The 15th season of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars kicked off with a predictable start last night, full of familiar faces and fan favorites. Predictable in a good way, since the all-star cast is populated with former winners and high-ranking finalists from seasons past. We expected to see some quality dancing from the get-go, and that’s just what happened.
Missing was the almost manic level of excitement you typically get from a brand-new cast of stars, whose collective nervous energy drives the first episode. The absence of a loveable “class clown” also means there’s no built-in comic relief ahead. Instead, viewers are going to witness a higher level of competition than ever before, with lots of neck-and-neck performances.
With contestants so evenly matched, how will the judges differentiate between them? Enter the half-point scoring system. This should ensure a lot of nit-picking from all three, and even more audience booing for Len than usual. The pros’ skills as choreographers will be key going forward, as they will need to continually challenge their partners in terms of difficulty and precision. Every week, it’s going to be all about the “wow” factor to win those crucial viewer votes.
Dance of the night: Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke’s cha-cha-cha to “Chain of Fools.” The couple won the mirror ball trophy together in Season 3, and that partnership should allow them to go from strength to strength in the coming weeks. And let’s face it, people, the man is just smooth. He made some very exacting footwork look effortless, and had fun in the process. As Len said, “you can’t teach flair.” Emmitt just has it in spades. This performance landed Emmitt and Cheryl at the top of the leader board with a score of 24.5.
One to watch: Sabrina Bryan. Despite being one of the strongest dancers, she was eliminated in Week 6 of her original season, much to the dismay and surprise of the judges and fans alike. In a recent viewers’ vote, she won out over former contestants Carson Kressley and Kyle Massey, to take the 13th slot in this season’s cast. With new partner Louis Van Amstel, this former Cheetah Girl has something to prove, and the chops to go all the way. Their cha-cha-cha (“That’s What Makes You Beautiful”) brought in a solid score of 22.5, the third highest of the night.
Who’s in trouble: Pamela Anderson. Bless her heart. Amy Winehouse’s “You Know That I’m No Good” proved sadly prophetic as a song choice for her cha-cha-cha with partner Tristan MacManus. Unsure on her feet during her dance, the look on her face was a cross between “I’m scared,” and “I’m sorry for screwing this up, Tristan.” Bruno admonished her that she has to “put in the work,” but with the night’s low score of 17, I doubt she’ll get the chance.
Best moment: Kirstie Alley lays a lengthy liplock on host Tom Bergeron, ostensibly as congratulations for his Emmy win on Sunday night. I’m sure it made a nice change from the usual goose he gets from Maks every week.
Quotable quote: “I want to see firm but not rigid.” – Carrie Ann Inaba to Drew Lachey, regarding his shoulders. (But I reserve the right to use this later on in regards to anything to do with Derek Hough.)
24.5 Emmitt & Cheryl
24 Gilles & Peta
22.5 Sabrina & Louis
22 Shawn & Derek
22 Apolo & Karina
21.5 Helio & Chelsie
21.5 Drew & Anna
21.5 Kelly & Val
21 Melissa & Tony
20.5 Joey & Kym
19.5 Bristol & Mark
19 Kirstie & Maks
17 Pamela & Tristan
First elimination tonight, 8 PM on ABC.