It's finally time to close the blinds, push the living room table up against the wall and pull that ruffled shirt out of the closet because it is time to GET. YOUR. DANCE. ON. Dancing with the Stars returned for Season 24 tonight with a whole new cast of celebrities and "celebrities" ready to embarrass themselves, stun us with their gracefulness, or use DWTS as a stepping stone to join the White House's cabinet.
It was the 400th episode of Dancing with the Stars, but there was no time to celebrate because there was a boatload of stars who needed to dance, and it reminded how different the pacing is of the show in its early episodes to its later episodes. Late last season, Dancing with the Stars was practically twiddling its thumbs or bloating episodes with gimmicks to stretch out the lack of competitors left. This episode? It was like speed dating in a Tilt-A-Whirl. First impressions were more important than ever, as everyone fought to not be this year's Jake Austin.
Let's revisit the dances and get this thing started!
The dance: Starting off the competition is never an easy thing to do, and on top of that, there's a good chance that most people don't know who Normani is. I still don't. But hey, IT DOESN'T MATTER BECAUSE GIRL CAN DANCE. The best thing Normani has going for her is actually her vibe (is vibe a thing?), as she beamed with personality and competitiveness while knocking out this quickstep in a shimmery gown with perfectly classic choreography with modern flourishes. If you're trying to set the tone and want to be remembered seven hours later or whenever it is that the rest of this massive cast gets their chance to dance, this was the way to do it. Dare I say... contender?
What the judges said: Len was like, it took too long to dance! But it was good when it started. Then he complained a bit more when Julianne started applauding her. I love Len so much. Bruno screamed and snapped, and I think somewhere along the line he said it was good. Carrie Ann actually understood the dance and the tease-y intro and gave it the thumbs up.
The score: 27/40. Dang these judges are brutal in Week 1.
The dance: Nancy was one intact shin from becoming a living breathing Disney princess, and you could see some of that sparkle from her Olympics days shining though in this brief dance. She brought her grace (and infectious smile) from her skating days as her articulation in her limbs is a strength. But there were points you could see that dancing is new to her. She'll get it, though. My only question is, Billy Joel? Going for the expecting grandmother crowd, are we?
What the judges said: Julianne loved her extension, but Bruno said she needs to stick her feet out a bit more. Gotta stick everything out, Nancy! Len said they had great promise.
The score: 28/40. At this point, the rule is don't give too many points. Just in the neighborhood of 7s. Until someone stinks it up.
The dance: First of all, I really enjoy it when the show pairs dancers together who have a generational gap, because honestly it makes me feel better about myself. God bless you, Witney, for not knowing Chris' characters from Saturday Night Live. Kids these days, right? Second, hey, you know he had to dance to this song, and by doing it in Week 1, it was an admission that he had zero illusions of making it to Week 3. As for the dance, it was better than Night at the Roxbury. Barely.
What the judges said: Bruno called it the perfect depiction of a cha cha with a hangover. Carrie Ann said he was doing intentionally bad dancing, and Chris was like... sure. Len said the best thing about the Cha Cha was that he didn't have to watch it again. Pretty much everyone didn't really know what to say, and Chris bombed a joke when he was talking to Erin Andrews. What the hell is going on?
The score: 17/40. Is that bad? Random thought: Why haven't Chris and Martin Short done some goofy father-son comedy movie?
The dance: Bonner's intro video had plenty of horse whinnying sound effects, so good job ABC video department. The ladies in the audience loved this dance, which was a pyrotechnic performance crafted in a country-music laboratory from hell. The dance itself needed work — Bonner looked particularly reserved and stiff out there, a little too much cool cowboy — but this was merely a sexualized celebration of the American cowboy and awful modern country music. Is that a bad thing? Hell no, this is television.
What the judges said: Carrie Ann's eyes bugged out of her head and she went "AAAAAOOOOOOOOOGA!" Julianne and Len pointed out Bonner's potential. Bruno loved Bonner's forward thrust. Erin made a bunch of double entendres. Yep, these two have been reduced to "When will they have sex?"
The score: 22/40. Yehaw! Is Sharna the show's go-to dancer for hunk who nearly died?
The dance: Charo's intro video focused a lot on her boobs! Just lettin' you know. This was by far the most fun performance of the night so far, a Cuban treat that served Charo's reputation well. (Even though she's Spanish.) Look, she's not going to win, so just enjoy the ride while it lasts. But she moved a lot better than I thought she would! And with her magnetic personality and powerful stage presence, she's exactly what this show needs.
What the judges said: Honestly, who cared what the judges said, Charo hooted and howled after every comment and it was awesome. She is the only person who could match Bruno's insanity.
The score: 21/40. Charo was about to kill Bruno for giving her a 5. I am rooting for Charo.
The dance: Oh god, this guy. I don't blame him for being ABC's reality pet for a while, may as well live it up while you can. The dance was basically Nick Viall dancing, if that makes sense. Nothing special, but not entirely embarrassing. The good thing for Nick is that he is game for this type of stuff, so he could lean into his "fame" and make fun of himself if he's smart. YES, Vanessa was in the crowd cheering him on.
What the judges said: Julianne said she knows he doesn't quit. Good one, Julianne! Bruno said his hands were vulture claws and he can't grab a girl like that, which is new advice to me! Len did the standard, "Hey first week, good enough. Where's my gin?"
The score: 24/40, entirely average!
The dance: She's the pro, so let's be critical. There were some synching issues, and for being the heavy favorite she didn't come out and slay everyone. Okay, I'm all out of criticisms. She does a lot of things without effort, meaning that when she gets it all together, she's got an opportunity to really dazzle. Maks loves to tell a story with his dances, and we got that. He's also smart, and knew that Heather could lead much of the routine, and she did. The pieces are all here for one of the best couples ever on the show, but we'll see if they come together.
What the judges said: Carrie Ann said she didn't feel like she got to know her and that her personality was hidden by the choreography. And Julianne pointed out that ballroom dancing is much different from the dancing that Heather did previously. Len said they were a match made in heaven. I said, "Sure, it was pretty good."
The score: 28/40, tied with Nancy.
The dance: Disclaimer: I was rooting for the Cleveland Indians. I mean, I guess he had to dance to this song, but it's one of the corniest sports songs ever. There wasn't much to the dance, which was extremely baseball themed, but David was actually very solid out there. And Lindsay was her usual perky, bright self; she's like the MSG of Dancing with the Stars, she just makes everything around her a little better.
What the judges said: Carrie Ann was totally surprised, and Len said he got to first base. Look at the Brit, making a baseball reference! He didn't even say it was a wicked googly!
The score: 28/40, as predictable as the Tampa Bay Rays winning this year's World Series!
The dance: There was a real-live unicorn on stage! Erika basically performed a live version of one of her music videos in her first dance, decked out in flashy red sequins and sparkly somethingorothers while strobe lights gave us all epilepsy. Technically, she really pulled off some of the quicker steps well but struggled with any type of extension. However, she crawled along the floor like a cat in heat better than anyone else.
What the judges said: Len was like, this was a little too raunchy. "Double expensive and triple X-rated," said Bruno. Erika did not look like she appreciated any criticism from judges.
The score: 24/40. Erika was STONED FACED when the scores were read. She might murder someone before the season is over.
The dance: It's probably unfair to use this song because it is scientifically proven to be a party starter! But the real magic here was NFL pro Rashad, who probably had the best showing of personality out there all night, and that's the most important thing in Week 1. Come out, and let people know who you are. He's got some natural ability out there too, and he was able to incorporate that into the dance, too. This was everything you wanted from a first dance. Good job, and sorry I never took you on my fantasy football team.
What the judges said: Julianne said it was the best dance of the night. Len said he was in front of the music and Carrie Ann made the sad trombone noise. He went on for a long time about stuff, and then at the end said it was terrific and well done. Does Len listen to himself when he's talking?
The score: 31/40, tops for the night! He really hit a home run with that dance! Football is the best, right?
The dance: To answer your first question, yes he did wear his gold chains while dancing. To answer your second question, yes he did emerge from an A-Team van to start the dance. To answer your third question, no his back did not break. This was great, not in the "successful dancing" sense, but in the entertainment value. Mr. T wasn't really into the dancing part, but hot damn he kicked ass out there. If Mr. T came out and danced his ass off, that wouldn't be Mr. T! Instead, he stood out there with his hands on his hips and grunted so loud that the mics picked it up. I mean, come on. This was fantastic. I give it a million points.
What the judges said: They all loved it, even though they knew it was pretty awful! That seemed to be the general sentiment from everyone. I'd rather see Mr. T out there than everyone else, personally.
The score: 20/40. Only 999,980 points less than I would have given it.
The dance: Lasers! I love lasers! Unfortunately, Simone looked like a frightened little rabbit out there. That's okay, it's Week 1 jitters. As a gymnast, Simone clearly has the tools to go far this season, and once she gets it all together, she'll be near the top of the leaderboard every week. There was nothing wrong with this dance, but I left a little underwhelmed. I don't know, I'm kind of looking for personality and something special rather than technical moves.
What the judges said: Carrie Ann loved it, and said they were the power couple. Len called it the dance of the night. Everyone loved it! They loved it a lot!
The score: 32/40. The highest score of the night! And that's why I am not a professional dancing judge!
What did you think? Is Rashad your favorite? Is Simone the frontrunner? Did Heather disappoint? Do you think someone else will win?
Dancing with the Stars airs Monday nights at 8/7c on ABC.