“Dancing With the Stars,” once the most popular show in the country, has slipped over recent years — and it’s trying to regain some street cred in Season 20 (seriously, SEASON 20) with a special 10-year anniversary season. It’s got fancy opening credits and a golden Mirror Ball Trophy and, if you can believe it, even more sparkles.
Granted, this season doesn’t quite have the, um, name recognition of former years. Still, here’s our ranking of the contestants in the season premiere (which ended with a shot of smiling exes Bruce Willis and Demi Moore — sitting in separate rows!) and in order of how we think they’ll fare this season:
Rumer Willis/Val Chmerkovskiy (fox trot, judge score: 8, 8, 8, 8 for a total of 32 points)
Best known for: Being the daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore and one-time stepdaughter of Ashton Kutcher.
Storyline: Can everyone stop thinking of her as just a kid with famous parents? Seeing as Val asks for her dad’s autograph within minutes, probably not.
Performance: Not only did Rumer get the coveted closing performance spot, but the judges are blown away by the intensity of the pair. (Who, to be fair, already know each other through mutual friends.) “That was incredible!” Carrie Ann Inaba yelled. “You are in it to win it!” Len Goodman agrees and calls it the dance of the night: “Sometimes it was intense, other times it was quiet — Val, this could be your season.” Julianne Hough says she got chills and calls them a “vision” and says they’re the ones to watch.
Nastia Liukin/Derek Hough (fox trot, judge score: 7, 7, 8, 8 for a total of 31 points)
Best known for: Winning five medals at the 2008 Olympic Games
Storyline: She’s already feeling competitive with rival Shawn Johnson, who danced with Derek in the all-star season and almost won. Nastia isn’t here to make friends — she’s here for that tacky gold Mirror Ball Trophy.
Performance: Carrie Ann chides him for a lift, saying Derek should know better, while Len is lukewarm as well. Julianne sticks up for her brother by saying it was an explosive first dance, but also critiques Nastia’s form. Not great feedback for Derek, a five-time winner of the show. Guess they have to keep him humble.
Noah Galloway/Sharna Burgess (cha cha, judge score: 7, 6, 6, 7 for a total of 26 points)
Occupation: Combat veteran with U.S. Army
Best known for: A double amputee (he lost his left leg and left arm after being hit with a roadside bomb in Iraq), he’s a motivational speaker and personal trainer who was just on the cover of Men’s Health.
Storyline: Noah is worried about the challenge of dancing without one of knees. He tells Sharna, “What I’m lacking in limbs, I’ll make up for in determination and hard work.” Later, he gets emotional in his intro video. “I don’t want to just do well as the guy missing an arm and a leg. I expect more. And that’s where I’m struggling with it,” he says to the camera.
Performance: It took a solid minute for the screams and applause from the audience to die down. “You are a titan among men,” Bruno Tonioli says. “You have a presence that is unique … your feel for the music is like any of the dancers. Work with that and you’re going to astonish even more.” Julianne compliments Sharna on the creative choreography, because when the man leads, it’s usually with the left arm. Carrie Ann can’t get through her remarks without crying: “That was truly inspiring.”
Riker Lynch/Allison Holker (jive, judge score: 8, 8, 7, 8 for a total of 31 points)
Occupation: Actor and singer
Best known for: He’d probably want you to say his band R5, but more likely it’s from his few seasons on “Glee.”
Storyline: Can Riker overcome being virtually unknown by adults and capture the tween vote? And does he have an unfair advantage because he’s second cousins with Derek and Julianne Hough?!
Performance: “THE ROCKET ROCKER!” Bruno roars at him, unable to contain his excitement and jumping up on the desk. “You’ve got the coolest vibe I’ve seen since I saw my friend Billy Idol. You are cool, hip, your timing is immaculate.” Carrie Ann tries to calm everyone down by saying she wouldn’t call the dance “graceful,” but it sure was fun to watch. Len goes with “lots of energy,” though warns him that he better refine his moves for next week’s fox trot.
Michael Sam/Peta Murgatroyd (cha cha, judge score: 6, 6, 7, 7, for a total of 26 points)
Occupation: Football player
Best known for: Being the first openly gay athlete to be drafted by the NFL.
Storyline: Michael was cut by the St. Louis Rams and is currently a free agent; he says “Dancing With the Stars” is a way for him to get in the best shape of his life before the NFL combine in a few weeks. He also wants to silence his haters.
Performance: Bruno calls it very well-done, while Julianne zeroes in on his feet: They were a little sloppy. Boos from the crowd. But wait! Julianne thinks he has a great vibe. Len thinks the dancing was excellent but “your footwork is atrocious.” Carrie Ann tries to make him feel better: “You are a beautiful, gorgeous man and you have an incredible body.” She agrees about the feet, and tells him to drop the fake smile.
Suzanne Somers/Tony Dovolani (cha cha, judge score: 6, 6, 6, 7 for a total of 25 points)
Best known for: “Three’s Company,” those Thighmaster infomercials in the 1970s.
Storyline: Suzanne wants to show America that “Age is just a number and that blondes do have more fun!” She also would like to prove People magazine wrong, which once dubbed her “The dumbest woman in America.”
Performance: The judges are obsessed with Suzanne’s legs, which works out well because she threw in a Thighmasters joke at the beginning of the routine. “They don’t make them like that anymore — stuff of legends, my darling,” Bruno roars.
Willow Shields/Mark Ballas (cha cha, judge score: 6, 6, 6, 7 for a total of 25 points)
Best known for: “The Hunger Games” franchise, in which she plays Primrose Everdeen, the younger sister of Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence).
Storyline: Hey, did you catch she’s the the youngest performer ever on the show? They only mentioned it about 20 times. Willow has another goal — even though she played along with a goofy “Hunger Games” skit in her intro, she wants to be known for more than just the gazillion-dollar franchise.
Performance: Willow is adorable and the judges obviously love her. Even grumpy Len compares her to Alka-Seltzer, as in “sparkling, bubbly, refreshing and makes you feel good.” Julianne chimes too: “You might be the youngest competitor we’ve ever had, but girl, you’ve got some sass!”
Redfoo/Emma Slater (cha cha, judge score: 6, 5, 5, 6 for a total of 22 points)
Best known for: “SHOTS, SHOTS, SHOTS-SHOTS, SHOTS, SHOTS, SHOTS-SHOTS, SHOTS, SHOTS, SHOTS-SHOTS, SHOTS….” — also known as one of the most popular songs from his duo LMFAO. (Other hits: “I’m Sexy and I Know It,” “Party Rock Anthem”)
Storyline: Former “DWTS” guest judge turned contestant.
Performance: He also goes with his own song, “Juicy Wiggle,” with a performance so psychedelic and brightly-colored that it’s hard to watch. “You dance like your hair — a little wild and unkempt,” Len tells him, while Julianne says she can’t wait to see what he does week to week.
Patti LaBelle/Artem Chigvintsev (fox trot, judge score: 7, 6, 6, 6 for a total of 25 points)
Occupation: Grammy-winning singer
Best known for: Winning every music award that exists.
Storyline: She’s a legendary singer but has no dancing experience — can she fight through the struggle? “I’m here to show America that Miss Patti can dance,” she declared, adding that she wants to prove what you can do at age 70.
Performance: Well, you get an automatic advantage when you dance to one of your own songs (“Lady Marmalade”). Julianne gushes about Patti’s presence, calling her a “gorgeous, graceful goddess” and that “everything was beautiful.” Bruno calls it enriching, Carrie Ann also loves it. “You can ring my bell, Patti” Len grins, while Tom Bergeron proves why he’s America’s hero and chimes in, “That’s one rusty bell!”
Charlotte McKinney/Keo Motsepe (jive, judge score: 6, 5, 5, 6 for a total of 22 points)
Best known for: This basically naked Carl’s Jr. Super Bowl commercial, which has been watched about 10 million times on YouTube.
Storyline: Charlotte says she wants to show America that there’s more than her than “just boobs” — no word on if that will actually happen since her whole segment was devoted to naked jokes and how her chest could impede her dancing. Keo suggested using lots of tape.
Performance: Charlotte botches the beginning of the dance and the judges lightly critique her skills. They all want her back next week. Julianne says she needs to watch her footwork, but notes “The top half is actually really great — the bottom half you need a little bit of work on.” Lots of cheers and much agreement from Bruno, who says something that sounds like “It must take a momentous effort to carry America’s most imposing frontage.” Tom Bergeron’s reaction is priceless.
Chris Soules/Witney Carson (jive, judge score: 7, 6, 6, 7 for a total of 26 points)
Occupation: Reality star
Best known for: “The Bachelor” and living in a really, really small town on a farm.
Storyline: Engaged to Whitney, dancing with a Witney — awkward! And as Chris points out, there’s lots of physical contact on the dance floor. Props to co-host Erin Andrews for calling him out on that one: “You were, like, ‘The Bachelor’ that made out with everyone,” she points out.
Performance: Bad news: Prince Farming can’t really dance. The judges avoid calling him terrible and instead compliment his sincerity on the dance floor. “Tons and tons of potential here,” Carrie Ann raves, and gives him tips on how to channel his natural charisma into dancing skill. “You need some polish,”Len says sternly.
Robert Herjavec/Kym Johnson (cha cha, judge score: 7, 7, 7, 7 for a total of 28 points)
Occupation: CEO of one of the largest cyber-security firms in the world
Best known for: One of the sharks/judges on ABC’s “Shark Tank.”
Storyline: Robert is very, very rich and wants people to know it, because why else would he show up in his intro with a private plane and Ferrari?
Performance: Robert’s a pretty goofy dancer, and the judges are shocked that he actually likes to let loose and have fun. “What a pleasant surprise!” Bruno says, who was expecting a shark and instead got Flipper the crazy dolphin. Len criticizes his dance moves but is also pleased that he’s embracing the silliness of the show.