As if the slide of the nation into unrealistic twee self-indulgent middle-class juvenalia hadn’t already been sufficiently presaged by the ascendency of Bake Off, the rise of adult coluring books, and the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Pa(NO, NO POLITICS, ENOUGH, NOBODY WANTS TO HEAR IT) we begin with the dawn chorus playing over a leafy cul-de-sac where apparently all the Strictly Come Dancing pros and presenters now live together in day-glo 1950s harmony in single sex dormitories. No hanky panky here thank you very much. None at all. If you want to surmise anything from the shots in quick succession of
Kevin enjoying himself in the shower,
Aljaz hurriedly putting his shirt back on and
Pasha polishing his balls, that’s entirely on you, this is a FAMILY SHOW after all. Meanwhile if you want to surmise anything sexual from this picture
Seek help. Seriously. Not even Dr Hammy would take that case of sexual perversity for consultation. Other visual highlights of this opening salvo include Natalie cheerfully manning the toaster (seriously, about the only kitchen implement I’d trust her with after her run on Celebrity Masterchef)
emerging, foaming, from underneath Tess’ bed like the fecking Babadook. Once all the pros are showered, primped, and full of toast, they all rush (/do indifferent pro groupdance Latin dancing) off to the Strictly Express/Porn Train. If you’re confused as to what I mean by that, The Sun ran a (FRONT PAGE) scandal blart about how the train used to carry the pros to the launch show was once used in a porn film. Truly this would distinguish it from the rest of the set of Strictly, upon which no sexual acts have ever taken place (FLAVIA). Anyway, the Strictly Express/Porn Train is manned by Craig the ticket inspector, Len the driver, Bruno the cabin boy, and Darcey as the
trolley-dolley who’s pissed in everyone’s tea. The train goes choo-choo-choo all the way to the resplendent and soggy RED CARPET LAUNCH EVENT. Sadly missing from this entire sequence were Trent & Gordana begging commuters for loose change using half a Costa Cup and James in a hoodie smashing in the headlights of Kevin’s Mini Metro with a golf club the second he left. And Iveta. Always Iveta.
So that Red Carpet Launch then? Well it remains a testament to what this show’s thoopafans will queue up to gawp at given that literally all it is is a chance to stand in the rain and see this year’s celebrities and pros from a distance of 30 metres. Seriously people, if the thought of Jeremy Vine and Anita Rani in the same place at the same time gives you a bliss-high, just hang around Soho at about 1pm on a Tuesday, you don’t need to queue up and watch the pros do 7 takes of the same boring group latin dance in early September drizzle. As if to fully illustrate the madness Len angrily grunts “THIS IS GONNA BE THE YEAR” (of…?)
at which point this chap
near-faints like he’s at a Jim Baker revival. Anyway, the train then explodes and all the celebs emerge mugging and gurning and throwing their hats in the air, apart from Daniel O’Donnell, who stands there nodding his head to the blarting music gently, like he’s doing the washing-up whilst listening to Jimmy Young. Already my favourite, a role he then confirms by sighing mournfully “Well I certainly thought my fans were loud but…boy…these are loud”.
Not even “these people”. Just “these”. With a look in his eyes that says he already wants to laser a good number of them. Contrast this with Kellie Bright yelling
“I BIN STRICKLIFIED I FEEL LIKE A PWINCESS!”. No contest. The celebs do the rounds,
you can tell this woman kind of wanted to get a selfie with Anthony Ogogo but made do, and then somebody hits the big red button so the pros all line up to do generic latin dancing into the studio. It’s to a mash-up of “Let’s Get Loud” and “Uptown Funk”, so if you’re taking part in a sweepstake the answer was “6 minutes into the first episode”. If you got that Len Goodman was going to lip-sync it, then have a secret bonus point. As a routine I mostly use it as an opportunity as ever to not look directly at Craig’s dance-faces and to scout out the new pros, on which token, Otlile knows what she’s doing, Gleb knows what HE’S doing, so long it’s mostly pulling One Direction “COME ON!” faces down the camera, and Giovanni doesn’t seem to feature much at all.
Now that’s bed-head.
Once everyone’s cleared off, Tess and Claudia emerge from their respective wings
dressed as a Stepford Wife and half a robot. They welcome us to this year’s Launch Show, and for those of you keeping track, that’s it for this year’s supposed Train Theme. Which is a pity for those of us envisoning Daniel O’Donnell doing a cha cha to Theme From S Express. Sigh. Whilst there are no more trains, there will be musical guests – Jess Glynn and Gregory Porter – the annual pairing of pros with celebrities, the annual Car Crash Group Dance, and the annual (except when Kara didn’t do it because she couldn’t be arsed and would frankly rather spendd the evening eating chips and shagging Artem ragged and frankly who could blame her?) Champions Dance, wherein last year’s winning celebrity returns and does their most ICONIC (*drink*) DANCE. Also we get our usual checklist of thank yous to our judges (who dance/walk/spin very slowly on) and to the Man In The Hat. ALL HAIL THE MAN IN THE HAT.
Once all the judges are out and thanked and primped and fluffed and fawned over, it’s time for the STRICTLY STARS (not “stars of our show”, I wonder if Brucie got round to getting that trademarked, and if he’s sat at home as we speak grunting under a blanket about how they may have sacked him but they’ll NEVER TAKE HIS CATCHPHRASES!!! whilst Poor Wilnelia shrugs and tops up her glass of wine) to descend the staircase, ready to be paired up. Nothing particularly interesting or exciting happens, or is announced, apart from Iwan nearly decking it and Jamelia full-on
Tina Turner/Benny Hill legging it over to her mark. Once she’s finally skidded to a halt, Tess tells everyone that there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that their Strictly journey starts here (their agents’ Strictly Journey of course began three long months of begging calls to the BBC Press Department aggo) and the bad news is that they can’t go back. Unless they throw themselves down the stairs like Aliona did that one time. Time for one last tradition before the actual content begins – Len saying this is the best cast they’ve ever had and he definitely recognises all of them and how great it is to have *squints* Peter Andrews, Jeremy Irons and The Rani in particular. STARS THE LOT OF THEM. He closes by comparing the cast to a Dickens novel. What, has Peter’s Little Dorret already fallen out, I thought that’d take a while… Just so the others don’t get left out, Bruno gets to growl at everyone about Strictly being “rrrrrrrrrrrrrough” in an unpleasantly sexual manner, Craig tells them all what they’ll have to do to match the incredibly high standard of last year (…) and Darcey gets to mew about how it’s been simply agggggges since a man has won, so she wants that to happen this year. Darce, the Australian version just had its first female winner since 2007, if we want to talk about gender inequality. Put it away love.
After all that, are you ready for pairings? God I hope so.
THIS IS AINSLEY HARRIOTT! He tells us that it’s been “twenty-odd” years now that he’s been cooking on television. That they have Ainsley, that they have. For those of us who had jobs in the 90s and early 00s, we are shown via clips that Ainsley’s cooking style involved a lot of jigging about and wiggling, which is presented as some sort of half-arsed resume for being good on Srictly, as is his brief period as
one of The Chuckle Brothers, in an early incarnation where they were called “The Calypso Twins”. Their catchphrase was “to me, to you, to me, to you, to me, to you, roll another, to me, to you…”. I guess he can’t be any worse than Gary Rhodes or Gregg Wallace, right? RIGHT?
THIS IS IWAN THOMAS! He tells us that he is very proud to be the British Record Holder for the 400m, at 44.36 seconds. Over a second slower than the world record but still… a record! He will be spending most of this series luxuriating in the title of “Olympic Medallist” so fill in the blank yourself. He’s also champion of Deadline, a 3rd placer on Celebrity Masterchef (in a weak year), and probably was runner-up in a celebrity edition of The Link idk. The clips reliving his glory day are also a sad reminder that
he used to be a much more proud ginger than he is today. What happened Iwan? Where are your roots? What’s this vanilla ice-cream Mr Whippy look for? Iwan goes on to say that he’s normally the one in the bar making fun of everyone else’s dancing with his mates, not dancing, but plans to use this as part of a journey arc to dazzle everyone with his improvement. Iwan, it’s not 2005, nobody cares about SPORTSMAN JOURNIES any more, not even Len, times have changed. He does however go on to promise tight outfits so we can all see his nob, which suggests he does at least have his finger on the current Strictly zeitgeist a little.
Now try announcing that not using this creepy-ass face(s) and we’re all set.
THIS IS JAY FROMTHEWANTED! Oh no wait, that was Jay Fromthewanted, now he looks like
a painter and decorator who’d leave your lounge half-painted and smelling of weed. Jay explains for the audience who The Wanted were, even though The Wanted were a guest act what, last year? Time makes podgy weed-smoking painter-decorators out of us all I guess. Anyway, they formed in 2009, spent 5 years getting into petty fights with the worst members of One Direction on twitter, then split up. Here have a poll.
Jay muses on what the other members of The Wanted would say if they found out he was doing Strictly. Given Max George just got off a stint on Glee and getting beaten at wilderness survival by Jamelia I would suggest he keep his pretty mouth shut. Jay then goes on to get on my Shit List by using the non-word “strictlified” but then illustrates it
thusly, so he’s back off it again. I’m very fickle like that.
THIS IS JEREMY VINE! He tells us that his main job is on Radio 2, but he also does the Swingometer for the BBC’s Election Coverage. I’ll tell you now readers, there’s very little I hate in this world more than the pigging “Swingometer” so let’s move on. Jeremy puts on a whole faux naif act that he doesn’t know what a “fake tan boooooth” is, employing the same tone a high court judge would talking about Linford Chritie’s Lunchbox. I mean…I’ve seen Eggheads, I do not believe there is not a CRACK MAKE-UP TEAM dedicated to CJ Du Moo-Moo’s face alone, let’s not act like this man is an innocent on matters of the flesh-coloured concealent. Anyway, Jeremy’s motivation for being here is apparently that he’s 50, having a mid-life, and wants to try something new that he’s never tried before but always been a bit curious about
BACK IN YOUR DRESSING ROOM BRUNO, THE MAN’S VULNERAB…oh wait, he means dancing. Erm…worked for Vanessa. Ish.
Back in the main hall and
the ever creeping hand of Tess tells me she’s helping pair this lot up. She asks Ainsley what three ingredients would make up his perfect partner, and he says “flour for the lightness, olive oil for the slide, and chilli for the kick”. That does sound like a dancer’s diet yes. On treat day. He’ll be dancing with…
oh. Well, those of us who ever hoped that Natalie would one day lift that trophy now have to accept that she’s just another Erin (no offence Erin). Still, those cynics amongst you who might detect jadedness in her response should look at her face when she’s paired with him.
She clearly thinks she’s going to win. Natalie always thinks she’s going to win. And that’s why she’s a star. That and the wink.
Iwan’s next, and before Tess can even get two words out he’s bragging about how he asked for his costumes to be made tighter and that he’ll probably be stripping nude in a minute. On the one hand…this is a bit gauche. On the other hand
Tess is clearly overmatched, look at her, she looks like she’s going to throw up. She has been OUT.PERVED. This could be a good series after all… She just about recovers to ask Iwan whether he’s a Gough, a Ramprakash, or a Judy Murray (?) and he replies that he’s going to be Darren Gough and have a journey all the way to the etc etc…seriously has this man been frozen in a Strictly time capsule since the last decade? Well
if he has he’s got a good match. Once she’s over, Iwan
hoiks her up and shakes her til her boobs fall out. Ola mentally adds another move to her list of Latin choreography, bringing it to 3.
Jay’s next and
Tess has already recovered from being outmatched by Iwan, as she drags a clearly terrified Jay’s hand right down into her Tesspit. He doesn’t recover for the rest of the show. Tess reminds him that boyband members have done quite well on this show in the past, after the judges dragged them through dance-offs, after which they just about managed to beat Mark Wright. Does Jay think he’ll do as well as that? Jay says no.
Aliona says “CUSTAAAAAAAAAAARDDDDDDDDD!”. Jay notably does not throw her about til a secondary sex organ falls out, Iwan. That’s not til the American Smooth – an Aliona specialcontemporary themed piece around the highs and lows of being a transgender stripper during the Klondike Gold Rush set to “Same Love” by Macklemore ft Ryan Lewis. Probably.
Jeremy is last up to bat for this contingent, and tells Tess that fascinatingly enough this is the same studio he was in reporting on the last General Election. I see Evil Moira Ross In A Rainbow Wig is extending her tendrils into politics, I’m so excited. Tess asks Jeremy what his daughters think of him doing Strictly, and as you might expect it turns out they were initially excited but now are horrified and want him to take it all back and pull out and for Chief Reserve Danny From Hear’Say to do instead but NO NO YOU BEGGED DADDY TO DO IT SO NOW YOU’RE STUCK WITH IT I’VE ASKED TO DANCE TO THAT ARIADNE GRANDE AND IZZY AUSTRALIA YOU LIKE AS WELL. After Tess tries a lame “heard it on the grapeVine” pun (seriously, the guy’s brother is Tim Vine Tess, you’re going to have to try harder than that to even get a flicker) his partner is revealed to be
Mrs Clifton. I have so little to say about this pairing it’s uncanny. Once she’s over Jeremy beams that he’s so happy to have Karen because she’s not just the best in the UK, she’s the best IN THE WORLD (almost a decade a go in a dance they don’t even do on the show). Tess is all “yeah, she’s great, she got someone to the final once”. High praise.
They go up to join the other three elected pairings in Claud 9, where Jeremy promises to Claudia that all the female pros are so amazing that none of the men said at any point that they would prefer to get one over another. That is such a lie Jeremy. Claudia tells Jay that he’s clearly the most scared, as Jay’s hair repeatedly wooshes like the little girl in Poltergeist to prove it. Aliona promises that she’ll look after him. Again, LIES. Let’s get Jamelia in to drop a truth bomb on this box, I’m ready. Meanwhile Iwan’s going “WORRRGH, YOU’RE GONNA SEE MY BALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLS!” and Natalie is
drawing a massive love-heart between herself and Ainsley. As you were.
From Claud 9 we move direct to the Judges to ask their opinions. Oh Christ, do we have to? Ask Darcey and she’ll demand we hold the final just between those four boys right now, she’s so ready for a male winner Tess, SO READY, IT’LL BE SOOOOOOOOO YUMMEH! Fortunately Tess just asks Len, who thinks the pairings were truly inspired and those were the pairings he would have made if he’d been in charge (and also if Ola was given a stepladder presumably).
Next up :
This woman apparently has had five UK Number 1s. I thought it would take me until a little longer than the age of 30 to be completely disconnected from current pop culture, but here we are, now if you’ll just leave me be with my Banarama EPs and my “Where’s The Beef?” t-shirt… Apparently this one is called “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself”, presumably a message she’s sending to herself regardiing her own singing. At some point Tristan/Aliona and Ola/Aljaz come out and do some flirty cha cha dancing over the top. I mostly wonder if Tristan’s hair is going to be like that all series.
Back up to Claud 9 now and look, I don’t want to get started on Andre already, it’s going to be a long series, my MEDIA CONTACTS tell me that he’s a lovely guy and
I’m sure he was just gently guiding Carol to her mark here not shoving her out of his eye-line to the camera. He’s a professional, he knows where people should be I’m sure. Or he’s giving her a hug.
Claudia talks (/bellows “LOOK AT YOUR ICKLE FACE!”) to Kellie first, who says that it’s like being at a school disco but here you’ve got someone actively forcing someone to dance with you. To be honest, I could have done with that at my school disco. Instead I will be performing here much the same function I did there – downing two bottles of wine and collapsing cackling against a wall whilst everyone looks on with pity and base notes of disgust. Claudia turns to Jamelia next and asks her if she knows exactly who she does and does not want to be paired with.
She does. And does. Attagirl. Claudia tells Jamelia that she is SCARY, basically admitting that a moment’s honesty would bring this whole show tumbling down.
Peter’s next, and Claudia smiles that all of the other celebs are so nervous they haven’t allowed any of their friends or family to come and watch them, but Andre’s got his mum-in-law parked front-row-centre.
Was that a dig? I hope it was. Although not as much as I hope Jordan turns up at some point, kids in tow and checking her iPhone for the whole show, occasionally pausing to nudge Gloria Hunniford in the ribs and belch “‘AS HE BIN ON YET, THE CAR’S RUNNIN OUT BACK”.
Next up, an introduction to our three new pros, via the medium of shadowy video package and yet more barely identifiable Party Latin.
The theme this time is “Superheroes” as all three newbies are asked what their super-power OF DAHNCE is. First up is Gleb.
Gleb’s superpower is “international experience”. If Gleb wasn’t my favourite before he is now. What sort of superpower is International Experience? What, has he been to Bruges on a school trip or something? That’s not a superpower that’s UCAS Statement padding. Is your other superpower the Duke Of Edinburgh Award Scheme Gleb? Anyway, he says that he has been on THREE different version of Strictly worldwide. Yes, and both of the other ones you lasted one series before they bummed you off, BODES WELL.
Next is Otlile,
who is going by “Oti”, just as I consistantly start spelling her name correctly, thanks a bunch. Her superpower is flying. I think Otlile is the only one of these three who understood the assignment. This means, in show terms, that she likes being lifted and thrown around in the air. I really want her and Janette to have a proper John Woo-ish aerial showdown at some point. Last up is
Giovanni, whose superpower is annoying the living life out of me. Oh alright, it’s his eyes. Not laser eyes. Not X Ray eyes FOR A DAH LADEES BOSOMS TO SEE. Not even eyes that magically change colour depending on mood. Just his eyes. Giovanni spools out Italian stereotypes at a rate of knots, and then all three of the new pros dance around under more blue light than a 1990s Channel 4 vampire thriller.
Back up to Claud 9 again, where Tess asks Claudia what superhero she would be? Captain Of The Lacrosse Team? Nose Woman? Claudia says Catwoman, because she’s always falling asleep and she loves it when Anton tickles her on the tummy. Also because Halle Berry plays her in a really crap film, no really, look it up on Netflix, Kevin Bacon is woefully miscast as Patrick Grant. Time for some more pairings? Past time really isn’t it…
THIS ONE’S SANE! Helen’s entire VT is basically her begging and begging and begging Darcey to like her because she did ballet as a teenage girl and really looked up to Darcey as the most massive inspiration and had pictures of her all over her wall which she used to smell before she went sleep just in case some of the magic wore off and it’s so great to finally meet her and have her even look at her silly little attempts at dancing. I feel like, given that Darcey’s role on this show is a man-loving manabler who wants a male winner and whose entire judging repertoire consists of “the boys are right!”, Helen may be cruising for a disappointment. Then again, Helen shares that to prepare for her role as a midwife she used to practice giving birth to her pet dog, so I’ve got a feeling her grasp on sanity is tenuous at best anyway.
Now there’s a dog that’s seen some dark dark places. Figuratively speaking of course.
THIS IS JAMELIA! Pop star, Loose Woman, and face of UK home-schooling (…), Jamelia’s job used to be singing, but now her job is just letting any old crap that comes into her head tumble out her mouth. The show chooses to represent this very subtly with a shot of
three different versions of her all with their mouths yammering away at the same time. Jamelia tells us that she’s here to make her daughters proud/not ashamed, whichever is easier.
THIS IS GEORGIA MAY FOOTE! Tess tells us all that Georgia is the youngest addition to the Strictly cast this year, at the age of 24. The only younger women in the history of the show were Chelsee, Pixie, Tracey Beaker, Jaye Jacobs, and Louisa Lytton. So, you know, get ready to be patronised Georgia May. Although given that her reaction to this is “I DIDN’T KNOW I WAS THE YOUNGEST *squeal* THAT’S SO CITIN!” and to pull
this face…I’ve got a feeling some of it may not be undeserved. Georgia then recaps her Coronation Street character’s story arc as “came in, got Chez, made him have a baby at the age of 16, had an affair with Ryan, ran off to Portugal with her mum in the back of a taxi”. Yeah…it’s that middle one I’m struggling on a little, run that by me again? Anyway Georgia May says that she’s a reet proper normal Northern girl from Bury, and between Helen, Jamelia and Jay, this is OFFICIALLY the YEAR OF THE MIDLANDS Georgia, so you can nob off. Loads of Northerns have won this show, it’s OUR TIME.
THIS IS KIRSTY GALLACHER! Tess reminds us that Kirsty is famous for reading out loud on Sky Sports News, so it’s no surprise I have personally not seen her on tv in the last decade. Sorry Kirsty, I now accept you were there all the time. Anyway, Kirsty tells us that she thinks lots of things about Strictly are really cringe and she’s really going to have to try to get over her snobbery about them, like trying to be sexy. Hun, by week 8 you’re going to be rolling around the dancefloor in a blue fatsuit pretending to be Violet Beauregard and calling it a samba, you’ve got further to decringe than just “being sexy”. Kirsty then goes on to say that as a SPORTSMAN and the daughter of a SPORTSMAN she thinks of the show as being very much like SPORTS, and she’s going to have a big advantage being tough and strong.
Remember Victoria Pendleton’s muscles? Yeah, so do I. Good luck Brenda.
Cut back to the studio and
if Helen could please carry herself for the entire series like she’s Norma Desmond that’d be great thanks. Tess tells her that she looks lovely and peeps that we all know that she can deliver a baby…but can she deliver (*wheels turn, cogs whirr, continents collide and part again*) a …dance? Nice work Tess. Anyway, Helen has
Aljaz, who Tess introudces as a “150 pound bundle of joy” and that’s certainly not his weight so I’m guessing it’s his fee on the escort website where do I sign? Tess asks Helen if she’s surprised and she says yes, because she thought she was going to get Anton! People have tried to reach from this and make out that Helen was insulting Anton which…given that you’re the ringiest woman in the cast you’ve got a series of this garbage ahead of you lady, good luck.
Jamelia’s next, and Tess, after telling her that she looks gorgeous tonight, immediately starts trying to stir up another fight by asking Jamelia what she’ll do if the judges criticise her. Jamelia replies that she’s open to constructive criticism (LIES) but she is also happy to have a duck-faced diva staredown with Craig if the need so calls.
Honestly, she’s trying to seem jokey and good-humoured, but it’s been so long since someone went the full Jan Ravens… Jamelia is partnered with
this’un, who seems less than enthused, although that may be because he doesn’t want to overshadow Jamelia, who is at this point literally jumping up and down, spinning circles and screaming like a marsh witch. As Tristan wanders over to his doom, Anton and Brenda both start doing crap imitation Riverdancing. Honestly, I think moving in together has sent them a bit funny.
Georgia May trots down next and Tess tells HER that she looks very pretty and like a little princess. Georgia gushes that she feels like Tinkerbell. Tess then says that Georgia May’s surname being Foote is a really good omen for being good at dancing because you use your feet to dance. She’d like to know if Georgia May has one right foot and one left foot or two left feet. Georgia May says that she has one left foot and one right foot. I can honestly feel my brain cells ebbing away as I watch this. Who’s she got?
That’s not really going to help. Also, that’s two male pros in a row now with reaction shots that look like they’ve just noticed their penises are much bigger than they remembered them being, what gives? EYE CONTACT MEN, IT’S ONLY POLITE. Giovanni flings Georgia around as she makes nauseated noises, then Tess calls him an Italian Stallion and he wiggles his dick about.
I’m not saying I’m praying for chickenpox at this point but…
Kirsty trots out last and Tess is all
“who dressed you love, George at ASDA?”. NOT REALLY, KIRSTY TOO IS VERY PRETTY AND DRESSED VERY NICE! Tess beams at Kirsty that she knows that “Our Brucie” is a big family friend of the Gallachers and Kirsty grins yes he is as her face tells of
a thousand Christmases listening to endless talks about the bloody Trots in the Labour Party and abandoned games of charades when Bruce wasn’t allowed to win and threw a tanty and quiet illicit freezing cold fags outside on the terrace with Poor Wilnelia. Kirsty says that actually she spoke to Bruce today and he gave her some good advice for the show – “stay calm, watch out for that Arlene and when you get to Wembley don’t forget to dance to the back row”. That’s our Bruce!”. Time to learn who Kirsty will be driving hard towards glory this year :
There we go.
They trot up to Claud 9, where Claudia immediately says that as a SPORTSMANREADEROUTER she’s bound to be competitive. Kirsty replies that she IS very competitive generally (as anyone who watched The Games and saw her be obscenely pleased at, say, beating Mel Giedroyc in a foot race) but not at dancing, not at this particular show, no, definitely not an evil competitive woman, please don’t hate her British public PLEASE! I do just feel like we just had a whole lot of options for Series Villains rotate before our very eyes.
Claudia next turns to Giovanni and asks how he’s feeling. Giovanni says that he’s great but he’s a little bit scared of Claudia and then she awesomely turns her back on him and is all “yeah sure, great, I fancy you, that’s what that’s supposed to end up at isn’t it, how enthralling” about it. Claudia is already kind of dark and pissy and over it this series, I can’t wait. Having turned round, she finds herself at Jamelia, who, per Claudia, “cannot stop smiling”. Neither can her partner, as it appears to have quite literally been
stitched in. We close on Helen gushing about Darcey some more, looking ever more like a
Professor Layton character who’s going to turn out to be a robot/witch/gas-induced mass halucination/all of the above.
Back to the judges, with Bruno declaring this year’s line-up as “fit as” and Darcey, when asked to give the female dancers advice, instead choosing to wibble on about how sexy and strong and powerful and muscular and well-endowed the male pros are and how the female celebs should just do nothing and let them do it all for them. Jeez, even on her worst days Arlene was never this bad.
Next up :
our returning champion! For those of you who have lost track Caroline lost her job on X Factor, then used a job on Strictly to raise her profile such that she got her job back on X Factor, at which point she now appears to have started using her position as host of X Factor to start lobbying for the main job on STRICTLY, calling it the best Saturday Night entertainment show going and the best time of her life. For those of you who have lost track of PASHA, this VT was clearly shot in the month(ish) period that happens before each series when he piles on weight like a pregnant woman and all his fans panic. In this VT, they try to carve out some sort of non-existant story arc for Caroline for last year, when really she just kind of existed for the first two thirds of the series and then mopped up the end-game as the judges dragged Simon/Mark through everyone else like a wrecking ball. SERIES 12 EVERYONE. Amazingly, this story-arc uses her disco zombie samba, described by the judges as almost too perfect as a low point. Whatever, let’s just remember what they looked like when they won.
Treaured moments. Caroline closes out (crying, obviously because she remains a 15 year old girl trapped in a 36 year old woman’s body) that she can’t believe her time with Strictly is ending and she wishes the new contestants all the luck in the world.
She and Pasha then come out and do their 40-scoring salsa from the semi-finals and two things become clear quite quickly – firstly that outside of the context of a semi-final chock full of 50% botched routines and 50% twee porcelain doll contemporumbas, this salsa, which is just balls to the wall rubbing your boobs and rolling your hips and sticking your tongue out doesn’t have quite the same impact. Secondly, Caroline has not practiced much in the meanwhile, at all. I mean, I’m sure it says a lot for her burgeoning career that was too busy presenting various shows to put more than a couple of hours in and I know we can’t all be Abbey Clancy and be allowed to come back and “wow people” literally by just doing a Week 1 waltz without falling over but jeez…there are missed connections, sloppy arms, awkward lifts…
I was rooting for you Caroline, we were ALL (…well 63% of you on this blog anyway) were rooting for you, you could have done better than this.
She totters over to Tess and Claudia, who are waiting by the judges, and there is a brief three-hour pause in filming so Caroline can cough up a lung. Once she’s got her breath back she hacks and wheezes to Tess that she’s got that old familiar feeling of feeling really truly deeply nauseous but also really happy. She can’t think of anywhere else in the world you’d get that feeling other than the Strictly dancefloor. I have that feeling after every Dominos I order in Caroline, it’s not rare. Claudia asks Caroline what advice she’d give to her fellow contestants and Caroline says they should go for it, and lose all their inhibitions.
Next up, whilst someone takes all that washing in, we see behind the scenes at rehearsals for the annual Car Crash Group Dance. You know the drill, the pros are all “ooooh, who are the celebrities this year, I can’t wait to see them, I hope we match the high high standards of last year when we got Sunetra Sarker, someone’s mum and an Irish woman!”, the celebs line up with paddles over their faces in some big school hall
(sights like this made me envision a version of the Launch Show where the pros identify their partners by playing a giant game of Guess Who? shoving over incorrect celebs as they go, possibly into a giant swimming pool, possibly a la Man O Man. “Are they female?” YES *Peter Andre gets elbowed into some gunge* “Are they a ringah?” YES *Brendan gleefully barges Carol into a hedge like Keeping Up Appearances*), then the paddles come off and everyone screams with happiness.
Just once I want someone like Otlile to say “I’ve been in this country five minutes, I’ve got no flipping clue what a Kellie Bright is, give me a chance”.
Everyone then stands around gabbing and hugging and darkly promising various special favours and advantages if the fortuitous partnering happens – a bit like a debutantes cotillion in an Edith Wharton novel but with more black people. Then the dancing starts and the pros start carving up who the likely winners are and get their lawyers on the phone to Evil Moira Ross In A Rainbow Wig forthwith (“SHE HAS HAD THREE OLD FARTS IN A ROW, IF SHE DOESN’T GET A RINGER THIS YEAR MOI…LOUISE, THEN WE’LL HAVE TO TAKE THIS TO THE HAGUE!”). Would it be too soon to say that Jamelia’s
Enemies List already has a member here? And what a one to start with. As everyone whirls, Iwan learns that despite being a SPORTSMAN he’s finding Natalie quite hard to lift and Jay says that he’s danced with three female pros so far, and as he’s single it’s a great opportunity to have a look
/sniff. Given that those women are Ola, Aliona and Karen, all of whom are married, I’d be careful Jay. Don’t want to activate the CURSE OF STRICTLY (by which I mean James Jordan on twitter). Although speaking along those lines, the tones with which Janette talks about how Carol is “socialising” with Aljaz make me worry for her as well. We learn that everyone thinks that Jeremy is “surprisingly limber” (this won’t last) and even Natalie has to admit that Daniel is a bit crap. This all leads to a terrifying close-up shot of his waggling pelvis.
WHAT HAVE THEY BLURRED MUMMY, I’M SCARED!
Most important of all though is the opportunity it gives Tess to practice her sincere faces :
Beautiful isn’t it?
Back to the studio now for more pairings and
WACKY CLAUDIA’S AT IT AGAIN. That’s a glittery boxing headguard as a reference to Anthony by the way, not a glittery pair of gray old man y-fronts as a reference to Daniel.
THIS IS ANTHONY OGOGO HE’S GOT A SENSTIVE MOUF ALWIGHT? Anthony finished fourth on Big Brother and third at the Olympics, proving forever to us all which is more demanding. Since losing at the Olympics, Anthony has turned professional and so far has won 8 times and lost 0 times, which somehow magically seems to be the record of most boxers in the public eye, leading me to the conclusion that as soon as a pro boxer loses they are either shot or become Audley Harrison, whichever is more traumatic. Anthony tells us that people might be surprised that even though he’s a SPORTSMAN he loves dancing, spray tans, camp outfits and…wait for it…
nude modelling. The show clearly not realising that they peaked last year with the guy who’d actually done dick-shots and continuing to cast all its sports stars direct from Attitude Magazine then.
THIS IS DANIEL O DONNELL! Daniel himself says that he thinks we’ll know him best for his music. I rather suspect what Daniel is actually known for this
his ravaging hoardes of older-lady fans, with one poor husband stood at the back grimacing. Daniel says that he’s very thankful for his fans and thinks they’ll be really delighted that he’s on Strictly. God I hope so. I hope they back him insanely all the way to the semi-finals at least, it’s been ages since this show had a Sergeant/Widdy threat with real bite to it. I want desperate Digital Spy threads screaming that STOOPID OLD IRISH BIDDIES WHO PROBABLY SMELL OF WEE ARE RUINING STRICTLY IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE A DANCE COMPETITION THIS IS GETTING BEYOND A JOKE NOW as Georgia and Kirsty go out swirling down the dance-off drain, as Daniel grins sheepily, does Latin that’d make Quentin Wilson hide behind the sofa and speaks at 2mph.
I LIVE FOR IT.
He jokes merrily, as introduction to the next celebrity, that he doesn’t have a six-pack, he has a one-pack. KEG Daniel, the joke is that you have a KEG. Oh never mind.
THIS IS PETER ANDRE AND HIS KIDS! Tess tells us that Peter is taking part on Strictly during a very special anniversary for him – it’s the 20th anniversary of when he shot the video for Mysterious Girl.
I mean, not even 20 years since the SONG, 20 years since the video-shoot, come on. It’s been 10 years since Katie & Peter : Laid Bare, celebrate that. Peter goes on to say that sadly he doesn’t have the abs he used to have in the video. I mean mercifully your hair doesn’t look like a ratty Vileda supermop any more either Peter so…ups and downs. He says his worst fear doing Strictly is embarassing his kids.
Really…are Peter Andre’s kids capable of embarassment at this point? I think those emotion hubs may have worn down to nubs. Peter then goes into a bit about how he shames the kids enough by telling Christmas Cracker jokes around the house like “what do you call a bunch of ants living in an apartment block? TENANTS!”. Hey Peter, what you call a bee who hasn’t had a Top 40 charting single since 2010? BEEter Andre! You can keep that one.
Back in the studio, and Anthony’s up first as Tess trills about how none of the female pros will hurt him SHE PROMISES. Anthony says he’s not worried about the pros, more the shoulder injury he’s carrying after dislocating it in his last fight. Oh good, the athletes are coming to us pre-broken, I guess that solves the Jade Johnson problem then. Being very careful will be
OTLILE! I feel a bit sorry for her after she was introduced as being obsessed with lifts and being flung around in the air, having got the one male celeb who can’t for medical reasons. Oh well, there’s always next year.
Daniel’s next, and Tess asks the audience if they’d like to be his partner and the screaming gales of “YESSSSSSSSS!” already have me excited for the hope of carnage to come. Daniel by the way
looks at Tess throughout like he’s five seconds away from demanding she be taken out back and clubbed to death. Along these sinister lines, Tess asks Daniel what he’ll do if the judges are mean to him, and he tells her that he’ll just have to fill them with blarney.
Genuinely more terrifying than any threats made to gay-bash Craig ever were. Daniel’s partner is…
NOT GETTING ANY THIS YEAR! Well not from this angle anyway. As if to further his reputation as Britain’s favourite Irish Mafia Grandpa, Daniel gets right up in Kristina’s grill and asks her if she’s happy.
She says that she is. I don’t think she’s got any options here to be honest. Tess asks Daniel if he thinks that Kristina can turn his one pack into a six pack and Daniel says that he’ll praise God if she can. Yes, please, do bring Jesus into this, it’ll only make the drama sweeter. Meanwhile Janette is doing a
very poor job of hiding her excitement at getting the plum draw of the male cast. It turns out that he’s been left til last mostly so Tess can do a “NOT SO MYSTERIOUS GIRL!” gag. Which is probably the least tedious route they could have gone with that, so good job I guess? As Janette clings to his neck Peter whispers into her hair that he’s very happy and he can’t wait to make her very happy as well. Alright Fabio, you’re not writing an album now. Tess tells Peter that he might be happy, but he’ll have to make sure he gets everything right in training because Janette will scream at him if he doesn’t. Really? Janette? I know as far as this show goes female dancers only have two speeds – angry and horny – but that seems…not Janette. Anyway, Peter does a matador stamp and Tess talks about his six pack here and the editing gets all funny, possibly because apparently somewhere around Peter talks about how he was making dinner plans earlier with Aljaz and they had to cut and re-edit it because it kind of gave away that he knew who his pro was already. Apparently. Ahem.
Up to Claud 9 they go, where Claudia demands another bad joke from Peter to embarrass his children. He goes with “what’s a specimen? An Italian astronaut!”. Georgia’s face
suggests she’s finding this level of discussion already a bit challenging. Hey Peter Andre, what’s a specimen? Peter Andre! You can keep that one as well. Claudia tells Daniel that she knows he has lots of fans, and she can already hear them screaming in her head.
I’d say that she’s off her meds already but I don’t think she even started them this year by the looks of it. There then follows my favourite exchange of the programme bar none :
Claudia : Daniel, do your think your fans are more excited to see you dance ballroom or latin?
Daniel : I think ballroom
Claudia : Are you sure? Are you sure they don’t want to see you do la…
Daniel : Whatever
DON’T POKE HIM CLAUDIA, HE’LL HAVE YOU KILLED! We close on Anthony saying that there aren’t enough superlatives in the world to describe Otlile. Yeah, they are pretty massive aren’t they? Claudia then congratulates him on using the word “superlatives”, because Claudia is not unpatronising, at times.
Down to the judges we go, and Darcey is already naked and howling on the table, so we have to turn to Craig for reason.
The panto faces already careening wildly out of control and into the next studio. Tess asks him what the secret to a great partnership is, and he replies that it’s to “not step on anyone’s toes, darling”. Wise, insightful words there. How many more times do you think Craig going to try to make something banal sound interesting by adding “darling” on the end? In thousands.
Next up it’s time for, mercifully, a NON-LATIN-BASED PRO DANCE. To Gregory Porter, who has brought his hat back with him.
In my head this is because, a la Buffy, he has an immortal demonic snake monster hidden under there. He seems to be too hefty to be an actual jockey after all. Speaking of which this is my favourite official pro-celeb picture of all time. From Dancing With The Stars USA like you even have to ask. What hath that show become?
I guess this is as good a time as any to mourn Joanne properly, as we never really got the chance like we did with Iveta and Trent. Mostly I will be sorry about all the seething sibling rivalry drama we’ve missed out on between her and Kevin and also the chance to ever see her choreograph an actual dance, instead of the non-stop parade of bizarreness that was Scott Mills nigh on two month march through Strictly.
She and Brendan and Natalie and Kristina bounce around doing quickstep and whirling and
posing and it’s such a relief from all the anonymous latin to Gloria Estefan.
Ready for those last four pairings? Yes? YES? Good.
THIS IS ANITA RANI! By the looks of it Daniel’s already got his grey army finding ways to eliminate the competition. Those chandelier screws are so easily loosened… The show has finally settled on “Countryfile” as the thing I’m supposed to know her from. Good to know, I guess. Anita tells us that we can fully expect to see her dancing in wellies around sheep poo. Sounds fun. She goes on to say that really she’s a massive tomboy and she grew up wearing Doc Martins, black nail varnish and no lipstick, so Strictly is a whole new world for her. I mean, having grown up in the Midlands in the 90s, Helen and Jamelia (and probably Jay) would have been exactly the same so…
THIS IS KELLIE BRIGHT! You might know her as Linda Carter in Eastenders, and according to Kellie “if you’re really old” (don’t try me Kellie, seriously, I already find you kind of annoying) as the little girl from The Upper Hand and she’d really like you not to hold that against her.
Seriously, I would watch The Upper Hand twenty times over EastEnders, does EastEnders have Honor Blackman in it, no it bloody doesn’t.
She closes by saying that she’s really looking forward to her parents, husband and child coming to Strictly and watching her DOING HER THANG, WHATEVER HER THANG IS *cackles inanely for a good 30 seconds*. Well…I didn’t take to Pixie at first, there’s always hope.
THIS IS KATIE DERHAM! She hosts the Proms and also “works for Radio 3” which is a delightful way of putting it. Does she make the tea? Anyway, Katie tells us that for atmosphere and drama the only place that could possibly match the Proms is Strictly Come Dancing. That or a lock-in at the Tory Party Conference. JACOB REES MOGG IS DANCING ON THE TABLES AGAIN! Katie goes on to say that her children are already encouraging her to take part, but frankly her daughter can get her leg up over her head, so she’s probably over-estimating her.
Anyone who can channel Stephanie Beacham one VT in is already a winner in my book. She tells us that she doesn’t take herself seriously, but she DOES want to take the dancing seriously. Yeah…I’ve seen who you’re partnered with, good luck with that.
FINALLY, THIS IS CAROL KIRKWOOD AND YES THEY DO ALREADY HAVE HER TARTING ABOUT WITH AN UMBRELLA! She’s a weather presenter, the first ever to do Strictly, as you will no doubt be discovering via the medium of endless tortuous puns over the next month or so. And not just from me, as Carol proves by joking that she’s hoping to whip up a storm on the dancefloor before pulling
a face not unlike the monster lurking under Gregory’s hat. Carol happily recounts for us her worst experience presenting the weather, when she was trapped in a snow blizzard.
Presumably whilst Bill Turnbull sang “Hot Hot Hot” down her earpiece from the warm and toasty studio. (Let’s all remenisce at the old BBC weathermap here. *sigh* happier times). Ironic that this is her worst memory ever incidentally, as if I were about to be partnered with Pasha I’d be praying for a flurry of white precipitate to hit me in the fac[JOKE REDACTED]. Carol goes on to say that she loves dancing, but she’s a total mum-dancer, so we shouldn’t expect too much. Don’t worry Carol, we won’t. Carol closes by saying that the BBC Breakfast team are a really close family and the bonds they have are real, like with her glamorous daughter-in law Natasha, grumpy Cousin Bill, cheeky nephew Chris Hollins and that tramp Susanna who married out into a bunch of chavvy commoners who we don’t talk about any more.
Back in the studio now and Anita is clearly
waiting to see if she’s the one woman Tess is going to leave out of the “YOU LOOK SO PRETTY!” rounds tonight. Happily for her, she is not. Phew. Anita then gabs on more about how she doesn’t normally dress like this, she’s been so Strictlified etc etc before we find out she has the esteemed honour of breaking Gleb in. Gleb’s face doesn’t really move by the way, so don’t expect a reaction shot. Gleb says that there are no words for how excited he is to be partnered with Anita Rani (…I’ll bet) and Tess and Anita gush and clench themselves up like two grown-up teenies at a Wham! reunion concert. So much for that whole “tomboy” thing eh Anita? She dribbles that she needs to get someone else in to teach her how to dance because she can’t look Gleb in the eye. Gleb then yelps “We’ll do it backwards!” and moves Anita into a Charlie’s Angels pose.
And if she won’t I will (I don’t even find him sexy, I just think it would be guaranteed hilarity). Seriously, Gleb is definitely my new favourite. Look at him hugging Anita.
It’s like Westworld but with ballroom dancers.
Kellie’s next (“YOU LOOK BEAUTIFUL!!!” “SO DO YOU!!!” *throws popcorn at screen*) and Tess reminds her that she’s going to be filming Strictly and Eastenders at the same time, a propsect that has destroyed better contestants than her. At this reminder
a brief moment of grimness passes over Kellie’s face before she chirpily sighs that she’ll just have to a routine where she sleeps for 90 seconds. Yeah, I used to do that when Christine Bleakley danced, suited me fine. I’m not sure pairing Kellie with
Kevin is the best combination for my sanity, but we’ll see. Tess asks Kellie to sum her feelings up in one word (the ear-piercing shriek she gave out would have been enough for me Tess, but ok) and she says “my mum and dad are going to be over the moon!”. Not one word Kellie, not even close. Also I really could have done with a close-up of Anton’s face when he realised he’s not the Grandma’s Choice any more. Actual tears I bet.
Katie’s next up (“LOOK AT YOU! LOOK AT THOSE FABULOUS PINS!”) and there’s no polite way of saying this – I think she’s a bit pished. I know it’s probably 2am at this point given how long this takes to film, but she’s charging around unable to stop herself and pursing her mouth up the way ladies of a certain class do whenever they’ve been at the gin fizz. Seriously
she is feeling her fantasy and I love her for it. If Darcey likes her and doesn’t like Helen, I am going to have a dance party.
She will be dancing with
Charlton Heston at the end of Planet Of The Apes. There’s a lot of…something backed up there isn’t there? Probably a bet with Brenda to see who can act like the biggest loon at being told their partner. Winner gets to be top tonight (TOP BUNK, THIS IS A FAMILY SHOW!). Katie of course
is just happy filming’s over soon and she can nip back to the bar for a top up. Anton and Katie and Tess all caper around hooting that this really could be it, this could be Anton’s year, he might finally win! Yeah, remember when Fiona Fullerton had extensive ballet training? It never lasts…
This leaves Carol (“YOU VISION IN BLUE!”) and Pasha and
I think we all know that he’s saving his acting range for the VTs. Both of them, before they get eliminated.
Everyone up to Claud 9 now, where Claudia hoots that THIS IS THE CLASS OF STRICTLY 2015! And what class. Carol says that she’s really happy she got Pasha, Claudia puts the spooks up Kellie by telling her she’s probably about to spoil Kevin’s perfect “never been in a dance-off record”, everyone continues to carry on about how Gleb is SO BEAUTIFUL THEY CAN’T EVEN LOOK AT HIM (he hasn’t even taken his top off yet, calm down), and best of all Claudia asks him how far he’s going to go with Katie and
it’s a miracle she got through the ensuing Car Crash Group Dance upright.
Actually, the Car Crash Group Dance is mostly alright this year.
Look, nobody’s elbowing anybody in the face or anything. Based on this, and/or their backgrounds, I really think Peter, Helen, Jamelia, Kirsty, Katie, Georgia, Jay and even Anita or Anthony could produce some really stand-out dancing this year. Which will make it all the more hilarious as they all fall one-by-one under the wheels of the O’Donnell Express!