RELEASE THE RINGERS!
Last night : awkward waltzes, OTT cha chas, showmances hitting warp speed already, Joanne continuing to be Joanne, and Natalie screaming profanities as she ran up the stairs. So nothing too unusual for week 1 then.
WHO STOLE ANASTACIA’S GIANT SANDWICH?
Credits Highlight 1 :
Lesley having “sparks” fly out of her fingers, but it looking more like she’s casually flinging a fistful of vomit out her car window.
We begin the show with
oh Christ, MORE new pros? I’ve only just started adding the other 4 to my spreadsheets and now this? Oh well, at least they’re a little bit mature looking than AJ, that’s a relief. This is the opening to our first pro dance of the series proper, to “What The World Needs Now”, featuring couples young, old and…
indeterminate. The judges also join in, by which I mean Darcey hangs off Aljaz looking bored off her tits and Craig waves his arms around a bit, and slowly more and more couples (and Tess and Claudia) pile on until the floor is completely jam-packed, at which point the ceilings open and massive confetti falls on everyones heads. It’s all very sweet, although probably also a massive fire hazard. I do (like everyone else) enjoy these mass ballroom numbers, but the floor really is too narrow to fit everyone in comfortably. Apart from this girl
who is more blissfully comfortable than Bruno after his nightly visits to his friend in the staff car park with the bag of special snacks. At the end, everyone is bundled off into a clown car and we’re left with just the
two kids from the beginning again, bowing to one another in a massive ring of fairy lights in the shape of a heart. Again, Craig will shortly be coming for somebody else for being involved in something saccharine.
Tess and Claudia scoot back on from the wings, and Claudia begins to thankseveryone involved individually, until Tess cuts her off and tells her that we’ll be off air in an hour and a half, so Claudia will have to thank everyone later. This is followed by the judges dancing on AGAIN, during which time I read out a list of the entire cast of the hit musical West Side Story.
Louise Redknapp & Kevin Clifton dancing the jive
This is the only time Louise looks more enthusiastic than Kevin all evening. Treasure it. Tess tells us that in this routine, Louise will be playing a Navy Wife, waiting for her husband to return from sea. Oh, right, this dance we get the Cliff Notes for, despite Costuming For The Back Row, but Joanne’s Amazing Adventure With Bicycles, Superheroes and Bum Fights, we have to work out for ourselves. Makes sense.
VT time, and Tess opens by telling us that Louise has “gone from megastar to megamum”. God, this isn’t so much Baby Wars as Baby Nuclear Winter. It feels like Donald Trump got his hands on the codes. SHE’S HAD ISSUE, WE GET IT! (Also, isn’t Megamum a Superman villain?) (Also also maybe don’t overlay this on top of a shot of her
pointing to her vajayhole, all “THEY CAME OUT HERE!”). Louise starts by saying that she’s worried she’s not going to get through Strictly alive, as she’s not as fit as she was when she 21. Hun, if Holly Valance can make it to the semis despite almost coughing up a lung after most of the dances, you should be fine. As far as Holly was concerned, “cardio” was what her husband paid for everything with when they summered in Barcelona.
We’re reminded that Louise got Kevin as a partner and the man himself pops up to say that Louise may think she’s danced in the past, but he’s watched her pop videos (after Karen’s gone to bed with a pot noodle in one hand and a box of tissues in the other) and she really really hasn’t. Why here she is
just sat on a chair in Chicag…I mean “Naked”. Louise then mugs that she’s worried about getting a pro that’s made it to the final three times, because it’s a lot to live up to. I feel like this couple have a real need to be underdogs that doesn’t always mesh with, well, reality.
Training now, and as Kevin and Louise meet for the first time in their rehearsal space, he tells her that he’s organised a thematically appropriate day-trip. ALREADY? ON THE FIRST DAY? I was privately educated and even we normally at least waited for the second week of term before jetting off on educational sallies to the South Of France or somebody’s dad’s law firm. Kevin’s destination of choice? The deck of the HMS M33 so that he can
shower Louise with seamen. As their dance is naval themed. Ahem. Kevin’s brought her here to help her get into the story – the idea is that he is Louise’s husband, and has been away at sea for three years, but now he’s come back and all he wants to do after months away from her is jive. Hmmm. A life locked in a tin can with only other guys for company can change a man. Hilariously, Louise says this being here is helping her capture the excitement a Navy Wife might feel as her husband returns home, as she does grimly perfect jive (day 1 remember this is supposed to be) on a fugly looking ship on an overcast day as 5 guys look on bored off their arse. Maybe Louise was using Kevin’s absence to fraternise with that nice Russian airman stationed at the local RAF base and isn’t THAT excited to see him come back, jiving like he’s got itching powder down his pants and constantly inviting his sister over for Disney Nights.
TO THE DOCKS!
Now I’ve seen some people say that Louise’s yet again dressed horribly here, but to be honest I think it’s a cute dress, just maybe one or two sizes too big. Also we just went through an entire series where everything Kellie Bright was gone over like this is Italian Vogue, not a Saturday teatime gameshow, so let’s pace ourselves. She and Kevin are dancing to “Jump, Jive & Wail”, which I cannot BELIEVE was not used for Greg Rutherford. The Blindfolded Dart Throwing Song Choice Monkeys are slacking. Kevin slides out the ship and my suspisions are confirmed.
He’s back from the sea, reeking of lavendar.
As a jive it’s very nice. It’s not trying to knock anyone over with its energy or pizzazz or showmanship, just show off what Louise can do whilst still keeping it family friendly and pre-watershed. It all looks very easy and proficient and old-fashioned and like nobody’s breaking a sweat – just trying to put on a bit of a show to save the old farm goshdarnit. As such, as Kevin steers the good ship Redknapp through the waters of ringerdom, he might want to worry less about the iceberg labelled “POP STAR” and more about accidentally triggering the hidden landmine of “STAGE SCHOOL” because this does feel very much like it’s all being done in a classroom at the instruction of a 60 year old chain-smoking Cockney martinet in a leotard whose claim to fame is that she used to be one of the sexy Resistance agents from ‘Allo ‘Allo.
NOW LET’S TAKE 5 AND THEN WE’LL RUN THROUGH YOUR SOLO AUDITION PIECES FOR THIS TERM’S PRODUCTION OF NOISES OFF.
It gets a Standing Ovation, whilst up on the balcony you can see Lesley Joseph thinking
“I was in the original of that routine you little THIEF. Me and dear old Chrissy Cazenove in summer stock in Hove. Oh those summer nights under the pavillion”. Once they’re at Tess, and she’s got her breath back, and Tess has introduced the singers, Len starts by growling that that floated his boat (Len does love a sailor) because Louise was JUMPING AND JIVING, and he was WAILING. You’d envy Len’s scriptwriter his job wouldn’t you? Once you get the songlist for the week that’s your job 75% done. Bruno’s next, and yells that TRUE TO FAMILY TRADITION, Louise has scored big first time out. I presume he’s referring to Louise’s husband being a footballer, not calling her sister a slag or anything.
Craig is next, saying that he loves how clean and crisp it was, but she needs to retract her kicks more so that it looks more like a “proper jive”. Meanwhile in the audience
Jamie really is starting to turn into his dad isn’t he, what a revoltin’ development. Darcey closes by praising Louise’s kick-ball-changes and telling Kevin that he’s got a really nice student to work with here. That’s the word isn’t it? Nice.
Up to Claud 9 they pleasant, where Louise huffs and puffs that she’s too out of breath to talk. Claudia snarks that if she can’t talk she can always mime. Once a 90s popstar, always a 90s popstar I guess. Claudia recounts how nervous Louise was about performing first, and then Louise gets to say hello to both her husband and, guess what, her children. Very much on brand isn’t she? Scores are in
31. The contrast between Kevin rolling around on the floor mugging and yelling “WOW! WOW! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!” as he and Louise get more or less the exact same score most ringers get in week 1, whilst Louise stands there all “yes, this is acceptable” is perfect.
Melvin Odoom & Janette Manrara dancing the salsa
Tess tells us that Melvin’s got a secret weapon he’s been using in training, but he doesn’t want her to tell anyone, so “mum’s the word”.
Heavy cocaine usage would explain this routines, yes.
In his VT, Melvin recounts how at the Launch Show, Janette jumped on him, yelling “I WANTED YOU! I WANTED YOU!”. TO THE TABLOIDMOBILE (lol not really, it’s Melvin Odoom, you couldn’t even get that on pg 27 of The Daily Star and they just ran a Strictly front page based on two whiny fantweets). He tells us all that in life he’s mostly a people pleaser, and wants to just say “yes” to everyone – Janette, his mum, whoever it is in Wardrobe who is dressing him and also has a vendetta against my eyeballs apparently… Janette closes by trying to brand her and Melvin as being this year’s “pocket rockets”, but without actually saying “pocket rockets”, because AJ & Claudia already got first dibs at the t-shirt printers.
Training now, and Janette tells Melvin that she’s going to tell him his cha cha song is “Loco In Acapulco”. Aww. If we were going Mexican, I was hoping for one of the less famous follow-ups myself. “Gaga In Guadalajara” maybe? “Crackers In Cuernevaca?” “Doolaly in Mexcali”? Also on the menu this week is a visit to Melvin’s family, so Janette can get to know him
or maybe the show thinks they’re actually passing this off as an actual trip to Mexico, who can say? ARIBA SHAKIRA! We meet Melvin’s mum, his dad, and most importantly of all
his sister, who is my favourite. I want her in the front row of the audience, dressed like that, styled like that, fresh from a BBQ with liquor in a plastic cup in her hand, every single episode. Mrs Odoom tells Janette that to get Melvin to do anything he really needs nagging, and then Melvin himself recounts a story about how he used to dance at parties when he was a kid, and if he did really well, he’d get money stuck to his forehead. Perhaps fittingly
the note he uses as illustration is now WELL out of date.
Oooh a pinata as well. The grizzly legacy of Around The World Week lives on. Melvin is here playing the part of a lost tourist, who is left scratching his head and examining his hat until Janette waves him over to
go on tour with her! Based on the evidence of this routine…it seems unlikely. Although Ainsley went last year, so it’s not as thought you have to be much good these days. I have to say, this routine was a surprise to me, even after his iffy showing at the Launch Show, because years of this show have led me to expect young people who are…less famous on this show to be stealth ringers (see : Georgia May Foote, Chelsee Healey, The Flack Attack, anyone who was in Hollyoaks for 3 months) otherwise why cast them? But no, Melvin’s…just a bit crap. The only thing this has going for it is that, as a DJ, he can follow the beat, but unfortunately he’s clonking from one move to the next, and it’s very clear his only thought is about making sure his foot ends up in the right place every time it goes down. It’s clunk clunk clunk and no amount of Janette flopping around like a dying fish, or trousers that are so bright they actually give off lens flare, or
him getting his maracas out, or lip-syncing down the camera lens, or wearing a sombrero can hide it. The dance ends with him whacking Chekov’s Pinata
although, as a whole, this one went off very early in Act 1.
He stumbles over to Tess, who asks him if he’s happy. Not quite in the same tone Jan Ravens used with Craig all those years ago, but you can hear the underlying message. Melvin says he’s just happy to still be alive. I’m not sure the cha cha is. Bruno starts for the judges, groaning that he needs a cocktail after that, because whilst Melvin brought the “festive” spirit of the dance, he forgot to move his hips. At all. Ever. Craig follows, saying the dance has put him in “a wooden mood”, whatever that’s supposed to mean. He tells Melvin that he’s “more stiff downstairs than an ironing board”. Well there’s an image I’ll be moving swiftly on from.
Darcey’s next, and tells Melvin that he’s clearly naturally a “cheeky chappy”, so he needs to put some of his cheek into his hips. Even Janette might struggle to manage that Darce, and she’s superflexible. Darcey does though, think the hips worked well enough when he was standing still. Yes, more standing still in his routines, less moving about, that should work. Len closes by saying that he’s not going to go LOCO for the routine, but he doesn’t understand why Craig is being such a “nastiness person” about it. Ooooh burn. Note that one down for your next verbal duel, Judge Rinder.
Up to Claud 9 they go, where Claudia immediately deploys “well we all loved it up here!”. The new “you’re my favourite!” I feel. Melvin says that he worked very hard, and that he enjoyed it. He then asks Janette if she enjoyed it. Janette says yes. Claudia’s all “erm…we….love your family!” before mercifully, the scores come in
22. WHAT A NASTINESS PERSON!
Daisy Lowe & Aljaz Skorjanec dancing the waltz
Tess tells us that tonight Daisy will be dedicating her performance tonight to a very special person. Oh here we go.
To open her VT, Tess tells us that, as a model, Daisy’s probably well used to the glitz and glamour that comes with a Strictly makeover. Yes, I’m sure during that last performance by Melvin there it felt just like she was right back at Paris Fashion Week. Daisy for her part says that she wants all the hair, make-up, and all the glittery things that Strictly can throw at her. Here’s an exclusive preview of Daisy’s look for next week. She goes on to say that she can’t believe her luck being partnered with Aljaz (it’s not luck love, he’s the only pro you coould be partnered with without your heels actually being snipped off a la Into The Woods) and Aljaz says that they’re going to have a lot of fun, but also work very hard. The little smirk Aljaz gives here
makes me wonder if Daddy Skorjanec shoudn’t be hunting George Hamilton down and asking for him to take a DNA test and prepare to pay 25 years worth of child support.
Training now, and Daisy tells us that she’ll be dancing to “Unforgettable” this week by Nat King Cole, because he was one of her grandfather’s favourite artists. As her grandfather died on her first day of rehearsals on the show, this dance will be a tribute to him.
I get why people find this a bit “X Factor” but I feel like if someone’s close relative actually dies whilst they’re on the show it’s ok to mention. Like, either you choose to view it as quite sweet that someone wants to do something in their memory, or you openly have to dredge up the energy to go all in and say someone’s using a death of a loved one for personal gain whilst the body’s still warm, and I don’t really think it’s worth it to go there over some model I’ve barely heard of on Strictly Come Dancing. Still, have a poll
TO THE DANCEFLOOR!
So as I said, this feels VERY Aljaz Week 1. And not just because he’s wearing white trousers that are practically seethrough (I didn’t say I was complaining!). There’s some business at the beginning with a flower
being passed around before gently tumbling to the floor,
there’s a lot of yearning glances and floaty arm extensions, and starry night skies projected onto the video wall, and the whole thing very neatly rides the edge the whole time of being completely insubstantial without falling over into being complete fluff. One thing about it ISN’T very Wk 1 Aljaz though, for the most part their torsos are absolutely welded together. Lo how we all remember watching Aljaz & Abbey and wondering about the fact that the gap between their crotches the whole time was suspiciously Janette sized. The only real problem that I can see is that in a way it’s the Anti-Naga – everything about it is beautiful other than her neck, which at points she’s twisting round so hard it starts to look a little like “Death Becomes Her”. On the whole though
an excellent start.
It gets our fourth standing ovation of the series so far (ladies and gents update your spreadsheets) and I ponder my own mortality at the fact that
Danny from Supergrass is sat in the Strictly audience in the role of somebody’s DAD.
Craig starts for the judges, saying that it was saccharinne, sickly sweet, mawkish, and over-the-top. Daisy
seems amused by this, Aljaz less so. DO NOT INSULT HIS ARTPOP CRAIG. Still, he thought she danced it beautifully. Darcey’s next, and pacifies Aljaz’s sensibilites by waffling on about the beautiful romance and the captivating atmospheres and the shivers she felt running up and down her back. She does recommend that Daisy learn to extend her long limbs a little more though.
Len’s next, and says that where he was looking for a Daisy, he found a Rose. Alright Hanson. He goes on to say that he can’t remember seeing a better dance in Week 1 ever on the show.
Aljaz…slightly more pleased with that comment there. I’ve seen people get huffty about this, but unlike when he claimed that Lisa Snowdon was the best female dancer ever not to win the show (…) it’s not as though tons of other options leap to mind is it? Austin’s waltz? Alesha’s rumba? Natalie Gumede gnashing and winking her way through a competition level cha cha? Bruno closes, bibbling that the dance perfectly combined old-school glamour and high class fashion, and Daisy really did her best to make a very hard dance look very easy. Gosh, we really are pushing the “no, really, waltz is HARD” line this year aren’t we?
Up to Claud 9 they jog, where Claudia and Daisy both make jittery high-pitched noises at one another like shagging furbies and the word “amazing” is used a lot by all concerned. Scores are in
32. Yes, a 9 for your first dance. The 8th time it’s happened, and the 8th time everyone’s acted it’s the first.
I have to break off at this point, as Claudia does a little joke with Tameka about how saying “paso” sounds a bit like a sneeze and Tess’ face in response
is as close to a nervous breakdown I’ve seen her come live on the show since that one week Bruce wouldn’t take his hand off her arse. SMILE TESSBOT, SMILE!
Danny Mac & Oti Mabuse dancing the cha cha
Tess starts with a joke about about how Danny’s terrified of the judges, but he shouldn’t be, because as long as his armography is perfect, his fingers are pointing the right way, his footwork is spot on, he doesn’t stick his bottom out, he keeps time with the music, he shows passion and he moves to the beat, he should be fine! Oh Tess, you left out Craig deciding the routine is too mawkish, Darcey deciding you are genetically too stumpy to be a dancer, Len thinking you’re a big woofy-poofy airy fairy, Bruno not rating your mise en scene, Craig getting ballroom technique backwards and criticising you for doing something correctly, Bruno not fancying you, Darcey thinking your BEAUTIFUL NECKLACE is so last season, Len throwing a strop over literally nothing like maybe he thinks you looked at him the wrong way in the car park or FAFFING ABAHT, Bruno confusing you for a different celebrity because he’s off his meds, Craig deciding your thumb is offensive, Bruno deciding you’re a bit too good compared to whatever ex girlband member who’s always in the bottom 2 he wants to prop up that week…
In his VT it is revealed that Danny Mac is this year’s token actor who is going to claim that he’s SO used to hiding behaind a character that it’s going to be difficult just being himself. This was Kellie Bright last year and it was annoying then, and I’d ACTUALLY SEEN HER IN THINGS. Does anybody in Hollyoaks not just play themselves? Isn’t every character just “model who gets mildly bothered by serial killers”? Danny goes on to say that the most exciting prt of the Launch Show was waiting to see what partner he’d got. Yeah, because this year they didn’t have the PORN TRAIN Danny. You missed out. Danny says he was really pleased to get Oti, but this is nothing compared to Oti’s look of
utter smug knicker-wetting delight for the entire VT. Like, I think if Trump actually becomes president he will handle his victory with more decorum and humility than Oti getting a Hollyoaks Hunk Ringah. This makes Aliona getting Jay look like Aliona getting Gregg. Oti and Danny have a little banter about who is going to break who first, so
Training, and Danny is complaining that he finds the cha cha difficult. It’s like his brain is having a constant argument with his body over what he’s doing, and it’s hard to reconcile the two. The poor lamb.
The psychic pa…
oh wait he’s just fixing his hair, never mind. The internal struggle in Danny Mac all culminates in the following sit-down talk with Oti :
Oti : How are you finding the cha cha Danny Mac?
Danny : Oh Oti, I’m trying but I’m so terrified.
Oti : LOL SHUT UP, YOU’RE A TOTAL RINGER, YOU’RE GREAT, BACK TO WORK BITCH, SYMPATHY’S FOR WUSSES NOW GET ME MY GLITTERBALL WHILST I WORK ON HIRING A PLANE TO SKYWRITE “SEVEN TIME LOSER!” OVER NATALIE LOWE’S HOUSE.
Danny : I am pleased that Oti has faith in me, it appears my previous misgivings were misplaced, I am now confident
Oti : YAHHHHHHHHHS! VICTORY PARTY UNDER THE SLIIIIIIIIIIIDE!
Seriously, I’m glad that Oti has literally no time for any sort of “me so nervous, how will I cope” routine and I hope the VT editors find something else to do with Danny very shortly.
TO THE CLUB!
Again, I’m finding Oti’s start here, sprawled resplendently across the bar, far more appealing than Danny’s walking in as he does
in this hat. Has he walked in from a hard day’s hunting in the Alps? They’re dancing to “Cake By The Ocean” which…in all my years of watching this show I’ve never before so immediately heard a pop single and *known* it was going to be a week 1 ringer cha cha. It’s like it was born in a factory to have New Yorkers done to it and get 7s and 8s. In retrospect, more than any other dance so far this weekend except maybe Louise’s, this dance feels like a Mission Statement for the couple involved in total. This is Danny Mac letting you know that his dances are going to be modern, super fast (possibly a little…too fast), technically demanding and
utter filth. Seriously, Oti is riding his crotch within 10 seconds of the music starting, she knows what the angle here is – bump’n’grind in muscle tops with plenty of
leg spreading and knicker flashing. Kevin may be playing nice, but that’s not Oti Mabuse’s game. There will be crotch grabs and wanton hair flippery and Joe Jonas singing bollocks about cake with his top off and you will live with it.
It gets a Standing Ovation, the biggest response of the weekend complete with knicker-throwing and squealing and it’s all still less loud than the ear-piercing SHRIEK Oti lets off when she’s done. Meanwhile from the audience, Strictly Kingmaker
Carly Stenson watches on proudly. First part of the plan in place, now just to learn from the mistakes of last time. No predicting 10s for himself, no smugly claiming people “obviously just thought he’d be safe” if he’s ever in the Bottom 2, and if he needs a paparazzi running over she’s going to have to do it herself. Once they’re over at Tess, Danny says this is the greatest feeling he’s ever had in his life, and he owes it all to Oti who is
SO SMUG I THINK HER TEETH MIGHT SHATTER ❤
Darcey starts by saying that she thinks Danny coped excellently with a very fast and complicated routine. She’s also glad to see a man who can move his hips. I bet she is. (YEAR OF THE MAN!). Len follows, and says that Danny’s clearly a contender, but the dance was a little too stage school for him. Maybe because Danny went to stage school? Along with about half of the rest of the cast?
Anyway, nobody boos this but
Len starts hearing voices and starts yelling “DON’T BOO ME! DON’T BOO ME!” and I had hoped we were doing without this for his last series but there we are. Look out the good folks of Alicante, a septugenarian is going to start yelling “LEAVE ME ALONE, I’M AN OLD MAN!” at innocent passers by at a resort spa near you soon. Also he wants FISH AND CHIPS, NOT THIS PIE-ELLA MUSH!
Bruno’s next and he loved the Michael Jackson moves and general atmosphere of frottery but there follow no words from Craig. Oh well.
Up to Claud 9 they romp, where Claudia starts by mock-joking that she’s sorry that Danny turned out to be such a rubbish dancer, and then mimics the supposed reaction of everyone on Claud 9 to that dance.
Rubbish Claud, that posture is far too good to be Lesley. Danny says that he’s had a great time and worked so hard on that and would just like to thank Oti again. Oti in return is all
MINE MINE MINE HANDS OFF LADIES, UP YOURS KATYA JONES PBBBBBBBBBBBBT! Scores are in
Tameka Empson & Gorka Marquez dancing the paso doble
Tess tells us that Tameka will be performing a paso doble with new Spanish pro Gorka from Spainland because he is SPANISH OLE
(from spain). I love that Wk 1 dances are now being dished out based entirely on the professional dancers place of birth. That’s why right now Ed Balls is sticking a furry hat on and getting ready to COSSACK!
VT time, and Tameka tells us that it’s always been her dream to do Strictly AND NOW SHE’S HERE AND SHE CAN’T BELIEVE IT AND SHE’S DEFINITELY NOT PREGNANT THIS TIME, IT’S JUST A BIT OF POST HOLIDAY WEIGHT GAIN, DON’T TAKE THIS AWAY FROM HER AGAIN!!! We’re reminded of the moment when Gorka picked her up on the Launch Show all
“hey, I found this by the bins, are we using it for a group dance, I think it’s dribbling a little bit hello?”. Gorka himself then gets to speak, finally, and bless him it’s very “my name is Gorka Marquez from Spain I am 25 years of old I like films and dancing and playing Playstation and I am very pleased to be on my first year of Strictly with top Eastenders television soaps star Tameko Empsons”. But
very pretty. Saying it now. Very pretty. Tameka closes by saying that she’s very intimidated by the long history of Eastenders actors on Strictly and wants to live up to their track record. I mean, there’s been about 4 a series hun, just pick out the crap ones, you’re sorted. Gillian Taylforth, Phil Daniels, Jessie Wallace, who could live up to their feasome legacy woo woooooo woo.
Training now and
Gorka is having trouble getting Tameka to treat paso doble with the solemn reverence it deserves. By which I mean she’s doing nothing but rolling around on the floor cackling about how Gorka’s wearing a tablecloth and paso sounds a bit like pasta and she just thought of something that Ore said that wasn’t funny but she took it funny and HA HA HA YOU JUST HAD TO BE THERE. At any rate, I’m glad that Tameka finds herself amusing because…well it’s a base for the rest of us to join her one day. Once she stops laughing and tells us what’s actually funny.
TO THE BULLRING!
She and Gorka are dancing the paso doble to “Y Viva Espana”. So that’s a Belgian novelty song originally sung in Dutch to soundtrack a French dance modelled after a Spanish cultural form. And they say our connection with the Continent has been severed. The routine is actually, considering what little impact he’s made so far off the floor, very Gorka heavy, with him leaping
and showing his erm…
angles, as Tameka mostly stomps around huffing and puffing and swishing her skirts in his wake, like she’s trying to gather a particularly unruly baskets worth of laundry. It’s Tameka, of course, so the natural size and ebulliance of her personality draws the eye, and it’s all very funny and high camp, but if we’re going to go out of our way to do a paso doble in Week 1, it might be worth giving her a bit more to do with herself.
This is a novel end pose though. Very “Eva Peron gets fitted for shoes at the bowling alley”.
It gets about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way to a full Standing Ovation, and Len starts for the judges, cackling that it was a Corka from GORKA! Oh that’s not going to get old is it? He loved the fun and passion Tameka brought to the routine, and says “CAME AHT!” twice, which does feel very much like the essence of Tameka Empson. And Anastacia. And Lesley Joseph. Lot of them this year isn’t there?
Bruno’s next, and tells Tameka that he loves her because she played every single character in that dance she could get her hands on. The matador, the cape, the bull, the arena, the audience… I love that Bruno just told a woman her physical presence reminded him of an ARENA as a compliment. Just what every girl wants to hear. He does think she could improve her shaping though.
Craig’s next, telling Tameka she owned the stage, and was full of energy, but every time she hit the floor it was like an RSJ going down. Great, I just had to look up what a DIY term was, compared to Craig. I feel so MASC. Darcey closes by telling Tameka that she was the most perfect and dramatic moody senorita, but agrees with Bruno about needing to improve her body shaping.
Tameka gives a hearty “merci beaucoup!” (SPANISH!) and retreats up the stairs to Claud 9, where she immediately starts demanding a fan down and faking a heart attack. This gives Claudia time to get a further sentence out of Gorka (“I am having great time to be here but to be with this lady is even more incredible!”) and then we have to hear that Gorka is indeed a Corker twice more. Wanting to avoid the word “corker” is a large part of the reason why I don’t read The Sun you guys (that and the racism, the homphobia, the xenophobia, Katie Hopkins, Rod Liddle, Hillsborough, the sexism, the ableism, the general scaremongering, the phone-tapping, the fraud, the incessant hounding of celebrities…) can we leave it out? Scores are in
Here is Claudia
She is dressed as an elf, as Ed Balls will shortly be dancing to an Elvis song. And that sounds a bit like Elvish. Also I suspect Claudia put her foot down and nixed the outfit for her dance at the last minute.
Anastacia & Brendan Cole dancing the cha cha
Before the dance, I’d like to congratulate Brenda on this, his 100TH COMPETITIVE EPISODE OF STRICTLY COME DANCING. (Don’t count yourself, there are a number of ways of counting, mine is the correct one, mine) It’s been a long road baby, through romances, bust-ups, Bloody Lulus, Celebrity Love Island, one glitterball trophy, Snowdance, constant illegal lifts (remember when lifts even could be illegal?), end of series It Takes Two duets with Anton, Jo Wood weeping on your shoulder in a Tesco car park, Pendledrama, having to pretend Michelle Williams wasn’t taking cocaine the WHOLE DAMNED TIME for legal reasons, at least three series where let’s face it, you didn’t bother to turn up mentally at all, never ever being First Boot despite everything, even Fiona Phillips, that time you stropped off because of Animal Imagery, TIME WARP, constant barely concealed sex fantasies in which you were Johnny Castle and your partner was Baby, the Rent-A-Pro year, that time Aliona sued you, that time that you said every single pro that only lasted for only one or two series was shit (and this was only yesterday!), “Prawn-Head”, Kelly Brook’s Sparkly Pink Cape Of Feminism, how you’ve never quite learned in 14 years how to not have your arse stick out in the jive, Sophie’s Charleston, “This Girl”, your marriage, the birth of a child, Claire King hating your guts and MANY MANY MORE MEMORIES.
I’m just getting this tribute in now because you are clearly never actually leaving. Will any other pro ever match your Strictly presence? Actually the way Kevin’s going he’ll have equalled your episode count by the middle of next series, never mind.
VT time, and the first thing that Anastacia says is that her partner is “Amazeballs”. Should have just said that really shouldn’t I? Apparently the first thing that Anastacia said to Brenda as soon as they were partnered up was “WE’RE WINNING THIS THING!”. Were they near a Hook-A-Duck stall at the time? This is literally the only explanation. Brendan for his part says that he knows first hand how impressive Anastacia is on stage (BACK-HANDER ALERT) and also that she’s ridiculously famous all around the world. Mostly Europe. Mostly 7 or 8 years ago. Mostly slightly ironically.
and I have to say I’m slightly disappointed by Anastacia’s chosen training attire. I was expecting a full on leopardprint Juicy Couture ensemble with indoor sunglasses and at least three dogs, two handbags, and one shirtless personal trainer/bodyguard/lover called Pavel. Not this GRAY MEH. Fortunately, Brenda decides to call a halt to training, as it is Anastacia’s birthday, to take her on a guided tour of London.
Now this is more the Anastacia I was expecting. The gag here is that Brenda keeps on telling Anastacia phony facts about London, in his role as tour guide but Anastacia
isn’t having NONE of it. Facts like “Piccadilly Circus is an actual working circus”, “Nelson’s Column was erected by Egyptian monks”, and “I’m really glad that I got partnered with you, and not Daisy Lowe”. Ultimately Anastacia’s birthday ends with her being denied a fondling of some queen’s Crown Jewels, and ending up sat eating scones instead.
Just like many of my own birthdays.
(Side note : Anastacia has lived in London for many years)
TO THE BORDELLO!
Anastacia and Brendan are performing the cha cha to “Lady Marmalade” because of course they are. This routine is in a way, the opposite of Tameka’s, in that it’s mostly Anastacia stomping around
eye-screwing the cameras, and in the best possible way, acting the tart, whilst Brendan woops like he’s in Spearmint Rhinos and does the odd twizzle after her. It’s not exactly feather light and cheeky, because she is stomping that floor like she’s wearing size 14 cowboy boots but if you were one of the gays clapping their hands and wagging their fingers and going “YAHS KWEN ANASTACIA YAHS!” at the announcement of her as a contestant, then chances are this is what you were hoping for. Also
her splits here are a lot more succesful than when she did them on the Launch Show when they were basically her lying flat on her face with her legs spread and her bum in the air. Admittedly, unfortunately
at one point, about halfway through this happens, and she never quite recovers her strut or her poise or her purpose completely. All in all, more attitude than anything else, but a right laugh, especially the end pose where she
damn near snaps Brenda’s head off out of sheer sass.
(The biggest crime here of course wasn’t the stumble, or the unnecessary knicker flashing or even Craig somehow giving it an 8, is that they’re dancing to the Moulin Rouge version of Lady Marmalade, and the routine does not end with anybody getting called Mr Minger Head. THAT’S THE BEST BIT!)
Anastacia wanders over to Tess, a little out of puff, and Tess sighs that she looked like she was in her element out there. Anastacia protests, sighs that she just wishes that Tess understood and then, in her most Anastacia moment yet
turns towards the band and starts yelling “ANDREA! ANDREA! GIRL’S THE BOMB! SHE WAS THE ONE SINGING! *THAT’S* MY ELEMENT! I AM HUMBLED! HUMBLED BY THE DANCERS!”. The tumbleweed pause before the audience realises she’s stopped quacking and they can applaud now, is the best part.
Bruno starts, growling that Anastacia went out there and did everything he liked, but unfortunately she WENT WRONG so he’s going to have to knock marks off.
Look at his sad little face. A big gay popstar cha cha to Lady Marmalade danced mostly with the bubbies and he’s going to have to low-ball it, scores wise. You can tell it pains him. Craig’s next, and pulls his usual “that was disgusting, filthy, indecent, immoral, grimy, sordid….AND I LOVED IT!” line, and if you’re wondering if there’s a human left alive so naive that they’d still fall for that.
Here she is. What an innocent angel in the body Ann Summers corset of a harlot.
Darcey follows, calling Anastacia a “supple chick” who clearly understands the rhythms and accents of the music, despite the mistakes. She also gives notice that she can’t wait for Anastacia’s Argentine Tango, because she’s sure it’ll be pure filth. We can but hope. Len’s last and says it was just like MARMALADE – tangy and slightly fruity. Anastacia makes
gay hand at this, which is hilarious, mostly for the fact that Anastacia thinks that Len would ever use “gay” as a compliment. Or that Brendan would take it as one. (It totally was super gay though, there are contestants currently on RuPaul’s Drag Race that are less queer than Anastacia’s performance was there, and it’s an All Stars season). As if to reassert heterosexuality over proceedings, Len tells Anastacia that when she bent over he could see her Rocky Mountains. Oh good.
Up to Claud 9 she ascends, and…I think Brenda spanks her arse when she gets to the top. This got very butch all of a sudden didn’t it? Anastacia starts by saying that she was expecting Craig to say horrible mean things to her, so it’s made her very emotional that he was so nice. Yeah, that’s what happens when you press the wrong button on the scoring machine and have to bluff your way out of it. She cries some more about how happy she is to be here until Natalie swoops in to give her a reassuring pat, and then the scores are in
28. Well done for staying strong Bruno. Kudos.
Ed Balls & Katya Jones dancing the waltz
Tess tells us that this waltz will be set on Westminster Bridge, so Ed and Katya went to the Houses Of Parliament for inspiration (/so that Ed could have a bit of a cry on his own about being deselected and then eat too much ice cream).
Even his VT starts with Tess referring to him as a “former politician”. I’m not sure what’s more depressing – that, or the shot of him gushing that for the first time in his life, the paparazzi want to take a picture of HIM on the red carpet, laid over
this shot of him, which definitely was picked so as to be from the least flattering angle possible. I know it’s inherently really easy and a bit lazy and patronising to view Ed Balls as a tragic figure here, but at this point it already feels impossible to avoid it. Ed’s asked what his thoughts were when he was told he would be partnered with Katya. His answer? “Brilliant!”. That’s it. Former Shadow Chancellor, Education Secretary, and Senior Harvard Fellow there everyone. Katya’s interview meanwhile is just her reeling off everything she’s ever won and not mentioning Ed at all. Maybe their relationship will…grow in complexity?
Training now and
oy. Ed Balls deadpans into camera that this is where the journey begins as he clutches a sports bag and the whole thing is framed like he’s about to enter a suburban high street massage parlour, before the training starts and consists mostly of Katya squawking orders at him and clicking her fingers in his face whilst he waltzes around clutching a couple of water bottles in his fists. Ed sighs that Katya is a tough taskmaster, before a truly cringey sitdown bit where she says she’s only tough because they have such limited time, and then he waxes lyrical about how he’s used to it from his days at the dispatch box.
It’s a shame, because in a way, based on the routine, they work well together on the floor, but I feel like they maybe should have reconsidered partnering up someone who is so deeply deeply awkward and stilted on camera “being himself” with someone who is also really doing her first tv gig.
TO THE BRIDGE!
They’re doing the waltz to “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” and the story is that it’s a day of terrible weather in London, with Ed umbrella breaking and Katya’s hat
flying off. If you listen closely, you can just hear a voice on the breeze whispering “hats were *my* gimmick bitch, get your own woo woo love the ORIGINAL Katya xo xo”. Anyway, what is a lady to do once she’s lost her hat other than waltz with a complete stranger? Actually that does sound like the sort of excuse a politician caught in flagrante would make isn’t it? “I WAS JUST HELPING THE YOUNG LADY RETRIEVE HER HAT WHEN SHE TRIPPED AND FELL IN MY LAP OFFICER IT WAS ALL PERFECTLY INNOCENT”. The dance itself is nice enough, but it’s really obvious that Katya is avoiding getting him to waltz around in full hold (there’s about 15-20 seconds moving around properly), because the footwork escapes him, so there’s a lot of her twirling around doing embellishments
and overacting her joy to the point where it almost looks like she’s herniated herself. It’s very cute and they’ve both got the tone sort of right in that he is painfully earnest and she is keeping it light and wistful rather than aiming for any actual romance but even for a Week Won Waltz it’s obvious the pro’s doing 95% of the work here
They toddle over to Tess, and when asked how that went he eventually manages to sputter out that it went much better in rehearsal and he’s relieved that it’s over. SO. EARNEST. Craig starts for the judges by sneering that he found it “ex-council and pedestrian”. God, only the third politician on and Craig’s already repeating his jokes. EXPAND YOUR POLITICAL REFERENCES LOVE. Also there was no rise and fall, no hand shaping, and Ed made a massive mistake whilst crossing the floor at the beginning. Darcey follows, saying that she could really see Ed’s nerves out there, and suggests he thinks of a character or narrative and build on that. Yes he could do that, OR he could get pissed before the dance. I know which one I’m suggesting. For his and my sake.
Len follows and does his usual “you are what Strictly is all about!” guff, which would be more convincing if they’d cast more than one contestant in his particular niche this year and the rest of the cast has come direct from the West End. Bruno closes by saying that the routine was very prim and proper and ironically, a little too “conservative” for him. He would have liked to have seen Ed doing a bit more and pushing himself harder. Not the first time Bruno’s been disappointed by underactive Balls.
Up to Claud 9 they go, and you can tell Ed’s feeling really badly about how he did, and oh God stop making me feel human emotions for Ed Balls show, this is actually worse in its own way than when Widdy was on, at least I could sit there hoping she fell into a volcano with impugnity because the old bat didn’t care at all about how well she was doing or putting any effort in. Claudia tries for banter about the Labour Conference and OF COURSE it does not come and then scores are in
21. Claudia tries for more banter after the scores are in, this time about Buckaroo. Also no.
Claudia Fragapane & AJ Pritchard dancing the cha cha
We start with Tess in the audience making a joke about how Claudia is SO YOUNG and that Tess has got older things than her buried deep in the back of her freezer. Vernon been texting again? Also this segment starts in the audience with Strictly Kingmaker Carly Stenson
sat right there, and it almost feels a bit mafia. Like, don’t even think of coming for her Danny’s trophy Claudia, or she’ll do you like she did that Laila Rouass. BANG, right in the Ugg boot, no remorse.
Claudia’s VT opens with Winkleman getting a bit…dribbly over how Claudia is a gymnast who creates works of art with her body. How do you do a slashfic sex name for two people with the same for…oh right. Winklepane.
Claudia goes on to say that people might think gymnastics is a graceful and lady like sport, but she personally is built like a miniature bulldog, so it’s really always been all about the power moves for her, and not so much the grace and poise.
She does look a bit like a girl who’d throw her chips at you if you asked her to shush in a cinema. AJ’s next in, all boisterous youthful enthusiasm and “yeah my name’s AJ and I’m from Stoke and I won lots of trophies for dancing and I passed my driving test on the first go and then I fingered the instructor through her tights, YEAH”
He looks uncannily like a friend I had when I was 8. And he was 8. Claudia says that she’s excited to be partnered with AJ but he’s heard that he does look at himself in the mirror quite a lot. I’ve a feeling that that wouldn’t make him stand out amongst this male cast of pros. Particularly. Even with Gleb gone.
Training now and their rehearsal space has
graffiti on the wall coz they is da yoof INNIT boss walk jam pie boss pretty titty or whatever. They rehearse their cha cha, which Claudia deems to be very fast and very jiggly, until AJ
full on nearly decapitates her so they take a little break. In this break, Claudia tells AJ that it’s time he met her family, and he’s all “woah, babe, take it down a notch, AJ doesn’t *do* families, he’s STRICTLY DICKLY”. Claudia then reveals that she wants him to meet her family for non-romantic reasons, and he’s cool with that. And when they knock on her father’s door his look of pure
“you get her pregnant I’ll have your dick off with a butchers knife” is the best piece of VT acting all episodes. Hook Claudia’s dad up with a semi-regular role in Hollyoaks STAT. Claudia’s mum though, seems much more enamored, because this VT is very much set in the 70s. Which makes it positively progressive for this show. Claudia shows AJ round, including her “trophy room” (ie all medals dumped unceremoniously on a sideboard) and then they dance for her parents and then Claudia’s dad likes AJ the end.
Next Week : AJ has prepared a full three course meal for Claudia’s dad, but a skunk gets in through an open window MAMMA MIA.
TO THE GYMNASIUM!
The storyline of this cha cha, which you may have guessed, is that Claudia is a gymnast and AJ is a fan, who gets her autograph, and then they dance. Or at least AJ’s hair dances
it’s like late 90s Declan Donnelly up in there. That fringe is doing more energetic dancing than Anton has done in the last 6 series combined. It’s an odd contrast, because AJ is overdancing everything in a way that makes Kevin Clifton look positively restrained, whereas Claudia is presenting everything like it’s a floor routine at the Olympics. All “…and PRESENT! and trick…and PRESENT!”. They’re dancing to “What Makes You Beautiful” because they’re the KIDS TEAM (or at least the KIDS TEAM being soundtracked by someone’s out of touch dad who tuned into Radio Disney once 5 years ago and is working from memory) and it’s all very staid and a bit dull for the first 75%, and AJ appears to suddenly remember he’s partnered with a gymnast and he’s all “BUTTERFLY KICK, SEVEN SPINS, RUNNING SPLITS, BACKFLIP,
(right out of All Creatures Great And Small)!
I’m sure he thought he was building towards a crescendo, but it does feel a bit like 70 seconds of awkward over-enthusiastic fumbling followed by a very sudden, very quick and very messy finish indeed. Make your own jokes. It gets a standing ovation, possibly mostly bbecause of the flippy tricky bit at the end. Tess guffaws that she hasn’t seen anyone do a backflip in high heels since Craig at last season’s wrap party. Not with his hips love.
Darcey starts and unleashes an “oh my wow” and calls them both adorable. Len’s next, and he grumbles that he doesn’t want to talk about One Direction because he’s still getting over when (*checks paper*) Zayen left. What a sad day that was, it’s not the same with only (*checks paper*) Harry, Louise, Leanne, and Neil. He would also like to let us know that he’s not a big fan of gymnastics in dances, so he wasn’t a big fan of the end. Nobody boos, so of course Len tells everyone to stop booing, and then calls Claudia a “nice little girl”. Wow, “adorable” and “little girl” in her first two critiques, what a series this is going to be.
Bruno continues the theme by saying that Claudia is “so cute that he’d like to take her home”, and then rides over it in a steamroller by growling “and you” at AJ. He agrees with me thought about how Claudia was dancing – she paused to “present” too much, just like in gymnastics, stalling the flow of the dance. Craig closes by calling it stompy and square, but also by telling Claudia he admires how she did all those flips and fings in heels.
Up to Claud 9 they charge, where Claudia crashes immediately into Claudia’s dad, yelling at him to hold up his fingers to show what he’d give his girl.
You can see why he’d be cautious about answering that wouldn’t you? He holds up 10 fingers. Eventually. Claudia then asks Claudia (please vote in the above poll please please please) how she feels about the judges comments and she says she doesn’t mind because she takes criticism really well. Helps to know your strengths. Scores are in
26. Claudia then turns to AJ and tells him she’s got a present for him.
Don’t put them all on your dick at once please.
Will Young & Karen Clifton dancing the tango
TONIGHT MATTHEW, I’M GOING TO BE……………NICOLE SCHERZINGER! Tess starts by saying that Will has had many number 1s (he’s had 3 or 4 depending on whether you count where the one where Simon Cowell literally forced Gareth Gaates onto a duet with him because he couldn’t let it go that he didn’t win) but will he be number 1 on the leaderboard tonight?
VT time, and Tess says that Will is a chart-topping pop-star and an award winning actor, but what’s next? I dunno, a menswear collection in Marks & Spencers? (actually based on the evidence from the training room…maybe not) He says he’s very pleased to have got (/demanded to be) partnered with Karen, but in terms of fitness level she’s a Ferrari from the 90s and he’s an old mini. Yes Will, but did you see the previous owner? He probably left a few dings in her fenders.
heavens to Murgatroyd. What else is there to say? What an…ensemble.
They do a little skit wherein Karen joins Will’s band but doesn’t know any of Will’s hit songs and it’s all very “ho ho, I’m poking fun at myself” but it’d be mean to write it up via pictures because he has an horrendous pink-eye the whole way through it poor love. First injury of the series!
TO THE CHESS THINGY!
I think it’s safe to say that Karen’s won here? Will’s only got three pieces left and I think one of them is a miniature butt plug. Even if Karen does appear to think she’s playing chequers based on the way she’s moving her pieces, she’s the victor here. Will DRAMATICALLY CLEARS THE TABLE and then, after some squiggly hand business on the table and Karen launching herself off it at him, they tango, to “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie. And I think this is the first time the band have done a David Bowie song on the show and not murdered it, so in response I’ve gone back and edited out my response to Tommy’s attempts at the high notes in “That’s What Makes You Beautiful”. I’m nice like that. Of all the front-runner couples so far, at least based on the evidence of one whole routine, Will and Karen have the best chemistry together on the dancefloor (also based on the fact that Aljaz could have chemistry with a cucumber with a face painted on in the waltz so I’m knocking points off there), or maybe it’s just that he’s an AC-TOR now (HE’S BEEN IN A NOEL COWARD AND EVERYTHING). The frame
looks a little funny, and he’s a bit skippity over the floor rather than being grounded and sharp, but I’m going to be even nicer about this than usual because I’ve just seen the tango choices for next week and oy. Enjoy yet more rock and Eurodance tangos guys, this is probably the last good one. Still, very definitely we have four clear strong couples in Wk 1, and a lot of potentials for what feels like the first time in a long time. Ultimately though, we have to talk about the trousers. I appreciate as a gay man wanting to show off your butt to its full potential on national television, but if you’re going to wear them that tight? Don’t skip leg day.
You’re our first openly gay CONTENDAH ever Will, you need to represent!
It gets a standing ovation (including from a VERY confused Jamie Redknapp bless him) and Will is living up to his VT words by being utterly out of breath. Len starts for the judges, complaining that Will’s hold is too wide and needed to be more compact. Except it really sounds like he says “hole”, which makes me snort in a most undignified fashion. Bruno’s next and
is just going to flirt a bit if you don’t mind. How many times has Will seen that face coming from a superannuated lothario outside the stage door after one of his gigs? Too many I’ll bet. Anyway, like Len said, great drama, work on the technique.
Craig too liked the drama but not the footwork and Darcey finishing by saying THE BOYS ARE RIGHT and we ALMOST made it didn’t we? So nearly. Through a WHOLE WEEK! Meanwhile up on Claud 9…
everyone’s miserable, for whatever reason. Maybe AJ won’t let them play with his Flintstones Phone? Will blazes up there whatever, tells Claudia he really loved the experience, and then eats his scores
eats them whole. 31.