"Dancing with the Stars" 2014 premiered March 17 on ABC with what could arguably be termed the best cast of the series' 18 seasons. Although the final leader board rankings failed to reflect it, one of the evening's most memorable moments belonged to Olympic gold medalist Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy, whose precise cha cha cha ignited a firestorm of fandom in the ballroom.
When the dynamic duo first met, Davis said she was "absolutely thrilled" to have Ukrainian heartthrob Chmerkovskiy as her professional partner. The 33-year old dancer was just as delighted to have Davis as his ballroom better half, gushing that he'd just seen her win Olympic gold and telling her, bluntly, that he wanted to marry her. Both promised to give their all during the season.
Their debut dance, set to Icona Pop's "All Night," definitely didn't disappoint. Davis' spins, extensions, speed, and expression were all of top-notch quality. If forced to nit-pick, it could be noted that she completed one spin on a slightly tilted axis and her footwork could've been a hair more precise, but all in all, it was an incredible offering for "DWTS" week one and the live audience rewarded the pair with enthusiastic cheers.
Davis and Chmerkovskiy also earned praise from all three judges. Over the ongoing screams of the crowd, Carrie Ann Inaba said "You lit up this ballroom." Finicky head panelist Len Goodman followed by quipping "You're nice on ice, but I'm telling you this: you're good on wood." Only Bruno Tonioli offered up criticism, telling Davis to "watch the back of your legs." Despite the suggestion, he seemed awed by the dance, and marveled over what he termed a "fantastic" debut.
Despite the glowing remarks, the judges' scores added up to a lackluster 24 points, placing Davis and Chmerkovskiy in a three-way tie for third place with "The Wonder Years" actress Danica McKellar and Val Chmerkovskiy and Paralympian Amy Purdy and Derek Hough. Davis' ice dance partner Charlie White and Sharna Burgess hold the top spot on the week one leader board with 27 points.
According to a reveal made at the close of the two-hour premiere, Davis and Chmerkovskiy will perform a swing dance for the March 24 show, should they survive the viewer vote.
"Dancing with the Stars" 2014 resumes March 24 on ABC.