Yes, it’s the annual Strictly Launch Show/Singles Mixer/Cattle Auction, where all the pros are lined up and paraded before the celebs and an invisible hand picks them up and flings them together based on height, personality, and how likely they are to secretly bang in a cupboard on the tour. Sadly, the theme this year is not outer space or the PORN TRAIN, but “understated classic glamour”. I know right, what a bloody let down. It feels like this might be in part due to the need to keep things tasteful given that this is also the Bruce Forsythe Tribute episode. Said tribute taking the form of a classic ballroom pro dance to Fly Me To The Moon, and a VT of all of the pros who knew Bruce sharing memories, like that time Bruce made a joke, or that other time Bruce made a joke, or how Bruce lent Anton his van and a spade no questions asked when he had that…little problem.
Special guest singers are Shania Twain (who uses the pro dancers as back up) and Rita Ora (who doesn’t). So Shania wins that one, as long as you don’t pay too much attention to the song she’s singing or the Victoria’s Secret Real Housewives Of Maine lingerie set she’s wearing to sing it in. Special new Head Judge is Shirley Ballas who looks about 20 years younger than when she was here last (not judging, just observing) and who is introduced via the medium of a VT where she spins around on her own in an empty ballroom, going cross-eyed and throwing glitter everywhere. Already she’s more dignified than Len ever was.
Those couples then!
Alexandra (already pumping out “personality” at a rate of knots) & Gorka
Aston & Janette (ba’duh)
Brian (apparently wearing that puppet on top of his head now) & Amy
Charlotte (completely lost in the Car Crash Group Dance bless her) & Brendan
Chizzy & Pasha (TEAM PIZZY!)
Davood (pronounced Dar-Vud, if you want the practice) & Nadiya
Debbie & Giovvani (I am *craving* a May To December romance here, prepare yourself)
Gemma (DED NORMAL NORTHERN LASS) & Aljaz
Joe (cute as a button) & Katya
Jonnie & Oti (Oti’s third partner under 30. Out of three. Let’s start a rumour she hates old people, knocks over their walkers, nicks their scratchcards etc etc)
Mollie & AJ (who has not got less wooden or more adult looking in between series sadly)
Richard & Dianne (furthering the grand tradition of gay men on this show being partnered with Antipodean pros)
Ruth & Anton (ba’duh ba’duh)
Simon (looks even more lost than Charlotte) & Karen
Susan & Kevin (Susan spends the whole show babbling about how there’s one pro she wants as her partner and then it’s Kevin and then she cries and yaps about how she has pictures of him all over her house and you either find this very endearing or VERY scary)
Oh yeah, there’s three new pros as well. They’re introduced via their own routine, the theme of which is that they’re late so they’re not in the routine. Which is a choice. (I remember the old opening pro routine where it looked like Lilia was late, but it turned out she’d just been hitting the biscuit tin between series). The newbies are Nadiya (the sexy blonde one), Amy (the DED NORMAL WELSH LASS one), and Dianne (the one who’s been made to dye her hair the colour of Ronald McDonald’s pubes, because we all know Aliona loved it when they made her do that).
Only two weeks until the first live show this year, which is promising, because in the Launch Routine at the end half of these guys look incapable of putting one foot in front of the other without it ending up halfway up their nose. I can’t wait.