Dancing with the Stars season premiere recap: Season 19 premiere
Celebs from the digital, design, and "dude" world take the dance floor for the first time and creative chaos ensues.
Athletes, actors, and a YouTube Star? Oh my, indeed.
This recap is neither the place nor long enough to discuss the evolving definition of “stars,” we have seen in the past decade. But think of it this way: You probably had no idea who Meryl Davis was this time last year because it was before she went on to win both a gold medal and the mirror ball trophy. Of course that means her ice dancing partner (still bitter about that) Charlie White was just as anonymous, too. So one could argue that a YouTube channel doesn’t make a you a worthy celebrity to compete. (Seven million subscribers would probably agree with you.) Being famous because your family is a bunch of crazy, uncensored, slightly bigoted poultry people is a different story however. The real problem is that I’m already having a difficult time telling Bethany Mota, Sadie Robertson, and Janel Parrish apart.
But let’s not bang bang all of our troubles into the room just yet; it’s another season of Dancing with the Stars! The producers definitely don’t want us to forget that, at its core, dancing is a sport and that they are bringing up the level of competition. It seems they’ve also brought up the average age of contestants. Besides the three aforementioned ladies, the rest of the cast is a pretty mature group with eight of the 13 celebrities shaking it over the age of 40. (If you need a refresher, check that out here.) I don’t want to make any general assumptions, but someone is probably going to have to explain who Bethany Mota is to Tommy Chong on a weekly basis, right? Maybe bringing Julianne Hough on as a permanent fourth judge will even things out in general, especially since she’s really joining as a somewhat replacement for Len Goodman, who is expected to be frequently absent from the ballroom this go-around. But of course he was there tonight along with Carrie Ann and Bruno to give out the first marks of the season. Erin Andrews just seemed happy enough that the new cast doesn’t seem to feature her future replacement… yet.
Antonio Sabato Jr. and Cheryl Burke: 25/40
Just in case you didn’t realize, Antonio is ridiculously good-looking. Like, it really is ridiculous how this man has aged over the years. Also ridiculous: that the soap hunk hasn’t dance on the show before and is “embarrassed” to be called a sex symbol. But then he opened the show with a cha-cha and we all saw why. “It’s obvious you got dancing in your blood, but it hasn’t reached your feet.” Nice one, Len! Though he may be sexier than Jack Osbourne, Antonio doesn’t seem to have the uninhibited confidence needed to succeed in the competition, well at least not yet. He needs to do more than just smile and shake his hips. Luckily for Bruno and most of the audience though, his costume was still bulging in all the right places, giving us a very good view of the coming weeks ahead.
Lea Thompson and Artem Chigvintsev: 32/40
Always a controversial subject (not even going to mention the Davis/White debate again…oops, just did), but Lea was the first of a couple other contestants tonight with previous dance experience. But you guys—Mikhail Baryshnikov said she was too fat to be a ballerina 32 years ago and she hasn’t danced since. Shouldn’t we feel bad instead? Once she started dancing, though, Lea didn’t need any extra sympathy with a beautifully fluid fox-trot, which Carrie Ann said was the best one she’s seen on a premiere. Clearly the ballet years taught her something about keeping in time, but it didn’t do much for her posture, which seemed to be the only real complaint among the judges. New pro Artem (to America—he’s already won the mirror ball in the U.K. edition) may not be as old as Lea, but if Back to the Future taught us anything, she clearly works well with younger men.
Janel Parrish and Val Chmerkovskiy: 29/40
It wasn’t long before the first showmance alert went off—this season between Janel and Val. Their natural chemistry was explosive from the moment they met and almost immediately started stroking each other’s abdomens. SPOILER ALERT: Janel’s character on Pretty Little Liars is dead, so you could argue she is dancing for her future career and SHE IS REALLY EXCITED TO BE HERE! See all the kicks and sparkles and smiles, right? Janel has great intentions, but needs to take it down a couple of notches to reality—or reality television at least—and leave the overacting for her teen dramedy. Once she gets more comfortable with the styles of dance, we know she is already comfortable enough with Val to do very well. Just don’t call her a grandma, unless it’s a compliment of course which by all means #swag on!
NEXT: One beautiful flub followed by another
Lolo Jones and Keo Motsepe: 22/40
So maybe it doesn’t matter if you’re an actor, athlete, or [fill in the blank], the secret to success is sex. Lolo made headlines before and made her sexual history (i.e., none) very clear to Keo. The fact that she hasn’t been intimate with another man worries him a little. Well, maybe he should have worried a lot. After a false start that Lolo blamed on the editing and music of a text message open, the whole thing was just simply bad. There was so much start and stop movement with Lolo looking like a poor deer in the headlights about to be hit straight on with a bobsled. Being an Olympian, she obviously wasn’t happy with her self-proclaimed “awful” performance because let’s be honest, she messed up.
Betsey Johnson and Tony Dovolani: 20/40
We went immediately from a Lolo Uh-oh to a Betsey WTF. The iconic fashion designer is known for her color and creativity, but also for her unpredictability. But who can foresee the actions of a feather boa? Betsey had the type of wardrobe malfunction that the censors don’t care much about and got tangled in some prop costumes for her “Material Girl” performance; it was so rough she couldn’t even complete her performance. Well, she did end in a signature split, but it was approximately 15 seconds after the music had already ended. Before the trip though, Betsey looked like she was frolicking around the ballroom and not dancing. It was entertaining, just not for the right reasons.
Tavis Smiley and Sharna Burgess: 29/40
Some people go on vacation when they turn 50. Tavis Smiley wanted to dance instead. One thing is definitely clear: Erin and Julianne don’t watch PBS since they kept referring to Tavis as comfortable and “wouldn’t see you as anything else.” Although the dancing was tempered a little by nerves, there is potential with Smiley to accomplish one last silly thing in the first half century of his life. Even though he spends most of his time on the couch, Smiley does have a strong presence and control of the entire ballroom and needs to learn to use his size to his advantage to become a serious threat.
Sadie Robertson and Mark Ballas: 34/40
And introducing, Sadie Robertson. The Duck Dynasty daughter brought the first genuine surprise of the season with an impressive cha-cha, especially from someone who doesn’t have any dance experience—she’s not event allowed to dance at her school! Receiving the first 9s from Julianne and Bruno is even more impressive since Sadie isn’t even a performer at all. Remember, she’s one of those people who’s just famous for being famous, but maybe now she will become known on her own. She just needs to learn that dancing involves a little more than just shaking your hips with your mouth open. Once Mark expands her repertoire, this duck is gonna sail through the competition as the underdog no one expected.
Michael Waltrip and Emma Slater: 25/40
For someone who literally sits on his butt for a living, Michael has a nice ass for an old guy. Or at least the cheeky race car driver would like to think so. Waltrip would also like to think he can have a similar success story like his friend Bill Engvall had in season 17 with Emma and not the sad saga she had with Billy Dee Williams that ended in injury. Using motor metaphors probably wasn’t the best idea for Michael since it forced him to stay a little too much in his head and committed the cardinal sin of dance: counting out loud. Len thought he was stuck in first gear and didn’t really get his engine going at all while Bruno compared Michael to a golf cart pretending to be a Ferrari. The metaphors work much better in critique form. If he relaxes a little bit, Michael can eventually be like Bill. As long as he leaves his onesie at home.
NEXT: How to tell the difference between Cheech and Chong
Jonathan Bennett and Allison Holker: 30/40
No offense Aaron Samuels; we don’t probably know you from Mean Girls, that’s the only thing we know you from. But fine, grab our emotional heartstrings right away with a story about dancing for your late father, a fan of the show. Why don’t you just impress us with your polished moves then and fun personality that matches the even spunkier Allison? How about you just fake it till you make it? That’s pretty much what Jonathan did: He didn’t have too many specific problems, but didn’t really have any specific wow moments either. But he is a fantastic performer and it’s clear that he and Allison are another couple to really have an eye on.
Tommy Chong and Peta Murgatroyd: 27/40
Did Peta really get Cheech and Chong confused when she first met him exiting a smoke-filled van? Seriously, how else would you expect/want to meet Tommy Chong? Apparently the comedy duo made a bet with each other, which resulted in Chong competing on the season, and Cheech making a special cameo in the driver’s seat of the car set piece dropped right in the middle of the ballroom to allow Chong and Peta to drop it like it’s hot, and drop it like it’s hot, and drop it—oh no did Tommy just actually drop something? Does he even know where he is right now? Peta’s weed-inspired ensemble almost served as a Pavlovian stimulus to get the King of Stoners to follow her across the dance floor, and it pretty much worked; he didn’t get lost.
Randy Couture and Karina Smirnoff: 31/40
Admit it; when you first read the list of competitors this season, The Expendables star was probably first in your fantasy draft getting eliminated. What, does not everyone have a DWTS fantasy league? Well if you do and if you were smart to pick a wildcard and place your bets on Couture, you just may win. But where in the world did that beautiful performance come from? It was fluid, had poise, prestige, and personality, and immediately proved that Karina is a wonderful teacher if the students are willing to learn. Since he doesn’t like feeling clumsy, Randy wanted to make sure he looked just as strong and manly on the floor as he does in the fighting ring. And oh what a man, what a man, what a mighty, mighty man he is. As Julianne noted, he is the epitome of a man, and with grace and class, he was the best man of the night. Well, until the actual last guy of the night blew everyone out of the water at least.
Bethany Mota and Derek Hough: 32/40
Like T. Swift did to her haters, Bethany playfully shook off all the naysayers questioning her level of fame with a cute and playful jive with her dream partner Derek. For someone who’s success is literally all about their personality, Bethany proved her worth in that category with high energy and big teeth smiles for most of her dance. That is except for the small transitional moments in the dance, the parts of her personality that she can usually edit out before uploading. She doesn’t have that luxury here obviously and similar to Janel, needs to just calm down and accept the fact that the powers that be at ABC have determined you are a star, so just dance!
Alfonso Ribeiro and Witney Carson: 36/40
Fair is such a relative term on the show. Like, is it really fair that Meryl Davis won last year? (I’ll stop now.) And is it really fair that Alfonso Ribeiro is a contestant while like Lea, he was a dancer when he was younger. Oh right, but he was dancing on Broadway before he reached double digits in age, so that’s a little bit more professional experience than everyone else has. Of course, now he’s older and fatter (it’s okay to say because he thinks so, too), and in a weird way, it’s almost as if his weight gain is the only reasoning why it would equal the dancing floor with the other contestants. But apparently that’s not true because even with the extra pounds, Alfonso’s tap dancing footwork—mastered when he was a child—didn’t fail him as he performed the dance of the night… possibly the best first dance this show has seen in a very long time. He got all 9s from the judges, including a standing ovation from Len himself. Julianne said that she was blown away by his musicality and style—things that can’t really be taught. Oh, it can Julianne and you and your brother should know better than anyone that any dancer who starts at a very young age has a certain level of disciple that won’t go away. He just needed to freshen up a bit.