JIGS! IN! SPAAAAAAAACE!
Welcome to coverage of this, the fourteenth and gayest series of Strictly Come Dancing. Now’s the time to flex your usual pre-series muscles – pretending you don’t know who these people are, complaining about (X pro) always getting ringers, kvetching that it’s SOOOOOOOOOOO obvious that Nicky Byrne/Peter Andre/Her From Destiny’s Child is going to win there’s no POINT WATCHING, and most importantly of all sacrificing a goat to the great Blood God Pob in the hope that it means that this year is Natalie’s year. That’s right, it’s time for the Launch Show. This year, it carries a space theme, which you may already be aware of from the teaser advert, in which a tiny little outer space probe flies around London looking for celebrities for Strictly, before giving up immediately after finding Lesley Joseph and just slapping up 13 polaroids of her from Celebrity Jungle Thing with “WILL THIS DO?” written over them in red marker pen. As usual with these themes, it’s really only there to cover the first 5 minutes or so before the dreaded Actual Content turns up. Which is a shame, because last year I honestly could have watched Pasha riding the Porn Train for a full hour.
At any rate, we start with a glittery shot of
Uranus. With a dinky little rocket freshly expelled from its craggy unhospitable surfacce. Madam. Riding this rocket into unchartered territory are
Tess and Claudia. I would love it if Claudia’s hands had been that size all along and we’d never noticed. There’s lots of jokes about how Claudia can’t pilot the ship effectively because she is WACKY and HAS A FRINGE, although I have to say chiefly I think it’s because the rocket appears to have been constructed not by NASA or the ESA, but by Anthea Turner on an episode of Blue Peter in 1994. Meanwhile, below decks…
oh, never mind, I’ll leave you two to it. (I guess it being Len’s last series, it was always a possibility, I’m just surprised they didn’t hold on til the wrap party, less awkward that way. Now they have to sit next to one another every week, knowing what they did). After Len and Bruno have finished…working out their issues, and Darcey’s done her best Lt Uhuru “girl at the back saying yes sir Captain Len” impression, Craig walks on, as we all guessed he might, in cosplay as one of the most malign villains in history.
Yes, he’s wearing Widdy’s haircut from the 90s. That pudding bowl hasn’t got so much use on this show since Alesha used it to house her nibbles (NEVER FORGET). The judgery assembled it’s time to activate the creakiest of the male pros from their cryosleep.
That space dandruff is a killer. (Also poor/lucky Teddy, depending on your perspective).
Next pros to get a walk on part are…
oh for Christ’s sake. I am going to TRY to not make these recaps a non-stop cavalcade of filth (such a lie, I’m sorry), but they are sorely testing me. Don’t tut tut at me for innuendos and then literally have Aljaz bend over next to Janette dressed as a giant butt-vibrator. AND THEN HAVE ALJAZ WADDLE OFF DOING A FUNNY WALK. I’M ONLY HUMAN. At this point the whole space theme just sort of collapses and the pre-show VT descends into a series of surrealist images
(inluding Natalie saying “THAT’S AMOYZING!” to Giovanni’s bizarre Incredible Hulk makeover which…let’s just establish how low I’m setting the bar now by saying that I’m taking that as a shout-out) before it morphs into one of those sort of pro-dances. You know, the ones where it’s obvious that a guest choreographer has just welded together bits of the Macarena and Gangnam Style with paperclips and hot glue so Craig can join in without popping his hip out again. As usual, if you freeze-frame just right
you can catch some of the pros questioning whether it’s all worth it. Never Kevin though. NEVER KEVIN. HE LOVES A BIT OF IT. It’s all being danced to “Starships” by Nicki Minaj, except with the lyric “WE’RE HIGHER THAN A MOTHERFUCKER” excised, which is a shame because it’d be the most appropriate thing yelled out so far.
We segue neatly (and by “neatly”, I of course mean “not at all neatly”) from this to the Red Carpet Launch, and speaking of faces that are slightly less excited than they perhaps should be, let’s play that always fun game
“Who’s here only because his wife dragged him into it?”. Other than Ed Balls I mean. The “rocket” lands, and everyone emerges. First the presenters, then the judges, then half the series’ dry ice budget, then the celebs, then
a preview of Donald Trump’s poster campaign for the dying stages of the current US election (one politics joke per Launch Show guys, come on, I’m allowed). Everyone has a natter on the red carpet, and if nobody is quite as annoying as Kellie Bright screaming “I FEEW LIKE A PWINCESS!!!!” last year, Danny purring that he’s got his chest out comes closest. Yes love, well done on identifying your sole purpose for being there. To be the basic hunk-slab before everyone decides it’s much more SOPHISTICATED and INTELLECTUAL to fancy Ore or Will or Greg instead, like how everyone’s suddenly decided they’re too good for Poldark’s sweaty sything nipples now. I also admit to being tickled by Lesley Joseph cooing that it’s like the biggest movie premiere she’s ever been to. So, what, Baby Geniuses 3?
All the stars, all the stars, living my best life, all the stars #glamourandsparkle. (I also enjoy Anastacia calling Strictly “the madness you always have wanted”, principally because she’s clearly really talking about herself). Then, just as Janette is on the verge of exposing Ed Balls as a secret Nazi
Claudia yells “EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!” (it might be an idea yes), and we lurch into another mass pro “dance”, this one being generic-latin’d to a medley of Gonna Make You Sweat and Can’t Stop The Feeling (never has a song so obviously because the “Sound Of The Summer” by default, does anyone even really like it?), the clear highlight of which is Anton trying to dance with three women at once (adequately recreating the “Nancy Dell’Olio experience” for those of you who didn’t see it first time around), at the end of which is Nu-Katya pulling That Face
*already*. In her FIRST PRO DANCE. What a woman.
What a start.
Once all the confetti’s been swept up (thanks Neil! thanks Chloe! Glad to have you helping out, now go make Brenda a cup of tea and warm up Natalie’s loo seat for her, there’s sweet kids) Tess and Claud come back out, and spool out the last dregs of the space puns from the scriptwriters brainstorming session (That was cosmic! Out of this world! Let’s hope we haven’t (Tim)Peaked!), before reminding us why we’re all here. Yes, to damage the X Factor ratings! Hooray! Also, to meet the new celebrities, work out who they’re partnered with, get all excited over the new pros but don’t actually let them speak, not once, and also to sit through performances from both Rebecca Ferguson AND Olly Murs! YAHS! Oh and additionally ol’ Jay and Aliona will be here to perform “one of the most memorable dances in Strictly history”.
Is it the Vorderumba?
Before we can start though, the judges have to walk on. No they do. They do. It’s in their contracts now. Darcey also has fresh jolly Ranchers under her desk every live show it’s simply madness, their egos are out of control. (NO FUCKING WATERMELON!). Anyway, for once Darcey actually manages to walk on elegantly and serenely, not like someone learning to walk again after a major traffic accident, so let’s skip on. Claudia gets everyone to go “aww” because it’s Len’s last series and then jokes that it’s also Craig’s last year, they’ve just not told him yet. Like you’re getting that one out of here without prising him off every single door with a broomhandle on the way out. He is Iago to Evil Moira Ross In A Rainbow Wig’s Jafar at this point.
Everyone in place, it’s time to remind us all who this year’s celebrities are. In case you’ve forgotten despite me dragging out the reveal to infinity for maximum page views, here they are again, in list form
Louise Redknapp – THE LEAST TALENTED MEMBER OF ETNERAL!
Ore Oduba – CRAZY EYES FROM ORANGE IS THE NEW B…oh hang on no that’s not right
Robert Rinder – PRETEND JUDGE!
Claudia Fragapane – OLYMPIC QUALIFIER!
Melvin Odoom – AVAILABLE!
Daisy Lowe – SOMEONE’S DAUGHTER!
Will Young – THE MORE SUCCESFUL POP IDOL WINNER!
Naga Munchetty – YET ANOTHER BBC BREAKFAST PRESENTER!
Greg Rutherford – PROFESSIONAL JUMPING MAN!
Tameka Empson – ONE OF…TITTY BANG BANG? SMACK THE PONY? WATSON & OLIVER?
Ed Balls – ED BALLS!
Laura Whitmore – ALSO AVAILABLE!
Danny Mac – VERY AVAILABLE!
Anastacia – LEFT ASAR ALERRRRRRRRR, WENNY COWL AHH HEEEEEEEEEEEYURE, TUBBY LEFFF ASAI ALUUUUUUrrrrRRRRRRRR
Question 1 – am I going to go “HI LOUISE!!!” every time Louise waves at the top of the stairs?
Question 2 – is Greg already regretting this profoundly?
Answer 1 & 2 – yes
Once everyone’s out, we turn to Len to ask him what he thinks of this year’s line-up. And what do you know, he thinks it looks great (although he does refrain from calling it potentially the best cast ever, which means his clicheometer must be on the fritz. No wonder he’s leaving) – the girls are “frisky and risky”, and the boys are “powerful and perky”.
Claudia then asks Bruno who he thinks is going to win, and he responds by calling all the celebrities flamingos, cheetahs and wildebeasts. So as logical, thought-through and coherent as ever there. I’m just glad he didn’t tell us which of the guys he was imagining as an elephant. Or a donkey. Or a horse.
TIME TO PAIR UP SOME PAIRS!
This is Louise! She went to Italia Conti, then she was in Eternal, then she was in Louise, then she was in Jamie Redknapp (I don’t know, maybe, everyone has their own kinks don’t judge) then she presented The Clothes Show (somebody tell who’s running Wardrobe this year STAT, because they appear to have not realised), then she presented Something For The Weekend, then she judged on So You Think You Can Dance. But she’s not done any *immediate* prep for Strictly, she says, not in the last 5 minutes anyway, so she’s definitely not a ringer. Nope. She says that she’s been asked to do the show many times, but she’s always had to put her kids first. But they’re 12 now, or whatever, so sod em.
IN THE BIN! IT’S LOUISE TIME!
This is Naga! If Bruce were still be here, there’d be so many “LIKE MY WIFE!!!” jokes about her name that my “Poor Wilnelia” button would get worn down to a nub! She is the 17th BBC Breakfast presenter to do the show now (don’t count up, I’m right), and as she counts down all the previous alumni
I am reminded of what a glorious ham Susanna Reid was. CHORIZO! Naga tells us that she is chiefly known on Breakfast for her death stare.
No you’re not love, it’s for the fact that you shagged Prince. Probably. She goes on to say that she’s worried, because she’s used to having millions of people watching her on tv, but not having a live audience there to see her mistakes. Well, not a live audience of anyone who matters. Charlie Stayt.
This is Anastacia! She is a pop star, and also has had every disease known to man, and as such is donating her entire fee to charity! Countdown to someone on the Internet claiming she’s milking that for votes in 5…4…3 (lol jk I guarantee you they’ve already started). Anastacia tells us that she was on the Blackpool Special last year, and got so swept up in the magic that she just found herself saying “yes yes yes! let’s do it!”. Yeah, I’ve had that dream about Pasha as well. But ALSO Anastacia agreed to be a contestant on the next series, and so here we are. She tells us that above all else, she doesn’t want a loud, bossy, annoying dance partner.
If you freeze-frame those words and those pictures you can pin-point the exact second the producers decided to pair her with Brenda. Anastacia tells us that she’s hoping to show us all DANCEASTACIA before the series is over. Is that her brother?
This is Laura! She launched her career by presenting on MTV, and tells us that her very first job was to interview Chris Martin. This is played off like it’s incredibly intimidating, but honestly it’s Chris Martin. Start off by asking what he’s got scribbled on his hand today and work from there. He literally has your copy written on him! He’s a human autocue! She, unlike Anastacia, wants a partner who will provide her with strict discipline, and also recounts an occasion when she danced the robot for Tom Hanks. It’s no “when Alison Hammond played Connect 4 with Beyonce” is it? You’ll be pleased to hear that Laura is one of those contestants who claims to love dancing in the club but has no idea how good she is. I am so sure.
TIME TO PARTNER!
Louise is first out and Tess tells her that as the first lady out she’s got the pick of the bunch. And by bunch
I do mean “bunch”. Those trousers are UNFORGIVING. Nobody question why Gorka’s got a modesty flap covering his lower regions there, this recap is too overheated as it is. Anyway, as you may have heard already, Louise has got
this one, causing ructions across the WORLD, as Kevin gets yet another ringah, already having made three finals in a row. And whilst my preference would definitely have been for something different than “40something tv presenter with a background in pop routines and stage school” (which is literally a Frankenstein comoposition of the three finalists he’s already had) I have to give thanks to James Jordan for making it all better by complaining on twitter that the producers are desperate for a Clifton to win, and thereby reminding me things could always be more annoying. Let’s run those numbers shall we? Until this year :
Susanna – not a ringer but good from the start
Frankie – ringer
Kellie – ringer
Nicky – not a ringer and not good at dancing, but very dedicated fanbase
Dave – comedy contestant
Mark – ringer (ish)
Jeremy – comedy contestant
Scott – comedy contestant
Year Off – …a year off
Georgina – last minute addition, not a ringer
Gabby – ringer
Cherie – ringer
Zoe – ringer
Pamela – ringer
Alex – middler
Denise – RINGAH DINGAH DINGAH VAN RINGER
Vanessa – comedy contestant
No matter how you work the maths it’s clear who’s had the best run of things there…
Naga is next up, and Tess says that she can’t wait to see if, as a Breakfast presenter, Naga will snap, crackle, or pop on the dancefloor. I’m hoping for “snap” personally, but then I’m always hoping that. Tess tells her that she can see she’s dressed very differently from how she dresses on Breakfast, and Naga says it’s only because she’d blend in with the red sofa in this outfit.
Personally I cannot wait for Naga to start rocking Venetian dominatrix collars every morning, no matter what the shade. Her partner?
IT’S GUMBY! I mean, IT’S PASHA! He twirls over, and in my favourite pairing moment of the episode
realises Naga is potentially showing a bit’o minge and adjusts her accordingly. What a gent. Tess tells Naga that Pasha is a great teacher, and also won the entire show in 2014. Naga says that she knows, and she’s so happy to be paired with him.
Either that’s a lie, or smiling does not come easily to Naga. I do watch Breakfast, so I know it could be either.
Anastacia’s next, and Tess calls her “Blingastacia” and just like that I’m already over portmanteau names for the whole series. Tess continues by gawping at Anastacia’s dress and wonders where the rock chick has gone. Bless Tess that she thinks Anastacia is a rock chick, that’s very Tess. I bet you could persuade her that P!nk was in The Ramones if you wanted to. Anastacia says she’s perfectly happy in sequins actually, before Tess tells us all that Anastacia has sold over 30 million records. That’s Peterborough Car Boot Sale for you, so busy. Anyway, apparently this commercial success means that “we all know Anastacia can sing”, because that’s definitely how pop music works, but Tess wants to know if she can dance. Anastacia for her part says to camera
that she’s “just very glad to be in your country”. What country do we think Michelle Williams thought she was in? New Zealand? Japan? The Moon? Anyway, yes yes, Anastacia has Brenda
I hope they fight like two cats in a sack.
Are you ready for a truly awful Tess intro? Here we go :
“Can she move as well as she looks? It’s Laura Whitmore!”. WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? Once Laura’s over she cackles that she looks like Big Bird
to which Tess honks “NO! BEAUTIFUL BIRD!”. Erm, Big Bird is beautiful is his/her own way Tess, lay off. It is then revealed that Laura is this year’s designated THOOPAFAN, and talks about every episode, every series, with her mum on the phone after its finished. Well hopefully it ends better for her than it did for Rachel Riley. Y’know, dance wise. Tess hoots that she bets Laura’s mum is very eager to see which pro she gets, in a “nudge nudge” “wink wink” sort of way, like ANYONE could be a more overbearing matchmaker on this show than Tess and oops what do you know, Laura gets the only (newly) single male pro out of the Sorting Hat, what are the chances?
Is…is he proposing there? Is this the fastest Strictly wedding in recorded history? Even Kristina usually waited a few weeks…
Everyone runs up to Claud 9 so we can get some first impressions in. Laura’s THOOPAFAN status is reaffirmed, Naga tells us all that Carol advised her to “take full advantage” if she got Pasha (I love the idea of a shag-tree that includes Prince, Naga Munchetty, Numbers Bitch, Pasha Kovalev, Carol Kirkwood, and let’s face it probably Bryan Adams, diagram that one out please), and Claudia goes so sickeningly sweet about how lovely, adorable, handsome and caring Kevin is that I start to swing back towards James Jordan’s side a bit (lol not really). Anastacia doesn’t get interviewed but don’t worry
she is yelling throughout.
We go to the judges for “their” “opinions” on the first few pairings, and Len says that Naga is from BREAKFAST and these four are like MUESLI. Satisfying, tasty and a little bit fruity. Do not try to sell me that Len Goodman eats muesli please scriptwriters I would sooner believe that Robin Windsor wants to shag Alesha Di…oh wait you tried that one as well.
Rebecca Ferguson! Firmly in her X Factor wheelhouse of standing stock still, looking a bit awkward, and honking out a song about how love is really nice and stuff. It IS called “Bones” though, and features Rebecca singing what sounds awfully like a repeated request for someone to come and lay a bone down her, so that’s good for a giggle. It’s also a good opportunity to see what the likely combinations are going to be for these Guest Musical Star dance slots this year, with Aljaz partnering Natalie, and Joanne partnering Brenda. Has Brenda at this point partnered up with all 26 female pros ever to appear on this show I’m guessing yes. It’s also our first real opportunity to watch newbie munchkin minipop pocket rockets (etc etc) AJ & Chloe perform, at which point it becomes obvious that Chloe ages a good 9 or 10 years on the dancefloor and AJ…does not.
Back to Claud 9 now, where Tameka is asked by Claudia what she’s thinking currently, and responds by singing the last few bars of the Strictly theme tune at her. Crucially it’s the last few bars of the closing credits, which makes me think Tameka is a “catch the last few minutes before Casualty starts” sort of viewer. Personally what *I’m* thinking about is why
Will Young is the only celebrity in the last 5 years to get mens trousers that are too LARGE. There’s more loose material there than Bloody Lulu before she had the surgery. Will himself is asked to speak next with Claudia pushing the whole “please say how nervous you feel now so we can use this footage to create a nice journey arc for you just before you do your Showdance in the final” angle on him, and Will interpreting this via the medium of trying to get a hashtag going (either #helpwill or #rescuewill, although I would have gone for #freewilly) and talking about how sweaty his palms are. Lesley does “everyone this year is so amazing and friendly, I’m definitely not already wishing death on that Whitmore creature” and Ore also gets to talk about how scared he is, although he deals with this not via hashtags and sweaty palms but by hiding bent under a chair and
being comforted by Ed Balls. Personally this segment would have been more fulfilling for me if he’d been comforted by Greg Rutherford and not so much bent UNDER a chair as …well you get the picture.
Next up, a party latin showcase for our new pros, being danced to Conga by Glora Estefan. A word that Claudia gets everyone to shout
bar Rinder. I don’t think he DOES enthusiasm. Already my fave. Oddly enough, despite this supposedly being a showcase for the new pros
all the old hands are here as well. Yes Oti is already an old hand despite only having done 3 episodes, that’s where we are after the Great Pro Migration of 2016, deal with it. We also don’t get the usual “my name is Oksana Platero, I like long walks on the beach, ballroom dancing and fried chicken” spiel from the newbies, and instead Tess’N’Claud just read out everyone’s accolades from the pro world, which is sadly hilarious because it literally goes :
Kevin & Karen Clifton! Four times British Latin Champion and World Mambo Champion!
Natalie Lowe! 10 times Australian Ballroom Champion!
Joanne Clifton! World Ballroom Showdance Champion!
Oti Mabuse! 6 time South African Latin Champion!
Giovanni Pernice! Italian Latin Champion!
Pasha Kovalev! US National Finalist!
Aljaz & Janette – 19 time Slovenian Champion and…erm…SHE’S REALLY FAST WE LOVE YOU JANETTE!
Anton du Beke – World’s Largest Self Parody!
Brendan Cole – WON THIS SHOW ONE TIME!
The new pros then wander on, and some bright spark backstage had the idea to begin their involvement with AJ fronting up to Aljaz.
BLESS. Also they’ve arrived just at the part of the song where the lyrics ask “are you comfortable?” over and over, so it’s a bit like the weekend staff have popped in to check if Anton would like a magazine or his cushions plumping up before dinner is served at the nursing home. Speaking of Anton
we are one button away from oblivion at all times and I am terrified. Rest assured all of the new bods have won stuff as well, except Gorka, but he’s perfectly skilled at taking his shirt off and greasing his hair back, which as Gleb taught us all is the next best thing.
CONGA! I don’t feel I know anything more about our 6 newbies than I did before this started, but I’m sure we’ll get to know all of them very well when they do Choreography Corner on the weeks Karen’s getting her nails done and her wig teased out or whatever she goes and does.
MORE PAIRINGS! But first
Claudia loves a long jumper. You can’t really improve on that can you, hooray for Claudia.
This is Melvin! He is a DJ and tv presenter, and is doing the show for his parents. Who he imitates in a very “Gina Yashere had some material left over from 2003” sort of way. His mother is enthusiastic! His father is stoic! Both will definitely be appearing in Comedy VTs at some point. Melvin says that he thinks being a DJ will help him with rhythm and timing and music awareness, just like previous Strictly champions Scott Mills and DJ Spoony. He’s also not afraid of dressing up ludicrously as
well let’s just leave that evidence there for you to ponder. Personally I think his outfit tonight would hae been an better example, but there we are. For this reason Melvin declares himself to be the Beyonce of Strictly which NO THAT WILL ALWAYS BE ALESHA MELVIN, STEP OFF!
This is Greg! He won glorious gold in London, and shameful bronze in Rio and is hoping for the sparkly so-so silver from the glitterball trophy this year to complete the triad. Greg tells us that he’s notoriously competitive, but as a long jumper the prospect of Strictly makes him incredibly nervous. Is that because it mashed up Jade Johnson’s knees for life Greg? As well as being an athlete, Greg is a “new dad” which he demonstrates by
his kid being waved around in front of us. It’s all very “aww” but…that kid is at least two years old, don’t try to play me like it’s fresh from the vag Greg. Then again this show would stick an 8 year old in Pampers and a dummy if it thought it’d get bonus “AWWWWWWW!” points so… We close with Greg telling us all to beware his hideous big ugly smile during the ballroom dances and
yeah, not always a lot to say about the personalities of SPORTSMEN early on is there? Your smile’s fine Greg, the talking points will come, don’t force them.
This is Judge Grindr! Or Judge Rinder! Or Rob! Apparently this has caused some in no way tedious debate so have a poll
He’s called “Judge” not because he’s an actual judge (he’s not) but because ITV thought it made a better title for daytime show than BARRISTER AND FRIEND OF CUMBERBATCH RINDER, and who can blame them? I don’t really watch Judge Rinder, because the cases drag on too long (say what you like about Judge Judy, but she will get you in and out in 15 minutes, shorter if the case is particularly dumb) but the man himself is a DELIGHT, all awkwardly delivered bitchy putdowns and camp theatrics and I’m ready to experience him in a context other than one interrupted every 10 minutes by adverts for Senokot. Even the brief clip they choose to show from the show (Rinder going “TUH TUH TUH TUH TUH TUH THAT’S BLACKMAIL!”) is so amazing I just made it my ringtone. He tells us that he has a deep respect for the law, is an incredibly serious human being (as he bangs his spray-panted gavel and ingests half a lung full of glitter-confetti I LOVE HIM SO MUCH) and is definitely here to win, and furthermore thinks that anyone who says they’re just here to learn “a week of jazz hands”, bugger off and just be “happy for the experience” is full of it. Instafavourite, my winner to be honest.
This is Danny! He is from Hollyoaks, and it appears that Rinder possibly wrote the script for this section as well, as Danny tells us very earnestly that his character Dodger had “many interesting storylines” and the VT plays
this shot. Yes, what a storyline that was. Anyway, it’s Hollyoaks, so Dodger’s storylines were that his brother was a serial killer and Dodger pushed him off a roof
(whee!) and then impregnated his twin sister. Also as it’s Hollyoaks, check out the injuries Dodger got from smashing through a window and fighting on the roof with a serial murderer!
HE’S GOT HAMSTER POOP ON HIS FACE NURSE, GET ME THE OXYCONTIN, STAT! Danny goes on to admit that dancing was part of his college course, but he don’t know what none of this foxtrot business means guv’nor, he’s just an innocent model turned actor turned model turned person making personal appearances in nightclubs and hoping for a semi-regular role on TOWIE. Never mind Danny, Strictly Kingmaker (/Runner-Up Maker) Carly Stenson will fill you in on the basics.
In the studio, Melvin’s up first, and tells Tess that his mum is a big fan of hers.
Tess being even less capable of processing than I am there. Also I see The Claw is back. Melvin’s mum waves from the audience, and we find out his partner is to be
Janette! At least once we get her out of that trapdoor.
Greg is next, and tells Tess that he is so nervous that he is SHAKING!
SHAKING! Way more nervous than Will or Ore are, use THIS for your finals clip package guys, come on! Greg goes on to say that he’s used to competing by running 30m in a straight line then jumping into a sandpit, but this is Strictly! It’s so different! Don’t underestimate them Greg, that Week 1 dance is always very…appropriate. I’d be surprised if they’re not digging out a landing pit somewhere behind Bruno’s chair already. Propelling Greg into the pit will be
Natalie! That…does not look like an excited woman. That looks like a woman who just got shampoo in her eyes. Maybe she’s thinking “oh no, I’ve got a good one, everyone’s going to hate me again”? Anyway, Greg says that Natalie is exactly the pro he hoped for, and so say all of us, so…hop to it and win please.
Rinder’s next, and
he’s got a blocker for The Claw ready. And Laura says that SHE’S a thoopafan. He makes very dry jokes about how ridiculous he looks, about how he really respects Len, Bruno and Darcey (a joke that Tess then explains at great length AS MEANING HE DOESN’T RESPECT CRAIG HA HA becuse she hates fun), and about how this is the most nervous he’s ever felt waiting for a girl, before we find out that he’s with
OKSANA! Clearly she’s not learnt that when we are a Strictly pro and we find out our celebrity partner we unhinge our jaw like we’re trying to blowjob every dick in the world at once, catch up Oksana!
Danny is to be partnered next and already there’s a joke about how he should just dance naked and already this is kind of exhausting and he is to be partnered with
Oti (see Oksana? That’s how we do it) for whom I only want good things, so he’d better get more interesting is all I’m saying.
They hop up to Claud 9, where Claudia tells him that he looks great standing still, but she wants to know if he can look good in motion. Danny duhs out not much of an answer to this, to which Claudia drily replies “can you do anything?”. Snerk. She says she wants a demonstration of his moves, to which request Danny declines, citing an injured shoulder.
Oti’s all “NOT A-SODDING-GAIN, I SWEAR TO GOD EVIL MOIRA IF YOU’VE GIVEN ME ANOTHER CROCKED ADONIS I WILL DESTROY YOU!”. Claudia chats with Rinder next, who apparently has been learning Russian in the run-up to the series. Between this and his repeated interviews all but demanding a strict Eastern European task mistress, I think Rinder knows very well his angles here
Although this might be a new one. Claudia asks Oksana to give Rinder a bit of Russian to help him out, which feels a bit…insensitive given that Oksana is from Ukraine, but she gives it a go anyway. We close with Melvin and Claudia having a very laidback chat about how he’s the only male celeb who’s not nervous, as he stands there with one hand in his pocket and slouching. Between Melvin and Selasi on Bake Off, this is a vintage year for Ghanain slackers on British reality tv.
Down on the ground, Tess is back with the judges, and asks Bruno which his favourite couple so far is. He says the wonderful and marvelous Kevin and Louise by far, because he’s known them both for a very long time and knows they’ll be well suited. Yeah…not really helping matters there Bruno, well done. Tess then asks Darcey what she’s looking for in the end-of-show car crash group dance, and she says she’s looking forward to seeing the new pros in action, and also experiencing the “wow factor”. Personally I hope someone dies. Well…serious injury. Something accidentally set on fire at the very least.
These two! Both of them clearly having made urgent adjustments to their hair the instant it wasn’t being controlled by Strictly producers. Also, did Jay always have a massive tattoo saying “no doy”? I feel like he possibly came out of the womb with it. They’re back to talk about how special it was to win Strictly and become friends, and also to reprise their jive from last year. Sadly, I will not be recapping this segment, as I know my recap of this dance last year was so special for all of my readers that to do it again would risk spoiling that magical moment in time forever. Rest assured the reprise ends with Aliona making sure everyone’s very aware that she’s the only person ever to win the show twice (and I don’t see that changing this series to be honest) because that’s our Aliona!
Next next up, our annual group dance training VT, which has come down in the world a bit since it stopped being presided over by Giant Lady, but which is still good for 5 minutes of filler. This year there’s a Back To School theme, with the Grange Hill theme tune playing and
everyone sat on a school bus. I am beyond not surprised that Brenda and Anton are on the back rows, probably smoking a fag and celebrating Brexit, whilst all the new kids have to go at the front where teacher can see them. Also I’m glad that Giovanni and Aljaz are together again, as my clear favourite It Takes Two segment last year was when they were randomly paired up in a dressing room and Giovanni asked Aljaz to tell him what it’s like to truly love a woman. Once they’re at Strictly Academy, the pros file in to find the celebs
reading a selection of Strictly themed books. I demand a raise for whoever came up with “Disaster! : A Memoir”. Everyone mingles, and some clear highlights include
- Rinder and Laura having a little gossip at the back within 5 seconds of meeting the pros
- Natalie actually BENDING DOWN TO TALK TO CLAUDIA, seriously she is 5 seconds away from patting her on the head
- Lesley, looking orange as anything saying she can’t wait for her “first ever” spray tan
- Louise wailing that she hasn’t danced for SOOOOOOOO LONNNNNNNNG you guys, SOOOOO LONNNNNG
- Oti’s outfit
- Kevin turning up wearing a grunge flannel shirt wrapped around his waist, Off-Season Kevin remaining a magical mystery of sulky teenage bedroom influences
- Will revealing that he knows what a touch-step is WHADDARINGAH
- Ed Balls clattering around everywhere aimlessly
- Greg maiming Joanne
- The shot supposedly focusing on what an elegant sweetheart Daisy is as Tess & Claudia coo at her very much being from the chin upwards only
- Laura revealing she used to do Irish dance WHADDARINGAH
- Anastacia “doing the splits”
- Ore splitting his trousers, don’t judge me
- Janette dribbling over Rinder’s abs, don’t judge her (JELUS ALJAZ!)
Once that’s all done, we’re back in the studio with our first comedy “Claudia/Claudia” misunderstanding of the series, as Claudia thinks that Tess wants HER to show off her gymnastic moves, which is followed by “her” doing several cartwheels, a front flip and the splits to finish. Kudos again to backstage for finding a gymnast who actually looks like Claudia to sub in for this bit. When it was the exact same joke with Bruce they always were clearly about 60 years younger with blonde hair and DD breasts.
This is Claudia! She’s won four golds at the Commonwealth Games, three silver medals at the European Championships, one bronze medal at the World Championships, and a goody bag with a $25 value at the Olympics. IT HAD HARIBOS IN IT! I feel a bit for the producers, because whilst this is obviously impressive, Claudia was clearly booked before Max Whitlock redefined forever what it’s possible to achieve as a British gymnast so…now it sounds slightly less impressive. (Seriously, my sole gymnastic achievement is doing a forward somersault once, and even then literally nobody believes it happened, I joke from a place of humour not a place of truth). Claudia tells us she’s hoping she gets the same crowd reception at Strictly that she got when she executed her floor routine perfectly at the Olympics. What, she wants to booed for not being Brazillian? I can manage that. Claudia closes by telling us that she, like Laura, wants a strict taskmaster for a pro (lol can you imagine if AJ turned out to be a secret tyrant, I would HOWL), and that her biggest concern is having to dance in heels, as she’s not used to them. Might I suggest these?.
HI I’M DAISY! She is an international fashion model and designer and cookbook author and everything else models do in their copious free time as their job is literally walking up and down whilst not eating. The thing with Daisy being a model is that clearly she is an incredibly attractive woman, but she looks like an incredibly attractive woman in her late 40s. It’s like the E! network cast for an off-brand Nigella biopic and didn’t want to cast an ACTUAL middle aged woman in case America’s tvs spontaneously combust. Anyway here’s Daisy
sat between Nick Grimshaw and Alexa Chung I definitely want to root for her now yes I do. She tells us all that she likes to think she’s got good natural rhythm (don’t expect any of the judges to say that unless the spray-tanning goes VERY wrong) but she’s also very clumsy. Even after we all watched Jo Wood for about two months and Jerry Hall for one, that still sounds a bit “false modesty” coming from a model dosn’t it?
This is Dorien! No, wait sorry
This is Dorien! The woman in front of her is Lesley Joseph who you may also recognise as Miss Hannigan, a villainous Nazi agent in Spywatch, and also as the worst contestant on Come Dine With Me ever. But probably not. It’s probably Dorien isn’t it? The archetypal sitcom comedy neighbour : Oversexed Variation. Lesley tells us that she did ballet lessons when she was 6
and then coos “oooh, where DID you find THAT?” over the clip. I would imagine your agent forwarded it to them love. I doubt they got it off Youtube. Lesley goes on to say that she hopes that, as the oldest female celebrity ever on Strictly (unless you count Christmas Specials) (and let’s face it, nobody does) she wants to serve as an inspiration that if she can do it, anyone can. Unless they’re 71 and above. That’s too old. Go home grandma.
This is Tameka! She plays Kim Fox in Eastenders! I only know Eastenders via the medium of Live Shows and Christmas Episodes, so I don’t really know her other from that one time she gave birth live on the floor. My method of viewing means you tend to miss most of the Comedy Chracters to be honest. It’s better that way. She’s here mostly to make jokes about how she wants to shag her dance partner. And hooray for that. She tells us all that what she’s most looking forward to is doing her showdance in the final. If Tameka makes the final I will personally pay all of my readers £10 each. (NB : If Tameka makes the semi-finals I will personally come back to this entry and delete this sentence).
Back to the floor, and Claudia’s up to be paired first, with Tess asking her how it feels to be one of the youngest female contestants ever and Claudia grinning up at her that it’s been great to have everyone here mothering her.
Tess then tells her she’s not too old for a slap (not really). Claudia’s partner will be…
literally the most obvious person possible! My dream of Lesley Joseph chasing AJ around the floor dressed in full leopardprint to “Like A Virgin” dies. AJ pulls a skiddy across the floor at Claudia, drunkenly slurs the theme tune right down her ear-hole,
nearly tips her into the audience and then brags to Tess that he’s going to have her doing flips and all sorts. He really is very young isn’t he?
Daisy’s next, and she tells Tess that she wants as a pro someone who is both hard, stern and a tough taskmaster, and also someone who she can take the mick out of and who will have a laugh with her. Also he must be sensitive but not, y’know a GIRL, clever but not a know-it-all, handsome but not so it overshadows her, and quiet and sweet but also really chatty and y’know, BANTER. Also he must have access to a time machine. Also Daisy, hard?
Not in those trousers, you’d tear the fabric.
Oops there they go. Yes, again thanks to height, Daisy has Aljaz. This half of the pairing reveals is really much more predictable isn’t it? Hilariously, you can see Tameka going “I bloody knew it” or similar to Lesley in the background. Yes ladies, the sexy model gets the Alpha Hunk, you get Anton or the new boy. Tess asks Aljaz if he’s going to be a tough taskmaster like Daisy he wants and he’s all “lol no, get Artem back if you want that he’s probably bored of being the Anton of Dancing With The Stars by now”.
Lesley is next, and Tess praises her for her energy, whilst Lesley purrs that she thinks she’s in good shape for a woman of her age and she’s ready to shake her booty. Tess asks her if she think she can show these young girls a thing or two, and Lesley says she’ll try.
Probably should have revealed who she got before putting that poll up shouldn’t I?
There you go. If you want to guess how long it is before the first backhanded joke from Anton about what a disappointment Lesley’s going to be compared to Katie Derham…it was about 15 minutes ago, I just thought I’d pace myself in terms of recapping them.
SO HAPPY! You will also notice in their I’m So Excited lift of joy (not via picture, I’m a gentleman) that Anton is, unlike Pasha, absolutely not in the least bit concerned about angling Lesley’s fanny directly at the audience, and indeed the camera. Tameka and Gorka?
Well they’re already getting acquainted, let’s leave them to it.
Once they’re done, they gallop up to Claud 9, where Tameka’s immediately hooting that Gorka The Corka takes her to higher places and can lift her up any time and then LAY HER DOWN wink wink no not like that, ON THE DANCEFLOOR what are you like guys hashtag just saying hashtag I’m just saying hashtag hashtag hashtag. I feel like of all the new pros we haven’t heard speak tonight, it’s going to be the longest before we hear from Gorka. Like, maybe not til November. We then get a sartorially themed face-off between Lesley and Daisy, with the former claiming she’s never going to take her Launch Show outfit off (Louise is, five seconds after she gets out the studio door, and then she’s going to set it on fire) and Daisy hooting that she’s only going to bathe in glitter from now on. I think Aljaz might appreciate otherwise Daisy to be honest. Don’t want you smelling like Jared Murillo’s sock drawer. Claudia is last up and
I hope the show’s chiropractor budget has been raised this year (lol chiropractor, it’ll be Vicky Gill with a roll of duct tape) because there is going to be some stooping going on. Anyway Claudia says that she’s going to be sick and then Claudia tells her not to be sick on her because this is a borrowed dress and Monkseal wonders how he’s going to solve this particular clarity problem when recapping their interviews. We close with Claudia (presenter) telling AJ that he’s such a baby and asking if he’s got permission from his school to be here. Fun Fact : AJ is only about a year and half younger than Aljaz was when he started on this show as a pro. Some people really do…mature faster than others don’t they?
Back to the judges, and Tess asks Craig which are his favourite pairings so far, and he selects Danny & Oti and Tameka & Gorka as having particular potential. She asked for the best pairings Craig, not which guys you fancy the most, calm down.
OLLY MURS! Apparently we’re cycling through literally every X Factor runner-up this year, can’t wait for the glorious returns of Andy Binman and Little Nicholas McDonald. Unlike Rebecca, Olly does actually interact with the show’s dancers he’s been given (Kevin & Karen, Neil & Katya, Oksana & Gorka) with Karen in particular getting a good go on him, so if you’re already trying to predict partnerships for Strictly Series 15, there’s your first one. He’s singing his new single “You Don’t Know Love” and erm…is being very Olly Murs about it. That’s about all you can say about it. Especially 7500 words into a recap.
BRING BACK G4!
LAST ROUND OF PAIRINGS GUYS, KEEP IT UP, GOOD HUSTLE, LAST PUSH NOW!
This is Ore! He’s a BBC Breakast host but Naga’s already officially filling that niche so we’re just going to waffle some about how much he surely loves sport! Ore says he’s very nervous and he hopes whoever his pro partner is has a big shoulder, because he’s going to be doing a lot of crying (jeez, has every man this evening been possessed by the spirit of Abbey Clancy? TOUGHEN UP!)
This is Ed Balls! He is Ed Balls! Former Education Secretary and Shadow Chancellor and also apparently a bit of a Housewives Favourite. Even considering the low low bar set for politicians, which allows David Milliband to be a hunk and David Cameron to creep into the lower reaches of “Britain’s Sexiest Man” polls (HOW?!) I am mystified.
Ed says that his family is worried about him showing himself up, as he’s coming in somewhere below novice level. Truly they are pushing Ed so hard and so blatantly and so early as the Jeremy Vine BLESS HIM HE’S HAVING A GO AND THAT MAKES HIM LIKABLE contestant that I hope he’s either First Boot or secretly a bit good. So based on tonight’s evidence I hope he’s First Boot. Ed shows us all truly truly cringey pictures of him and Yvette dancing at Labour party conferences, and as if to show the political nous of the people working on the show, they’ve scripted in a “Things Can Only Get Better” reference for him to read out over a music clip of “Things Can Only Get Better”. Ed Balls was first elected in 2005.
This is Will! The ouroboros of reality tv gobbles ever onwards down its own tail! Will is, according to the voiceover a “singer, songwriter, and actor”, and he tells us eagerly that he’s played lots of different characters in his music videos. He was a fighter pilot in Switch It On, a superhero in Let It Go, a dog trainer in Come On (Jesus, did he release a Boppit themed album at some point what are these song titles?) a checkout boy in I Just Want A Lover, a televangelist in Love Revolution, a Blue Peter presenter in Who Am I?, a gymnast in Jealousy, and most radically of all, a Heterosexual Male in Evergreen (THANKS SIMON COWELL!). Will cops to being a bit of a RINGAH because he’s done a musical theatre course (remember the day midway through Series 12 when we found out that Steve Backshall had a degree in Musical Theatre? Happy days) but says that we’ll just have to take his word for it that when he tries to copy the rumba routines in his kitchen on a Saturday night that he looks ridiculous. Will seems ok enough, although I’m warning you now I feel a lot of comments starting with “ACTUALLY, I THINK YOU’LL FIND” coming from fans of his in the future, and I tell you now I will delete them ALL.
TO THE FLOOR! Ore at this point is apparently dancing everywhere because he saw the pro dancers doing it backstage and he thought it’d make good practice. In reality it’s just annoying, don’t test me Ore, I want the Year Of The Man I’ve always demanded to be a good one. Tess asks him what dance he’s particularly looking forward to, and Ore says that it used to be the jive that was his favourite, but then he saw Jay & Aliona do it. He then hastily adds “HOW IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE DONE!” before one of the Jaypet Army lob an axe at hime from the back row. Strong arms those ladies. Anyway, Ore is partnered with
Joanne! What is it with people ducking out of shot this year? It better not be like this for Safety Sex-Faces otherwise I will be having words. She dances over to Ore, and then to continue the “never stop dancing” theme, they both
swing their pants in unison. You can really see the Marilyn Monroe in Joanne’s characterisation there, she’s back stronger than ever!
Next is Ed Balls
and he will show you to your table for this evening, would you like to see the specials madam?
It’s notable here that, for all that Ed has made his living as a public speaker, this live entrance interview has been spliced together from at least four attempts and still isn’t any good If he IS going to be the Jeremy Vine he might want to…I don’t know, be more natural and likable? I know, I know, politicians, low low bar, people apparently liked Widdy, what do I know? Ed Balls will be partnered with
Nu-Katya, caught here in the middle of a round of Invisible Weightlifting. Not a lot of clean, but a whole lot of jerk. Once she’s over at Ed, she tries to say something, but as a New Pro her mic is immediately cut which means we don’t get to actually hear any of it, oh well. Which all just leaves
Well this has either “Ends Very Well” or “Ends Very Badly” written all over it doesn’t it? Either the…obvious contrast between their personalities ends with them being a truly memorable winning couple, or he stabs her in the neck with a screwdriver by Week 4 to shut her up. She clings to his face screaming until they get halfway away from Tess when he mutters to her that he’s not doing this all the way up the bloody stairs thank you very much, and she detaches herself. Snerk.
They walk in a far more dignified fashion up the stairs to Claud 9, when Claudia beams at Will that’s it’s so much less nervewracking when you’ve got your pro isn’t it (not when she’s just given you tinnitus, no) and then tries to get a coherent sentence out of Ed Balls. For once, Claudia is no better at this than Tess is, so we close with Ore hyping up the Group Dance. I do wish some of this time had been allotted to allowing, say, Gorka being allowed to just say “hello” or something but here we are.
The next bit is no more pointful, as we’re back at the Judges Table. Len says that he’s looking forward to the group dance, Darcey tells the celebs to be ready to feel muscles they’ve never felt before (and some of the pros – AJ can’t wait to maybe touch his first booby! You know, for support in a lift and stuff), and Craig advises them to dance like no-one’s watching (just like Series 7!) and wishes them all genuine good luck. LOL someone’s angling for that soon-to-be-vacated Head Judge chair by being artifically “nice” isn’t he?
LET’S GET READY TO CAR CRASH!
Ah, there we go. That’s the spot. The car crash group dance this year is a jive (ish) to Shake A Tail Feather and as much as obviously we all have to bear in mind that any one of these people could be Jay’ing it up due to nerves/wanting to hide how much of a ringer they are, both Ed Balls and Rinder are an absolute state and Daisy’s not much better. Louise is stiffer than I expected, but I’m sure the rust will magically melt away somehow. Melvin and Naga are somewhere in the middle, Greg seems to be being used strategically as a forklift for the most part and Tameka, Anastacia and Lesley are chiefly used for “character work”. Anastacia and Tameka I think look like they might have more to them (not so much Lesley). But based on the dance as a whole, the contenders are Danny, Ore, Will, Claudia and maaaaaaaaaybe Laura? I swear if we get a year with three legitimate male contenders in the endgame, which we have never had before I will schvitz. Even if the attendant Clifton-directed tornado o’ hate DESTROYS THE INTERNET. If Greg and Melvin are also good (and they might be) all the better.
SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR SHOW ONE!