After taking a year-long hiatus, Dancing With the Stars at last reopened its ballroom doors on Monday, welcoming in 12 new contestants who want to foxtrot their way into America’s heart.
Mind you, Season 28 was already plenty dramatic, even before a single second of the show aired: First, the casting of ex-White House press secretary Sean Spicer prompted backlash on social media, even from DWTS co-host Tom Bergeron. (For his part, Spicer expressed hope that the ballroom would be a “politics-free zone,” which, sure!)
Then, just hours before Monday’s premiere, contestant Christie Brinkley had to drop out after an injury, and daughter Sailor Brinkley-Cook stepped in to take her place for the season. All that, and Len Goodman hadn’t even criticized anyone yet.
But the two-hour broadcast delivered its own share of plot twists, including the reveal of this season’s celebrity/pro pairings and some insight on those “format tweaks” that ABC entertainment president Karey Burke previously teased. (Well, sorta. Bergeron hinted that the judges will get a say in this season’s eliminations… but he won’t give any more details until next Monday’s show. Rude.)
Let’s revisit how each of the duos fared on Night 1:
* Hannah Brown and pro Alan Bersten (Cha-Cha) — Hannah is actually my pick to win it all, so I was pleased to see her deliver a solid performance on Monday. She was a little wobbly at times, and her Night 1 nerves pushed her a tiiiny bit ahead of the music — but she’s got natural grace, stage presence and a ton of potential. Judges’ Score: 20/30
* Kel Mitchell and pro Witney Carson (Tango) — Anyone familiar with Kel’s comedy work knows he’s a ball of energy… but this tango actually seemed to lose its fun and passion as it went on, despite a strong start. Judges’ Score: 16/30
* Kate Flannery and new pro Pasha Pashkov (Cha-Cha) — The dancing in this routine was neither extraordinary nor terrible; it was just sort of… there, you know? That said, who knew Kate had a serious set of pipes on her? Judges’ Score: 15/30
* Lamar Odom and pro Peta Murgatroyd (Foxtrot) — Oof. This was… not great. And I think the routine may have actually suffered from having too few steps? It doesn’t seem that Lamar is destined for the Mirrorball anyway, but he wasn’t given much to do here other than lazily guide Peta from step to step. Also, I legitimately can’t remember the last time — if ever? — that someone got a “3” from a judge. I repeat: Oof. Judges’ Score: 11/30
* Lauren Alaina and pro Gleb Savchenko (Cha-Cha) — There was some debate among the judges about Gleb’s choreography, and whether this routine contained enough traditional cha-cha content. (I bet you can guess which judge wasn’t impressed.) Regardless, Lauren’s movements were sharp, and she brought just the right amount of sass to her performance… even though I’m unconvinced that “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” is a suitable cha-cha soundtrack. Judges’ Score: 19/30
Christie Brinkley Sailor Brinkley-Cook and pro Val Chmerkovskiy (Foxtrot) — Dude! She only had three days to learn this! And it was good! I was expecting Val to essentially drag Sailor through this number, but she held her own — with the proper foxtrot frame, no less. Judges’ Score: 18/30
* Karamo Brown and pro Jenna Johnson (Salsa) — Len, Bruno and Carrie Ann had some issues with Karamo’s hip action — the lack of it, that is. But the Queer Eye personality still brought tons of energy, and his firm grasp on the choreography bodes well for the rest of the season. Judges’ Score: 17/30
* Ray Lewis and pro Cheryl Burke (Salsa) — I was not expecting Ray Lewis to be so good at body rolls. But lo and behold: Ray Lewis is good at body rolls. Judges’ Score: 15/30
* Mary Wilson and pro Brandon Armstrong (Foxtrot) — It could have just been the soundtrack — “Baby Love” by The Supremes, the group Mary sang in for years — but she looked much more at ease on that dance floor than I had anticipated. I worry that faster routines will trip her up in the weeks ahead — but for now, let’s just focus on those fabulous high kicks she pulled off halfway through the number. Judges’ Score: 17/30
* Ally Brooke and pro Sasha Farber (Cha-Cha) — This number started with an impressive solo section for Ally, who was bold and confident from the moment the music began. Once the actual cha-cha started, though, she seemed to be overthinking her movements, and the execution got a bit clumsy. Still, she’s clearly a contender. Judges’ Score: 16/30
* Sean Spicer and pro Lindsay Arnold (Salsa) — I had expected Sean’s first performance to be pretty weak. (And, well, it was.) I had not expected that fluorescent green shirt… but now I’ll never forget it. Judges’ Score: 12/30
* James Van Der Beek and pro Emma Slater (Tango) — Y’all, we may have a Season 28 winner on our hands. James’ performance was strong, sexy and well-executed on a technical level. The only disappointment? That the actor’s previous “appearance” on Dancing With the Stars — via an episode of Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23 — went unmentioned, even though that show aired on ABC. Odd! Judges’ Score: 21/30
With that, I hand it over to you. Who impressed you during the premiere? And who deserves to be the first dancer sent packing? Hit the comments with your thoughts!