Celebrity toes resumed twinkling tonight as Dancing With the Stars kicked off its eighth season and, despite the desperately random assortment of said stars, this has the makings of a good go-around.
This barely begun season has already witnessed the premature exit of two injured stars—Nancy O'Dell and Jewel—and the last-minute arrival of their replacements—Girls Next Door babe Holly Madison and extra-burned Bachelor castoff Melissa Rycroft. Not to mention half the pros are dancing on surgically repaired joints and Hollywood newcomer Gilles Marini has tendinitis in his groin.
As Bruno Tonioli would say... Actually, he'd say something gross, so we're just going to recap tonight's performances:
Lil' Kim: The raunchy rapper—who revealed that she first started watching DWTS while in prison—has rhythm, and her cha-cha with defending champ Derek Hough got the night off to a very saucy—and technically sound—start. She needs polish but has major potential. "You can work wonders with that tushy!" Bruno offered, while head judge Len Goodman called the performance "first class."
Belinda Carlisle: The former Go-Go's frontwoman looked lovely, but, according to her debut waltz with Jonathan Roberts, she's missing the inherent grace possessed by past elder stateswomen such as Jane Seymour and Priscilla Presley. There certainly weren't any Cloris Leachman moments, as Bruno suggested, but the 50-year-old still needs to get that beat back, pronto.
Lawrence Taylor: He might have been wearing Emmitt Smith's cha-cha outfit, but the 50-year-old NFL Hall of Famer isn't quite disco ball material yet. Not that he needed to be, what with Edyta Sliwinska returning in fine scantily clad form after last season's one-and-done appearance with Jeff Ross. But as Len noted, there's a "naturalness" about Taylor.
Steve-O The former Jackass player didn't exactly stick his foot "up the waltz's butt," but he didn't suck too hard, either. Let's just say Lacey Schwimmer has her work cut out for her, but if anyone can cover up someone's rough edges with edgy choreography, she can.
Gilles Marini: Turns out Sex and the City's Samantha would have done well to visit her naked neighbor. The 33-year-old Frenchman, who quite literally flashed into American theaters last summer, is a frontrunner at this point, as far as raw talent is concerned. He's rough around the edges, but his cha-cha was the best of the bunch. And, for the record, Cheryl Burke looks great.
Chuck Wicks: The 29-year-old country singer is the first star to join the show having already seduced his pro partner. Julianne Hough's easy-on-the-eyes boyfriend showed a lot of potential, waltzing his girlfriend around the ballroom with relative ease, although his desire to impress her—and make her laugh during rehearsals—could make for a rough ride behind the scenes.
Denise Richards She was the first to cry during rehearsal this season, but the actress rebounded nicely, minus that limp left arm. Going for Richards already are her flexibility, killer bod and fan-favorite partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Not great are those nerves, which she needs to shake. "You've got it all, but you don't know what to do with it!" exclaimed Bruno.
Melissa Rycroft: OK, we'll say it... Suck it, Jason Mesnick. A week after being ceremoniously dumped on national TV (thanks, producers, for replaying the moment tonight), in a snazzy bit of ABC synergy the former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader made a triumphant return to prime time. Her promising waltz, combined with all the good will she's acquired (standing ovation, anyone?), means Tony Dovolani finally has a shot at the title.
Holly Madison: DWTS first-timer Dmitry Chaplin certainly didn't need to whip his Playboy Playmate partner into shape for the challenge. Holly's lovely limbs, spray-tanned to perfection, could serve her well eventually, but tonight's cha-cha proved that a week's practice just ain't enough.
Ty Murray: Well, Jewel wouldn't have had to worry about her hubby wrangling the title away from her. The rodeo cowboy gave his cha-cha a go, and his aw-shucks demeanor is very charming, but newcomer Chelsie Hightower is probably going to have a very short debut season.
Shawn Johnson Girl knows how to compete. The Olympic gymnast, fresh off a four-medal performance in Beijing and the youngest-ever DWTS competitor at 17, has the potential to add a disco ball to her trophy case. Her waltz was graceful—"surprisingly refined," Bruno called it—and she partners well with the boyishly handsome Mark Ballas (who, after all, is only 22).
Steve Wozniak: It is possible for the billionaire entrepreneur to win this season. It would require free iPods suddenly appearing in mailboxes across the U.S., but still...Anyway, Karina Smirnoff had her man suited up to be the clown, trotting him out for the cha-cha in a pink boa, but unless Wozniak's minions find a way to hack the database, the likable Apple Computer cofounder probably won't last too long.
David Alan Grier: The comedian was likable but forgettable, his waltz—and his face—being neither here nor there. "One character will suffice," Bruno advised, referring to Grier's constantly shifting facial expressions. The In Living Color star couldn't even get a break from former Fly Girl Carrie Ann Inaba, who docked him a point for lifting both of Kym Johnson's feet off the ground.
Wow, so much to think about before the 13 contestants dance again next Monday. This week's scores and votes will be combined with next week's before the season's first elimination show on Tuesday, March 17.
Here's a rundown of tonight's leaderboard:
Gilles and Cheryl: 24
Shawn and Mark: 23
Melissa and Tony: 23
Lil Kim and Derek: 21
Chuck and Julianne: 20
David and Kym: 19
Denise and Maksim: 18
Holly and Dmitry: 18
Belinda and Jonathan: 17
Steve-O and Lacey: 17
Lawrence and Edyta: 16
Ty and Chelsie: 14
Steve and Karina: 13