March 20th, 2012
11:43 AM ET
It's that time of year again, when D-listers of all types gather on a soundstage to dance their hearts out for whomever is texting on their phone.
Yes, season 14 of "Dancing with the Stars" has kicked off, and it was LIVE (or, if you reside on the West Coast, it was on a THREE HOUR DELAY).
Tom Bergeron and Brooke Burke Charvet welcomed us with a big announcement: none of the 12 teams will be eliminated this week.
Instead, the couples will be judged by a pair of dances over a two-week period. Let's get the ball rolling with entertainment reporter Maria Menounos, who I will try this season not to refer to as "Menudo." She's paired with Derek Hough, who does nothing but win on this show.
The two performed a cha-cha to a Kelly Clarkson song, and Maria seemed comfortable on the dance floor, albeit a bit stiff. However, she can swivel her hips, and that's a heck of a lot better than I could do.
Judge Len Goodman, wearing a pink-striped shirt that he may have swiped from a barbershop quartet, enjoyed the performance, but Bruno Tonioli urged her to loosen up a tad. Carrie Ann Inaba warned Maria to be less robotic on stage, but was pleased with what she saw.
Maria Menounos: 21/30 (All 7s)
Then came actor/singer/celebrity golfer Jack Wagner, who appeared to have picked up his dance costume from the Steve Urkel collection.
The two performed an upbeat, enthusiastic foxtrot that seemed to delight the crowd, although the routine reminded me of something a department store would put together to promote a clearance sale.
Bruno thought the dance was beautifully performed, while Carrie Ann was in a "happy place" after his performance. Someone please check what the woman is drinking during the show. Len thought the dance was entertaining, but warned that Jack's technique was poor.
Jack Wagner: 23/30 (Inaba 8, Goodman 7, Tonioli 8 )
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver was next, paired with Peta "Heavens To" Murgatroyd. Last season, Peta and the artist formerly known as Ron Artest were booted right off the bat, so let's hope Ms. Murgatroyd stays on a little longer this time around. I'd like to type "Heavens To" Murgatroyd a few times this spring.
Donald and Peta performed a cha-cha that oozed charisma. Donald seemed quite comfortable dancing without Peta holding his hand, and he could swivel his hips just as well as Maria could.
Carrie Ann wondered if there was much cha-cha in Donald's dance, although she praised his "charisma" and "charm." Len thought Donald was "overexcited" on the dance floor.
Donald Driver: 21/30 (All 7s) - The audience didn't sound impressed with the scores, although some of the catcalls appeared to be pre-recorded.
We're now up to singer Gavin DeGraw, who has the advantage of having last season's pro champ, Karina Smirnoff, as his partner.
Gavin and Karina performed a sensual foxtrot that seemed to dazzle the easy-to-please audience. Although Gavin didn't always seem to be in sync with Karina, but you could tell he was having fun.
The judges complimented Gavin for holding his own with a complicated dance, but noted he looked a bit stiff. Carrie Ann then made a very strange noise to describe Gavin's arm movements. I'm thinking she should see a doctor for that.
Gavin DeGraw: 20/30 (Inaba 7, Goodman 6, Tonioli 7)
Our next celebrity is Roshon Fegan, who stars on a Disney Channel show called "Shake It Up." I was horribly disappointed to discover that the show has nothing to do with either The Cars or Ric Ocasek's home life. However, it is about dancing, so does that give Roshon a competitive edge?
Roshon and Chelsie Hightower performed a cha-cha that delighted the crowd, and Roshon looked like an old pro on the dance floor. But what do the judges think?
Bruno said Roshon was "laser sharp" and "unbelievable," but Len thought there was too much hip-hop in his cha-cha. I'm thinking Len's praying for an Ink Spots or Mills Brothers tribute on a future episode.
Roshon Fegan: 23/30 (Inaba 8, Goodman 7, Tonioli 8 )
Up next is "The View" co-host Sherri Shepherd, who refers to herself as an "accomplished" actress. That may be pushing it. She's paired with Val "The Better Half" Chmerkovskiy, and they appear to be a match made in, well, some kind of heaven.
The two performed a foxtrot that looked to be at Sherri's speed: slow and slower. Sherri also seemed to be making a lot of weird faces throughout the routine.
Nevertheless, the judges praised Sherri for her happiness, with Carrie Ann calling Sherri the "happiest" contestant in show history. I'm guessing Chris Harrison is writing the material for the judges this season.
Sherri Shepherd: 23/30 (Inaba 8, Goodman 7, Tonioli 8 ) - Guess slow and steady wins the race on this show.
"Little House" icon Melissa Gilbert then stepped onto the stage with partner Maksim "Mr. Warmth" Chmerkovskiy.
Their dance was ambitious, yet comfortable. Maks also had his shirt unbuttoned, guaranteeing enough votes from the ladies to avoid elimination for a few weeks.
Len and Bruno praised Melissa for an "inspiring" routine, but thought it was somewhat out of control and technically inept.
Melissa Gilbert: 20/30 (Inaba 7, Goodman 6, Tonioli 7)
We're now up to William Levy, a telenovela actor who informed viewers that we might've recognized him from several roles. I didn't, so let's move on. He's paired with Cheryl Burke, who has the ability to reach the finals if paired with a throw rug.
The two performed a cha-cha and, honestly, I really don't need to go into specifics. The women in the audience went crazy for everything William did. He could just stand in the middle of the dance floor and pick his nose for 90 seconds, and he'd still finish at least third or fourth in the competition.
Carrie Ann complimented William for being in "the vein of cha-cha." I'm guessing that's code for Carrie Ann wanting to get William's number after the show.
William Levy: 24/30 (All 8s)
Next was tennis legend Martina Navratilova, and she and Tony Dovolani performed a foxtrot that seemed to work at her level - basic, and to the point. It was a tad slow and stiff, but Martina looked confident on the stage.
Len said the routine looked too "careful" and "insular," while Bruno urged her to learn how to extend her moves.
Martina Navratilova: 20/30 (Inaba 7, Goodman 6, Tonioli 7)
Opera signer Katherine Jenkins came onto the dance floor next, paired with one of the better pro partners, Mark Ballas. Their foxtrot was simple, elegant and sensual. Katherine smiled throughout the routine, and I'm not sure if I could do that for so long. My mouth would be in pain for hours if I had to smile like that for 90 seconds.
Len said the musicality and detail of the routine were great, but there were technique issues. Bruno called the dance "exquisite."
Katherine Jenkins: 26/30 (Inaba 9, Goodman 8, Tonioli 9) – It's here that I'll note how unusual it is to see such high scores on the first night of competition. Are this season's celebrities that good, or are the judges being encouraged to be more positive with the competitors this time around? With "The Voice" proving to be a Monday night beast on NBC this season, perhaps "DWTS" is trying to tone down the negativity of previous competitions (Hope Solo and Maks, for example) to try and win back viewers.
Music legend Gladys Knight performed next with partner Tristan MacManus, who danced with HLN legal eagle Nancy Grace last season. Gladys received a lengthy standing ovation for her dance, and she moved great for a woman her age. But what do the judges think?
Bruno said Gladys has "moves," while Carrie Ann complimented her for "shaking her tail feather." Honestly, there's a time and a place for someone to come to the realization that you sound dorky when you try to sound hip. Carrie Ann, now is that time and place.
Gladys Knight: 23/30 (Inaba 8, Goodman 7, Tonioli 8 )
The final celebrity of the night was Jaleel White, who played Steve Urkel on "Family Matters." Tom Bergeron suggested that Urkel reminded him of a pint-sized Larry King. Mirrorball, hello?
Jaleel and pro partner Kym Johnson performed a foxtrot that wowed the crowd with its elegance and simplicity. Jaleel has plenty of poise on the dance floor, although he is a tad on the slow side.
Carrie Ann said Jaleel reminded her of the movie "White Nights." I'd estimate all of four viewers got that reference. Len and Bruno declared it the best first night in show history. Again, I ask you - when did Chris Harrison join the writing staff?
Jaleel White: 26/30 (Inaba 9, Goodman 8, Tonioli 9)
Next week, the celebs return for more fancy footwork.
What did you think of last night's "Dancing" premiere? And check out the video at the top of this story to find out how the celebrities and pros thought of their performances!
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