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Dancing With The Stars: Week 1, Part 1 (season premiere)

by Erin Martell, posted Mar 18th 2008 2:21AM

Tom Bergeron, Anna Trebunskaya, and Steve Guttenberg

(S06E01) Tom Bergeron opened the season premiere by telling us that "anything can happen" this season, and I officially began my Dancing With The Stars exaggeration tally. They're changing things up a little for Season Six. Week One will feature two nights of performances and no elimination. Week Two will include one night of performances and a double elimination on the second night. Next Tuesday the lowest-scoring man and the lowest-scoring woman will be sent home. Got all that? Now, let's get to the performances!

Before the standard introductions, we were treated to a bonus performance by the professionals ("Let Me Entertain You," Robbie Williams). This was a much better way to start the show, and I hope they do this more often. I was curious to get a first look at newcomer Fabian Sanchez, Marlee Matlin's partner, as well. We learned that this season's crop of contestants includes the youngest contestant ever, the most "mature" contestant ever, and one of the shortest contestants in the show's history.

Penn Jillette and Kym Johnson (Cha Cha Cha) - I've never seen Penn and Teller perform--either live or on TV--but I like him already. Penn admitted that Dancing With The Stars is bigger than all of his performances combined, which means a lot coming from a man with his own Vegas show. Kym said that her goal this season was to make her partner's personality shine. When the two met for the first time, Penn joked that Kym was going to teach Sasquatch to dance. While aware that his size was an obstacle, Penn believed that his experience on stage would work to his advantage.

The couple's dance wasn't the best of the night, but it was a major crowd-pleaser ("A Fool in Love," Tina Turner). I was impressed with some of the moves that Penn attempted. At one point he slid across the floor and under Kym's legs. He has a pretty good sense of rhythm and definitely knows how to interact with the audience. Kym and Penn are a lot of fun to watch, since they both have great smiles and know how to have fun with a performance. At the end of the dance, Penn made flowers appear and got a standing ovation from his pal, Teller.

Len thought that Penn and Kym captured the flavor of the dance, and praised Penn's hip work. On the down side, Penn had some problems with his footwork and needed to focus more on technique. Bruno said the performance was like watching a trailer for "Shrek does the Cha Cha Cha" and called Penn's moves "replacement hip action." He was entertaining, but needed to be lighter on his feet. Carrie Ann liked the magician's energy and his overall attitude, but wanted to see better footwork as well. Score: 16 (5, 6, 5). I thought they deserved a few more points for the entertainment factor, but Penn should get enough votes to survive Week One.

Jason Taylor and Edyta Sliwinska (Foxtrot) - Football great Jason Taylor acknowledged that he's aggressive on the field, but has a soft side. He signed up for the show because he wanted to challenge himself by getting out of his comfort zone. Edyta declared that this was her season to win, and I think she deserves it. She was pleased to have another sexy, athletic partner this time around. In rehearsal, the couple's biggest setback was Jason's reluctance to do feminine moves. Beyond that, Jason seemed like a hard worker and a natural dancer. He was able to balance a bottle of water on his head while dancing, for crying out loud.

Jason and Edyta looked fantastic together, dancing to Marvin Gaye's "Pride and Joy." The athlete's posture and footwork were excellent by first week standards. Jason smiled throughout the performance, but seemed a little reserved. He's not as used to being onstage as some of the other contestants, so perhaps he was nervous. This is one of the few disadvantages he has going into this competition. My only criticism is that I didn't get a sense of Jason's personality in the dance. His technique was good, but I wasn't blown away.

Len told Jason that he looked great, had good posture, and gave an elegant performance. In the future he would have to act out the character of the dance a little more. Carrie Ann expected him to be far more rough, and was surprised by his fluid movements, coordination, and hand detail. Bruno called Jason the most graceful tackler he'd ever seen, but wanted to see more romance and drive. Score: 22 (7, 8, 7). With relatively high scores and an enthusiastic reaction from the audience, it's likely that Jason will stick around for a while.

Cristián de la Fuente and Cheryl Burke (Cha Cha Cha) - Cristián said his goal was to bring an element of romance to the show. Cheryl made it clear that she's looking to unseat current champ Julianne Hough and get a third mirror ball trophy. During their first rehearsal, Cristián told Cheryl that he had only ever used dancing as "a tool of seduction." Could anyone else say that with a straight face besides a guy like that? You won't hear those words coming out of Adam Carolla's mouth. The actor was worried that viewers mistakenly assumed that his Latin background made him a good dancer. He joked that his native Chile is known for sea bass and wine, but not necessarily dancing. Cristián has amazing energy, and confidence certainly won't be a problem for him. Cheryl thought that his biggest hurdle would be loosening up and moving his hips properly.

He might not have had the same swagger that he did in rehearsals, but the actor's confidence and personality came through in this dance ("Bang Bang," the Joe Cuba Sextet). Cristián's hip action showed some improvement compared to his rehearsal footage, and he had natural rhythm and some great footwork. Cheryl was right about getting her partner to loosen up, though. He didn't look 100% comfortable, but he was still having fun. If he improves steadily each week, Cristián could be a wonderful dancer.

Carrie Ann went gaga over Cristián's charisma and his chemistry with Cheryl. Her biggest criticism was his slouchy shoulders. Bruno said it looked like the actor was riding a bike, and proceeded to rattle off one borderline sexual comment after another ("you have to bang as hard as she does," "we'll be on top of you," etc.). Len loved Cristián's performance from the waist down, but had a problem with the top half as well. I think all this tough love is a good sign. The judges are usually harder on the dancers with the most potential. Score: 21 (7, 7, 7). Not bad for the first week.

Adam Carolla and Julianne Hough (Foxtrot) - After former champ Helio Castroneves pretended that Julianne could take Adam to the Finals, the comedian got his turn on the dance floor. When he met Julianne, Adam immediately apologized for breaking her winning streak. He wondered aloud if there were any dances that "favor guys with rolled shoulders and low self-esteem." At this point, Adam has three major obstacles: talking too much during rehearsals, feeling awkward about his partner's young age, and getting enough votes to make up for what he lacks in technique. Adam is hilarious, but he'll need to bring something special to his performances to distinguish himself from the more athletic competitors.

The couple danced to Donovan's "Mellow Yellow" and wore matching yellow costumes. The good news is that Adam was much better than I expected him to be. His posture was decent, and he was clearly trying his best and not goofing off. The bad news was that he was a bit stiff and had an uncomfortable, painted-on smile. There was some technical difficulty in the couple's routine, and Adam moved pretty well. Unlike Penn and Steve, Adam didn't show his personality during his performance. He'll have to do this if he's going to win over the audience.

Adam clearly didn't win over the judges. Bruno said that Adam's routine was a combination of Will Ferrell and John Cleese. The comedian hilariously pointed out that both men could buy and sell Bruno. Len complimented Adam's footwork and told him to relax. Carrie Ann was at a loss for words, and not in a good way. She said that there were moments when Adam almost had it, but came up short. Score: 15 (5, 5, 5,). Backstage, Adam told Julianne that there wasn't a three-peat in her immediate future, and I have to agree.

Mario and Karina Smirnoff (Cha Cha Cha) - The youngest competitor this season, Mario, called himself the "torch carrier for his generation" on Dancing With The Stars. He said that part of the reason he did the show was to meet Karina (watch out, other Mario) and the couple had an instant connection when they first met. Karina was glad that Mario was already a good dancer. Mario made it clear that his hip-hop and R&B background wouldn't give him any advantage when it came to ballroom dancing. The pair had some problems early on in rehearsals due to Karina's sudden injury. I'm amazed that she returned to dance practices so soon after having neck surgery.

After this performance, Mario is the front runner among the men ("Request + Line," Black Eyed Peas). His performance included amazing hip action, smooth movements, and fabulous chemistry with Karina. His stage presence is a huge advantage, and he didn't appear nervous at all. Mario and Cristian will be competing for sexiest male contestant this year (at least in my mind). I'd guess that votes will be a concern for the R&B star, but the crowd was won over by the couple almost instantly.

Carrie Ann began her critique by fanning herself. She told Mario that he set the standard tonight, and that the ladies had better take notice. Len praised Mario's hip action, but noticed some bad footwork. Bruno asked Karina if she had a monopoly on hot Marios. He loved the performer's musicality and noticed the footwork issues, too. Score: 24 (8, 8, 8). It looks like Mario is the man to beat.

Steve Guttenberg and Anna Trebunskaya (Foxtrot) - In his interview, Steve said that he was a big fan of the show and signed up because he wanted to do something positive. He couldn't have come across as a nicer guy in this segment, or in his performance. Anna called Steve a brilliant and committed student, and was pleased with his work ethic. He had a positive attitude and understood what he needed to do, but had trouble getting his body to do it. Steve realized that he had some shortcomings in his technique, but believed that all he needed to do was get to the right point and things would start coming together. He's also a big fan of the word "Wow."

The performance began without any real problems or surprises ("Lazy River"), but then Steve surprised me by leaping in the air and clicking his heels. He wasn't technically the most gifted or athletic dancer, but his positive energy and warm smile more than made up for it. The routine had some good footwork, and Steve proved that he has a strong sense of rhythm. He still knows how to connect with an audience, too. I really just wanted to hug Steve Guttenberg the entire time he was on camera. Why aren't more celebrities like Steve Guttenberg?

Bruno acknowledged that Steve put his heart and soul into his performance, but added that he gave a Billy Ray-style performance (in terms of shakiness). Bruno instructed him to do some ballet to open up his chest and arms. Carrie Ann called Steve "adorable" (seconded) and told him to work on his musicality. Len said that Steve was the first contestant to look like he was genuinely enjoying himself, and found him charming. Score: 18 (6, 6, 6). I thought this was fair, but the audience didn't like the scores one bit. Fan votes will probably keep Steve's smiling face on our TV's for at least a few more weeks.

The show ended with a set of interviews with the women, and the usual smack-talk ensued. Tom announced that Mario was at the top of the leaderboard, with Adam in last place.

Best performance of the night: Mario
Most likely to go home: Adam Carolla
Sentimental favorite: Steve Guttenberg

On the second night of performances, the women will get their chance to show what they're made of. In the meantime, check out AOL's extensive Dancing With The Stars coverage, which includes photo galleries, polls, and a live chat.

Best performance of Night 1?
Adam Carolla54 (7.7%)
Cristian de la Fuente51 (7.3%)
Steve Guttenberg44 (6.3%)
Penn Jillette42 (6.0%)
Mario371 (53.1%)
Jason Taylor137 (19.6%)

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The gents that would have a harder time because of age and/or coordination issues were given the ballroom dance this week (Steve, Penn, Adam) while the younger guys with more on the ball were given the Latin dance (Mario, Cristian, Jason). I would really like DWTS to require everyone to do the same dance every week so the comparisons would be more fair. Even better, have them all dance to the same music as they do in real dance competitions. That won't happen, however, because the audience would get bored listening to the same song 12 times and would tune out of the episodes where all 12 couples are doing the waltz or foxtrot.

March 23 2008 at 5:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jo Torrey

Personally, I consider the first night of dancing as 'get acquainted' night but I was least impressed with Adam and Monica.

Someone mentioned 'rich folks having fun,' and of course that would seem to be true. BUT how would producers go about getting someone who is NOT famous? Picking someone off the street would certainly be dicey. I'll take the stars any time. Trying to do something you don't normally do in front of an audience and on TV takes a fair amount of intestinal fortitude and good for all of them for doing so.

And where is Maks?

March 19 2008 at 9:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well, DWTS has started and the producers again disappointed me. I am not sure why, but they again put a ringer in there. He said so himself, although I don't think he realized it.

Mario said that he is an r & B artist and that shouldn't help because the only dancing on stage he has done was what has been "coreographed" for him.

Well--------- What does he think this is. He didn't come up with the moves, Karina did. So there you have it. Mario is a ringer and I don't care how sexy he is, time for him to go................................

March 19 2008 at 12:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yes, Adam did call CarrieAnn a B*tch.

March 18 2008 at 4:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hmmm. Karina certainly has good luck with men named Mario :)

March 18 2008 at 4:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"I officially began my Dancing With The Stars exaggeration tally"

Exaggeration tally, that's a good one! That's exactly why I don't like that show. It's about rich people learning how to dance. That's it. And they try to make it into something Great and Important. Especially last season with that whole Marie Osmond melodrama.

March 18 2008 at 3:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Was it me or did Karina look a little nervous at all the affection Mario was paying her? The guy couldn't keep his hand off of her and the way he was looking at her was more than just a dance partner. She just had this look like my girlfriends get when they want to be rescued at a bar. This makes me wonder if Karina is still dating Lopez or not. I thought I saw photos of them together in the last couple of months but I'm not positive.

I have to give it to Christian. His background amazed me the most....a pilot in the Chilian Air Force, cool. He is also very funny so I'm Cheryl is having fun in practices with him. If he can get the posture down, he will have a good shot at this.

March 18 2008 at 2:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Steve Guttenberg seemed to score a bit low. Shannon Elizabeth appeared cloying. Still, it looks interesting. Note to Tom: CarrieA, Len and Bruno are the superdelegates.

March 18 2008 at 2:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Steve Guttenberg has only recently recovered a neck injury, from a filming stunt gone wrong, and was paralyzed on his left side for months. And just for having the brass to try DWTS after that, I give him a 9!
Mario - he has the moves, he has the stage experience, he has the partner, my pick for all the way.
Adam - just be quiet, ALL the time! The judges don't want to hear you.
Penn- so cute, so willing, so thud, thud, thud.
Cristian - ole! He has the Latina vote!
Jason - smooth, of course footballers have great foot work, they don't do all those drills for fun!

March 18 2008 at 11:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This looks like it will be the first competition since season 1 where a lady will win. Mario is the only really good dancer among the 6 gentlemen, in my opinion, and I'm guessing he won't have the fan support among 18-45 women (the show's primary demographic, I believe).

One of the things I wondered last night, while watching Mario and Karina dance ("watch out, other Mario" indeed Erin), was "would the producers let them dance to a Mario tune?". Not that I know what a Mario tune is, but ... :)

March 18 2008 at 7:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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