September 20th, 2011
12:01 PM ET
[Editor's Note: Spoilers -- and scores -- from last night's "Dancing With the Stars" are included in the post below.]
It's a new season on "Dancing with the Stars"! Or, as a friend of mine calls it, "Dancing with People Who Happen to Know Stars."
Much has changed since the last season came to a close in May. The ballroom is bigger and brighter. Co-host Brooke Burke is now Brooke Burke Charvet. And host Tom Bergeron has surrendered his customary introduction of musical director Harold Wheeler to the mysterious announcer voice.
This season, 12 celebrities and their dance partners are competing to win the prestigious Mirrorball trophy. For the first week, the teams will perform either a cha-cha or a Viennese waltz.
Our first celeb is the basketball player formerly known as Ron Artest. He legally changed his name to Metta World Peace last week, but is still going by his old name on the show. Artest/World Peace, appearing with a hairstyle straight out of the Dennis Rodman playbook, creaked and stumbled through a cha-cha with partner Anna "Heavens To" Murgatroyd. The judges praised the hoopster for being entertaining, but scolded him for lack of technique.
Artest/World Peace: 14/30 (Carrie Ann Inaba 5, Len Goodman 4, Bruno Tonioli 5)
Next up is America's sixth-most popular Kardashian, Rob. At least he's paired with Cheryl Burke, who could team up with a coat rack and finish in the Top 5.
Kardashian is smart enough to let Burke do much of the work on their Viennese waltz, winning the approval of all the Kardashians in the audience. The judges criticize Rob for being rigid in his performance - guess rigid is the polite way of saying "barely moving."
Kardashian : 16/30 (Inaba 6, Goodman 5, Tonioli 5)
We now check in on Kristin Cavallari, who I'm told was famous a few years ago. Like Kardashian, she lucks out in being paired with top pro Mark Ballas.
The two dance a cha-cha to a Taio Cruz tune, whose cover singer sounded a bit off-key. The judges praise Cavallari for having potential, though it seemed to me that Ballas did a majority of the work.
Cavallari: 19/30 (Inaba 7, Goodman 6, Tonioli 6)
Next up is singer Chynna Phillips, who I think has a leg up on the competition. Think about it - she's part of a legendary showbiz family, she sang in a trio with two sisters from a famous musical family, and she's related to a famous acting family through marriage. She could go far solely on Phillips, Wilson and Baldwin votes!
Thankfully, Phillips showed she belonged on the dance floor, as she and Tony Dovolani performed a crisp, relatively clean Viennese waltz.
Phillips: 22/30 (Inaba 8, Goodman 7, Tonioli 7)
We're now up to the only contestant I have the potential of meeting at the company Christmas party, HLN's Nancy Grace. Paired with new pro Tristan MacManus, the legal analyst performed a cha-cha that let her show off a fun side you rarely see on TV. The judges noted her spunk and, unlike TV's Lou Grant back in the day, they like spunk! Nevertheless, they remind the dancing beginner to work on her choreography.
Grace: 16/30 (Inaba 5, Goodman 5, Tonioli 6)
Next up is David Arquette, who host Tom Bergeron notes was a former pro wrestling champion. All those acting credits and winning a belt was his greatest achievement. Go figure.
Arquette, dressed like a waiter at a really fancy steakhouse, performed a waltz with Kym Johnson to Queen's "Somebody to Love." Arquette had no problem letting everyone see him sweat, and the judges complimented him for his efforts.
Arquette: 18/30 (Inaba 6, Goodman 6, Tonioli 6)
Elisabetta Canalis is next, and even Bergeron admitted that we wouldn't know who she was if she hadn't dated George Clooney. Dance partner Val Chmerkovskiy (brother of "DWTS" vet Maksim) must have realized that Canalis was quite the novice, as they opt to begin their cha-cha (literally) in bed.
Alas, Canalis looked at times like a five-year-old who got separated from Mom and Dad at the mall food court, staring out into space while Val did all the dirty work.
Canalis: 15/30 (Inaba 5, Goodman 5, Tonioli 5)
It's now Maksim's turn to prove who the better Chmerkovskiy is, and he's paired with soccer star Hope Solo. The two waltz to a Dave Matthews tune – a peculiar selection for an elegant dance, but one that surprisingly works. Solo was praised for her strong chemistry, but she appeared to gas out near the end of the routine, and the judges urged her to work on her elegance.
Solo: 21/30 (Inaba 7, Goodman 7, Tonioli 7)
Carson Kressley is next, and he's wondering whether Nancy Grace is having as much fun as he and partner Anna Trebunskaya are having. Dressed like an extra in every '70s police drama, the fashion guru wowed the audience with an all-out cha-cha that was quite entertaining, although lacking in basic dance technique. Kressley may be this season's equivalent of the life of the party.
Kressley: 17/30 (Inaba 6, Goodman 5, Tonioli 6)
We're now up to military veteran-turned-soap star J.R. Martinez, who's paired with show veteran Karina Smirnoff. What Martinez lacks in name recognition may be made up on natural talent, based on last night's performance.
Martinez looked at ease during his waltz, swinging Smirnoff along the dance floor and showing genuine emotion that a number of his competitors lacked. The end result was Martinez being tied with Chynna Phillips for top scorer of the night.
Martinez: 22/30 (Inaba 8, Goodman 7, Tonioli 7)
Ricki Lake is next, and nothing is made of the fact that she first caught our attention dancing in the movie "Hairspray" all those years ago. Partnered with "Dancing" legend Derek Hough, Lake's waltz looked confident and fluid. Nevertheless, the judges chided her on her footwork.
Lake: 20/30 (Inaba 7, Goodman 6, Tonioli 7)
The final competitor is ready to hit the dance floor, and it's Chaz Bono. Much has been made as to whether the transgender activist deserved to be on the show. But Bono is the child of two legendary entertainers, so perhaps Sonny and Cher's "performance genes" passed on to the next generation.
Paired with "Dancing" veteran Lacey Schwimmer, Bono more than held his own on the dance floor, clearly having fun performing the cha-cha. The judges complimented Bono for his positive attitude and refusing to go down without a fight.
Bono: 17/30 (Inaba 6, Goodman 5, Tonioli 6)
Heading into tonight's elimination, it appears that Artest/World Peace and Canalis are in the most danger of being knocked out, but you never know what the voters think.
What did you think of last night's "Dancing with the Stars" premiere? Who should be eliminated?
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