Dancing With The Stars: Season Premiere
In another new twist, there is another new format for week one. All thirteen couples performed Monday night. Tuesday, one of the couples will be eliminated as the other twelve perform a second number. Then, on Wednesday, one more couple will be sent home. With thirteen performances, there is a lot to get to. I'll run them down quickly, with a look at what I think each couple's prospects for the competition are. Because, as we are all well aware by now, the dancing is only part of what keeps people moving on from week to week.
Cody Linley & Julianne Hough (Cha Cha Cha) You have to think going in that this is a couple that will be around for a while. Julianne has her own contingent of fans, and I've learned to never underestimate anything attached to Hannah Montana. In the training video, Cody was distracted by Julianne's hotness, understandably so. They came out for their debut and it was a rather impressive first week performance. Cody has good charisma and shows the makings of a very good dancer. Some moves were stiff, and looked rather rehearsed, but very nice overall.
Len said, "Brave are the young." He liked their confidence and energy but cautioned them to keep it refined. Great job. Bruno called it the flash of youth, and told Cody to focus on his feet and technique. Carrie Ann was freaking out that the two of them together are younger than she is (Carrie Ann is 40). She said she sees great potential in Cody. Score: 18 (6,6,6)
Rocco Dispirito & Karina Smirnoff (Foxtrot) This pairing is a little more tricky. How well known is Rocco? I'm just not sure. For her part, I think Karina runs very hot and cold with fans. To go far, they are going to need some great dancing from Rocco. Unfortunately, as we learned in the training package, Rocco doesn't have any dance experience, which could be a problem. He set himself up with an excuse in the preview by saying he was out of his element. As they started their performance, some of those reservations went out the window. Rocco moves well for someone with no experience. As they continued, it lost quite a bit of steam. There were a couple of missed holds and it seemed like he just wasn't ready for a complete number. There is potential, but it will require a good deal of work.
Bruno said it was a foxtrot on the brink of chaos. Rocco lost the timing, but had good energy. Carrie Ann thought it was cute. Focusing on what was positive she liked his connection with the audience. Len said Rocco dances like Len cooks. Chuck it all in and hope for the best. Score: 14 (5,4,5) After the Cody & Julianne score set the pace, that seemed about right.
Toni Braxton & Alec Mazo (Cha Cha Cha) Another couple that is hard to predict here. You would expect Toni to be ahead of the curve because of her dance and performance background, which is always a plus. I don't know that Alec really has that great of a following on his own though. Toni was excited to be paired with Alec when she remembered that he was the winner of season one. Her experience really showed here as she seems to be getting into the flow of the ballroom much faster than many of her competitors. Being week one, of course there are improvements to be made, but if their cha cha is any indication, they should have the time to make them.
Carrie Ann thought that it was like a week five performance. Len said it was a good mix of basic cha cha cha and some clever choreography. Bruno called Toni slinky, sultry, and sexy. He liked how she worked with the music. Score: 22 (7,7,8) I don't know about week five, but it was good.
Maurice Greene & Cheryl Burke (Foxtrot) I think the biggest hurdle for Maurice might be that he's just not very well known. Track and field just don't get much of a following, so there is a hill to climb there. Fortunately for him, he has Cheryl as a partner. That can't hurt with the voters, and she does usually do a good job with training her partners. We're just all going to forget that whole Wayne thing. There was a funny bit in the training video where Cheryl looked at Maurice's dancing and asked, "What the hell is that?" Apparently the training worked, because there wasn't anything that shocking in his performance. He had his moments where he could showcase his personality and showed some great potential. It as a little rough at times as Maurice got a little stiff waiting and concentrating on the steps he was supposed to hit. Overall though, a solid first week number.
Len thought there were parts that were wild, parts that were wacky, and parts that were wonderful. Bruno said Maurice has a great presence, but he struggled in the hold. Carrie Ann said it was hot, but cautioned him to work on the style that is being asked of him. Score 18 (6,6,6)
Brooke Burke & Derek Hough (Cha Cha Cha) This is an interesting pairing. Brooke has been on enough different shows that most everyone should be familiar with her. For his part, I think Derek has established himself as a solid partner that gets a lot out of whoever he is matched with. Lots of potential for success with these two. Much like Derek's stint with Jenny, Brook comes with a bunch of cute little kids. In training, it seemed the big issue was learning the steps. That appears to have been a red herring, as it really didn't seem to be a problem once they made it to the dance floor. It was an impressive debut. Brooke moves very well already and I'm curious to see what they will look like once they have a few weeks of training under their belts.
Carrie Ann said she has an amazing body designed to dance, adding that she showed great energy and strength. Bruno said Brooke is going for broke, and really liked her hip action. What a debut. Len called it the best dance so far. Score: 23 (7,8,8)
Ted McGinley & Inna Brayer (Foxtrot) Ted would be the guy I'm rooting for, despite my reservations about his ability. He's just really likable. And he may be around for a little while. Ted has the potential to garner some of the Guttenberg vote. Inna, being the new girl, doesn't bring a following of her own, but Ted could possibly gain some of that back by outdancing the Gute. He certainly looks the part. Ted's a very dashing guy that lends himself well to ballroom. There were some rough bits, and I'm not ready to put Ted in the favorites, by any stretch, but it was good enough to keep him around for a while. He's ok with the dancing, but has great personality. We'll just have to wait and see if he has a little more aptitude for improvement than Steve did. This is also a case where the dance selection could be very important. Ted has the looks and style that should let him score well in the slower numbers.
Bruno said that at moments he had the elegance of Cary Grant, but at times he turned into Steve Carell. Len thought Ted had style and elegance and praised the footwork. Overall a good job. Carrie Ann said he is going to have to overcome his fear, adding that he has great potential. Score: 18 (6,6,6) Ted's reaction: It's 18 more than I came here with.
Lance Bass & Lacey Schwimmer (Cha Cha Cha) This was one of my pre-season favorites. I was really excited to see that Lacey was added to the cast. I reviewed her season of So You Think You Can Dance, so I'm already in the bag for her. Lance brings a nice fan base of his own to the party, and does have the same training that made Joey Fatone a contender. Tons of potential. In the training video, Lance said he thinks it's time for entertainers to take the trophy back from the athletes. As we have seen from other boy band guys, they have a head start learning choreography. That was on display here as Lacey gave Lance a very entertaining number that was a little more difficult than the week one norm. Great energy and it really set the bar for what the two of them are capable of moving forward.
Len said that what they did, they did well. It was young and modern, but he's old and traditional. I have the feeling that this could be a recurring theme with Lacey. It should be interesting to watch. Carrie Ann's verdict was hot, hot, hot. Great sharp movements, fantastic. Bruno disagreed with Len, saying it was edgy, spunky, and tight. He added that they should be proud, a cha cha cha for now. Score: 22 (8,6,8)
Cloris Leachman & Corky Ballas (Foxtrot) Cloris was Miss Chicago in 1946. She's 82. And that's the story. Cloris is a lovely woman, but she's not going to be able to compete for the title. That doesn't mean she can't put on a fun show while she's here. For Corky, this looks like a fun way to get a foot in the door. I suspect we'll learn much more about his dancing next season. It was a nice performance, viewed through the lens of where Cloris is in life. We should all be so lucky to do something like that at 82.
And that's where things started getting a little wacky. As Bruno started, he said Cloris was floating out there like the battleship Geriatrica. Cloris moved to the judges table tossed a leg up on the desk to try to help sway the vote. Len said, "At your age, I'm surprised how well you dance...Corky." By this time Cloris was working her charms on Len and he told her to mind her cleavage, it was distracting him. He added that this was his chance to be a boytoy. Carrie Ann offered Cloris a seat on her lap, which she took. Carrie Ann said she was grace on the dance floor. Score 16 (6,5,5) As they went backstage to Samantha there were several bleeps during the scoring as Cloris unleashed her profane reaction. It was probably the oddest judging and scoring segment I've seen on the show.
Jeffrey Ross & Edyta Sliwinska (Cha Cha Cha) Coming into the season, this was the most disappointing pairing for me. Edyta has always been my favorite of the pros, and I don't have much confidence in Jeffrey's dancing. He could be chasing my favorite dancer off the show. That being said, it is a good pairing. Edyta has had great success with partners in the past that weren't the best dancers. There really weren't any surprises here. Jeffrey danced just how you would expect him to. It was a little clumsy, not what you would call fluid. More than perform the dance, he got through it. In his defense, he did suffer an eye injury in rehearsal, but I don't see this getting a whole lot better with two good eyes. The real interesting bit here is seeing what Edyta can do with her choreography to keep Jeffrey in the competition.
Carrie Ann said the flirting was good, and... the form was bad, the musicality was off. She did praise him for coming out to perform despite the injury. Bruno said he hadn't seen such ungainly carnage since Cloverfield in 3D. Jeffrey tried to butter up Len before he could comment, and it kind of worked. A reserved Len said everyone that comes on the show is a winner. Score 12 (4,4,4)
Kim Kardashian & Mark Ballas (Foxtrot) I'm really curious to see how this partnership develops. Mark has had a lot of success on the show, but he's also been very fortunate with the partners he's been given. Both of them came into this with much more skill than Kim. This season we are going to see just what kind of a teacher Mark is. For her part, I'm just not sure what the fan reaction to Kim will be. In the training video she said she's most well known for being the star of a reality show. Keeping it family friendly, I'll just say, that's not where I know her from and I wonder if that will weigh on what their outcome ultimately is. Getting to the performance, Kim and Mark are a great looking couple. Overall I was pretty impressed. Kim still needs a bit of polish, as there were a number of moves that weren't quite finished and bits of it that seemed rather stiff. But this was a nice debut.
Len said it was clean and had nice musicality, but there was no chemistry. Bruno called Kim a dusky beauty, but he didn't connect with her while she was dancing. Carrie Ann said she was pleasantly surprised by Kim's dancing but agreed that she needs to work on connecting with the audience as well. Score: 19 (6,7,6)
Susan Lucci & Tony Dovolani (Cha Cha Cha) This was another partnership I had my eye on when the pairings were first announced. I mean, it's Susan Lucci. Her name alone has to be worth a pile of votes, right? And Tony has always been a solid partner. If they are going to have success, it really does look like it's going to have to come from that ready made fan base. The dancing just wasn't there. Susan was tentative and nervous in a lot of her moves, and it seemed that she didn't know exactly where to be on a couple of occasions. Overall, not the best debut. They have their work cut out for them Tuesday night, and moving forward.
Bruno said she looks like a lady, but the cha cha cha needs a slut. She was too careful, and too paced. Carrie Ann though she looked amazing in her dress, and then suggested that Susan put on some weight. Len said it was neat and precise, but too careful, adding that Susan needs to throw caution to the wind. Score: 15 (5,5,5)
Misty May-Treanor & Maksim Chmerkovskiy (Foxtrot) All kinds of potential here. Who doesn't like Misty? I find it amusing that she is the rare female contestant that actually has to put more clothes on when she enters the ballroom. Misty certainly has a chance to carry on the tradition of successful athletes on the show. And she couldn't have a better partner to do it with. Maks certainly has a following of his own, and he's also proven himself as a teacher. This pairing reminds me very much of Maks and Leila, and that turned out pretty well. I was impressed with the way Misty moves. I think she's got the talent to be a very good dancer. What is going to be telling is how she embraces the performance aspect of the routines.
Carrie Ann said she has never seen anyone attack a foxtrot with so much intensity. She suggested that she try not to muscle everything. Len disagreed, saying it had an elegance and her arms were really nice. A really good job. Bruno said she shouldn't worry about being ladylike, because she is glowing on the dance floor. He cautioned her on her turns, but said she'll go a long way. Score 21 (6,8,7)
Warren Sapp & Kym Johnson (Cha Cha Cha) Warren might be the biggest unknown in the competition. Athletes have traditionally done well, but Warren is just huge. On the positive side, he does have a great personality, and he's well matched with Kym Johnson. He put a lot of the size worries to rest with his performance. He really does move very well. It was a little reserved for most of the performance, which I chalk up to the fact that this is week one. While not a show stopper, it did show good potential for Warren. And it's worth noting that they probably had the move of the night with their finish.
Len called Warren a bundle of joy, praising him for having fun. Carrie Ann said it was ending the show on a positive note. Bruno declared that big boys can dance. He called out a mistake in the middle, but praised Warren's footwork. Score: 21 (7,7,7)
Phew, that was a lot to take in, but it gives us some clues to where we're headed for the season. If I have to pick just one early favorite, it's Misty & Maks. I think Misty has the stuff to improve quickly, and I think Maks will get everything he can out of her. I'd put Lance & Lacey in a very close second.
As to who will be going home. As much as I hate to see Edyta go, Jeffrey is out of his element, and I just don't see him coming around. I'll be back tomorrow as the twelve that survived the premiere bring another number to the ballroom.