John M. Heller/Getty, Theo Wargo/WireImage
Monica Rizzo
March 21, 2011 10:30 PM

The first night of every season of Dancing with the Stars is like pulling back a big curtain on a game show that will either reveal something you can t take your eyes off of – or something you wish you hadn’t seen.

Monday night’s season 12 premiere was a little of both. With only three weeks to prepare for their ballroom debuts, here are how the dancers fared:

PHOTOS: It’s Dancing Time! Inside the Stars’ Rehearsals

Starting with a Bang
The Karate Kid Ralph Macchio immediately became the dancer to beat, earning a night-best 24 points and loads of crowd love. Women and girls screamed so loudly after his foxtrot that the judges could barely be heard. “What an amazing surprise!” said Carrie Ann Inaba. “It shocked me that you had such elegance.” Len Goodman declared his performance “the best foxtrot tonight.”

Cheers, Not Jeers
Kirstie Alley lived up to her hype with an amazing cha cha that brought down the house and garnered an impressive 23 points. Bruno Tonioli declared her cha cha “the best of the night” and said he can’t wait for what’s next. “I feel like we’re just scratching the surface,” he said.

Promising Signs
Proving how talented this season’s slate is, Disney star Chelsea Kane delivered a strong 21-point performance. “That was one-and-a-half minutes of pure afterglow,” gushed Tonioli of her foxtrot. Right up with her, also with 21 points, was NFL player Hines Ward, whose technique matched his charm. “You are exuberant and your smile lights up the whole stage,” Inaba said of Ward’s cha cha.

Girl Next-Door Appeal
Kendra Wilkinson charmed the audience, but what her cha cha had in high energy it lacked in points. Tonioli commended her “full-frontal attack” but criticized her legwork.

Needs Improvement – Now!
Mike Catherwood and Wendy Williams may have the gift of the gab, but lacked the moves. “You looked like you were constipated,” Tonioli told Catherwood, who finished with the night’s lowest score of just 13 points. Williams was down there with him with a 14 for her stiff cha cha.

Next Monday, all 11 contestants return to the ballroom for a new dance. Fan votes from the first two weeks will be combined with the judges’ scores to determine who will be eliminated on the season’s first live results show, March 29 on ABC.

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