And so it begins.
Obviously looking to somehow make this post-Gosselin season its most talked about ever, Dancing With the Stars trotted out 12 new spring ballroom chickens Monday, the behind-the-scenes strategery already apparent—guess who danced last?—and the gimmicks as glaring as ever.
But you know what? After a few initial eye rolls, we are hooked!
Find out who tanked, who rocked our world and why the heckster Bristol Palin was wearing that hideous, matronly suit:
Well, obviously the campaign trail/flight attendant get-up was for effect, meant only to be ripped off (rather gently, unfortunately) toward the beginning of her cha-cha with two-time champ Mark Ballas.
Ballas might not win again this year, but we've got this to say for Bristol: She's not terrible. Not only is she a million times better than last season's stunt contestant, Kate Gosselin, she's got a cute figure, plenty of shakeable assets, good rhythm, a great smile and, perhaps most importantly...
ABC can't possibly let her get kicked off until mama Sarah Palin makes an appearance in the audience!
Bruno Tonioli had the quote of the night early on, when he commented, "This is virgin territory for you."
A tie goes to the British announcer, when he said, "Now dancing the cha-cha-cha, The Situation and his partner, Karina Smirnoff."
Looks like Karina may have had to dumb down the choreography a bit—because of scheduling conflicts, not brain matter conflicts—and that hurt ol' Michael Sorrentino's first impression out there. But he's actually got potential, and humbled is a good look for him.
As for the rest of the pack, their breakout weeks still ahead of them:
• Who doesn't want to root for Jennifer Grey? The 50-year-old Dirty Dancing alum broke down in rehearsal thinking about Patrick Swayze, she recently underwent cancer surgery and she's really good! Fun fact: The song she and Derek Hough waltzed to, "These Arms of Mine," was playing when Baby first knocked on a shirtless Johnny's cabin door to apologize for her dad treating him badly. Sigh...
• Audrina Patridge, spray-tanned to within an inch of her life, is far less robotic from the neck down than we expected. She did a perfectly adorable cha-cha with a joyful Tony Dovolani, who blasted all evidence of PTKD (post-traumatic Kate disorder) out of his system by throwing in a hefty amount of tricks for a week-one routine and high-fiving everyone in sight as he led Audrina backstage afterward.
• Speaking of joyful, Maksim Chmerkovskiy is obviously pleased to be a contender again, this time with Brandy. The singer has what all the other pop-R&B divas had: natural grace and musical timing, plus more jazz and hip-hop practice than they probably care to admit.
• Kurt Warner and Rick Fox were kinda interchangeable tonight. Both tower over their wee partners, Anna Trebunskaya and Cheryl Burke (Fox is 6'7"), both waltzed like they had never done it before and both oozed charm and likeability. Let's just say, neither dashing retired championship athlete is going anywhere this week, but NBA edges NFL in the potential department.
• Same goes for Michael Bolton, 57, and David Hasselhoff, 58. Though of similar age, stature and dance skill (fair to middling), the two onetime major heartthrobs turned serviceably handsome middle-aged guys turned in different performances. Bolton's waltz with Chelsie Hightower was dead serious, and Kym Johnson is taking the Donny Osmond route (style over substance) with Hasselhoff, the evening's final performer. (Only difference: you couldn't help but love Donny Osmond.) Bolton got his share of grief over the years for his hair and whatnot, but the Hoff's more current roast-worthy status could actually give him the edge as far as voting public is concerned.
• Margaret Cho and Louis Van Amstel broke hold during the waltz in the name of comedy, and we knew Len Goodman wasn't going to like it. She showed flashes of grace, so better luck next time (if there is one).
• Expect a resurgence in Mrs. Brady fantasies among the younger generation. Who knows if she's still got what it takes to go the distance, but at 76, Florence Henderson remains one hot mama. We just hope Mark's dad, Corky Ballas, takes advantage of what he's got here and doesn't try to Cloris Leachmanize his partner.
Our surprise hero of the night, however, was That's So Raven star Kyle Massey, who went from "who?" to "woo-hoo!" with a really, really good cha-cha. We thought Lacey Schwimmer was going to eat the baby-faced 19-year-old alive, but he turned out to be a rather sexy, confident star with more rhythm than a handful of Hasselhoffs.
"You are officially my first crush of season 11!" raved Carrie Ann Inaba.
Here's how the leaderboard stacked up tonight:
Jennifer & Derek: 24
Brandy & Maks: 23
Kyle & Lacey: 23
Rick & Cheryl: 22
Audrina & Tony: 19
Kurt & Anna: 19
Bristol & Mark: 18
Florence & Corky: 18
Michael & Chelsie: 16
David & Kym: 15
Margaret & Louis: 15
The Situation & Karina: 15
No dilly-dallying this season. Someone is getting the boot tomorrow night following performances by Santana, Daughtry and India.Arie.
Tell us, who do you love? And who do you hoped has already taken his or her last step? Fill us in on your feelings in the comments section!
While they're all still here, check out all the stars competing this season!