One episode into the 18th season of "Dancing With the Stars," we have a winner -- Amy Purdy -- and if she doesn't win, then we have a controversy: How could she not have won?
So much -- in other words -- for inherent drama. But what else to say about last night's re-furbished "Dancing with the Stars," which has a new co-host, Erin Andrews, and new band, headed by Ray Chew?
Quickly, Andrews: Easy to see why she was brought aboard, over the the fired Brooke Burke-Charvet. Andrews brings a sports reporting background to the task, which makes her opens, introductions and analysis seem reasonably fluid and chatty, as if she's debriefing some TE after he caught the game-winning touchdown.
So let's go ahead and call this an "improvement."
Now, to the band. As you know, Harold Wheeler was dropped after a 17-season run, sparking a union backlash and a misinformation campaign -- notably that "DWTS" had also dumped live music in favor of pre-recorded tracks to save money.
That was, of course, not exactly correct because Ray Chew -- an equally acclaimed musician -- was brought aboard shortly thereafter.
But after last night's opener, I'm still somewhat puzzled. Why Chew versus Wheeler?
There are, so far, no obvious answers.
Chew -- as did Wheeler -- provided expert cover of contemporary songs, including Pitbull, Keane, Kelly Clarkson, One Direction, Robin Thicke, Ellie Goulding, Icona Pop and Passenger.
Chew's core group of singers and backup vocals were solid. But so were Wheeler's.
The key differences, as best I could tell, is that Chew's somewhat smaller orchestra has a stronger baseline (though what else would you have with Pitbull or Icona?) and a slightly more contemporary sound.
Foremost, Chew also seems to have a slighter sound, less dependent on synth, or brass to add muscle to the scores.
Bottom line: No huge difference. Both quality musicians with quality support, except -- possibly, maybe, don't-hold-me-to-this -- Chew is a bit more contemporary.
On the downside, his orchestra seems to offer up a smaller sound compared to Wheeler's, but I'm also certain there were a couple of instances last night (again, Pitbull, Icona, Keane) where that wasn't necessarily true.
Which leads to the obvious question -- why did this change take place?
If you're still with me on this post, let's go to the 'tape, so to speak. Here was Jason Derulo from last night, and from last season, for contrast.
(App readers, watch here: http://bit.ly/1j0GRWB. Unfortunately, this content is unavailable on mobile phones.)
Derulo last night...
Derulo last season...