More than 30 years after the release of the iconic film Dirty Dancing — and just four years after the equally iconic (for very different reasons) musical version on ABC — eight celebrities have been summoned to the real-life Kellerman’s Mountain House to follow in Johnny and Baby’s footsteps.
And there you have the premise of The Real Dirty Dancing, presumably Fox’s answer to the Olympics, which premiered on Tuesday night. Half dance competition and half warm blanket, it’s a real treat for superfans of the classic Patrick Swayze/Jennifer Grey film. For the rest of us, it’s just another way to pass the unknowable time we have remaining on this earthly plane. Either way, we’re here for it.
As with most celebreality competition shows, the disparity in dancing experience between the contestants is staggering. On one hand, you have The Real co-host Loni Love, who claims she hasn’t danced since 1993, and on the other, you have High School Musical star Corbin Bleu, who I personally watched tap dance upside-down (!!!) in Broadway’s Kiss Me, Kate just a few years ago.
There’s also a range of general excitement about Dirty Dancing as a concept. Celebrity chef Cat Cora, for example, says that watching Baby pursue a forbidden relationship with Johnny gave her the courage to come out as a lesbian. On the other end of the spectrum, former Bachelorette romancer Tyler Cameron seems like he’s probably only seen it once. Perhaps shortly after hearing about the existence of this reality show.
Host Twitch wasted no time turning up the pressure, making everyone carry watermelons down to the famed staff quarters, then ambushing them with a test to see what kind of moves they’re working with. The modest stars were hesitant at first, but rest assured, the vibe went from Peanuts dance party to True Blood orgy in absolutely no time. As Love recalled, “I was bumping and grinding on everybody. The boys, the girls — I was probably doing the wall, too.” That’s right, this depraved act got the house involved. Is there even a word for that?
After that bit of dirty dancing (oh, I get the title now!), Twitch announced the pairs he selected for the first challenge: Cameron and Love, Bleu and Cora, former NFL pro Antonio Gates and WWE Superstar Brie Bella, and Backstreet Boy Howie Dorough and comedian Anjela Johnson-Reyes (aka Mad TV‘s Bon Qui Qui… if that means anything to you).
Some of the pairs, like Cameron and Love, had instant chemistry. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but was his little Bachelor responsible for that hilariously awkward moment?) But others, like Dorough and Johnson-Reyes, could have used a little more time to practice before the main event. Dorough already seemed defeated in rehearsal, and it made me sad to hear that he thinks people don’t know who he is outside of the group. (Psst… He was secretly always my favorite BSB.)
Now, here’s where we may have a difference of opinion. After watching each other dance in pairs, everyone voted for the best Baby and Johnny of the week. Cora as top Baby? Absolutely deserved. The 54-year-old mother of six claimed to be dancing for the first time, and I loved watching her get emotional over the experience. But Cameron as Johnny? Over Bleu? No, sir. To misquote an iconic film, “No one puts Bleu-by in the corner!”
And there you have Week 1 of The Real Dirty Dancing. Would Cora and Cameron have been your top picks this week? And will you keep coming back to Kellerman’s for more? Weigh in via our polls below, then drop a comment with your full review.