Season 11 starts with the judges putting 'Baby' in first, and The Hoff in a tie for last

Bristol Palin Dancing
Credit: Bob D'Amico/ABC

Welcome back, DANCMSTRs, gem-hunters, and regular ol’ people who know how to read. It’s season 11, and Edyta is gone. My darling Lady Legwarmer has twirled out of Planet Mirrorballus’ magnificent, glittery orbit and I don’t know what to do. Lacey was wearing legwarmers during rehearsals, but it’s not the same. They’re an atrocious neon pink, plus she’s blonde now. Everything is inside-out! I failed to spot Enthusiastic Chimes Lady in the opening number and I can’t be sure of this, but it seemed like the new, improvised opening number did not even include a space for potential chimes. Meanwhile, Brooke was more awkward than ever and her hidden gems were about to pop out of her dress.

Still, some familiar faces lessened the blow of intense change. There was Evan Lysacek! Niecy Nash! Jamie Lee Curtis sporting the same haircut as Tom Bergeron! Tom Bergeron! Eliza Dushku? Huh? So just like that, the planetary atmosphere was somewhat reverted to normal. But it may take us all a while to adjust. Let’s get right to the all-important JUDGES’ LEADERBOARD, in ascending order this time to reflect the marked changes of season 11.

Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann In-ahhh-ber!

The Situation and Karina Smirnoff: 15 out of a possible 30 This clown only had five days to prepare for the most important competition of his life. I loved the way Karina was all fun and games for about three seconds as she welcomed him to her world of pain. Abs in the Airport: a classic move! He still has no idea what he’s in for. Mastery of ’80s dances like the Running Man may keep you on MTV, but this is network television, man! “You’ve got the guns, but not the ammunition,” said Len. Oooh, a DANCMSTR vs. Situation smackdown! Stay tuned.

Margaret Cho and Louis Van Amstel: 15/30 At the beginning of her Viennese waltz, Margaret looked scared to death. Like how I would look. Or anybody. Parts of their dance were very good, but no two elements of it made any sense together. “We Are the Champions.” The enormous golden bat wings she started wielding around furiously as if they’d decided to fool us all by performing the paso doble instead. The facial expression of a serial murderess. Margaret’s assertion that “I want to make this Viennese waltz so elegant that you actually think I might be a lady.” The deliberate stumbles. Bruno’s reference to The Last Airbender. What was happening?! As a viewer, this combo platter was hilarious. In reality (television), it might have been too much for a week 1 showing. But we’ll see. I can’t lose Louis Van Intensité this early, people. This would devastate me. I would need to “BE GOING INTO THERAPY” by week 2!

David Hasselhoff and Kym Johnson: 15/30 “I’m still a big star in Germany,” the Hoff assures us. Honey you don’t need to convince me. This week 1 performance was what Dancing With the Stars is all about. David Hasselhoff, topped by leather, swathed in sequins, “dancing” a cha cha cha to the Harold Wheeler band’s version of “Sex Bomb.” It’s like the whole point of the series. Germany doesn’t even know. (Germany probably does know.) Carrie Ann said the Hoff reminded her of “the offspring of Donny Osmond and Jerry Springer.” I’m not sure whose illegitimate love child he was; all I know is that Death appeared to be knock-knock-knockin’ on Hoff’s door after that performance. I almost called 911 for him. But what good would that have done? That beast is a trained lifeguard.

Next: Carrie Ann turns Bristol Palin’s critique into a Cinemax teaser?

Michael Bolton and Chelsie Hightower: 16/30 Oh, no. The dreaded posture bar!!! I cannot believe this short-grey-haired statue is THE Michael Bolton. I used to see Michael Bolton as sort of a hair idol in the early ’90s. Why wouldn’t my lame, flat hair cascade in a thick, perfectly highlighted waterfall of waves, like his did? His hair had so much more body. This is beginning to sound weird — plus, according to the Internet, his hair was definitely not as great as I remembered. Not even close, not even in an ironic way. Really, it’s time to stop. Michael Bolton’s Viennese waltz was a disaster! And is he shy or just freaked out? I did not picture Michael Bolton being shy. He needs to stand up straight, lead Chelsie, and generally ease up. Take it from Bruno: “Sometimes it can be painful trying something new, and you can get very tight.” The man has experience.

Sidenote: Clicking through Wikipedia’s Michael Bolton discography is a fascinating walk down the memory lane of the man’s hair. You go on not doing that, and I’ll go on living with the fact that I just Googled “michael bolton discography.”

Bristol Palin and Mark Ballas: 18/30 “This is virgin territory for you,” Bruno marveled as all 18,000 of the giant mirrorballs flanking the ballroom winked at the audience in a “wave” formation. (It was awesome. I can’t believe you didn’t see it.) Too bad Bristol’s mom, Sarah, wasn’t in the audience to see her daughter don a fancy flight attendant’s uniform — one that, thankfully, was torn off during the opening seconds of the cha cha cha to reveal a red fringed sex-dress underneath. “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” was an homage to the 19-year-old’s life decisions. Such a beautiful story. Boy meets teen, teen has boy’s baby, teen’s mom runs for Vice President of the United States, boy poses for Playgirl, it’s disappointing, no one really cares, teen joins Dancing With the Stars. It’s the American Dream and we should all hope to live it out. The dance itself was not as terrible as Carrie Ann expected. “The way you kind of undulate your body…” Carrie Ann continued…and I’ll have to stop the transcription there before things get too raunchy. This is, not Red Shoe Diaries.

Florence Henderson and Corky Ballas: 18/30 I think this 76-year-old can win. It’s about time, right? She can do it. Florence Henderson is nothing like Carol Brady, mind you. She’s got the fire in her eyes, a dominatrix pose in her arsenal, and she will show you her bra. Is she the second coming of Cloris Leachman? F—, no! “I hope to be as funny, but I hope to really be able to do the dances,” assures Flo. “I hope people like me.” I already love her. She can’t stop swearing during rehearsals! And Florence’s face during the judges’ critiques after her capable cha cha cha reminded me of…well, Florence’s face during the judges’ critiques from her seat in the audience where she has been watching the ballroom action for the last 25 or so seasons. She’s just totally enraptured by this show. “Stay interested. Stay interesting. Don’t be boring.” That’s the lovely lady’s story. Okay, Len?

Next: Relax! The season’s first “Seh-vennnnn!” is almost upon us!

Kurt Warner and Anna Tre-BUN-skaya: 19/30 Kurt wasn’t happy with his technique during rehearsals. Silly NFL star. “You don’t have any technique,” Anna reminded him. Oh, Anna! She remains my favorite of them all, with her fiery mane and bushel-of-raspberries gown. DANCMSTR got prematurely cranky with Kurt, who danced second (but probably before Len’s first cigarette, or “fag” as they say in ye olde Britain). After marveling at the wonder that was Audrina’s plasticine body, Len snapped at Kurt, “I can only be nice to one person per week…and don’t expect it next week either.” Well, s—, DANCMSTR. What does a Super Bowl champ have to live for if not the vague possibility of your future approval? You better watch out. Based on the daggers headed Len’s way from the front row, Kurt Warner’s adorable blonde child will not hesitate to 1-800-CUT-A-BITCH.

Audrina Patridge and Tony Dovolani: 19/30 Oh, God. Lord Mirrorballus in heaven! I will get to their cha cha cha in a moment, but let me first have a blissed-out Fringe Fairy moment because Len Goodman (a.k.a. DANCMSTR, according to his vanity license plate which they never show anymore and better show this season or else everyone will continue to think I’m nuts) delivered his very first “Seh-vennnnn!” of the season after the very first performance! Neither Len nor I could wait a moment longer for Len to do that! Anyway. Audrina. She’s pretty competent — certainly better than her week 1 ranking would suggest — and cheers to Tony for getting a partner who is not a total lunatic this season. Audrina “certainly has the right body for this show,” said Carrie Ann, and really — besides, maybe, a personality — what more do you really need? The girl can even pull off goldenrod fringe combined with silver sparkles. I’m not ready to write off this reality star.

Rick Fox and Cheryl Burke: 22/30 “I’m here to prove that NBA players can dance,” that tall drink of Vitamin Water promised us. Ah, remember Clyde Drexler? I barely do either. That’s good. Rick and Cheryl’s Viennese waltz was “Crazy” in a good way, much like their near-staggering height difference. If he can learn to not stoop to her level and instead let her dance up to him in her increasingly stilt-like shoes, he can go far. Still, the height difference is so dramatic. I hope it’s not the judges’ main discussion topic for this couple every week, especially because I’m guessing they’ll keep trotting out the “you’re a fox” puns through Halloween. After their dance — which included a very impressive “driving hands-free” move with Cheryl balanced over Rick’s five-foot-tall knee — the camera kept cutting to Eliza Dushku in the audience. Who knew? She and Rick are dating. Bring it on.

Kyle Massey and Lacey Schwimmer: 23/30 Hey, I like this guy! Never heard of him before. Something about the Disney Channel — who knows? I trust ABC to foist the right Disney kids upon me, and thank you to the newly blonde Lacey for wearing a Minnie Mouse bow during their cha cha cha to facilitate my understanding of what this dude is all about. Kyle’s attitude is perfect for the show, especially if he keeps insisting on ludicrous things like Lacey’s breasts being the “center-point” of his ballroom training. Also, he giggles a lot. As Bruno said, “YOU WERE LIKE AN ADORABLE NAUGHTY PUPPY!”

Next: Yes, you’re going to blush the moment you get to Bruno’s next quote.

Sidenote: Why does Lacey strike me as more of a Katy Perry lookalike now that she is blonde? Am I just not used to seeing her? Am I too used to having Katy Perry thrown in my face? I’m guessing the culprit was Lacey’s ridiculous sparkle-schoolgirl costume. Either way it’s time to move on.

Brandy and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: 23/30 Brandy is very serious about this competition and nearly passed out from anticipatory delight after Bruno merely alluded to the concept of “next week.” Her Viennese waltz with Maks was lovely, complete with my favorite “swinging my partner around by her head” move (I still have not learned the names of moves after 11 seasons) and some creative dangling-finger gestures. I’m not sure she’s silly enough for Maks, but they make a beautiful-looking couple. And he’s turned into a “good boy” this season anyway. Ha! He was just kidding about that. Ballroom Bad Boy it is. “I love the taste of Brandy in the evening!” cried Bruno. He could have more and more and more.

Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough: 24/30 First tears of the season! correspondent Derek began choreographing a Viennese waltz to “These Arms of Mine” from Dirty Dancing, and she was fine for two seconds but then started crying in the hallway because she missed Patrick Swayze. “He was like you, he was young and gorgeous,” said Jennifer. It’s sad. Even John O’Hurley was sad. But they are both here now on this strange planet. There’s nothing left for Jennifer and Derek to do but keep working that saucy strap-hanging-off-the-shoulder look and — eventually — incorporate a carried watermelon into a cha cha cha.

The most heart-warming moment (just outside) of the episode for me was when, right after Derek “flew” into Jennifer’s arms backstage, a promo for Burlesque came on and “SCREEN GEMS” flashed on the screen.


‘Til tomorrow, DANCMSTRs — leave your first impressions of season 11 in the comments, and nominate your hidden gems over at PopWatch.

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