Let it not be said the season six of "Dancing with the Stars" did not get off to a great start. In fact, the opening number featuring all of this season's professional dancers was one of the most visually striking and exciting segments in the show's history.
From there, it was pretty much downhill, save for a precious few moments of real excitement. With a roster of 12 celebrities that's as disparate as can be, this season showed little wow factor Monday night as the guys strutted their stuff on the boards.
First up was Penn Jillette, the self-proclaimed Sasquatch of the ballroom. He pretty much lived up to his own billing, proving that you can lead a Big Foot to the ballroom, but you can't make him step lively. The judges, uhm, rewarded his footwork prowess with 16 points out of 30. Penn maintained his sense of humor, while partner Kym Johnson was popping out all over from her white spangly number of a costume. Judge Bruno Tonioli delivered his first quip of the new season, summing up Teller's technique as follows: "The hip action was more like hip-replacement action."
Miami Dolphin defensive end Jason Taylor fared much better (he's one to watch this season), proving that he and partner Edyta Sliwinska could dance as good as they looked. Loved her blue dress, one of the most unrevealing costumes she's ever worn. An elegant fox trot all the way around. Score: 22.
Latin heartthrob Cristian de la Fuente and partner Cheryl Burke brought a bit of heat to the cha cha cha, earning 21 points for their efforts. The judges rightfully pointed out de la Fuente's drooping shoulders, with Bruno Tonioli telling the actor a thing or two about proper dancing: "[Cheryl] bangs. You have to bang as hard as she does." Bruno, Bruno, Bruno.
Last year's pro Julianne Hough (with co-champ Helio Castroneves looking on puppy-doggishly from the sidelines) did everything she could with the incessantly blathering Adam Carolla, who, decked out in tails and white tie resembled Peter Boyle in "Young Frankenstein." Only, Boyle's routine was hilarious on purpose. Score: 15.
R&B superstar Mario was the evening's most confident gent, skillfully strutting his cha cha cha stuff on the boards with partner Karina Smirnoff (who underwent neck surgery during the show's rehearsal weeks for a herniated disc). No visible signs of trauma on this night. Smirnoff sizzled in the night's best mini-dress of a costume. The duo wound up with the night's highest score, 24. The pair is here to stay.
And last, this season's elder statesman: a coy Steve "This is the greatest night of my career" Guttenberg wasn't quite as horrible as many bloggers this winter expected. He had a blast out there, earning 18 points for the quasi- fox trot with partner Anna Trebunskaya.
The ladies looked on from the gallery. And what an interesting lot they are. Can someone tell Priscilla Presley that it's OK to smile? Ditto Monica Seles. The pair looked positively embalmed every time the camera glanced their way. (Presley and Seles should be no strangers to millions of eyes gawking at them.) Best quip from the ladies? During a video montage of their best fighting words, actress Marlee Matlin remarked, "Read my hips." Look for Matlin to be a formidable competitor in the coming weeks.