Sequins and fringe and spray tans, oh my! After nearly a year without the sparkly universe that is Dancing With the Stars, we're back in the ballroom for season 28 of America's Favorite Dancing Competition.* But before we begin our journey to crown the next Mirrorball Trophy winner, let's quickly recap how we got here:
*As determined by me and my mom
First, ABC decided to forego the spring edition of the competition. Then last month when it announced the cast, two pro dancers were noticeably absent from the lineup. Both Sharna Burgess (last season's winner with Bobby Bones) and Artem Chigvintsev didn't make the cut. Meanwhile, the casting of former White House press secretary Sean Spicer was met with backlash, including some choice words from host Tom Bergeron.
In another shift from previous seasons, though the cast announcement featured the names of the pro dancers, the actual partnerships were kept under wraps until Monday's premiere. But the pre-season madness didn't stop there. Just hours before the live premiere, ABC announced that supermodel Christie Brinkley suffered injuries during rehearsals that would prevent her from participating in the show. But fear not! Keeping it in the family, her daughter Sailor Brinkley-Cook (also a model) is stepping in for her mom. And that brings us to the LIVE show. So put on your dancing shoes, and let's get to it.
Hannah Brown (The Bachelorette) and Alan Bersten
Synergy at its finest! From Bachelorette to ballroom, Hannah Brown met partner Alan as he exited a limo at the mansion. I assume this is the only way she knows how to meet men. Their first outing, a cha cha to "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," was fairly well-received by the judges. Hannah was complimented on both her form and attitude.
Kel Mitchell (comedian/actor) and Witney Carson
Goodburger was Witney's favorite movie growing up, so this is a partnership made in orange soda heaven! Their tango, set to "Sucker," opened with ... and this is really what happened ... Kel entering the ballroom by sliding down his "tongue," aka a slide fashioned to look like his tongue coming out a giant version of his face. Guys, how was this show off the air for so long? Honestly, I couldn't get past the tongue. The judges called out a few of his missteps, but overall it was a pretty standard first performance. He'll be fun to watch, but let's retire the giant tongue here and now.
Kate Flannery (TV star) and Pasha Pashkov
I wouldn't hate it if all of Kate's future interviews are Office parodies. Meredith Kate has been paired with first-time pro Pasha, and they worked hard for those judges scores. Actually, Kate did, and she deserves bonus points because she started off the dance by singing the opening lines of "She Works Hard for the Money." Anything can happen in the ballroom, guys.
That said, her nerves came through a bit and she rushed through certain moments of the dance, which the judges called her out on. But they should also consider giving her bonus points for her audience support: Jane Lynch and Office alum Angela Kinsey were there to cheer her on.
Lamar Odom (two-time NBA champion) and Peta Murgatroyd
Lamar is making his return to reality television, and honestly, after what he's been through, it's good just to see him up and moving! The former basketball star has been paired with Peta, who has worked with athletes before. (She won season 14 with Donald Driver.) Lamar isn't particularly graceful, and even that is an understatement. He's more than a foot taller than Peta — he's 6'10, while she's 5'7 — so they've got their work cut out for them. The judges' scores were fair, but it's always hard to see anyone get a 3. He got two from Bruno and Len, while Carrie Ann showed some compassion with a 5. That smile, though. If this show were judged on smiles, Lamar would have a perfect 30.
Lauren Alaina (country music star) and Gleb Savchenko
From American Idol to Dancing With the Stars! Lauren "I belong on a farm, not a ballroom" Alaina channeled Shania Twain for her first dance. She feels like a woman, and I feel like she's an early front-runner. It wasn't a perfect routine, but a really good first attempt. Len, unsurprisingly, didn't enjoy the non-cha cha portion at the opening of the number, and his score reflected that. Still, with a strong partner in Gleb, she's going to be one to watch.
Sailor Brinkley-Cook (model) and Val Chmerkovskiy
As previously mentioned, Christie Brinkley injured herself during rehearsals, and with just three days to prepare, her daughter Sailor seamlessly stepped into her mom's dancing shoes. Val and Sailor performed to "Uptown Girl," an homage to Christie's appearance in Billy Joel's music video. (Note: Billy Joel is Christie's ex-husband, but Sailor is her daughter from another marriage.) I am truly floored that Sailor only had three days to learn this routine. She must use the same wizardry Christie uses not to age. Mom and daughter shared some hugs and tears, and Len made the first "Sailor" pun of the year ("you floated my boat").
Karamo Brown (TV host) and Jenna Johnson
Karamo petitioned to be on Dancing With the Stars and basically willed his partnership with Jenna into existence. Then, because the internet needs these things, he danced a foxtrot to "Juice" by Lizzo. His hip action, or lack thereof, didn't please the judges. Overall, they were underwhelmed. But Karamo is a sparkly human, and I think he was made for this show. With Jenna by his side, he can only go up from here.
Ray Lewis (NFL Hall of Famer) and Cheryl Burke
Football players have a great track record on Dancing With the Stars, and it looks like Ray Lewis is going to follow in those footsteps. He and Cheryl certainly heated things up with their dance to Nelly's "Hot in Herre." Carrie Ann and Bruno are still cooling off and Tom Bergeron was grooving on the sidelines! Even Len noted Ray's great potential. Hot, indeed.
Mary Wilson (The Supremes) and Brandon Armstrong
One of the OG Supremes! Brandon's in the presence of a true legend. Mary's got the right amount of sass and attitude for this show, but as the oldest competitor, she's got her work cut out for her. That said, her performance was very regal. And it doesn't hurt when you get to dance to one of your own hits, "Baby Love." Supremely supreme.
Ally Brooke (pop star) and Sasha Farber
Ally Brooke is the second member of Fifth Harmony to try out her dancing skills on the show. Normani Kordei came in third place with partner Val in season 24. And to further follow in Normani's footsteps, Ally is good. Like really good. She needs to work on her technique, you know, put in less of the "Beyonce stuff," as Len put it. But to that note, her days in a girl band have certainly not hurt her chances here. Ally is another one to watch.
Sean Spicer (former White House press secretary) and Lindsay Arnold
Sean is undoubtedly the most controversial cast member this season, so in their best efforts to distract us from that, the producers dressed him in a shirt that cannot even be described with words. No, really. But Sean will not be deterred by the criticism. He brought fun to the ballroom by dancing to "Spice Up Your Life" by the Spice Girls, of course. And his performance earned him this praise from Carrie Ann: "Best fluorescent shimmy of the night."
James Van Der Beek (TV icon) and Emma Slater
Let's just go ahead and get this gif out of the way. Arguably one of the more famous faces from this year's cast, James and his partner, Emma, gave a very formidable first performance. They don't give the hero spot to just anyone! He received the most praise for his leading-man role, and that was showcased in the scores. Highest praise = highest scores of the night!
Other Notable Moments:
- Instead of doing an impressively choreographed opening number, the show opened with a pre-taped bit about the casting of our stars, leading in to a new opening credit sequence.
- The judges announced they're going to be cracking down on the judging this year. That means technique is key. Sorry, Bobby Bones! Your win will not go unpunished.
- The ballroom got a pretty big makeover during the hiatus. Gold, gold, and more gold! But the real winner seems to be the audience. Select notable guests were seated at tables with cocktails. How do you get that hookup? Asking for a friend, who is me. (Tom said the drinks were fake, but I don't know if we can believe that.)
- Voting for your favorite dancers begins next week. They're changing up the format a bit, and while details are scarce, know you're off the hook for the next seven days.
Lamar's performance was clearly the worst of the night, and the scores reflected that. But with Peta as his partner, will he be able to pull in those fan votes? Who would get your vote on week one?
Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.