CLEVELAND - The first dances are in the history book for the condensed 17th season of "Dancing with the Stars." This new format flies by – if only the same could be said for Bill Nye's performance.
The show kicks off with a highly-choreographed dance number on a red carpet. All the stars have their own "reveals." There's a limo involved and even the judges get involved and break out some rusty dance moves.
Format shakeup reminder: The first star gets eliminated next week, because the show is down to one day a week. Got it? Okay – let's go.
First up are "Pretty Little Liars" actor Brant Daugherty and Peta with a cha cha. In rehearsals, she's acting way too pretentiously coquettish, gushing about working with the stud. I thought the couples didn't know who they were dancing with until they met – except for Peta? Is this the show's staged romance of the season? Did the producers tell the pros to ramp up the faux-flirt factor for ratings? Or is this Peta's ploy to survive to the end? Either way, it seems forced.
Oh, right – the dance. Ugh… it's to the overplayed "Blurred Lines." Brant looks a little clunky and, after that red carpet dazzler, really stands out as an amateur. But he's got good charisma and some of the moves in the latter half of the dance come more naturally to him. On the plus side, we get "Blurred Lines" out of the way for the rest of the season right off the bat, after Miley ruined it for all of us.
Oh, look – now the judges are on the other side of the dance floor for some inexplicable reason. And the stars get to sit right next to them (which host Tom Bergeron calls the "sexy bus stop"). Judge Len Goodman calls Brant fabulous. Judge Bruno Tonioli says it was sizzling but Brant lost timing. Judge Carrie Ann Inaba says Brant has double-threat potential. Score: 22.
Brant tweeted, "Just stopping by to say I love you guys. Thank you all so much for watching tonight."
TV actress Leah Remini and Tony are up with a foxtrot. Tony says, "I've had some pretty crazy partners in the past, but Leah's a force of nature." And a former Scientologist, so the crazy part is up in the air. Leah, channeling Mrs. Robinson, is also a little clunky, but gives a regal performance, growing in comfort as the routine goes on. She has potential. Bruno says Leah went Miley Cyrus for a moment. Then Leah and Bruno get into it. Oh, I can see that becoming a weekly saga. He tells her to twerk next week. That clinches it – my DVR is ready… to fast forward. Carrie Ann says Leah was sass and class. Len says it was a clean, precise, terrific job. Score: 21.
We get a cutaway of Jennifer Lopez in the audience with her random boyfriend backup dancer to show support for Leah. Leah tweeted, "Ok, so first dance done! Thank you for the love, I had so much fun- look forward to bringing it next week! #DWTS ."
Did you forget there's a second host? Brooke Burke is in the wings. She now seems mostly relegated to quick interviews with rehearsing contestants in the "warm-up room," which is what the "celebraquarium" has been morphed into.
Disney star Corbin Bleu and Karina have a contemporary. Her outfit looks like toilet paper wrapped around her. Corbin looks better at the dance than she does. He keeps up with the choreography and seems to be having fun. That ease will take him far. Carrie Ann calls it beautiful and passionate. Len asks, "This is week one?!? Score: 24.
Oh. Here comes the troupe. Dancing to "Blurred Lines." Looks like I spoke too soon. Confound you, DWTS! *shakes fist like old-timey villain*
Son of Ozzy, Jack Osbourne, and Cheryl are up with a foxtrot. He hopes to spread awareness about Multiple Sclerosis. Jack is light on his feet and a real gentleman on the floor. He's at ease doing big movements and has a tongue-in-cheek manner. Charisma for days. In the audience, poor Ozzy doesn't know what he's looking at. Mom Sharon is crying like she never realized her son had any talent. Take that, former DWTS contestant Kelly Osbourne! Len declares Jack can dance. Bruno calls it joyful, playful, uplifting. Carrie Ann calls Jack a ballroom dancer. Score: 23.
Jack tweeted, "Wow. That was intense!!!! Thanks for all the love."
"Glee" actress Amber Riley and Derek have a cha cha. Amber keeps remarking about how she wants to prove big girls can move. Well, Amber has moves for days. She has flawless transitions from energetic to controlled. Simply put, this girl is a dancer and a stage performer. Would DWTS pair the Golden Boy with anything less? No. Bruno calls Amber the tigress of the season. Carrie Ann yells, "Superstar!" Len calls her incredible.
Score: 27. Frontrunner, ehh? After this, she better not complain about her weight holding her back again.
Amber tweeted, "What an amazing night! Gotta get some shuteye! Rehearsal tomorrow :) working hard for y'all and myself. Gnite."
Actress Elizabeth Berkley and Val have a contemporary. Elizabeth is definitely showing off some residual dance skills – ahem, "Showgirls" – and looks perfectly matched with Val (even if he prefers "Saved By the Bell" castmate Tiffani Amber Thiessen). Elizabeth's moves are graceful and controlled. Carrie Ann calls her a poetic angel. Len says it was lovely to watch. Bruno yells, "Watch out, darlings. The original showgirl is back. And she means business." Just open that old wound. Score: 24.
Bill Nye the Science Guy and newcomer Tyne have a cha cha. He calls them Beauty and the Geek. While this guy likes to dance, his posture is terrible. It's kind of like watching Mr. Burns from "The Simpsons" break out the Charleston. Bill keeps up with the footwork, but lacks the performance. Len calls it painful. Bruno says he's not going to win the Nobel Prize. Carrie Ann says Bill is the type of contestant that makes DWTS special because he's the heart of the show. Score: 14.
Former NFL star Keyshawn Johnson and Sharna have a cha cha. He's too big and lumbering. She's doing that pro trick where they do most of the dancing around the star. But his strength does come in handy for a fun Sharna flip. Bruno calls Keyshawn the Empire State Building trying to be a rockette. Score: 17.
Singer Christina Milian and Mark have a contemporary. She's already scared of his choreography. We soon see why - contemporary gives wildcard Mark a license to kill, and Christina has to put in a lot of effort to convey the emotions of his demanding dance. She does a decent job and is sharp on such unique moves. Carrie Ann says she moved beautifully. Len says the dance suited her. Score: 22.
Christina tweeted, "In the Moment.. Thank you to my partner @MarkBallas tonight was a really special performance."
Comedian Bill Engvall and Emma are up with foxtrot. He wants to be the redneck dancing king. Bill is surprisingly good with big, open movements, good body contact and nice footwork. Len calls it well done. Bruno felt something. Carrie Ann is happily surprised. Score: 18.
Bill tweeted, "Thanks to all of you who tuned in and voted last night. It was a blast. Looking forward to this week. Although my knees might disagree."
Sitcom legend Valerie Harper and Tristan are up with a foxtrot. The 74-year-old brain cancer patient says she's way past her "expiration date." Her dance is so full of little showman moves and sly looks. Valerie's dancing looks relaxed and she's clearly having fun. Bruno asks, "How can you criticize a national treasure?" Carrie Ann thanks her for being on the show. Len says it was beautifully done. Score: 21.
"Jersey Shore" castmate Nicole Polizzi and Sasha have a cha cha. The new mom says she does not want to be called Snooki anymore, but instead refers to herself as Hot Mess. So… wish granted. Hot Mess actually has some hidden talent. Granted, she probably channeled some night club moves for the cha cha, but this little spitfire is lithe and fast-footed. Carrie Ann says Hot Mess went for it. Len calls it well done. Bruno says he likes a wild child. Score: 23.
Hot Mess tweeted, "Time to vote booboos!!!! Love you all for your continued support!!" Hmm… she said she doesn't want to be Snooki anymore, but her Twitter handle is still @snooki . What a Hot Mess indeed!
So Amber is the frontrunner, but who's likely to be eliminated? Bill Nye may have scored lowest, but it sounds like he's got a huge, loyal fan base, so don't discount him. Keyshawn also did bad, but might pull some likability vote. I'd say, Bill Engvall better watch out, unless he pulls the country vote. Or it could be a surprise elimination like Leah.
See which star is the first one eliminated on the 17th season of "Dancing with the Stars" at 8 Monday night on ABC.
More information can be found at: http://abc.go.com/primetime/dancingwiththestars/index .