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.