Y'all, I'm nervous about this season. We've got a new showrunner and he's talking about shaking things up. Once we got Erin Andrews, I didn't need any more shaking.
Argh. There's a weird new opening featuring Len and Bruno leaving England and coming to the States to meet up with Carrie Ann. Then this horrible, horrible song continues during the cast member introductions. Make it stop.
Antonio Sabato Jr. & Cheryl Burke, Cha Cha
Cheryl's excited about getting a "sexy partner" after the last two years. They show us two different shots of Antonio from his Calvin Klein underwear model days.
No Alan Dedicoat introduction. It's not the same without the nice English man telling me what they're dancing.
Len says it's clear Antonio has dancing in his blood, but it hasn't reached his feet. Tom introduces Julianne by saying she's "clearly bursting with enthusiasm." (Oh, Tom. That's not enthusiasm, it's clever dressmaking and maybe plastic surgery.) Julianne compliments Antonio's smile and dimples, but says he was a little flat-footed. She did like his extensions, though. Bruno says "bulging" and my ears reflexively shut down. They perk back up when he says "balls" and gets censored. Tom says Bruno must have been lonely all summer.
Scores: Carrie Ann: 6, Len: 6, Julianne: 6, Bruno: 7
Oh, Bruno. We know what body part threw in that extra point.
They keep cutting away to random reaction shots of contestants. It's not good. They're usually staring off into space, showing no emotion.
Lea Thompson & Artem Chigvintsev, Foxtrot
They show the clip from "Back to the Future," where Lorraine talks about Marty's purple Calvin Klein underwear. Hope Calvin Klein is enjoying all the free advertising tonight.
Lea was a ballet dancer until Mikhail Baryshnikov told her she was "too stocky" to be a prima ballerina. Mikhail needs a better Russian/English dictionary, because the picture they show of her is anything but stocky.
I love the song they're dancing to ("(This Will Be) An Everlasting Love") and Lea really nails her carriage and extensions. That's the kind of muscle memory years of dance gives you.
Julianne says it doesn't look like it was 32 years since she last danced. She compliments Lea's lines, but does warn her that her butt is sticking out a bit when she's in hold. Bruno is instantly flirting with Lea and she flirts right back. Carrie Ann says they're being too picky. She calls it one of the best first foxtrots she's ever seen. She also says they're a well-balanced couple. Len compliments Artem on his choreography and it suddenly makes a lot of sense that Artem has won the UK mirrorball trophy four times.
Scores: Carrie Ann: 8, Len: 8, Julianne: 8, Bruno: 8
Good Lord. All 8's in the first week? I hope they have new paddles that go to 11 this season.
Apparently there's also a livestream of behind-the-scenes footage this season. It's hosted by former pro Lacey Schwimmer and Dominic Bowden, New Zealand TV presenter.
Janel Parrish & Val Chmerkovskiy, Jive
There's way-too-much build-up to these two meeting for the first time. She immediately starts rubbing Val's torso to make us jealous. I kind of like her for that. Weird observation -- her dance costume looks like it was designed by Say Yes to the Dress star designer Pnina Tornai.
I don't know why it's taken me three songs to notice, but I have to wonder if they've done away with a live band entirely?
Bruno says a lot of stuff that boils down to "sexy and energetic" but in need of better kicks and flicks. Carrie Ann agrees that the kicks and flicks were a little out of control but she did love that Janel really went for it with the dance. Len thinks jive is a tough dance for the first week and he liked the snap of it. Julianne agrees that jive for Week 1 is tough.
Scores: Carrie Ann: 7, Len: 7, Julianne: 7, Bruno: 8
A-ha! There is a band tonight.
Lolo Jones & Keo Motsepe, Cha-Cha
Keo is South African and has a great accent. Jones starts right out with talking to Keo about the status of her hymen. Blurgh. He makes what I consider the appropriate shocked reaction to receiving such personal information on a first meeting. Keo, I promise, most Americans won't talk to you about their sexual experience, or lack thereof, within half an hour of meeting you. We're usually a very repressed country on such matters.
Lolo is a terrible dancer - stiff, lacking rhythm and seems to make several mistakes. There's some mix-up with Carrie Ann not knowing how to say Keo's name. Lolo looks seriously spaced out.
Carrie Ann says that was a no-no of a routine. Lolo blames something to do with the text-message gimmick that opened the routine. Then she immediately turns around and says, "I'm not making any excuses." Darling, rewind your DVR about 20 seconds and you'll hear yourself making an excuse. An athlete really should be better at "bad game" sound bites than this.
Len tells her she lost it from the beginning and then she does a demo of the cha cha walk. Doesn't count after the fact, sweetheart. Julianne says she needs to work on the fluidity of her legs. Bruno sings "Let It Go" at her. And the execs that look for Disney/ABC synergy are ecstatic.
Scores: Carrie Ann: 6, Len: 6, Julianne: 5, Bruno: 5
Only Julianne and Bruno scored that correctly.
Star: Betsey Johnson & Tony Dovolan, Cha-Cha
Betsey enters the rehearsal studio by doing a cartwheel and landing in a split. She's 72! Whoa! She's not graceful exactly, but for her age, she's doing better than Billy Dee Williams last year.
There's a moment where Betsey is supposed to pull a feather boa off a rolling garment rack and it all goes wrong. First, she can't get it to come off, then about four boas come off all at once and she starts tripping on them. Eventually, Tony stops her before someone gets hurt and the music comes to its natural stopping point. So she does her cartwheel/split on the way over to face the judges.
You know, it's kind of amazing that in 19 seasons of live TV there haven't been more things go wrong on this show.
Len says it was so entertaining until the disaster with the boa. Julianne says it had some great moments and praises Betsey's flexibility. Carrie Ann gets cut off because they're running short of time.
In a rare misstep, Tom botches the stage directions but Tony has it right, so Tom hands the microphone over to Tony to throw it to commercial. He bungles Tavis Smiley's name as "Travis," but corrects himself.
Y'all, they may need to call in an exorcist and someone to burn some sage and, I don't know, a new feng shui coordinator to get their mojo back. OR THEY COULD JUST BRING BACK DEDICOAT. Because clearly he's the linchpin to the whole operation.
Scores: Carrie Ann: 5, Len: 5, Julianne: 5, Bruno: 5
Not unwarranted, but they were very enthusiastic 5s, as pointed out by Tony.
Tavis Smiley & Sharna Burgess, Foxtrot
Tavis says he's doing the show because he wants to do one last silly thing before he turns 50. That's as good a reason as any. Another song I love, with "Pride and Joy." Tavis is rocking a fantastic long blue jacket suit with white edging. He's also surprisingly bouncy in his dancing. He's got the pancake hands, but that can be worked on.
Julianne wants to call him "T Smiles." OooohKay. Julianne thought it was great. Bruno called it joyful and loved the comedic touches. He does mention some arm issues. Carrie Ann likes watching him dance because he's a "natural mover." She thinks he's going to grow a lot throughout the competition. Len wants him to work on his footwork and posture a little bit, but praises his showmanship.
Scores: Carrie Ann: 7, Len: 7, Julianne: 8, Bruno: 7
Sadie Robertson & Mark Ballas, Cha-Cha
There is a completely silly intro for Sadie Robertson and the Duck Dynasty clan by Tom. Sadie explains to Mark that she's not allowed to dance at her school. She's got the long legs of a dancer at least. Mark gives each of them a little bit of a solo at the beginning. Sadie's doing great, taking to it like a natural. Is this going to get her expelled?
Ballas Spats Watch: Present and unnecessary.
Bruno calls her a bird of paradise and says he's gobsmacked that she's never danced before. Carrie Ann says she's a star in the making. Len says, "Quack, quack, you'll be back." He liked her hand placement. Julianne calls her the entire package.
Scores: Carrie Ann: 8, Len: 8, Julianne: 9, Bruno: 9
Michael Waltrip & Emma Slater, Cha-Cha
Apparently Michael is friends with Bill Engvall, who went to the finals with Emma a couple of seasons ago. Michael is impressed with his a-- in rehearsals. He also says the word b-----d and I'm worried about his apparent pottymouth on a live show.
There's a lot of business at the beginning of the routine. As the number goes on, it's clear that it's all to hide how terrible, awful, horrible Waltrip is. He can't even walk pretty. He has the look of a man who's just glad it's over with.
Read between the lines of what Carrie Ann's saying and she's telling Michael he did a good job of being funny but wasn't a good dancer. The rest of the judges pretty much say the same thing: "Great personality but lousy dancing."
Scores: Carrie Ann: 7, Len: 6, Julianne: 6, Bruno: 6
Jonathan Bennett & Allison Holker, Jive
Jonathan came on the show as a tribute to his dad, who passed away two months ago. It was one of his dad's favorite shows and they watched it together.
His feet aren't terrible, even if he's a bit pigeon-toed. He's definitely got the showmanship part down. I think there's definitely something for Allison to work with here.
Jonathan is gasping for air and a bit stunned waiting for the judges. Whatever Len says is swallowed by the roar of the crowd. Julianne says she agrees with Len about Jonathan's potential. Carrie Ann compliments his kicks and Bruno doesn't get to talk. They aren't convincing me yet that four permanent judges is a good thing.
Erin spends the same amount of time explaining why Bruno didn't have time to talk as it would have taken for Bruno to talk. Jonathan is still on a high and you can tell he just had the time of his life out there.
Scores: Carrie Ann: 8, Len: 7, Julianne: 7, Bruno: 8
Tommy Chong & Peta Murgatroyd, Cha-Cha
Tommy Chong mimics holding a joint as he and Peta stand on the dance floor before his rehearsal footage. Apparently, Cheech Marin bet Tommy that he couldn't get on the show, so here he is. There's a lot of business at the beginning with Tommy getting out of a car that is driven by ... Cheech Marin! Cheech is in the background for the rest of the number in a convertible that's got its hydraulics bouncing. Tommy's not great, a little slow, but he could be graceful with those legs and natural looseness.
Julianne calls him sexy and I'm getting increasingly worried about her daddy complex after her comments to Michael Waltrip earlier. Bruno says he was expecting Bad Grandpa but he got Cool Grandpa. Carrie Ann says it was fantastic and Tommy was so cool. Len says he was nervous about Tommy's performance but it was fun and painless.
You guys, I just figured out that Peta's costume is supposed to be reminiscent of pot leaves. In the interview with Erin, Tommy says he's "really good at doing what beautiful women tell [him] to."
Scores: Carrie Ann: 7, Len: 6, Julianne: 7, Bruno: 7
Karina tells us she's now seen the softer side of Randy. Randy admits that it's very frustrating for him to feel clumsy.
Another song I love ("The Way You Look Tonight"). The music picker and I need to have drinks. Randy is surprisingly light-footed, as suits a foxtrot. He's got the arm problem so many of the tough guys on this show do. But he sold me on a romantic foxtrot, so good for him.
Bruno calls him "The Big Dipper," because of all the drops with Karina. He mentions his lightness on his feet, but does warn him about his shoulders. Carrie Ann has a big giant crush on Randy, apparently, and her tongue-tied comments cause Len to hide his face with his hand. Poor Len. For some reason, Bruno reacts to Carrie Ann's instacrush by making faces like an inquisitive rabbit. And then mimics wanting a cigarette. Julianne says "Randy you're making me randy" and Bruno says, "She's practically lactating." BRUNO! Tom points out that Julianne has hit on three guys so far tonight. I note they're combined age is 178, with an average age of 59.
Scores: Carrie Ann: 8, Len: 7, Julianne: 8, Bruno: 8
Bethany Mota & Derek Hough, Jive
Derek is sporting the unfortunate facial hair he had last year. He's so much more handsome with a clean face. Bethany seems a little uncertain at moments, but overall she does a good job.
Carrie Ann says she's happily surprised. She says she's fantastic in motion but shuts down when she stops. Len thinks she'll be in the competition for a long time. Julianne wants her to up her energy in the in-between moments. Bruno calls her tidy and precise, but also criticizes her links.
Scores: Carrie Ann: 8, Len: 8, Julianne: 8, Bruno: 8
Alfonso Ribeiro & Witney Carson, Jive
Alfonso! He calls himself a Broadway child star before referencing "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." He says he loves dance, but hasn't done it in forever. Alfonso says his strategy is to lose a lot of weight and get in shape. He admits he's struggling to keep up.
Oh, wow! I was expecting Alfonso to be good, but this is outstanding. I think he's like Lea in that all that early dance training produced some muscle memory that can't be forgotten. I can definitely see some of his tap and Broadway experience coming through.
They show Ricky Schroeder in the audience. I hope those two are still friends! I was such a "Silver Spoons" fan. I won't tell you how many hours I stood in line at a shopping mall to get Ricky's autograph back in the day.
Len is standing up to call it a beautiful routine and the best dance of the night. Julianne says she was blown away by the musicality of that. Julianne stands up a lot and is seated next to Bruno. This could be dangerous. She also compliments Alfonso's musicality. Bruno calls him the king of the night. Carrie Ann says he's got the swagger of Season 19.
Scores: Carrie Ann: 9, Len: 9, Julianne: 9, Bruno: 9
Alfonso & Witney: 36
Sadie & Mark: 34
Lea & Artem: 32
Bethany & Derek: 32
Randy & Karina: 31
Jonathan & Allison: 30
Janel & Val: 29
Tavis & Sharna: 29
Tommy & Peta: 27
Antonio & Cheryl: 25
Michael & Emma: 25
Lolo & Keo: 22
Betsey & Tony: 20
We get a special results show tomorrow night. My prediction: Betsey gets some sympathy votes because of the prop mishap, explained by Tony as caused more by the stage crew than Betsey herself. She probably also picks up a few votes for being able to do a cartwheel into a split at 72.
Lolo might get a few sympathy votes for her mistake-filled routine, but she was so defensive about it, so maybe not. I don't underestimate the NASCAR fan base and Michael fits a certain middle-aged "funny guy" profile that's done well on this show in recent years.
That's a long way around of saying if it's not Betsey with her lowest score, then I think it's bye bye to Antonio, the surprisingly stiff and uncharismatic sex symbol.