"Dancing with the Stars" is back! And so is Len Goodman! And the original "Throw on a bikini and a bedsheet and call it a rumba costume" pro, Edyta Sliwinska! Happy day! Also, I'm pretty psyched about this season because I actually know all but two of the contestants.

Based on the opening, I can tell that you Mark Ballas is once again doing something ridiculous with his hair, Mischa Barton was the only contestant who couldn't be bothered to show up for the recording of the opening number, Keo looks adorable in footed pajamas, and my 30-plus year crush on Doug Flutie is still going strong.


Kim Fields and Sasha Farber

I know Kim Fields has done many things since "Facts of Life," including "Living Single" and the currently airing "Real Housewives of Atlanta," but c'mon, y'all are all calling her "Tootie" right now, aren't you? I'm not sure how I feel about her as a blonde, but that's her business.
All in all, a strong first showing. Maybe those years on roller skates gave her this good leg control?

Tom Bergeron seems as delighted as I am about the return of Len. Len says he wants more pressure on the feet during the Latin dances and more hip action. Bruno Tonioli says something incomprehensible that still manages to seem filthy, so business as usual there. Carrie Ann Inaba praises Kim's charisma but wants her to not rush and not get ahead of the music.

Well, that's new — we get the phone numbers for all the contestants on the screen right at the top of the show. Sigh. My least favorite thing about the show — that you can vote before seeing all the performances.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 7; Len: 6; Bruno: 7

They've changed the graphics for the phone numbers and score display so it's white on a gold background and seems to be smaller text. Who do you think watches your show, ABC? We're all about the presbyopia and we don't want to have to find our readers to see the scores.

Paige VanZant and Mark Ballas

Paige is a UFC fighter. Mark says his biggest challenge will be to soften her tendency toward an aggressive stance.

Paige is really, really pretty, young, and in great shape. Mark must be thrilled. This song is weird — like it doesn't have a melody? Or it has a tricky rhythm? I don't know, it doesn't seem like something that's easy to dance to, so full points to Mark for some coherent choreography.

Bruno says Paige is light on her feet with wonderful natural lines but needs better control and more precise timing. Carrie Ann tells Mark that Paige is a "gold mine." She disagrees with Bruno about "more control," and Bruno responds with something that cuts the audio. Len says Paige has a way to go with her ballroom posture but, overal,l it was lovely.

I love how Erin Andrews is taller than everybody. She's a tall drink of water, that one.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 7; Len: 7; Bruno: 7

Doug Flutie and Karina Smirnoff

Doug Flutie is the former Heisman Trophy winner and Boston College quarterback for the Hail Mary pass dubbed the "Miracle in Miami." Flutie's still in great shape — when we see him shirtless he's got a nice six pack. Maybe an eight pack? I forgot how to count.

He's dedicating this dance to the people of Boston and New England, so of course he's dancing to "Sweet Caroline." He's enthusiastic. Very enthusiastic. But sadly for him, enthusiasm is not the only judging criteria.

Carrie Ann says, "Well, the good news is, you did it." She appreciates his commitment to the dance and hopes he'll succeed as an underdog. Len says it had sparkle and then drops that Doug will be doing the paso doble next week — Len thinks that will be Doug's dance. Bruno wants him to work on his frame, timing and musicality. Nothing much, then.

Turns out Erin and Doug used to work college football games together and she used to pester him about when he'd be coming on to the show.


Scores: Carrie Ann: 5; Len: 5; Bruno: 5

Doug then goes on to ask for votes from every city he ever played in. The list is not short.

Jodie Sweetin and Keo Motsepe

Jodie played middle sister Stephanie Tanner on "Full House" (and currently plays her on "Fuller House.") They're never gonna get an Olsen twin on "Dancing with the Stars," so I guess we better start trying to dig up Andrea Barber, aka Kimmy Gibbler.

Jodie's dress is shiny and semi-goth-y, so I'd like one in my size, of course. She definitely has the tango attitude down, all fierce and strutting.

Len says it had spirit and attack but got a bit hectic on occasion. He adds that she was doing "strange things with [her] head." Bruno calls her "alluring." He wants her to be careful with her transitions. Carrie Ann calls it very impressive, citing her hand placement. She wants Jodie to watch her facial expression, making sure it doesn't turn into a snarl.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 7; Len: 6; Bruno: 7

Geraldo Rivera and Edyta Sliwinska

Geraldo Rivera is introduced as an Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning journalist, but they go right for opening the empty vault of Al Capone. Geraldo is 72, but is doing the show because he's "the only Puerto Rican in America who can't dance."

Woof. This is painful to watch. Poor Edyta. I guess if you leave the show for 12 seasons, you start back at the bottom in terms of celeb partner picking.

Bruno teases Geraldo about his strategy of not giving away too much too soon, referring to the very small amount of choreographed dancing he did during that number. Carrie Ann worries about the times he seemed slightly stunned by Edyta. Len gives him advice about his feet.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 5; Len: 4; Bruno: 4

The crowd boos the 4s, but only perfunctorily.

Marla Maples and Tony Dovolani

Ah, Tony's drawn the "Woman of a Certain Age" card again. In Marla's wedding picture with Donald Trump, she looks eerily like the character Whitney Frost from the "Peggy Carter" comics. She's also looking pretty fantastic for 52 years old. And she can do a front walkover in heels. Impressive!

Carrie Ann giggles and calls the performance fun. She's impressed by Marla's flexibility, even though she has to call her on a few missteps. Len calls it terrific. Bruno calls her an "uptown bombshell."

Erin says Marla has the shiniest hair she's ever seen. She asks Marla her secret to looking so fantastic; Marla thanks her and comments that the question is coming from a very beautiful woman. Erin then compliments Marla's "soft and elegant" voice. This is anthropological footage of pretty, Southern, blonde ladies liking each other.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 7; Len: 7; Bruno: 7

Wanya Morris and Lindsay Arnold

Wanya, a member of R&B group Boyz II Men, describes himself as a ham. He says he's wanted to do DWTS for years, ever since he saw Joey Fatone's season — "If this fat white boy can do it."

Ha! I like him already. He says he doesn't want to look like a singer who's trying to dance, but a dancer who knows how to sing. Then we get a clip of him running into a camera and saying, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to slap the public." I'm more than a little in love with him.

This is a fun performance and Wanya's got charisma aplenty, but I'm already betting Len is going to kvetch about the lack of cha-cha-cha content.


Len says there was more packed into that routine than "Bruno's makeup bag." Bruno retorts, "That was bitter and uncalled for." Len accuses Bruno of having nicked his cushion. Tom goes over and sorts everything out. It's like working with toddlers.

Len says he liked the start because it had lots of recognizable cha-cha-cha content but the rest wasn't his cup of tea. Told ya. He says if Wanya keeps up that level of performance, though, he'll make it to the end of the road. Nice nod, writers, to one of Boyz II Men's biggest hits.

Bruno likes the precision of Wanya's timing and calls the routine "Delicious!" Carrie Ann is so happy she's up and out of her chair and flailing around. Len looks utterly befuddled.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Len: 7; Bruno: 8

Ginger Zee and Val Chmerkovskiy

Ginger, meteorologist for "Good Morning America," is a new mom and warns Val she might leak on him because she's breastfeeding. She and the show both miss the "chance for light showers" joke.

Bruno says she kept it sharp and precise but has a very specific comment about the back of her knee and stretching. Carrie Ann compares her to Bindi Irwin for her infectious good nature. Len calls her a ray of sunshine.

Robin Roberts and Amy Robach, Ginger's co-hosts on "GMA," are in the audience and get a quick interview with Tom.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Len: 7; Bruno: 8

Mischa Barton and Artem Chigvintsev

Mischa is best known for her starring role on the early-2000s Fox TV show "The O.C." Fun fact, though, she had a teeny tiny role in "Notting Hill" when she was but a wee girl.

I always forget how tall Mischa looks. Or is just that everybody else on this show is short? We'll see when she gets up next to Erin. This is a perfunctory tango, so I'll have to wait to see what the judges say.

Carrie Ann says she respects the courage it takes to get out on the "DWTS" floor when a person isn't a natural dancer. Len says it wasn't a dance, it was walking. He apologizes for that sounding nasty, but he wants there to have been more dance content. Poor Mischa looks like she's on the verge of tears. Bruno gives her some good advice about playing to the back of the theater rather than worrying about a closeup.

Mischa is clearly upset, and given some of her public troubles post-"O.C.," I worry for her here. Erin gives her the best pep talk, reassuring her and encouraging her. I love Erin.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 5; Len: 5; Bruno: 6

As the show returns from commercial, Len and Bruno are shown returning to the judges table. I bet you a shiny nickel one or both of them was having a quick cigarette.

Nyle DiMarco and Peta Murgatroyd
So Nyle, a Maryland native, is a male model and is also deaf. He won a season of "America's Next Top Model." Peta seems to enjoy the challenge of finding new ways to teach Nyle with the restrictions imposed by his deafness.

It's kind of a shame Nyle can't hear the squeals of delight that ripple through the ballroom when he rips open his shirt. Maybe he and Peta can devise a hand signal so she can tell him, "Yeah, they're going nuts for you, you hottie."

Some of the dancers up in the skybox are doing the hand wave that substitutes for clapping when applauding deaf performers. Good for them.

Tom clarifies that Nyle can't hear anything or feel the vibrations of the music, unlike Marlee Matlin. Nyle says that Peta can hear the music and he watches her to see the beat.

Len says it was terrific. Bruno can't help himself and comes out from behind the table to fondle the abs of Nyle. Oh, Bruno. Carrie Ann exclaims about his hotness and then says that he was "in the pocket of the rhythm." She also compliments Nyle and Peta's chemistry.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Len: 7; Bruno: 8

Antonio Brown and Sharna Burgess

Antonio Brown is a wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also has a million-dollar smile. Sharna is amused by his catchphrase, "How's business? Booming."

I personally can't believe they're doing a quickstep to Pitbull song. We live in a weird world. I always hope wide receivers will do well at quickstep, given the precision and delicacy of footwork required by their position. Antonio does not disappoint in this regard. He's also wearing a giant, sparkly gold bowtie, of which I wholehearted approve even though I'm usually in the business of rooting against the Steelers.

Bruno loves his energy but wants him to be careful about controlling his frame. Carrie Ann calls him magic. Len says the quickstep is a tough dance for a male celebrity. He thought the dance had the right amount of speed but Antonio lost control in some parts.

Erin hands Antonio a towel, which he appreciates as he is literally dripping with sweat.

Erin tells Antonio to think of Len as one of those position coaches you can just never make happy. Ha!

Looking at Antonio's haircut, which is unusual in its own right, I questioned why Mark's hair bugs me and Antonio's doesn't. Then I remembered this.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Len: 6; Bruno: 7

Von Miller & Witney Carson

Von, Super Bowl 50 Most Valuable Player and Denver Broncos linebacker, is also a chicken farmer, having minored in poultry science at Texas A&M. In the rehearsal studio, Witney laments that "When we stand next to each other, I look like his child." She adds that she's not going to be able to walk him around the dance floor like she has with past partners. Von says practice feels like training camp and that Witney is one of the toughest coaches he's ever had. He compares her to a "Barbie drill sergeant" but super short. Haha! I dig that he wears glasses. Hello, professor. Giant, strong, chicken farming professor.

Carrie Ann says that Von is "soft and silky." Hello! She worries about the height difference but says they worked it out great. Len praises him for doing a lot of the dance in hold, which is even harder with that kind of height difference. Bruno says Von has got the moves and has bucketloads of charisma and presence. He warns him about not sticking his butt out and wants him to work on his port de bras for next week.

Scores: Carrie Ann: 8; Len: 6; Bruno: 7

Wanya & Lindsay: 23
Ginger & Val: 23
Nyle & Peta: 23
Antonio & Sharna: 21
Von & Witney: 21
Paige & Mark: 21
Marla & Tony: 21
Kim & Sasha: 20
Jodie & Keo: 20
Mischa & Artem: 16
Doug & Karina: 15
Geraldo & Edyta: 13

A good start to the season! All the couples will dance again next week, with a couple being eliminated at the end of the show. I'd say Mischa, Doug and Geraldo are all in trouble. Doug may have enough goodwill from sports fans, so I'd be more worried about Mischa or Geraldo.

My long-term predictions for whom we might see in the finals: Von, Antonio, Wanya and Ginger all seem like solid picks. I wouldn't be surprised if Nyle hangs in there a while, too, because he's got the kind of backstory viewers love. And abs. But I wouldn't discount Paige or Marla as sleepers.