Paula Deen

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"I am intrigued!"

Dancing With the Stars host Tom Bergeron tells us that just like the fans, he's waiting with bated breath to find out who'll be a part of the new season 17 cast, set to be announced Sept. 4.

"Some of the casting rumors are true," Bergeron tells E! News, "and some of them are not true at all. Some of them might reflect contract negotiations that are going in one direction or another. But nothing is final yet."

While sources confirm to E! News that Paula Deen and Geraldo Rivera both have been approached and have passed on the opportunity, we are also told that producers are looking for a "younger and sexier cast" to appeal to a younger demo. And that cast will most likely include the return of controversial pro dancer Maksim Chmerkovsiy, the 33-year-old Ukrainian heartthrob who did not return for season 15.

"I am very fond of Maks," Bergeron tells me. "I've always said that we have such a great bench of wonderful talent. I'm always bummed to see them go away for a season or two and I'm always happy to see them come back."

As previously reported, producers approached Lindsay Lohan for season 16, and we're told there has been some discussion of approaching her again for season 17, now that she has completed her rehab stint. However, according to show insiders, producers believe it's in Lindsay's and the show's best interest to wait some time before approaching her again.

Dancing With the Stars does not shy away from controversy, having previously cast Kate Gosselin and Bristol Palin, and unsuccessfully approached cyclist Lance Armstrong and political talker Ann Coulter.

ABC does not comment on casting rumors.

As for the new format of only one episode per week, Bergeron says he's fully on board with the change. "I'm really hopeful. For a show that's been around for eight years, this is a real way to refresh it and to make it a much more compelling two hours. It's great one-stop shopping. You got all the great competition and the eviction in one episode."

And for any confused fans, Bergeron has this to say about how the new format will work: "Couples will be eliminated at the end of the episode. But the judges votes from that night will still count. So the viewer votes from the previous week carry over and are coupled with the judges votes from that night. So they're still dancing for their lives there."

Will you be watching?

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