Tonight, Dancing with the Stars enters its 16th season. After a ratings dip last year, the show has a lot to prove this time around. Some have complained that the stars aren’t as high-profile this year — I’m excited to see what Andy Dick will do, but then I’m kind of sick — while others have complained that the lineup is a little too predictable. We’ll see if the magic of celebrity dance is back this time around, as I live-blog the proceedings.

Here we go:

DWTS Preview: Kellie Pickler, Aly Raisman, Victor Ortiz the Early Favorites >>>

Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough

Dance: Cha Cha Cha

Our first routine of the night is a fairly strong one. Kellie’s intro video is particularly entertaining, as she outlines her career trajectory as a steady ascent from her humble beginnings to her tenure on this show. Set to the tune of Jesse J’s “Domino,” Pickler’s opening Cha Cha Cha is a spirited, if not terribly unique, start to the season. 

Judges’ Comments:

Len: “Yum yum, pig’s bum, that was fun!”

Bruno: “Can’t wait to see you again.”

Carrie Ann: “One thing to work on is just keeping up a bit more.”

Scores: 7+7+7=21

Victor Ortiz and Lindsay Arnold

Dance: Foxtrot

Victor is an early candidate for the Most Hilarious Comedian award, as he shares his misconception about the definition of a foxtrot: apparently, he thought he would be hopping around in a fox suit. If only his dance were that interesting; he leaves the heavy hitting to his partner, newcomer Lindsay Arnold, while struggling to maintain his posture.

Judges’ Comments:

Bruno: “For a heavy hitter, you’re surprisingly light-footed!”

Carrie Ann: “You sparkle! Good job!”

Len: “This was a little bit uneventful for me.”

Scores: 6+6+6=18

Ingo Rademacher and Kym Johnson

Dance: Contemporary

This year, contemporary routines have been add to the roster of dances. General Hospital veteran Ingo Rademacher is the first to try out this new style, performing a lift-heavy routine that straddles the line between free-form post-modernity and an afternoon hitting the free weights.

Judges’ Comments:

Carrie Ann: “This dance had all of it.”

Len: “I’m not convinced about that performance at all.”

Bruno:It was a bit like watching Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook.”

Scores: 7+6+7=20

Lisa Vanderpump and Gleb Savchenko

Dance: Foxtrot

A real housewife of Beverly Hills, Vanderpump enters the dance floor with a tiny dog in tow — I’m not familiar with her show, but I feel like I get the gist of it then and there. Based on her performance tonight, she’s probably going to be one of the first to go: her routine’s not terrible, but she’s clearly a little bit out of her league.

Judges’ Comments:

Len: “It was acceptable, but it wasn’t exceptional.”

Bruno: “Because you’ve so many rocks around your neck, you couldn’t sustain your posture.”

Carrie Ann: “Overall, it was very nice, and easy on the eyes.”

Scores: 6+6+6=18

D.L. Hughley and Cheryl Burke

Dance: Cha Cha Cha

Well, I’ll be blunt: D.L.’s Cha Cha Cha is one of the worst dances I’ve ever seen on this show. Dubbing himself Mr. Booty Fantastic, he spends most of the time awkwardly traipsing around off-rhythm to the apple-bottom jeans song, punctuated by fits of middle-aged guy sexy bits. Lisa Vanderpump is suddenly looking very, very safe.

Judges’ Comments:

Bruno: “You have terminated the Cha Cha Cha.”

Carrie Ann: “That was … yikes. Just … whoah.”

Len: “This was no good.”

Scores: 4+4+4=12

Zendaya Coleman and Val Chmerkovskiy

Dance: Contemporary

At age 16, Zendaya is the show’s youngest-ever contestant. That makes it a little weird when Val tells her, “If she’s comfortable, she’s doing it wrong,” but all questions of age are forgotten when she totally nails her challenging contemporary routine, delivering one of the best dances of the night.

Judges’ Comments

Carrie Ann: “You are a fantastic dancer.”

Len: “That was great.”

Bruno: You’re such a young girl, doing so well.”

Scores: 8+8+8=24

Sean Lowe and Peta Murgatroyd

Dance: Foxtrot

Most famous for being a born-again virgin — that’s a thing, apparently — bachelor Sean Lowe does an adequate, if not particularly spectacular, foxtrot.

Bruno: “For a dance virgin, you have a very effective pelvic thrust.”

Carrie Ann: “I liked it rough!”

Scores: 7+6+7=19

Alexandra Raisman and Mark Ballas

Dance: Cha Cha Cha

Olympians have a strong track record on this show, and Alexandra continues that tradition. She commits fully to the routine, and shows herself to be a strong contender: this routine doesn’t feel amazing in itself, but its’s a demonstration of future potential.

Judges’ Comments:

Bruno: “Really surprising, very inspiring.”

Carrie Ann: “I see a lot of potential.”

Len: “I loved the vitality that you brought to that dance.”

Scores: 7+7+7=21

Dorothy Hamill and Tristan MacManus

Dance: Contempory

The evening’s second Olympian is arguably even more capable than the first, delivering an assured and fluid story-based contemporary performance. Though she describes herself as an “old” Olympian, the 56-year-old figure skater is looking to be a capable contender.

Judges’ Comments:

Carrie Ann: “You brought the athleticism, but you told a story.”

Len: “Such a beautiful dance, well-done.”

Bruno: “As a performance, really, really good.”

Scores: 7+7+7=21

Wynonna Judd and Tony Dovolani

Dance: Cha Cha Cha

Wynonna has all the makings of a fan favorite: though her routine isn’t the most demanding or artful of the evening, she has the crowd on their feet and delivers some Bruno-class snarls. If she can give a little more each week, she has a good shot at being the season’s most talked-about contestant.

Judges’ Comments:

Len: “I thought you came out and did a very good performance.”

Bruno: “We all love a giver, and I know you can give it more.”

Carrie Ann: “I thought she was working it!”

Scores: 6+6+6=18

Andy Dick and Sharna Burgess

Dance: Foxtrot

Andy Dick is pretty frank about his problems: “It’s been a bad couple decades.” With that framing device, Dick makes it clear that this will not be the live TV Andy Dick crazy hour; this is a part of his recovery, tears and all. In spite of his occasional jerkiness, I think he absolutely rises to the occasion, delivering a charmingly old-school top hat and tails performance. The judges, however, aren’t quite as charitable.

Judges’ Comments:

Bruno: “I really enjoyed it in a very crazy way.”

Carrie Ann: “You reminded me of watching the ugly duckling come to life.”

Len: “This had the fluidity of Robocop.”

Scores: 6+5+6=17

Jacoby Jones and Karina Smirnoff

Dance: Cha Cha Cha

Fresh off a record-breaking Superbowl performance, Jacoby Jones proves that he can deliver a pretty dominant Cha Cha Cha as well. His routine is confident, stylish and athletic, but he takes a lot of criticism for his lack of form. His success will vary greatly based on what type of dance he’s saddled with.

Judges’ Comments:

Carrie Ann: “It was kind of like a big old medley of touchdown dances.”

Len. “It was all icing and no cake.”

Bruno: “I think you have the potential of becoming season 16’s steaming sex machine!”

Score: 7+6+7=20

That does it for our first week of performances: some great contemporary routines, some solid redemption narratives and some of the most cringe-worthy booty-shaking ever to make it through the FCC. At this point, I’m really pulling for a good run from Andy Dick: he’s clearly serious about his participation, and is obviously a bit disappointed with his scores.

We have one more week of friendly dance, and then the eliminations begin. Much like that celebrity diving show advertised non-stop throughout the program, somebody will soon be cancelled after three episodes.

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(Image courtesy of ABC)

Ted Kindig

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV