Valerie Harper &  her new “DWTS” partner Tristan MacManus

How pathetic can the ABC networks get showcasing a woman with terminal brain cancer in “Dancing With the Stars”?

Worse, Irish dancer Tristan MacManus, a great performer, will be the partner of Valerie Harper on season 17 of the competition.

He should refuse to play his part in this charade.

MacManus has become a fan favorite during his time on ABC’s hit show  but this year, he’s destined to become part of a circus animal show.

For cheap ratings ABC will pump up the story of the dying Harper and flog it for all it is worth. Look out for the “cancer dancer” headlines.

74-year-old actress Valerie Harper of “Rhoda” fame is battling terminal brain cancer. It is a serious issue but will be played right alongside story lines on Snooki from “Jersey Shore”, also a participant on DWTS.

Harper, best known for playing Rhoda Morgenstern on the iconic “Mary Tyler Moore Show” and its spin-off, “Rhoda” in the 1970s, joined the cast after receiving approval from her team of doctors. In January 2013, she was diagnosed with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare and lethal form of cancer that attacks the membranes surrounding the brain.

Doctors told the actress that they didn’t expect her to live through spring, but her body’s response to the powerful medication regimen she’s on surprised them. She told People magazine that she’s feeling much better, and her brain scans are much better, too.

“The doctors tell me there's less evidence of cancer, which is very unusual,” she told People.

“However, they both say it's not a case of if, but when. And I can live with that."

Harper, who danced professionally in her teens to help pay for her acting lessons, hopes that her decision to compete in the physically demanding show will help others facing similar obstacles.

“[It] might prove inspiring to people to see a 74-year-old woman with terminal cancer dancing,” she said.

Actually it won’t. It will trivialize and Hollywoodize a deep personal tragedy of a talented woman who will be paraded around like a circus animal alongside Snooki and all the other has beens.

This season will mark the fifth one for MacManus, who joined the show in March 2011 as part of the “dance troupe” who performed routines at the beginning of each show.

The Bray native, 31, was elevated to a dance-pro role in September 2011, when he was paired with legal eagle Nancy Grace. His other past partners have included singer Gladys Knight, actress Pamela Anderson and Olympic champion Dorothy Hamill.

McManus and his celebrities have never finished higher than 5th place (with Grace). If he really wants to be a winner he should refuse to take part in this year’s circus.

That would really make the Irishman step out in a whole different way.