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.