I love the smell of new blog tags in the morning. Smells like victory.
So it’s that time. That time before every series, about a month before the cast are officially revealed, when I sit down and lay out which pro I think has the best chance of winning. Normally my attempts at prognostication are hilariously inept, based as they are on trying to apply logic, reasoning and real-world values to a show that still continues to choose to employ Julien McDonald as a pundit. But last year I was actually right when I predicted that Flavia would be the 10th pro to lift the glitterball trophy so I’m going to persist. (You all picked Pasha as the winner pre-show, which shows what you know/were wishfully thinking). All odds stated are just for fun, although a damn sight more accurate than whichever online bookmaker currently has Anton as the most likely pro victor.
Anton du Beke: Speaking of which…ANTON LIVES. Somehow surviving the array of cuts, quits, and existential wipeouts that have marked the last few series of pro departures, Anton is still standing. He’s never reached a final, he’s never scored a 10, and he’s a good decade older than anybody else still in the cast, at the age of 47 (HE SAYS). But still he’s here. At this rate he might even outlast Bruce to be the show’s wizened figurehead. Heck, he might even outlast the show itself, appearing weekly post-cancellation in the middle of every single episode of Dr Who (at this stage played by Clifford The Big Red Dog, as the BBC finally give in to the agitators and correct 40 years of bigotry by FINALLY making the doctor a giant cartoon non-human of colour) to perform an American Smooth WHETHER THE BBC WANT HIM TO OR NOT. Given how sloppy this year’s build-up has been, you wouldn’t bet against the new new producers taking their eye off the ball and ignoring the spidery note Evil Moira Ross left telling them that, whatever they do, despite the temptation, despite the curiosity, despite the ghostly voices in their head telling them to do it that they mustn’t give Anton a contender. Watch them open that Pandora’s Box and have their faces melt off like the end of an Indiana Jones. Still, regardless, he won’t actually WIN. Will he? Odds : 250-1
Artem Chigvintsev: Really the defining image of Artem with regards to last series was given to us when Fern told us all in a radio interview after the show that she found him after the launch show crying in a corner about being tethered to an wizened old bag like her rather than a super-glam doe-eyed naif. You know, like Holly Valance. Whether it was true or just Fern…trying to be funny, Artem’s choreography definitely took a turn for the stately last year. Enough to haul Fern through 6 weeks of competition, not really enough for me to remember much of it outside of Fern wielding an umbrella like a delicatessen jumbo salami. Either way, it’s apparent that Artem as a pro is only really on fire when he’s given somebody with decent raw materials to work with. So it all depends now whether the new new producers play into that and give him the international megastar (/soap actress with a well-hidden ringer past) he deserves, or give him another old dear just to wind him up and prompt a Blanche Dubois style meltdown where he runs round the studio putting lampshades on all the studio lights screeching about how he ONLY WANTS TO SEE YOUTH AND BEAUTY EVERYWHERE HE GOES. Either way, I’m down for it. Odds : 8/1
Brendan Cole: Who would have thought that, after three series where he was paired with a member of Destiny’s Child, one of the most high-profile sportswomen of her generation, and one of the biggest selling British female solo artists of all time (DON’T LOOK AT ME, YOU BOUGHT THEM), we’d all be thinking that Brenda deserved a break? Somehow he’s gone into each of the last three series with such high expectations, only for them all to turn to ashes as it turned out that the beautiful woman/Lulu he was paired with turned out to be a neurotic basketcase/Lulu. And even worse, they all had the sinuous natural pliability of a paper-clip. You have to wonder, a little, if (*say it in hushed tones*) Brendan has lost his mojo as a teacher of dance a little? Maybe those techniques lifted directly from Patrick Swayze movies don’t cut it here in the second decade of the 21st century? Regardless, we’re probably heading towards an almighty push for a vag-winner and Brendan has a more obvious in than most. As we hit a decade of Strictly, I can definitely see them returning to the shows roots for its winner and…let’s face it, it’s not going to be Anton that gives the show its juice. Odds : 7-1
Iveta Lukosiute : I was debating throwing Iveta in with the other newbies in the end of post round-up, given how hodge podge her debut was, but she’s already built up enough of a fanbase to warrant her own segment. She certainly seems to have a swell of goodwill behind her, for turning up at the last minute to cover for Aliona, gently herding Johnny Ball’s obvious general befuddlement with life, and also to participate in some truly horrific comedy VTs. Who can forget her going indoor camping with Sid Owen for no reason whatsoever? Even after only two weeks of appearing she seems to have the same sort of warmth about her that Kristina had after her first series. Although, we all know how that ended. The two most obvious demerits against Iveta’s chances of winning are the fact that this is a female celeb’s year and also that her choreography skills are currently…untested. Let’s all remember that this is the woman who choreographed this. Imagine the potential showdance carnage and shudder. Odds : 20/1
James Jordan : OhiwonderifJamesissomehowgoingtogetanotherringerthisyearohwaitnoidont. James is very much a pro who works best for me when given a middle-ground celeb, rather than a top-notch contender or a lazy dud. Give him the former and out come the overearnest contemporary style choreography and the throbbing vein on his forehead that makes him yell at Craig/Len/a cloud that’s really pissed him off. The latter and…well it only happened once, and I’m sure we’d rather not revisit that. Really I’m going into this series hoping for an Alex Jones or a Pamela Stephenson-Connolly rather than a Denise van Outen or a Gabby Logan. Let’s face it though, whoever James gets they’re going to have a certain level of ability and likability, even if he has to winkle it out, given his role as the greatest magnet for natural dance talent in the world outside of Derek Hough. Give him Grace Jones and it’d turn out she had a secret history in the Ballet Rambert that her wikipedia page neglects to mention. Or alternatively, give him the ACTUAL Grace Jones. That, I’d watch. Odds : 10-1
Karen Hauer : In the flurry of new and exciting female pros landing on us this series, Karen Hauer suddenly looks a little shopworn, if we’re honest, especially after her rather mixed debut last year. Let’s face it, when your show highlight is turning up for the series’ Guinness Records challenge in a pair of Ugg boots, doing a disinterested shuffle then stivering off for a cocktail, then you’ve got issues. Taking the series obvious pre-show “OH WELL WE MIGHT AS WELL JUST GIVE HIM THE GLITTERBALL NOW” winner and guiding him clunkily to 6th place, just ahead of Michael “Lumberjacker” Vaughan doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence as to her chances of taking someone to an actual win. Still she has one thing left in her locker, and that’s her wanton South American sexuality. Let’s never underestimate its hypnotic powers, especially if harnessed to someone with slightly more natural flail and finesse and sinuousness than Nicky Westlife. I guess when you’ve got got that no-no, any slight over-rotation of the hips could leave a woman in a wheelchair. Odds : 15/1
Kristina Rihanoff: With the departure of Erin Boag, Kristina is now the oldest standing female pro. (Some people may speculate that she was even before Erin left, but I couldn’t possibly comment). This means that she’s destined to get one of the older male celebrities just for probity’s sake, especially in these post-Yewtree days and given the older male names flying around at the moment…let’s just say that her history making run with Jason Donovan seems unlikely to be repeated. At the moment it looks like, if this series IS finally going to break its duck on winners over 40(/female winners over 32) it’s probably going to come from a glamorous Bond Girl than a Hairy Biker. Kristina also left last series on rather a sour note, as the height difference between her and Colin Salmon proved insurmountable and she and he both gave the show’s Powers That Be a major side-eye for even pairing them up in the first place. And when Kristina Rihanoff is giving you side-eye, you know about it, because that woman has no poker face whatsoever. And also she will slash your tyres. Egg your house. Napalm your wife. Part of this is a shame, because of all the pros I feel Kristina’s reaction to winning would be the most spectacular but I’ve a feeling we’ll be waiting a while longer for it. Maybe in the future she and Barrowman can be reunited. He’s not doing a lot at the moment is he? Odds : 30/1
Natalie Lowe : After calling every series since Series 8 a breakthrough for Natalie Lowe, just because I wanted to convince myself that the world could finally love her giant face as much as I do, it seems like last year it might actually have happened? She imbued Michael Vaughan with a personality that he’s never really shown anywhere else, hauled a few decent ballroom dances out of him, and left us all with a car-crash jive for the ages. Of course there’s nothing to guarantee that if she gets another talented male celebrity that she won’t start yomping on about how he’s GONNA GIT A TIN IN THUH FURST WOIK COZ HES JUST THIT AMOYYYYYYYYYYZING ZOE, HIS INNY MAYUL SUHLIB GAWTTA TIN IN THUH FIRST WOIIIIIYK BIFFURRRRR? But hopefully this time around the public will be a little more understanding of her foibles and Golden Labrador levels of enthusiasm for everything. I don’t know about you, but I’m personally ready for a Natalie Lowe run on the glitterball. If this series is to have a male winner, I hope this is where it’s coming from, at this stage. Odds : 10/1
Ola Jordan : Despite last year’s poor showing (mostly due to circumstances outside her control) Ola Jordan remains to me the distaff opposite of her husband. She’ll probably never get an “on paper” contender, but she’ll still somehow manage to get whoever she’s given further than they should, even if she has to do via the medium of starfish shaped waggling. And of course, she still has the HYPNOBOOBS. Age has not withered them, nor custom staled their infinite boobiosity. There also remains the (deeply sexist) ghost at the feast, wherein she and James are going to want children sooner rather than later and the clock is ticking. Whether this means she and James get a Vincent & Flavia “let’s give them both a potential winner and see what happens” style send-off or not remains to be seen. The public still love her (especially that proportion who leave comments on the youtube videos of her dances, clearly typed one-handed) so you’d never bet against her doing the double. Odds : 15/1
Pasha Kovalev : Whisper it quietly, lest the PashaNuts take your head off with a pair of pruning shears, but Pasha is clearly “due a duffer” to a greater extent than any professional in Strictly history. Firstly the most talented female member of the Series 9 cast by a mile, then a stage-school trained, West End star member of a highly choreographed girlband. I will not brook any argument, as much as I love Pasha and his gap-toothed Siberian grin and taut powerful b…where was I? Anyway, I like Pasha, and would petition God tomorrow to change biological fact in order to allow me to carry his children, but HE NEEDS TO SPEND A SERIES PARTNERING AN AWFUL OLD HAG (oh hi rumours of Vanessa Feltz being cast) and I will not hear otherwise. Not even in a tittering “tee hee let’s give him Teri Hatcher she’s over 50 that totally still counts” behind the hand way. Besides, it will allow us to see another side of him beyond the slightly limited view of his personality we’ve seen thus far. I want to see Pasha FRUSTRATED AND STERN. Yes I do… Odds : 20/1
Robin Windsor : Speaking of which I so badly to see another side of Robin beyond campy giggling tongue-waggling Muscle Mary companion to some theatrical grand dame that if he DOESN’T get an Alesha Dixon level sexy young firecracker woman I may well give up and just do recaps of X Factor instead (just kidding, I would NEVAH). I have faith that, despite all evidence to the contrary, there is choreography in Robin Windsor’s locker beyond West End Musical knockoffs and disco dips. I want sensuality, I want romance, I want red hot groin explosions…in the words of the dear departed Arlene Phillips I JUST WANT RAW SEX. As a newly affianced man, I have faith that Robin Windsor will reach a level of maturity in the next series that will surprise us all. Don’t let me down Robin. Odds : 6/1
And The Rest : This was going to be a quick run-down of the odds for our three newbie pros, but today…INTRIGUE STRUCK. In that the profile put up for Emma Slater on the BBC website has mysteriously disappeared, and she’s revealed that she’s not even going to be in the country for the start of rehearsals. It looks like, unless the BBC have flubbed their website up (not unlikely, let’s face it) we might not be getting her as part of the cast after all. Maybe they noticed she was British, and therefore ineligible by law to be a Strictly Pro these days (*rumble grumble UKIP grumble*). The alternatives (Anya Garnis, Katya, A REVENANT LILIA KOPYLOVA, Ian Waite Going Gay(er)) are all so delicious though that, no offence to Emma, but I can’t but help that at least one of them is true. As for the others, Janette is perhaps too feisty for a UK audience and “new hot Eurasian male pro arrives and wins/nearly wins in his first series” almost feels like too much of a cliche now to actually happen again. Although…what am I saying? This is STRICTLY! There is no cliche too cliched, and thank God for that. Odds : Aljaz : 8/1, Emma : 40/1, Janette : 14/1, SOMEONE ELSE : 25/1