Welcome to a brand-new season of Dancing with the Stars! I can honestly say I’m excited about this year thanks to some top-notch, current talent. I mean, stars from Glee, The Voice and Pretty Little Liars? That’s like a Twitter Trending Topic’s wet dream.

I’ll be here every Monday with my thoughts on the drama, which is now limited to just a single night each week. Next week, the judges’ scores from the first two weeks and the votes from this week will be combined to eliminate one couple at the end of the show. Then, moving forward, the elimination will be based on that night’s judges’ scores plus the previous week’s viewer votes.

And that’s not the only change. The judges’ table is on the opposite side of the ballroom and the contestants all have a front-row seat next to the judges. Also, each couple will have the same phone number all season long.

The show opens with a pretty awesome group performance that takes us from the limo outside into the ballroom, introducing all the new couples. Even Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli get in on the action.

Brant Daugherty and Peta Murgatroyd: Cha-Cha-Cha

Peta starts hitting on this Pretty Little Hottie from the first minute he arrives. Brant is doing this for his mom, because she’s a huge fan, and his goal is to make her cringe.

He gets off to a good start with a Cha-Cha-Cha to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” that isn’t quite on par with Miley Cyrus, but it’s still steamy and smooth. He moves pretty well for his first time. There’s an effortless charm and suaveness that he exudes.

Bruno wants to taste Brant’s “hot morsels” and instantly apologizes for being creepy. The judges all love their chemistry and the way they look and think they have a lot of potential. I agree.

Judges’ Scores: 7+8+7=22

Leah Remini and Tony Dovolani: Foxtrot

Leah is adorably hypercritical of herself. I enjoy her nervous energy and desire to lose weight and prove that she can do it. Wow, is everyone this season going to be charming and likeable?

The performance is fine enough and she’s certainly committed and does a decent job. Bruno compares her to Miley Cyrus and wants to see her twerk, but no one finds that funny. Carrie Ann describes her as “sass and class,” which is a good combo to have.

Judges’ Scores: 7+7+7=21

Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff: Contemporary

Corbin has been Karina’s dream partner for a while, but the biggest hurdle is that this is Karina’s first time doing Contemporary. Ever. She wants to do all sorts of lifts and throws, but the problem is that they’re both crazy and willing to try anything. Well, it’s a problem and a gift.

The performance is like I’m watching the finale of So You Think You Can Dance. Corbin is quite extraordinary and moves with ferocity like a cheetah. It’s pretty fantastic, though he seems to shake a bit when he lifts her in the air.

Carrie Ann lets out a loud squeal. Wait, did Corbin just book a ticket on the Hot Tamale Train? Bruno molests Len a little bit.

Judges’ Scores: 8+8+8=24

Jack Osbourne and Cheryl Burke: Foxtrot

Jack is here to raise awareness for M.S., which he has (just like President Bartlet!). He’s cheery and positive and very uplifting. It’s cool that Ozzy and Sharon are in the audience to support him, and she cries like a proud mom.

Jack has a lot of energy and he moves great for a bigger guy. He’s much lighter on his feet than I figured he’d be. What’s in the air tonight, because all the stars seem to be pretty good. It’s going to make the bad dancers even more obvious.

Judges’ Scores: 8+8+7=23

Amber Riley and Derek Hough: Cha-Cha-Cha

She’s big and proud of it, so their rehearsal has a lot of talk about booty and inspiring girls of a certain size. It’s great to see plenty of her Glee co-stars in the audience, including Chris Colfer, Kevin McHale, Jenna Ushkowitz and more.

Oh my Gleek, can I change my predictions right now, because Derek could be going for his fifth win. She is a fierce ball of energy and owns every minute, shaking her groove thing across the stage. The judges are in awe.

Judges’ Scores: 9+9+9=27

Holy crap! Amber is only the eighth star to ever get a 9 in the first week, and she ties Kristi Yamaguchi for having the highest score in week 1.

Elizabeth Berkley and Val Chmerkovskiy: Contemporary

She grew up as a dancer, but now she wants to reconnect with it after becoming a mom. She goes by Elizabeth Berkley Lauren, but there’s no way I’m gonna use her married last name the same way I’m never gonna call Snooki Nicole. She’s nice, but I’m distracted by Val’s glistening bare chest. That man knows how to get votes.

OK, forget what I said about Amber, I’m sticking with my prediction of these two. Elizabeth has elegance and grace and moves beautifully. She’s got what it takes, and Val’s hot body won’t hurt. The judges rave about its loveliness.

Judges’ Scores: 8+8+8=24

Come on, she deserved at least one 9, especially after seeing Val during rehearsals talking about how he liked Kelly Kapowski more than Jessie Spano. Awkward!

Bill Nye and Tyne Stecklein: Cha-Cha-Cha

They call themselves Hot Knowlede and he is adorkable, talking about flasks vs. beakers and evolution. He’s a pretty horrible dancer, but dancing to “Weird Science” makes me laugh, so I forgive him. This will be a real case of enjoyment vs. talent, because it was fun by terrible. Really, really terrible, especially compared to everyone we’ve seen so far.

Judges’ Scores: 5+4+5=14

Ouch, that’s seven below the next worst score.

Keyshawn Johnson and Sharna Burgess: Cha-Cha-Cha

He’s every NFL player who’s ever been on the show, joking about how “feminine” ballroom dancing is. He’s also quite funny, saying that English and Australian accents are basically the same thing (which his Aussie partner takes offense to).

He’s pretty stiff and just not very good. There are brief glimpses of hope, but after the amazing first six dancers, he’s just way below par for this season.

Judges’ Scores: 6+5+6=17

Christina Milian and Mark Ballas: Contemporary

During rehearsals, Christina seemed to have a nervous breakdown for no reason. As if recapping The Voice for two seasons didn’t already make me dislike her, this isn’t going to help.

The dance is fine, but Contemporary really has no place in this competition. Mark seems to do most of the heavy lifting (literally, sometimes), and it’s easily my least favorite Contemporary of the night. I’ve officially decided that I am not going to like Christina at all.

Judges’ Scores: 7+7+8=22

Bill Engvall and Emma Slater: Foxtrot

Bill just wants to do a “drink a beer” dance and be the redneck dancing king. He’s actually a lot better than I thought he’d be. He’s still not great and he’s a bit stiff, but he didn’t stumble and moved with more grace and elegance than a redneck should. He’ll still go home early, but it will be slightly sad now that we know he has some hidden talent.

Judges’ Scores: 6+6+6=18

Valerie Harper and Tristan MacManus: Foxtrot

Her story about surviving terminal brain cancer is the most amazing thing ever. How can you not root for a woman who was told by doctors that she’d be dead six months ago?

This entire night is full of surprises, because she’s not bad. She moves like a feather and while some of the steps seemed off, she did it all with grace. I know she’s an inspiration and she’s a miracle, but the show is really playing it up and I wonder if this is going to happen all season, with standing ovations. I know she’s a national treasure, but the show doesn’t have to beat us over the head with how amazing it is that she’s alive and dancing.

Judges’ Scores: 7+7+7=21

Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and Sasha Farber: Cha-Cha-Cha

I realize the show is calling her Nicole, or Snoocole, as Tom Bergero coined, but she’s Snooki. She’ll always be Snooki. When she’s in her 60s, she’ll be Grandma Snooki. If she gets her Ph.D., she’ll be Dr. Snooki. If she runs for political office, she’ll be Senator Snooki.

This couple is very tiny, and Snooki is wonderfully direct and honest. Motherhood may have made her more mature, but not completely. The dance is tons of fun and crazy, and Snooki has great legs and footwork. Len describes her as a “pocket rocket,” but no one has the heart to tell him what that means.

Judges’ Scores: 8+8+7=23

Well, I think that’s the score, but Carrie Ann screws up her paddle, holding up the 7 but saying she gave her an 8.

That does it for the first night of Dancing with the Stars season 17. Here’s how the leaderboard stacks up. There’s on obvious frontrunner and one clear loser, but then a huge eight-way pileup from 21-24.

27: Amber
24: Corbin and Elizabeth
23: Jack and Snooki
22: Brant and Christina
21: Leah and Valerie
18: Bill Engvall
17: Keyshawn
14: Bill Nye

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(Image courtesy of ABC)

John Kubicek

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

John watches nearly every show on TV, but he specializes in sci-fi/fantasy like The Vampire DiariesSupernatural and True Blood. However, he can also be found writing about everything from Survivor and Glee to One Tree Hill and Smallville.