First entry of the new series. Breathe it in.
Yes, after this entry worked so well last year (I had Artem as 8th most likely to win. You had him as 11th) it’s time to do it again. Before we find out who has wound up with Eggwina all over their face, it’s time to set any potential celeb rumours aside and focus solely on our merry band of pros. Who amongst them is most likely to be staring down that glitterball come December, and who has little to look forward to apart from two months of “comedy” It Takes Two skits and a 20 second shuffle in Blackpool with someone who hasn’t practised since they were eliminated off a whiffy tango 8 weeks back.
NB : All of this will be wrong.
Aliona Vilani : There’s no escaping it – Aliona got the plum draw last year. Most naturally gifted male dancer is always a nice one to pull, especially if he’s in a cosy Saturday Night demo-pleasing mould. In the end Aliona could only translate that 100% solid gold material into a 99% successful record of total tour domination and a narrow sliver of a loss to Kara, which unfortunately places her in pretty much the worst possible position. Not quite winning last year, but close enough to it that she’s probably going to spend the next few months pushing round some tub. I’d feel marginally more sorry for her if I didn’t do a little involuntary shudder every time I hear Alesha Keys going “hooooooooooooooooooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH NEW YORK!”. You know. More than I did before last series anyway. 25-1
Anton du Beke : Oh Anton. Last year pretty much solidified him in jelly as the “comedy pro” – stuck doing “genius choreography” (ie relying on wardrobe to make Anne look hideous even by her standards then shoving her from prop to prop like tranquilised cattle) for the Widdynator, whilst everyone guffawed at him and Bruce openly made jokes that nobody else would want him. Oh and also there was this. The expectation really at this point is that they’re going to once more skim off the oldest…most traditionally built lady in the cast and grant her to him, and let one of the crop of young Euros take the contenders. And really, as much as I’d like things to be mixed up, I’m not sure I want things mixed up so much that I’d ever see what Anton’s brain birthed for a showdance. 20-1
Artem Chigvintsev : Now, the tendency for winners to get SUPER-DUFFERS the series after they win is slightly over-stated. Yes it’s true that Darren got given Gloria Hunniford, Karen Hardy got Richard Hillman, and Ola got a garden gnome. But Matthew got Christine Bleakley – the supposed next great star in BBC1s firmanent, Lilia got Matt Dawson – SPORTSMAN, and who was to know that Sarah Manners would turn out…so Sarah Mannersy? Additionally, if anybody could pull a Derek Hough style back to back victory it’d be Artem. Who knows what other weapons he has in his armoury to make Britain’s housewives fall for him again? He could hurt his OTHER shoulder or something. But, in these odds, I have to go with prevailing trends and…I just don’t see it. 30-1
Brendan Cole : I think it really became apparent last series that of all the old guard, good old Brenda is most at sea. He hasn’t quite carved his comedy niche like Anton has. He doesn’t have the long hard slog towards a victory never quite attained that has made Erin such a Strictly legend. He isn’t…violating a heron with a cello smeared with marmalade or whatever it is Camilla’s doing with (/to) herself these days (IBBLE!). He’s done it all – he’s won, he’s guided old ladies to semi-dignity, he’s gone out in a shower of bacofoil sparks, he’s met shadowy back alley dealers in the dead of night to sort out Michelle Williams’ fix (OF CAKES! NOTHING ELSE, JUST CAKE!) He’s fought and made up with Len more times than Max & Tanya Branning. What has he got left to do? Be the first pro to win two glitterballs? Maybe. Or maybe he’s just going to carry on drifting. 10-1
Erin Boag : THE EPIC VOYAGE CONTINUES! 8 years now. Think about that. It’s getting on for a WHOLE DECADE that Erin’s been at this cliff face, chipping away. Whilst Brendan won first doors, and Anton clearly doesn’t give a shit any more, Erin is still plugging away, that little vein in her forehead getting bigger and bigger and bigger and beating faster and faster and faster until you can just see the fumes coming off her. And it’s that time again. Every third series. First there was Dummy Dance. Then Snowdon Gate and Tribble Trouble. Now it’s time again for Erin to get herself a sure-thing and blow it again at the last fence. The only question is, how’s she going to manage it this time? (Of course the OTHER question is what she’d do if she actually won. Just imagine THAT.) 6-1
Flavia Cacace : Flavia’s an odd one, because you can really cut her experience last series two ways. Either she went another series without a really decent draw or…she got a decent draw and she blew it. I can hear arguments either way, but really the important thing is just how much it’s going to affect her chances of winning this series. I’d like to think they aren’t going to hold the rather random elimination of Jimi (a Hollywood STAR lest we forget) against her, but even her finallist wasn’t the smoothest drag there, so maybe we might have to get used to Flavia being a middle-of-the-pack’er for a while longer. 8-1
James Jordan : Ever since Georgina Horse-Doover exploded in a shower of Mars Bars it has been the rather ungentlemanly pursuit of most of us to wonder when the Strictly Powers That Be were going to stop throwing talented woman down James Jordan. First Gabby (too hot), Cherie (too cold), then Zoe (just right…but sent home anyway) all disappeared into the effort to make JORDANMANIA happen. Then, finally, last year, it did. Sort of. Well Pamela made it to the final at least, without hitting bottom two once, and then there were a lot of newspaper articles about how she TOTALLY should have won, because she was like OLD and stuff. So the million dollar question is, mission attained, and James Jordan likable, even to me, will they stop and give him a duffer. Would you bet on it? 15-1
Katya Virshilas : It may just be my love of the hat talking, but I think Katya might be in a very strong position to win this series. It’s quite common for winners to be subsequently borne of people who are currently in Katya’s position, post-Tuffers and Gavbot. Dancers who’ve hovvered around the upper mid-table with arguably mediocre talents, showing they can turn them into, if not contenders, then beloved semi-hopers. Matthew Cutler with Carole Smillie. Lilia Kopylova with Aled Jones. Ola Jordan with Kenny Logan. Karen Hardy with Bill Turnbull. Camilla Dallerup with Gethin Jones (LOL, JUST KIDDING GETH’S GIRLS!). So, she’s in place, but the question remains – can she really kick her choreograph into winning gear? Or alternatively, her hats. If she pulls out some sort of fascinator situation, I think the deal is sealed. 5-1
Kristina Rihanoff : It’s just…time isn’t it? John Sergeant and all the soul-sapping drama that came with him, the particularly cruel dummy (as in feint, I’m not calling him a dummy, don’t hit me Joe) that was Joe Calzaghe (which…I hate to break it to you, but they knew), and then getting stuck partnered with a Blue Peter pet last year. And not even Petra or Shep. You might as well have stuck her with George The Tortoise. It almost feels like the weight behind the snowball that is “get someone good for Kristina” is pretty much unstoppable at this point. The only problem with this? You could have said the same thing about Anton pre-Laila. And look what happened there. Note to Kristina : No racist/not at all racist, what it was just a joke PC gone mad etc etc comments. And maybe lock the guy’s passport up in your purse. 4-1
Natalie Lowe : Believe me, if only for the looks on the faces of the JELUS HATAHS I’d love to see it. Natalie Lowe to get her third contender, and you know, preferably one whose schedule isn’t tied up with one of the All-Time Worst Storylines In Soap at the time. (I can’t remember precisely what Ricky’s storyline that he was busy with was to say that but…come on, it was Hollyoaks). But…they can’t can they? The only alternative is that she takes a Chris Hollins or lower and transforms them into a prince but I can’t see it happening. Maybe in Australia, but I would imagine Natalie trying to do “underdog endearing” in this country would not end well. 30-1
Ola Jordan : I have an odd feeling about Ola. I know her being given Paul Daniels last series was a suggestion that she’s been punted off into the Lilia Kopylova Hinterland, where the producers don’t feel able to give her someone with talent in case she walks it, but another part of me says that she’s never really been given a natural talent and she may well be owed one. In which case expect the marketing headlights and the catchphrases and the hypnotic soothing lilt of “I love dancing with YaaoooUUHHHWUH” and the tuna paninis to come out all over again, and the nation to fall lockstep under her Demon Headmaster-esque spell again. Don’t let her touch the Charleston and the soundtrack to Bugsy Malone (although really, what’s left from that any more? “So You Want To Be A Boxer”?) or we’re ALL DOOMED. 8-1
Pasha Kovalev : Or “Passion Cockaleg” as he has already been dubbed by some WAGS on the Interwebs. A solitary new boy arrives this series, the first time that’s happened…ever. So the spotlight is going to be on him in a way that nobody else has faced on Strictly. And whilst I have every faith in him both as a dancer (because I’ve seen him on So You Think You Can Dance USA) and as a human being (because I’ve seen him with his shirt off), I think Pasha faces one very real problem in terms of winning. He’s too like Artem. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not terribly similar dancers (Pasha’s more expressive and more “fun” and explosive, Pasha’s more brooding and passionate and sinuous) (/slashfic), but in terms of the Strictly audience? It’s going to be very hard to set Pasha up in any sort of winning combination that doesn’t immediately invite unflattering comparisons to Kara & Artem. Just cause they’re a bit Russian and stuff innit? I don’t see them wasting Pasha on an Esther Rantzen, but on the other hand…I don’t know that he can win. 10-1
Robin Windsor Who knows with this one really? I feel like, to a certain degree, he’s very much in the same position as Aliona was after her first series. He got a bit further with Patsy than Aliona did with Rav, but on the other hand Aliona stamped her mark on the pro dances a little bit more firmly than Robin did. Either way, he feels like someone who was present, but not really noteworthy to any particular degree. So it’s up to him this series to really prove what he can do, if he gets the raw materials. Otherwise he may well be two and out. I wouldn’t bet strongly against or for him at this point, unless they reprise the Keyboard Challenge obviously (STEP ON THE RIGHT NOTE AT THE RIGHT TIME AND GAIN POINTS, STOP ON THE WRONG NOTE AT THE WRONG TIME AND LOSE POINTS! MUSIC MAESTRO!) (You can thank me later). 7-1
Vincent Simone : And finally, Mr Simone. Part of me thinks they were expecting Felicity Kendall to do better than she did last series. Or maybe that was just me. But c’mon, it’s FELICITY KENDALL! 6pm, Saturday Night, BBC1. FELICITY KENDALL. That slot used to be filled by repeats of DAD’S ARMY is how perfect she was for it. Never mind, Vincent Simone and Felicity Kendall in reality were a mid-table sputterer of a pairing, bouncing repeatedly through the bottom two, weakest of last year’s designated “Special Old Dears” crop. Let’s move on. To this year! And me once more insanely over-estimating Vincent’s chances of taking home the prize. Let’s not over-explain, let’s just put the number up. 5-1
Now it’s your turn.