The season 12 premiere kicks off with some surprisingly lively foxtrots and cha chas

By Annie Barrett
Updated March 22, 2011 at 07:44 AM EDT
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Dancing With the Stars

S12 E1
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Welcome back, DANCMSTRs, to a twelfth season of Planet Mirrorballus hysteria…and EW.com recaps! I like to call myself the Fringe Fairy, but in last night’s season 12 premiere, Kirstie Alley has gone ahead and better encapsulated my entire existence. There’s no need to beat around the bush anymore, especially now that Maks has been freshly waxed. I’ll just say it. Much like “America’s most outrageous actress,” I, too, am a Dancing With the Stars ho.

Season 12! I think we were all a little worried about the possibly lackluster cast, but last night’s premiere featured the same six crucial ingredients as any other season: sparkles, heels, flashy moves, disaster, Tom, boobs. We needn’t have worried. One of the greatest things about Dancing With the Stars is that it never, ever changes. (Sure, Kym has bangs now, Lacey needs to take a long, hard look at the *root* of her issues, and Brooke thinks she’s Lady Gaga, but these are minor tweaks.) They could put practically anyone on this show and we’d all tune in to see Our Pros do their little dances.

So no worries. You were excited. I was excited. This thrift store in Chicago was pumped. And now that the premiere’s over, I can finally judge the 11 contestants on more than merely the pose, facial expressions, and fringe benefits evident in their promo photos. (Click here for my preliminary rankings based on visual effects only!) Here’s how they ranked after Week 1.

Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inaba!

Ralph Macchio and Karina Smirnoff: 24 out of possible 30 Behold our former Karate Kid, who claims to be 49 but looks like he’s in junior high. Ralph and “Ms. Miyagi”‘s foxtrot was magical through and through, from the big “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” movie sign (will everyone get the chance to have his/her name in bold letters?) to Ralph’s stunning double pirouette to his actual high kick. Bruno tried mightily to imitate that kick while seated, and while this was a triumph in itself, Ralph’s standing version was quite incredible. The showmanship on this guy! I didn’t expect this at all. I expected a creaky, sort of washed-up actor who’d always look a little bummed out that he ended up on Dancing With the Stars. Quite the opposite. (Plus, that’s a horrible way for a DWTS Ho to think. I’m ashamed, don’t worry.) Anyway, the judges loved Ralph, and Bruno hilariously pointed out his “creepy hand.” I’m loving Ralph so far. Are we just gonna call him “Ralph”? That seems weird, but that’s his name. Ralph strikes me as very lovable in a “young Donny Osmond” kind of way. Ralph claims to be just one year younger than Donny was when he won, but we all know that Ralph is lying.

Kirstie Alley and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 23/30 That jungle of giant dangling sequins behind Kirstie and Maks during their cha cha cha was like the ultimate bedroom wall in my loftiest and sexiest ballroom fantasies. Ewww, Annie. The pair was fantastic here, and I think pretty much everyone was shocked. She’s 60! She can move! Until the music started, it really did not seem like either was possible. Now, just the former. Clearly Kirstie, everyone’s favorite actor from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, has met her match in Maks. If she’s willing to train hard and reach beyond her initial goals of “push myself physically and still live” and “stay upright,” they could go far together. If she keeps unleashing lines like “If someone told me to haul ass, it’d take two trips,” then I am willing to put up with (fine, relish) her eventual emotional breakdowns. Sparks will fly! Until then, though, Maks already seems looser and sillier than he did last season with supportive liiiiive audience member Brandy. He’s also evolved into such a profound source of hotness that it’s like he’s willing the camera to move, via the sheer fizzy-lifting power of his bubbly ass.

Kelly Preston in the audience! Friendship! Scientology!

NEXT: Chelsea, Hines, Chris, and Romeo (pretty much a group of strangers if not for Our Pros)Chelsea Kane and Mark Ballas: 21/30 Whoa, did this foxtrot really happen? It took place so long ago. “Disney princess” Chelsea and Mark are another great couple — “young and fresh” according to DANCMSTR Len Goodman, who preferred the Peter, Paul and Mary sections of the foxtrot to those that reminded him (?!) of the Black Eyed Peas. Let’s get real here — does Len really know who the Black Eyed Peas are? Does anyone, really? Who are the Black Eyed Peas, really? Pretty heady questions for a Monday night. Anyway, I kind of liked the modern dance elements of their foxtrot and even liked Chelsea’s lower heels — but as soon as Mark starts having her go barefoot, I will boycott this couple like they’re…I don’t know, something awful, like (gasp…) a scripted network drama. The horror! Thanks to readers JessicaH, karenbelgrad, and KariKata for pointing out that Chelsea Kane could be the long-lost twin of American Idol “character” Kellie Pickler. I’ll prove it by the end of the season, DANCMSTRs, if it’s the last thing I ever do. And then I’ll bask in the “pure afterglow” of my findings for precisely a minute and a half.

Hines Ward and Kym Johnson: 21/30 While Kirstie was the premiere’s biggest surprise in terms of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not a Trainwreck,” Hines, for me, was the most delightful “I Had No Idea Who This Person Was — And Look At Him Go!” cast member of the premiere. First of all, seriously, who is he??? Just kidding. I looked it up, plus Brooke reminded us when she reminded him that he hadn’t won the Super Bowl and didn’t have a third Lombardi trophy either, and now HOW DO YOU FEEL? This performance left a lasting impression — I think a lot of it had to do with the upbeat song (“Club Can’t Handle Me”) and the diagonal mane of extra-long fringe on Kym’s sparkly bathing suit, because it just seemed like everything was in constant motion the whole time. And it looked great! Hines had a little hip-action solo move (“Like a piston!” cried a demonstrating Bruno as Len cowered in fear), an infectious smile to match Kym’s, and a general exuberance that very much excited Carrie Ann.

Chris Jericho and Cheryl Burke: 19/30 I was all hot and bothered by Chris’ steamy black leather jacket at the top of their cha cha cha…until I realized it was not a leather jacket at all but a pleather pajama top. Noooooooo. Luckily, the sleeves of this atrocity came right off (duh, it was easy; this is DWTS) to reveal extreme burliness and studded bicep bands. It’s always better when a big brute’s strength is chained in as tightly as possible in the context of the ballroom — and it’s best when said chains involve hardware or sparkle. An excellent first-round showing for Chris! He was a bit big and awkward in the cha cha cha, but it’s just week 1. The showmanship and sex appeal were there. “You’re a great, big boy, and you’ve come out!” raved Len, who didn’t quite understand why this was hilarious. I’m guessing the gals and the gays alike wouldn’t mind seeing this behemoth in a crisp monochromatic suit for the ballroom standards — pleather jammies can only take you so far, even in the bedroom. I do hope Cheryl in Chains celebrated getting through the first performance by running some more tinsel through her bed head.

Romeo and Chelsie Hightower: 19/30 Romeo will need to loosen up his hips a little and stop fearing the feminine side of himself. He warned Chelsie during rehearsal, “If I can move my hips better than Rihanna, it’s a problem,” but that is simply not true! Someone needs to clue in to the purpose of this show. That said, I thought they had great eye contact and chemistry for a first-week couple, and Chelsie nearly took my breath away with her shimmery black fringe “dress” and zero back fat oh my freaking GOD these people are so thin and hot and breezy beach hair. Carrie Ann said Romeo had “sex appeal for days,” and pointed out that there was “so much testosterone on the floor.” (How could she see it?!) Bruno tried to do a Shakespeare/Romeo thing. Len is of course British, so he thinks in Shakespeare, but he still made a big production of using an As You Like It reference as if it was some sort of secret weapon. Save it for the nights you’re wearing the lime-and-navy striped tie, Len! We all know that’s when the zingers really fly. Meanwhile, Carrie Ann was so turned on she gave Romeo a 7. Deserved? Discuss.

NEXT: The supermodel survivor, the reality star, and the fighter (as seen in The Fighter)Petra Nemcova and Dmitry Chaplin: 18/30 Petra went with an interesting belted-gown look for the foxtrot, which is just one of the many perks of having a supermodel cast in a particular season. I thought this dance was simple and lovely, and even though I’m sure Bruno was right that Petra should “link everything better” and not just do one pretty thing after another, it was still…I don’t know, these two people are just SO DAMN BEAUTIFUL together! I’d venture to say that a screensaver of Petra and Dmitry doing this first dance might sell just as well or better than, like, the two best ballroom dancers in the world doing the best ballroom dance of their careers. This is just a profoundly stupid thing to say and might even sound like I’m calling ballroom dancers ugly; not to mention, aren’t most screensavers free? But you get the point. Gosh, are they pretty. Carrie Ann kindly overlooked “a bit of a lift” in their foxtrot because it was the first week and all. It was sweet that Petra dedicated her dance to the tsunami sufferers in Japan. I’m pretty sure they don’t care about her foxtrot, but it’s the thought that counts. Maybe Carrie Ann should donate her ginormous sparkly statement ring to the disaster relief. That’d probably help a lot.

Kendra Wilkinson and Louis Van Amstel: 18/30 This one is just going to giggle her way through everything, and that is A-OK with me as long as she’s willing to work hard. Kendra rose to the occasion in a very complicated Louis Van Intensité week 1 cha cha cha full of sexy twisting and fast footwork. Even I could tell that this routine was difficult, and I haven’t moved my own legs in days. I’m very amused by Kendra in general, I’ll have you know. She reminds me of my high school jock friends — kind of crude by nature but ultimately sweet and well-intentioned. Maybe she should be a stripper! “Well, I was, so….” Seriously, best trail-off of the night from Kendra to Louis there, during the rehearsal footage. I did think Kendra’s disgusted reaction to accidentally swiping Louis’ “butt crack” seemed a bit disproportionate coming from someone who has to deal with baby poop all the time and logged time as a personal playmate of Hugh Hefner. What do you think Hef and Hank, Kendra’s husband, were chatting about right next to each other in the audience? Foreign policy, probably. Their different positions on things. That kind of stuff.

Sugar Ray Leonard and Anna Trebunskaya: 17/30 “How would you like me to call you?” asked Anna. Oh, Anna! The twinge of delight I felt at her Russian-ness/politeness towards “Ray” was quickly abolished by the time I saw her Dallas hair and realized it wasn’t just the lighting, it was really happening. But oh, how we’ve missed Our Pros, right? Anna Tre-BUN-skaya is the best. Anyway, Ray was very jazzy and jaunty and air-kissy during their foxtrot set to “The Power of Love.” I really felt bonded to Sugar Ray Leonard (there’s something you don’t type every day) as soon as I saw the pink sparkly heart on his jacket, because I’m pretty sure that’s what my heart actually looks like by now. It’s what’s inside that counts! Len didn’t like Ray’s technique, but I had trouble getting on board with a critique that placed fine wine and caviar above beer and pizza. Give me fine wine and pizza any day, you know? Len and I have such different priorities in life, which is strange because after all we are both DANCMSTRs. Carrie Ann and Bruno, meanwhile, focused on Ray’s bad posture. Bruno even got up, as he does, and gestured wildly — something about a Ninja Turtle, but it sounded more like “angel turtle.” Let’s just go ahead and say that Sugar Ray is both. Turtles are the cutest. Oh, and cheers to Bruno for whipping out a quick Some Like It Hot reference (“Call me Daphne.”) after asking if he could call him Sugar.

NEXT: Wendy Williams, Psycho Mike, and the urge to Berge(ron)Wendy Williams and Tony Dovolani: 14/30 First of all, how does this psycho hose beast not know who Tony Dovolani is? Do her dumplings not boil over with ballroom trivia like the rest of us? Do some research or just fake it, lady! (How do you think I got this job?) Alas, that’s just not how Wendy Williams goes about things. I can tell she wants very much to do well, but Wendy’s cha cha cha was timid and sort of nerve-wracking to watch. Even her “Here I am!” double finger-point to disco heaven was unconvincing, because I just didn’t feel like she was convinced herself that she would make it there. Carrie Ann urged Wendy to “unleash the beast” inside her and bring her personality onto the floor. I was sad that Wendy’s show wig didn’t have huge pigtail braids for her to hide under while she was flummoxed under the emotional tyranny of the evil leprechaun hidden in the massive taffeta goiter of Brooke’s dress. Especially after this line of questioning: “I can see you’re already upset. How does that feel?” Ugh. Brutal. On the upside, I loved how Tony grinned almost maniacally at Wendy while they received their scores, as if to let her know he was happy with her no matter what.

“Psycho” Mike Catherwood and Lacey Schwimmer: 13/30 Mike looked “slightly ungainly” verging on “constipated” during his foxtrot, according to Bruno, but I thought he showed signs of potential. He has rhythm! That can definitely be a good thing. He seems willing to throw himself into this, give it a chance, you know? Go for it! Really extend those arms in his solo moves! I’m totally reaching here. Basically, this guy is super funny and a real treat for the show. I loved when he said his pitiful score was “not high, but it’s better than my father, Master P.” Impersonating a fellow contestant (Romeo) — a bold move! We don’t usually get quick-witted quips like that in the celebriquarium, so for this reason alone I hope he sticks around. Oh, also, he’s hot. That never hurts. I swear to Lord Mirrorballus, though — if Lacey doesn’t choose a color for her hair (were we supposed to vote on brown or blonde — is that what the number was for?), I will tie her down with her own billowing Reynolds Wrap gown and dye it myself in a bathtub, Clueless style.

That was way harsh, Tai.

Coming next week: Tom Bergeron — host with the most, cool as a jewel — will be calling after every results show so I can get his official “scores” on a few weekly categories for a new PopWatch feature called The Host’s Leaderboard. Tom, an avid fan of EW.com’s Hidden Gems, will be just dying to talk to me before (or while) indulging in his first martini of the evening. He’ll love it! What could be more important than my DANCMSTR nonsense? Anyway, let me know what you want to know from Tom — keeping in mind that he’s already warned Kirstie and Maks via Twitter that he’ll be extra-protective of the Bergeron Booty this season. (“Just want you two to know I’m ready for you. I’ve covered my butt in Kevlar.”)

Look for Hidden Gems (nominate yours by 2 p.m.) on PopWatch tonight.

I’ll see you back here next week…liiiiiiiiiiiive!

XOXO,

EW.com’s Fringe Fairy/DWTS Ho

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