BRING BACK THE PORN TRAIN!
We open at BBC Headquarters where, just in case the core audience are feeling a bit worried and alienated about all their father figure icons leaving the show or dying and being replaced by WOMEN,
Tess and Claudia will be playing the role of a secretary and a telephonist, just like in the good old days when men were men, women made the tea, and John Lewis didn’t sell genderfluid patio furniture. They’re here to welcome back all the female pros
(yes Chloe, pop that hip, wear dem hoops, they’ll notice you one day and give you that big promotion out of the typing pool for sure!), all the male pros
of whom there are now so many that they’re spilling out into the car park, and the returning judges
(imagine if this actually WAS the 1950s and Darcey and Bruno actually were a jet-setting power couple swanning around the Riviera with Bruno closing business deals and banging local waiters whilst Darcey spent his money and wept herself to sleep at night), and also to greet the new Head Judge – introduced, as is the habit with new women on reality shows
via a lingering shot of her legs. Craig, Darcey and Bruno then all pop out and dump a bucket of pig’s blood over her head, chanting “newbie bo-booby scooby-dee-dooby, paddle her arse and then she’ll be groovy”. This is just jokey light hazing. They do it to all new staff. Honest. Now bring in the buttplugs.
Tess and Claudia then sign for deliveries of glitter, fake tan, and Anton’s hairplugs, before realising that they are now late for the Red Carpet Launch Show. But not late in the sort of sassy sexy cool way a female pro might be for a group routine later in the show, no! They are late in a “get changed in the back of the taxi then spend the entire broadcast picking because you’ve got your knickers on back to front” sort of way.
They get their dresses on then rush off to emerge from
a giant satsuma, onto the red carpet, with this year’s celebs and pros. We get a lot of the usual canned soundbites (Charlotte is loving the glitter and sparkle, Debbie thinks it’s like being at an amazing party where you just don’t want to leave, Davood can’t believe he’s made the journey from Albert Square to here, like that road isn’t so well-trod at this point that the council have had to re-tarmac it 5 times, Ruth is
excited) After everyone’s done their press rounds and given us a twirl it’s time for
me to reach for my earplugs, as Anton, with Brenda and Janette on backing singer duties, bellows his way through the start of “Gotta Dance”. This is the cue for the pros to rush the carpet and dance their way through a traditional old Hollywood number with lots of
fans and foxtrotting and Charleston and men’s cream scarves gaily swinging in the breeze. The celebs then lob a bunch of glitter into the camera-lens to magically transport us to the studio, where the routine becomes a Latin showcase, the theme of which is that you will never escape Get Lucky, ever, move to Nicaragua, change your name, grow a beard, you’ll never get away, it will seep in under your door like a miasma. During this section the judges also join in – Darcey descends glamorously in a hoop, Bruno wiggles his bum, Craig shakes some maracas like Kermit The Frog having an epileptic fit, and Shirley…well Shirley does an entire cha-cha routine across the dancefloor, complete with spins, dips, turns, openings out, hockey sticks, New Yorks and multiple changes of partner. I think I’m going to enjoy her.
Although not as much as Nadiya is apparently enjoying being dipped by Giovanni. These newbies move quick.
Once everyone’s off, Tess and Claudia do their entrances down the stairs, arm in arm with Anton and Brenda, dressed like
they should have spent a bit longer in the back of that taxi to be honest. In Claudia’s case I think they drove through a car wash and she just reached out the window and pulled a roller in. They welcome us to the show, and thank the pros and Davearch’s Wunnerful Orchestra. No Man In The Hat though, as yet. They then run us through this evening’s order of events – pro-celeb partnerships, a Tribute To Brucie, performances from Shania Twain and Rita Ora, a reprise from Ore & Joanne, car crash group routine, and an introduction to our three new pros and our new Head Judge. To be honest, the part where she just made the other three judges look like Widdy on a skateboard was enough for me, but if there’s more then GIVE ME MORE SHIRLEY.
Before all that though, time for our celebs to walk down the stairs for the most anticipated part of the series – finding out what their agents have negotiated they be “known for”. So it’s
TV presenter, Ruth Langsford
Eastenders Star, Davood Ghadami
Pop star, Mollie King
Star of stage and screen, Brian Conley
Actress, Chizzy Akodulu
Paralympic Gold Medalist
and very excited to be here, Jonnie Peacock
Entertainer and radio broadcaster, Debbie McGee
Singer, Aston Merrygold
Actress and radio presenter, Gemma Atkinson
Vicar and broadcaster, the Revd Richard Coles
Presenter and newsreader, Charlotte Hawkins
From Holby City, Joe McFadden
Presenter and comedian, Susan Calman
Presenter of Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch, Simon Rimmer
Singer and theatre star, Alexandra Burke
This is the last chance for a while of seeing the end of this segment without Kevin Clifton trying to kung-fu kick the head of an audience member off, so enjoy it whilst you can.
Once they’re all out and standing, Claudia reminds us what they’re here for. A career boost and a 15% chance of a shag off Gork…sorry, I mean the FABULOUS COVETED GLITTERBALL TROPHY. It’s like a unicorn in trophy form. Apparently. Claudia turns to Bruno and asks if he can tell who’s going to win yet. He says that he can tell who’s NOT going to win.
Head Judge Shirley meanwhile gets asked, as champion ballroom dancer of the world, what it takes to win. She says that it takes sincere determination, a good work ethic, a love of every dance that you do, and creativity outside the box. Also if can persuade 75% of the female audience to want to mother you, that doesn’t hurt either. She goes on to say that there’s nothing she hasn’t seen before, to which Debbie pulls a FACE
like, the Iranian National Ballet taught her things that would blow your tiny provincial mind Shirley Tiffany Ballas nee Rich, get ready. Debbie can do things with a ping pong ball, a paper cup, and a length of garden hose that you wouldn’t believe, just ask the patrons at Wollacoombe Butlins Summer 1984. She was walking funny for days afterwards but it was WORTH it, and THAT’S MAGIC.
So let’s get to those pairings.
This is Gemma Atkinson. She tells us that the soap characters she’s played in Hollyoaks, Casualty, and Emmerdale have all suffered terrible trauma
and migraine headaches, but she personally is just a DED NORMAL DOWN T’URTH NORTHERN LASS FROM BURY WHAT LOVES HER MUM AND A PINT WITH THE LADS. She tells us that she thinks that people probably think that she dresses up fancy and with a face full of make-up the whole time, so she’s glad to be doing Strictly so she can show a different side of herself. Probably the first contestant ever to be doing the show for the bits in training VTs circa Week 10 when everyone looks like they’ve come down with lassa fever there, note it down. Gemma’s also, conversely, here to show her DED NORMAL NORTHERN MUM that she can be elegant, as she normally comes down the stairs like a baby elephant every morning. As well as an actress and radio presenter she’s a DED NORMAL fitness enthusiast more used to being surrounded by dumbbells, on the set of Hollyo…sorry, in the gym, which apparently explains this lack of elegance and poise. She closes by doing a pose like one of the Glamorous Ladies Of Wrestling.
Like, The Mighty Whippetta or something. So here to show she can be really classy and refined and also dead normal and down to earth. It’s a mission statement I guess! Personally I hope she’s spinning her pro partner round her head with one finger whilst eating a DED NORMAL NORTHERN kebab with the other by Week 4.
This is Debbie McGee. She was a magician’s assistant for many years. She was also a professional ballerina for quite a few years, this oddly enough is not mentioned. In case you needed reminding, the magician she assisted was her husband Paul Daniels, who did the show back in 2010.
And…didn’t do brilliantly. Debbie tells us that before every show she used to get so nervous for Paul. And rightly so. She tells us that she’s looking forward to the Latin dances, because she wants to show off her bubbly personality, and that she’s been around magic her whole life so she’s really ready to see the special brand of Strictly magic. I mean, there are many similarities. In both cases people wend up wedged tight in boxes they really shouldn’t be in because someone waved their wand around a bit too liberally.
This is Chizzy Akudolu. She is really excited to be doing Strictly, as you would be if your only claim to fame was a couple of years and one storyline in Holby City, and were only here because Colleen Rooney didn’t realise she was pregnant and had to drop out last minute. Chizzy tells us that her character in Holby City was really “larger than life” and “erratic”, which presages a clip of her screaming abuse at an orderly whilst giving birth. She assures us that she won’t talk to her pro partner like that. She better not, I’ll be round with an etiquette handbook and some needlenose pliers if she does. Chizzy tells us that she thinks being an actor will really help her on Strictly as she knows how to be expressive (NB : an actor hasn’t won the show for seven years) (or longer depending on your opinion of Kara Tointon’s performance in Eastenders), as demonstrated by her range of dance faces, running the gamut from
salsa. Or is it the other way around? I’ve got a feeling “elegant waltz” may be a problem but…we’ll see. (She actually cracks a reasonably funny joke about how the paso face will be the same as the tango face as it’s basically the same dance, so credit there). Don’t think her talents just run to her face though – she can do the Electric Slide AND the splits. At the same time hopefully.
This is Ruth Langsford, holding up a paddle she’ll never get. She reminisces about how she revealed she was doing the show on This Morning by leaping through a glittery mystery door screaming “IT’S MEEEEEEEE!”. Apparently after she did that her social media was lit up with middle aged women telling her to do it for them, specifically, on their behalf. And they certainly never said that about Eamonn. She tells us that she wants to show that people can go from hot flashes to hot salsa, making Strictly itself all sound like one of those adverts that airs in the This Morning ad breaks for pills that let women bite an apple without pissing themselves, or whatever happens to your body after 50 it’s never going to happen to me la laa la can’t hear you. Speaking of Eamonn, Ruth tells us that he’s always telling her that she’s much less good at dancing than she thinks she is. Really shocked that Eamonn Holmes would be such a bell-end I can’t tell you.
Back to the studio, and Gemma is the first to be paired. You will be surprised to hear that she’s nervous, and wants to work hard and have fun. Despite a little routine where Anton reaches out to her plaintively, her pro is in fact going to be
Aljaz. Can anyone else sniff the possibility of our second two-time pro winner here I know I can. Tess makes them have a little jiggle together, and proclaims she can’t see any baby elephants here. Yes not even with Aljaz in those trousers.
Debbie’s next, and Tess
as ever, gripping the celebs like they’re taking part in an arm-wrestling tournament the celeb was unaware was scheduled for today, asks her what she’s most looking forward to. The answer is “everything Tess, she’s loving everything, everyone’s great”. Tess then asks her if she’ll be going back to her “ballet roots” (ie when she was a professional ballerina) in order to impress Darcey. Debbie whitters that it’s been 35 years since she “did a ballet class” (by which I presume she means she taught it) so it shouldn’t really make a difference. Hun, Debbie McGee’s Ballet Imaginaire was still going last decade and you were touting yourself as a professional ballet choreographer as recently as 2014, let’s not. I’m all for mega-ballet-ringers but…no. Her pro partner is
Giovanni. I guess Chizzy’s not the only one with an expressive face. He whirls over and Tess asks him if he’s going to bring “that Debbie McGee dance magic back”. Tess hun, he doesn’t have a clue who she is you’re asking him to draw a map with the starting point of “parts unknown”. Tess asks Debbie to point her toe, as evidence of her dark ringah powers.
Terrifying isn’t it?
Chizzy’s next, promising to “look after” her male professional partner, with the tone that “looking after” would involve sticking their face between her boobs til they pass out. Tess asks the assembled male pro-age if they’re ready to be looked after, and Brenda loudly squeals “NO!” from the back. Can you imagine if they put Brenda with someone who weighed more than the phone book, I think he’d expire. Fortunately for him
Pasha has been partnered with her instead. Never ever learn to act you beautiful beautiful man. Chizzy seems very enthused and they have a little conversation that goes
Chizzy : I want to apologise in advance, because I am going to WORK YOU
Pasha : Is it going to hurt?
Chizzy : Probably.
I have also had that conversation with Pasha in my head a…few times, so I am very much Team Pizzy here.
What a couple of darlings.
Ruth is last and
let’s hope they get her a better bra for the rest of the series, that’s all I’m saying. Tess references Eamonn repeatedly in her intro until Ruth says jokingly that she’s just here to make him jealous, and fully intends to rub her ladyparts in a full body massage over whichever pro she’s put with, up to and including that one over there who looks like he’s just got off his paper round. If there’s grass on the pitch, Ruth Langsford is ready to play ball. Sadly for Ruth
this astroturf is looking a bit threadbare these days. If it wasn’t Anton I’d say that those early morning nappy changes are getting to him, but I’m guessing Anton’s approach to childcare is somewhere around Jacob Rees-Mogg levels, so he’s probably just getting old generally. At any rate
it’s not slowing Ruth down. Anton tells her that they’re going to have a great time, Ruth replies that they’re going to work hard as well, Anton’s all “lol no we bloody aren’t” and as ever it’s the eternal struggle between recognising how Anton both hurts and heals his partners chances in the competitions simultaneously via his very existence.
Up to Claud 9 now, to, according to Tess “see how our four couples are getting on”. Yes I do hope they managed to get up those stairs successfully.
Phew. Claudia chats to Ruth first, and as she’s this year’s “doing it for the mums” contestant, we cut right to her
son in the audience looking very much like his mother just hurled herself on Anton du Beke on tv in front of 8 million people. That’s also her mum sitting next to him, who Ruth informs us “loves Anton”. Looks a bit young to be a full on Fanton but ok sure. We find out also that Anton was the partner Ruth wanted all along, and Chizzy also admits that Pasha was the one she wanted. Well…was one of three she wanted. To this, Pasha pulls sarcy tongue-in-cheek blowjob mouth right down the camera lens and
*right click save*
Debbie next gets spoken to and I’m too distracted by
Giovanni’s excessive amount of hair product, and also my deep yearning for them to have a sensual romance with lots of rose petals and scented candles and nauseatingly sweet foxtrots to “Sugar Town” and all Debbie’s step-children holding urgent meetings to discuss the destination of the Daniels family fortune, to really pay much attention to what she’s saying. I think she makes a joke about how Giovanni has no sense of humour, which is always a good start. Don’t tempt him to show his sense of humour by making you dress as an Oompah Loompah for Movie Week, all I’m saying. We close with Gemma talking some more about how much she’s a DED NORMAL GIRL WHO LOVES HER MUM and also Claudia telling Aljaz there’s no extra pressure just because he’s a champion, honest. Whilst my Pasha stands there like chopped liver. Breaking news Claudia, Pasha’s won or come close to it THREE TIMES, Aljaz couldn’t even get multi-storey ringer and Call Me Midwife sweetheart Helen George past Final 6 don’t try it.
Next up it’s our official intro to Shirley Ballas, again begun with
shots of her foot. Who is the fetishist in the Production Booth, I DEMAND to know. Look
here’s her face. Or at least the one she’s chosen. She tells us all, from an empty ballroom in Blackpool, that she is honoured to be the new Head Judge on Strictly. She started dancing ballroom and latin at the age of 7 (unlike Janette, who started last week), hopefully to
prove these specific two women in the left of shot wrong. Since then she’s been British Open Champion three times, European Open Champion once, and a ten time US Latin American Open Champion. She’s also helped raise three multi-time Dancing With The Stars champions, which is really the important thing here. At this point
Shirley starts spinning around the empty ballroom going cross eyed and swirling her wrists ase everything turns purple like she’s casting a spell, and I know she’s been sane, dignified and respectable so far but I hope she goes bonkers forthwith.
She tells us that her judging approach is going to be no-nonsense, fun, feisty, firm but fair. Except her bubbling-under Scouse vowels make it sound like she’s saying “femme but fair”. And I was hoping for her to turn up and judge in dungarees and a buzzcut.
Back in the studio now, and Shirley says she’s got a firm eye and will be particularly focusing on footwork and where the lead and pressure is coming from – the heel, the toe, the inside edge or the outside edge. The WHAT? You mean there are other parts of the foot than the heel and the toe?! I feel like after years in the Len inspired darkness Shirley us opening me up to a whole new world of possibilities. She’ll be saying there’s more to the Argentine Tango than gauchos and sweaty pampers next. Oh and she’s also interested in
arms. Can we get her and Bruno going at the same time? The tangles that would ensue, most likely resulting in Bruno’s arms being ripped from his sockets from the sheer FORCE OF DAHNCE. Tess asks her to rate herself on a scale of strictness from one to ten, with ten being Craig, and Shirley purrs that she’s an eleven. I am so sure. She then, as if I couldn’t love the woman more already, closes the segment with a saucy wink.
I am very ready.
Next, back up to Claud 9 for a chat with our still-single celebs. Susan is first, and asked by Claudia if there’s any pro she particularly wants, to which Susan shuffles her feet awkwardly and mutters that there is and that she loves this dancer slightly more than she loves her wife. Just once I want someone to go “I don’t watch the show, I don’t know who any of these people are Claudia”. Richard meanwhile has apparently been a fan of the show for eleven years which by my count means that he was pulled in, as so many were, by the hypnotic hips of Mark Rampantpants. Claudia asks him if it’s everything he wanted it to be and IT’S NOT EVEN STARTED YET CLAUDIA FOR FRACK’S SAKE. Richard says it’s taught him to sew his shirts into his underpants at least. Did he learn that from Pasha? Because he definitely did that to aid his purity of dahnce yes not to keep my hand out of hi[PUNCHLINE REDACTED]. Claudia then tells Jonnie that everyone on the show has fallen in love with him and Jonnie pulls
“what little old me?” face in response. Meanwhile at the side Mollie’s all “yes, I would shag you” very earnestly and nodding along.
Next up, it’s an intro to our new female pros – Dianne from Australia, Nadiya from Ukraine, and Amy from Wales. And it’s all ridiculously dramatic, with them all stalking around supposedly backstage purring “oooh Amy, you’re late”, blowing suggestively on make-up brushes, tying up one another’s corsets, and doing Charlie’s Angels slow motion sexy walks into camera as the established pros do a bit of faffing about front of stage to “fill time”. And yes, lots of shots of their legs. It’s all very high concept, can you imagine if they’d introduced Hanna, Andrew and Izabela like this? We might still remember who they are. I think my favourite part is when Neil is all up in the camera like
“yup, no partner for old Neil Jones this year, despite helping choreograph some of the routines of the Summer for Ed Balls last year, oh well, never mind, let’s just let these three walk into a job right away”
Eventually, with about a minute to go, the new pros arrive, descending from the rafters on giant green hankies and end up hoofing it on the tables for a bit before coming to a stop. As a demonstration of their dancing prowess it’s not the best, but at least I know what their lips look like in close-up as they put their warpaint on. It’s all danced to a mash-up of Single Ladies and Happy (by CTC) which is officially the first song this series I had to look up, I’m so old.
a brief interstitial where Claudia goes mad with a hammer (we all knew it was coming, come on) before we get to the first round of male celeb pairings.
This is Aston Merrygold, holding up a paddle he almost certainly will be receiving multiples of this series, and I have to say, after two other members of JLS have already won tv dance competitions (and Aston has judged one), I kind of care less about Aston than any other ringer before already, although I remain open to persuasion.
He tells us he’s very excited to be “Strictlified”, particularly the “tightness”. I presume he means the outfits, not anything else, I’m not making any comments about his pro partner, not even implied ones, don’t look at me like that. Aston says that people often assume he’s a trained dancer because he was in JLS, but really he just watched some Michael Jackson videos and copied them. Wow that was Peter Andre’s exact backstory as well, I can’t wait! He says he’s hoping to have the shortest female pro, because anything else will look weird. Generally on Strictly they’re very careful to make sure the short men are accommodated for, whereas if you’re over 6ft there’s a high chance your female pro will spend the series staring longingly into your bellybutton, so Aston should be fine.
This is Richard Coles. He is, as you may have noticed, a vicar. And presumably hoping he’ll come across better than the Gogglebox one is managing to on Celebrity Masterchef (TEAM BRIAN GODDESS, STUMBLE ARSE-BACKWARDS INTO THE WIN PLEASE). He was also one half of the The Communards, much like Andrew Ridgeley was one half of WHAM. He tells us that his training regime for Strictly is very rigorous, and he’s already cut down to one pork pie a day. That was Georgina Bouzova’s show diet as well wasn’t it? After she’d picked it up after James Jordan had smashed it against the wall. Richard also tells us that he’s had anxiety dreams about appearing on the show and his trousers falling down. I have also had those dreams but it involved Pasha and they were not anxiety dreams I’ll tell you that much, although I did wake up sweaty. Anyway, Richard joshes that he thinks his sensuous sexuality will mean he’s suited to Latin and that he hopes to find the Lord Of The Dance buried deep inside him. Again, I had that dream about Pa[PUNCHLINE REDACTED]
This is Davoood Ghadami, and he already has his costume for Hallowe’en Week sorted. He plays Kush in Eastenders, who apparently likes “baring everything, emotionally and physically”. I honestly cannot believe the ratings and critical acclaim for Eastenders are both in the toilet with this sort of regular content. He tells us that it takes a lot to get him up on the dancefloor and he doesn’t really have a signature move – other than maybe a bit of clapping. Oh so he saw Verona Josephs’ paso then? He thinks he’ll be more suited to ballroom dancing, but prefer the latin costumes. I mean, wear the latin outfits for the ballroom routines if you want Davood, I can’t see anyone objecting.
This is Simon Rimmer. It’s basically like if Gregg Wallace could cook. He tells us breathlessly that there’s nothing he’ll hold back from and that he’s going to give 100% in every area – the extravagance, the spray tans, the outfits. Oddly enough, the dancing doesn’t get mentioned, so much. He tells us that he presents Sunday Brunch on Channel 4, owns nine restaurants, has written five cookery books, and “invented pulled pork”. Sure you did hun. Sure you did. Anyway, he says that he hopes that said invention will earn him a few bonus points with the judges and…pulling pork would probably only win you bonus points with Bruno and even then I’m not sure it’d be worth it. It gets everywhere. He closes by saying he’s got no dance experience, but he knows he’ll leave having had the best experience of his life and with a new skill. I guess there’s confidence for you. Some might say bordering on the delusionally so but there we are.
Back to the studio, with Aston first at the bat. He takes an absolute eternity to fail to answer the question “which judge are you most eager to impress?” which bodes well. His partner is
Janette, as I think we all knew it would be the second we learnt that Chloe was being sent back to It Takes Two for more cooking time. Aston reiterates that he’s glad that he didn’t get a tall partner and then Janette makes him lift her
Again, I think the key to winning with a ringer is to NOT show that he can fling you halfway to the ceiling five seconds after meeting him, but hey, who am I to try to give Janette lessons, she’s done four series now and almost made the final once.
Richard next, and Tess exclusively reveals that he is the first ever vicar on Strictly. And let’s face it, probably the last. She then asks him if he had to ask God’s permission to do the show, like it’s some sort of den of iniquity, not a teatime gameshow on BBC 1 that’s previously hosted Tory ministers and Felicity Kendall. Richard replies that God loves dancing and is merciful, so there’s one thing He and I have in common. Tess then asks Richard if he, like God, will move in a mysterious way, and Richard replies that it’s really more of a spasm than a movement. Tess is all
“oh that’s familiar Vernon”, before we learn that Richard’s partner is to be
Dianne. The music track plays the Hallelujah chorus instead of the theme tune here, as Tess yells “HALLELUJAH!”. Once Dianne is over at Richard she squeaks “Thank God!” and then giggles and recoils a little like she’s just realised she’s blasphemed. Ish. I dunno about you but I’m really sure that all these religious will not get old at any point for sure.
Davood is next, and Tess tells him that she’s used to seeing him in his “market traders uniform” (?!) not all scrubbed up for Strictly. The fact that Tess
at this point has her arm draped halfway round his neck suggests she’s actually more used to seeing him in those pictures where he’s got his top off. Davood tells Tess he’s definitely anxious, but it’s the good kind of anxious, where he can’t wait to find out who his partner is, not the bad kind like Bruno’s going to be in three hours when he comes down. Davood’s partner?
The new sex bomb pro, try to look surprised. Personally I am hoping for utter filth, but when am I not?
Quite big hands he’s got as well. You know, from a technical point of view. For the lifts.
Simon’s last up for this batch, and Tess tells him that as a chef, he of course knows about great timing (?!) and wonders if that’ll be much help on the dancefloor. Chefs of course having done so well on this show in the past. Gregg, Gary Rhodes, Hairy Dave…it’s a veritable shining path of one glorious dance after another. He says that he hopes his dancing will be like a beautiful souffle, but it’ll probably be more like burnt toast with beans that are stuck to the bottom of the pan. Nothing worse than sticky burnt beans, for sure. His partner is going to be Karen, who doesn’t even bother to do a big production number, what’s the bloody point? Once she’s over at Tess she squeaks that it’s a dream come true because they can COOK TOGETHER! Yeah this is a partnership built to last. Already she’s angling to use it to springboard to being the token Strictly pro on Celebrity Masterchef next year and nothing else.
Back up to Claud 9 we go to get the skinny on these four new partnerships, as Claudia tells Simon he’s so lucky because he’s got “the greatest girl” (…) and Simon tells her that he’s been saying since day 1 that he wants Karen as his partner to anybody who would listen. Karen’s clearly internally thinking
“oh so this is your fault then. Right, plastic horse time again”. Claudia then asks him if he’s going to hate criticism, as a chef, and Simon says that actually he quite likes having control taken away from him, and is looking forward to having Craig boss him about and tell him what to do. I mean, I’m sure if you paid him enough and provided the thigh-high leather boots yourself… Claudia then says that she’s heard that Russell Grant is Richard’s dance inspiration and Richard says he is, so let’s hurry on before I have to throw another pairing in the bin before we’ve even started.
Davood is next, and he tells Claudia that he’s less nervous now, because he’s confident that Nadiya will look after him, and also when he was watching the female pros dancing earlier, Nadiya stood out to him as much better than the rest. LOL, Oti is going to kill you in your sleep, good luck hun. Finally Claudia broaches with Aston the fact that everyone watching will clearly expect him to be a good dancer and to make the final and Janette’s all
“welp he’s got me as a partner though!” whilst Aston says that he literally can only do backflips, he can’t dance. Hence being a judge on the popular Sky One show “Got To Backflip”. Claudia also congratulates Aston on his wife announcing her pregnancy because, between this and Alexandra’s mother dying a few weeks before the show starts, we’re apparently on fast forward with the sad backstories this year.
Back down to the floor for a quick chat with the judges now with Darcey
already looking and sounding like she’s necked a couple of benzos with a red wine chaser as she slurs on about how much harder it is for the men. Which is pretty much now going to be her primary role I’m guessing, now that Shirley has her gazumped on the relevant experience front.
Next up, a performance from Shania Twain
with a song called “Life’s About To Get Good”. Because nothing starts a series of Strictly off better than a song about how you’re glad your husband binned you off for a younger woman because he’s a twat anyway and your new man’s much hotter. Very much the SPIRIT of Strictly. And they call it a curse how dare they. She’s accompanied by the show’s pros, which means that yes
Neil does periodically loom into shot all “yup, doing this, dancing back up for a woman who’s not released an album in 15 years who’s miming badly to a backing track that keeps dipping in and out, whilst some fucking 8 year old from off Britain’s Got Talent gets to dance with a Saturday when I’M WORLD CHAMPION OF LATIN don’t mind me, tum ti tum”. The song’s inoffensive enough, with a lot of very tinny banjo and vaguely empowering lyrics about coming into your own as a woman with age and so on but still, do “Still The One” whilst Oti and Gorka do a rumba or something, we’re here for the HITS darling.
Once that’s done, Claudia’s wandering back into shot making a
“herp a derp the milk’s gone off someone tell Charlotte, coz she does the BREAKFAST news” bit, and I’m starting to feel like the most authentic tribute to Bruce’s time on Strictly tonight is that none of the jokes are landing. This is as intro to a segment not involving Charlotte, but about Ore’s return to the Strictly dancefloor for his winners reprise with Joanne.
Who apparently stuck her hair in that toaster Claudia was just holding before recording this VT. For a long time. Oddly enough, what with Joanne touring in a bunch of different musicals and Ore presenting exactly the same shows as he did before Strictly, but twice as often, it feels like the first time that a pro got a bigger career boost for winning than the celeb did. Anyway, Ore says that he had the perfect Strictly journey which…go back and watch that Charleston and tell me that mate. Indeed, the entire VT only footage from the three dances that anyone even halfway remembers of Ore’s – the jive, the American Smooth, and the Showdance – and a tiny bit of quickstep. Of those three it’s the jive he’ll be reprising this evening. Joanne tells us that she’s so glad that she got to dance her last series of Strictly with Ore (you only did two!) and have so many special memories.
So they come back out and do their jive, and as is the tradition with Winners Reprises, it’s not quite as good as it was last series, mostly because they’ve not spent all week rehearsing it (I would imagine) although Ore’s bum and legs are still going like a jackrabbit throughout, so I’m not complaining, and Joanne’s still hoiking up her skirt to her nipples and jigging about like a demented leprechaun, so I also am complaining, a bit.
They’ll never beat the sight of Caroline Flack coming back and flopping around in that “salsa” with a fag hanging out her mouth a bottle and a half deep, and they shouldn’t even try any more. When they’re done, Tess and Claudia wander over, and Ore thanks everyone who voted for him last Christmas for changing his life forever and he definitely doesn’t care that they didn’t win a single Tour date, no ma’am. Tess then turns to Joanne and asks her how it feels to be making her final ever appearance on Strictly and Joanne’s all “don’t kid yourself babes, the Cliftons run this joint now, I could come back any time I like just by clicking my fingers, and I’d win again too”. Anyway, she also thanks the BBC for giving her the best three years of her life. Yes I’m sure being sat on It Takes Two dressed as Minnie Mouse talking about how amazing Kevin is going to be in the pro dance this week was a life highlight. Ore is asked for his advice for this year’s celebs on their path to victory, and he tells them to just enjoy it, and also have Len stumping repeatedly and obnoxiously for you to win for the last two weeks of the show solid oh wait you can’t he’s gone now oops. He also tells them all that Strictly is going to be the biggest and best experience of their lives
whilst Alexandra thinks “erm, the series of X Factor THAT I WON got far more ratings than this is going to, and people actually liked me on that, but ok”.
Next up, the special tribute to Bruce, and of course everyone knows I love snarkily recapping sincerely felt emotion, I love to make fun of people’s responses to death, so I’m going to move over this quite quickly. It consists of a VT containing memories of Bruce from everyone who worked with him who is still on the show, plus Len. Bruce was apparently very nice and accommodating and welcoming to everyone, Anton was pleased and proud to have Bruce ask him to choreograph that Velociraptor Dance for him every week, Tess found it hilarious when he danced Gangnam Style, Karen Clifton loved being told that she was his favourite (and given the partners Karen was given during the overlap, he would have told her that a lot), we get some rare archive footage of Verona Josephs
(don’t let ANYONE lie to you that the outfits were better in the first few series, they were NOT), Craig pretends that he really loved it when Bruce told him to shut up or get a punch in the face, Pasha talks about how much he loved Bruce’s jokes whilst Aljaz
looks at him like this, which I’m not NOT into, and Kevin reminisces about the origins of “Kevin From Grimsby” before we have a big trad ballroom pro dance featuring the men in tails (which of course, was always Bruce’s favourite thing) to “Fly Me To The Moon”. It’s very sweet, I have nothing more to say,
there is nothing in my eye except my eyeball.
Coming out of it, Claudia and Tess do a little outro link where Tess gets a little emotional and Claudia gives her a hand-squeeze and it’s a nice show of solidarity and genuine feeling, as much as I rag on Tess at all times, constantly, from every angle for no real reason.
Next, time to partner up the remaining four women. In tribute to Bruce, their partners will all be 40 years their senior. NOT REALLY, CARRY ON.
This is Charlotte Hawkins, having a fun time on the set of Good Morning Brian with previous Strictly alumni, Kate Garraway and Susanna Reid. This is Charlotte Hawkins
pretending to be excited and having a good time on the set of Strictly Come Dancing, but instead by the looks of it digging her nails into her palms so hard that she’s drawing blood. IT’S THE MOST EXCITING NEWS SHE’S EVER HAD. SUCH FUN! Charlotte talks about how so many of her colleagues on Good Morning Brian have done Strictly but sadly that’s it, she’s the last one, no more, definitely not Piers Morgan. She said that, and then she said it was legally binding. Don’t check the tape, it happened. She goes on to say that she cannot wait to be Strictlified (no), especially the fake tan and the glitter. Hopefully not to be applied at the same time. Apparently, she thinks it’ll be such a transformation that we won’t even recognise her. I mean…I don’t recognise you *now* but cool. She tells us all that being a NORMAL MUM as well as a breakfast tv presenter means that her schedule is going to be very hectic, but she’ll try to fit Strictly where she can. Oh that’s nice of her. Don’t put yourself out Charlotte, honestly.
This is Sienna Miller. I mean, they’re telling me that it’s Mollie from The Saturdays, and she’s talking about coming on and doing a guest performance with the band, but they’ve already HAD a Saturday on, so that can’t be right. Anyway, Sienna tells us all that in the band The Saturdays, the members of the band always had to pretend to be sexy
yeah, lotta pretending going on there, bunch of slacky tracky biffers in real life for sure. (Even looking at that picture makes me wish they’d double dipped with Granny Una instead, sort it out). Sienna though, she says, entirely sincerely, is not sexy, and is in fact “the biggest goofball you will ever meet”.
If you are a nun, or prison warden, or have never left your house ever, not even to bring the milk in. So glad to hear that she’s DED NORMAL, not enough of that going around this year for sure. Oh and also she, like Gemma, has been compared to an elephant before, this time by a ballet teacher when she was three.
This is Susan Calman. She tells us that she is a comedian and presenter, who appears in shows from all over the map, like The News Quiz, and Have I Got News For You, the televised version of The News Quiz. She’s wanted to do Strictly forever, she wants a partner who’s patient, she believes her level of dancing talent to be
somewhere around here, she hasn’t worn a dress or heels since she was 17 years old and she hasn’t danced with a man in over a decade. I cannot BELIEVE she’s not had a reel with Miles Jupp at the Radio 4 seasonal ball come on Susan, you’re not THAT much of a lesbian.
This is Alexandra Burke, and kudos to whoever in production managed to go straight from Jeppo (Run Away With Me) to Jeppo (Cut To The Feeling) between these last two VTs, good work, have a gayrise. Alexandra Burke is a stinging sensati…sorry SINGING sensation, who won The X Factor in 2008, and since then has gone on to do Sister Act (which doesn’t even MEAN anything there wasn’t that much dancing in it no ballroom or latin anyway) and The Bodyguard (which doesn’t even MEAN anything because Craig choreographed it and if anything he’ll be harder on her for it to avoid claims of bias and it’s only musical theatre and pop dancing anyway AND). I will tell you now as well, that mouth does not close fully for the entirety of the VT, it’s magical
She’s voluble, she’s talented, she’s self-confident, she’s a midge insincere, and if you want to know the Digital Spy patented Scandaldometer rating for her, we’re *already* at “NO YOU’RE RACIST FOR CALLING ME RACIST” so it’s going to be a heck of a series.
Back in the studio with Charlotte
looking very erm…yeah. Tess talks with her about how she got up at 3am this morning AND has a 2 year old and I’m not sure if she’s competing with Ashley Taylor Dawson and Scott Maslen to be the biggest burn-out in the history of this show on purpose or what? Charlotte’s all “yes I am covered in hair product and make-up and asleep and also dead inside Tess, this is fun fun funnity fun TAKE ME TO THE CHA CHA NOW HOORAH!”. So who better to put her with than
Brenda, this will for sure not end in a homicide. Brenda mugs to the audience all “WHAT A SURPRISE!” presumably because he’s the only one left nearly tall enough to partner her. They both say they’re thrilled, and toddle off to compare breastfeeding war stories.
Sienna next, performing the rare
reverse Venus Fly Trap on Tess. She says she’s really really soooper nervous about twelve times, and then says that she’ll take any pro who’ll have her. CALL THE DAILY STAR! She also wants someone to grasp her in a firm hold, which prompts Tess to make her first “gunz” reference of the series. Well we had a good run before they were mentioned, it was over an hour this time. Having asked for guns, Sienna’s getting
water pistols, as AJ is her partner, and he full on kneeslides across the breadth of the floor to reach her. Bless his enthusiasm. He tells Tess that he’s so happy and is grinning from ear to ear and also has had a heart attack. So many emotions.
For those of you who have lost count, this leaves Susan and Alexandra, to be partnered with Gorka and Kevin. Susan’s up to the plate first, as we revisit the story of her supposedly being “obsessed” with one pro in particular. She’s their number one fan, she loves them, she dreams of them nightly, and guess what IT’S ONE OF THE TWO PROS REMAINING HERE IN FRONT OF HER. Now, as much as I’d want to say that this makes it obvious who she’s got, because nobody would have formed an obsession with Gorka Marques based on three episodes with Tameka Empson and spooning with Gethin Jones for the rest of his one series on the show, I have ALSO seen this year’s Pro Poll Results, so never say never. But in this case, the obvious answer is the correct one, as Susan has got Kevin, and it is Kevin who Susan loves. Alot. And I mean A LOT a lot. Like, “tie him to a bed and break his knees with a sledgehammer because he RUINED Lovely Louise’s chances of winning with that showdance and he’s so amazing she KNOWS he could have done better and she just wants to give him an INCENTIVE and also make sure he never leaves her cock-a-doodie house again”. She weeps and wails about how this is DESTINY and she feels like she’s WON THE LOTTERY and apologises for “doing an Ore”. Has she been taking thirst-trap shirtless selfies in the changing rooms at Debenhams? That sort of “doing an Ore”? Her poor wife.
This leaves Alexandra and Gorka as the last pairing to awkwardly wander together. I presume Alexandra was left until last to be partnered because if she’d had to do “spontaneous joyous shock” the decibels would have taken the roof off.
It’s bad enough without the element of surprise. Once Gorka’s over to her, Alexandra’s all “I wanna do the rumba and the salsa even though they’re really different dances but the rumba’s really slow and sensuous and dramatic and I like that and it’s going to be fun but also I like the fast dances and shaking it all about A HA HA HA” and it’s going to be a second series in a row of Gorka not talking at all isn’t it? I do like that we have a large number of obvious superfans this year and they’re all manifesting in different ways. Most years Chizzy knowing that the paso and tango are in fact different dances would alone have qualified her for queendom.
Up to Claud 9 again, where Claudia tells Gorka and Alexandra that as far as she’s concerned their partnership is already heavenly. Well at least she’s got one fan. We’re then back with Susan and Kevin, with Claudia needling out more obsession like lancing a boil, as she talks with Susan about how she’s got posters of Kevin up in her house. Susan claims that it’s just the one, on the fridge. Oh that’s ok then. (My Pasha attic and…play area however is perfectly normal. Masks are a healthy part of…something something) Claudia and Sienna then discuss that she’s very slow at picking up dance routines, and Sienna giggles that she is in fact slow at everything, but yes she is particularly crap at learning choreography. AJ grins that that’s ok because he’s really good at it. Yeah, not the brightest that one is he? How does he think that works? Claudia closes by telling Charlotte that her niche is “the smiley one”. Yup, sounds built to last.
Back to the floor, and Tess asks Craig who his favourites are so far, and he replies that it’s Sienna & AJ, because he loved the twerking she was doing on the red carpet. Also because she’s an attractive women in her 30s and he literally HAS TO. He couldn’t NOT. He’d be all over Gemma as well if she chewed her hair and talked about being a ditz more.
Next up, a special performance from Rita Ora, who will be singing her new single in front of a pair of
actual beef curtains by the looks of it.
It’s called “Lonely Together” and I’d say she’s brought her own dancers with her but
they mostly just stand around looking moody and like they’re there more to model Rita’s new clothing line with Marks & Spencers than anything else.
The “Ubiquity” collection, coming to a store near you soon.
Following on, we find out what happened when the pros and celebrities met for the first time, at
the Ballroom Bootcamp (ie the same place they always go but with camo netting strung up everywhere). If you’re wondering whether the army theme extended all the way to full military outfits for all the pros
it did not. Sadly. At any rate those t-shirts last about five seconds before the celebs emerge, everyone changes into civvies, and any instruction is carried out by SYTYCD Series 2 winner Matt Flint, schlubbing around the floor with two days beard growth and a scratty Superman t-shirt. Not the army of my youth I can tell you that much. Chiefly this is an opportunity for two types of gawking – scoping out which celebrities look like a sweaty mess after 30 seconds of training (Ruth, Chizzy, Joe, Giovanni) compared to which ones maintain a serene glow throughout (Siennna, Aston, Alexandra, Gemma) and ALSO watching for signs of nascent chemistry. By which I chiefly mean
looking in the background and seeing for certain just how that Brendan/Chizzy partnership would have worked out. He’s not even looking at her! Sorry we missed it now.
Your class of 2017, people. Minus some people, plus some randoms, they seem to have just drifted in and out. No idea who Gemma’s sat on there for a start.
And finally, our final three men to be partnered.
This is Joe McFadden. He is in Holby City and plays “Raf” who is apparently very intense. Joe says that he is less intense and in fact enjoys fun. It’ll never catch on. He says he’s looking forward to learning the latin dances in particular, because he wants some moves that he can show off at parties.
I always love these plaintive shots of men looking at their hips all “please work, I’m begging you, people are looking”. He promises us that he’s happy to take whatever Craig has to throw at him (don’t tempt him love, he’s single and ready to mingle). Finally Joe tells us that what he lacks in ability he makes up for in enthusiasm. Well there’s a thought.
This is Jonnie Peacock, winning a gold medal. If I at times forget the exact proportion of the letters h, n, i, and y in his name, please have patience. Jonnie has won paralympic gold twice, after losing his leg to meningitis at an early age. Jonnie tells us that he’s never let a leg hold him back before. Well you wait for the one Oti boots up your backside after you say your aim is only to get to week 6, we’ll see. He says that he thinks people will be surprised at what he’s capable of even with only one leg, in terms of movement if not in terms of rhythm. He also reveals that he’s hoping for a pro partner who wants to have fun, and also doesn’t care TOO much about winning. No and no.
This is Brian Conley, and this is also me thanking God they’ve left him to the end so I don’t have to deal with too much of him. Seriously, at one point he does
“IT’S A PAPPPPPPPPEHTTTTTTTT” in stereo with himself from the 90s and it sets off an eye-twitch on both sides of my face at the same time. He tells us about his history in showbiz, his extensive experience in Musical Theatre, with clips of Barnum and Oliver! shown, and also his six films, three of which have wikipedia pages, one of which I’ve heard of, and in one of which he played a character called “Sue’s Friend”. We’re at “Hollywood Icon Jimi Mistry” levels here. Anyway, Brian talks about what an all round entertainer he is then
sticks his face into a gramophone. I really am not ready for this, he’s going to be dry-humping props all the way to Blackpool and beyond.
Back to the studio, and we’re pairing up Joe first, as Tess tells him he looks steady and nerve-free and Joe assures her that he is feeling the mandatory level of panic you have to feel in order to be allowed on the Launch Show as a celebrity. Seriously, they measure your cortisol levels with a blood test before you walk the red carpet, and if they’re not high enough you get punted last second and replaced with Graham Onions. Look Tess
he’s grimacing for you, he’s grimacing! HE’S SO NERVOUS! He’s straining himself into looking like a well preserved Daniel Radcliffe, he’s doing it! He’s to be partnered with
Katya, which bodes well for my hopes for him, as they’ll probably want to give Katya someone good after doing so well with Comedy Contestant Ed Balls, just like they did with Kristina after Sa…I mean Anton after Wid…I mean…well it COULD HAPPEN. Tess revisits that Joe wanted to be good at Latin, and makes him do a little bum wiggle on the spot. They’re very much
early days bum wiggles.
Jonnie’s next , with Oti and Amy afore him, and
I’m surprised that in her official position as guiding hand of the show, Tess wasn’t floating around that top-knot with a pair of scissors behind Jonnie’s back. Pam from St Ives is not ready for a man-bun Jonnie, she’s barely got used to gay marriage being a thing. Jay that thing to acceptability, Strictly Hair Department STAT! Tess asks if he’s enjoying his Strictly makeover, and he says that he’s going to be taking this shirt home with him in particular. Good luck with that Jonnie, they need to repurpose it into a skirt for Nadiya AND a bra for Gemma for the first live show and they’re going to start during the group dance, whilst it’s still on you, Mrs Ant is on a busy schedule. Tess asks him if he’s going to be a quick learner and Jonnie sighs “not really” and I worry for his life in this partnership I really do. Because he’s got
Oti. Prompting me to ask
Once they’re together Jonnie reveals that Oti was telling him off the whole way through the group dance rehearsals. He. Is. Going. To. Die. For real. Dead. On the floor. By Movie Week. Brian, last up, partnered with Amy by default you will be surprised to hear, really wanted to get Amy as his partner. I mean, he does a little joke that he’s forgotten her name, but it lasts all of five seconds. Who was the last couple on this show who really hated one another? I’m starting to crave it. Not one including Brenda, they don’t count.
Up to Claud 9 now, and as a potential Relatable Dad we pan straight away to Brian’s wife and daughter in the audience.
Brian says that he loves his daughter and his wife and also loves Amy and also will say anything to get votes and stay on the show. That’s the spirit. Pretend the girl’s ill. Nothing terminal, people will check. Just like…juvenile arthritis or something. Claudia then tells Brian that Amy is in fact currently the British Champion and Brian
is feeling that legacy upon him. Don’t sweat it Brian, the more decorated the pro, the worse they do on Strictly. Iveta Lukosiute was World Champion at everything, multiple times, and she still couldn’t get pretty hunky dunk TAHHHHHHHHHM past the first month and a bit. Claudia asks Amy if she’s looking to win the glitterball, and Amy says that she’ll do whatever it takes, and everyone goes “awwww!” like that’s cute and not terrifying. Speaking of which, Claudia asks Jonnie his goals for the competition and he says he wants to make Week 5 and that’ll suit him fine. Oti then disembowels him with a fish knife.
Or she tries to, with telekinesis. She saw one in the kitchen earlier, she knows she can make it move with her mind powers if she keeps trying. OTI WILL NOT GIVE UP! OTI WILL NOT BE DEFEATED! Finally, Tess turns to Joe and says that the last person from Holby City to do Strictly was Tom Chambers, and he won it. No pressure!
I love that they’ve done this to Chizzy & Pasha to their faces TWICE now. Like, there actually IS no pressure on you Chizzy cause you’re fat and in your 40s and everyone’s already calling you The New Tameka, don’t sweat it, we’re not even going to do the joke. Joe then wins my heart by saying that THAT was in 2008, so it was a while ago now, like the stealth superfan I’m sure he is. Although he’s not quite at my level because he didn’t say “weeeeelllll, it depends on whether you count Patsy Kensit”. Still, there’s time to grow.
One last trip to the Judges Desk now before the car crash group dance, as Tess asks Bruno which couple he thinks has the potential to make him fall off his chair. I like that this was the same question she asked him earlier (“who is going to win?”), but rephrased into a language Bruno understands. The language of pratfalls. Still, Bruno basically replies “there is absolutely no logic as to when I fall off my chair other than ‘I need attention’ so…” so we’re no closer to getting an answer from him. Tess then asks Craig for some words of last minute encouragement for the celebs, and he replies “don’t mess it up“. I guess if you’re going to steal, do so from the best (We love you RuPaul, well done on the Emmy! Don’t let Trixie win All Stars 3!).
And so to the Group Dance! As usual it’s such a tangle of lasers, lights, limbs and near-topples that it’s impossible to get a true picture of what’s going on, especially as the dance seems to be split fairly even into 50% Gemma, 30% Richard, 19% Chizzy, 1% other people randomly floating into view. But based on evidence Gemma will be fine once she gets some her…clompiness out of his system ; Aston and Alexandra’s ringerness is being hid delicately but not entirely successfully towards the mid back ; Richard probably has a better chance of seizing the comedy trier crown than Susan does; Simon, Charlotte and Jonnie are all varying degrees of boned ; Debbie looks at home on the dancefloor ; Brian and Ruth could probably get at least the basics down fairly well if they wanted to ; Joe is maybe a little bit overenthusiastic ; Sienna is…passable at being lifted (bodes well for being partnered with AJ) ; and Chizzy and Davood are probably both going to rely on their physicality albeit in very different ways.
Until the first Live Show? Keeeeeeep taking the piss out of other people’s dancing!