNe Leakes (Tony Dovolani): This Housewife has been reported as a potential cast member almost before she was a "Real Housewives of Atlanta" star. (Not really, but ....)

Diana Nyad (Henry Byalikov): The swimming champ ... Smart hire here. Nyad, 64, is one of those people -- an indomitable force, who should have a backstory (not to mention backstroke) that will keep the show/judges rattling on for weeks. 

Danica McKellar (Valentin Chmerkovskiy): Winnie from "The Wonder Years." She's 39.

Candace Cameron Bure (Mark Ballas): D.J. Tanner, "Full House." Another long-rumored addition. She's 37.

Bottom line: Interesting cast, with no obvious weak links, unless Carey would qualify (he does). With this cast, "DWTS" is not merely covering all of its demographic bases, but noticeably shifting them to a younger base. Will it work? (Do you know a teen who has ever watched "DWTS"? Then I think you have your answer.) This cast at least stands the chance of proving the exception. Avery, 33, a famed enforcer, will struggle to get the audience vote -- that's just how this audience swings, while Williams -- at the age of 76 -- has that going against him, too. Nyad's an athlete; should help. Leakes, 43, has notoriety and reality fame; should also help. But obviously all eyes will be on Davis, 27, and White, 26. Just to point out what's so obvious, they're the ones to beat.   

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