I hope you have your dancing shoes on, because Dancing with the Stars is back for its 19th season. This year has a few new twists, but still the same old feel as celebrities and professionals team up to Jive, Cha-Cha and Foxtrot into our living rooms.

DWTS season 19 brings in Julianne Hough as the new permanent fourth judge. Whether you like her or not, it’s definitely better than the endless parade of unqualified buffoons from last year (I’m looking at you, Redfoo). We also have three new pros (a Strictly Come Dancing winner and an Emmy nominee) and a crop of new stars who are quite old (two in their 70s and only three under 30).

Will Derek Hough finish in the Top 2 for a fifth season in a row? Will Val Chmerkovskiy emerge victorious following his brother’s long overdue win? How many Back to the Future references can I possibly make about Lea Thompson? Let’s find out.

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The 13 new stars are introduced in an amusing video. Julianne Hough is seated between Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli, with Carrie Anne Inaba first as always.

Antonio Sabato, Jr. and Cheryl Burke: Cha-Cha-Cha

She’s happy to have a sexy partner for the first time since William Levy in season 15. This is feeling very rushed, because their dance is done less than six minutes into the episode. Going first is never easy and he seemed a bit rusty, but he certainly has the intensity and the sexiness. He’ll have to strip down to his Calvin Kleins if he wants to make it to the end. The judges critique his footwork, but Julianne likes his dimples and extensions.

Judges’ Scores: 6+6+6+7=25

That’s a very appropriate score, and obviously Bruno will be voting with his downstairs paddle when it comes to Antonio.

Lea Thompson and Artem Chigvintsev: Foxtrot

She did ballet 32 years ago, but was called “too stocky.” She’s also LOVING flirting with a hot younger man. In less than a minute, I have fallen in love with Lea Thompson all over again. She’s also a great dancer, with elegance and grace. She may be an older lady, but she could be a serious contender. The judges rave about her, but her posture and frame got a little messy later in the dance.

Judges’ Scores: 8+8+8+8=32

That’s a fantastic score for the first night. I’m feeling darn good about predicting her to win.

Janel Parrish and Val Chmerkovskiy: Jive

The Pretty Little Liars star loves rubbing Val’s abs. Who wouldn’t? Janel oozes charisma and attitude and I expect a lot from her on the performance side. This Jive is a little too fast, especially for a first dance, but the judges love her enthusiasm. The overall verdict is that it had a lot of enthusiasm and excitement, but it needs to get tightened up.

Judges’ Scores: 7+7+7+8=29

I agree with that score, she was perfectly between Antonio and Lea. The judges are on point tonight.

Lolo Jones and Keo Motsepe: Cha-Cha-Cha

She’s an Olympian who is waiting until marriage to have sex, so the closeness of dancing is going to be tricky. And yikes, this is not a great start. She’s like one of those clunky NFL guys who just ambles around the stage without much purpose. She admits that she got thrown off by texting right before the dance and, to her credit, she knows she was a total disaster. I give Lolo a lot of credit and I almost hope she doesn’t get eliminated first so she can do a real performance. I feel badly for Keo. He’s a new pro, and for this to be his first performance is bad.

Judges’ Scores: 6+6+5+5=22

Carrie and Len were way too generous and Lolo knows it.

Betsey Johnson and Tony Dovolani: Cha-Cha-Cha

This 72-year-old fashion designer is crazy. I mean, if she were on the street, I’d confuse her with a homeless lady. She’s surprisingly agile for an old lady and moves decently. But near the end she pulls out a feather boa that drops to the ground, she slips on it and the whole dance just comes to a crashing halt. It feels like they just kind of gave up and she adds a random cartwheel when it’s over. The judges focus on the problem at the end.

Judges’ Scores: 5+5+5+5=20

Really? I thought she was better than Lolo. Sure, the ending was a mess, but the first part was decent enough.

Tavis Smiley and Sharna Burgess: Foxtrot

He’s a serious guy and is doing this as one silly lark since he just turned 50. He’s better than I thought he’d be, mostly because I have absolutely no clue who this guy is. He’s definitely having fun and this feels like it’s more for him than for us. The judges like seeing his joyful and fun side. Maybe if I knew anything about him, I’d be more impressed at seeing him be silly.

Judges’ Scores: 7+7+8+7=29

Did anyone predict that Tavis and Janel would get the same score in week 1? Not me. He talks about showing the sum of himself and not just some of himself. I think he made Erin Andrews’ head explode.

Sadie Robertson and Mark Ballas: Jive

In her introduction, Tom Bergeron really promotes the Americana of Duck Dynasty. She’s not allowed to dance at her school. She’s pretty darn good and I don’t believe for a second that she has absolutely no dance background. Still, she has the body of a dancer, which is a huge advantage. Between that and her family’s fame, let’s just give her a pass to the finale right now. The judges rave about her as if she’s the single greatest discovery of all-time. I’m going to choose to be happy that she’s not paired with Derek, because then this would be too much.

Judges’ Scores: 8+8+9+9=34

Wow, 9s in week 1. She’s only the 11th person to get a 9 in the first week, and Mark Ballas has now done it five times.

Michael Waltrip and Emma Slater: Cha-Cha-Cha

Apparently we’ve entered the Southern Conservative part of the show between Duck Dynasty and NASCAR, two things I don’t know anything about since I live in Seattle. This guy is certainly in the Bill Engvall mold, acting like a goofy, embarrassing dad. He has fun with the dance, but he’s not that good and I don’t think he’s taking it very seriously. The judges know he’s just a cheap Bill Engvall knockoff. The judges need to pump the brakes because the Bill Engvall thing was cute for a few weeks, but then it became unstoppable.

Judges’ Scores: 7+6+6+6=25

That sounds right. I expect lots of 7s in his future.

Jonathan Bennett and Allison Holker: Jive

DWTS was Jonathan’s dad’s favorite show and they loved watching it together. His dad died two months ago, and that’s why he’s doing this. Well, how can you NOT love him now? I’m already in love with him. The dance is plenty of fun and Jonathan is a very charismatic and expressive performer. I feel like he could follow a Rob Kardashian-style path to the end. His story is touching and he’s fun to watch, so I’m on board.

Judges’ Scores: 8+7+7+8=30

Jonathan is SOOOO excited and happy to be doing this. I think that’s a bit underscored.

Tommy Chong and Peta Murgatroyd: Cha-Cha-Cha

Cheech bet Chong that he couldn’t get on the show, so Chong wins. He may be 76, but he’s still sharp and funny. Cheech Marin shows up for the intro of the routine and then I just laughed the whole time as Tommy performed to “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” He can move better than most old people, but he’s not the best. It’s funnier and more entertaining than Bill Nye, which I didn’t know was possible. The judges all loved it, which surprised them because they assumed it would be a disaster. He could be the male Cloris Leachman.

Judges’ Scores: 7+6+7+7=27

Tommy Chong is better than Antonio Sabato, Jr. This premiere is extremely confusing. I didn’t love this cast on paper, but they are delivering the weirdest and wackiest night of performances in the history of this show.

Randy Couture and Karina Smirnoff: Foxtrot

This is a classic Beauty and the Beast set-up, trying to show his softer side. He does a decent enough job on the dance floor. He gives it his all and does well with the partner work. I’m not as bowled over as Carrie, but he was pretty good. Len says that it was “dandy, Randy” while Carrie and Julianne are both very attracted to his raw, masculine sexuality.

Judges’ Scores: 8+7+8+8=31

Really? Third place? I think the judges are getting a little loose with the paddles as the night goes on.

Bethany Mota and Derek Hough: Jive

She’s a YouTube vlogger, because we live in a world where that’s a thing. She’s an OK dancer. Since she and Sadie are both teen girls who I know nothing about, I will automatically compare them. I don’t think she’s as good as Sadie. The judges like her and Julianne points out that she doesn’t have much flow in her transitions. I don’t find her all that compelling. I think she and Sadie are both good dancers, but they’re coming up short in personality, especially compared to the others.

Judges’ Scores: 8+8+8+8=32

With good scores and Derek at her side, she and Sadie are probably both shoo-ins for the finale.

Alfonso Ribeiro and Witney Carson: Jive

She isn’t taking it easy on him and nor should she. I seriously underestimated Carlton Banks, because he is very, VERY good. He is, hands down, the best dancer this season and delivered the best dance of the night. Everyone needs to be on notice, because he is here to win. I had no idea he was so rhythmic and musical.

Judges’ Scores: 9+9+9+9=36

Wow, amazing. If it were week 2, I bet there would’ve been a 10. Getting all 9s on the first night has only happened three other times: Kristi Yamaguchi in season 6 as well as Charlie White and Amber Riley in the past two seasons.


Tuesday night there will be a special live results show, so who will be the first couple to be eliminated. Looking at the leaderboard, I’d definitely say that the bottom four stars should all be worried. But maybe if Betsey and Lolo can get enough sympathy votes, Antonio, who was done and forgotten about after the first eight minutes of the episode, could be in real danger.

36 (9.7 percent): Alfonso Ribeiro
34 (9.1 percent): Sadie Robertson
32 (8.6 percent): Lea Thompson, Bethany Mota
31 (8.3 percent): Randy Couture
30 (8.1 percent): Jonathan Bennett
29 (7.8 percent): Janel Parrish, Tavis Smiley
27 (7.3 percent): Tommy Chong
25 (6.7 percent): Antonio Sabato, Jr., Michael Waltrip
22 (5.9 percent): Lolo Jones
20 (5.4 percent): Betsey Johnson

(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.