'Dancing with the Stars' begins, reveals Holly Madison, Melissa Rycroft
By John Bracchitta, 03/10/2009
Dancing with the Stars kicked off its eighth season last night with debut dances from the season's 11 remaining previously announced celebrities as well as last-minute replacements Holly Madison and Melissa Rycroft.
Madison, a former Playboy Playmate who co-stars in E!'s The Girls Next Door, was added to the show last week after singer Jewel Kilcher suffered fractured tibias in both of her legs during training with her professional partner Dmitry Chaplin and had to withdraw from the competition.
Rycroft -- who was proposed to by thirteenth-season The Bachelor star Jason Mesnick but was subsequently dumped in favor of runner-up Molly Malaney during the After the Final Rose special -- was added to the cast only three days ago. Rycroft, a 25-year-old sales representative and former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader from Dallas TX, replaced Nancy O'Dell after the Access Hollywood co-anchor suffered a torn meniscus in her knee during practice with her professional partner Tony Dovolani.
O'Dell is scheduled to undergo surgery that will require 6-8 weeks of rehab for the injury.
"I'm definitely disappointed I won't get to dance. My will to dance was stronger than my bones apparently," said Jewel, who added that she would be singing atDancing with the Stars' first elimination show next Tuesday at 8PM ET/PT on ABC. "I'll be here to cheer [my husband Ty Murray] on, and I'll actually get to come back and sing for my husband since I can't dance with him, so that'll be nice."
"I'm a little jealous, I must admit," O'Dell said with a laugh, referring to seeing another celebrity dance with Dovolani. "I'm disappointed man, I'm competitive. I've played sports all my life. I was excited."
Madison and Chaplin were the first of the newly announced couples to perform on the show after only one week of practice. However, the couple still turned in a decent effort, drawing a score of 18 from judges Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli for their cha-cha-cha performance set to Lady GaGa's "Just Dance."
Goodman thought that the performance "wasn't bad" and was sure that Madison would come out stronger once she had more time to practice. Inaba added that Madison shouldn't be discouraged by her performance and said that once she had developed the necessary strength that she would "be fine." Tonioli said that Madison was "easy on the eyes" but told her that she lost her timing numerous times during the dance. However, he also reassured her that "there is hope" for her.
"It was really scary, I mean I definitely could've used the extra time, but I had a lot of fun with it anyway," Madison said after her performance.
Rycroft and Dovolani were the last couple to perform. Prior to their performance, Dancing with the Stars host Tom Bergeron noted that Rycroft's two days of training was the least amount of training for a contestant in the show's history and wished her good luck.
"Let's hope this Monday is kinder to her than last Monday," Tom said, referring to The Bachelor finale that ABC had aired a week earlier.
Despite her lack of training, Rycroft and Dovolani received a judges' score of 23 for their waltz to Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini's "Moon River."
"I think The Bachelor's loss is Dancing with the Stars' gain," said Goodman, who added that Rycroft's past ballet experience was obvious during the performance but she needed to begin dancing with her heels instead of her toes.
Tonioli added that "The Bachelor guy" was "a loser" -- causing the studio audience to cheer -- and called Rycroft a "revelation." Inaba said that she did a "wonderful job" and was a "beautiful dancer" but warned her to connect emotionally with her dances and not simply enjoy that she was on the show.
"I'm overwhelmed with everything. I'm relieved that the two days we put in, it feels like it paid off," Rycroft said following her performance. "I feel good about that."
"I took all the ballet moves that I could take and just put some waltz around it," Dovolani said about his strategy for his short two-day training session with Rycroft.
"Everybody has been so supportive," Rycroft said about the audience cheers -- which included a standing ovation from O'Dell -- she received after performing her waltz with Dovolani. "And I was looking around going 'I'm okay, I'm good.'"
Rycroft and Dovolani's score was one point off of the high score for the night, a 24 that was given to Sex and the City actor Gilles Marini and his professional partner Cheryl Burke. The low score of the night came from Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak and his partner Karina Smirnoff, who received a score of 13.
The judges scores from the first week's performance show will be combined with the scores from next Monday's performance show along with the viewer's votes to determine the bottom two teams for next Tuesday's elimination show. Adding to the drama, the results show will also feature a "Dance Off" twist between the bottom two couples that will give couple one last chance to stave off elimination.