I was out of of the office yesterday, mostly doing graduate-student business, but I did catch up with some TV, including the first performance round of the latest season of "Dancing With the Stars." Kind of a same-old-same-old beginning: Kendra Wilkinson instead of Holly Madison, Psycho instead of Steve-O, Hines instead of Emmitt, and so on. But there are still the individual dances, and the chance to discuss. In fact, even though the bride was out of town for a conference, she watched it there and we texted comments back and forth during the show.
Anyway, here are some short takes on the contestants, in alphabetical order.
Kirstie Alley. The "Cheers" star closed the show, and she did remarkably well. With Ralph Macchio I would rank her among the best of the night. I don't particularly like her, and I anticipate big fireworks with Maks at some point. And first-night dances are supposed to be good, because the celebs have more rehearsal time for them. But I was still impressed.
"Psycho" Mike Catherwood. As I said, he's the Steve-O of this season, or the Adam Carolla, the wacky dude meant to bring in guys who have a "Jackass" box set and will watch anything if wackiness is promised. But he has none of the endearingly-recovered quality of Steve, and he's a really bad dancer.
Chris Jericho. He's a big guy. Really big, and it was interesting to hear Cheryl Burke explain the limitations of dancing with someone as muscled up as this. No more than adequate as a dancer, though, and not at all memorable.
Chelsea Kane. She led off the night and was pretty good -- not far behind Macchio and Alley in my estimation. Another example of the skills that young people pick up in the Disney factory.
Sugar Ray Leonard. He seemed to please the judges somewhat, but I thought he was a little awkward -- very tight in the seat, if you know what I mean. Clearly has not yet found his comfort zone on the show.
Ralph Macchio. The hair! He's got Tom DeLay hair! But he was also quite good as a dancer. And as such, he and Alley reinforced my feeling that performers with plenty of time to rehearse -- and you know what I'm saying there -- tend to shine on the show.
Petra Nemcova. Classic leggy dancer, probably would have been with D-Hough if he was on this round. Good, too, and the emotions about Japan felt genuine.
Romeo. What can you say after you've said he's not as bad as his father? Of course, that's why he's on. It's the "DWTS" codicil to "The Bachelor": If you can find someone with a story that links to previous seasons, so much the better. (See: Lisa Rinna/Harry Hamlin.)
Hines Ward. Energetic but I actually expected better. Football players have shone on the show -- see E. Smith, J. Taylor, among others -- and Hines wasn't on that level, at least to start with.
Kendra Wilkinson. If the best we can say about Romeo is that he is better than Master P, then the best I can say about Kendra for now is that she's better than Holly M. In fact, she has a lot more potential, it seems, than the slow-footed Holly. But there's a long way, and some tough dancing, to go.
Wendy Williams. Oh, law. With Psycho, one of the worst dancers of the night. She may have a fan base from her talk show, but she sure didn't add to it last night.
Anyway, those are my early thoughts. Agree/disagree?