March 26, 2012 at 9:11 AM ET
As many "Dancing With the Stars" fans -- including yours truly -- noticed last Monday night, hoofer hopeful Melissa Gilbert endured unusually tough criticism and low scores after putting on a strong first dance of the season. And that hardly seemed like random ballroom happenstance, given that her partner is Maksim Chmerkovskiy -- aka the easy-on-the-eyes pro who's had anything but easy relations with the judges over the past few seasons.
So, if the early bout of nitpicking and questionable scores came across as unfair to some outsiders, then surely the man sometimes referred to as ballroom's bad boy was mad about it. Right?
"He wasn't that angry -- at least not visibly," a show insider revealed to TODAY.com. "(Maks) kept his cool. He just shrugged it off and said, 'It is what it is.' He understands how the judges regard him. He knows the score."
The score, according to the source, is that while the judges consider themselves impartial, Maks, and his partner du jour, might just have a harder time pleasing them than a seemingly preferred pro such as Derek Hough or Kym Johnson. After all, past problems aren't so easy to forget.
"Carrie Ann (Inaba) was genuinely offended by some of his comments -- on and off the show-- last season. But in (Maks') defense, he was offended by her comments (about partner Hope Solo's performances), too. And (Len) Goodman has had his own issues with him," the insider told us.
As for judge Bruno Tonioli, he's said to be a "bit more neutral."
Well, there's that. But what about the powers-that-be-behind the scenes? Do the producers have a problem with the pro?
"No," the insider insisted. "They love what he brings to the show."
Of course, despite Maks' comments last season, in which he declared that it was his show -- not that he meant it that way -- there are others on the dance floor this season -- like the stars. And so far, according to the source, they seem to be a friendly, scandal-free bunch.
"It's a good group of people" the show source told us. "Everyone likes each other. No scandals, no problems. ... I think the press tried to stir up a scandal about Sherri (Shepherd), saying she cheated, but I've seen no signs on anyone actually taking stock in that talk."
Are you looking forward to a drama-free season, or do you think Maks -- or maybe someone else -- will add some unchoreographed excitement to the show? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.