Who's ready to kick off the most hyped season of Dancing With the Stars yet?!
Ready or not, here they come. A dozen celebs of varying stature hit the ballroom tonight with the pressure already on: One of them is going home tomorrow.
As usual, we've got reality stars (including a member of the E! family), athletes, singers, actors, etc. But all are created equal when they first step out on the floor—and it's the steps they make afterward that count!
So, who were the surprise hits and who totally missed the mark? Let's start with Chaz Bono...
Knowing he was the one that audiences were most anxious to see, producers craftily saved Chaz—the show's first-ever transgender contestant—for last. But he was definitely not least!
The author and Becoming Chaz star made the most preseason headlines, but he showed up ready to rumble, er, rumba! Under the tutelage of Lacey Schwimmer, Chaz wasn't the best dancer, but he may have been the most pleasantly surprising.
Not to mention "cute and cuddly," as Bruno Tonioli duly noted.
Clean-shaven and looking like a teenager, David Arquette waltzed two-time champ Kym Johnson around the floor like a guy with something to prove! (Or at least with someone to impress—daughter Coco and his still legally wedded wife Courteney Cox had front-row seats in the audience.)
And his effort was not wasted, with none other than head judge Len Goodman saying he was "very, very impressed" by what Arquette put out there. Of course, he's got the energy of an unbridled pony, so he has to tone it down a bit, but the eight-months-sober Scream star had great lines and infectious enthusiasm.
Arquette's going to have to share the dashing spotlight, however, with Iraq war vet turned soap star J.R. Martinez, who came out firing with grace and panache. "For me, J.R. stands for 'Just Right,'" praised Len. Then, of course, J.R.'s got that whole hero thing going for him. He may be tough to beat.
Hold on, though!
Chynna Phillips, who's enjoying a bit of a renaissance thanks to Wilson Phillips' cameo in Bridesmaids, was also an early highlight after scoring a 22 on an extremely fluid Viennese waltz that Len called not the best first dance he'd ever seen.
"But it came close!" the Brit exclaimed. Not to mention, it was good enough for her to share first place with J.R.
Carrie Ann Inaba's favorite dance of the night "by far," however, was Carson Kressly's "Moves Like Jagger" cha-cha with Anna Trebunskaya.
"It had elements of Jagger, swagger and stagger," Len said, referring to the mesmerizing combo of rhythm, camp and exaggerated movement. "We have Mick, we have Bianca, two for the price of one and worth every penny!" Bruno brilliantly concluded.
And how did Keeping Up With the Kardashians' sole brother, Rob Kardashian, do in his DWTS debut? Well, Carrie Ann Inaba saw major potential, but Kim Kardashian's still got the family bragging rights, having scored a 19 in her first week compared with Rob's 16.
Kristin Cavallari, who is teamed with Mark Ballas and therefore was tasked with tricky cha-cha choreography right off the bat, doesn't have Audrina Patridge's grace—but she showed way more fire than her Hills costar.
Rivaling Kristin in the plain old hotness section of the competition, meanwhile, is Elisabetta Canalis, whose pro partner is newbie Val Chmerkovskiy (who, FYI, has his brother's penchant for shirt removal). We'd like to say that George Clooney's loss is our gain, but we don't see Elisabetta coming in second, like, ahem, Stacy Keibler did several years back.
Then there was Ron Artest, who should stick to defense, because he's not going to achieve (Metta) World Peace through dance. We love his backstory—kooky NBA champion who's motivated by his darling daughter, who survived cancer at 4 years old—but we'd prefer not having to watch him dance anymore. So, we have a feeling that first-year pro Peta Murgatroyd is going to have a short debut season.
And Nancy Grace had a surprising amount of rhythm, enough to wow us anyway,and boasted some "lavish assets" (thanks for pointing that out, Bruno). But she also appeared to poop out about midway through her cha-cha with delish newcomer Tristan MacManus.
Doing pretty well but not really lighting anyone's fire were Hope Solo and Ricki Lake, who at this point are more notable for their respective partners, the cocky Maksim Chmerkovskiy and three-time champ Derek Hough, who took last season off.
But, as always, it's still anybody's game heading into tomorrow's elimination, which will occur following performances by Harry Connick Jr. and LMFAO.
Here's how the season's inaugural leaderboard stacked up:
Chynna Phillips & Tony Dovolani: 22
J.R. Martinez & Karina Smirnoff: 22
Hope Solo & Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 21
Ricki Lake & Derek Hough: 20
Kristin Cavallari & Mark Ballas: 19
David Arquette & Kym Johnson: 18
Carson Kressly & Anna Trebunskaya: 17
Chaz Bono & Lacey Schwimmer: 17
Nancy Grace & Tristan MacManus: 16
Rob Kardashian & Cheryl Burke: 16
Elisabetta Canalis & Val Chmerkovskiy: 15
Ron Artest & Petra Murgatroyd: 14
Who do you think will be first to get the boot? Share all your thoughts on the new season in the comments section!
(Originally published Sept. 19, 2011, at 8:15 p.m. PT)