Welcome back to Dancing with the Stars! Season 22 is here with 12 new couples ready to take the ballroom floor for the first time. Who will shine, who will stumble and how harsh will Len Goodman be now that he’s back where he belongs on the judges’ panel?

'Dancing with the Stars' Season 22 Premiere Recap: The Competition Begins

There’s a lot to be excited about this year on DWTS. Keo finally has a good partner, Sasha and Edyta are back and, for the first time in more than two years, there are no teenagers. Thank God, because I’m tired of seeing passionate Rumbas from 16-year-olds. Also, there’s no Derek Hough, so you won’t have to listen to me complain all season long about how he’s being unfairly overscored simply for his superior choreography.

Instead, let’s focus on the positives, like how many inappropriate Donald Trump sexual puns Bruno Tonioli will make about Marla Maples or how awkward it will be for Nyle DiMarco’s translator to sign whatever inappropriate thing Carrie Ann Inaba has to say about the deaf male model. Which of the three NFL stars will break out? Can Geraldo Rivera pull a Tommy Chong and be the second septuagenarian to reach the Top 5? And why is Erin Andrews wasting her time as Tom Bergeron’s sidekick when a court just awarded her $55 million?

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The opening is a clever video showing all of the stars in their natural habitats, from Geraldo behind a news desk to Nyle at a photoshoot to Marla drinking champagne in a high-rise. And Len Goodman has a big role since he’s back!

Kim Fields and Sasha Farber: Cha-Cha-Cha

Kim is sassy, brassy and clearly having a lot of fun during rehearsals. She obviously has some opening night jitters and she’s very rough around the edges, but she has lots of attitude. Len Goodman thinks it’s fine, but she has a lot to work on. Bruno Tonioli loves her sauciness. Carrie Ann Inaba also adores her fierceness. All of the judges agree that she needs better hip action.

Judges’ Scores: 7+6+7=20

Thank God Len is back because his score is the correct one. Bruno and Carrie Ann just set a low bar for 7s tonight.

Paige VanZant and Mark Ballas: Foxtrot

Rehearsals are all about getting Paige to be softer. She’s cute, but Mark’s disgusting man-bun is distracting me. Wow, if this is where she’s at in week 1, Mark can definitely start choreographing her Freestyle for the finale. She’s sexy, flirty, bouncy, fun, athletic, and pretty great. Some of her moves are still a little too harsh and hard, which will need to soften. Bruno thinks she needs more control, but Carrie Ann wants her to let go. The judges all think she has a lot of potential, which is all you can hope for in week 1. She cries a lot and is going to be very emotional. That’s great since vulnerability was my one big concern for her.

Judges’ Scores: 7+7+7=21

This is the problem with Kim’s score, because this was definitely much better.

Doug Flutie and Karina Smirnoff: Foxtrot

He’s one of those older guys with empty nest syndrome who wants to try new things because he’s not old enough for retirement. His wife teaches dance and his daughter is a cheerleader, but he’s clueless. He does his best and I like his arm extensions, but he’s definitely not graceful and not a good dancer at all. The judges give him credit for trying his heart out, but they know he’s a bit of a hot mess.

Judges’ Scores: 5+5+5=15

The audience boos, but the fact that he didn’t get a 4 is a miracle.

Jodie Sweetin and Keo Motsepe: Tango

They get their own Full House opening credit sequence! Jodie is a perfectionist and very insecure, afraid she’ll mess up while wanting to recreate herself. This is the first Week 1 Tango ever and it’s a good one. Jodie is intense and ferocious, as she should be. Len loves the attack, but it got a little hectic. Carrie Ann didn’t like her snarl. Indeed, her head and hips were a little off, but that’s because this is a very tough style for the first dance. I wish she got to wait until week 4 for this Tango, cuz it would be so much better.

Judges’ Scores: 7+6+7=20

For real? Jodie is the same as Kim?

Geraldo Rivera and Edyta Sliwinska: Cha-Cha-Cha

He’s tired of being the only Puerto Rican in the U.S. who can’t dance. Edyta is impressed by his stamina, especially for a 72-year-old. Oh no. This is bad. Really, really bad. Like, worse than Doug Flutie, easily one of the all-time worst dances ever on this show. He has absolutely no rhythm and barely does anything. Bruno points out his “minimalist” approach, hoping that maybe Geraldo will actually dance next week.

Judges’ Scores: 5+4+4=13

Honestly, he deserved a 3. This is only the 22nd dance ever to get a 13 or lower from the judges, and only the fourth time in the last 10 seasons (along with Kim and Chaka last year and D.L. Hughley before that).

Marla Maples and Tony Dovolani: Quickstep

She’s Donald Trump’s ex-wife who is tired of answering questions about his hair. She’s one hot mama in her 50s. She’s surprisingly fast on her feet and embraces the glitz and glamor. Len liked the vim and vigor, but the judges noticed some mistakes. She’s quite good, but she seemed to grit her teeth through some parts.

Judges’ Scores: 7+7+7=21

And now she’s tied at the top of the leaderboard halfway through the night.

Wanya Morris and Lindsay Arnold: Cha-Cha-Cha

He’s in Boyz II Men and has wanted to do the show since Joey Fatone, mocking him as a “fat white boy.” He’s a total ham. Holy crap, I seriously underestimated him. Wanya has insanely sweet dance moves, especially for a bigger guy. He’s a nonstop dance machine. Len criticizes all of the cool, hip-hop style flourishes because it got away from the Cha-Cha. I agree and appreciate that he’s holding him accountable for technique. This was a superb Freestyle, but maybe not that much of a Cha-Cha-Cha.

Judges’ Scores: 8+7+8=23

Huh, I definitely didn’t expect Wanya to get the first 8s.

Ginger Zee and Val Chmerkovskiy: Jive

The Good Morning America meteorologist had a baby three months ago. She apologizes to Val if she leaks breast milk on him. Val is so not a baby guy. Ginger is bouncy and fun with a lot of exuberant energy. She’s a quirky girl, but she definitely needs some work on the dance front. She has potential, but I’m so accustomed to a higher caliber of partner for Val. She doesn’t have the same raw, original talent as all of his recent stars. Carrie Ann busts out a Bindi Irwin comparison, which I don’t see. I may start an ABC conspiracy theory that DWTS is going to be overly generous to the star of the network’s morning show.

Judges’ Scores: 8+7+8=23

Carrie Ann and Bruno are becoming 8 sluts. Good for Len, refusing to give out 8s yet.

Mischa Barton and Artem Chigvintsev: Tango

Ugh, spelling these two people’s names is gonna be tough every time. She claims to have natural dance ability, but Artem strongly disagrees. I’m having a very difficult time relating to her and the dance doesn’t help. She dances like a robot and there’s no real soul to the performance. Len calls her out for just walking around and not doing any real dancing. Bruno tries to be more constructive by encouraging her to be more energetic and less sedated.

Judges’ Scores: 5+5+6=16

I didn’t think it was THAT bad. It’s a shame she has no real personality. I urge everyone to go back and watch season 3 of ABC’s Once and Again, where Barton played Jessie’s friend and lesbian crush. She was stellar, as is that show.

Nyle DiMarco and Peta Murgatroyd: Cha-Cha-Cha

Being deaf makes this a huge challenge for Peta as she needs to reimagine her choreography style and she has to learn some sign language. We have another serious contender. He rips his shirt open right away and they are sexy as hell together. More importantly, he’s got serious moves and his footwork is stunning. They’re also in sync. It’s stunning because unlike Marlee Matlin, he can’t hear at all, not even the vibrations. It’s so funny to watch Ramon the translator signing “DAMN!” from Carrie Anne about how hot Nyle is.

Judges’ Scores: 8+7+8=23

Len just refuses to give anyone an 8 tonight. Also, WTF does “Cake by the Ocean,” the song they danced to, mean?

Antonio Brown and Sharna Burgess: Quickstep

He loves catchphrases like “How’s business?” He’s definitely a little cocky. He has some nice footwork and tons of personality, though I think the style prevents him from unleashing his full potential. I think he’ll be a lot better next week on Latin Night. The judges really love his talent but point out some problems with the specific technical details. He threw down a big gauntlet to Von Miller.

Judges’ Scores: 8+6+7=21

Wow, those were all over the map.

Von Miller and Witney Carson: Foxtrot

The reigning Super Bowl MVP is saved for last. He studied Poultry Science and he loves chickens. He has a chicken tattoo and meets Witney on a chicken farm. His massive height is a challenge for Witney. Their dance is nice and cute. He moves well and has the finesse and control that Antonio seems to lack. Carrie Ann loves that Von is “smooth and silky” and Len loves that they were technically proper. But the huge height disparity is weird.

Judges’ Scores: 8+6+7=21

So the NFL players are exactly the same, even though their styles are very different. And Len didn’t give out a single 8 all night.

Next week, one couple goes home on Latin Night.


23: Wanya Morris, Ginger Zee, Nyle DiMarco
21: Paige VanZant, Marla Maples, Antonio Brown, Von Miller
20: Kim Fields, Jodie Sweetin
16: Mischa Barton
15: Doug Flutie
13: Geraldo Rivera

Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8 pm on ABC.

(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.