On the sixth season premiere, the men are a mixed bag -- ranging from the slick Mario to the sickly Adam Carolla -- but at least they seem happy to be here
Steve Guttenberg, Dancing With the Stars

”Dancing With the Stars” recap: Meet the men

I knew something had been missing for the past four months. Was it the great love of my life? Vitamin D? Not sleeping on Monday or Tuesday nights? No! It was Tom Bergeron shouting such ridiculous warnings as ”Hang on to your sequins, because the ballroom’s about to explode!” into my living room. That’s what I was missing. Though I’m a little disappointed he didn’t mention fringe.

Welcome, Dancing With the Stars fans, to another 13 weeks pumped full of sparkle, glamour, and a nearly illegal amount of collagen. It only took a few seconds of Tom and Samantha’s chirping and the first few beats of the pro dance — aptly set to Robbie Williams’ ”Let Us Entertain You” — to get me literally bouncing on my couch, sporting a grin usually reserved for when I’m told I’ll get to eat dinner in a restaurant. How could you not delight in the return of (cue jazz hands) Louis? Anna and Jonathan’s 17 lifts? The Harold Wheeler Ensemble’s drummer boppin’ along in a beret? Mark and long-haired Derek engaging in a bizarrely awesome hip-hop duet with a twist of ballroom? After this spectacle, the studio audience members were technically on their feet, but they were not as excited as I was at all. The footwork was there, but work on the performance aspect for next week, seat fillers!

By the way, I like how the producers condensed all of season 5 into a five-second clip show: Jennie’s minor tumble, Marie’s major collapse, and then — triple thud — Helio winning the trophy. You really nailed it!

In a brief intro session, all of the stars took their first gamble on not falling down the scary staircase. Steve Guttenberg waved hi to his mom, Adam Carolla waved his gross fingers right in Julianne’s face, and Priscilla Presley didn’t realize the camera was there, and then when she did, no part of her body moved except for her mouth, which said, ”Woo.” But this isn’t about the women. It was ”Macho Monday,” said Tom, and the six strapping manly men took to the floor with either the fox-trot or the cha-cha. Here’s how they fared:

Mario and Karina: 24 out of a possible 30 points The 21-year-old R&B singer showed great promise in two very important DWTS categories: sequins and self-promotion. With that sparkly ”05” and phone plastered on the back of his shirt, he conquered both at the same time. So it only makes sense that he’s in the lead so far. A vision in seafoam, Mario and Karina version 2.0 danced a damn good cha-cha that elicited the highest praise Carrie Ann knows how to dole out: ”Daaaaaaaang. Wowwwwww! Daaaaaaaang.” I know, right? Totally. Samantha had what’ll probably be her hardest-hitting journalistic moment of the season, pointing out that people might think he had an advantage with all his dance experience. Mario begged to differ. He did mention his hip-hop and R&B dance background during the rehearsal footage and said it worried him, because ”Look what happened to Sabrina.” (Yo, I think a producer fed him that shizz to be topical.) I know it’s only week 1, but am I alone in wondering if Mario is maybe (spoken in the voice of Karina) a leeeetle too into his partner? Then again, maybe she has an all-access policy for Marios and digs him just as much. I can’t tell yet. The spicy female pro recovered from neck surgery in a matter of days without any apparent help from illusionist Penn Jillette. Ew, can you imagine Penn manipulating Karina’s herniated disc with his mammoth digits and then attributing the successful procedure to the three of clubs? I apparently can.

NEXT: Jock jams

Jason Taylor and Edyta: 22/30 My God, I could watch that man balance a bottle of water on his head (!?) for the rest of my days. I thought their fox-trot was awesome. I don’t know if it’s because he’s so tall and hot or what, but for once, I was not totally focused on Edyta during a partner dance. That says a lot. Jason’s got rhythm, quick feet, and an exorbitant amount of grace for someone that size. The judges want him to ”act the dance” more, but that performance part should come through as he gets less tentative. I’m guessing (and hoping) that the slightly homophobic rehearsal package about Jason’s fear of not seeming macho enough was a one-week phase. I understand why he, his handlers, and the producers thought it might have been necessary, but at this point it’s old hat: Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice both went through ”the change” from skull-crushing jock to jaunty ballroom dancer, and it’s just not that big of a deal anymore. After a few minutes of hemming and hawing (that were by nature just as ”feminine” as ballroom dancing), Jason came through with the kicker: ”Real men ballroom dance.” Yes! We knew that. Now wear something sparkly! Actually, he doesn’t even need to. He’s definitely a front-runner.

Cristián de la Fuente and Cheryl: 21/30 Cristián was probably the biggest surprise of the night. The tasty Chilean sea bass of a man looks like he’d be a great dancer, and he even promised to ”bring the romance back to dancing.” (When exactly did it go away?) But despite his solid chemistry with Cheryl, who hasn’t looked this happy since the dog days of Drew Lachey, Cristián didn’t pull off the cha-cha. He was hunched over throughout and got called on it by all three judges. Bruno’s early crush on Cristián had him spouting fun-for-the-whole-family comments like ”You’re a sexy guy. She bangs. You have to bang as hard as she does!” I think he can. If Cristián’s attention span allows for it, Cheryl should be able to drill the correct posture into him within a week. Though not technically amazing, their dance was heavy on the cute, partnery stuff, suggesting a comfort level that doesn’t usually emerge until later in the season. So they’ve got that banged out already. If he survives the first elimination, Cristián could go far. I’m with Bruno: ”When somebody has got the instruments you have, you’ve gotta use them. And we gonna be on top of you until you do so!” Mmmm. Chilean sea bass.

Steve Guttenberg and Anna: 18/30 I love how the Gute’s Three Men and a Baby clip was the one this show chose to highlight from his career. It fits pretty well; the 49-year-old is an enormous softie with a huge outpouring of affection for this show. Like, a spillage-in-aisle-5 type of outpouring. I think I counted seven ”Oh, wow!”s before the judges even started criticizing his technique, musicality, and posture. He can’t believe he’s here. I can’t believe he can’t believe it, to be honest. If his Stars-struck attitude doesn’t thin out in coming weeks, it could get cloying to viewers. But for now, it’s really sweet. The judges praised the theatrical element of Steve and Anna’s fox-trot, and that’s about it, which basically puts him on par with Hamilton, Springer, Ratzenberger, et al. Which doesn’t seem fair because, for one thing, he’s not old enough to join that exclusive club. (All the Ritz Chips and Wheat Thins you can eat at every meeting!) I actually thought Steve’s dance was competent enough. His airborne heel click jostled me awake just as I was dozing off, which was important because otherwise I wouldn’t have noticed how much Anna’s floor-length golden gown reminded me of Belle’s from the ballroom scene of Beauty and the Beast. And then how would I have written this column?

Penn Jillette and Kym: 16/30 It doesn’t get more Dancing With the Stars than a bright red prop feather boa in the first dance of the season. Although Penn’s cha-cha contained a disturbing amount of very determined crotch thrusts, it was oddly endearing. He was lighter on his feet than I expected, dove through Kym’s legs like ”magic,” and really got into character with some well-timed disco points towards heaven. But let’s be serious: He’s not a great dancer. Bruno compared the performance to the nonexistent movie trailer for Shrek Goes Cha-cha-cha and cheekily suggested Penn was ”entertaining, on the plus side,” before Penn aggressively jumped in with something lame about how Bruno couldn’t learn a card trick in just four weeks. He really needs to stop interrupting the people who are supposed to speak on the show — and yes, that even includes Samantha. Despite that, Penn is clearly having a ball. And he had a good rapport with Kym, telling her comforting things like ”If there were a volcano and we were preserved, archaeologists in the future would assume you were my dinner.” Not to mention he really wants to be there: The guy lost like 300 pounds after finding out he’d be a contestant, which is a hell of a lot more effort than merely being Jimmy Kimmel’s friend. Speaking of whom…

NEXT: The man no-show

Adam Carolla and Julianne: 15/30Dancing With the Stars sounded humiliating, so I thought I should do it.” That’s the spirit, buddy! No. The ”comedian” spent most of his rehearsal time annoying Julianne, who’s probably psyched that she’ll soon have the time to promote her country album (Adam’s prediction, along with everyone else’s). The pair danced a fox-trot to ”Mellow Yellow,” which automatically invoked Julianne and Helio’s banana dance from last season. She did her best to swirl around Adam like a beautiful, spastic canary, but he looked stiff and, as DANCMSTR put it, ”needs to get into the freedom of the dance some more.” Like Penn, Adam took it upon himself to interrupt Len’s constructive criticism: ”I’m supposed to get in a nine-piece suit in front of 25 million people and relax doing something I’m horrible at? That’s the plan?” Actually, yeah, bro, that’s exactly the point of the show. He knows that, and he also knows his particular brand of humor won’t translate very well with this show’s audience. But he’s doing it anyway. Caution to the wind! What a rebel! It was all a bit obnoxious. And calling Carrie Ann a ”bitch,” out loud, in front of a room of people specifically trained to respect her opinion (not to mention the viewing public), was flat-out uncalled for. Maybe he will be, too.

Hilariously awkward pre-commercial-break interaction of the night Mario giving the Gute a dance lesson. Specifically the part when the Gute went in for the handshake, Mario missed it, and they ended up haphazardly ballroom dancing with each other instead. Worth a rewind. It was at 8:54.

Spotted! Helio and Scary Spice, in the audience! Mel didn’t get to say anything. Helio represented season 5 for both of them, with some enlightening words — and I quote: ”Ha ha ha ha ha. Yeah, sure! I don’t know. Ha ha ha ha ha.” Awww. Just like old times. XOXO.

Miss Maks? Duh, me too. But I’ll be talking to him tomorrow for a video interview, to be posted Thursday! Ask Maks anything you want, on PopWatch.

Kristi Yamaguchi, apparently the Ferocia Coutura of the season, said the women’s performance tonight is ”gonna be fierce.” Let’s hope! What did you think of guys’ night? Do Penn and Adam talk too much? Did Karina time-travel like Desmond on Lost and spend a few weeks in 1996 recuperating from neck surgery? And who was your favorite macho man of the night?

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