RELEASE THE SHIRLEY!
So…fifteen couples and a lengthy pro routine in one show is a lot isn’t it? Even with the episode getting bonus points for Shirley nuking Darcey from space over technical critique of the jive, Karen Clifton slipping in a pre-watershed joke about taking dick to the face and the all-time hair and make-up high of Kevin coming out with an actual fingerpaint moustache I feel like I should get an achivement certificate just getting all the way to the end without going into end stage renal failure.
The real story of the night on the whole is that the scoring is low. Twinkly Uncle Len giving you a 6 for breathing is gone, Craig has resdiscovered his 2 paddle, and even a nice safe Anton Lovely Old School Ballroom is only topping out at a 5. All in all, it’s the lowest week 1 average since Series 10, which oddly enough was also the last time they had a new judge in and wanted to show that things have changed. Propping up the very bottom? A wholllle lot of Relatable Mums And Dads – Ruth stumbles about a lot as Eamonn blatantly cracks on to Tess in the front row, Brian’s tango gets drowned in overtheming (magic shoes? Really? Again?) and the fact that he appears to have spotted a really attractive pigeon in the rafters, and Simon…well his paso is memorable I’ll give it that. He bunny hops off the stage, he stomps about a lot, and drags Karen about the floor like a wet towel. It feels like an attempt to capture the erm…magic of her week 1 showpieces for Jeremy Vine and Hairy Dave that doesn’t really come off, mostly because as a spectacle it can’t really compete with Richard Coles dropping from the sky on a cloud to the Eurythmics or Susan going full Last Action Hero over Kevin Clifton emerging FOR REAL from a movie poster and munching out her popcorn. Yes, Kevin has five years worth of comedy routines stored up under that hair and ready to go, strap yourselves in.
Meanwhile the middle of the table (scoring between 20 and 24) are a bunch of people who you’d maybe expect to score a little better. Alexandra’s waltz is, like Daisy’s last year, a tribute to a recently deceased relative, although Daisy was a little bit more together than Alexandra manages to be, and also Daisy’s waltz tribute was properly signposted as such beforehand, not preceded by a really weird VT where Gorka becomes the Coffee Nazi and refuses to ALLOW ANY IN HIS DANCE STUDIO, SERIOUSLY, BRING THAT FILTHY BEAN JUICE UP IN HIS SPACE ONE MORE TIME HE WILL STRAIGHT UP THROW IT IN. YOUR. FACE. BITCH. Mollie’s jive is all arms and legs and also AJ repeatedly dry-humping the floor for some reason, and not a lot of stability or purpose, Chizzy’s disco routine hits a wardrobe malfunction and slides downhill from there, Gemma’s cha cha is very heavy footed and clunky and Jonnie’s Sweet Sportsman Week 1 Waltz is exactly that and not much more. The real standout of the midpack is Charlotte, not because she’s particularly good (it’s a classic Brenda Ballroom Push’N’Shove routine) but because she’s so much more poised and together and…actually present inside her own body than she was on the Launch Show that it feels like a triumph in itself.
And the tops? A maybe slightly undeserving Davood, whose cha cha is enthusiastic but seems to be being scored well because he caved and let them stick him in a see through mesh shirt for his first dance, Joe officially stamping his Dark Horse status with a very puppyish jive (a dance which, it may have been mentioned, Ore also did last year on the show), and Aston taking the summit of the leaderboard with a foxtrot that leans heavily on his past in a laddish swing band but which gets some tricky ballroom out the way sharpish. The TRUE triumph of the evening though? Undoubtedly Debbie McGee, who embraces the Giovanni showmance we ALL WANT, with a VT and dance centred around heavy bondage, knicker-wringing, kisses in which she appears to bite Giovanni’s lips clean off, and the pulling of tambourines out of vaginas. Who knows where we go from here, but the idea of a Dr Hammy style full sexual floorshow, but this time with a willing pro has me very enthused for what’s to come.
BRING BACK THE PORN TRAIN!
Yes, it’s the annual Strictly Launch Show/Singles Mixer/Cattle Auction, where all the pros are lined up and paraded before the celebs and an invisible hand picks them up and flings them together based on height, personality, and how likely they are to secretly bang in a cupboard on the tour. Sadly, the theme this year is not outer space or the PORN TRAIN, but “understated classic glamour”. I know right, what a bloody let down. It feels like this might be in part due to the need to keep things tasteful given that this is also the Bruce Forsythe Tribute episode. Said tribute taking the form of a classic ballroom pro dance to Fly Me To The Moon, and a VT of all of the pros who knew Bruce sharing memories, like that time Bruce made a joke, or that other time Bruce made a joke, or how Bruce lent Anton his van and a spade no questions asked when he had that…little problem.
Special guest singers are Shania Twain (who uses the pro dancers as back up) and Rita Ora (who doesn’t). So Shania wins that one, as long as you don’t pay too much attention to the song she’s singing or the Victoria’s Secret Real Housewives Of Maine lingerie set she’s wearing to sing it in. Special new Head Judge is Shirley Ballas who looks about 20 years younger than when she was here last (not judging, just observing) and who is introduced via the medium of a VT where she spins around on her own in an empty ballroom, going cross-eyed and throwing glitter everywhere. Already she’s more dignified than Len ever was.
Those couples then!
Alexandra (already pumping out “personality” at a rate of knots) & Gorka
Aston & Janette (ba’duh)
Brian (apparently wearing that puppet on top of his head now) & Amy
Charlotte (completely lost in the Car Crash Group Dance bless her) & Brendan
Chizzy & Pasha (TEAM PIZZY!)
Davood (pronounced Dar-Vud, if you want the practice) & Nadiya
Debbie & Giovvani (I am *craving* a May To December romance here, prepare yourself)
Gemma (DED NORMAL NORTHERN LASS) & Aljaz
Joe (cute as a button) & Katya
Jonnie & Oti (Oti’s third partner under 30. Out of three. Let’s start a rumour she hates old people, knocks over their walkers, nicks their scratchcards etc etc)
Mollie & AJ (who has not got less wooden or more adult looking in between series sadly)
Richard & Dianne (furthering the grand tradition of gay men on this show being partnered with Antipodean pros)
Ruth & Anton (ba’duh ba’duh)
Simon (looks even more lost than Charlotte) & Karen
Susan & Kevin (Susan spends the whole show babbling about how there’s one pro she wants as her partner and then it’s Kevin and then she cries and yaps about how she has pictures of him all over her house and you either find this very endearing or VERY scary)
Oh yeah, there’s three new pros as well. They’re introduced via their own routine, the theme of which is that they’re late so they’re not in the routine. Which is a choice. (I remember the old opening pro routine where it looked like Lilia was late, but it turned out she’d just been hitting the biscuit tin between series). The newbies are Nadiya (the sexy blonde one), Amy (the DED NORMAL WELSH LASS one), and Dianne (the one who’s been made to dye her hair the colour of Ronald McDonald’s pubes, because we all know Aliona loved it when they made her do that).
Only two weeks until the first live show this year, which is promising, because in the Launch Routine at the end half of these guys look incapable of putting one foot in front of the other without it ending up halfway up their nose. I can’t wait.
Poor Nadiya. Poor AJ.
The first eleven series wouldn’t have been the same without you
Well at least it still wasn’t Tim Lovejoy.