Dancing with the Stars began its 31st season Monday in the most peculiar manner: by asking viewers to click a watch button on Disney+ at exactly 5 p.m./8 p.m. “Tune” in any earlier and you’ll get a reminder — NO, its at 8 p.m. ET, pal! Come back when it’s time. This is the new reality for dance fans accustomed to watching their favorite competition show that used to be on ABC.
Otherwise, the live, two-hour episode of DWTS began just like it used to (before the pandemic, that is) with a big opening number, an enthusiastic (but casually dressed) studio audience and a grand entrance by host Tyra Banks. A few updates were still made to the aging franchise: DWTS veteran Conrad Green is back as the executive producer and Season 19 Champion Alfonso Ribiero is now offering some much-needed help with the hosting duties by lobbing softball questions in the Sky Box.
Here’s what happened on night one:
Jason Lewis and Peta Murgatroyd. The Sex and the City actor greeted his two-time champion partner with flowers and a warning that he can only dance after consuming whisky or tequila. He was very much sober while performing the cha cha, so use your imagination if you missed the show. “What I need you to do is breathe. That is what is missing. You need to breathe and relax,” said judge Carrie Ann Inaba. Score: 18 out of 40
Vinny Guadagnino and Koko Iwasaki. The Jersey Shore alum says he’s a fish out of water in the ballroom. Apparently, he’s much more comfortable stripping with the Chippendales in Las Vegas, where he has residency. Maybe he should have ripped his shirt off during his salsa, because his number lacked heat. “I don’t get it, Vinny,” said judge Len Goodman. “This out of all the dances is a club dance and you didn’t show me that. It was rough, your legs were too flexed. I really wanted you to come out and knock my socks off.” Score: 17 out of 40
Jesse James Decker and Alan Bersten. The country crooner admitted to being a longtime DWTS fan but expressed reservation about her chances since she was kicked out of dance class as a kid. Fortunately, her cha cha to “Sweet Home Alabama” didn’t sour the judges. “You came out and sold it. The performance level was really high,” said Goodman. Score: 20 out of 40
Teresa Giudice and Pasha Pashkov. The former Real Housewives star said she’s doing DWTS because she wants viewers to see the real Teresa — not the one who went to prison for fraud. She’s also been working with a therapist to learn not to get triggered. That should be good news to the judges, I guess? Anyway, her tango to “We Found Love” wasn’t awful except the way she stared at the ceiling was just odd, man. “I saw you looking up a little bit. Think really wide, not up or down or wide,” said judge Derek Hough. Score: 20 out of 30
Sam Champion and Cheryl Burke. The former Good Morning America weather guy was giddy to learn that Champion was her partner since she encouraged him to do the show 10 years ago. As a gay man looking to move “out of his comfort zone,” Champion made his debut in the ballroom by performing a foxtrot to “Tiny Dancer” amid a cloud of dry ice. “That was so tender and so sweet. You were a little nervous out of the gate,” said Inaba. Score: 20 out of 40
Cheryl Ladd and Louis Van Amstel. The former star of Charlie’s Angels reminded us that she’s 71 but was thrilled to learn that Van Amstel, who’s been absent from the show for 7 seasons, is her partner. He’s got his work cut out for him; Ladd admitted that she’s not a dancer and was careful with her cha cha. But she’s got a pair of great wheels so she’s halfway there! “Cheryl Ladd has swagger! You have an elegance to you. I think the routine might have been too simple for you,” said judge Bruno Tonioli. Score: 21 out of 40
Trevor Donovan and Emma Slater. Apparently, the 90210 actor has a fear of dancing. Like, an “irrational phobia. There’s something in my head that keeps me from moving at all.” Sure, then, do Dancing with the Stars. What could possibly go wrong? His first quickstep to “Dancing With Myself,” perhaps? “It was hectic, it was manic. you just came out and flew across that floor,” said Goodman. Score: 21 out of 40
Joseph Baena and Daniella Karagach. The son of Arnold Schwarzenegger lucked out by scoring last year’s champion as a partner. His dad wasn’t in the ballroom for his jive, but he paid tribute by flexing his guns at the top of his jive and performing a burpee at the end. “We all get bicep envy! But actually, your musicality was good. You were not heavy. I’m telling you, you’ll be back,” said Tonioli. Score: 23 out of 40
Heidi D’Amelio and Artem Chigvintsev. Most viewers probably won’t recognize D’Amelio — a YouTuber with her own family show. But producers seemed to like the idea that both momma D’Amelio and her far more famous daughter Charli are doing the show together. D’Amelio was first up for the family with a cha cha to “Lady Marmalade.” “Put all the energy and thought and interpretation behind every step. You really have to project your personality through your body,” said Tonioli. Score: 24 out of 40
Jordan Sparks and Brandon Armstrong The platinum recording artist reminded us that she won American Idol at the age of 19 and enjoyed a successful singing career. But one thing that has been missing from her life is a mirror ball trophy! She opened up the night with an impressive cha cha to Whitney Houston’s “I Want to Dance with Somebody.” “Jordan you have such an amazing presence on the floor,” said Hough. “That split in the middle, girl! I saw that. That was fantastic.” Score: 26 out of 40
Daniel Durant and Britt Stewart. The actor from CODA wants to show people that “deaf people can dance, too.” (Oh, we knew that. Who can forget Season 22 winner Nyle DiMarco?) Dressed in neon green, Durant danced a tidy tango that drew high praise. “You moved well around the floor. I’m really excited to see you develop as this show goes along,” said Goodman. Score: 27 out of 40
Wayne Brady and Witney Carson. The Let’s Make a Deal host is doing the show to make his grandmother proud. That shouldn’t be difficult; his cha cha began with a wicked pop and lock that immediately served as a warning to his fellow contestants: Brady is coming hard for that mirror ball trophy. “Welcome to Wayne’s dance floor! Performance level through the roof. You’ve got it and you know what to do with it,” said Tonioli. Score: 29 out of 40.
Shangela and Gleb Savchenko. Let’s hear it for change makers! Besides appearing as the first drag queen on DWTS, Shangela also announced that she will perform all rehearsals out of drag (her pronouns are he/him). Finally, two men dancing with each other under the mirror ball! If only it didn’t take 31 seasons and a new digital home for real inclusivity to happen. “You have so much energy so much power so much charisma,” said Hough. “Well done.” Score: 28 out of 40
Gabby Windey and Val Chmerkovskiy. It’s traditional for singles from the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise to make an appearance on DWTS. And like her predecessors, Windey has some hoofing experience. Her jive demonstrated that she won’t go home anytime soon. “For me that was I think that was the best dance of the night so far. So sharp, so clean,” said Hough. “Your rotation was off the hook.” Score: 28 out of 40
Selma Blair and Sasha Farber. The longtime actress was diagnosed with MS in August of 2018, so problems with stiffness and balance will make competing a challenge. But the judges were overwhelmed by her plight and her bravery, so they were generous with their support. “So good to see you here. You really created magic tonight. It was gorgeous,” said Tonioli. Score: 28 out of 40
Charli D’Amelio and Mark Ballas. The social media star (and daughter of Heidi D’Amelio) is this year’s ringer: she’s amassed millions of followers on TikTok because of her slick moves. She’s also a natural in front of the camera, which is why her cha cha was the final dance of the night. “Season 31 got real hot, real quick. It’s like I saw 20 different people dance! You it was kind of amazing,” said Inaba. Score: 32 out of 40
Bottom two were Lewis/Murgatroyd and Giudice/Pashkov. All the judges saved Guidice, so poor Lewis went home.
Next week is Elvis night!