Welcome back to the ballroom! Dancing with the Stars is kicking off season 23 with the return of many great pros and a cast filled with Olympians, TV stars, singers, and a former presidential candidate. For the past four seasons, the eventual winner always topped the leaderboard on the first night, so it’s actually very important to make a good impression.

'Dancing with the Stars' Season 23 Premiere Recap: The First Dances

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

The opening number is a STUNNING aerial tracking shot with the pros at the Griffith Observatory. It’s a breathtaking visual extravaganza.

Things then get off to an unusual start with Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews ad-libbing because their teleprompter is down. God bless them. After the first dance, only three of the four judges comment on each routine due to time.

Marilu Henner and Derek Hough: Jive

She wanted Derek as a partner but didn’t think he was doing the show this season. She freaks out because she’s a huge, geeky superfan and at 64, she may be more excited than any other star.

Their routine has lots of energy and some cool moves, and she’s definitely good for a 64-year-old. However, she’s definitely a bit slower than Derek and it could be a struggle for her to keep up if he insists on these speedy routines. It’s the standard first-night jitters. Len Goodman loved that they came out and just gave him the dance style without any extras. Julianne Hough and Bruno Tonioli thought she tightened up a bit.

Judges’ Scores: 7+7+6+7=27

Ooh, Julianne gives her own brother the lowest score.

James Hinchcliffe and Sharna Burgess: Foxtrot

He’s an IndyCar driver who was in a bad accident a little over a year ago, but now he has a silly sense of humor. Oh, he’s gonna be the funny guy.

Wow, this guy is definitely a contender. He has smooth moves and good rhythm. It just floats and feels effortless. I’ll be shocked if anyone else does this well tonight. Len was knocked out by how fluid and brilliant he was. The judges are all in agreement that he just set the bar very high for this season with his flow.

Judges’ Scores: 8+8+7+8=31

What is Julianne’s problem? Heck, I almost expected a 9 that was so good.

Calvin Johnson and Lindsay Arnold: Cha-Cha-Cha

He’s a football player nicknamed Megatron. He broke Jerry Rice’s record for some NFL thing and his sister said he can’t dance, but Lindsay is distracted by his giant feet.

This is a mixed bag. He has a few nice moves in the middle of the routine and his footwork is fast, if not always on point. The start and finish are a little stiff and uncomfortable. The judges think he has potential, but he needs to work on the precision. They mostly comment on his mega-watt smile.

Judges’ Scores: 7+6+6+7=26

I do enjoy seeing Erin come to life when talking to an NFL player. She obviously has a passion for football.

Maureen McCormick and Artem Chigvintsev: Viennese Waltz

Like Marilu, this Brady Bunch star is a huge fan of the show. Is this a Make-a-Wish season for old ladies? She basically cries with joy over every single moment.

This is one of those classy, elegant styles that suits more mature women. She’s fine, though there are a few moments that look like things went a tad haywire. Her TV mom, former contestant Florence Henderson, is in the audience. She’s so grateful and emotional to be here. The judges like her vulnerability but Carrie Ann Inaba thought she didn’t trust Artem enough. Len says she needs refinement.

Judges’ Scores: 6+5+5+6=22

Ooh, Len and Julianne are being tough and I like it.

Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and Allison Holker: Foxtrot

His mom died three years ago and he wanted to do something outside of his comfort zone that he knows would make her proud. His Allison just had her second child, motherhood is going to be a big theme with these two.

There’s something off about his dancing for me. He doesn’t seem very refined and he needs to work on his upper body. The judges loved his razzle-dazzle, but point out some hectic moments with the rise and fall. Ah, that’s what I didn’t like.

Judges’ Scores: 7+6+6+7=26

Once again, Len and Julianne are correct while Carrie Ann and Bruno are too nice.

Amber Rose and Maksim Chmerkovskiy: Foxtrot

She was an exotic dancer and her giant booty is an issue. Maks has never choreographed for an ass like that. They’re a perfect pair, both tough on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside.

I love this partnership. He dances like a MAN and she has a little sass. They have some good moments, but she’s not committed the whole time. The judges point out that she’s disconnected and needs to have more fluidity, but they love her beauty. She’s one of those stars who will need to get more confidence to succeed.

Judges’ Scores: 6+6+6+6=24

Wow, Julianne FINALLY agreed with Carrie Ann and Bruno.

Vanilla Ice and Witney Carson: Cha-Cha-Cha

He’s never seen the show and has no idea what a Mirror Ball is. He just wants to have fun and is worried about humiliating himself dancing to “Ice Ice Baby.” This poor guy has no idea what he signed up for.

They use a LOT of hip-hop moves that are cool and fun to watch, but the actual Cha-Cha-Cha isn’t the best (or even there). Len loved the energy but correctly points out the lack of Cha-Cha content. The other judges also need more technique, but it made them happy anyway.

Judges’ Scores: 7+5+6+7=25

Those scores are all over the place. He’s not going to win, but he’s having more fun than anyone else and his enthusiasm seems to have infected all of the other stars and pros.

Jana Kramer and Gleb Savchenko: Viennese Waltz

She’s a country singer and former One Tree Hill star. Gleb, as Tom mentions, is an underwear calendar model. She recently separated from her husband, so this is basically her Eat Pray Love with a hot foreigner.

NOW WE HAVE A COMPETITION! This dance is hot, intense, and fantastic. She has wonderful moves and great facial expressions. They are definitely going to be the super sexy couple. Bruno loved it, obviously. Carrie Ann loved her lines while Len carps about how it was too dramatic and not really a Viennese Waltz. I agree, but damn, they are going to sizzle when they get a Paso Doble or Argentine Tango.

Judges’ Scores: 7+6+6+8=27

Bruno gives the extra point for sex appeal.

Jake T. Austin and Jenna Johnson: Jive

They’re the same age, so they have some chemistry. She likes that he’s cute and loved watching him as a kid. Apparently, he’s into astrology.

These two are extremely young and peppy. He has some decent moves, but can’t quite keep up. He kind of reminds me of Hayes Grier, in a positive way. The judges liked the energy, but there was some sloppy footwork.

Judges’ Scores: 5+6+5+6=22

Wow, Len was nicer than Carrie Ann?

Rick Perry and Emma Slater: Cha-Cha-Cha

The former governor of Texas is doing this because his daughter’s wedding is next month. He knows he’s starting as a lump of coal, which is a good thing.

He’s not completely terrible, but he’s not very good either. It’s quite sloppy, but he commits 100 percent and I give him a lot of credit. He went for it. Len appreciated that it had content and the other judges respect that he tried his best. Bruno points out the timing was off.

Judges’ Scores: 5+5+5+5=20

No surprise that he got the lowest score so far, but he seems happy to avoid getting 4s.

Terra Jole and Sasha Farber: Jive

Not only is she the first little person to compete on any version of this show, but she had a baby six weeks ago. Sasha had never met a little person before and it makes things a challenge. She wants to be great without the caveat of “for a little person.”

It’s a fun routine, but this is going to take some time to get used to because it looks completely different from anything I’ve ever seen on this show. She has a lot of good moves and some big energy, but there are a few tentative moments. The judges love that she’s an entertainer.

Judges’ Scores: 7+6+6+6=25

Wow, a lot of 6s tonight. Only one of the first 11 couples got higher than a 27.

Ryan Lochte and Cheryl Burke: Foxtrot

Cheryl wants to help rehab his image. He’s afraid of failing and making her look bad. He wants to prove that he’s changed.

His dancing is adequate, but his posture isn’t great. The routine is very old-school and classic, which makes it seem less fun. It feels like they’re trying too hard to make him look classy, so they over-corrected.

Apparently, some guy in the audience started shouting and stormed the stage, but the camera was off the action. It sounded like some guy was trying to attack Ryan, and security had to step in. Whatever happened, they cut to commercial. Yikes. I know Ryan messed up in Rio, but did it really warrant a live TV show attack? After the drama, the judges get back to the critique of his technique and his need to work on it.

Judges’ Scores: 6+6+6+6=24

Wow, these scores are terrible tonight.

Laurie Hernandez and Val Chmerkovskiy: Cha-Cha-Cha

He’s excited to have a feisty and athletic partner. He knows that getting someone with her talent level raises the expectations for them.

Can we just give her the Mirror Ball now and save ourselves the time? Her moves are spot-on and she has the energy, athleticism, and grace to win. She’s the total package and after a night with lots of mediocrity, she’s so far ahead of the pack it’s not even funny. The judges love her sparkle, especially following the awkward incident with Ryan. They are particularly excited that she didn’t rely on gymnastics tricks but actually wants to study and perfect ballroom dancing. Bruno immediately raises expectations way too high by claiming she can be one of the best dancers they’ve ever had.

Judges’ Scores: 8+8+7+8=31

WTF? Did Julianne make a deal with the Devil to return as a judge, only if she didn’t give ANYONE an 8 in week 1?

Next week we get FOUR HOURS of Dancing with the Stars action. On Monday all 13 couples will dance again to TV theme songs and then on Tuesday, we get a two-hour results show with the first elimination of the season based on combined scores and votes from the first two weeks.


31: James Hinchcliffe, Laurie Hernandez
27: Marilu Henner, Jana Kramer
26: Calvin Johnson, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds
25: Vanilla Ice, Terra Jole
24: Amber Rose, Ryan Lochte
22: Maureen McCormick, Jake T. Austin
20: Rick Perry

(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.