TV | Inside TV

'Dancing with the Stars' casting: How do you top a polarizing contestant like Bristol Palin?

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bristolImage Credit: Adam Larkey/ABCNo time to rest on one’s laurels: The producers of Dancing with the Stars returned to the drawing board this week to begin casting the show’s 12th edition that’ll bow in late March. Executive Producer Conrad Green and casting guru Deena Katz definitely have their work cut out for them: Though the show has featured its share of headline-grabbing contestants (Hi, Marie Osmond, Melissa Rycroft and Kate Gosselin!), no one has been quite so polarizing - and great for ratings - as season 11’s Bristol Palin.

“Each season we try to assemble a cast of characters that brings us something new,” Green told EW. “That was the thought behind Bristol. We hadn’t had someone quite like her, and it worked. There’s a peculiar alchemy and there’s a lot of luck involved.”

Though Green and Katz don’t follow any hard and fast rules when it comes to casting the show, patterns have emerged over the years. The show tries to find someone for everybody, which is why we’ll always see a contestant who appeals to younger viewers (Kyle Massey, Monique Coleman, Sabrina Bryan), as well as someone for older fans (Florence Henderson, Cloris Leachman, Buzz Aldrin), reality show groupees (Jerry Springer, The Situation, Kim Kardashian), music lovers (Donnie Osmond, Nicole Scherzinger, Mel B, Michael Bolton) and sporty types (Kristi Yamaguchi, Apolo Ohno, Chad Ochocinco and Rick Fox).

One thing’s for sure: It’s gotten a lot easier to recruit contestants because Stars offers a much richer salary then it did in those early days. Though the producers have never commented on how much those B- and C-level stars can earn for doing the cha cha cha, a source close to the production told EW that each participant can gross a minimum of $100,000. Escalators are also attached so each hoofer has the potential to make more for each week they manage to survive, though the last three dancers who end up in the finals earn the same amount. So Palin may not have taken home the mirror ball trophy, but she definitely earned as much as winner Jennifer Grey and second-place finisher Massey. (ABC won, too: The results show on Nov. 23 attracted more than 24 million viewers - its biggest audience in six seasons.)

There are plenty of polarizing newsmakers who could fill the void left by Palin (Heidi Montag comes to mind) but sadly, the producers never divulge potential candidates. Jamie Lee Curtis seems especially ripe for the picking - after all, she was there every week this season to cheer on her buddy Grey - but alas, her publicist apparently told Stars’ Katz that the Freaky Friday actress was much too busy. Maybe Glenn Beck has a secret desire to wear fringe?

Originally posted November 30 2010 — 2:12 PM EST

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