Like a rusty car that's being rolled out of the garage with a shiny new paint job,Dancing with the Stars toe-tapped its way back into prime time Monday night, kicking off its 17th season with a new weekly schedule (one night, two hours), a new ballroom setup and, of course, a new cast.
(Attention longtime TVGuide.com readers: We've made our own Dancing-related changes as well for the show's big 1-7. As you may have noticed by the byline, Joyce Eng has graciously handed the recap reins over to me this season, so it's my hope that I can bring the same wit and wisdom to these weekly posts that she did! Now on with our regularly scheduled recap.)
As promised by boss Conrad Green, the show begins with a massive choreographed dance number featuring the celeb/pro pairings. (Based on their moves in the opening group dance number, Snooki and Corbin Bleu may emerge as early frontrunners. We'll see how their individual routines hold up.)
Tom Bergeron wastes no time in getting down to business, so we won't either. Here's a breakdown of the night's performances:
Brant Daugherty & Peta Murgatroyd: Cha-Cha
"I heard that he's kind of hot, so maybe that's why I'm nervous," Peta notes about her new Pretty Little Liars partner, and kicks off their collaboration by noting that they're both single. Is this going to be the romance story line this season? Probably. Brant's hoping to add singing and dancing to his acting resume, as well as impress both Peta and his mom in the process. They kick off the night with a snappy routine to Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," one that's significantly more tasteful than some other live performances of the tune. Len calls it "fabulous." And we're off!
Leah Remini & Tony Dovolani: Foxtrot
Before taking the stage, Leah tells Brooke she feels like she wants to leave — something we all know she's good at! — and seems nervously stiff for the first part of the performance (except in the face, where her expressions are priceless). But towards the end of the routine, she finds her comfort zone. Bruno inexplicably encourages her to twerk next week. Please, no.
Corbin Bleu & Karina Smirnoff: Contemporary
Karina says Corbin's High School Musical chops put an added pressure on them to do well — and she's right. But it's a challenge they're apparently up for. Aside from some unsteady footwork from Corbin at one point, the two look like they've been rocking the dancefloor together for weeks.
Jack Osbourne & Cheryl Burke: Foxtrot
Jack confesses that he's not as good a dancer as his sister (and DWTS alum) Kelly, but says he was motivated to do the show to inspire other people who suffer from multiple sclerosis. With his parents Sharon and Ozzy (as well as Jennifer Lopez) watching from the audience, Jack demonstrates some impressive footwork and actually seems to be enjoying himself as he twirls Cheryl around the stage — looking like he's "skipping along the yellow brick road," according to Bruno, whom Tom Bergeron later threatens with a taser. Sharon is moved to tears (aww) after the performance, whereas Ozzy seems unclear as to what's happening around him.
Amber Riley & Derek Hough: Cha-Cha
And the award for the pair with the best chemistry out of the gate goes to ... Team Damber. During rehearsals, Derek compares them to "a virgin couple on their wedding night," but when they actually get on the floor, they couldn't be more perfectly matched. With many of her Glee castmates looking on, Amber matches Derek step for step. Bruno is so excited by their routine, he looks like he's about to have a stroke. Carrie Ann nearly faints on the table. Len says he's "palpitating, perspirating and flatulating." Nines all around!
Elizabeth Berkley & Val Chmerkovskiy: Contemporary
On the excited/scared spectrum, Elizabeth tends more toward the latter at the start of her debut performance, but quickly finds a groove. Her moves aren't nearly as terrible as the tragic cover of John Lennon's "Imagine" that plays over their routine. Dishy notes from the rehearsal footage: Berkley describes Showgirls as "a difficult time" during which she abandoned dancing, while Val awkwardly tells his new partner he was a Saved by the Bell fan, but had a crush on "the other one" (Tiffani Thiessen's Kelly Kapowski).
Bill Nye & Tyne Stecklein: Cha-Cha
Well, not everyone can impress on their first outing. The self-described "Beauty and the Geek" team may not be the most naturally fluid, but Bill is charmingly awkward in their rehearsals and their chemistry lab set is impressive, even if Bill's moves are a little stunted and stiff. Don't look for them to make it to the finals, but let's hope they stick around for at least a few more weeks, for sheer entertainment value. (And if Facebook chatter is any indication, they will.) Len compares their routine to being waxed: "painful while it happened and lovely when it was over." Ouch!
Keyshawn Johnson & Sharna Burgess: Cha-Cha
Keyshawn should probably stick to the football field. He's good with a hip-swivel, but during every other move looks like he's trying to solve a math formula in his head. (Maybe he and Bill Nye should rehearse together?) "It's like having the Empire State Building trying to be a Rockette," Bruno notes of the less-than-graceful athlete.
Christina Milian & Mark Ballas: Contemporary
With enough smoke machines to make their routine look like a Sleepy Hollowpromo, Mark and Christina turn in a performance that's solid if a little boring. Christina notes that she's never danced with a partner before, and it's evident in their occasionally out-of-step movements. Carrie Ann cautions Christina to not let self-consciousness get in her way. Is it first-time nerves? Only time will tell.
Bill Engvall & Emma Slater: Foxtrot
Engvall looked simultaneously thrilled and terrified as he sashayed around the stage to Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" in a bright pink vest, and the judges appreciate his enthusiasm if nothing else. He won't be joining the Alvin Ailey dance troupe any time soon, but the two Bills may end up rivaling each other for fan favorites based on personality.
Valerie Harper & Tristan MacManus:
After her much-publicized battle with cancer, Valerie no doubt has the sympathy/inspiration vote cornered (sorry, Jack). Dancing nine months past her self-described "expiration date," she looks great, and totally ecstatic to be twirling around with Tristan. They're not the best pair, but not the worst either. Valerie gets a deserved warm reception from the audience and the judges, but though her story is motivating in itself, she'll have to step up her moves to earn a spot in the final weeks.
Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi & Sasha Farber: Cha-Cha
Green told TVGuide.com that Snooki was (surprisingly?) one of the better performers in early rehearsals, and she proves him right. The Jersey Shore star — who says she prefers to be called "Nicole" now that she's a mom — good luck with that — looks happy and healthy as she demonstrates moves that it's almost guaranteed she's never busted out in a club before. Will Gym, Tan, Dancing become a thing?
And that's all, folks! Derek and Amber lead the way after Week 1, with Bill and Tyne bringing up the rear. What did you think of the Season 17 premiere? Who are your early favorites from the new cast? Who do you think will be the first pair eliminatednext Monday? What did you think of the new ballroom setup? Did you find the show's "Facebook integration" entertaining or distracting? Share your thoughts in the comments!