“Dancing with the Stars” Season 14 promised to be a mixed bag, with TV icons from the past, such as Melissa Gilbert and Jaleel White, competing against athletes Donald Driver and Martina Navratilova and TV anchors Maria Menounos and Sherri Shepherd. Some worried that the show’s cast seemed too warm and fuzzy this time, lacking a controversial figure to stir things up. But as we know, stars can break out and anything can happen on our beloved “DWTS,” so away we go with the season premiere!
The show opened with the traditional parade of stars down the ballroom steps. Wow, dancer Peta Murgatroyd sure showed a lot of cleavage in her sparkly top! Who else stood out? Believe it or not, Martina, who looked totally unrecognizable and glam! In fact, when I saw Martina, I thought at first Kate Gosselin was back, because of her sculpted platinum hair. Host Tom Bergeron called them the “new kids” and here was how they fared on the first night.
Maria Menounos and Derek Hough: Cha Cha
Maria greeted Derek at her house with a huge scream. The TV hostess told her partner in rehearsal that she’s such a tomboy. They made fun of her horse laugh, which could be a recurring theme this season. Then they started their cha cha. Maria’s legs looked great in her very revealing blue sparkly/bikini costume but her smile was frozen and Derek made her seem a lot better than I think she really was. Too tentative and coltish. Judge Len Goodman praised her for coping very well with dancing first. He wanted to see more hip action, though. Bruno Tonioli said her timing was good but – I’m distracted by a shot of Chaz Bono next to the flamboyant judge in the audience — how weird, after Bruno called him an Ewok last season. Are they even speaking to each other? Anyway, Carrie Ann Inaba said Maria was excellent. Maria admitted to Brooke Burke that it was hard going first.
Watch Maria and Derek’s First Dance:
Jack Wagner and Anna Trebunskaya: Foxtrot
Jack was looking forward to dancing with a redhead, because there have been so many blondes in his life. The soap hunk said he had a hard time being patient and had a sense of entitlement. Huh? They started their foxtrot as two retro-style lovers lying on a picnic blanket. Was it some kind of ‘50s fantasy? Jack performed decently and showed a good leg kick, but didn’t have to do too much. They ended the dance staring into each other’s eyes, which must not have been a struggle for Jack after being on “General Hospital.” Bruno loved the way he extended his moves while Carrie Ann declared that he can DANCE! Len said it had a feel-good factor but didn’t like his technique. Still, he gave him a pass because the performance was so “uplifting.” I thought it was creepy myself, but whatever.
Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd: Cha Cha
The Super Bowl champ’s two adorable kids greet Peta at the door for the big first meet and greet. His son said she’s hot, and yes, it’s true, Peta looked more beautiful than Pam Anderson in her heyday. Donald said what a fan he was of DWTS; he’s watched it since Season 1. In rehearsal, Donald pulls up the bottom of his pants to show off some really skinny legs. Donald started the dance by lip syncing at a microphone and then led Peta through some very sexy and exciting moves. It’s no secret why athletes kick butt on this show! He looked like he was born to dance. His hip thrusts and high leg kicks couldn’t possibly be beat tonight! Someone was really taking this seriously! Carrie Ann got all giddy, hailing his charisma and charm and crowd-pleasing ways. Len said there was flair and attack during the dance but said he lost some timing. Peta didn’t care — she knew he’d nailed it and smiled ear to ear. Bruno said he was like a rooster chasing a hen – he needed to refine his performance. But why the quibbles? This was the best dance of the night so far, and probably of the night, period. Donald said backstage he loves copying what he’s seen on DWTS previously. Then, what?!!! They only got a score of 21. The audience booed and there was a lot of grumbling in the press room, too. No way Jack Wagner was better.
Did Donald Driver Live Up to the NFL Stars’ Fierce DWTS Reputation?
Gavin DeGraw and Karina Smirnoff: Foxtrot
The singer and defending dance champ were shown rehearsing and he said dance is NOT his forte. Karina said Gavin made a lot of jokes to hide his fear and he confirmed he’s insecure. Showing his hipster style, Gavin wore a hat during their romantic dance and Karina seemed to spin circles around him instead of him leading her well. His solo turns were awkward and he was making funny faces during the dance, very uncomfortable. The crooner seemed like a nice guy, too bad his dancing was difficult. It was a mess but Gavin pumped his fist when the dance was done; he seemed more than relieved that the first one was over. Len said he coped well with a difficult dance but he was stiff and unmusical. Gavin laughed. Bruno thought he showed his charm (judges were being very nice!) but lost the links in the dance. Carrie Ann said there was a tenderness to his dancing and a nice flow but some of his movements were just too slam-bam sharp. All in all, the judges gave the nice guy a pass!
Roshon Fegan and Chelsie Hightower: Cha Cha
The “Shake It Up!” Disney star told Chelsie he loved to dance and did hip hop, demonstrating a move. He was lost in the cha cha rehearsal, however. But Roshon seemed confident in his youth. Roshon began the dance lying on a couch and being woken up by a sexy Chelsie. They hit the floor and Chelsie’s pink and black tutu took center stage more than Roshon in the beginning — it was too big! But then he started doing solo spins and those were really strong. He also seemed to grasp all the choreography and provided a good lead for Chelsie. He threw in a cute Moonwalk at the end. Bruno pointed at him and leaped to his feet, a sign the dance was really good. “Unbelievable!” Carrie Ann liked his cool vibe and Len said there was no question he can dance. But, for Len, it wasn’t enough of an authentic cha cha. There went Len being Mr. Grumpy again. I thought they should have gotten a higher score.
Sherri Shepherd and Val Chmerkovskiy: Foxtrot
Sherri said she’s going to laugh her way to the mirror ball – good luck with that! She screamed like she’d won the lottery when she first saw Val. In rehearsal, she showed no elegance and boy, was she noisy! Their foxtrot to the Four Seasons featured a lot of mugging by Sherri — she never wiped the smile off her face. It was overdoing the emotion, but she did move a lot better than I thought she would and it was the feel-good kind of dance that was much better than Jack Wagner’s version. Carrie Ann called her the happiest DWTS contestant, ever. “Nice job,” she said. Len said it was fun, fun, fun watching Sherri. Bruno stated she was light on her feet and lit up the room. Sherri couldn’t stop squealing with happiness after those kind critiques. Short of giving birth, it was the hardest thing she’d ever done, she said to Brooke backstage. “The View” hostess triumphed!
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Melissa Gilbert and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: Cha Cha
“Little House” star Melissa said she’s coming off a broken marriage and a broken back – yay, the first good TMI of the season! She had a major tattoo on her shoulder, which I sure wasn’t expecting to see in rehearsal, and especially not from TV’s “Half Pint.” This dance started with a huge dip and Melissa’s outfit showed off her very skinny back. She did a long traveling move and threw her leg around Maks in a very athletic moment. She looked totally badass. Melissa ended the dance with a bow and bad boy Maks was a nice guy tonight, giving Missy a huge hug and a smile. Len said he thought it was a hard routine and she did well. Bruno liked the attack and grind but she was too overpowering at times. And Carrie Ann saw great potential because she never missed a step. It looked like Melissa could be a contender! Booing in the ballroom at her low score; I, too, thought it was a little better than that.
William Levy and Cheryl Burke: Cha Cha
The “Mexican Brad Pitt” was greeted with crazed cheers in the ballroom. He will be the heartthrob this season. Cheryl said wow, he’s really good looking. William said in Spanish that he didn’t like the rehearsal shoes because they looked like his granny’s. William may be hot, but he was having a lot of trouble in rehearsal. But that might have been a fake out, because in the dance, he seemed to know what he was doing, keeping in sync with Cheryl the entire time and looking like he owned the floor! The ladies in the press room wanted more, more, MORE! His big muscles might have held him back a little bit in the speed of the dance, but no one cared. He looked almost like a professional dancer. Bruno’s eyes popped out of his head and he said that was “the hottest package of the season!” Carrie Ann was thanking ABC for her job. Ease and grace, she said. Len cheered, well done. Will and Cheryl revealed backstage they’d only had ten days to rehearse, very impressive, as they got the highest score so far.
Martina Naratilova and Tony Dovolani: Foxtrot
The tennis champ and breast cancer survivor met up with Tony and admitted dancing in high heels could be a problem. She also said she’s not that feminine but wanted to show a different side of herself. Tony consulted his watch before the dance started and then their ballroom fantasy began. It looked like it was supposed to be very Fred and Ginger, but Martina looked stiff and a bit deer-in-the-headlights. It was amazing to see her in full makeup and glitter, though, very movie star. Tony slid her under his legs to end the dance. Carrie Ann said she was beautiful and elegant out there but her turns weren’t precise. Len said it wasn’t all there — too careful, he chided, while Bruno said she looked beautiful as her old buddy Chris Evert clapped in the audience. How fun to see these two tennis legends at DWTS!
Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas: Foxtrot
The classical singer is big in the UK, but no one knows her here. She seemed really nice and gorgeous, wearing a lot of makeup, even in rehearsal. This couple glided across the floor and she exhibited lots of natural grace; they have unison and look so well-matched. Tom hewed the company line, saying it’s his favorite premiere so far (he’s such a pro!). Len liked the detail that went on through the dance. Bruno went even further, calling it great quality of movement for week one. Carrie Ann was transfixed because they looked like two pros. Katherine welled up with tears. Okay, we didn’t know who she was but we will because she looked built to last. Hmmm—she could just be the breakout star we were looking for this season. Both Carrie Ann and Bruno pulled out the 9 paddles! Incredible!
Unknown Beauty Blows The Judges Away!
Gladys Knight and Tristan MacManus: Cha Cha
The Empress of Soul was out to prove she could dance like a Pip. Their rehearsal looked like fun and she declared she wanted to win. Gladys is the oldest in the contest but she could really shake it with attitude to the song The Best of My Love. The singer stayed on the beat and seemed to be having so much fun on the floor. Gladys was so good that the press room burst into applause for the first time tonight! What a sexy senior! Bruno said she had class and sass, while Carrie Ann stood up for her, too. Len? He said it oozed rhythm. Will this be the first time someone over 60 makes it to the finale? Hope so!
Jaleel White and Kym Johnson: Foxtrot
Then it was time for Steve Urkel, um, Jaleel White from “Family Matters,” to show us if he could dance. Jaleel said people assumed he was clumsy and geeky, but Kym said he wasn’t at all. Dancing to the Way You Look Tonight, Jaleel was indeed smooth and flexible and seemed to be feeling the music. A geek no more! The actor certainly seemed the most relaxed and confident, and Kym gave him an appreciative hug on the floor. He totally pulled it off and yes, got applause in the press room just like Gladys. Carrie Ann said he was smooth, and Len loved his hold and sophistication. “The best first show of any season,” he said. Bruno compared Jaleel to Gregory Hines. Two more 9s!