Even without any controversial participants this season, last week’s season premiere — possibly the best debut, talent-wise, in the show’s history — still defeated a two-hour episode of “The Voice” in the same time slot over on NBC.
“Thanks to you for making us the most-watched competition show in America,” Tom Bergeron pointedly reminds everyone at the top of the show, before sending us off to quickstep and jive night.
Disney star Roshon Fegan and Chelsie Hightower
Roshon’s a hip hop dancer, so he’s used to doing whatever he wants while freestyling. This leads to a challenge with ballroom dancing, given that it’s obviously a partner-driven exercise. Roshon works on his dance skills, though he has criticism for Chelsie, too. “She needs a swag upgrade,” Roshon tells the camera. Chelsie tries to rap, and it does not go what we would call “well.”
Anyway, by the time they get to dancing, Roshon’s in a tux and Chelsie is petting a small stuffed dog that she carelessly tosses aside as the quickstep starts. (And reaction from PETA in 3, 2, 1 ...) Roshon moves smoothly along, and the two match up well.
Head judge Len Goodman liked the dance. He’s even smiling to prove it! He calls it young and fresh, which is accurate because Roshon is the youngest person in the competition. Bruno Tonioli liked the cheekiness of the performance, and Carrie Ann Inaba thinks he turned swagger into sophistication. Scores: 9, 8, 9 for a total of 26 points.
‘The View’ talk show co-host Sherri Shepherd and Val Chmerkovskiy
Sherri didn’t stop beaming during her performance last week, though she’s less excited this week. The jive would be perfect, she says, if she was 20 pounds lighter and had lighter “equipment.” Cue a montage of her and Val struggling with lifts, though he manages to swing her around successfully a few times.
During the dance, Sherri looks like a party favor in her Tina Turner-esque gold dress, and she sings along with most of the song (”Proud Mary”) while hitting most of her steps. She appears be as happy as ever, even recovering after missing a step.
“You know how to work that magnificent equipment!” Bruno shrieks. Carrie Ann goes with “freaking phenomenal” and says any mistakes were overshadowed by all of her confidence. It’s also a rave from Len. “I love watching you,” he says. That’s two genuine compliments from Len in a row — what’s going on here? Scores: 8, 7, 8 for a total of 23 points.
Actress Melissa Gilbert and Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Maks isn’t pleased (that needs to be an auto-phrase on a keyboard) that they tied for last place last week. Melissa doesn’t seem to mind, and instead focuses on the fact that they’re dancing to Billy Idol — whom she dated once upon a time. With that fun fact out of the way, she struggles to learn the dance, and Maks chides her for complaining. “This is more difficult than childbirth,” she muses. Then when Maks compliments her, she starts crying out of relief and joy. “I can’t win!” Maks, who does not understand women, vents.
Melissa looks terrified throughout the very fast dance and moves stiffly through the routine — and there’s a moment of panic as she slips a bit, though quickly recovers.
Carrie Ann thinks there was more energy in the dance after Melissa nearly slipped, but that her nerves are obvious. Len is full of critiques, saying that she lost her energy once the dance went on, and it became hectic and loose. Bruno believes Melissa is thinking too hard about each steps, so her movement becomes unnatural. Scores: 7, 6, 7 for a total of 20 points. And then to a bit of useless information thanks to Brooke Burke Charvet’s interview in the Celebriquarium: One time, Maks cried when he saw the movie “The Lion King.” Ah, the things we learn in the Celebriquarium.
Actor Jack Wagner and Anna Trebunskaya
Hips and arms — those are the main problems for Jack. He also becomes super sensitive when he thinks Anna is mocking his awkward movements. It must have been very dull, because that’s pretty much all we see.
Unlike super-smiley Sherri and others, Jack looks intense as he charges his way through the jive. He hits most of the steps but doesn’t appear to be having quite as much fun.
Len likes the content, attitude and energy, though Jack lost a little bit of control. Bruno agrees, though the kicks were a little bit off. Carrie Ann compliments his dancing skills but thinks he “over-danced,” causing the two of them to get out of sync and ahead of the beat. Scores: 7, 7, 7 for a total of 21 points. Jack is not thrilled with the low score.
Singer Gladys Knight and Tristan MacManus
Gladys has very high standards and doesn’t want to be merely passable — she wants to be an excellent dancer. She proves this point by name-dropping the fact that she used to perform with James Brown and Otis Redding, so she’s used to being at the top of her game.
It’s a rather slow song for a quickstep, and Gladys looks like she’s thinking carefully about each step. Tristan carefully guides her along, and the routine picks up speed along the way.
Bruno loves Gladys’s natural feel for the music, and thinks they played a dancing couple well, though her frame wasn’t exactly precise. Carrie Ann agrees they had a great connection, but it was too casual a technique for the quickstep. “You were just gazing into Tristan’s eyes — not that anybody’s blaming you,” she notes. Len gets booed like crazy when he admits he didn’t really “appreciate” the dance. But that’s nothing compared to the boos when he delivers a “5” as his score. Scores: 7, 5, 7 for a total of 19 points.
Opera singer Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas
After being tied last week for the best scores, there’s a lot of pressure. Katherine tries to copy Mark’s sassy and “raunchy” jive moves that involves wriggling around a lot, or as Katherine says, “Shake my naughty bits.” Mark claims he just wants her to “completely let go,” and she looks skeptical, though she wants to try her best to make the jive sexy.
Katherine and Mark start off by throwing dice in a fake casino set up, and they end their dance by celebrating their winnings and throwing fake money up in the air. In between, Katherine proves to be a natural dancer, flying through the routine.
“I’m hot and bothered by that one!” Carrie Ann exclaims, particularly impressed by the legwork. Len is back to his grumpy self, especially because he’s not one for gimmicks and wasn’t a fan of the middle of the routine. However, it was right up Bruno’s alley. “Talk about sexy and I know it!” he yells. Scores: 9, 8, 9 for a total of 26 points.
Actor Jaleel White & Kym Johnson
Jaleel is convinced that Kym is giving him crazy eyes, which means that she’s not satisfied with the dance and that’s going to make the moves more complicated. They’re dancing to “Marry You” by Bruno Mars, so they make lots of jokes about how their partnership is like a marriage. ... “Happy wife, happy life,” Kym comments. “We need to come up with something like that for the ballroom.”
Their dance takes place at some sort of old school eatery, which means Jaleel wears a jaunty diner hat for the routine. We’re not quite sure how to interpret the dance, but Jaleel seems to get all the steps with a lot of arm flailing.
Len thinks the dance lacked crispness and is disappointed after last week’s solid effort. Bruno loves the diner themes and thinks that it was quirky and different. Carrie Ann is not impressed after last week and says this routine lacked sparkle. Scores: 7, 7, 8 for a total of 22 points.
‘Extra’ co-host Maria Menounos and Derek Hough
Maria injures her ribs during rehearsal, but she has to get better so she can make good on her promise to Bruno to “bring the sexy” this week. This apparently means a Bonnie and Clyde theme, thanks to Derek, who tells the camera that he hasn’t laughed this hard in years. It’s not clear whether that’s because of Maria’s dancing ability or her cartoonish laugh that emerges what seems like every two minutes.
Starting the dance in thief eyemasks, the duo appears to be running from the law at the beginning of the dance, and they keep the high energy throughout. The robbers’ masks don’t come off, and it doesn’t exactly scream “sexy,” even when Derek jumps on the judges table and throws fake money in the air.
“It was nearly spotless,” Bruno says, satisfied. “Near perfection.” Carrie Ann thinks they were solid and strong but not too stiff, though they fell out of sync in the middle. Len says the quickstep is about balance, speed and control, and that they had “both of those.” We’ll just assume that means he liked the dance. Scores: 8, 8, 9 for a total of 25 points.
Tennis pro Martina Navratilova and Tony Dovolani
Last week the judges seemed shocked that Martina looked so refined, but Martina didn’t even seem that insulted, so good for her. She has trouble grasping the steps, and Tony says her insecurity is getting the better of her. She almost immediately re-injures an old sports injury on her left toe, but she seems convinced she can keep going.
Martina certainly doesn’t dance like she has a foot injury while Tony spins her around with ease. They end the dance by going up to the judges and giving them hugs, which is rather random. “They love it when you flirt with them,” Tom Bergeron assures the contestants in re: the judges.
Carrie Ann points out several errors, but likes Martina’s attitude, whereas Len thinks it was too careful and that they have to liven up the dances. Bruno also isn’t impressed but hopes that the two of them can come back next week so they can improve. Scores: 6, 5, 6 for a total of 17 points.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd
Donald pretends to quit when the routine gets too difficult, and Peta convinces him to keep going. Later, filled with confidence, he even does a split during rehearsal, which looks very painful.
Donald still looks like he’s having the most fun of anyone as he smoothly moves through the routine. He speeds things up halfway through the dance, galloping around the dance floor looking pleased.
Len kicks things off by saying he underestimated Donald last week and after watching back the tape, thinks he should have given him a higher score. Tom Bergeron can’t believe what he’s hearing, and Len patiently explains it in football terms — even referees change their minds after watching the play again. Bruno and Carrie Ann are also pleased with Donald’s skills. Scores: 8, 8, 8 for a total of 24 points.
Pop singer Gavin DeGraw and Karina Smirnoff
Tied for last place last week, Gavin tries to improve, but he can’t seem to get the jive steps. He looks baffled in rehearsal, and Karina is not great at concealing her annoyance as he cracks jokes the entire time.
Gavin is determined not to be the first person voted out, and he throws himself into the dance with tons of energy. It’s not technically perfect, but he and Karina do end the dance on top of a motorcycle, so that’s something.
“You messed up a lot of your kicks and flicks,” says Bruno, which is unfortunate, since the jive is all about kicks and flicks. Carrie Ann was also puzzled by Gavin’s kicks, but thinks Gavin at least went out of his comfort zone. Len is surprisingly complimentary, saying he liked the attitude and believes that Gavin has officially improved. Turns out Gavin and Karina put in 13 extra hours of rehearsal, and it paid off. Scores: 7, 7, 7 for a total of 21 points.
Actor William Levy and Cheryl Burke
Given the deafening cheers last week for the “Brad Pitt of Mexico,” the producers have cleverly saved William for the crucial last slot of the night. In a shameless grab for votes, Cheryl says that the longer William stays on the show, the less clothes he will wear.
They glide easily through the routine, and Tom Bergeron is barely audible through the screams at the end of the dance.
“William, you know how to turn the heat up in this ballroom,” Carrie Ann says, practically shouting to be heard. “But quickstep is not just about sexy and heat factor — it’s about technique.” Luckily, William has technique. Len proclaims it “good, not great,” and Bruno adds that even with all his clothes on, Williams can still dazzle. Scores: 9, 7, 9 for a total of 25 points.
Tuesday night: the first elimination night of the season. Who will it be?