Last year marked the 10th series of Strictly. Not, sadly, for neatness’ sake, the 10th YEAR, but beggars can’t be choosers, and Strictly can’t help its humble beginnings as part of Sports Relief. Not even Comic Relief. SPORTS Relief. That’s not even a pun.
Anyway, what better occasion to mark a decade (except…not really) of Strictly than me listing my 50 favourite contestants ever? Maybe with a girl winning again but, let’s face it, that’s never going to happen, so you’ll just have to make do with this. Inductees into this Strictly Hall Of Quite-Goodness were decided based on dance talent, entertainment value, likeability, and Legacy (with a capital L). Our first entry amply demonstrates though that you don’t have to deliver on ALL of those fronts…
50. Joe Calzaghe – Series 7 : 12th place
So why start off with such an uphill struggle? Why try to persuade you that Joe Calzaghe deserves a place in Strictly history over, say, someone who could dance? Well I’ve racked my brains and come up with three reasons.
- The hype. It’s hard to believe now, but before Series 7, Joe Calzaghe’s impending victory was treated like the biggest foregone conclusion since Aliona added milk to sugar, vanilla and egg yolks and had an orgasm. The public were out for SPORTSMAN related blood after Austin WUZZROBBED in Series 6 (…oh we’ll get to it), Joe Calzaghe had just won Sports Personality Of The Year, he was partnered with John Sergeant’s Doomed Bride, he was as handsome as anybody who gets punched in the face for a living has a right to be, and Craig was hyping up his latent dance talent in retrospectively hilariously trolling interviews with the Radio Times. The show has never had a bigger favourite on Day 1 EVAH, and then Week 1 happened and he danced LIKE THAT. It’s like if Nicky Byrne had come out in Week 1 and crapped his pants NONmetaphorically and for the ensuing hilarity he will hold a place in my heart forever.
- The romance. Joe & Kristina are, as far as I’m aware, one of only three current ongoing romances that were born on the show. And it’s my favourite because it basically gets treated like this :
- “OMG, Kara & Artem met on the show and FELL IN TWOO WUV and they are still together and when they get married I will buy a hat”
- “Congratulations to Jimi & Flavia on getting married this weekend. We wish both of them all the best”
- “Soooooooo….Joe and Kristina are still shagging then…”
Truly Joe is the PERFECT MATCH for Kristina, as he is the henchman to her Roger Moore era James Bond villainess. Called…”Joe Fist” or something.
3. The improvement. When he came back for the final and actually had got MUCH BETTER in the interim, but nobody noticed because everyone was going “OMG MARTINA HINGIS WAS STILL SO ROBBED” even though she still danced like she was made entirely out of clothes pegs held together with rubber bands, my heart broke a little for him it has to be said.
49. Tracy Beaker – Series 10 : 4th place
Did anyone ever go from potential series winner to complete irrelevance faster than Tracy Beaker did in the last week of Series 10? Partly not her fault obviously, as the entire show finally disappeared down the plughole whirlpool of Denise’s “previous experience” it had pretty much avoided for the previous 11 weeks, but partly definitely her fault because…she didn’t dance terribly well in the final? Anyway, up to then Tracy Beaker was that rarest of beasts, a “dark horse” that you believed actually might win, rather than just finish 4th to 6th, putting together a string of decent dances and establishing a kiddie-friendly brother-sister type bond with Vincent where she called him Papa Smurf and he comedy-leched on her. So a…brother-sister bond in a very Brookside manner. The show seemed to be building to a final showdown between her and Louis, with an Argentine Tango FACE-OFF between Vincent and Flavia in the final all but promised. Then…that didn’t happen, and of all of the ways in which the final of Series 10 failed to deliver that has to be up there. IMAGINE THE EMOTIONS! IMAGINE THE NAD-KICKS! Instead she suffered the ignominy of doing a genuinely amazingly awful showdance, which was then all but ignored in favour of endlessly debating whether Louis getting his nips out for his own showdance was UNFAIR (LOL NO) or whether it was in fact the most beautifully realised piece of contemporary dance tv has ever seen (LOL NO IT WAS ROLLING AROUND ON THE FLOOR). When you run around making lobster hands to Bohemian Rhapsody and nobody cares enough to laugh, then you know the wheels have come off. Still…we’ll always have Scooby Doo.
48. Richard Arnold – Series 10 : 9th place
Yes, alright, let’s hit Richard Arnold’s worst elements first. He wasn’t much cop as a dancer. His jokes couldn’t more obviously have been pre-prepared on a special notepad, adorned with sequins, marked “Richard’s Wicked Witticisms”, completed in the back of a taxi on the way to the studio. He pointed his arse at Darcey Bussell and did a little dance. He called Denise van Outen “Den”. But all this is forgivable if you are an Erin fan. Because we remember the Strictly Hinterland that was Series 7 to 9. When Erin just pushed out the same old rote tired done-to-death geriatrically “classy” routine, every Saturday night like clockwork, for a few weeks a year just as the weather got colder. Just like Bruce & Wilnelia’s Sex Life. (HI-OH!) (Bruce wishes…) (Poor Wilnelia). But then Richard came and, for whatever reason, served as the muse that allowed her to pull herself out of her funk. She choreographed routines about sleazy dive bars and powersuited 80s lesbian executives and love shacks and closeted house-husbands waltzing around to Barbra Streisand. She burnt the studio down in his paso doble, and reconstructed ERIN ISLAND from the ashes in his salsa. This very much made Richard THAT guy. The boyfriend of that girl you know who, whilst undoubtedly dull and unfunny and probably gay, at least makes her happy and vibrant and less likely to spend her time sat in the corner etching “Austin Wuzz Robbed” into her inner thigh with a pair of compasses. Even if they did make out in public FAR TOO OFTEN.
47. Phil Tuffnell – Series 7 : 8th place
A lot was made in this last series of how Michael Vaughan had to live up to the fearsome cricketing legacy of Darren Gough and Mark Ramprakash, with Tuffers treated as a jokey afterthought. Which is a shame, because I’d rather watch Tuffers barely summon up the energy to shuffle his lazy arse around the dancefloor than sit through another second of the Dancing Wardrobe. Tuffers’ lazy crawl through the first half of Series 7 was truly a scientific disproof of the idea that you only get out what you put in. Many has been the contestant who has been praised for making good dancing look effortless, but only with Tuffers was it actually literally true. And despite all that he was on course to being a player in the end-game until his knees fell off and Katya had to trundle her dance partner around in a wheelchair. And for once it wasn’t her fault! As far as we know. Speaking of which, has there ever been a more genius pairing than the lackadaisical, weary, cheeky Phil with the hyped up, aggressive, frequently humourless Katya? No, no there has not. And then they bonded to the degree that Katya is still pissed off at Len years later for prematurely ending his stay in favour of Ricky Groves. And she’s right to be.
46. Don Warrington – Series 6 : 12th place
Very few Strictly contestants have embodied the concept of dignity as well as Don Warrington did. In as much as that any dignified person is bound to look baffled when confronted with Strictly Come Dancing, a land of gurning, gaudy sequins, and occasional lifts that consist of the man swinging the lady round in the air, periodically flashing her downstairs pantry. Don lasted for 5 weeks in Series 6, and at no point did he really look like he knew what was going on, or whether he particularly approved. But despite his obvious befuddlement at what a “Camilla” was, he still managed to produce one of the show’s most memorable tangos. More than any other tango on the show it truly embodied the spirit of the Strictly Tango as described down the years by Len, Karen, or Ian Waite in an ill-fitting cowboy hat as being “tee hee prostitutes”. Don managed to parlay his Strictly stint into a recurring role in long-running BBC-jolly-masquerading-as-a-tv-show “Death In Paradise”, and let’s face it, as Strictly prizes go, that has to rank above “playing Jack Worthing in repertory theatre in Woking for a 6 week run”. (FUN STAT FACT : Don Warrington shares the record for “Largest Increase In Score Between First And Second Dance” with…well, a bunch of other people. But STILL!)
45. Carol Smillie – Series 4 : 5th place
Carol Smillie marks a key turning point in the casting of Strictly Come Dancing. She represents the point where the show realised that their audience was chiefly menopausal women, and that they might like occasionally to see someone who represents them (via a medium other than bellowing classical crossover music). Carol Smillie was 45 when she did Strictly, and probably officially the first woman to be “doing it for middle-aged women (who are also glamorous ex-models) everywhere”. Carol of course had two major storylines in her own right :
a) Carol’s Quest For A 30 : in which Carol quested tirelessly for 6 weeks to obtain a score of 30 from the judges, a feat she eventually achieved with her Cha Cha to Toploader, after coming agonisingly close twice before this on 29. If poor Carol had only waited a couple of series, she probably would have got that score just for turning up, knowing her own name, and having her shoelaces tied.
b) Carol-Cam : in which Carol shared on her website backstage videos of what it was really like to compete on Strictly on a day to day basis, giving an unparalleled access to training footage that had never been seen on Strictly before and never would again once everything got paved over with Comedy VTs. Also occasionally Matthew Cutler would turn up and bitch about Girls Aloud.
Carol sadly departed in 5th place, in a bottom 2 with Emma Bunton. And in that, she was very much not alone.
44. Patsy Kensit – Series 8 : 7th place
Whilst Joe Calzaghe’s stint on Strictly was unexpected in a very simple way, Patsy Kensit’s was a surprise in a more involved and subtle and, most importantly, camp way. Who before the series was not expecting Patsy to be a hard-edged ringer, probably partnered with Brenda and sexed up to her eyeballs? It seemed like destiny. And instead she turned out to be a boggle-eyed luvvie gusher, partnered with Robin and camp as Christmas at Darren & Lilia’s house (THEY’VE DRESSED THE PUGS UP AS SANTA’S ELVES!). It was Patsy who launched the Results Reveal off into its current realms of Safety Sex-Faces, with her having a full-blown orgasmic conniption fit every time she squeaked by another week. Not that she wasn’t that way in other areas, weeping at the drop of a hat, flinging her arms (/Husband Detectors) around with gay abandon, and performing as, amongst other things, a cowgirl, Roxie Hart, Kylie Minogue, Lola the Showgirl from Copacabana, an Essex mum on a hen-night, and the protagonist of the song “Anyone Who Had A Heart”. (Editors Note : Robin Windsor was still affecting heterosexuality at this point in Strictly History). Slightly tragic last-gasp grasp for a slimming DVD aside, Patsy Kensit genuinely truly showed off a softer side to herself during Strictly, and occasionally plopped out a camp classic. Never more so than in her Hallowe’en Jive, where she channelled Carry On Screaming whilst Robin motor-boated her boobs.
43. Peter Schmeichal – Series 4 : 7th place
Series 4 was really the high point of Strictly’s Love Affair with the SPORTSMAN!. And of course, by extension, Len’s possibly literal love affairs with SPORTSMEN! The top three male contestants were all sportsmen, something that will probably never happen again. Peter Schmeichal was, sadly, the least of the sportsmen in the public eyes, as his obvious ability in the ballroom discipline couldn’t balance out his utter lack of feel for the Latin. I know. Who would have thought that a 6ft 3 goalie built like a loosely stacked pile of cardboard boxes wouldn’t naturally find the cha cha rhythm? And to its credit, the show did its best to keep him away from the worst of the genre, subbing him an easy paso doble early on (which Erin promptly ballsed up by making it be danced to the tune from MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, God bless her), but by Week 6 it could no longer be avoided. Peter Schmeichal had to dance samba. And in doing so produced one of the truly great Strictly comedy dances. Nobody who ever saw it could forget the sight of Schmeichal slowly lumbering around the dancefloor like he was fleeing from angry villagers clutching pitchforks and burning torches, then…”1…2…3…SHAKE YOUR BODY DOWN!”. At which point he violently shook like Frankenstein quite literally trying to dance his nuts off. And probably his bolts as well. Even the thought of Erin talking him through it in training on its own is enough to raise a smile on my face. Oh yeah, and his ballroom was really good as well. I think there was a really good tango or something? I dunno. (Strictly Stat FACT : Peter Schmeichal is Strictly’s highest-ever placing Danish contestant). (Strictly Stat FACT : Peter Schmeichal is the only Strictly celebrity whose name serves as it’s own cod-Yiddish dismissal. Kensit? SCHMENSIT! Schmeichal? SCHMEICHAL!)
42. Quentin Wilson – Series 2 : 10th place
Argue all you want about who is the greatest dancer in Strictly history. St Jill. Goddess Kara. The Immortal Alesha. Ramprakash and his Rampant Pants. Tom Chambers. That One Off Hollyoaks. Even if you’re a fanbase mafia member in the highest, if you’re open minded, then you have to allow for the fact that there’s always the possibility that, one day, someone who will come along who is just that bit better. With that bit more finesse, poise, confidence, glamour and likability. But at the other end of the scale…there’s Quentin. And there’s nobody who’s ever going to be worse than Quentin. In his one dance (yes, it was so bad he couldn’t even get a sympathy vote) he set so many Strictly records. The lowest score ever (and all the attendant “worst cha cha”, “worst latin”, “worst male dance”, “worst week 1 dance” records that trail in its wake). The only time Arlene ever gave a 1. The only time Len ever went below a 4. One of only 7 dances in Strictly history to score below 3 from any judge other than Craig. Nobody is ever coming along and beating that, and watching Quentin’s cha cha, resplendent in his sparkly L Plate, stomping around determinedly but vacantly and arrthymically, I can’t believe anybody could deserve to. Not even Widdy. Not even FIONA. For that, Quentin Wilson deserves a little place in Strictly history, and this countdown.
41. Denise van Outen – Series 10 : 2nd place
Probably, I dunno, according to The Daily Star, let’s just go with it, because being 2nd adds more to Denise’s Strictly Legacy than it ever could to Kimberley’s. Because Denise van Outen’s name seemed etched in stone by the Fates themselves as being destined to finish 2nd in Strictly Come Dancing. Too talented and popular to go out before that, but too much of a RINGAH to be given the win. Denise uncomfortably fell between two stools, with her fans (and some of her detractors) claiming that she was the most wonderful dancer Strictly had ever seen, practically perfect in every way and an inspiration to all, and her detractors claiming she was a patently insincere dissembling West End hoofer slumming it for a career boost. In reality she was neither – her Party Latin (jive aside) was pretty ropey and, infamous “all I done in Chicago was sit in a chair!!!” moment aside, she didn’t really go out of her way to muddy the waters of her CV. And so, for most of the series, Denise was fun to watch about 70% of the time (jive, Charleston, foxtrot, paso doble, tango, showdance), underwhelming to poor most of the rest of the time (waltz, cha cha, samba, fusion, any time she pulled the above face or variation thereof or started yelling about the hole in her dress), and overwhelmed by James trying too hard the rest of the time (THAT RUMBA! THAT VIENNESE WALTZ!). Still, she had enough memorable dances and hilarious moments (covering up her botched salsa ending with an implied mid-splits blowjob HURRAH) to warrant a Top 25 place on this list. And then she hit the Bottom 2 and the last two weeks of whinnying and wheedling and whole episodes of It Takes Two devoted to having various celebrities tell us that Denise was “NOT! A! RINGAH!” seeped out slowly like a stink-bomb, marring an otherwise enjoyable series. And after that it felt less worth it.
40. Stephanie Beacham – Series 5 : 13th place
I did waver on including Stephanie Beacham in the list, as 95% of what she did that was so amazing didn’t in fact happen on a “proper” Strictly. It happened on a Launch Show. Strictly has long struggled with the question of how to spike X Factor’s ratings advantage gained by starting several weeks before anyone sets foot on the Strictly dancefloor. Now they conquer it with a Launch Show, building the hype around finding out the series’ new partnerships (if you need any more positive comparison with Dancing On Ice, just imagine them trying to the same thing on that show. “OOOH I WONDER WHO WILL GET PAIRED WITH SOME ANGRY LOOKING CANADIAN I’VE NEVER HEARD OF BEFORE!!!!”). In series 6 and and 7, they made the casts so bloated that Strictly in fact began somewhere around the middle of May. But before that, there was the Vague Preview Show. In which we learnt such exciting preview show facts as “Now there are shows like Strictly in OTHER COUNTRIES!”, “Bruce is Old!” and “Karen still remembers when she won with Ramps!”. In short, it was pretty uninspiring. Until, that is, Stephanie Beacham burst on, rolling her eyes at Kelly Brook’s cleavage, marvelling at the age gap between herself and Vincent, and most memorably, noting how that Gabby creature could get her leg up over her head. Not until the arrival of Pasha from the mysterious East was there a greater hype job for a series. Never mind that she was the first woman out, that her one dance (a quickstep to K T Tunstall) was pretty indifferent, and that Vincent Simone kind of didn’t know what to do with someone who was even more of a caricature than he was. I can’t remember being more excited by the arrival of a Strictly contestant than I was for Stephanie Beacham, and it almost doesn’t matter that she failed to live up to billing.
39. Michael Vaughan – Series 10 : 7th place
Together, they say more than words, don’t they?
38. Michelle Williams – Series 8 : 9th place
It’s nice to have Michael Vaughan and Michelle Williams sat next to one another in this countdown, because their respective peaks (“New York, New York” and “Time Warp”) were amongst the most exciting underdog moments in the show’s history. Vaughany (did I say that right? All blokey? VAUGHNY!) getting to headline Wembley with a showy ballroom triumph, and Michelle defeating all the odds against her (Brendan’s lack of availability, her status as Series 8’s resident Bottom 2 Goddess, her own complete inability to dance) to just about eke out another week when all seemed against her, with an hilarious infectious nonsense of a dance. The reason Michelle is one place higher, despite probably being a worse dancer overall, is that Michael Vaughan was likable but a little dry, whereas Michelle Williams was a complete nut. Years spent labouring away in Beyonce’s shadow (hell, KELLY ROWLAND’S shadow) had left Michelle with a little bit of cabin fever, which she decided to burn off my yelling “COME TO MAMA!” in the faces of a terrified line-up of professional partners as her first input to the show, and barely slowing down after that, vibrating through every dance with a complete lack of control or purpose. Brendan blamed all this on her addiction to “sugar” and…yes, at times, it did seem like a white powdery substance commonly imported from South America may well have been behind Michelle’s VIBRANT persona. So wired was she that not even Ian Waite could tame her, not even with a tango. Brendan had to completely change the rhythm of the waltz, established since the DAWN OF DANCE ITSELF to fit the rhythm of Michelle’s life. Best of all though, was how she clearly terrified the BEJESUS out of Widdy, as she screeched “WE LOVE YOU ANNNNNN!” and grabbed at wherever Widdy’s bosom had settled that night, whilst Ann wore her best “terrified of Downton Abbey” face. For that alone Michelle, I salute you. (Also when she kept on yelling “I AGREE!” every time the judges spoke that one week, until it became the “Sideshow Bob steps on a rake” of Strictly Come Dancing)
37. Aled Jones – Series 2 : 4th place
I have to say, no spoiler or anything, but pound for pound I think Series 2 clearly has the best cast of any series of Strictly. Of its 10 contestants, 9 of them are either on this list, or were in serious consideration for it at one point or another, just because they all delivered in their particular niche so well, be it “randy old lady”, “overly competetive Sports Bitch”, “grumpy gardener” or “being Julian Clary”. The one exception? Roger Black, who was clearly supposed to be the sexy male front-runner and gift-wrapped present to Camilla for putting up with David Dickinson the series before and was then…not very good, or very interesting. Fortunately, Aled Jones was happy to swoop in to fill the void of Housewife’s Choice Superstud. Right from the very first twitch of his hips to “She Bangs”, the women of the nation were ready to hurl their knickers and it continued right through such SEX CLASSICS as “It’s Not Unusual”, and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”. The virginal 80s choirboy transforming, twenty years later, into Housewife’s Choice in a very different way, even with his still frosty crunchy 90s hair and slight lack of chin, was one of the more endearing storylines of Series 2. On top of that, he was the first half-decent male dancer in the history of Strictly, and also the public’s very first introduction to the Tsunami Of Dance that was Lilia Kopylova. Quiet, unassuming, stuck with yet another “Miss Dominatrix Iron Knickers Whiplash Scowly Face” gimmick because the producers didn’t know what to do with her. It wasn’t clear yet just what a dominant force she’d be over the first half of Strictly history, but she still made quite an impact. Who else would choreograph a samba to “Walking In The Air” and kind of sort of almost get away with it?
36. Victoria Pendleton – Series 10 : 8th place
There’s a certain pattern of thinking behind the decision of quite a few women to become a Strictly contestant ; a pattern of thinking that probably reaches its apex in Victoria Pendleton. It goes something like this : “Hmmmmm, I have no sense of rhythm, have no real affinity for music, I’m emotionally unstable, I have a habit of pissing people off every time I open my mouth, I don’t take well to authority or being told what to do, I don’t respond well to not being good at things, and I’m coming down from the biggest high of my life and facing the void thereafter with a mixture of terror and discomfort AND I don’t mix well with Antipodeans…BUT…I really want someone to do my hair up nice and pick out sexy dresses for me”. And so it was Victoria began her two month reign of terror over Strictly, crying, getting tangled up in her dress, crying, demanding a puppy, crying, being catapulted around Wembley strapped to a bicycle wafting around a giant Union Jack, crying, demanding all her choreography be changed to stuff she could do (LOL GOOD LUCK), crying, doing unholy lifts that not a single other contestant in Strictly history could do thanks to her ungodly SPORTSWOMAN strength, crying, dancing well a couple of times sort of if you squinted, crying, watching blankly as Brenda fell over into the orchestra pit, crying, THAT SAMBA, JUST, THAT SAMBA, and, finally, crying happily at her elimination that she was an awful dancer WHOOPS, sorry for wasting everyone’s times. For her to be a truly classic comedy contestant I would have liked some more…well…dancing out of her, but nobody can deny that PENDLEDRAMA was a force of chaos that enlivened Strictly for every second she was in it.
35. Bill Turnbull – Series 3 : 6th Place
Bill Turnbull has, I believe, the distinction for the largest and most mental fan-thread of all the largest and mentalist fan-threads at Digital Spy, despite the handicap of not even being remotely suspected of shagging his dance partner. I think. If I’m wrong on either count, don’t tell me, because I don’t want to know. So what IS IT about Bill Turnbull that inspires this level of crazy devotion? His unassuming nature? His love of bees? His being the one thing holding Charlie Stayt (*shudder*) back from total Breakfast TV domination? Personally, for me, it was in his relationship with Karen Hardy, which is one of the most under-rated partnerships in Strictly history. It’s frequently said that Karen and Ramps’ differing personalities are part of what propelled him to victory, but people forget her dry run the year before with a similarly dry and baffled personality, all culminating in the glorious moment when she choroegraphed his waltz of him cheesily receiving a flower from her, and looking like he wanted to die. It’s a shame he never really got to show off his dancing skills properly after a decent Week 1, as he crocked his ankle immediately afterwards and never fully recovered (and yet still stayed in the gynaephobic Series 3 mostly on the basis of his penis HUZZAH), but at least this means he has the rather bizarre distinction, as a long-running contestant, of having got his highest Strictly score in a Week 1 cha cha. So few can say that.
34. Claire King – Series 4 : 6th Place
If Carol Smillie pioneered the Strictly niche of “Inspiring Middle-Aged Woman” in Series 4, then Claire King was ploughing a less appreciated, but still important furrow. That of “Sort Of Inspiring But Mostly Just Slutty Middle-Aged Woman”. I think Series 4 is about when the show realised that Brendan Cole’s personality suited the role of campy villain just as well it did of “Prawn-Headed Lover Boy”, a role that he continued to play off and on for the next two series before he was redeemed by the love of Jo Wood. And Claire certainly played up her role of Malignant MILF to the highest, pouting, scowling, snarling at the judges, sticking her tongue out at departing couples, flashing her nuggets to the audience, and performing illegal lifts with aplomb. Has there ever been a more hilarious choreographical one-two than Claire’s illegal lift in her rumba, followed the next week by a fake illegal lift followed by a (porno) schoolmarm finger wag? Except possibly the choreographical one-two Claire’s nunga-nungas were doing in her salsa, the closest the show has ever come to full on pole-dancing, and clearly the inspiration for Strictly Argentina. All this would have been enough for a place on this list (even if she never got to dance to “Stacey’s Mom”, her spiritual theme song) but two important facts revealed after the series have pushed her all the way up to 34. Firstly that she was playing the Panto Bendy Wicked Queen with near-crippling arthritis, and secondly that she loathed Brendan the entire time, a fact that apparently he was unaware of until she spilled interviews about how awful he was all over the tabloid press. Brendan hatemances are always amazing.
33. Alex Jones – Series 9 : 5th Place
There’s an unpleasant trend amongst female tv presenters to act like overgrown children. Faux-innocent thumb-sucking sexuality, forced naivity, pastel colours and an ickle-baby-voice. Who amongst us does not yearn for a generation of Mary Beards and Dr Alice Robertseseses, teaching the nation about science and smartness? And yet…Alex Jones on Strictly took rampant childishness to new levels, and yet was kind of charming with it. She approached every new challenge with dilated pupils like she was hyped up on sherbert, and James was her exasperated babysitter trying to get her to go to bed already, no matter how much she wants to stay up late to watch “Snog Marry, Avoid” and eat Malteasers until she pukes. MUMMY LETS HER, SHE SWEARS! (Side Note : Alex Jones was 30 years old). Mega-Hankie wielding Wembley tango aside, her dances were rarely anything to write home about, but for those of us whose favourite sport of Series 9 was “watching crazed Matt Baker fans somehow convince themselves she was going to go one better than he did and win”, that somehow made it all the better. Also there was that one time she flipped James off on camera and they didn’t edit it out. Good times, good times.
32. Gethin Jones – Series 5 : 3rd Place
It’s a JONESFEST! That picture is, of course, only included because even by Attitude Magazine’s usual standards of taking normally attractive, sexy people and making them look ridiculous, it takes the cake. I mean…has he got sexy appendicitis or something? Maybe it’s because I’m most familiar with Gethin Jones’ SEXUAL PULL via myself being a young man watching Blue Peter long after he should have for…reasons relating to Gethin (spray tans/hot tubs/fashion trips to Paris that required him to lose his clothes repeatedly/an item on the the history of waxing (?)/him being turned into a piece of modern art that for some reason involved him taking his shirt off) but Gethin trying to be sexy never really did it for me, and his stint in Series 5 wasn’t aided by his being paired with Camilla, whose choreography has the same effect on my loins as the classic bromide and cold shower combination. Especially in the Latin. Still, despite all that, I enjoyed Gethin’s presence in Series 5 (EXCEPT WHEN HE GOT IN ALESHA’S WAY !!!!!!1!), particularly in the elegant ballroom dances, for which he had an undoubted knack. What really propels Gethin up this list though, is that he provoked the purest instance of Arlene-lust the show has ever seen. Arlene rejected Ramps’ rumba as cold and ultimately, for all her hollering, she stabbed Austin in the back JUST LIKE THE REST OF THEM. But once she fell for “Gethin The Gallant” there was no stopping her, trying to elbow arch-rival Matt out at every opportunity, and even trying in vain to keep Gethin safe from that dratted “Perfect Waltz”. For provoking such a frenzy, Gethin deserves a medal. To go along with the restraining order he undoubtedly already has pinned to his door.
31. Jason Donovan – Series 9 : 3rd place
The eventual fate of early series front-runners on Strictly is somewhat varied. Ramps and Alesha won handily. Dr Hammy and Matt made up the losing retinue of finalists. Denise van Outen ended up in limbo, Claire Sweeney in worse and Cherie…happened. But Jason Donovan’s fate is probably the most ignominious, because it seems like people forget he was ever seen as a contender to win at all. When he came out in that first week cha-cha, full of energy and pep and charisma, it seemed like the show was his oyster. The first “older” winner, Kristina’s Redemption and the British Donny Osmond. And this continued through Kristina’s early choreographical gems well performed (that quickstep! that tango!) until suddenly halfway through, the wheels fell off somewhere around his disastrous Wembley jive. The end result being that people utterly neglect to mention him these days, in order to claim that Harry Judd had it in the bag from Day 1 and it was SOOOOO OBVIOOOOUSSS DUHHHHHH. It’d be nice if Jason’s reputation could be rehabilitated a tad, because Lord knows there weren’t a lot of people in Series 9 who could dance. So long as Jason himself doesn’t feel the need to give any speeches about it…
30. Lisa Snowdon – Series 6 : 3rd place
Lisa Snowdon’s descent into madness came so suddenly and violently that it’s easy to forget that for most of Series 6 she was just some ex-model Superfan, who hovered around the upper-middle of the leaderboard, who mostly existed so Bruce could make lame references to George Clooney. And then…suddenly :
- The judges started repeatedly saving her over contestants who were better dancers (Cherie), more likable (Jodie) or both (ba’duh), whilst at the same time not really inflating Lisa’s scores that much, so it happened again and again
- John Sergeant started giving nudge-nudge wink wink interviews that implied that some of the remaining were heinous rude bitches, and everyone assumed it was Lisa and Rachel JUST BECAUSE, OK.
- Lisa started slagging off all the other contestants, on the grounds that “Brendan said so” all whilst repeatedly adjusting her enormous nunga-nungas like she’d just got out of the shower, and was not in fact on national tv
- Brendan started sulking mysteriously in a corner about how the judges were biased in favour of the male contestants, and then laughing it off on It Takes Two as just him being Silly Old Brendan…before doing exactly the same thing the week after
- Lisa’s family and Johnny Vaughan were suddenly all over the show like a rash, crying all the time and yelling that everyone who didn’t like her was JUSS JELUS because their husbands all wanted to do her FACT
- The quarter-final and semi-final both happened, and the populace turned to writing froth-mouth missives to the Radio Times about how the judges WERE IN LOVE WITH LISA & RACHEL AND THEY ALL WANTED TO DO THEM BUMWISE, AND DID I MENTION POOR JOHN SERGEANT?
- Lisa Snowdance
- Lisa finished third
- Len proclaimed for years afterwards that Lisa Snowdon was the greatest human being alive never to have won Strictly/A Nobel Prize For Economics and this must be recitifed immediately
- Lisa turned up the next series final as the Pinky to Rachel Stevens Brain, undermining fatally a clear bid for an All Stars series featuring them both, by stumbling around like a dipso giraffe smashing up the village fete, whilst Rachel danced sweetly and perfectly and utterly terrified
- Nobody really mentioned Lisa ever again in a positive way
In retrospect, Lisa’s sudden morph into emotionally incontinent self-sabotaging crazy, a la that soldier in a Vietnam movie who comes in all for spreading truth, justice and the American Way but who ends up decapitating his sergeant in the third real then napalming an orangutang, was the second most hilarious thing in Series 6 of Strictly. Snowdance of course being the most hilarious thing in Series 6 of Strictly, and in fact probably the history of Strictly. It’s such an artifice to misguided ambition, vanity, and tailoring, so poorly performed and choreographically misconceived. I can’t hear That Song these days without cracking up a little bit at the part where the music swells triumphantly, representing where Brendan hoiked Lisa around like a wet sack of cement, following immediately the part where they tried to recreate the finale of King Kong but with a cross-eyed stick-insect trying to climb the Empire State Building instead. Truly it will live in Strictly Legend forever. Her Viennese Waltz wasn’t bad though.
29. Tom Chambers – Series 6 : Winner
I said in the comments yesterday that we’re getting past the point where I’m going to include people whose dancing I really enjoyed but whose personality I found incredibly grating. Not quite entirely past that point though, obviously. From a dancing perspective, considering Mark’s ballroom, Harry’s latin and Louis…well…face, I think Tom’s the most well-rounded male winner the show’s ever had. His waltz, his salsa, his quickstep and tango are all legitimately fun to watch, and obviously it’s Official Law in this country to love his showdance. And yet…the incessant nattering, the “annoying little brother” relationship with Austin, the constant badgering the judges to give him a 10 already, DID HE MENTION THAT HE WAS GETTING MARRIED SOON, YES I THINK HE MIGHT HAVE, the paso faces, the second jive faces, the faces generally, the fact that he incessantly prepared for the show in his basement for years before like some sort of Musical Theatre Batman. It all means I will never quite love Tom Chambers like I feel like I should, hence he only finishes one place above Snowdon, despite there of course being every reason in the world he should be much much higher.
28. Letitia Dean – Series 5 : 4th Place
Letitia Dean has in all honesty one of the greatest Strictly Journeys of all time. She started off with the whole world against her. The public opposed to her because she was a stage-school RINGAH who unfortunately defeated the Amazing Stephanie Beacham in her first Bottom 2, with conspiracy theories abound about how she only escaped the wreckage of her truly mortifying rumba cause she was already signed up for the tour innit?. The judges on the other hand had little use for her, what with her not being one of their Chosen Hunks or the Fab Four Females who they all dribbled over. Instead she was one of the gawky girls at the back of the class, along with Kate Garraway, the classroom equivalent of those girls who spent the whole lesson writing on their ruler in Tipp-Ex, then chewing it. And yet…Letita Dean endured, and by the end of the series she was triumphantly departing in the Top Four, outlasting all but one of her more glamorous leggy rivals, with a glorious Waltz to “The Impossible Dream”. Along the way she was probably the best fit for Darren Bennett’s “Gayest Straight Man Alive” scthick, as they poked one another in the side of their boobs and snorted down their flared nostrils about how SILLY they were, particularly in their paso doble, which is officially the campest thing this show has ever seen not featuring Ian Waite or Erin Boag. She also turned 40, a lot, to the level that it became some sort of hysterical menopausal self-parody. Oh and there was that one week where she almost vomitted all over Tess. You may all now commence speculating about how many places higher she’d be if it actually landed on her. I’ll give you that it’s double digits, just to start you off.
27. Kimberley Walsh – Series 10 : 3rd place
There seems to be some sort of post hoc backlash against Kimberley Walsh amongst some of the Pasha-Nuts for “wasting his turn at a contender” by not being into it enough. I’m not sure what that even means, other than that I pay far too much attention to fanbases. Obviously Kimberley Walsh only did Strictly out of a desire to promote her crummy album and by extension her potential post Girls Aloud career in Musical Theatre, despite having a vocal range at about the same level as Tom Waits. Instead of, of course, all the other noble reasons people do the show (LOVING DANCE, NO DOUBT!). But I always loved Kimberley in Girls Aloud BECAUSE she was the hard-nosed, managerial, boss bitch of the band, and it’d didn’t really bother me that she was not here for love. (Aside from that one VT where she was all “HEY PASHA, HAVE YOU HEARD MY NEW ALBUM OF MUSICAL THEATRE STANDARDS!!!!!?” because…please). What mattered is that, towards the end, she delivered some great theatrical dances, following one of the great Bottom Two bounces in Strictly history. That Tango! That American Smooth! THE ONLY GOOD FUSION! If the closing run of Series 10 sucked (and it kind of did), Kimberley’s dancing was at least a pleasant distraction from the foregone conclusion. Sadly, on the downside, her personality was by turns not really there, and vaguely terrifying, as she stood smacking her head into a wall yelling “GET IT RIGHT KIMBERLEY!”. Still it could have been worse. It could have been Sarah.
26. Lesley Garrett – Series 1 : 3rd place
More than anybody else on this list (except maybe Tracy Beaker) I debated whether I should put Lesley Garrett on at all. Not because of her, but as an admittance that I don’t really remember Series 1 all that well, and what I do remember I have to pick around Justin Lee Collins’ awful leering needy face. So if Lesley Garrett was not actually an OTT bombastic trainwreck who clattered through every dance like Hyacinth Bucket falling into and clambering out of her garden hedge (/Anton’s Chest Rug) then I can only apologise. But that’s how she is in my head, screaming “LAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” at every opportunity and not taking menopause for an answer. Despite her less than stellar dance-talents (something she shared with every single other contestant in Series 1) Lesley Garrett’s legacy on Strictly is threefold :
- She was the very first Strictly Bottom 2 Goddess, appearing in over half of the series Final Showdowns, including a record four in a row.
- She created Anton du Beke, specifically his reputation as a gentleman, and therefore, for better for worse, is partially responsible for the…phenomenon he is today.
- Something in Series 1, which I half-watched and didn’t altogether enjoy it, encouraged me to tune back in three months later for the next series (and the next eight after that) and it certainly wasn’t Natasha Kaplinsky’s frozen mask of sexy fear or Chris Parker running around like Batman
25. Jade Johnson – Series 7 : 7th place
My stance on Jade Johnson is twofold. On the one hand she was a glamorous pirate-queen, who wore far too much make-up, had a bolshy personality, and slowly transformed into a Real Lady under the tendrese of Ian Waite. One of the few exciting contestants in the mostly depressing mire of weekly put-on controversy that was Series 7, and probably the only one who married dance talent with an interesting (/barking mad) personality. If she had survived truly she would have been a worthy winner (/4th place finisher, most likely) (more worthy than Laila Rouass at any rate, let’s face it). Sadly though, that brings us to the other hand, which is that Jade Johnson was a legitimately talented athlete who blew her entire life’s work when her knee went “poof” whilst she was titting around on a silly gameshow. Truly Jade Johnson represented the Agony and Ecstacy of Strictly.
Greatest Strictly Dancing Moment : Constructing a Viennese Waltz of epic sweep, drama, and emotion. Also jiggling her boobies in a giant silvery cobweb to Beyonce.
Greatest Strictly Non-Dancing Moment : Screaming obscenities at Ian Waite, then turning up the next day, awkwardly, clutching a bunch of garage forecourt flowers by way of apology.
24. Cherie Lunghi – Series 6 : 8th place
It’s easy to forget now, but Series 6 lasted a whole month before an episode where everyone took to the dancefloor at the same time. Up until that point the show was carried by two gender specific storylines, Jessie Wallace’s ongoing nervous breakdown, and laughing at Gary Rhodes’ mid-life crisis. A WHOLE MONTH. Those two gender specific storylines being “Tom vs Austin” which choked up the male half of the competition, and “Cherie tosses bitches left and right” in the female half. Cherie Lunghi brought something to the show that the other female contenders lacked, at least initially – poise, utter self-confidence, peerless control over her body in the elegant dances, and James Jordan’s widest variety of haircuts yet (seriously – Wolverine, Lost Bee Gee, Giant Mr Whippy of Gel, the bristly toothbrush – they all happened). Almost as though she was ballet trained to the level that she bragged about it on her CV isn’t it? Anyway, in retrospect, Cherie Lunghi’s early series dominance was just her being set up as the sacrificial lamb at the final Bacchanalian orgy of SARGEMANIA, before it got out of hand and burned the whole village down. And what a spectacular downfall. One week she was riding high at the top of the leaderboard, scoring 36 in her waltz, the next sucking wind and blowing imaginary typhoons in a pink nightie for her cha cha, bested in Lisa Snowdon’s very first Dance Off. Of the three years of James Jordan’s Tantalus Torment for calling Georgina Bouzova a fatty rum-pum-pum made of Mars Bars, partnered with ringer level talent with mediocre mid-boot results, Cherie Lunghi was my favourite. Gabby’s dancing was a little too aggressive, and Zoe Lucker’s inability to mentally handle being in the Bottom 2 was too much to watch. Cherie’s swift and merciless beheading, after 3 or 4 really good memorable dances, with nothing but Latin mediocrity ahead, was the perfect ending in comparison.
Greatest Strictly Dancing Moment : The rumba that was TOO HOTTT FOR LEN.
Greatest Strictly Non-Dancing Moment : Her starring role in the hour-long “SARGE QUITS!!!” It Takes Two, sat perched with a sour cat’s mum mouth in the background, whilst James snarled at the public for VOTING WRONG and calling Sarge a coward. She radiated “I’M FINE WITH THIS!” so unconvincingly that I would like Jennifer Aniston to play her in the movie, when she’s old enough.
23. Nancy Dell’Olio – Series 9 : 11th place
I feel like my Nancy Dell’Olio fandom is well past the point of self-parody at this point. So I’ll just say
Greatest Strictly Dancing Moment : Nothing
Greatest Strictly Non-Dancing Moment : EVERYTHING
22. Jodie Kidd – Series 6 : 6th place
If you ranked all 10 series of Strictly Come Dancing by the number of times the words “I’m NEVER WATCHING AGAIN!” were written somewhere on the Internet, in letters to the Radio Times and/or were screamed down the phone-line to the BBC Complaints Log, Series 6 would come out on top. By some distance. Between Sargegate, Austingate, RachelshouldhavewonbecauseTomshouldneverhavebeeninthefinalACTUALLYITHINKYOULLFINDHESHOULDgate, Series 6 may have been packed with dance-talent and excitement, but sometimes it was utter poe-faced and joylessly bitter. So having the human sorbet that was Jodie Kidd there, to wash away the bitterness and infighting with her jolly hockey-sticks attitude and pig-awful Latin, was often incredibly welcome. Game, gamine, graceful, giggly, (periodically) gormless and glam, to paralliterate Arlene Phillips, Jodie Kidd seemed to be the only one not taking Series 6 seriously, and that included the entire viewing audience at home. When she was eliminated in Week 10, leaving a whole month of series left to run without her, a little bit of light went out of the whole programme. And then she didn’t even turn up the final because she was too ill/couldn’t be arsed and it was even more of a let-down than having to watch three pigging foxtrots in a row.
Greatest Strictly Dancing Moment: The Pride & Prejudice Waltz
Greatest Strictly Non-Dancing Moment : Producing her breast
21. Jill Halfpenny – Series 2 : Winner
What? ME? JILL HALFPENNY? WIN STRICTLY? *gush* Or something similarly “modest”. Jill Halfpenny is undoubtedly the most important Strictly contestant of all time, except possibly Darren Gough. She carried the show from one-off charity-stunt success to a fully blown Saturday Night mainstay, classic of the reality tv genre, and International Hit, more or less single-handedly. She went from little-known minor soap actress to nation’s dancing sweetheart, as everyone chucked their Kaplisnky dolls in the bin as soon as they realised that people on this show might…you know…be able to dance quite well in-between shagging their dance partner and whimpering into Bruce’s shoulder about how scared they are. Sadly these days it feels like most of her Strictly Legacy has been eaten up by That Jive, to the extent that it doesn’t feel like people remember any of her other dances, except maybe when they’re casting around for decent paso dobles. I was never the biggest fan during the series, but she surely deserved better than that, given that she was the very first human incarnation of the Female Goddess Of Dance who manifests herself every three series to win a series in the name of Womankind. Which, incidentally, is due to return this year, in the form of God knows who. Maybe an ex-member of Cleopatra?
Greatest Strictly Dancing Moment : That Jive
Greatest Strictly Non-Dancing Moment : Badgering Darren to make That Jive harder because it wasn’t hard enough yet and SHE COULD TAKE IT.
Monkseal’s 10 Least Favourite Strictly Contestants Of All Time
10. Ricky Groves – Series 7 : 6th place – On one level it wasn’t entirely his fault, but sod it, Ricky Groves’ stint on Strictly, on the verge of a divorce, was basically Les Dennis on Celebrity Big Brother, soundtracked by four people screaming how HILARIOUS IT ALL WAS. People often claim they can only watch male rumbas through their fingers, but his midlife crisis Bond fantasy is the only one that’s ever truly sent me scurrying behind the sofa.
9. Christine Bleakley – Series 6 : 5th place – Redeemed slightly by the fact that it’s where she met her GBFFL Mark Foster, Christine Bleakley’s stint on Series 6 just seemed really peevish, careerist, and a bit pointless. I had no idea who she was episode 1, and I’ve never really been 100% happy about that state of affairs having been disrupted.
8. John Sergeant – Series 6 : 7th place – Marching around bellowing “the judges just don’t get it, the public love me” will never be cute to me, I’m sorry.
7. David Dickinson – Series 1 : 7th place – During David Dickinson’s three week stint on Series 1, he was so sour, belligerent, rude and demanding in training VTs that I’m still not entirely convinced he knew he was being filmed. It took Camilla 5 years of Hunk Therapy to recover.
6. Emma Bunton – Series 4 : 3rd place – Cheer up love, it might never happen.
5. Fiona Phillips – Series 3 : 9th place – The second-worst dancer in the history of Strictly, and unlike Quentin, pretty charmless with it. Wailing “I’M SHIIIIIIIIIIIIT!” gets old quickly, particularly if the public keep you around for long enough that you conceivably could consider actually putting some effort in.
4. Bloody Lulu – Series 9 : 10th place – Some people I think are so famous for so long that they get really confused when not everything they do is catered to their own personal whims. Hence Lulu seeming really baffled that she hadn’t been partnered with a sexy even-tempered midget beloved by the public, personally hand-crafted by Evil Moira Ross herself. Tough Luck Lulu, you got Brenda, and he wasted some of his best (/most bonkers) choreography EVAH on you, more’s the pity.
3. Dominic Littlewood – Series 5 : 10th place –
No means no.
2. Ann Widdecombe – Series 8 : 6th place Reasons why Widdy, despite all indications to the contrary in everything I’ve ever said about her ever, is not my least favourite Strictly contestant of all time :
- Her elimination, just as she was reeling off what she & Anton were going to do in their showdance in the final, was genuinely hilarious and I actually danced around the kitchen with glee at her hubris getting deflated, just as I thought my beloved Gavbot was doomed.
- She was kind of funny, I think twice, although I may just be remembering the same sentence twice
- She is probably responsible for most of the Series 8 ratings boost, thereby keeping the show viable and propelling it back above X Factor for a few years at least.
1. Matt Dawson – Series 4 : Runner-Up Unfortunately I can’t really put into words why other than the fact that literally everything he did on the show annoyed me. Even when he came back and called Craig Kelly delusional and everyone howled like it was the greatest witticism of all time I found it kind of disagreeable. Between him and Emma pulling sad kitty face all over the place, the end of Series 4 was NOT FUN FOR ME.
And now…back to the love.
20. Louis Smith – Series 10 : Winner
And so Series 10 is the next to fall out of the ranking, after Series 1. All the other eight series of Strictly have at least one representative remaining to be revealed. (Obviously it also means that Louis is the highest placing Series 10 contestant but…can anyone be surprised by that? Did people think Sid Owen was waiting around the corner with a Top 10 placing? Because he wasn’t) Louis Smith’s victory in Series 10 is routinely dismissed as people only voting for him because they fancied him. This is incredibly unfair. It REALLY should be routinely dismissed as people only voting for him because they wanted to mother him. Louis is also routinely criticised for not having a personality, which is also unfair, because he had probably the most cartoonish personality of any of the final four. Remember when they did that “Cribs” fluff VT for him and it was basically him sat in his pants playing Call Of Duty, eating Pot Noodles with his fingers and making rude words out of his household ornaments? Truly Strictly Come Dancing 2012 was the year when we discovered just how cripplingly childish and emotionally stunted out Olympic heroes truly are. Also it was the year when Flavia’s normal face of quiet desperation gave way to naked mental LONGING for the glitterball, culminating in that glorious It Takes Two episode where she spent an entire interview dragging every remaining contestant as a stage school brat with an unfair advantage, then telling Claudia she’d HAVE HER TOO IF SHE LOOKED AT HER LOUIS FUNNY! Evaluation of his dancing outside of the “angry mother at parent evening drags along her reluctant teenage son by the earlobe” partnership vibe? I always thought it was uncanny how a man so adept at showing emotion with his body so often struggled showing it with his face. Still almost always fun to watch though.
Best Strictly Dancing Moment : The ridiculous ending to his tango, complete with zombie collapse.
Best Strictly Non-Dancing Moment : Flavia promising to lend him the Dirty Dancing DVD and him looking utterly non-plussed.
19. Gavin Henson – Series 8 : 5th place
I say “5th place” I still think he was probably 4th. I mean…who was still voting for Scott Maslen at that point? Anyway, much like my love for Nancy Dell’Olio, I feel like my affection for ol’ Gavbot is probably one of the most wanged about thing on this blog, so I’ll keep it brief. Gavin and Katya’s TRUE LOVE is one of the greatest partnerships in the history of the show and if all “banter” was of the quality of their “banter”, then “banter” would be a force for good in the world instead of evil. In the course of his Strictly dancing career, Gavin hated the jive, snogged Bruno’s face off, took Katya’s virginity whilst dressed as Satan, did a Week One Waltz any SPORTSMAN would be proud of, almost dropped Katya on her face ON THE STAIRS within the first 5 seconds of a dance, performed the most precarious lift in Strictly history not involving Ola Jordan (seriously Katya’s life flashed before her eyes twice at least) made a rugby ball sexy, and answered the question “if someone does a rumba but technically speaking doesn’t move, is it still a rumba?” (Answer : Yes). He was ALL THINGS TO ALL MEN. Also very orange.
Best Strictly Dancing Moment : Snogging the face off Bruno, performing a decent comedy quickstep, then fretting about his kids.
Best Strictly Non-Dancing Moment: “I’m thinking sexy thoughts” “Good for you”
18. Rachel Stevens – Series 6 : Runner-Up
BZZT, YOU MUST COMPLY! Ahem. There is a long history in Strictly of what I have always termed “bots”. And of course, everyone has their own interpretation of the word “bot”. A lot of people seem to interpret to mean “a woman I dislike for no good reason” but that was never my intention. The original bot was a man for goodness sake (and still to appear on this ranking). But NOBODY defined the beautiful contradiction of Bothood more than Rachel Stevens did. Never has anyone married utter technical perfection (except in the Latin, where she was a bit “not good”) with tapioca magnolia beige bland interview like the Rachbot. Normally when people create drinking games around Strictly they’re a reach or just an excuse to be mean, but seriously if you’d taken a swig every time Rachel said “amazing”, “roller-coaster”, or “journey”, you’d be more pissed than Len Goodman trying to summon up the Dutch Courage to tell a room full of sportsmen how he really feels. Rachel’s interviews were so full of nothing, that it very quickly circled all the way back round to endearing. Really the relaunching of “Yes Minister” would have been much more successful with Rachel Stevens in the Sir Humphrey role. But her usual utter inscrutability made her odd moments of random overexcitement that more endearing, most notably right at the very end of her Strictly stint when she finished her showdance by botching a bum slide, ending up sprawled on the floor legs akimbo, giggling her face off.
Best Strictly Dancing Moment : That Argentine Tango. Never been bettered.
Best Strictly Non-Dancing Moment : Going absolutely apeshit when she got her first 10s
17. Harry Judd – Series 9 : Winner
Has there ever been a nicer nice young man than Harry Judd? Considering McFly rose to fame on a raft of online videos of them setting fire to their own pubes and deliberately stoking gay rumours (and not just any gay rumours, “enjoys getting roughly screwed in a service station by truckers” gay rumours), it was kind of hilarious to watch their drummer spend an entire episode of It Takes Two talking about his favourite type of knitwear. It was like finding out that Alice Cooper was really into golf. Seeing this force of middle-class argyle premature middle-age collide head-first with Aliona’s usual whirl of sexual vampiric custard and emerge somehow a better man for it was truly one of the stories of Series 9. For all that people talk about journeys on Strictly, it’s really rare to see winners actually get demonstrably much better from the first few weeks to the end. Just compare his early ballroom to the dances he was pushing out in the last few weeks, and there’s no comparison. He and Chelsee also have my favourite Final 2 relationship from any series of Strictly. That of the two kids hanging around the fire escape smoking and rolling their eyes at everyone else. This is, of course, not saying a lot, as I can barely remember any other Final 2 who even liked one another. Unless you count those obviously fake tabloid rumours about Alesha and Matt The Brat GETTIN IT ORN.
Favourite Strictly Dancing Moment : His Viennese Waltz, for personal EMOTIONAL reasons, and his quickstep for “world’s most obviously series winning dance” reasons.
Favourite Strictly Non-Dancing Moment : That time his mum rang up It Takes Two and you could tell he was 5 seconds away from calling her “mater”.
16. Louisa Lytton – Series 4 : 4th place
I’m considering positing an inviolable Law Of Strictly Soap Stars. The better the character, the worse the actor will be at dancing. Think about it. Cat Slater, Richard Hillman, Dot Cotton, Nurse Donna Jackson = all bad, bad dancers but SOAP LEGENDS. Kate Mitchell, Calvin Valentine, Dawn Swann, Steve Owen’s Incest Mum = amongst the worst characters in soap history but STRICTLY ICONS. And Louisa Lytton continues the trend, as a key whiny cornerstone of Eastenders’ “Comedy Gangsters” nadir era, but one of the best Strictly contestants of all time. Louisa is the only teenager ever to have competed on the show (until we get an inevitable “Youtube Star” in two series time and I stick my head in a deep-fat fryer), and it showed, as she was by turns chirpy, full of energy and optimism and then the next second shiftless, truculent and lazy. The combination of these volatile personality traits, and Vincent’s very first ever series of Strictly choreography (which alternated from genius to middling to too hard to baffling on a weekly basis) meant that you never knew what version of Louisa was going to turn up on the dancefloor from one week to the next. Very little was more painful in the run-up to the end of Series 4 than watching UNDERDOG STARS like Peter, Carol, Claire, Louisa and…I dunno, I guess some people were into Ray Fearon, and I respect their life choices, get booted in favour of Matt and Emma, and I can’t help but feel a bit sad that we didn’t wind up with a final 3 of Mark, Louisa, and any one of the above. DAMN YOU JIMMY TARBUCK’S DODGY TICKER! DAMN YOU WHOEVER SUDDENLY DECIDED TO VOTE FOR EMMA THAT ONE WEEK ONLY. Once the series was over, Vincent and Louisa went on to compete for the UK in the Eurovision Dance Contest, which is a stain on humanity to the same degree as “World Idol” was, and I mention it only to say that we ALL deserved better.
Best Strictly Dancing Moment : Doing about 20 minutes of rehearsal for her jive the whole week and then knocking it out the park, in Week 2
Best Strictly Non-Dancing Moment : Craig Revell-Horwood going into quite unsavoury paroxisms about how she had the perfect arse for rumba. He’s never come closer to heterosexuality again.
15. Holly Valance – Series 9 : 4th place
Holly Vukadinovic Valance-Candy. The name alone conjures up exactly the image of Holly Valance that graced Strictly in 2011, and the show was all the better for it. Forget Holly Valance from the Kiss Kiss video (straight men, you are excused – I would never take that away from you) or Felicity Scully or…whoever she played in the Dead Or Alive movie (let’s be honest, the towel she was wearing had more consistent characterisation and screen-time than she did) (yes straight men, you can have that one too). The only Holly Valance I recognise as existing now is the bone dry millionaire’s trophy-wife who spent 25% of her time on Strictly trying to learn how to dance, 25% of her time glowering at Artem, and 50% of her time driving around her Ferraris, Maseratis and hot air balloons in VTs, vamping it up about how pretty, rich and spoilt she was, and how many rich friends she had. Probably my favourite reasoning behind choosing to participate in Strictly is “I’m rich and bored” because it usually delivers about the right level of personal investment in the competition – keen to have the experience, but also not rolling round on the floor crying because you were in the dance-off/only got a 9 for a dance you KNOW DESERVED A 10/Alesha looked at you funny or something. Holly’s experience of Strictly as a contestant seemed to most accurately match mine as a viewer. Entertained and invested, but never more than 5 seconds away from taking the piss or laughing openly in Bruce’s face.
Best Strictly Dancing Moment : That paso doble, where she finally threw caution to the wind and the gauntlet down to the other contestants, before deciding the very next week she wasn’t really that bothered anyway, and spending the entirety of her Argentine Tango sat on her arse.
Best Strictly Non-Dancing Moment : Rolling her eyes and snort-giggling at being in the Bottom 2.
14. Colin Jackson – Series 3 : Runner-Up
So yes, you didn’t have to go a long time before finding out who the original Strictly Bot was. What? You thought it was Ramps? P’shaw. Colin Jackson could really do pretty much anything. Ballroom. Party Latin. Rumba. And not Bloke Rumba. ACTUAL rumba. Even Argentine Tango a little in that big group dance they all did, in which other Series 3 front-runner Zoe Ball flailed around like an imitation knock-off of Buckaroo! made entirely out of paper-clips and Blu-Tac. But I can’t remember one solitary thing that he did off the dancefloor. I think he mostly just grinned in a vaguely eerie fashion, whilst Erin rampaged around the backstage area, in the full grips of the show’s first instance of “I’ve Got A Ringer After A Run Of Duffers” Fever, casting daggers at all her rivals, and questioning all their marks with a brow more furrowed than Scott Maslen’s entire face. And that’s saying something. Such technical perfection sadly could not match up against the towering “personality” of Darren Gough – Dancing Wardrobe, and Colin was sadly doomed to finish second from the moment the competition started. So God bless Erin for piloting that plane RIGHT INTO the side of the cliff on purpose, choreographing that showdance in a vain attempt to prove to nobody in particular that she really had taught Colin to lead, HONEST, hint hint (*cough*unlikethatbitchLilia*cough*). Very little defines for me the final run of Strictly Series 3 more than Erin Boag marching out, head held high, dragging Colin and two creepy mannequins out after her, except maybe Ian Waite skidding out on his arse. Truly, she has softened with her hair.
Best Strictly Dancing Moment : His quickstep, which I think more than any dance in Strictly history really captures the spirit of old Hollywood.
Best Strictly Non-Dancing Moment : I can remember literally nothing, I am so sorry.
12. Dr Pamela Stephenson – Series 8 : 3rd place
I’m not saying that everyone who studies Psychology in-depth is doing so as some sort of displacement activity revolving around their own mental health issues. I’m saying that about everyone who specialises in “The Psychology of Sex”. Just so we can be specific about that. And certainly Dr Pamela Stephenson, not to use language that stigmatises in any way, was effing bonkers. Looning around the dancefloor, dropping names (mostly her husband’s repeatedly), doing prayer hands and fighting the battle for sex-crazed sexagenarians everywhere. Dr Hamela used her in-depth knowledge of sexy sexual chemistry, years of ringer practice teaching herself street dance in the barios of Rio De Janeiro, and also her sheer force of personality to shoulder-barge her way right into the final of Series 8, which was no mean feat given the standard of the competition on display. She also used all of the above to absolutely terrify the BESJESUS out of James Jordan. Let’s face it, he can promise he’s a “New Man” (every series, like clockwork) as much he likes, James is never going to be as likable as he was trying to wrangle Dr Hamela without losing a testicle to her wandering talons.
Best Strictly Dancing Moment : The Viennese Waltz. Both the dance itself, and the moment of PURE HAM at the very end, as James ascended back to Dance Heaven and Pamela just stared off into space, heaved her bosom, and SIGHED.
Best Strictly Non-Dancing Moment : Releasing newspaper columns during the series in which she revealed IN DEPTH how she wanted to shag James and that Ola was jealous of her, and saying that her staying over Tina O’Brien (or whoever) had given her Survivor Guilt akin to those who had survived the Rwandan Genocide (or whatever).
12. Ricky Whittle – Series 7 : Runner-Up
What? His face is sweaty! Let’s be honest, for most of Series 7, Ricky Whittle was pretty dull. Natalie was struggling to find her feet choreographically, and there were too many other contestants melting down and having sex and being racist and having their knees explode and stuff. Which makes Series 7 sound a lot more exciting than it was, but the point really is that Ricky Whittle spent most of the series being blandly good in forgettable routines whilst getting no real screentime because he was too busy filming Hollyoaks at the other end of the country.He seemed well on course to be the black, male Emma Bunton, and then two things happened. First he did an amazing quickstep, justifying to an extent the judges faith in him…then seconds later switchbacked into one of the most lengthy trainwreck spin-outs in Strictly history, via a puny tango and a jerky jive, all culminating in a stint in a jail-cell for attempted vehicular assault. The resulting strain broke Ricky Whittle’s brain, prompting him both to produce some of the greatest dances in the history of Strictly in response to finding himself in the Bottom Two, and also turning him into a DELUSIONAL NUTCASE, the likes of which Craig Kelly can only dream of. Delivering that old Strictly sop “all my many many fans just thought I was safe, so really this means nothing, I’M STILL A STAR!” with more conviction than anybody else in Strictly history. Going into the final as the only person in the country who thought he could win. Actually petitioning the show to reveal the vote counts after the show, like a Digital Spy mental because he refused to believe that he lost to Hobbity Hollins fair and square. Ricky Whittle can currently be found in a tin-foil lined room muttering “…but his Charleston was RUBBISH. If they’d let ME Charleston, I would have been ten times better”.
And that’s it for Series 7. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Ali Bastian whilst the series was airing, but the existence of Kara Tointon 5 seconds later renders everything she did kind of second-best in comparison.
Best Strictly Dancing Moment : That semi-final where he did an amazing waltz and a superb Argentine Tango and got two standing ovations, when they MEANT SOMETHING thank you very much Evil Moira Ross.
Best Strictly Non-Dancing Moment : His dad’s insistence on calling him “Richard”.
11. Zoe Ball – Series 3 : 3rd place
You can forget your SPORTSMEN and pop tartlets trying to desperately scrape a comeback, nobody, but NOBODY in the history of Strictly Come Dancing worked harder than Zoe Ball. She put in 1,782 hours training in total, FACT. She sacrificed her first-born child to the Strictly Gods, FACT. She gave off teacher’s pet try-hard vibes so pungently that in the quarter-finals half of the front row had to be given oxygen treatment, FACT. Jon Culshaw’s face still droops on one side. But let’s face it, in the gynaephobic atmosphere of Series 3, a girl needed to work hard for the money, and Lord knows Zoe was ready to go that extra mile. And the judges were more than happy to help. Top of the leaderboard 7 weeks out of 10, 2nd twice, and 3rd once. She scored 35 IN WEEK 1. And 80% of the time those scores were well deserved, as Zoe’s lanky pipe-cleaner frame proved deceptively versatile, as she mastered most of the show’s dances (apart from jive, obviously, as she is quite tall). Fortunately, her relationship with Ian kept her likable and relatable through the worst excesses of her grade-grubbing, and she has at least been kept in the hearts of the show’s fanbase sufficiently that she was judged suitable to take over from Claudia on It Takes Two, the jewel in Strictly’s knackered old presenting crown. Speaking of which, I have docked her two places for the last series of that show, given that it consisted solely of her and Julien McDonald SCREAMING at one another, whilst Karen Hardy periodically popped up dressed as a cowboy hooker to teach us all about the history of the foxtrot. Sorry, but I’m not sorry. That crap was unwatchable.
Best Strictly Dancing Moment : Either her tango, because it was fierce, or her samba, just for being an actual good samba.
Best Strictly Non-Dancing Moment : “WHAT THE FECK IS THIS SHITTY MUSIC IAN, IT SOUNDS LIKE CIRCUS MUSIC! I HATE IT! ARE YOU GOING TO DRESS ME AS A CLOOOOOOOOOOWN?”
10. Scott Maslen – Series 8 : 4th place
It’s not really surprising that people don’t really remember Scott Maslen much at all, when the best dancers in Strictly history are discussed. Series 8 was so wide open that, from cast reveal to glitterball coronation, most of the cast were considered as a major favourite at some point or other. So it’s not really shocking that Scott has been remaindered to the same bin as Tina O Brien and Jimi Mistry when the series is discussed. AND YET. Scott Maslen’s downfall from frontrunner to also-ran was probably the most compelling in Strictly history. For the first half of the series, he was the strongest male dancer, and you could make a decent argument for him being the strongest dancer overall. “Bookmakers leaks” had the series as a nip-and-tuck dogfight between him and Matt, he received the first 10s of the series, and in her choreography for his jive, Viennese Waltz, Tango and quickstep, Natalie showed that she did actually Get It, and that Ricky Whittle’s series had just been her teething troubles. And then, as suddenly as Scott had built his empire, it collapsed. Exhaustion, boredom, inability to find any more Dead Nan/Cute Kid/Last Day At Work cards to sustain his momentum…call it what you will, but two weeks after Scott’s triumphant door-slammin’ jive, Natalie was literally dragging him around the dancefloor by the throat. Which alone wouldn’t be enough to necessarily make the top 10, but it all brought Scott into a position where he was being beaten by GAVBOT. The ensuing rivalry is one of my favourite in Strictly history, with Scott trying really hard to look like he wasn’t at all bothered by the fact that he was now slumming it with the inventor of the world’s slowest rumba, competition wise, and Gavin loving every second of rubbing it in Scott’s face that he was now “worse than him”. Sure by the time the semi-finals rolled around Scott had made himself a complete irrelevance, but his hatemance with Gavin made even the worst of his last few weeks worthwhile. Yes, even “I’M NOT DOING SAMBA, IT’S GAY!”.
Best Strictly Dancing Moment : Being hauled around by Natalie in his jive, making a neat circle of Strictly Jive Tie-Related moments with St Jill’s Holy Jive of Series 2, blessed be its name.
Best Strictly Non-Dancing Moment : Arlene Phillips jumping up and down on his grave the moment he left, calling him the BIGGEST DISGRACE IN STRICTLY HISTORY or something for not being as good as she thought he should be, demonstrating yet again the tact, diplomacy and sensitivity that had got her canned as a judge 5 months earlier.
9. Julian Clary – Series 2 : 3rd place
Yes, I know it’s a dinky picture, but I also know that you can’t get enough of Auld Erin. Anyway, these days Strictly contestants have “been on a journey” if they get through the opening group number without pooing themselves. The bar on emotional development has been set so low that people like Natalie Cassidy and Robbie Savage can bunny-hop over it, by accident. Back in the OLD DAYS though, you had to work for your Journey badge. Julian Clary overcame crippling panic attacks (ACTUAL panic attacks, not deliberately hyperventilating into your own hands because you’re worried you’ll look a bit silly) and clawed his way all the way to the final, knocking out hunks, housewives favourites, soap fitties, beloved charity campaigners and…well, Carol Vorderman. Not ALL the battles can be tough ones after all. Julian Clary was the show’s very first “comedy contestant” (no, Christopher Parker was not a comedy contestant, he was just crap) and still to ths day I think the one who best married the ideas of making the audience laugh with actually learning how to dance. These days you don’t really need to do the latter – just get fired out of a cannon/swung around in a harness like the world’s saggiest conker. But Julian, guided, and periodically whipped by Erin, palpably wanted to improve and impress at the same time as he was making crude jokes about his maracas. Their relationship was probably the most perfectly refined and crystalised version of the Strictly “Gay Best Friend” phenomenon, later replicated by such luminaries as Russell & Flavia, Erin & Richard, Robin & Anita, and Darren Bennett & Everyone. Did those friendships involve a dog? NO, NO THEY DID NOT.
Best Strictly Dancing Moment : His showdance, probably the funniest dance in Strictly history that was supposed to be.
Best Strictly Non-Dancing Moment : Either telling Kerplunk that her dress was hideous or calling Craig a silly old queen. Take your pick.
8. Chelsee Healey – Series 9 : Runner-Up
Last year, at this time, when I did a list of the best 50 reality tv contestants of the last 5 years, Chelsee was not on the list. Since then, I’ve had time to reconsider, and a whole series of probably the dullest set of contenders in Strictly history to sit through. And certainly if there’s one thing you could never accuse Chelsee Healey of being, it’s dull. Bursting onto Strictly with a profile shot more akin to the Cowardly Lion than a human being, with bad plastic surgery, a thick Northern accent, and a history of falling out of nightclubs. In short, she was everything that the show’s natural audience fears, particularly the segment that votes for nice young men and could see no reason why Anton SHOULDN’T take over from Bruce. I mean…he’s just so charming, right? Anyway, everyone had Chelsee pegged as an early boot, anchored down by an unknown new dancer. And then MAGIC happened. Sort of. After a fashion. In that Chelsee stomped all the way to the final 2 without even a sniff of the bottom 2. Somewhere along the way she won Middle England over. If not more than Harry Judd, then at least more than Jason Donovan. Whether she did this via her mostly strong dancing, her abdundant charm, or if Pasha had something to do with it (hint : somewhat this) I don’t think anyone has ever beat such an obviously bad early beat to get all the way to the final, and sort of look like they might win. Who cares if we had to suffer 500 “My Fair Lady” VTs and that unfortunate booby incident to get there, Chelsee had one of this show’s very few genuine Cinderella stories, and for that she is my number 8.
Best Strictly Dancing Moment : That quickstep, which Quickstep King Ian Waite had been dogging all week, which turned out to be AMAZING.
Best Strictly Non-Dancing Moment : Any time Bruce did an ugly Northern stereotype voice and she looked like she wanted to nut him.
7. Kelly Brook – Series 5 : 6th place
So now that we’re at the top end of the poll, I think it’s safe to say that we’re amongst the Strictly contestants who best represent their archetype on the show. I’d say everyone in the top…11 or so has a case for being the most emblematic of their particular Strictly niche. And nobody, but NOBODY represented Strictly villainy better than Kelly Brook. She swept in, with her Hollywood bea…boyfriend plonked in the front row, every single show, and refused to speak to any of the other contestants. She spent every week on the show dressed in an outfit wedged so far up her ass she could probably floss her kidneys with it. She found herself HILARIOUS, laughing manically at every joke she made or insult she found herself on the end of. She drove Brendan like a slave, making him choreograph routines that broke the rules and usually ended with her slapping the shit out of him, all whilst he gazed at her in mute awe at her beauty. She openly called out Alesha’s Holy Nans constant appearances as being desperate pandering that she personally found distasteful *sniff*. If Stephanie Beacham were Kelly Brook’s mother she’d tell her to limit herself to one flash a day, and make it a good one. And thank goodness, on top of all that, Kelly Brook could dance. There has never been someone in the history of the show so simultaneously fun to watch and also to root against, and she’s the rare villain whose absence made the end of her series more tense as all the fanbases fell on one another fighting the second she left, whereas before they’d all been united in bafflement at what the daft mare would say next. Really, in this way, she was the Widdy of her day. Except with better tits. For some reason on her stint on the Strictly Live Tour the Powers That Be decided to partner her with Matthew Cutler for some reason. There has never been a more baffling decision, not even when they fired Hayley Holt! (those bastards). Kelly was made for Brenda, and Brenda for her.
Best Strictly Dancing Moment : That American Smooth, where she looked BEAUTIFUL, danced immaculately and classily, and then did a MASSIVE and obvious illegal lift at the end, grinning down the camera, all but yelling “YES, I’M CHEATING BITCHES! WHAT YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT? Bruno jizzed in his pants.
Best Strictly Non-Dancing Moment : When she spent an entire episode of It Takes Two squealing about she was about to strike a blow for femineminism by doing caping. With a pink sparkly cape. With rhinestones on it.
6. Matt DiAngelo – Series 5 : Runner-Up
I’m just saying, supremely awkward cast photos are always a Strictly favourite. Anyway, Alesha Dixon, for all her girlish giggling(/mannish hooting) was clearly always a very controlled dancer. Kelly Brook was supremely self-confident, and Gabby Logan was a Being In Total Control Of Herself. Gethin Jones was always a perfectly presented gentleman. Which left it up to Matt DiAngelo to provide the chaos to the field of contenders in Series 5. And provide it he did, charging around the dancefloor full of hormones, tripping over his own feet,often resembling the Andrex puppy more than a dancer. Let’s just say if he’d come out for his quickstep trailing an entire bog-roll behind him, I wouldn’t have been surprised. Week after week with Matt you never really knew what you were going to get – a salsa to burn the audience’s faces half-off or a nice sit down at the end of a dance half forgotten. Flavia producing great male rumba choregraphy, or an off-offBroadyway sub David Copperfield paso doble. That showdance where they were practically screwing in the middle of the dancefloor, or an Argentine Tango that was oddly lacking in chemistry. Perfect waltz or shitty samba. Arlene giving him a standing ovation, or Arlene snarling “I DIDN’T MEAN TO HURT YOU!” like a b-grade Buffy The Vampire Slayer villain. One of the most exciting elements of Strictly is on those rare occasions when you genuinely don’t know before a dance starts whether it’s going to be amazing or awful. With Matt Di Angelo, you got that every single week.
Best Strictly Dancing Moment : His salsa. DEM HIPS.
Best Strictly Non-Dancing Moment : Hello. Also his and Flavia’s SWAN CHAT, from an era when they just pretended the choreography was a load of conceptual post-modern bollocks for a joke Aliona.
5. Mark Ramprakash – Series 4 : Winner
Time has only helped Ramps’ legacy as a Strictly winner. Nowadays, age and maturity is turned on its head, and the older the contestant is, the more immature/oversexed/rampantly sexually inappropriate they are. Time was when an Esther Rantzen Rantzen would cringe their way awkwardly through a sexy dance. Now you’ve got Dr Hamela thrusting her vagina at Len’s face in a rumba, and Jason Donovan having a cry-wank whilst sniffing Kristina’s hair mid-Argentine Tango. Not that Ramps was their vintage, but he was rapidly approaching 40, notoriously a blissed out and mellow cricketer, winnowing out the end of his career in an Indian summer of talent. A force of MATURE SEXUALITY, brooding in the tango, gentlemanly in the waltz, and wanton in the salsa ; if Ramps was a Strictly contestant today they might as well shut down the 50 Shades Of Grey set, because NO BRITISH HOUSEWIFE would have accepted any other casting. Jared Leto? Ian Sommelier? Michael Fasspenis? FORGET IT. Ramps magic hips held the nation’s ovary voters captive like no parts of the male anatomy had before, or ever will ever again. He was also paired with Karen Hardy, at her most gurning, neurotic and OTT, and that’s always been my favourite flavour of Karen Hardy. I almost wish that Bruce HAD tried to veto her attempt to restart that salsa. They’d still be picking bits of him out of Tess Daly’s hair. I miss her so much. Finally, Mark’s Strictly legacy is improved simply by the fact that he clearly loves the show so darned much. At least three times a series he’ll be there, with his daughter, sat in the front row, and then Tess Daly will make the cameraman pan to him and he will pull THAT face. That face there. The “go away” face. Shy and diffident to the last.
Best Strictly Dancing Moment : That salsa, seized from the jaws of disaster.
Best Strictly Non-Dancing Moment : Every time Karen tried to get him to unlock his INNER SEX BEAST and he looked at her like she was talking Martian.
4. Alesha Dixon – Series 5 : Winner
Ugh. Drinking alcohol in public. Such GUTTER ITV BEHAVIOUR, don’t you think viewers?
Well…that was Craig’s opinion (hint : wrong, it was AMAZING), but we are here to judge Alesha only as a contestant, not as a judge/commentator/clothes-horse/alcoholic. And Alesha’s run through Series 5 is the stuff of legend. Really, each reincarnation of the Strictly Holy Dancing Goddess represents the era she ushers in. Jill classically trained, refined, competitive. Kara polished, youthful and romantic. And Alesha? Sloppy, controversial, hilarious and over-extended. At least off the dancefloor. On the dancefloor Alesha was always on her best behaviour, whether it be delightfully tripping around the dancefloor in her quickstep or REACHING OUT in her salsa, Alesha could more or less do anything, as was reflected by the fact that she still holds the record for the highest average score of any Strictly contestant. At least…she did the last time I checked anyway. Somebody get on fact-checking that please. Off it? She was…well, off it. Eternally giggling/snorting/cackling/grunting away like a pig snuffling up truffles, pimping out her nans, waxing emotion about “Her Shit Year” (SCREW YOU HARVEY! AND YOU JAVINE, YOU SLAG!). Infamously turning up for the final still hungover from the night before (oh I hope that’s not an urban legend). Alesha was that rare Strictly contestant who was both a really good dancer and also really relatable. I always think it’s vaguely creepy when people say they’d really like to “go for a pint” with someone off the tv, in Alesha’s case I can’t help myself. We could get wankered and start yelling about how everything is rigged for hot guys. What a night.
Best Strictly Dancing Moment : The start of her cha cha. Kimberley Walsh wishes she was half as fierce.
Best Strictly Non-Dancing Moment: When Bruce called her the British Beyonce. HER FACE.
3. Austin Healey – Series 6 : “4th place”
Best Strictly Dancing Moment : The one two punch of that waltz followed by that jive. Nobody has ever come out of the gates harder.
Best Strictly Non-Dancing Moment : The MISERABLE RAGE on Erin’s face during the It Takes Two after they were eliminated. You can actually see the moment her heart breaks in two.
2. Kara Tointon – Series 8 : Winner
Kara Tointon pretty much bowled the perfect Strictly game. She won against a Nice Young Man, a Soap Hunk, and a Sportsman On A Journey, never having been in the Bottom 2. She was both a Judges Favourite and crowd-backed underdog (“BOO LEN BADMAN! LEAVE HER AMERICAN SMOOTH ALOOOOOOOOOOOONE!”). When it came to the final, every single member of the cast was rooting for her to win except Widdy. She got a hot Russian boyfriend (when her previous celebrity conquests were Joe Swash and the ugliest member of Busted), a career boost (look the film of The Sweeney MIGHT not have been shit, theoretically, SHE’S FINE) and brought public attention to a much maligned learning disability which is her pet cause. She fell foul of Craig’s persnicketiness and still triumphantly topped the leaderboard. She did a shitty showdance, just like all the best showdances are. She got a random Alesha 10. She had injury porn drama, both with herself and her dancing partner. She matched Alesha’s feat of never scoring below 30. She danced to a Bond theme, a piece of Authentic Argentine Tango piece, a musical theatre classic, a Queen song, and several wantonly inappropriate pieces of modern pop music. She looked alternately beautifully turned out (that rumba) and like her make-up had been done with a black marker pen (that tango!). She was underrated (that Charleston!), overrated (that waltz that she did with her arm hanging out its socket, for which she scored 38!), and rightly revered (that Viennese Waltz!). She fell on her arse to Enrique Iglesias dressed as a Happy Shopper dominatrix. She WAS STRICTLY COME DANCING.
Best Strictly Dancing Moment : Take your pick. For me, nothing got me fanning harder than that Tango.
Best Strictly Non-Dancing Moment : Rushing backstage, breathless in curlers as Artem hemmorhaged from his main artery (/had stubbed his toe).
1. Denise Lewis – Series 2 : Runner-Up
Falling for a Strictly contestant is in many ways like every other love affair in someone’s life. Sometimes there’s a long, heartfelt but ultimately fruitless affair of passion like an Austin Healey. Sometimes a crazed, manic flurry of sputtering lust like a Gabby Logan. There are the partners who started off seeming normal, then turned out to have secretly contacted all your exs and told them that THEY WILL GET CUT IF THEY TEXT YOU AGAIN, like Dr Hamela Stephenson. There’s the shameful one-off fumbles in the cupboard with Paul Daniels. There’s the time you burst out laughing as soon as you see their “O face”, like with Carol Vorderman. And defying description there’s Nancy Dell’Olio. But above all else, you never forget your first. And Denise Lewis was my first. Statuesque, powerful, deadpan, competitive, eternally doomed Midlands Icon Denise Lewis. I punched the air after her tango, I laughed my arse off at her ratty jive afro-weave, I watched a-gog at her samba abs, and I don’t know that I’ve ever been more enraptured at this show than by her quickstep. Other contestants have come and other contestants have gone, but Denise Lewis will always be my Strictly hero, and I now give you advance notice that I will stan for her on any All-Stars series over all of your favourites. Also a shout-out must go to Ian, who was adorably bashfully camera-shy at the same time as being the campy and competitive Ian of later series. In a Strictly era where pros on-show personalities are consistently one-note (“I’m Italian!”, “My partner is crap at dancing HEE HEE!”, “I’m Russian and ANGRY!”, “I’m Russian and HAPPY!”, “I will slut for custard”, “I’m constantly a changed man from the last series when I was a changed man from the changed man I was the series before”, “I THINK EVERYTHING’S AMOYZING!”) it was a delightfully complex combination.
Best Strictly Dancing Moment : The paso doble. The most Denisey of all Denise’s dances.
Best Strictly Non-Dancing Moment : When she won, in my head, and punched Jill Halfpenny out.