There have been rumors for months on the future of "Dancing With the Stars," possible changes in judges and prospective celebrities. Tonight, Season 16 began and promptly dumped all of the rumors. The judges are the same and the new crop of celebs -- and some new dance pros -- promises enough fancy footwork to amaze.
The cream rising to the top tonight were Kellie Pickler with Derek Hough, Zendaya Coleman with Val Chmerkovskiy, Victor Ortiz with new pro Lindsay Arnold, Aly Raisman with Mark Ballas, and Jacoby Jones with Karina Smirnoff. I pick Kellie, Zendaya and Jacoby to be the Top Three at the end of the season.
Kellie and Derek had the luck to dance first but their cha cha cha really dazzled with such smooth moves and shaking hips that it seemed like Week 6, instead of Week 1. Host Tom Bergeron called it "a stunning start" and all three judges oohed and aahed over the pair, giving them a total of 21. Zendaya and Val drew the contemporary style that's new to the show, but they were awesome. Judge Carrie Ann Inaba said Zendaya had a "maturity unexpected in a 16 year old," and head judge Len Goodman kept it short and sweet: "That ... was ... great!" The pair received a total of 24, the high score of the night.
Victor and Lindsay danced the foxtrot, and although he has a lot of room for improvement, Victor has a winning smile and appealing personality that ought to carry him far. "For a heavy hitter, you are surprisingly light-footed," said judge Bruno Tonioli. But the first of several boos rained down on Len when he called their dance, "uneventful." The pair's total score was 18 but I expect higher scores in their future. Aly Raisman showed off her personality, rhythm and grace when she danced the cha cha cha with Mark, but perhaps someone should have taken a closer look at her costume beforehand. The neckline was so low that it looked like she might fall out of her dress at any moment -- if the idea was too make her look more sexy, I think it was inappropriate, even for a show where the motto is "less costume, the better." The connection between Aly and Mark is apparent and I'm sure she will only get better. Their score was a total of 21.
Jacoby Jones and Karina Smirnoff had the final dance of the night and they rocked the house with their cha cha cha. For someone who couldn't rehearse until one week ago due to surgery, Jacoby did a great job. The judges called him on his foot placement and lack of technique, but his moves and grooves really brought out his personality. Their total score was 20.
Big surprises for me were Andy Dick and Wynonna Judd, both of whom I thought would be out in the first weeks. Both seemed interested and eager, and their stories of overcoming challenges were appealing. Andy and new pro Sharna Burgess danced a foxtrot that was smooth and romantic. Bruno described Andy as having "skittish charm" and Carrie Ann thought it was "quite charming." However, Len's alter-ego, Mr. Grumpy Pants, made a reappearance, saying Andy had the "fluidity of a robocop," to a hefty chorus of boos. Their total score was 17. Wynonna was very nervous, but partner Tony Dovolani brought out the best in her during their cha cha cha. She started relaxing when she began singing along with the music, but she will need to really let go to see her score go up. All of the judges thought she did a good job but needed to "go for it, to really work it." The total for the pair was 18.
It was a pleasure to see how well many of the other couples -- Dorothy Hamill with Tristan MacManus (contemporary), Ingo Rademacher with Kym Johnson (contemporary), Sean Lowe with Peta Murgatroyd (foxtrot) and Lisa Vanderpump with new pro Gleb Savchenko foxtrot) -- did with their dances, although all of them confessed to being incredibly nervous. It will be interesting to see how well they do next week with a new set of dances, and there may be more surprises in store for the audience.
While I was pleased to see that the judges mostly kept the scores real, the biggest shocker of the night was how bad D.L. Hughley and Cheryl Burke danced and how harsh the judges were on them. Neither D.L. nor Cheryl seems really interested in dancing this season, and their apparent lack of practice showed it. Wooden, robotic D.L. made Season 10's Kate Gosselin look graceful and talented in comparison, and even Cheryl's sexy spins and dips around him couldn't help. And if the pair indeed has the quickstep next week, D.L.'s goose is definitely cooked! However, the judges' total scores of three 4's for the pair were just too low -- it's only week 1, for goodness sake!
And what's with Len? He's supposed to be in a "honeymoon glow" as a newlywed, but instead became Mr. Grumpy Pants part of the time. The audience was quick to let him know that they didn't agree with his remarks as they showered him with boos on several occasions. Len is supposed to be tough to please, but it doesn't help the celebs become better dancers with meanness, instead of help.
The celebrities, pros and their scores:
Zendaya and Val -- 24
Kellie and Derek -- 21
Aly and Mark -- 21
Dorothy and Tristan -- 21
Ingo and Kym -- 20
Jacoby and Karina -- 20
Sean and Peta -- 19
Victor and Lindsay -- 18
Lisa and Gleb -- 18
Wynonna and Tony -- 18
Andy and Sharna -- 17
D.L. and Cheryl -- 12
What did you think about the start of Season 16? How did you rate the celebs? What about the judging?
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