Season 17 has started with the debut of maybe a few more changes to format & ballroom that are strictly necessary: celebrities, partners, and judges all dance to “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody” down a red carpet past new bleachers into the ballroom, where couples are now to sit around next to the judge’s stands, rehearse in a new space just before going on, and also do interviews often before even their fluff pieces air. It’s a lot of change to take in, that’s for sure. But then 12 couples went out and danced, and perhaps a little surprisingly, most of them were very good, with 7s and 8s being the judges numbers of preference for the first week. In order:
Brant Daughtry & Peta Murgratroyd: Cha Cha Cha to “Blurred Lines”(you knew someone was going to have to do that song). She flirts her head off with him in the fluff piece while he claims to be a “single threat” who can’t sing or dance. But when it comes time to dance, she finds the chemistry, and he finds the hip action, if not always the right timing. Len actually likes it more than the other two, though Bruno calls it a “sizzling teaser of things to come.” He gives an 8, Bruno and Carrie-Ann gives 7s for a 22 point total.
Leah Remini & Tony Dovolani: Foxtrot to Amy Winehouse’s “Tears Dry on Their Own.” Tony calls her a “force of nature” and thinks she thinks too little of her own ability. He’s kind of right: her foxtrot is clean and the technique is such she shouldn’t have any problem at all, but instead she’s a little hampered by timidity. Bruno claims she “went Miley Cyrus for a moment” and says she is now required to twerk next week….okay, let’s pretend he didn’t, agreed? Straight 7s to total 21.
Corbin Bleu & Karina Smirnoff: Contemporary to OneRepublic’s “If I Lose Myself.” In a pre-fluff interview he acknowledges his background might help him in contemporary, and more than it should for the other kinds of dances. But Karina notes multiple times she’s never danced contemporary and her hands shake with nerves. She also notes usually her partners hold her back from other ambitious ideas, and Corbin doesn’t, says she, “I’ve met my match in the crazy department.” They do a fast-paced and passionate routine with more than a little of that emotional magic contemporary has at its best(this was my favorite routine of the night, pretty much), where their crazy move is him lifting her over his head with both hands, and actually the least interesting part of a riveting dance. Len tells Corbin to come out again the following week with the same standard, and the judges give them straight 8s for 24.
Jack Osbourne & Cheryl Burke: Foxtrot to Eliza Dolittle’s “Pack Up.” Multiple shots of Ozzy, Sharon, & Kelly in the audience. Jack speaks in his fluff piece about raising awareness for multiple scelerosis, which he suffers from. Like Tony, Cheryl laments her partner doesn’t realize how good he is. He turns out to be really light on his feet, Sharon cries, and everybody is easily seduced. Except, of all people, Bruno, who likes it but does comment on one of Jack’s smaller technique issues, to loud disapproval from everyone in the ballroom including Len & Carrie-Ann. He gives them a 7, the other two give 8s for a 23 total.
Amber Riley & Derek Hough: Cha Cha Cha to Little Mix’s “Wings.” In the fluff piece she says she dance a little when young and dreamed of dancing further, and he compares their cha cha cha technique to “a virgin couple on our wedding night.” But by tonight they’ve gotten into together, and they charge all guns blazing into a blindingly fast cha cha that everyone will eventually decide was by far the best of the night. Judges included, they give Amber & Derek straight 9s to tie Kirsti’s record week one score.
Elizabeth Berkley & Val Chmerkovskiy: Contemporary to “Imagine.” If it were any other song it would be a great number with nothing wrong with it, but there was too much ambition here; it simply can’t do justice to that song. Not that the judges mind, especially with the choreography really very well done; the judges all praise it while giving out straight 8s.
Bill Nye & Tyne Steiclein: Cha Cha Cha to Oingo Boingo’s “Weird Science,” where she plays a beautiful creature he brought to life in a lab. Its very imaginative, cool to watch, the audience chants his name…and he simply cannot dance. Such a pity. Carrie-Ann & Bruno try to be nice while giving their fives, but Len is harsher & gives a 4 instead, for 14 total.
Keyshawn Johnson & Sharna Burgress: Cha Cha Cha to Bruno Mars “Treasure.” He calls her a quarterback and in the fluff piece they rib each other a lot. She does a lot more dancing in the routine than he does, with he being especially a liability at the beginning before he loosens up and what dancing he does do he does a little better. Bruno notes his size, calling it the “Empire State Building trying to be a Rockette.” He and Carrie-Ann give them sixes, but Len only gives them a 5, total 19.
Christina Milian & Mark Ballas: Contemporary to Zedd’s “Clarity.” Like Corbin she acknowledges her experience, but gets what she can claiming she’s never had a partner. But contemporary suits them, & Mark strips the techno noise from the song and makes a routine that brings out fully the potential emotion in it, though Tom notes the heavy use of fog. Carrie-Ann and Len also both thing she was a little introverted during the routine and thought they should have been bolder; it becomes clear Carrie-Ann is going to be very demanding of her. They give her 7s while Bruno gives her an 8 to total 22.
Bill Engvall & Emma Slater: Foxtrot to, weirdly enough, Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff.” From the fluff piece, he seems a little too macho for this scene. During the dance, he gets the moves done, but doesn’t dance through them quite as well; Carrie-Ann says he needs more “smooth booty” and the judges give him straight 6s for 18.
Valerie Harper & Tristan McManus: Foxtrot to The Drifters’ “Some Kind of Wonderful.” She too says she danced when she was very young, and now as an old lady wants to get back into it. Indeed, there’s a comfort and ease about her foxtrot which allows her to make a good impression with it, even though she was not technically flawless, and even move a lot of people when taken in conjunction with her story of being threatened with death by cancer diagnosis; Carrie-Ann is in tears. The flaws keep the scores down, though: straight 7s for 21.
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi & Sasha Farber: Cha Cha Cha to Flo Rida’s “Wild Ones.” In the fluff piece, they note how short they both are, and she talks about how she grew up and matured when she had a baby, which makes the choice of song a little strange. But it turns out she can actually do some mean Latin dancing, with good technique & good energy. Len compares them to “pocket rockets” before confessing ignorance to just what those were. There’s a scoring snagle when Carrie-Ann puts up a 7, meaning an 8, but she quickly corrects herself; Len too gives them an eight and Bruno a 7 for 23 points.
All in all the producers had some luck that their multiple teams did not result in multiple painful duds, though anyone fond of Bill Nye likely has a broken heart now; he seems more like than not to be the first one voted off now.