by Heather Parish
A new season of Dancing With The Stars began last week! Here is a recap of last week’s episode. Beginning tomorrow night we will have recaps each week, every Thursday night!
Dancing with the Stars Recap: Season 14 Premiere!
TOM BERGERON! It’s so great to see you again! (Oh, hi, Brooke Burke, you’re there too.) We’re back for another season of America’s twice-yearly fever dream!
This season there has been a lot comment in the press about how this season’s “stars” are the least notable group of competitors thus far. One of the things I love about this show is that it never really matters which names are on the cast — who they are and why they’re (maybe) celebrities can have virtually nothing to do with what they’ll do after they’ve been deposited onto a bizarre planet in a ballroom-dancing-centric alternate reality. This random group of people is basically reborn for our amusement to dance for us. It’s so ridiculous! It’s so wonderful.
That’s why I never have strong opinions on how a season will go during the weeks before it begins. How would I know?! Sometimes they’re duds, sometimes they surprise us. Hopefully, they can dance.
And all 12 of these baby glitter-bots did. Here they are:
Classical Songstress Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas: 26 out of possible 30
If Mark was fuming at Tristan the whole time for stealing his red spats out of his closet, Sir Ballas certainly did a nice job of playing it cool. He seems more relaxed this season, and he has a picture-perfect partner in Katherine. Even her accent is fabulous. The crying she delivered helped. Everyone loves tears on this show, as long as they’re not accompanied by pain. (Give it time.)
It was after Katherine and Mark’s foxtrot that Tom decided, “This is my favorite premiere, start to finish, we’ve ever done.” At that point, I teared up. Get it together, Barrett! Urkel’s up next!
Actor Jaleel White and Kym Johnson: 26/30
The former Family Matters actor seems to want to distance himself as far away from that geeky persona as possible. It seems his dancing will do it for him, though. I loved his and Kym’s intricate hand placements as she slightly twisted while in hold. His foxtrot was so lovely that Bruno even compared Jaleel to the late, great Gregory Hines.
In a costuming note, how on earth did Kym manage to wear a single feather made of toilet paper all over her upper body and not receive a single chortle from the audience? Kym’s got style skills!
Latin heartthrob William Levy and Cheryl Burke: 24/30
The crowd goes wild before Tom can even say William’s name. He and Cheryl got started a week later than everyone else because of his work schedule. He balks at the shoes Cheryl’s laid out for him; dude, if Donald Driver doesn’t bat an eye getting into heels, neither should you. It’s a cha cha cha to Chris Brown’s “International Love” that, naturally enough, has a nightclub feel to it. Cheryl’s not a dummy – he’s in a sleeveless shirt that’s also cut short enough for us to ogle what my mom would call “his buns.”
However, Bruno tells William that he’s overdressed. Carrie Ann thanks ABC for her job and felt like their freestyle stayed in the spirit of the cha cha cha. Len miraculously agrees.
Disney Star Roshon Fagan and Chelsie Hightower: 23/30
Roshon is the youngest dancer and has been a “hip-hop freestyle” dancer for a long time. Chelsie thinks he looks like a “lost puppy dog” trying to pick up the steps. The kid makes some funny cute faces, I’ll give him that. Their cha cha to “Glad You Came” by The Wanted is definitely young feeling, and Roshon’s got some serious flexibility and fluidity; he whips his legs around like some of the pros. Chelsie’s got some great raw talent to work with here. Bruno’s a fan, says Roshon was “laser sharp” on the beat. Carrie Ann says they did the “coolest spin” in a cha cha cha she’s seen in all 14 seasons. Len wants more traditional steps – I’ll wait while you recover from the shock of that – but says Roshon is a good dancer.
Empress of Soul Gladys Knight and Tristan MacManus: 23/30
She’s going to “Make like a Pip and dance.” Gladys is happy to have the cha cha cha because it’s rhythmic. Gladys’s rehearsal T-shirt features a bedazzled high-heeled shoe. I want. Gladys’s smile is brighter than any sequin they could ever sew on her as they dance to “Best of My Love” by The Emotions. She’s fumbling a bit and it’s not the fastest routine, not by a long shot, but her spirit is infectious. I’m giving Tristan’s red spats a very dubious eyebrow, however. Leave those kind of sartorial shenanigans to Ballas, MacManus. Standing O in the ballroom for Gladys and it’s taking a while for the crowd response to die down. Bruno’s standing and calls Gladys a star. The scores are very generous and in the Celbriquarium Brooke feels the need to translate Tristan’s Irish accent for us because she assumes we’ve never seen a movie with Colin Farrell, Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan or any number of Harry Potter’s character actors.
The View host Sherri Shepherd and Val Chmerkovskiy: 23/30
Sherri says she’s going to “laugh all the way to that mirrorball.” And then, she goes absolutely NUTS when she discovers Val is her partner. They’ve got the foxtrot to “Sherry” by The Four Seasons, which I will admit made me giggle. Sherri pulls a lot of faces when she dances, but she’s more elegant than she predicted in her pre-dance segment. Carrie Ann calls Sherri the “happiest contestant” they’ve ever had. (Sometimes I worry about the judges’ memory problems.) Len calls her “fun, fun, fun” and Bruno says she’s light on her feet with good timing. Sherri practically skips across the floor to the interview area. Sherri apologizes to everyone she ever criticized as a viewer of the show.
Tom cracks that Sherri will be giving fellow contestant Gavin DeGraw lessons on how to get over shyness. I nominate Tom Bergeron as the host of the next Hunger Games.
80s actor-singer Jack Wagner and Anna Tre-BUN-skaya: 23/30
I hope Jack’s sudsy career history will keep him at the forefront of viewers’ minds, because I nearly forgot about this couple. (They danced second of 12 — deadly!) His extensions in the foxtrot were dreadful, but I suspect that given a few weeks, Jack Wagner could be a prime candidate for a “most improved player” story arc.
Jack and Anna looked great as a couple but seemed relieved at the end of the foxtrot. But Jack also looked like he was having a blast, so I’m rooting for him. There are many better dancers, but he’ll be good at “acting out” the dance, you know?
NFL Star Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd: 21/30
Even Donald’s 7-year-old son knows that Peta is hot. That’s pretty hot. Football players always do well on DWTS, but for me, the show’s really hit the jackpot with this particular NFL star because he’s such a genuine fan of the series. He’s seen it all! I LOVE that. He wants to catch that ball! “I’ve been watching these guys, Maks and Derek, so now’s the time to copycat,” he said. Awwwwww, he has his faves.
I could barely stop marveling at how much Peta was acting like a stripper during their cha cha, but once I watched it back it was clear that all of the wide receiver’s “training since season 1” has paid off. They can both really work it for the camera. First boos of the season for Donald and Peta’s “low” scores!
Extra! Host Maria Menounos and Derek Hough: 21/30
I’ve recently been rocking out to Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” — which is sort of a perfect five-word encapsulation of what Dancing With the Stars is all about. Derek: “I want as many mirrorball trophies as I have chest hairs. That would be four.” Maria’s claims to have tomboy tendencies and definitely has a laugh you’ll find either endearing or INCREDIBLY irritating. (Guess where I fall on the spectrum?)
Maria’s got the body for dancing but not the coordination and definitely not the grace. If her partner were anybody but Derek Hough, I’d be very, very worried for her. Len wants more “hip action” but says it’s great. Bruno shows Maria how to work her hips. Carrie Ann wants her to work on her transitions.
I definitely think she was over scored since she went first in the season.
Musician Gavin DeGraw and Karina Smirnoff: 20/30
Gavin is doing DWTS because he wants to get out from behind his piano at concerts to make himself “more vulnerable.” In case the fedora didn’t tell you already how sensitive he is. I may spend most of their foxtrot trying to figure out if Karina’s wearing a dress or really really wide-legged pants. For Len, the dance wasn’t the greatest. Bruno wants Gavin to work on his transitions. There’s banter about “stiffening up at the wrong times.” Florence Henderson is involved somehow. It’s all slightly distressing. In the Celebriquarium, Brooke can’t understand how a performer can be shy. Gavin does the aw shucks head duck and says, “You’re so pretty.”
Actress Melissa Gilbert and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 20/30
I was rather impressed with Melissa’s fearlessness in the cha cha — as all three judges pointed out, this was a very difficult routine for week 1, or any week probably. She was just going all out on some brazen dips to the floor. She’s working so hard, but the moves are a little awkward. I hope her dance next week is something more along the lines of a waltz or foxtrot. Len wanted more “hip action” and called the routine “ambitious,” saying she coped well with a “difficult dance.” They’re giving her very, very technical criticism, which I always think is a good sign. If they speak in generalities, they don’t think there’s room for improvement and that you’re going home soon.
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova and Tony Dovolani: 20/30
Martina describes herself as an athlete and breast cancer survivor. And says after breast cancer she didn’t see any reason to fear dancing. Martina says that what scares her the most is the “high heels.” Now, see, Martina can get away with saying she’s not very feminine waaaaay more than a traditionally beautiful woman like Maria. I absolutely love the way the announcer says “Navratilova.” Whoa, the back of Martina’s dress is almost entirely sheer and she is still in tremendous shape. You can see her trying to remember the steps in her head, as they foxtrot to “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby,” but she looks great and her athletic background means she’s not visibly panting in front of the judges. Carrie Ann compliments her beauty and wants her to work on her spins. Len wants more wow, less caution. Martina has a sense of humor when Brooke compliments her on her appearance saying, “With all this hair, with all this makeup … If I don’t look good now, it’s over.”
I think it’s obvious from Tom’s and the judges’ comments throughout, and especially toward the end of tonight’s show, that they’re relieved not to have any obvious “villains” like a Bristol Palin or a Kardashian and that all the contestants are either good dancers or good sports. I’m happy with this season’s cast too. With the lack of an elimination tonight, I’ll see you next week!
Dancing With the Stars airs on Monday nights with Eliminations on Tuesday nights on ABC.
Check back here Thursday nights beginning tomorrow for more of Heather’s thoughts and an overview of the week’s episode!