Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Eagle has landed - crashing down and sending everybody diving for cover


What a start to the show - great music, if not 20s music, energy, fun, humour, full of story telling. And I thought it was the best use of props of the prop-tastic season so far. Having spent two months teaching cane as a prop, I know not only how difficult a cane is as a prop, but also how hard it is to co-ordinate with dance steps and to get the timing right for partner dancing.

Adonis and Blonde Ambition

I can't help thinking he is showing his hand far too soon in the competiion. He has already done dead gran, supportive grandad, and now it is the turn of the cute embarrassed kid. Natalie has been given the wrong date for Children in Need, and has come dressed in Pudsey Bear yellow, but given the absence of splits in the routine, I think I can forgive her. And what a routine! Fair play to Natalie - great teaching, great choreography, and great interpretation of the music.


Sweet! Finally we get to a dance he is good at! They skip and run around channelling Bugsy Malone for all they can, and end up looking like a couple of 14 year old stage school kids. Seriously overmarked.

Flethible Felithity and her paramour

Once more some great smoke and mirros choreo from Vincent, who made the most of her now legendary flexibility and her acting skills. A little too much A/T rather than tango, but still a good dance and much improved. She needed more flexion in her knees, and I was dismayed to see her facial expressions signalling her nervous moments, but all in all her best effort. Loved the music.

The Serial Bride and her New Best Friend

Great fun all round. She looked great, she had the attitude, she had the moves, but was a bit heavy footed and ran out of steam. "I am middle aged" was a great riposte to Craig, but oh my god as I am the same age, does that mean that I too am middle aged!

The Bots

I am not sure whether he is actually a comic genuis and a superb brain, and is single handedly subverting the whole reality TV genre, or whether what you see is what you get. Still pondering. He slipped in the first few seconds, almost dropped the Katbot and it went downhill from there on in. And he got slaughtered for it. Sympathy vote ahoy.

Shilts and Sally Bowles

Wow that was a good outfit! But it didn't detract from his dad dancing, and who-oh-who confused Weimar Germany with the Roaring Twenties, and choreographed accordingly.


I have to really try hard not to go overboard with these two. Think the musical interpretation was good, her sense of drama was great, but she looked a little rushed in places. Still love her, even though it didn't quite hit previous heights.

Farmer Giles and Scarlett O' Hara

Quit with the gimmicks! He is too good for this. And actually as a Charleston, despite his obvious ability, I enjoyed this less than Pats and Robin, and Kara and Artem.

Michelle and Ian

Oh Ian, Oh Ian, please bring back my Ian! He has done as well as anyone can do with a ragdoll of Laila proportions, and she actually looked like she was enjoying herself. And well done Brucie for the little jibe of "Ian, always one of my favourite dancers".

Perfect Couple

Ah, so we have the visiting the parents VT! Thought the dance was great, if less fun than others, but technically wonderful. Hope against hope that they do not lose out to the juggernaut that is....


Not funny, not clever, not dancing, not endearing. Dumbo go home, please.


Squee - a jive choreographed by Matt Cutler. Thought it was classy. Un-squee...didn't feature the divine one.

Tango pro dance - ok so Flavia's fantasies were slightly less disturbing this week, but still a tad bizarre.

Neil Diamond - at least he can still do the business, and he generously acknowledged the dancers, Brickie Robin and Flashy Kristina. Not a partnership made in heaven, and I feel that I know more about Kristina than anyone bar her gynaecologist should know.

And sadly, Miss Whiplash faded into the background, third out, just like series 5, with the erstwhile England goalie trailing in her wake.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Saved by the spots...

From the saccharine overdose that would have been the Twee-fest rumba. Such a shame that Jared couldn’t dance the weekend his family flew out to see him though. Surely the powers that be could have let him have a go with another pro, whilst Tina is recovering from chicken pox. I hear Lilia is free on a Saturday evening at the moment.

I must be mellowing, because I actually found one of Bruce’s jokes funny, and laughed out loud when he invoked “Goodman – Len Goodman – double oh SEVEN!”. Got to be his best joke in all 8 series so far.

The beautiful ones
Kara is such a gorgeous dancer, and I am glad that she is not being over praised with the type of hyperbole that did for Emma Bunton and Ali Bastian. Also glad that the producers are not pushing the storyline of “this is the girl that sleeps with her co-stars”. I would have preferred to have seen much more quickstep and much less “faffing around”. Obviously the cartwheel in long dress and high heels was a triumph but I just can’t get the mental image of Craig doing a cartwheel in high heels out of my head now. Not good.

Vinthent and his flethible friendBest line of the night so far – “I didn’t say he was a stallion, I said he was Italian” (even though it was probably contrived). This looked to be a stunning leap forward for Felicity, but actually it was Vincent very cleverly realising that her amazing bendiness would create some wow moments. There was actually very little rumba in there, more a succession of athletic poses interspersed with some acting. Her arms and hands still need a lot of work, but at least her hips were moving, and she seemed to convey an air of slight vulnerability, which suited the song choice perfectly. I did, however, need a bucket for the end of the song when a twee rainbow was lit up at the end of the stage.

The serial bride and her new best friend
Poor Patsy! Out of time at the very beginning (but at least she is confident about being out of hold, and selling the routine), and struggling to keep up with a fast and furious number that was way too complicated for her current ability level. What was Robin thinking of? Shows his inexperience that he choreographed a routine that relied so heavily on her hitting the first beat when out of hold and not able to see him. She recovered quickly though, and her timing does seem to be generally quite good.

The magician and her assistant
Oh dear Ola is wearing clothes. She really is fed up and wants to go home. Not that I can blame her. More magic tricks (yawn) but at least there was some humour, and a bit of a story line. She had choreographed a suitable rumba for his level, and didn’t give into the temptation to outdance him. And to think, until last year, I didn’t rate Ola at all. How wrong could I have been!

Country boy and the scarlet womanMatt continues to impress me, and his frame was excellent throughout. I thought the beginning was over-gimmicky and unnecessary, and I suspect that they went wrong in the middle, but overall pretty good. Have no idea why Len chose to blow a gasket at the faffing about in their dance, when he chose to ignore the amount of faffing in Kara and Artem’s. Can only surmise that he doesn’t rate Aliona and is laying down the law with her in the hope that her choreography improves this series.

GavBot and KatBotOh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I really can’t work out whether Gavin is vain, insecure or totally unaware of how he comes across. The interviews after he had danced are always more entertaining than the dance themselves.

Best choice of music since Erin snaffled Chim Chim Cheree for her AS last series. Proper quickstep, great music, bouncing with personality and humour. Looks like Natalie has finally taken on board some lessons from last year.

Sour puss and a heroGiven that Brendan had heard of his father’s death shortly before the live show, but had decided to dance anyway, so as not to let his partner down, the sour puss could have found it in her to show some interest in the dance. Instead she chewed wasps throughout and allowed Brendan to manoeuvre her from one awkward pose into the next, her hips welded into straight mode, and her shoulders masquerading as ear rings. Bad show Michelle.

Shilts and Miss WhiplashLovely, original dress for Erin, always the best dressed pro, and a classic quickstep that made him look as good as was possible. Ploddy, but a dance that he can hold his head up about, and erase the memory of last week’s salsa.

The giggle twinsI am starting to feel a bit let down by this couple. I had such high hopes for them. I still love their partnership, but wish that he was starting to show some improvement. His hips move and his shoulders move, but it seems as though they are moving at odds to each other, instead of complementing each other. Very strange hands going on as well.

WiddibekeHoving regally into view, listing proudly to starboard, here comes the Ark Royal. At least we can be sure that she is not holed below the waterline. But what is this – frivolity with a feather boa? An outfit that threatens to flatter? An attempt at keeping up with at least a few of the steps in the routine? Surely not. I am hoping that the audience tire of the joke pretty soon though. Anne’s assumption that we will vote her in to witness the Charleston, has none of the charm and spontaneity of John Sergeant slying saying “The audience will keep me in”, and sooner or later we will lose a good dancer to prolong a joke that is already wearing thin.

PamJamSublime! She has beautiful expression, great turns, and lovely arms. She poured her heart and soul into the rumba, and really moved me. Fantastically well played by James.

And so to the results show – a clappy happy Charleston, a strictly meets bondage tango, a diabolical performance by Peter Andre, and a lewd, crude parting joke from Paul Daniels. Not really worth half an hour of TV, but at least the first of the jokers has been dropped from the pack.

Monday, 11 October 2010

The first elimination

The launch of the revamped and "revitalised" launch show. Gramps Forsythe has gone home to cocoa in bed, and Tess of the Tumbleweeds has been let loose centre stage. I could have told the producer that this would not end happily, and so it proved. I had high hopes of Claudia, but she was left with very little to do, and her kookiness, as well as her nursery nurse dress, seemed sadly misplaced, in the all new psychologically manipulative results show.

Dragging the results out over 30 minutes, in three different sections, seems unnecessarily cruel on the contestants, and somehow seems to lighten, instead of build, a sense of tension. I know that with the demise of the dance-off, there is a lot of time to fill, and the judges have to have some sort of role in the results show (otherwise they might as well just head to the bar at 8pm), but this just seemed a pointless aping of Dancing with the Stars.

Speaking of the dance off, in some ways I am sad to see it go. Sitting through the two least well received dances one more dreary time could seem a bit much, but at least the judges had a lifeline to throw to the mid table couple unfairly relegated. Without the dance off, Jade might have been ejected the week of her samba, and Alesha might never have even made her final. Mind you, with the dance off, we were deprived of Austin in the final, so its swings and roundabouts.

There is a chance that without the need to keep the sympathy/basket cases out of the bottom two, the voting patterns will normalise, but I am not banking on it, and I am sure that there will be a shock horror elimination before we get rid of La Widdy.

On the plus side, the pro dance troupe proved just what they could do with a beautifully staged and choreographed quickstep, that was almost like old times. Robbie Williams obviously got a taste for being on a big weekend show, and deigned to put in another appearance. On the plus side there, at least he sang live. On the negative side, it might have been better for him to have mimed. Some of the pro dancers put in an appearance, but sadly it seemed rather too like a pole dance. Erin was too busy calling a taxi to put in an appearance, but she should have saved her mobile phone credit, because although in the bottom two, she is back to haul Shilts round the floor in a quickstep next week.

As for the first out, Goldie sashayed round the floor to Bye Bye Baby, looking rather more convincing in his last dance than he had in his two competitive outings. I guess with two duffers, a joker, two hunks and one to spare, Goldie just seemed surplus to requirements when it came to casting the votes.

The week of the long awaited and much trailed Widdibeke Salsa.

Will they be first on, or last on; will the National Power Grid cope with the post-salsa surge? Will Len go lower than a 6? Craig higher than a 1? Will she get the lowest Strictly score ever, or are they saving that for her rumba?
Will she move with more grace than Tess, who evidently hasn’t learnt from last week’s near gusset flash in the opening sequence, and risked giving the audience far more than they bargained for at 5:45 on a Saturday evening? One thing is clear from the opening credits, Widdy can’t even clap in time, and so has about the same level of rhythm as Tess of the Tumbleweeds.

Country boy and the minx

Matt is clearly so talented already, and versatile enough to be able to pull off moody and dangerous as well as cute and wholesome. If he were dancing with any one other than Aliona, I would think him a dead cert for the final, but I am not sure that her choreography is strong enough. She really seems to have taken the attempt o retitle the series “Gimmicks are us” a little too literally. I didn’t like the tango mood for what was supposed to be a foxtrot, and I thought that the end move was completely unnecessary, verging on the crude. On the plus side, he has a great frame, and moves effortlessly. The Beeb seem to be going down the route of “the gymnastics training would be a help, but only if he had time to practice properly”, intercut with footage of Aliona and Matt dancing in a field of pumpkins in their wellies. He certainly didn’t learn footwork like that by dancing in his wellies in the mud!

The former Miss Whiplash and the Dad Dancer

Looks like Erin is really hoping for an early bath this year, and the change to put her feet up and watch the X Factor. I can’t believe that the person who created comic gold with Julian Clary and Ricky Groves, and who got decent ballroom dances from Peter Schmeichel and Willie Thorne, could turn in such a lacklustre effort with Shilts. Still her costume was great, and her abs are to die for, and 8 series is a long time to keep coming up with new ideas.

Twee fest

Pretty hard to tell who is the pro dancer here. Jared’s frame was awful, and there seemed precious little foxtrot in the dance. Pretty damning for Craig to mention that the pro was dancing out of time. Still the show seems intent on sending them on a journey for the sake of the under 10s vote.

The serial bride and husband no 5 (or not)

I like Patsy Kensit! Ok so she has a slight disadvantage in landing the dyslexic pro, who once again read the instructions wrong and turned in the wrong dance. Last week he produced a Viennese instead of a standard Waltz, this week a ChaDiscoCha instead of a SalChamBa, but these mistakes are easy to make in your first series. I thought that nerves were going to eat her up again, but she gave a confident, ballsy performance, really dancing as if she thought it would be her last dance. It was a bit drunken aunt at a wedding, but at least she had fun with it, and the fun was contagious.

The Magician and his assistant

I was a bit worried that Paul had actually snuffed it on live TV when I saw some of the shots of Tumbleweeds Tower, but someone remembered to plug him in and wheel him on for 90 seconds of inoffensive trotting, if not very foxily, around the floor. His riposte to Bruno when asked why he couldn’t dance properly for the entire routine, “Because I can’t remember it” seemed genuinely spontaneous, and oddly self-deprecating for a man of his ego.

Adonis and Blonde Ambition

Just as I thought wardrobe had got their acts back in gear this week, on shimmy Scott and Natalie. Wrong on so many levels. It seems a bit early in the series to be playing the cute grandparent card, but given that Tina played the cute kid card on ITT on Friday (her own toddler, not her pro partner), maybe Scott thought he needed to get in quick. And cute grandparent does stand out rather more than the cute kid schtick. By the end of Series 5, Alesha’s nans could have had their very own programme. Despite the costumes, I liked it a lot, and am even gradually warming to Natalie Lowe.

Sulk and strop

Having done so much to alienate the voting public on ITT mid-week, Michelle needed to do a lot of work this week to avoid bottom two. Brendan chose the sensible tactic of having her sit on a park bench for 30 seconds gazing wistfully into space, which was a vast improvement on her attempts to dance last week. I am beginning to feel sorry for Brendan. He has spent the last 8 series of Strictly desperately doing a live audition for the part of Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing (Series 1: teach brainy, classy girl with two left feet to dance – tick; dance triumphant last dance to “Time of my life” – tick; appear in “Just the two of us” to showcase singing credentials – tick; spend Series 1-6 honing the “break the rules for the sake of the dance” persona – tick; rumba to “She’s like the wind” with Kelly Brooke in series 5 – tick; Series 6: bring cutting edge choreography with iconic lifts to the showdance in the final – well, maybe not) and no West End producer has come calling. Now it is Series 8 and his much-hyped partner turns out to be rhythmically somewhere between Fiona Phillips and Jo Wood, and somewhere between Lisa Snowdon and Kelly Brookes on the likeable personality front. Like Anton, who must realise that he is now employed solely for comic value rather than his dancing skills, Brendan has to accept that his place in the show is dependent on the quality of his strops.

Goldie –locks

And look – they are wearing gold – again! Because it matches his teeth! Wow, this theme is going to get tired really quickly. As is Kristina’s laboured choreography, which had nothing glittering about it at all. Len summed it up so well when he said “More brassy than golden”.


Look! She is wearing a white coat! And look, they are dancing to Dr Beat! Because she is a doctor and all….. Totally unnecessary gimmick when the dance is this good. I was thrilled. It’s prime time TV, and a woman the wrong side of 40 and the wrong side of a size 12 is on screen – dynamic, uninhibited, talented, confident, sexy, hot, and having the time of her life! Go Pamela – all the way to the final. And you have got to love her response to the stumble. Rather than continuing to agonise over a fall a la Kara, she laughs it all off with a “Told James not to throw granny on the floor!”

Felithity and Vinthent

I am just not loving this couple as much as I thought I would. Perhaps Felicity was over-hyped, or perhaps Pamela has stolen the thunder as the over 60-year old to watch. She was sweet and gamine even, but there just seemed to be something lacking.


Well they did what they were paid to do, and photos of Anne and Anton were gracing the pages of the newspapers and will doubtless be shown in the “Best moments of 2010” type shows at the end of December. It does feel a little contrived though, and lacks the innocence and spontaneity of John Sargeant and Kristina; and in terms of real comic value, I actually found moments featuring Chris Parker, Julian Clary, Kenny Logan and John Sargeant far funnier. Still the wind was taken out of Craig’s sails, which is hardly a bad thing. Worryingly, I find myself almost liking Anne and having to remind myself that this is the woman who thought it acceptable for women prisoners to give birth whilst shackled.

The ringer and the new hunk

Absolutely lovely, although the start was a little superfluous. She may not stay the distance though, without the dance off to protect her, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Pamela and maybe even Patsy outlasting her in the competition. At least the judges are trying to shield her from charges of being a teachers’ pet, in that no-one has had the stupidity to start calling her Strictly’s best ever dancer, which was probably what did for Ali Bastian last year in the very first programme.

Gavbot and Katbot

So last week was an aberration. The funny thing is I find it oddly endearing that Gavin is blundering about, showing the least Reality TV friendly personality since Kelly Brooke, and risking the eternal mockery of the rubgy viewing public by exposing his vanity for all to see. And not just his vanity. That was one gimmick much too far, Katya, and I am surprised that Gavin survived Tumbleweeds Tower with Tess on full hormone level alert. I do quite like the way that she argues back at the judges, a bit like Erin before she decided to give up even going through the motions.

The giggle twins

I do hope that these two are really having as much fun as they appear to be and that Jimi is as enthusiastic as he would have us think. Being cynical, part of me thinks that the producers have concocted a strategy that is part best bits of Darren and Lilia and part best bits of Team Cola, with added gurning. But if they really are having such a blast, it will do them no harm in the voting stakes. His dancing is slightly disappointing, compared to my high expectations, but if he can turn that around, he is a finalist in the making. After all, a journey never harmed anyone – ask Darren Gough.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Normal service has resumed....

Tess of the Tumbleweeds is back in a less-than-fetching one shoulder number, flashing her gusset at the audience as she executes her one remaining dance step with abandon. Wonder what the insurance premium is for an 82 year old having to endure that klutz aiming random kicks around his anatomy every Saturday night?

Jimi and Flavia

I have been looking forward to this partnership since it was announced, and have convinced myself that this is the year of the Flav. It may be that I have lost some sense of perspective about this couple, particularly as I was rather distracted by costuming issues. Flavia seemed to have been dressed in bows salvaged from last year's Christmas wrapping paper, and Jimi, whose hips I was greatly looking forward to seeing, was encased in black fabric, such that no hips were visible. I have a feeling that he may have slightly underperformed, but there was no doubting his enthusiasm for SCD and for the dance itself, which is a definite plus for me. Needs to get those windmill arms under control though.

The Veterans

Bless Erin, always one of my fave female pros, declaring that she is the only female pro still standing from Series 1. And Series 2 and 3. She must know that her chances at the glitterball have run out, and that she is only back to shepherd one of the hopeless cases round the floor till the fun runs out. Peter Shilton probably knows as well that his pay cheque is for engaging in the type of banter along the lines of "You almost dropped her" (Craig); "I never drop anything" (Peter). Kudos to Erin though for bringing her own dress, and therefore winning "Best dress of the night" and for doing as good a job as possible. She nicked Natalie Lowe's dive through the legs at the end of the routine move, but maybe after 8 series, she has run out of ideas. Or maybe she thought it was a football/goal scoring reference.

The expensive American import and the cat that got the cream that curdled

So can we at last put the "fact" to rest that ex-members of girl bands have a stinking great advantage due to their experience of flinging their arms about and shaking their booty? 'Cos Michelle Williams tanked completely. Starting off with a "turn the voters off" statement that she wanted nothing less than 8s, followed by a bombastic strut down the long, long stairs, she proceeded to dance like a spider skedaddling across a slippery surface. Arms and legs were flailing everywhere, and I surprised she didn't take someone's eye out. At least she sold the performance, but Brendan made the whole situation worse by over-dancing and over-shadowing her completely. So much so that the "One who isn't Beyonce" may be a shoo in for first boot of the series.

The Gavbot and the Katbot

I like to be proved wrong about SCD, and proved wrong I was. I thought that Gavin would dance like a plank and act like a plank, and he actually turned in quite a creditable waltz. But then he did "come aht there like a SportsMan" and took the competition seriously. Mayhap a journey in the making? I can't quite forgive Katya's comment though that this year she is glad to have someone nice to look at. Some of us ladies of a certain age would have quite enjoyed having Tuffer's rather raddled countenance to look at every day, if you please.

Twee fest

OK so the BBC are going for the tweenie vote. Get a 15-year old boy whose voice is yet to break, pair him with Barbie, and style them as though they are escapees from a U rated remake of the Rocky Horror Show, and this is what you get. On the plus said, Tina wasn't wearing the hideous ballroom dress that reminds me of the crotcheted doll that my grandmother used to use as a loo roll cover. On the minus side, she was wearing silver hot pants, and a pink nightie that disguised any attempt at hip movement. Jared is a weak dancer. In fact Matt Baker outdanced him easily on Friday. And we lost Matt Cutler for this milksop!

And we all knew what was coming next. The highpoint of the weekend and WiddiduBeke did not disappoint. They knew that they were there to dance badly, smile throughout and deliver acidic lines. "If you think this is bad, you should see the salsa" will probably go down as the line of the series.

The Ringer and the Eye Candy

Oh my god it's so unfair, three years ago she did a couple of days training at the samba with the Ramps, it is so unfair, she has an advantage! Well if the Beeb are going to continue to promote her midway between vamp and tramp, there is no way she is getting the votes anyway. A VT dwelling on her liaisons with co-stars, followed by an appearance stylised as a dominatrix, will do nothing to win kudos for a pretty good cha cha, and an amazing recovery from a fall. And Artem is the only new guy who gets any credit from me for this week's dances.

So Series 8 at this stage looks to be much wider open than Series 7 was. There are at least 6 couples who I wouldn't mind seeing in the latter stages, and a couple of surprises, maybe waiting in the wings. The main thing is that most of the couples this year look as if they are having fun, and fun was the thing that was seriously lacking in the better dancers last year, hence the Cola win.

It could well be the year of the men, even to having three guys in the final. The loss of the dance off will remove the safety net from the likes of Kara, and replacing four of the consistently best teachers/choreographers among the male pros with unknowns and also-rans will take its toll. Tina and Patsy have been particularly badly served. It could well be that Pamela is flying the flag for the women, and the older women at that. And if her salsa is any where near as good as her waltz, and if she continues to exude the joy of dance with every step, I for one will be (multiple) voting for beautiful Pamela and the rehabilitated at last James Jordan.

Sashaying back onto our screens, as if it has never been away.

The build up has been great, what with the faux tension of the live show partner reveals (my best is that the pros had been tipped the wink beforehand, either that or tranquilisers had been used), and the drip drip of the training video snippets. The BBC had done a fab job on getting the audience primed and ready to go for Friday night.

First shock of the evening, was that Tess had abandoned the one shoulder look for a two bat winged effect, but Beeb cut backs have meant that the extra shoulder needed to be paid for by ending the dress just above the knees, not a good look for Tess. In fact it looks as though the whole costume department may have been let go in the cut backs, and the poor celebs and pros are now clad in recycled bin liners, cast offs from the 70s and rejects from Primark, all pulled out of a bag and distributed randomly.

Second shock of the night was that large doses of sedative have been administered to Len Goodman. He who was formerly offended and angered by any "faffing about at the top" that lasted more than 1 bar,turned a blind and benign eye to such affronts as a magicians' box, sparkly green wellies, a bombastic descent down the lengths of the towering stairs, and hopping in and out of hold in a waltz. I want the old Len back!

Vinthent and Felithity

Now that was a joke too far, giving poor Vinthent a celebrity whose name he can't tackle. Another joke too far was dressing poor gorgeous Felicity Kendall up like an Easter chicken. Yes she used to be in the Good Life, yes that programme had a lovely yellow sun in the opening credits, but you don't need to reference it quite so heavily with the costuming.

It all started quite promisingly with a homage to the Dirty Dancing backbend, but went rapidly downhill. Felicity was obviously terrified, and her arms were ramrod straight, and she even resorted to watching Vincent to remember the moves. No hip action and and over complicated routine left her languishing in the lower half of the leaderboard, and I for one was disappointed.

Adonis and Blonde Ambition

No need to change the nicknames from last year's pairings, and Natalie obviously hasn't learned anything from last year, which saw Natalie and the most talented male dancer come second (and if it hadn't been for the dance off, they may not even have made the final four). It's too early to be claiming your place in the final, dear, and this year there is a whole lot more competition, both on the dance, and on the hunk, fronts. Squeezed into a frock whose designer has never heard of the maxim "Leave something to the imagination", Natalie and Scott hurtled around the dance floor, accompanied by her frantic hair tosses, the splits and the "slide between the legs" move that she has recycled from one of last year's routines. Shame because Scott showed talent and promise, and Natalie didn't need to overdance to that extent. Like Len, I am dreading the rumba.

Goldie and Locks

So Kristina's costume appears to have been recycled from an Anne Summers' special collection, titled S and M vixen. It even committed the unforgivable sin of making Kristina look chunky round the hips, and that takes a rare talent. Goldie showed rhythm and a natural talent for performance, but unfortunately the routine that Kristina produced was more disco than cha cha cha, and rather a lazy one at that. I am beginning to doubt her ability for choreography. She gave John Sergeant some clever routines, which charmed us all, but her routines for Joe last year were poor, and this was not a good start for Goldie. Facing the judges, if looks could kill, Craig RH would be scraping what is left of his brains from the ceiling.

Patsy and Robin

Robin had maybe misread the first dance instructions, as he produced something more akin to a Viennese than a real waltz. Danced at full pelt, Patsy looked terrified, and clung on for dear life, as Robin dragged and twirled her around. His inexperience as a teacher and choreographer was showing, as that routine was way beyond her capabilities, and not enough time had been spent on getting her posture right. I rather like Patsy, and felt she came across as rather self-deprecating, (that is when the producers weren't trying to pigeon-hole as this year's needy, under-confident female), but sadly I don't think she is going to be around long enough for me to think up a nickname.

Country boy and city minx

The worst costumes of the night by a country mile! I know the poor boy is ex Blue Peter so not allowed to look sexy, but putting him in brown nylon slacks and a tartan waistcoat is taking the desexualising process a tad too far. Aliona took some stick for her choreography last year, and with good reason. This cha cha cha started with one of the worst gimmicks imaginable, and turned into the best dance of the night. Matt has finalist written all over him, but Aliona needs to come up with the goods.

The Shrink and Mr Foot in Mouth

Could this year finally see the rehabilitation of James Jordan? I sure hope so because he produced a lovely routine for Pamela, and it was the surprise of the night. He showcased her beautifully, and she rose to the occasion and loved every minute of it. One of the most memorable Strictly first dances ever, and I really hope they go the distance.

Not going the distance this year, is the Unlucky Jordan and the Garden Gnome. Ola is certainly no stranger to the use of the gimmick, having used tartan kilts, bagpipes and headbanging to great effect, but the magician's assistant schtick was a slice of ham too far. Having said that, her choreography was far more appropriate for Paul than Kristina's was for Goldie, and she absolutely did the best she could for him. Paul Daniels seems to have sparked off a homophobic internet row over his comments about sausages, so maybe that will have cooked his goose, and they will deservedly be first boot of the season.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

So it's back! Shinier, spanglier, and starrier than ever (or something like that).

So we are treated to a special launch show, full of surprises (or it would have been, had the good ship BBC not been leakier than your average household sieve, and a full list of celebs been available on the net the day before, and 10 out of 14 partnerships known from late Wednesday evening).

But wait, there are some surprises in store! A new set! How fabby and 21st century is that?

Tess has got a new stylist, and gone are the one shoulder, homage to quality street wrapper creations from last series.

Bruce has won his battle with the accursed autocue! We are restored to the full glory of the Forsythe circa least for the first link. It was downhill from then on in.

But there had to be some cost savings somewhere, what with the new set and the ever increasing premium for medical insurance on Brucie, and those were immediately evident with the female pro dancers' costumes. Someone had popped down to the market, bought a job lot of hankies, and dyed them. Brown. And then stapled them randomly to the dancers. Who deserve a whole lot better! The choreography started off so very well, with the couples using every inch of the new set, but it then became apparent that they were attempting a whole new genre of dance, called the cha cha chair dance. Looking woefully under-rehearsed and just plain random, all was revealed at the end of the dance, with the gorgeous Mr Cutler named and shamed as the choreographer. You could almost see him bawling "And this is for Nicole. And this is for the Bennetts. Here's one for Ian. And this is from me!" before heading off, allegedly for Dancing on Ice 2011.

And so to the first of the reveals. Eastender Scott Maslen is to be partnered with.....Natalie Lowe! Who almost took Scott, Tess and Bruce out in her cartwheels of joy at landng the series hunk. Oh Natalie, did you not learn anything from last year? You started off pirouetting with joy at being paired with Ricky Whittle, and you ended up coming second to a couple of lovely little dancing hobbits. Rein it in, my dear, rein it in.

Next up the result of a casting director's alchemy - "Is there a way that we can combine the intrepid Gethin Jones with the wholesome appeal of a Chris Hollins?". Step forward Matt Baker! And then pair him off with last season's least liked female pro. Oh well, I didn't appreciate Ola till last year, so maybe this year I am going to warm to Aliona. Although judging from the way in which the flame haired temptress launched herself at poor Matt like a heat seeking missile, he is going to have to lose his inhibitions a hell of a lot quicker than Gethin Jones ever did.

Another casting director's brainwave. "Let's get a retired goalie in. 'Cos the footie fans will love that. And if he's called Peter, we can do a repeat of Series 4 and put him with Erin". And so it came to pass that Erin gets to do another year of penance for that dummy dance in the 2005 final.

We got to meet the three new pros, who as a quick reminder are replacing Darren B (series 2 winner, Matt C, series 5 winner, and my lovely Ian who has been robbed more times than I can remember). And the replacements are Jared, who looks as though his balls have yet to drop, but who has doubtless been picked to appeal to the pre teens (He has been in High School Musical - yay! And Glee - squee! He can't dance Latin - is he related to Mr du Beke?) and two Fit Thugs. Who I can't tell apart. They all smouldered deliciously at the cameras for a group paso, apart from Jared, whose cape work made Kelly Brooke's from series 5 look stellar. Oh well, at least I can tell him apart from the other new boys.

Turning to the pairings of the first three lady celebs. The BBC have gone all out to land an A-Lister, and in so doing have reeled in Michelle Williams, the one from Destiny's Child who isn't Beyonce, and who isn't Kelly Rowlands. In the States on Dancing with the Stars, ex-girl band members who have done a bit of gyrating have gone down well - Mel B, Mya, Nicole Sherzinger. Over here, they have been dogged by accusations of previous experience and dubbed teachers' pets (Emma Bunton and Rachel Stevens). The only one to escape the curse of the girl band was Alesha and that was probably more to do with her partnership with the self-effacing and all-round lovely Matt C. So this year, the producers decided to pair the "ringer" with the self-promoting and abrasive Brendan Cole. You can tell already that it is all going to end badly, and if Peter Shilton and Ann Widdicombe outlast the American A-lister, they only have themselves to blame.

Little boy lost Jared got himself hooked up wtih Little girl lost from Coronation Street, Tina O' Brien. I can't see this ending well either.

I started to think that this really wasn't going to be a good year for the Jordans when Pamela Stephenson almost went belly up just walking down the stairs, but later in the group dance, she threw herself into the proceedings with complete abandon, absolute joy and some sense of rhythm. If she can keep this up, and the producers cut in enough footage of her younger madcap self, a bewildered James Jordan, and the Big Yin himself in the audience, she could be here well into November.

There were a couple of pro dancers, the first of which demonstrated the maxim less is definitely more. To the throbbing beat of Two Tribes, the pros did some sort of generic dance, involving Vincent and Flavia descending from the ceiling on a wire, lots of tumbling, some of it dodgy, attention deficit disorder style lighting, some random walking about, and some seriously under-rehearsed lifts. To my mind great dance happens when you have a happy combination of the right music, lovely costumes, great choreography, and dancers who have something to communicate to the audience. This was frenetic, frantic, and ultimately frazzled dancing. And Karen Hardy was responsible! OK, Karen, I know you should be a judge replacing you know who - but was that really necessary?

The dance troupe, featuring two male pros who deserve so much better, a dancer called Crystal Main, who seems to have taken the modern parlour game "What would your porn star name be" a tad too seriously, and three other dancers, did not cover themselves with glory. To the strains of Ballroom Blitz, they first jived, then quickstepped, around the studio. The dfference being signalled by a clumsy pulling down of the ladies' frocks from thigh skimming to ankle skimming. The staging and lighting all firmly said "These are the second class dancers and don't you be getting any ideas there!"

And so to the big build up! Sadly we all already knew that Ola had been shafted and Anton had got his just desserts.

To be fair, Paul Daniels did try to rescue one of Brucie's jokes gone wrong, and impressed me with a couple of words of Polish. He then dis-impressed me by not knowing that she was the reigning champion. Please, please, please let them be an early exit - and please don't let anyone on Digital Spy think of coining the phrase Team Pola.

I have a sneaking feeling of support for Patsy Kensit. She is my age, she hasn't had an easy ride of it with the press, and she comes across as wry and self-deprecating in her VT. She is obviously a contender for the shock early female boot, and for the speculation on the old showmancce front - will she find husband number 5? I think she deserves a bit better and have my fingers crossed.

Kara ("Oh my God z'not fair! She did a samba three years ago with the Ramps, she has past experience, it is so not fair") was paired with newbie Artem. I hope for her sake she can overcome the "S'not fair" vibe because I have her down as someone who could go all the way.

Goldie gets Kristina and the first real off-key moment of the series, when Craig Revel Pointless decided to announce, to a deathly quiet audience "Watch her footwork, because we all know what happened last year". With Joe Calzaghe in the audience, I can just imagine the fun at the after show party. Good job there are three weeks before the live shows start for make up to be able to disguise the fall out.

The monosyllabic Gavin Henson gets last year's dullest new pro. If even Phil Tufnell struggled to make Katya look exciting, then I dread to think of this couples' VTs. Tess proved that she is yet to read the BBC guidance on sexual harassment in the workplace by leering at Gavin's guns, and Katya compounded the error by prodding them as they walked off stage. Katya, I know you were new last year, but really, did you not learn that taking etiquette tips from Tess of the Tumbleweeds was a Very Bad Thing?

Yay - there is indeed a God! Flavia the neglected gets Jimi Mistry of the swivel hips and cheeky sex appeal. When Flavia's choregraphy is good, it is very, very good, and she just needs a partner who will trust her and make the best of it. FlimJim for the win!

No use in building up the suspense BBC- we know what happens next. Adorable Felicity Kendall gets he-adores-himself Vincent, and actually this is the pairing that I am most looking forward to. I so hope that they stay in long enough to do an Argentine Tango, because the combination of an AT maestro, with a confident, sexy older woman could blow the roof of TV Centre. Fingers, toes, and everything else crossed.

And so to the finale. Team Cola fans, we know who we are. We are guilty. Because when we voted in our droves for the fourth or even fifth best dancer of the series to win over one of the best dancers ever, when we voted for personality and loveability over proficiency, we sent a message to the producers. That message has been distorted and mis-translated, but it has resulted in Ann Widdecombe and Anton. We share the blame, we share the pain. She's not going anywhere till mid-November.