Here we go with the first real episode with the new format for "Dancing With the Stars." It's like a math equation: judges' and viewers' scores from last week's performances, plus the judges' scores from tonight's routines, equal the first elimination of Season 17. Who will be the first to go -- Bill E., Bill N. or Keyshawn??
With the new format, the elimination was saved for the last 15 minutes of the show. All of the couples lined up on the dance floor, and host Tom Bergeron and co-host Brooke Burke-Charvet began reading the names of those who were safe to dance next week, including Bill Nye the Science Guy.
In the end, three couples -- Elizabeth Berkley Lauren and Val Chmerkovskiy, Keyshawn Johnson and Sharna Burgess, and Bill Engvall and Emma Slater -- remained and, after the break, stood atop the staircase (some things didn't change from last season). Elizabeth and Val were declared safe (no surprise there), and it was down to Keyshawn and Sharna with a combined score of 35 out of 60, and Bill E. and Emma with a combined score of 39. And the celebrity to go was Keyshawn with his partner.
"Gone in Week 2!" said Keyshawn with a shake of his head, as he stepped forward to talk with Tom and Brooke, who wanted to know what he thought was best about his participation.
"Experience," said Keyshawn. "For a guy who's never even bobbed his head (to music) in the car, it was the experience to dance and learn with Sharna teaching me. She is an amazing choreographer, her time will come. I just wish I'd done more to help her out."
Earlier in the program, Keyshawn related how the other guys on ESPN had teased him, and as the closing credits began to roll, Tom told him, "Don't let them give you to much of a hard time at ESPN." Keyshawn seemed like a nice guy who tried his best, but he never really relaxed enough to flow into the dance moves, instead of walking through the routines.
Like last week, the show started with a big opening number featuring the entire cast. I like that the traditional intro while the pairs walked down the staircase was tossed in favor of naming three couples at a time from different points in the ballroom. Hopefully, everyone soon will be able to smooth out the rough places in this new format, including running out of time to have the usual comments by head judge Len Goodman. Another new addition is Brooke's interviews with the celebs backstage, in the warm-up room, in the stands, everywhere and anywhere, and I'm not crazy about the feature sandwiched between dances.
Once more, judge Bruno Tonioli was up, down, back and forth, and the producers may still need to put up a "fence" between him and the celebrities and pros in the now-dubbed "Glitter Pit." And judge Carrie Ann Inaba had some moves tonight during her comments that rivaled Bruno's.
On to tonight's Latin performances, which seemed to group several of the best dancers at the start of the show. First up were Elizabeth, awesome in red, and Val, who danced a samba. Len thought she was "absolutely fantastic," and Bruno agreed but pointed out a couple of missed steps. Carrie Ann admired that Elizabeth had so much control of her body during the dance. This couple is not going home soon.
Christina Milian and Mark Ballas drew the paso doble for their routine, and she did a great job at bringing the right amount of intensity to the dance. Bruno called her "an intriguing monster," a take on the Lady Gaga music to which they performed. Carrie Ann said, "That was insane. You nailed every step," and Len called it a paso with a contemporary twist. "That was fantastic!"
Bill Engvall, one of last week's bottom dwellers, and Emma Slater danced a jive, and he really has a lot of smooth movement. The routine had a lot of steps in it, he did them all and the pair was rewarded by a standing ovation. "That was my most entertaining routine so far. It was fantastic fun," said Carrie Ann. Len thoroughly enjoyed it and Bruno thought the performance value was incredible. If Bill wants to last a few weeks, he needs to put a bit more technique in his efforts.
Next up was Jack Osbourne and Cheryl Burke doing a rumba, but it can't have helped do a sexy, romantic dance to have mom, Sharon Osbourne, come by rehearsal. He did a good job and got a hug from Tom at the finish. Len said he had great control, great lines but did "weird things" with his hands sometimes. Bruno called it "smooth and sensuous," and Carrie Ann thought Jack's dancing had a certain nobility to it, like "Game of Thrones."
This season, the commercial breaks are danced in and out by members of the DWTS Troupe to keep everything moving. What a change from the bloated shows, packed with filler, in previous seasons. I really like this format for keeping most of the focus on dancing. Anyway, it was time for Keyshawn and Sharna to dance their samba, but he just didn't seem comfortable. Bruno said he "went for it" but looked a little overwhelmed at times, and Carrie Ann said she saw his confidence improve. He did try to keep his hips moving, and Len noted that he was working his "assets" and improving.
Nicole (I used to be Snooki) Polizzi and Sasha Farber danced a rumba that looked like she moved from pose to pose without any flow, and her expression certainly didn't convey romance. Carrie Ann marked them down for lifts, and Len called it a pretty dance, neat with no flow. Bruno said she has great potential but she must learn to act a part and sustain it (guess he didn't think she acted on "Jersey Shore").
Leah Remini and Tony Dovolani performed a samba that was smooth and sexy. Len called it "terrific" and full of content, and Bruno said Leah should have no more doubts about herself being able to dance. Carrie Ann though she "released her samba goddess," and they received a standing ovation from the dancers in the "Glitter Pit."
I feel a bit sorry for new pro Tyne Stecklein who is trying to teach Bill Nye how to dance. She may a taken on too much. The pair danced a paso doble, but relied on a wig and some comedic bits to cover his stiffness. He did improve a bit and Bruno said he stepped it up. "You worked with what you've got," said Carrie Ann, but added he needs to work on his footwork. Len like his commitment and fun, but Bill has got a huge fan base on his side.
In a break between dances, Tom chatted with Derek Hough's sister, Julianne, a former pro and three time champion on the show. In two weeks, they revealed that Len will be taking some time off and that Julianne will be one of the guest judges to fill in. I wonder how she will judge her brother? Hmmm.
The best dance of the night was a jive by Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff that was filled with personality, musicality and clever steps. Everyone loved it and it showed that Corbin could be a solid contender to win the coveted Mirrorball Trophy. Carrie Ann loved his athleticism and musicality, Len loved the performance and energy, and Bruno said it was a "performance of dazzling brilliance." Wow!
Valerie Harper and Tristan MacManus tried their best to perform an intense paso doble, but I think a twisted knee that shortened some rehearsal time may have hurt their efforts. About halfway through, Valerie seemed to forget what to do and although Len complimented her on starting the dance with a short solo, he didn't think she was 100 percent comfortable. Bruno said she captured the "grandeur of a great lady" and Carrie Ann noted that she seemed to forget about a third of the routine. It's obviously very difficult for the judges, particularly Carrie Ann, to dismiss that Valerie is bravely dancing despite her cancer diagnosis.
The final two dances were very good. First, Brant Daugherty and Peta Murgatroyd did a rumba that was so hot, everyone was fanning themselves. Bruno cautioned him to watch his feet, and Carrie Ann cried, "You can dance." Len wasn't ecstatic but said he liked it.
And the jive got the Derek Hough treatment with Amber Riley. Carrie Ann told her that she "set the bar last week" and she was a little flat-footed. Len said he loved watching her but to watch her footwork, and Bruno called her "irresistible," but agreed about her feet being too flat during the dance.
The couples and scores (combined with last week):
Amber and Derek: Carrie Ann, 8; Len, 8; Bruno, 8 = 24 + 27 = 51
Corbin and Karina: 9, 8, 9 = 26 + 24 = 50
Elizabeth and Val: 8, 9, 8 = 25 + 24 = 49
Jack and Cheryl: 8, 8, 8 = 24 + 23 = 47
Christina and Mark: 9, 8, 8 = 25 + 22 = 47
Brant and Peta: 8, 7, 8 = 23 + 22 = 45
Leah and Tony: 8, 8, 8 = 24 + 21 = 45
Nicole and Sasha: 6, 7, 7 = 20 + 23 = 43
Valerie and Tristan: 6, 6, 7 = 19 + 21 = 40
Bill E. and Emma: 7, 7, 7 = 21 + 18 = 39
Keyshawn and Sharna: 6, 6, 6 = 18 + 17 = 35
Bill N. and Tyne: 6, 5, 6 = 17 + 14 = 31
One of the biggest winners on the dance floor was one of the pros. Sunday night, Derek Hough won the Emmy for Outstanding Choreography. Hough was nominated twice in the category, once by himself and once with Allison Holker, for previous routines on DWTS. Hough and the other nominees -- including Sonya Tayeh, Mandy Jo Moore, Napoleon and Tabitha D'umo and Travis Wall, all from "So You Think You Can Dance" -- choreographed a full-scale dance number during the Emmy broadcast. And for the first time, the award was presented during the prime-time awards. Way to go, Derek!
It was only Week 2, but most of this crop of celebrities are dancing like it was Week 6 or 7. If they keep improving, it ought to be an outstanding season. It's too bad that the obligatory sports figure is out, but I think Keyshawn was the right one to be eliminated. Who do you think will be next? See you next week -- keep dancing.