Prepare yourselves, dancing fans, for a season filled with duck puns, race car jokes and marijuana references aplenty.
ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” returned for its 19th season on Monday night with 13 new “celebrities” (quick: what movie did Jonathan Bennett star in?), three new professional dancers, one new judge with two much-referenced body parts, and a whole lot of glittery costumes.
At the end of the two-hour premiere, it was clear which celebrity dancers the show’s producers liked best. For those new to the formula, it goes like this: The favorites dance at the end of the show, not the middle or the beginning, and they’re paired with pros Derek Hough, Mark Ballas or a gorgeous young blonde.
The scores usually support the formula, and on Monday, the leading scorer at show’s end was “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” alum Alfonso Ribeiro, who danced last, was paired with fresh-faced young pro Witney Carson and scored four 9s. Ribeiro, a former child Broadway star, performed a fast-paced, expertly executed jive to a standing ovation. Judge Len Goodman said it was the “best dance of the night.”
One aside: When the cast was announced, my co-worker Josh wondered why everyone was calling Ribeiro a “Fresh Prince” actor. Does no one remember “Silver Spoons”? Well, I do, Josh, and apparently so does Ricky “Rick” Schroder, who on Monday was in the audience cheering for his former co-star.
The surprise second-place finisher was 17-year-old Sadie Robertson, one of the only “Duck Dynasty” stars without a beard. The daughter of series star Willie Robertson, the adorably perky teen danced a bouncy cha-cha to Katy Perry’s “Birthday” with partner Ballas. Robertson also inspired at least three bird references. “Quack quack. You’ll be back,” said Goodman, during a particularly cringe-worthy moment. She finished with a score of 34 out of 40.
The top four were rounded out by YouTube star Bethany Mota, who despite being not very well known was paired with Derek Hough and scored 32 points with her jive to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” and 1980s movie star Lea Thompson, a onetime ballet dancer who was paired with new pro Artem Chigvinstev.
Thompson, who played Marty McFly’s mom in “Back to the Future,” performed a graceful fox-trot that judge Carrie Ann Inaba called “the best first fox-trot I’ve ever seen.”
The middle of the pack was led by mixed martial arts star Randy Couture, who scored 31 points after delivering an unexpectedly smooth and charming performance with partner Karina Smirnoff.
Bennett, a little-known actor who once appeared in “Mean Girls” but apparently can dance, earned 30 points. His partner, new pro Allison Holker of “So You Think You Can Dance” fame, appeared to be far more famous than her celebrity partner.
And Janel Parrish, one of the pretty little stars of the television show “Pretty Little Liars,” is clearly being shoved by producers into a dance romance with equally pretty partner Val Chmerkovskiy. (Considering she made a gag face at host Erin Andrews’ suggestion that there might be love blooming, she might just shove back.) She scored 29 points.
So did talk show host Tavis Smiley, who delivered a somewhat stuffy performance with partner Sharna Burgess. But the judges seem to like his charm, and Goodman said he had “razzamatazz.” So there’s that.
The crowd favorite of the night was 76-year-old Tommy Chong, a dancing advertisement for pot legalization, who charmed the crowd and the judges with a hilarious and wonderful performance to Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” His partner, Peta Murgatroyd, helped him out of a bouncing car driven by his comedy partner Cheech Marin, and he showed rhythm and hip swivels not expected from a man of his age and herbal experience. He scored 27 points.
The bottom four were race car driver Michael Waltrip, a goofy dad-type in a dippy costume who danced an uncomfortable cha-cha with partner Emma Slater, scoring 25 points; former soap star Antonio Sabato Jr., who also got 25 points with a forgettable performance with partner Cheryl Burke; and Olympian Lolo Jones, who offered one of the most uncomfortable appearances in “Dancing With the Stars” history. Her performance with otherwise adorable pro newcomer Keoikantse Motsepe was stiff, and she scowled and pouted throughout. When she faced the judges, she complained of a missed cue from the production crew that threw her off, and the pout persisted until the end of the show. The best thing the judges had to say about her performance was that she had nice legs. I hope she’s the one who goes.
But the first person eliminated on Tuesday’s results show, which starts at 7 p.m., likely will be loopy designer Betsey Johnson, who despite being incredibly limber for a 72-year-old, seemed somewhat out of it and flubbed the last portion of her dance when her feet got tangled up in a feather boa. By the way, DWTS, what did Tony Dovolani do to deserve his never-ending series of elder-partners who have zero chance of winning?
What do you think? Does the Carlton have it all wrapped up? Will Chong remember he was even there? And who told Julianne Hough to wear that crazy cleavage-cruncher on her first night as an official judge?