Season 14 of Dancing with the Stars kicked off Monday with a few shockeroos – like no score lower than a 20 and declarations by judge Len Goodman and host Tom Bergeron that it was a winning opener. “Without a doubt, this is the best first show of any season,” boasted Goodman, while Bergeron said it was his “favorite season premiere ever” and that the “charisma factor” was “pretty good this first night.”
Amd how about those scores? This year’s B- and C-level celebs earned the highest ever for a season starter. Actor Jaleel White and U.K. opera star Katherine Jenkins posted tying scores of 26 while the “Mexican Brad Pitt” William Levy nabbed a 24 for second place. Even the low scores were high: Three 20s went to rocker Gavin DeGraw, actress Melissa Gilbert, and tennis star Martina Navratilova. With such generous marks, it’s hard to not think: Were the judges unusually kind to the amateurs to help generate excitement for an otherwise lackluster cast?
When asked about the week one scores, Jenkins’ partner Mark Ballas said, “It’s definitely up there, but I think the standard this season is great. I don’t think there was a 5 given. Usually there’s a 5. This is probably the highest scoring, like, all around, though. Dancing wise, there wasn’t a routine I was watching where I was like, wanted to turn away. I was like, ah, ah, ah, after every single one. This is gonna be good.” Added his partner Jenkins, “Honestly, I’m just overwhelmed. Backstage I was getting myself into quite a mess, getting myself stressed out. I just couldn’t believe how lovely the judges were.”
The pair’s next dance, the Jive, might be troublesome as the reserved Jenkins is not used to jiggling what her mamma gave her. “I’m panicking,” she admitted. “I’ll be shaking my bits and I don’t feel comfortable with that.”
White had the not-so-envious position of having to dance after crowd pleasers like the steamy Levy, but he and partner Kym Johnson ended up tying Jenkins for first with his Fox Trot. “Going last, my boy Will Levy and Cheryl [Burke] came back, they were feeling all good, and all the scores were coming back higher than expected and I’m watching all the pros in the background going, ‘They’re giving out 8s tonight?’ I felt confident in our dance, but it’s another thing to be able to execute it in front of everybody,” said White, who kicked off his performing with a wow-inspiring jump.
Being on top doesn’t mean he’s safe next week. He said, “I understand the game. It’s week to week love.” When asked if fans would want to see a hint of his famous Family Matters character, Steve Urkle, White laughed and said, “Do you see this woman right here? Do you see the elegance standing next to me right now? Why in God’s name would I put on a pair of suspenders and hike up any kind of pants and stand next to this? If somebody could give me an argument why I would do that, I’d accept it!”
Uh, here’s one reason: Ratings!