"Dancing with the Stars" began its 14th season last night, but just days before, this one seemed sunk in the eyes of some fans who Bronx cheered the relative anonymity of this cast -- Levy, Fegan, Jenkins? Who are they? We now know who they are: Good dancers.
In fact, the 14th season of "Dancing with the Stars" now goes down in the record books as the single best start of any edition, with a pair of 26s (never happened before) for Jaleel White and Katherine Jenkins; a 24 for William Levy; and three -- three! -- 23s for Gladys Knight, Sherri Shepherd, and Jack Wagner. Even Donald Driver, who was terrific, got no better than a 21, which suggests the judges were trying to even this playing field even before the rest of the players took to it.
There hasn't been this strong a start -- everyone in fact scored above a 20 -- ever, and the last time a season came even remotely close was the sixth, when Kristi Yamaguchi started off with a 27 -- a record for week one which still stands. She went on to win, but who knows who will win this one.
Good dancers aside, the numbers were only so-so: 18.5 million for last night's opener, or down about 30 percent from last season. Reason? Quite possibly "The Voice," which is a bona fide hit.
What's going on? Careful cast selection. ABC has seen ratings slide a bit, and an obvious concern has been cast selection. The show has had weak contestants for years, and that means an especially sloppy start to any season. Instead, this cast has started at a high level, and should improve from here.
I see no real reason to radically overhaul my power rankings from Monday's Newsday, but I certainly didn't see Jenkins or Wagner start off like this. If I could reshuffle, I'd have Jenkins in the top five. (I stand by Levy, Driver and Roshon Fegan in the top three.)
Here are three clips from last night -- not necessarily the best, but representative of the night's energy.