Dancing With the Stars season premiere recap: Thirteenth Time's the Charm

Chaz Bono and Carson Kressley party in the ballroom in a fast-paced season 13 premiere
Ep. 01 | Aired Sep 19, 2011

WALTZ THIS WAY Tony and Chynna stepped out of a dream and straight into Bruno Tonioli's heart. (Oh, he'll get dirtier.)

ABC

It's a whole new season, DANCMSTRs, and this time that means a whole new Dancing With the Stars set! Everything is HUGE now, there's a Wheel of Fortune-esque logo on the judges' table, and the opening credits feature the cast posing "confidently" in an empty theater. It's much too early to dismiss the show's new look, but I do already miss the cozy ballroom-in-the-basement feel, the fancy script, and the purple kaleidoscope background patterns that would either give me tremors or leave me comfortably numb, depending on my mood.

I love that Harold Wheeler and his merry band of tricksters get their own official introduction at the top (instead of Tom always having to wing a mention of them an hour and a half in), but the new "parting of the Red Stairs" effect has me very worried that the days of DWTS' loving zoom-ins on Enthusiastic Chimes Lady could be over. To be fair, Impeccably Manicured Trumpeter, another band fave, got showcased at the end of the cast's awkward descent down the steep new stairs. But the shot of him seemed so dark and somber. We could barely see his nails. What is the point?

The crowd's now arranged on three levels, so that more people can witness the gladiators, but no one has to actually touch each other. The whole thing looks like a more colorful and TRON-ier version of Daddy Warbucks' mansion in Annie. I think I'm gonna like it here, but I might need more time to adjust to my new adoptive father, Len Goodman. It's so weird when he wears that one-piece bathing suit in our pool.

Perhaps the craziest new set switch is that the dreaded "celebriquarium" has been replaced by some much higher new living quarters for Brooke Burke-Charvet. No one is happier than I am that we'll never have to hear or say (or spell, ugh) "celebriquarium" again. But what is this new thing? Is it a skybox? Is it a mezzanine? EW.com reader CA suggested calling it the "celebraskyboxmazzaine," but that doesn't sound quite right. I'll workshop some stuff. You let me know.

NEXT: At least one thing hasn't changed. Drumroll please. Everyone ready?!

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