Welcome back, dance fans, to another (possibly) exciting season of Dancing with the Stars. Season 20 is also the 10th anniversary of the show, which ABC will remind us of at least 50 times per week.

'Dancing with the Stars' Season 20 Premiere Recap: The 10th Anniversary Begins

The cast for the new season is slightly underwhelming, but I’m hoping to be surprised. Heck, last season I had no idea who Tavis Smiley was and he turned out to be pretty cool. And I’ve never seen a single episode of Pretty Little Liars, but Janel Parrish was one of my favorites.

Who will emerge as a surprising favorite this season on DWTS? And is anyone going to stop Derek Hough from winning a sixth Mirror Ball now that he’s partnered with an Olympic gold medal winner (a demographic that has already won four times in the past)?

LIVE…from Hollywood…this is Dancing with the Stars!

There’s an elaborate pre-taped intro, but I miss when the camera walked into the building live to see everyone. Michael Sam and Noah Galloway seem very stiff while Rumer Willis is giving me 17 kinds of Black Swan severity.

Willow Shields and Mark Ballas: Cha-Cha-Cha

There’s a hilarious Hunger Games selection process where Willow picks Val, but then Mark volunteers as tribute. I’m glad we got all of the Hunger Games puns out of the way. She’s very confident and isn’t deterred by being the youngest contestant ever.

The 14-year-old has a decent start. She has some good natural moves, but it lacks fluidity in a way that reminds me of Bethany Mota. The judges all criticize her legwork, but I have to agree that the age thing doesn’t seem to be as big of an issue as I thought it would be.

Judges’ Scores: 6+6+6+7=25

I’m really in awe of how mature she seems to be in her interview. But those are pretty low scores, especially for Mark. I’m surprised but appreciate that the judges aren’t starting off the season by being overly generous.

Robert Herjavec and Kym Johnson: Cha-Cha-Cha

At their first meeting, Robert flies in on his private plane and takes Kym allow in his Ferrari. She loves living the good life and seems to be considering hooking up with a rich older man.. He’s a whole lot better than I expected, very energetic and entertaining. The transitions are pretty sloppy, but the Shark Tank theme and making it rain are nice touches.

The judges are equally shocked by his infectious charisma and sharp moves. Bruno Tonioli compares him to a dolphin and Carrie Ann Inaba is impressed that he was able to match the energy of a 14-year-old.

Judges’ Scores: 7+7+7+7=28

Len Goodman points out that the scores are going to be lower than usual on purpose to give everyone room to improve. I like it. And I’ll give one hundred bucks to anyone who predicted that the Shark Tank dude would get a higher score than Willow Shields.

Riker Lynch and Allison Holker: Jive

With his sibling band R5, he’s got some dance moves and he’s very young and fun. The performance is insanely good. He’s got agility, sweet moves and tons and tons of energy. He’s got a real rock star vibe and he is definitely one of the biggest threats to Nastia and Derek.

The judges loved the reckless abandon, but the judges are hoping to see more refinement in the future. Julianne Hough brings up the awkwardness of last season with all the criticism about Allison’s lack of technical skill in her choreography, which is both appreciated and super bitchy.

Judges’ Scores: 8+7+8+8=31

According to Riker, his mom is the cousin of Derek and Julianne’s mom, so they’re second cousins. As always, Len is a grumpy, cranky old man who doesn’t get the hip young kids.

Charlotte McKinney and Keo Motsepe: Jive

She wants to show that she’s more than just boobs, but the rehearsal footage is ALL ABOUT HER BOOBS! Keo wants to avoid getting eliminated first again. Sadly, I think he might. She loses her rhythm early and often and while it’s not quite as terrible as Lolo Jones last season, it’s pretty hard to watch. The judges try to be as polite as possible in talking about her many technical flaws.

Judges’ Scores:6+5+5+6=22

Yikes, that’s the exact same score Keo and Lolo got in week 1 last season.

Patti LaBelle and Artem Chigvintsev: Foxtrot

Patti may be a singing legend, but she’s never danced. She threatens to pimp slap Artem if he’s not patient with her. And he needs to be because she’s old and struggles in rehearsals. She does a decent enough job. The Foxtrot is one of the easier styles for an older lady because she can just rely on her young male partner to guide her through it. But she’s a freaking legend and gets thunderous applause.

The judges admire her presence and natural grace. They give Artem credit for doing more with less and just letting her inherent charisma shine.

Judges’ Scores: 7+6+6+6=25

Wow, the judges really are low-balling the scores this week. It’s funny that the oldest and youngest stars this season get the same score.

Chris Soules and Witney Carson: Jive

The farmer Bachelor proposed to a girl named Whitney last week, and now he’s dancing to Footloose with Witney the reigning champion. He’s nervous about touching Witney since he’s newly engaged. Um, didn’t he just get done making out with about 25 different chicks on TV?

The performance is definitely something. He’s kind of crazy-footed and awkward, but he’s very willing to be as goofy as possible, which is a plus. It’s not good, but it’s very silly and a little endearing. The judges like how rough he is and how much potential he has.

Judges’ Scores: 7+6+6+7=26

Erin Andrews calls Chris out on making out with all those ladies on The Bachelor, which makes me like her a lot. Those 6 and 7 paddles are getting a lot of airtime tonight.

Michael Sam and Peta Murgatroyd: Cha-Cha-Cha

The first openly gay football player drafted in the NFL is hoping to stay in shape as a free agent. Wow, he has got some AMAZING moves and hip action. Bruno thinks his butt is a work of art. As much as I loved it, I did not like his smile. He had this giant smile plastered on his face the whole time and it didn’t seem to move at all. It kind of scared me.

The judges really criticize his footwork and Carrie Ann agrees with me about the creepy pasted smile. They seemed harsher on him than any so far.

Judges’ Scores: 6+6+7+7=26

That’s five couples within 3 points of each other.

Nastia Liukin and Derek Hough: Foxtrot

I’m pretty sure she threw some shade at Shawn Johnson when she said she was more elegant and graceful while Shawn was just powerful as a gymnast. Let it go, Nastia, it was seven years ago and no one cares. The routine is typical Derek, which means over-the-top production values with big costumes, fireworks, and a kick line. She clearly has skills, but the judges are quick to criticize, whether it’s an obvious lift, staccato movements, or her back.

Judges’ Scores: 7+7+8+8=30

Dear God, that’s insanely low for Derek. These judges mean business. And so much for Derek’s streak of getting all 8s and better.

Redfoo and Emma Slater: Cha-Cha-Cha

We’ve seen former contestants as guest judges, but this is the first time a guest judge is becoming a contestant. He might be wild and funky, but his dancing isn’t. I feel like he’s overcompensating trying to get all the moves exactly right, and he sacrifices the fun freedom of his soulful funk. The judges are nice about his showmanship, but not wild about his technique.

Meh. He’s supposed to be the crazy guy, but I think Robert Herjavec had more energy and enthusiasm than Redfoo. He admits that while he judged on enthusiasm, he’s really trying to focus on technique as a dancer.

Judges’ Scores: 6+5+5+6=22

Oof, he’s tied for last place.

Noah Galloway and Sharna Burgess: Cha-Cha-Cha

He’s an Army veteran whose left arm and leg were blown off by a roadside bomb. He’s committed to working, but Sharna knows this is gonna be hard. He points out that Amy Purdy actually had both of her knees, but his amputation is above the knee, which makes things even harder.

It’s touching and inspiring, though it feels more like Contemporary than a Cha-Cha-Cha. It’s hard not to be impressed, especially since the one-arm situation makes things a lot harder and different to look at. Julianne commends Sharna’s choreography since men typically lead with their left arm, which isn’t possible. Carrie Ann starts to cry about how he’s expanding her idea of what dance is. The judges don’t really talk about technique at all, but who cares cuz his kids are in the audience and they’re adorable.

Judges’ Scores: 7+6+6+7=26

If the judges weren’t being so harsh, we probably would’ve gotten some 8s. I like this new ultra-conservative judging style.

Suzanne Somers and Tony Dovolani: Cha-Cha-Cha

Tony wants to prove that Suzanne is still sexy at 68, so they’re doing a ThighMaster-inspired routine to Olivia Newton John’s “Physical.” It’s one big joke, right down to Tony’s absurd ’80s workout outfit.

Suzanne definitely doesn’t look 68, but the dancing gives her away. She’s off on her footwork and it just looks kind of sloppy to me. The judges thought it was too safe and they wanted more raunchiness.

Judges’ Scores: 6+6+6+7=25

That’s about right. And now half of the cast has 25 or 26 points, so it’s pretty even.

Rumer Willis and Val Chmerkovskiy: Foxtrot

Val wants Bruce Willis’ autograph, which is hilarious. She’s a perfectionist who gets frustrated easily. But the perfectionism pays off in a big way. The routine is stunning. It’s full of the kind of elegant, striking visuals and stills that Val is known for and Rumer absolutely crushes it.

The judges are in love with her and the intensity. They are already saying that it could be Val’s season.I agree, they have just jumped to frontrunner status. It looks like we’ve found Derek and Nastia’s Kryptonite. And her parents are in the audience!

Judges’ Scores: 8+8+8+8=32

Seriously? I know they’re being harsh, but no 9s? That was more than 1 point better than Riker.

That does it for week 1. Obviously, Rumer is now the frontrunner, though Nastia is still a close second while Riker could pose a threat as well. It’s too soon to tell about the rest with such a massive pile-up in the middle of the leaderboard, so we’ll have to see which of them can move up next time.

I was skeptical about the season, but as usual, I’ve been proven wrong. Rumer, Riker, Robert, and Noah are all great, Derek always knows how to entertain (even if I complain about it) and Michael, Chris, and Willow have potential. I suspect the other four (Charlotte, Redfoo, Suzanne, and Patti) won’t be around long enough to be a problem.


32: Rumer Willis
31: Riker Lynch
30: Nastia Liukin
28: Robert Herjavec
26: Chris Soules, Michael Sam, Noah Galloway
25: Willow Shields, Patti LaBelle, Suzanne Somers
22: Charlotte McKinney, Redfoo

(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.