God save the king of quiet disdain! Dancing With the Stars’s masterful head judge Grumpy Len Goodman is back in his rightful throne at the center of the alternate universe to do what he does best: offer no-nonsense ballroom critiques, rest his eyes at will, and above all, hold his fellow can’t-sit-still judges in unadulterated contempt.
“He’s gone J. Lo on me!” cried Bruno after Len pulled one of his “diva tantrums” — but to be fair, Bruno had no right to steal Len’s cushion just because Bruno needed a last-minute butt lift. It’s almost like these guys are jonesing for their own weekly Judging the Judges column on Yahoo TV. But I digress…
Will the judges please reveal their scores? Carrie Ann Inahhhhhh-ber!
Nyle DiMarco and Peta Murgatroyd: 23/30 The deaf winner of America’s Next Top Model has been upgraded to “supermodel” for the purposes of Dancing With the Stars. This may come as a shock, but I for one am SOLD! After four long months with zero ballroom blitz, I’m ready to feast on the glittering generalities only this show can provide. On Planet Mirrorballus, anything is possible — including a brief taste test by Bruno Tonioli following Nyle and Peta’s cha cha.
“I’m telling you, he could be America’s Next Top Dancer!” Bruno raved. OK Tyra, simmer down. But it’s true, Nyle does seem like a dream contestant so far. Not only is this hot slab of shirtless service an eager student, but he has palpable, fully “vibrational” chemistry with returning pro Peta. I’m rooting for them to make it to the finals just so we can watch her conquer sign language in 10 weeks. You know she’ll do it!
Wanya Morris and Lindsay Arnold: 23/30 Dancing their opening cha cha to Boyz II Men’s first No. 1 record “Motown Philly” killed two gem-encrusted birds with one stone. It solidified Wanya’s star status for those who had no idea who he was. It also ensured that Stephanie Tanner (Wanya’s competitor Jodie Sweetin) won’t be able to claim the same song for her Most Memorable Year dance come Week 3. Smart. That Full House episode in which Steph lost her confidence and gained it back still holds up as one of my favorite TV memories. I suppose it’s these bottom-of-the-barrel standards that keep me endlessly enthralled by Dancing With the Stars.
Oh well! Sue me. Lindsay really comes alive with Wanya, whose energy is fantastic. I love that he’s so appreciative of the show and thrilled to be here after nine years of longing for his moment in the shimmery spotlight. Aside from the chance to one-up Season 4’s “fat white boy” Joey Fatone, the original boy bander’s DWTS goals include cheesesteak-induced weight loss (it’s a fantasyland, deal with it), making new friends, and thanking God.
Ginger Zee and Valentin Chmerkovskiy: 23/30 I’m glad DWTS is getting the Chief Meteorologist from Good Morning America and not just any old loud person with an umbrella. New mom Ginger is ready to find her mojo again, and sometimes that involves pumping breast milk in the corner as your dance partner averts his eyes in unaccustomed horror. Give him time, though; by season’s end, Val will be a bona fide father figure to baby Adrian. It’s happening. Do not fight it. Val certainly won’t. We’ve seen the Season 20 champ pour his heart and soul into jives before, but on Week 1?! This pair is a marvel!
Step aside, Fox. It’s time for The Passion of the Val, airing liiiiiiiiiiiiiive on ABC from now through May.
Antonio Brown and Sharna Burgess: 21/30 The best wide receiver in the business (I’ll just take his word for it) performed a valiant, fire-footed quickstep despite his significant early struggles “taking orders from a little Australian.”
Something tells me he doesn’t mind that much.
Bruno claimed Antonio could follow in the twinkling toe-touches of Season 3 winner Emmitt Smith as long as he makes sure to channel all that energy correctly. Carrie Ann, however, approved of the NFL star’s “beast-like” wildness with such verve that she nearly jumped out of her skin. “Decaf. Try it,” quipped our boomin’ (in spirit, and whenever he says “Liiiiiiiiiiiive!”) host Tom Bergeron.
Marla Maples and Tony Dovolani: 21/30 People still think of her as “the girl who married Donald Trump,” but now that Marla’s over 50, it’s time to really live life to its fullest… by somehow not totally losing her breath, footing, and will to live during a fabulous Week 1 quickstep! Tony, who’s used to partnering the token old ladies with limited mobility, has nothing to complain about with sparkling diamond Marla.
Von Miller and Witney Carson: 21/30 ABC co-opted the same strategy for telling similar contestants apart as it used on The Bachelor this season: When in doubt, highlight one key player as a chicken enthusiast. Super Bowl MVP Miller earned his degree in poultry — not poetry — science. Surely Witney was having PTSD flashbacks to her ill-fated Prince Farming season when she first met Von on his farm.
Turns out there are worse things than a bum personality; namely, the massive height difference between her and Von. “I can’t lug him around the floor like I could with my other partners,” complained the Season 19 champ, now known as “Drill Sergeant Barbie.” But oh, how she tried.
Len appreciated Von’s commitment to a “proper” foxtrot, and Carrie Ann complimented his “soft and silky” nature as opposed to Antonio’s wild side. “It was a hip-hop trot, and it was mighty hot!” Bruno attempted to rap.
Paige Vanzant and Mark Ballas: 21/30 The 21-year-old UFC fighter is excited to do something girly for a change. She suspects her strong hold will serve the couple well, and “just make [Mark] more of a man.” I’m loving that confidence, even if Paige has no idea what she’s up against. Case in point: Mark’s hair.
We’ll call this look “the up-braided rooster.” Somehow Paige managed to outshine Mark’s sparkly upholstery jacket and deliver an only slightly out of control foxtrot. With her unexpectedly emotional reactions and bombshell looks, Paige seems like a prime candidate for a capital-J Journey this season. “She’s a goldmine!” cried Carrie Ann.
Kim Fields and Sasha Farber: 20/30 It’s safe to say that after their opening cha cha set the tone for the entire high-energy premiere, I have never liked a Real Housewife more. (I’m not well-versed in all of them, but I know enough. I know enough.) The Facts of Life and Living Single actress is “a whole lot of fierceness in this tiny package,” according to Carrie Ann. It’s no wonder she works so well with Sasha.
Aside from Peta and Nyle’s unspoken in-touchness, Kim the treasure and Sasha the crab easily have the best chemistry so far.
Jodie Sweetin and Keo Motsepe: 20/30 Wait! I may have spoken too soon. The middle child from Full (and Fuller) House gets along famously with Keo, a legit South African prince with the right priorities. Just look at how well they pantomime about important issues:
Their opening tango had spirit, attack, and attitude. And best of all: “You came out and gave it some welly,” approved Len. “I missed the welly!” yelped Tom, speaking for all of us.
Carrie Ann called out Jodie’s “glued-on” facial expressions, but those kinks will work themselves out. I’d say she’s a very promising candidate for America’s Next Top Dancer. Hell, Jodie burst into tears at the prospect of letting herself down a grand total of three times in one segment — and throughout these mini meltdowns, she was smiling!
Mischa Barton and Artem Chigvintsev: 16/30 TV’s Marissa Cooper is out of her league here, which is something I have to imagine Mischa Barton has felt before, just not as acutely against a sea of equally pretty and much more athletic faces. Len pulled no punches after their jilted tango. “That wasn’t a dance,” he sputtered. “That was just walking!”
Sorry, Artem, but you appear to be the new Tony. The old one’s had enough.
Doug Flutie and Karina Smirnoff: 15/30 As likable as he is, the former NFL star has no chance considering his steep footballer competition and blatant lack of rhythm. Simply put, the foxtrot must be scored on elements other than how emphatically a native New Englander endorses the “Ba, Ba, Ba’s” during Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”
“People love an underdog on this show,” Carrie Ann tried to look on the bright side. “It’s only Week 1.”
Geraldo Rivera and Edyta Sliwinska: 13/30 Len and Bruno whipped out the rarely seen four paddles after the senior Fox News correspondent whiffed it on the cha cha. He’s the most likely to depart next week. But we’ll rack up his short-lived stay on Planet Mirrorballus as a win, if only because it gave us this Marilyn Moment from Edyta.
Welcome back to the original Lady Leg Warmer, forever in bloom.
Next Monday is Latin Night, followed by Memorable Year Night and Disney Night. Why fix what ain’t broke? Len is tired!
Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC.