Dancing With the Stars Season Premiere Recap: Surprise, Surprise? Or Same Old, Same Old?

DWTS-Charlie-White-Sharna-BurgessThe 18th season of Dancing With the Stars kicked off with seemingly desperate vibe to feel “new.” Oh, sure, the roster included the typically eclectic roll call of “Who’s That?” and “Her Name Sounds Familiar” including singer Cody Simpson, swimmer Diana Nyad, former sitcom sensation Candace “Full House” Cameron Bure and Hollywood legend Billie Dee Williams — not to mention Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the Olympic Gold medalists in (holy Mirrorball ringers alert!) ice dancing.

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So, perhaps the discomfort came from the startling absence of longtime co-host Brooke Burke-Charvet (given the boot for Fox sportscaster and occasionally tongue-tied Erin Andrews) or the vague promise of a different “surprise” every week (according to host Tom Bergeron). While it remains to be seen whether such hijinks prove to be more train-wreck than terrific (I predict it’s gonna get messy), let’s high-kick right to the Week 1 highlights:

DANCE OF THE NIGHT | Danica McKellar’s fantastic Fox Trot made us believe she’s a contender (while scoring a string of 8s), while paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy’s inspiring, eye-popping Cha Cha Cha earned ecstatic reviews (“You got a bronze medal in the Olympics, you got a Gold medal in the Cha Cha Cha,” said Len Goodman) and the season’s first tears from Carrie Ann Inaba. And thought Meryl Davis danced an equally memorable Cha Cha Cha (welcome back, Maksim Chmerkovskiy!), here’s our pick for top dance of the night:

Charlie White & Sharna Burgess: Defying the undeniably high expectations, White easily glided through his gorgeous and graceful Contemporary dance, which featured an array of high-difficulty lifts and spins that echoed his winning Olympic routine (and earned a string of 9s, topping the scoreboard). “You guys are a perfect match… that was poetry in motion” gushed Carrie Ann, while Bruno Tonioli called it “astonishing.” But Len’s equally glowing review hinted at some lingering skepticism: “This is like ice dancing without the ice,” said Len, who added he’s looking forward to seeing how White will “cope” with the ballroom – that’s code for salsas, sambas and fox trots — in the weeks to come.

RUNNER-UP Candace Cameron Bure & Mark Ballas | In the surprise of the night, the former Full House actress (“I’m sweet and compassionate and sensitive, but I’m competitive!”) dazzled the judges with her zesty, eye-popping Contemporary. “Where did you come from?” marveled Carrie Ann, who dished out her first ‘9’ of the night. “You are such an incredible dancer… I want to see it again.” Then Bruno chimed in: “I was torn between ecstasy and torment! I felt every minute of it.” Their ‘25’ total was second highest the night.

Now it’s your turn. Is Season 18’s cast going to be one of the best (or worst) in history? Are you loving (or loathing) new co-host Erin Andrews? And what did you think of the overall installment? Take our poll, then sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Stacie says:

    I know they “defied” high expectations but having 2 Olympic Gold ice DANCERS in this competition is absurd. It’s one thing if they were just Olympic athletes, like in the past, but this is absurd. Sure there have been boy band contestants, and even ice skaters, but these are professional and medal winning Dancers. It’s tough to root for someone that’s already at such a high level. I am backing Danica and Cameron this season.

    • sara says:

      Agree!! To have two Olympic Ice DANCERS in the competition is a complete joke.

      • Faythe says:

        Ice Dance and real Dance are different – trust me. That really doesn’t help them at al

        • sara says:

          LOL. Oh, of course. Learning ice dance does not help them at all with… dance. Ummm, okay then. (seriously, that is beyond ridiculous).

          • C says:

            Ice dancing and ballroom dancing are in no way the same. I wouldn’t necessarily say they don’t have an advantage – they do. They’re trained at learning choreography, they’ve adapted to learning movement with another person and they’re in a performance sport. But they have no more of an advantage than the majority of other athletes who’ve had similar training. A gymnist, another figure skater or a pop star all come into it with that same base ability. And the advantage that provides is certainly limited. Sure they know how to count music. But a dance hold on the floor isn’t always the same as it is on ice. The steps are certainly very different. And rhythm on ice does not in any way shape or form feel the same as it does on the ground. If it did I’d be a hell of a lot better dancer than I am. It’s unfair to assume that just because ‘dance’ is part of the name of their sport, they’ll have an above and beyond advantage. Does a hip hop dancer have an above and beyond advantage when someone asks them to dance contemporary? No. Most would struggle. It might be a linked art, but it isn’t the same.

          • JLK says:

            C — Well said.

          • Adele Dazeem says:

            @C your comment is most EXCELLENT.

          • M says:

            @C – Nice comment. I also believe that this will set the bar higher for them because they do have a little bit of experience.

        • Ashley says:

          As a dancer, I would agree that learning a different style isn’t easy, but you do see ice dancers that incorporate ballroom into their ice skating routines. Which they would have to learn off the ice and then work it out when they’re on skates. So to say they don’t have /any/ ballroom experience seems like it’d be a stretch to me.

        • Unfair that Olympic Gold ice DANCERS are on this show. Even though its different, duh, ice vs flooring, it’s STILL dancing. And Erin is awkward right ‘guys’. UGH

        • You are so right , it’s a total difference. The only advantage is they are use to hard work & putting on a great show.

      • ThFactsR says:

        just enjoy the pretty dancing and stop complaining! They are dropping in ratings and the show runners can not figure why, so the show goes off the air soon, enjoy the dancing before the show runners finish ruining it

        • Elizabeth says:

          I know…this whole debate is so stupid. It’s called “Dancing with the STARS,” not “Dancing with the Amateurs.” I care far more about watching some quality dancing, than whether someone has previous dance experience!

          • Likes good dancing says:

            If they presented a show of all Billy Dee Williams caliber contestants it would be an even playing field but would anyone watch? I wouldn’t!

    • Callitags says:

      The only real competition that matters on DWTS is the one for the ratings. It has never been ‘fair’ and never will be. I have no idea why viewers of the show would ever expect something different after all these years.

    • Sandra says:

      The thing is, all figure skaters at the competitive, elite level will have dance training, ballet and for ice dancers ballroom. It is pretty well an essential part of their training. If you follow skating you will often see the competitors running through their routines on the floor, in shoes. So that does translate into an advantage. Figure skaters on DWTS always do exceptionally well, Kristi won her season, Evan came in a more than respectable second and could easily have won but was simultaneously doing SOI and DWTS and likely got stretched too thin. Dorothy Hamill was older than the other two but she still had the moves and if her preexisting hip problem hadn’t forced her withdrawal had the potential to go all the way. Charlie and Meryl are also doing SOI along with DWTS so that could factor in as it makes for a gruelling schedule.

      All that aside I believe Charlie is the designated winner this season just as Amber was last season. DWTS has become predictable in the extreme.

    • T. Lane says:

      I concur and cannot believe they replaced Brooke for Erin. I think we all need to object and protest that Brooke get her job back. If not, I will not be tuning in to DWTS next season for sure!!!!!

  2. Reece says:

    What irks me is the addition of contemporary dance. I know I’m a little behind on this, but I’ve skipped seasons. Contemporary is not a ballroom dance! It’s so much less technical than the classical styles. And I know people will get on to me for saying that, but it’s like comparing apples to oranges. For the record, I love contemporary dance; it’s just out of place on this show.

    • Sara says:

      I completely agree with you! And the contemporary dances always seem to get the highest scores because they are “so emotional.” This is one genre that doesn’t belong on this show.

    • Totally agree with you, Reece. In my case, I don’t care for contemporary dance at all, but even putting that aside, contemporary belongs on that “So You Think You Can Dance” show (is that the right name? I didn’t watch it), not here. They’ve always gone to great pains to say DWTS is about ballroom dancing. So make it that way, producers–show me the ballroom dancing I watch your show to see, and please can the contemporary!

    • MissMel says:

      I actually love the contemporary dances. After several seasons of seeing the same styles, I think it brings in something fresh and new, just like hip-hop or jazz dances, which they also do. Yes, it started out as strictly ballroom dance but that doesn’t mean the show can’t evolve.

    • SM says:

      Thename of the show is “Dancing” With the Stars, not “Ballroom” Dancing With the Stars. I love the addition of other genres of dancing – it makes it a much more interesting show.

    • Meg says:

      I don’t really mind the contemporary dances but I think they’re better reserved for weeks 4 and on. Having it be the week one dance is ridiculous.

  3. wrstlgirl says:

    This show is such a joke. How is a competition putting a 77 yr old up against a 20 yr old even remotely fair. And don’t get me started on the ice dancers.

    • JLK says:

      Oh please. Billie Dee knows darn well what he’s getting into here. He’s not expecting to win or compete with the kids. He’s there to give DWTS an excuse to trot out the Star Wars references. He’s there to make people smile because it’s Billy Dee freaking Williams. And he’s there to get some exposure as a subtle reminder to casting directors that he’s not dead and still looks pretty good for an old man. Plus, he and the other weak links provide a valuable service by allowing the dancers with potential and a chance to win this thing an opportunity to stick around and prove their worth. I much prefer to see someone who dances like Billie Dee get eliminated in Week 1 or 2 than see someone that’s actually bringing some skills to the dance floor get cut right out of the gate.

      • Angela says:

        And he’s there to get some exposure as a subtle reminder to casting directors that he’s not dead and still looks pretty good for an old man.
        Seriously. I actually did a bit of a double take when his age was announced-I would’ve pegged him as being in his mid to late 50s, maybe early 60s at the oldest. Even more impressive considering the health issues he noted having.
        The rest of your post had some good points, too.

      • wrstlgirl says:

        And I’m sure the upfront $125k was also very appealing. And yes, I agree with everything you’re saying, clearly I didn’t phrase my comment correctly. I was focusing on the network and not the individual/s.

    • Dav says:

      Oh please. This show is for entertainment. It is not, and never has been, a serious competition. I thought everyone would have learned that during the first season when that woman won because she was popular and not because she was a better dancer. Anyone who thinks this is a legitimate competition probably thinks reality television is real.

      • wrstlgirl says:

        LOL, well Dav I clearly don’t believe this is a legitimate competition based on my comment now do I. I was simply trying to say that how ABC and the DWTS promote this as a “competition” is ridiculous and a joke.

  4. Angela says:

    I feel horrifically lazy after watching Amy. Less than 2% survival chance, and she managed to beat those odds AND come back fighting as she has? Yeow. I am impressed. I like her and am rooting for her.
    And I was happily surprised by Candace, too-both her and Danica were great tonight, it’ll be fun to watch them square off each week. Also, Drew Carey was fun and made me smile. How long he’ll last compared to some of the other more notable high scorers tonight, I don’t know, but he’ll be very entertaining no matter what. Plus, I’ve always liked Cheryl as well, so I want her to stick around a while. I’m looking forward to seeing what else they can do.
    I fully agree with the sentiments about all the changes…I definitely think this is going to be a bit messy and confusing and weird some weeks, all these crazy plans they have for the couples. But eh, well. At the very least, it’ll be quite interesting to see how they manage to handle it all!
    Not sure what I think of Erin as a co-host yet. No problem with her as a person, but she seems a bit…overly enthusiastic, or something? I dunno how to describe it exactly. But it’s only her first night, so I’ll chalk it up to nerves.

  5. Kl says:

    I thought Erin Andrews was a breath of fresh air. It would be great to get some new judges.

    • ThFactsR says:

      her voice is the worst thing to have to listen to I mute her

      • Kayk says:

        I agree, the tone of her voice is irritating and comes across as very harsh. Maybe that was an asset somehow in sportscasting but not here :(

      • april-ann says:

        After the first two dances I knew I’d have to mute her. The few times I forgot to mute her fast enough almost made me sick. Worst voice on tv ever, and she’s a CO-HOST?? She has no talent for hosting whatsoever. What is she doing there? Her voice is so offensive that it’s a reason to just skip the show altogether.

    • Welcome improvement says:

      I thought Erin was fantastic! She brings personality and oomph to what has been anything but. I think she’s a great addition.

    • SM says:

      I completely agree. She obviously had some nerves last night, but now her first show is out of the way, she’ll do even better. Brooke wouldn’t have known how to respond to Maks. Erin is so much better!

    • Meg says:

      Erin is so much better than Brooke. So glad they chose someone who actually has experience with the job.

  6. Louise says:

    I could be wrong, but I believe that Candace Cameron’s husband once won this weird show that my mom likes where they pair up hockey players with ice skaters.

  7. Bwhit says:

    Everyone knows that having Meryl Davis and Charlie White on this show is unfair, but my biggest gripe of the whole night was, the planted drama with that Cody guy and his partner. I honestly felt I was watching a bad MTV reality show when they met each other with the whole, “do you have a girlfriend?” I see the TMZ headlines already!

    • Angela says:

      Yeah, that kinda made me cringe, too. Of all the things you could say to your dance partner upon meeting them for the first time…

    • ThFactsR says:

      cringe yes! low class pros think it so funny to bring the SHOWMANCE into the already limping show that is already hurting in ratings and in revenue from commercials

  8. Tess says:

    First off, I’m happy to see the skybox back and not have the contestants right on the side of the dance floor. It makes more sense now why they felt the need to still have a co-host – and I don’t think Erin ever resorted to BBC’s typical “how does it feel?” line of questioning so for that I will give her a thumbs up (even though Erin wouldn’t have been my pick for that role, she’s still an improvement on Brookebot). She just needs to work on her posture and remind her to angle toward her camera and not toward the couples as she does interviews.
    As for the contestants, I was pleasantly surprised by many of them and while I get some ire over the inclusion of ice dancers, keep in mind that A) there are two of them competing against each other so it’s not like they can both win; B) the judges will likely be more critical of them going forward than any of the others; and C) it’s not like the rest of the cast are a bunch of duds – there’s a lot of potential in there and not just from Meryl and Charlie (side note: Did anyone else feel like Meryl didn’t get a 9 yet only because she’s with Maks or what?). I worry about all the twists to come this season, just because it sounds like a convoluted mess for the sake of change that could just make the season more challenging than it’s worth to follow. Oh and I agree with the feelings here about the addition of Contemporary – don’t like how it has become a regular dance style and especially in week 1 – too hard to judge it against typical latin and ballroom styles. It’d be fine if it’s only in on a week when everyone gets a dance that isn’t a typical latin or ballroom style. And next week Candace and Mark are doing Rumba after doing Contemporary this week – does that make sense? I’d like to see her get something a little less similar so we can see what she can really do. That reveal at the end of the show of what styles they will do next week was a real mess. Oh and the performances were really short this week, weren’t they? For a week without results, the dances were awfully short!

    • ThFactsR says:

      YES SHE DID SEVERAL TIMES BEFORE I COULD GET HER MUTED! She asked Charlie, Meryl, Maks! How does it FEEEEEL questions

    • Thea says:

      She did ask the dreaded “feel” question, but it was much more pointed than Brooke ever made it and she didn’t ask every SINGLE contestant. I absolutely agree with you on contemporary needing to be held for later d

    • Thea says:

      ..down the road. Another commenter suggested leaving it for the final 4. And also THANK YOU for mentioning the whole, “no 9s for Meryl” thing. I absolutely felt like that was because of Maks. I’d bet money that she would have received straight 9s doing the exact same dance if Derek was was her partner. Not fair at all.

  9. Babybop says:

    First time actually watching this show (having James Maslow on has successfully brought another viewer in the key demographic). I don’t quite understand why Erin Andrews is there… She seemed to make everything super awkward.

    As far as the dancing, Candace Cameron surprised the hell out of me. She was fantastic!

  10. Christine says:

    I agree about Erin – a breath of fresh air! My favorites were Candice and Amy – I also liked Charlie and Meryl but agree they have a distinct advantage. I thought Danika did a good job too! Did anyone else think the routines seemed shorter this year? Overall a good first week!

  11. ThFactsR says:

    I do think the bottom 3 will be this OR should be if the show doesn’t tamper with results.

    Billy D

    I hope Sean leaves his attitude stinks but it most likely will be Billy D or Diana whoever get the lowest votes

    • Adele Dazeem says:

      Billy Dee could be like Bill Nye with Star Wars fans voting for him. I dislike that Sean dude, waht a d-bag.

  12. andy j says:

    Poor Emma. In Billy Dee Williams she has a partner that makes Bill Engvall look like Fred Astaire. And I miss Brooke-its just not the same without her. Meryl Davis should have a lock on a role in the next Chipmunk movie. And so much for Candace Cameron’s modesty-her costume may have been demure but I saw England I saw France I saw D.J. Tanner’s underpants. But the big elephant in the room-with Maks, Val, and Karina all born in Ukraine, what are their thoughts about what is going on in their native country?

    • Angela says:

      LOL at the “underpants” thing. Yeah, I do wonder how long Candace can go the “modesty” route in this competition. I respect her decision to try and stay on that end of things if that’s what she’s most comfortable with (I’d be the same way. For different reasons than hers, likely, but still…), but considering some of the dances and routines and costumes…yeah. that’s going to be an uphill battle she’ll be fighting, to be sure.

  13. Adele Dazeem says:

    Erin Andrews….. so annoying. The grating voice, She’s like interviewing Richard Sherman… please bring back Brooke. If not, anyone but Erin. Great performances. Love Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Winnie Cooper (aww) and DJ Tanner fabulous. Amy was inspiring and awesome. Even Cody Simpson was fab. Drew Carey what a fun guy! The only person that was eww… that NHL player Sean, seems like a emotionless guy. Maybe had one too many concussions? LOL! It’s going to be a excellent season.

  14. Elizabeth says:

    I don’ t like the new changes to the show. I will only continue watching because I really like Charlie White and Meryl Davis, they are very talented and do have an advantage here.
    I felt sorry for Billy Dee Williams, I predict he will be eliminated soon.

  15. Margaret says:

    I checked out some of the interviews Maks has done leading up to tonight, and he’s taken a much more laid back approach with Meryl, really starting from the basics of dance steps, creating a strong foundation both with her natural talent and ballroom specifics she’s learning for the 1st time. He just looks like he’s having a blast, and that’s fun to see. I’m excited to see where they go from here.

  16. JBC says:

    Enjoyed the dances, especially Candace, Charlie, Meryl. Even though Charlie & Meryl are ice dancers and may have an advantage I still think it is wonderful to watch them perform.
    Candace totally surprised me as to how beautiful she can dance.
    As far as ERIN goes, Please ABC tell her she is in a Ball Room NOT a Locker Room. She doesn’t need to yell and she needs to stay on cue when Tom cuts back to her. She is terrible in this type of show. .
    It was great to see Billy Dee Williams. He may be first to go but he is a class act.

  17. Ashley says:

    Candace wasn’t as good as people put her up to be, in my opinion. As someone with contemporary experience, I thought she was good, but she wasn’t right for it. She was a little too quick on the moments.

    • Leah says:

      I was more impressed because I wasn’t expecting it, but you’re right. She was a bit too unrestrained with her movements, which gave it a chaotic feeling rather than the controlled freedom you want for contemporary/lyrical. But that awareness just takes time and practice. She’ll get better.

  18. GS says:

    I don’t care if Billy Dee walks around the floor next week that horrible Sean needs to go. What an obnoxious ass he is! I think they brought in Erin to try to draw in sports watching husbands but then they didn’t put a watchable big name athlete on here this season. She does need to tone it down but she’s much quicker to improv questions and seemed excited. Brooke was a fembot and it got old.

    I hate the contemporary dances b/c it’s not dancing just a bunch of lifts or crawling on the floor. That African rain dance (the only kind of contemporary Mark seems capable of choreographing) was horrible and nothing but stomping around. Charlie did great with the lifts and it was beautiful but it wasn’t dancing. Loved Meryl too. Surprised by Amy but she was overscored. Still, she’s doing far more with two fake legs than I do on my 2 real ones. Just hate that she is with golden boy. Makes me sick to have to root for him. But my absolute favorite thing is that MAKS IS BACK!!!

  19. TvPeong says:

    Charlie White was good, but I think that Candice Cameron Bure was the best of the night. It was good to see her keeping up with Mark Ballas.

    I gave my votes to Billy Dee Williams. I want to see him stick around for a while and show us what he’s got.

  20. Lianne says:

    I think I detected a tiny bit of displeasure in Tom’s voice as he introduced his new co-host, the new band, the new singers, the new music director…

    And I think there were new camera people. The camera cuts were too fast at times, and too much focus on the upper body when dance fans want to see the *feet*. It looked verging on amateurish. Hopefully they’ll improve quickly.

  21. Sherry says:

    I hate Erin! I hate her voice and the way she talks! Bring Brooke back please!

  22. andi says:

    I enjoy DWTS and hope it lasts for years. It isn’t “fair” for voters to have thousands of votes but the rules allow it. DWTS should promote the stars in better light. Very happy Max is back. I love the pros. Derek will win, surprise, surprise. It is all about winning for him.

  23. Tara says:

    I really just want Cody to pull up his pants.

  24. Kim R says:

    While I enjoyed last night’s episode for the most part, I missed the big band sound. And maybe it was just me but I found the lighting to be the real standout to the show’s downsizing. Their lighting used to be quite spectacular. Last night it was bad. I’m on the fence about Erin. Too soon to tell. Loved seeing Maks back, felt bad for Billie Dee and was still annoyed at Carrie Ann and her cackle/crying outbursts. :)

  25. bek says:

    Get rid of Erin, the voice is like finger nails on a blackboard. She’s hunched over like a long nosed hunched big bird. Brooke had class, Erin doesn’t know what the hell she is talking about and even with muting her you still must look at her. Maybe I will make that a “break time” when she is on.

  26. Thea says:

    I’m happy over-all with the changes done to the show. Erin’s enthusiasm, even if it is a bit much, is a welcomed change to Brooke’s faked-smile, glazed-eyed indifference. The backup singers are leaps and bounds better than their predecessors. And a big ole HUZZAH for judges being stage right again and the sky box’s triumphant return!

    Meryl and Charlie both did beautifully. I was pleasantly surprised with Candace and especially with Danica! I’m so proud of Witney (as a supporter of hers from her season in SYTYCD) and thought her choreography for her first dance as a Pro was terrific, but do hope the rehearsal footage of her and Cody next week isn’t nearly as awkward as it was last night. I was impressed with Amy, but I hope the judges stay true to their promise of judging her the same as everyone else. I have a feeling Sean will be the one leaving next week and it’s unfortunate, considering contemporary is not a good basis for comparison on how he would have done in anything else.

  27. Nancy Kauffman says:

    In addition to the many valid comments above, did anyone else note that several of tne men’s pants were hemmed too short. Especially bad on Drew’s tux. Muting Erin is a good idea.

  28. Kay says:

    A thought as I read earlier comments. Sometimes the highest earning points couple get the boot. A suggestion to this: The couple with the highest points on a given evening are given immunity and given the option to dance contemporary the next week. Therefore the contemporary dance is a privilege but still is judged.

    Missed the big band sound which was my draw to this show in the beginning. Not a fan of today’s music with the heavy beat.

  29. Barbara McLaren says:

    I miss the original format of DWS… when we actually could recognize the “stars”.. now it is like I have no clue who the heck these people are so really can’t get too invested in them or really care who wins. I liked when the dancers were not practically Pros…..like has been the case the past couple seasons.(I agree…having Ice Dancing Champions on is a JOKE!!.) It is just not fair to have people who dance for their life careers compete with novice dancers. I liked when the true novice dancer was able to learn more each week…and by end of season, we could be inspired by how much they had improved!

    Bring back the great music…lighting….please!! I think Erin should go back to the Locker Room. Too “in your face” .. brash.. when compared to beautiful Classy Brooke. Not a good change!!! I may not watch next season. VERY disappointed!!!!

  30. Lisa says:

    So now dances are 30 seconds shorter, so we get 30 seconds of comments from a 4th judge we didn’t need?

  31. cyndi says:

    Get rid of Andrews come back brook