Maks is back!
"Dancing With the Stars" alum Maksim Chmerkovskiy is set to return to the ballroom, but he'll be holding a paddle, not a partner! The Ukrainian professional dancer - who competed in 13 of the first 15 seasons of the show before sitting out the past two - will join Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli at the judges' table, according to an ABC press release.
When two-time mirrorball winner Julianne Hough filled in at the judges' table earlier this season, some cried "nepotism" because she judged her brother, Derek Hough and his partner, "Glee" star Amber Riley. While Julianne made it clear she was judging the celeb dancer, not the pro, she later got flack for her dissy critique of childhood pal Mark Ballas.
Pop superstar Cher never pretended to be a technical ballroom judge (in a press call with reporters, she even admitted, "I'm so not qualified to be judging on a technical basis, because I don't know really anything about ballroom dancing"), but the Grammy-winning singer brought her own unique brand of humor to the panel. (One of her most memorable moments: Calling out contestant Jack Osbourne for looking like a pimp.) Still, some felt the pop icon didn't have a place on the panel.
As for this season's third guest judge, perhaps this time will be the charm. While Maks has plenty of personal connections to "DWTS" (two of his exes and his brother competed on the show this season), the outspoken pro also has an extensive dance background and a ton of experience on the long running ABC dancing competition. He's also long made it known that he'd like to work the judges' table -- and that he'd be good at it. Plus, everything's just buzzier when Maks is around.
Earlier this year the 33-year-old dancer told Wetpaint: "I would love to be part of the show in one way or another. I just don't know if I see myself being a pro…I want it to have the ratings we used to have, and if me judging will spice some things up, then I'd love to do it. I would never belittle anybody. I've called out the judges before for saying certain things I didn't think were in the spirit of the show. If I'm ever given the position to judge, I'm in. Watch out, yes, but it's never going to be derogatory."
As for Mak's personal connections to this season's contestants, it won't be much of an issue.
He'll miss his little bro by one week -- Val Chmerkovskiy and his celeb partner Elizabeth Berkley were eliminated in the quarterfinals round. But Val previously made his feelings known on the subject of Judge Maks, writing on his blog for Today: "I think in general, he would be a great judge on the show, period. But every time that thought came up, the righteousness in me always said, 'You know that's never going to happen! I'm still on the show and the whole cast is going to complain!'" (Hmmm…interestingly, the announcement of Mak's return was made just days after Val's elimination.)
Mak's ex-flame, Peta Murgatroyd, was also recently voted off of the competition (her partner was actor Brant Daugherty), so there's no love lost (or low scores!) there. But what about his ex-fiance, Karina Smirnoff, who's still working her dancing shoes with Corbin Bleu? Fortunately, there's no drama between the two anymore, and they even reunited last summer on Broadway for "Forever Tango."
Looks like the timing's just right for Maks to bounce back into the ballroom.
"Dancing With the Stars" airs on Mondays at 8:00 p.m. on ABC.
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