We size up the new dancers on their first night of dancing and see if we can spot the potential winners

By Annie Barrett
Updated September 23, 2008 at 04:00 PM EDT
Craig Sjodin

Dancing With the Stars

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‘Dancing With the Stars’ recap

NOTE: Click here to see the Dancing With the Stars episode 2 recap

Hi, everyone! I trust that your waking nightmare — featuring a closet full of Cloris Leachman’s cleavage, Mark Ballas’ Pepto-hued jacket, and the ”edgy” styling of Lacey Schwimmer — has left you well-rested. Me, I don’t need sleep. I’ve been operating on a serum of sparkles and pure joy ever since I saw Misty May serving a disco ball as if it were a volleyball (these are two of my most treasured types of balls) in ABC’s ubiquitous season 7 promo. As soon as Edyta showed up wearing legwarmers in the very first shot of the season, I had a profound sense that Dancing With the Stars had never really gone away. Because it hasn’t.

Last night’s season premiere was as crazy as ever, yet many powerful signs suggest that this season will be vastly improved over the one that ended in ye olden days of four months ago. Fringe easily beat sequins. The judges suddenly remembered there are integers lower than 8. There’s a flashy new intro-to-the-intros light show right before the Stars descend the staircase. And finally, Samantha’s hair has never looked this flat. See? Best season ever. Let’s jump right in with how the new couples ranked….

Brooke Burke and Derek: 23 out of possible 30 First of all, I’d like to pick a bone. (Lucci, get your arm out of my face, I didn’t mean it like that!) Why create such fanfare over Brooke’s ”hyper-extended legs,” then costume this season’s yummy mummy in floor-length brown pants? That was a cruel and unusual tease, much like Derek’s hammy ”I love you, I love you not” interactions with the giant disco ball during his All About Me bit. These two should be very mischievous together. Brooke seemed terrified before her cha-cha, but managed to pull it off with so much hip action that, according to Bruno, DANCMSTR was panting with his tongue hanging out. ”That’s mostly an age thing,” quipped Tom.

Lance Bass and a Pussycat Doll: 22/30 Fine, Lance’s partner is So You Think You Can Dance alum Lacey Schwimmer, but it’s often a bit difficult to make the distinction. Lacey’s bringing some ”edge” to the ballroom via pink hair extensions, boots that put the ”flat” in ”unflattering,” and the presence of Lance’s face on her skirt. One night only, people! DANCMSTR hated the pair’s ”young and modern” version of the cha-cha because he’s old and traditional, but Bruno and Carrie Ann adored the ”cha-cha-cha for now!” Do I smell an impending Dance War, or is that just the rockin’ stench of pure, unadulterated EDGINESS?

Toni Braxton and Alec: 22/30 As the third woman in a row to dance around the ballroom sheathed in white fringe, Toni would have my allegiance even if her cha-cha with Alec wasn’t, according to Carrie Ann, worthy of being performed in week 5. The ”Unbreak My Heart” diva — whom Bruno affectionately labeled ”slinky, sultry, sexy, BAM! BAM!” — currently suffers from a heart condition that’s inspired her to get out there and live life…in front of TV cameras. I think she and Alec will go far, but it really worried me when she told Samantha, ”I still feel like I’m trying to breathe, but it’s all right, it’s all right!” Jeez. Is it? :(

NEXT: A yummy M&M

Misty May-Treanor and Maks: 21/30 Cannot. Breathe. Favorite. Two. People. In universe. Paired together. Ballroom dancing reality show. I should get this out of the way: Unless M&M version 2.0 start fighting constantly or spend all of their rehearsal footage debating which elements of Samantha’s interviewing style are most awesome, I’ll probably be a teensy bit biased toward my dream pair. The dancing potential is there — as proof, I spent Misty and Maks’ entire fox-trot gazing at Misty instead of Maks. Instead of Maks, people. My cubicle buddy, Maks! That’s a really good sign. The judges disagree so far on how Misty’s athletic intensity should mingle with the elegance of the ballroom. Luckily, M&M should have plenty of time to figure that out.

Warren Sapp and Kym: 21/30 Aww, I love Warren Sapp and his giant pit stains. No, really, I love when people pit out on this show; it seems so unrealistic otherwise, and I need my Dancing With the Stars to play out as realistically as possible. Warren demonstrated in their cha-cha that he’s as goofy and light on his feet as season 3 winner Emmitt Smith, and Kym deserves a partner as lovable as him in her fifth U.S. season. She may want to stop borrowing swimsuit cover-ups from the abandoned set of Swingtown, though. Then again, that thing counted as, like, triple fringe, and prompted my mother to e-mail me: ”Did or did not Kym get her breasts enhanced during the off-season?” So at least it was effective!

Kim Kardashian and Mark: 19/30 ”I’m best known for being a reality TV star,” explained Kim. False. Thanks to The Soup, everyone knows Kim is famous for having a big ass and a sex tape. Hey, whichever skill set applies to the task at hand. The judges all panned Kim and Mark’s lack of chemistry during their fox-trot — something I apparently overlooked as I was focused on how that lovely gown and hair made Kim look like a fabulous maroon mermaid from the Roaring ’20s. But Bruno made the better comparison, likening Kim to Aladdin‘s Princess Jasmine: ”A treasure trove that everyone would want to enjoy. But you’ve got to make it more available.” Mark’s incredulous reaction to the idea that Kim Kardashian could be made any more available to the American public is best viewed in video, so click over to today’s Sound Bites to watch it! Though I think my favorite Kim line of the night might have been when she complained, ”I have terrible balance. Why am I so unbalanced?” One guess.

Maurice Green and Cheryl: 18/30 Ah, the danger of performing fourth out of 13: An hour after the show, I could barely remember Maurice and Cheryl’s fox-trot. Sequined vest? Blue tones? Were they about to have a funky good time? Hmmm. But after I watched it again, I loved it. He just needs some mo’ finesse, and to somewhat harness the James Brown tendencies when necessary — and I’m pretty sure it won’t be necessary in tonight’s mambo. The judges love a ”most-improved player” arc, so expect Maurice to stick around.

NEXT: The show killer

Cody Linley and Julianne: 18/30 Every time I hear this couple mentioned, I end up picturing Julianne with her brother Derek. Is that so far off? Probably — Cody did say, ”If I could focus on the dance instead of Julianne’s hotness…” and we all know Derek’s way too dedicated a ballroom technician to ever let Julianne’s hotness affect his performance. I’ll just chalk it up to their performing first. Cody and Julianne are really young, you guys. Young, young, young, young, young. ”The flash of youth,” according to Bruno. Bottom line: Cute couple. Cody needs to refine his energy. And note to Tom: Calling Cody and Julianne ”the flash of youth” does not qualify as the ”first Bruno metaphor” of the season,” because it actually made sense and therefore does not compute.

Ted McGinley and Inna: 18/30 Will the DWTS season 7 finale be our dear show’s last? Mr. McGinley has an unfortunate tendency to appear on enduring shows as they begin to fail (Happy Days, The Love Boat, Dynasty, Married…With Children). But whatever. None of those shows featured a disco ball trophy, the known antidote for Ted McGinliness. He’s perfectly pleasant, not to mention young looking — in fact, during Ted’s cha-cha, it became necessary to appropriate the Beach Boys lyrics to the situation at hand (”God only knows Ted McGinley’s real age,” along with ”God only knows how bright Inna’s dress is in real life,” etc.). I think Ted danced much better than his ranking suggests, but don’t expect him to last too long, especially as he’s partnered with a new (lovely!) pro.

Cloris Leachman and Corky: 16/30 There’s basically nothing one can say about Cloris’ ”performance” that in any way relates to her actual fox-trot. After Bruno made that Battlestar Geriatrica comment that you know he practiced like 70 times in the mirror, Cloris hoisted her leg onto the judges’ table, then proceeded to nearly flash DANCMSTR and sit in Carrie Ann’s lap. Amidst fake laughter, the judges did offer critiques, which Cloris opted not to hear in favor of making jokes about orphans. Watching Cloris Leachman swear after receiving her scores was a little funnier than when Adam Carolla did the same thing in season 6, but the entire charade left me submerged in a reality-TV stupor, one so dark that I needed a nice, loud ”WHO’S YOUR DADDY? I’M CORKY BALLAS.” to snap me out of it. Then the darkness continued.

Susan Lucci and Tony: 15/30 Susan’s cha-cha received mixed reviews: DANCMSTR thought it was too careful, Bruno wanted her to be sluttier, and Carrie Ann begged her to gain some weight. The judges all agreed that Susan needs to basically play Erica Kane on the ballroom floor instead of herself. Which wouldn’t be a horrible idea, especially if the network went ahead and made it official. Dancing With All My Children, coming this fall on ABC. I am so there.

Rocco DiSpirito and Karina: 14/30 Rocco says he’s best known for ”standing in place and chopping onions,” but I’m sure he really meant ”schmoozing patrons in my own restaurants in front of camera crews.” He’s definitely a showman, and I didn’t think his fox-trot was all that bad for week 1. If Cloris gets extra points for being 82, Rocco should get some for the last-minute ankle injury of his partner!

Episode Recaps

Jeffrey Ross and Edyta: 12/30 Sorry, ya big ol’ onion ring, but anyone who does not already know how to pronounce ”Edyta” automatically gets sent home this week. Along with Edyta.

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