'Dancing with the Stars' Season 17 Episode 1 recap: Amber Riley impresses, Bill Nye struggles on DWTS premiere

Can Bill Nye defy reality TV science and remain on "Dancing with the Stars," despite getting the lowest judges' scores on the season 17 premiere?

I think so.

Bill Nye the Science Guy was the lowest vote-getter on "Dancing with the Stars," which began its new season Sept. 16 on ABC. Bill earned just 14 points out of a possible 30. But he has a high intrigue factor, as illustrated by the audience that chanted his name after his performance.

On the other end of the spectrum, "Glee" star Amber Riley earned the best judges' score on the premiere: 27 out of 30 points.

Riley's performance was impressive, but I came away from the show rooting for Jack Osbourne and Snooki, who apparently now likes to be called Nicole.

Overall, it was an entertaining premiere, marred only slightly by the number of contestants with dancing backgrounds. I'd prefer a few more genuine amateurs, but maybe that's just me.

Discussion time: Who's your favorite contestant?

Here's a full recap of Monday's premiere.


Brant Daugherty and Peta Murgatroyd kick off the show by performing the cha-cha. Brant plays Noel Kahn on "Pretty Little Liars." We get a cute behind-the-scenes look at Peta asking Brant if he's single. The answer is "yes." No surprise: The first routine of the season is set to Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines." Clearly, Brant is supposed to be this season's heartthrob. He's not an entirely bad dancer, though. Lots of energy and good stage presence.

Len: "That was fabulous." 8

Bruno: "Very hot...a sizzling teaser of things to come...You lost timing." 7

Carrie Ann: "I definitely see double threat potential." 7

Final score: 22/30

Leah Remini and Tony Dovolani perform a foxtrot to "Tears Dry on Their Own." Leah is widely known for her role on "The King of Queens." She also left the Church of Scientology. Tony calls Leah "a force of nature" and says she needs to stop judging herself. Leah seems extremely nervous...or maybe it's just an act for the cameras. Either way, the dance turns out fine -- even though it seems like Tony played it safe with the choreography.

Bruno: "I want you to twerk next week." 7

Carrie Ann: "You are sass and class...Your hands are gorgeous." 7

Len: "It was a little bit careful in places...It was clean, it was precise." 7

Final score: 21/30

Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff perform a contemporary dance to "If I Lose Myself." Corbin starred in "High School Musical." Karina says it's her first contemporary routine EVER. She says when it comes to Corbin, she's met her match in the crazy department. They suggest Corbin will be held to a higher standard because of his dance background. His experience is pretty evident in his dance, which is very polished. Strong performance overall. Is anyone going to fail this season?

Carrie Ann: "That was beautiful and passionate...Emotion, emotion." 8

Len: "The standard has been fantastic and this is no exception." 8

Bruno: "Strong, powerful, athletic." 8

Final score: 24/30

Jack Osbourne and Cheryl Burke perform the foxtrot to "Pack Up." Jack is the son of Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne. Jack was diagnosed with MS in May 2012. He wants to use the show to raise awareness of MS. His sister, Kelly, was on "Dancing with the Stars" and placed third. Cheryl says Jack underestimates himself. Suddenly, I'm a huge Jack fan. I wasn't expecting this to happen. He does a fine job on the dance floor, too. Very classy. I get a little emotional watching his mom cry in the audience.

Len: "You can dance...you're going to give your sister a run for her money." 8

Bruno: "You did it incredibly well...watch your turns." 7

Carrie Ann: "You are a ballroom dancer. That was nothing but class." 8

Final score: 23/30

Amber Riley and Derek Hough perform a cha-cha to "Wings," a tune originally performed by Little Mix. Amber plays Mercedes on "Glee." A bunch of the "Glee" kids are in the audience. Derek says he and Amber have great chemistry. Amber says she's a good role model for young girls because she's not the typical skinny dancer. Wow...very strong performance. Amber's theater training is definitely evident. She seems like a pro. Strongest performance so far.

Bruno: "You are the tigress of season 17." 9

Carrie Ann: "I'm hot." 9

Len: "Week one and you come out and dance like that...incredible." 9

Final score: 27/30

Elizabeth Berkley and Val Chmerkovskiy perform a contemporary routine to "Imagine." Excuse me: Officially, Elizabeth's name is "Elizabeth Berkley Lauren." She's also a new mom. Another fun fact? Apparently, Val learned English from "Saved by the Bell." But he admits he liked Kelly better than Jessie on the show. Elizabeth says she danced when she was younger, but abandoned the dancing world around the time that she starred in "Showgirls." It was a difficult time. Either way, her dance background is evident tonight. Another solid performance.

Carrie Ann: "I saw you in 'Showgirls,' but you are far superior now." 8

Len: "It was just lovely to watch." 8

Bruno: "The original showgirl is back...she means business." 8

Final score: 24/30

Bill Nye the Science Guy and Tyne Stecklein perform a cha-cha to "Weird Science." Collectively, they're called "Hot Knowledge." Um, OK. We see some sweet footage of Bill bringing Tyne a flower and incorporating a science lesson into the exchange. Even Bill has some experience in couples dancing. He promises a "cha-cha experience like you've never seen." Well, it's sort of underwhelming. Despite the cool neon science theme, Bill isn't much of a dancer. The performance is more theatrical than anything else. Either way, the crowd loves him and chants his name after the performance.

Len: "It was like being waxed." 4

Bruno: "This formula is not going to get you the Nobel Prize." 5

Carrie Ann: "You were alive and you were so happy to be dancing...You are the heart of the show." 5

Final score: 14/30

Keyshawn Johnson and Sharna Burgess perform a cha-cha to "Treasure." Keyshawn is a former NFL wide receiver. He says ballroom dancing seems a little feminine. This is another performance that seems a little underwhelming. From a technical standpoint, Keyshawn is a better dancer than Bill Nye. But the performance lacks the necessary "oomph." For the most part, it seems like Keyshawn just stands there while Sharna does a bunch of cool stuff.

Bruno: "The issue is the timing...sometimes, you lost the timing." 6

Carrie Ann: "The beginning was a little stiff, a little nervous." 6

Len: "Came out and gave it some. Well done." 5

Final score: 17/30

Christina Milian and Mark Ballas perform a contemporary dance to "Clarity." Christina is a singer and she suggests she'll be held to a higher standard, but she swears she's never danced with a partner before. That said, her professional skills are evident in this performance. We get a slowed-down version of "Clarity" and a performance that's packed with emotion. It seems like the "wow" factor is slightly missing, but it's a good debut effort.

Carrie Ann: "I think that you're better than you think you are...You are a gorgeous dancer." 7

Len: "I think this dance really suited you." 7

Bruno: "I loved the intensity...I liked that very much." 8

Final score: 22/30

Bill Engvall and Emma Slater perform a foxtrot to "Hot Stuff." Bill is an actor and comedian. Bill wants to be "the redneck dancing king." Actually, I expected Bill to be much worse. Granted, he's hardly at Amber Riley's level. But his performance is pretty much what you'd expect from someone with no prior dance training. No jaw-dropping moments. No train wreck moments, either. Even though his performance exceeded my expectations, I think Bill might be in trouble when it comes to viewers' votes.

Len: "Well done." 6

Bruno: "I felt something...I don't know what it was, but I definitely felt something." 6

Carrie Ann: "I was happily surprised." 6

Final score: 18/30

Valerie Harper and Tristan MacManus perform a foxtrot to "Some Kind of Wonderful." Earlier this year, Valerie announced she has terminal cancer. Her approach? "Stop complaining and let's attack it." Valerie danced as a teenager and calls dancing "an unfulfilled dream." Wow...Valerie is such an inspiration. She's not a bad dancer, either. The performance is very classy and elegant. Is it the most challenging choreography ever? No, but I still love Valerie. After the routine, she says, "It's good to be alive and it's even better to be dancing."

Bruno: "You were radiant, stylish...you moved very well." 7

Carrie Ann: "Thank you for being on our show...you brought me to tears with your courage." 7

Len: "There was an ease and an elegance to it." 7

Final score: 21/30

Snooki and Sasha Farber perform a cha-cha to "Wild Ones." Apparently, Snooki wants to be called Nicole now. Whatever. I'm still calling her Snooki. Snooki claims that she's all grown up after her "Jersey Shore" days. She says, "I'm not a hot mess like people really think I am...but I still really think that I'm a hot mess." Um, sure. Actually, this performance is surprisingly solid. In fact, I really enjoy it. Snooki wears a fairly conservative outfit at first, but tears it off to showcase something more revealing. Did I just become a Snooki fan? Sadly, I think the answer is "yes."

Carrie Ann: "That was great. I was really impressed." 8

Len: "Like a little pocket rocket...I loved your footwork." 8

Bruno: "I love the way you go for it...Your legs, for a non-dancer, are so well-placed." 7

Final score: 23/30