“Dancing With The Stars” is back, socially distant-style! Season 29 of ABC’s hit dancing competition kicked off last night, with a few changes – most notably, Tyra Banks made her debut as the new host after Tom Bergeron’s exit… an invite she says she was “shocked” but thrilled to receive.
Other changes? Len Goodman couldn’t make it from the United Kingdom due to coronavirus, so mirrorball champ Derek Hough is going from pro to judge. Plus, there’s no back-up dancers, and no audience… and some fake cheers to make up for the empty seats! Here’s what happened:
- “Backstreet Boy” AJ McLean and Cheryl Burke teamed up for a Jive to The Weeknd’s hit “Blinding Lights.” It seems like so long ago that his boy band member Nick Carter took second place with Sharna Burgess, and it was just as clear how comfortable AJ is performing. They scored an 18 out of 30 for their debut routine.
- Chrishell Stause is a breakout star of Netflix’s “Selling Sunset,” but she wasn’t really selling her first routine. She and Gleb Savchenko did the Tango to “Raise Your Glass” by Pink – and while Chrishell showed some major potential, the judge gave their first try a modest 13 out of 30.
- Next up was Vernon David and Peta Murgatroyd, doing the Foxtrot to “All Of Me” by John Legend. Davis seemed genuinely excited to try out ballroom dance and gave it his all, and it paid off despite Carrie Ann Inaba taking off a few points fo illegal lifts as usual. They got a 17 out of 30.
- Anne Heche and Keo Motsepe kept up the high energy and scores with their Cha Cha to Dua Lipa’s hit “Don’t Start Now.” They had a hilarious first meeting, Anne dramatically walking up to him and revealing she was wearing hotpants under her coat. And on the dance floor, it looked like they were having the time of their life. The judges gave the duo an 18 out of 30.
- Then “The Real” co-host Jeannie Mai and Brandon Armstrong hit the dancefloor, doing a killer Salsa to Taylor Dayne’s “Tell It To My Heart.” The judges loved their energy and had high hopes for Jeannie, giving the duo a score of 18.
- Jesse Metcalfe and Sharna Burgess also wowed the judges with their Quickstep to Stevie Wonder’s “Part-Time Lover.” Carrie Ann was all about Jesse’s intensity and enthusiasm… although she was worried it may have messed up the technique a bit. All in all, they got an 18 out of 30.
- Skai Jackson has graduated from Disney Channel star to the youngest “DWTS” competitor yet. She paired up with Alan Bersten for a Tango to “Super Bass” by Nicki Minaj – and boy, did the judges love it. They got a few technical notes, but there was so much energy the judges couldn’t help but give them a 21 out of 30.
- “Bachelorette” alum Kaitlyn Bristowe always dreamed of being a dancer growing up… and it showed during her and Artem Chigvintsev’s Cha Cha to “Stupid Love” by Lady Gaga. The judges gave highly-technical feedback, which is a sign that the duo was doing pretty well – and they got a score of 20 out of 30 to prove it!
- “Catfish” host Nev Schulman also got a high score for his Foxtrot with Jenna Johnson to Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight.” They were told they’re “pleasant to watch,” besides a few constructive notes for next time, and scored a 20 out of 30.
- Johnny Weir is no stranger to a dance routine – on ice, that is. And on the dancefloor sans ice skates he did pretty well, too. Weir and Britt Stewart did the Cha Cha to “Buttons” by The Pussycat Dolls, and while the judges could tell the ballroom was an unfamiliar venue for Weir, he clearly knew how to move. They got an 18 out of 30.
- Then Nelly hit the dance floor with Daniella Karagach, doing the Salsa to one of his own songs, “Ride Wit Me.” All three of the judges had notes for Nelly, although he’s no stranger to performing – I mean, he did a perfectly-timed black flip. In the end, they got a 16 out of 30.
- Finally, it was the moment folks at home have been waiting for. “Tiger King” star Carole Baskin made her debut alongside Pasha Pashkov. Of course, there were plenty of Tiger jokes – for their first routine, a Paso Doble, they had to go ahead and dance to “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor. While it was certainly a spectacle, they didn’t exactly wow the judges, getting the lowest score of the night with an 11 out of 30.
Well, it looks like it’s going to be an interesting season – fake audience noises, Carole Baskin and all. “Dancing With The Stars” airs on Monday nights at 8pm ET on ABC.