Strictly Come Dancing 17 – Launch Show

Featuring the first ever Car Crash Celebrity Opening Group Dance with a body count!

Britain 2019! Oh it may look like business as usual on the surface, all bright lights, whizzy traffic, and people saying “Britain” when they in fact mean “London”, but underneath this facade, the country is riven, with a collapsing government, rampant climate change, and the whole population split in two by the most defining and vicious culture war in the history of the United Kingdom – violence in the street, abuse on twitter, whole families riven apart with split loyalties between BBQ Pulled Pork and Spicy Sriracha flavours. Walkers just didn’t know what they were unleashing did they? So what perennial piece of solid old-fashioned entertainment can pull this divided nation back together?

That’s right, it’s Kylie! (Also Strictly. I guess. Not so much. Some of the fights over Gethin vs Matt made Brexit look like “do you think this dress is blue and black or white and gold?”).

Kylie’s here because they’ve realised that really honestly the red carpet part of the Launch Show is pretty anemic stuff, basically just asking members of the public to come and watch some celebrities walking near them, like it’s 1337 and they’ve come to get their leprosy cured by reaching out to touch the hem of Alex Scott’s dress, so why not combine it with a Kylie concert? She sings “Love At First Sight”, “Better The Devil You Know”, “All The Lovers” and “I Wanna Go Out With (Ted) Danson” and it’s a measure of the love and respect that everyone holds for Kylie that she brought her own dancers with her for about half of it, and I haven’t seen anyone complain. Brian Ferry could NEVAH. Oh also, Kylie’s presence only serves to highlight the lack of official Pop Princess in the line-up for the first time in forever, so let’s do a poll on that, let’s break the seal on recap polls.

There then follows the usual rummage through the audience looking for people who can convincingly be excited on cue and I’m sorry

the Pairing Elves have got the heights all wrong here, send them back and try again, it’s Kristina and Colin Salmon all over again. After everyone’s gone “woo!” and “oooh!” and “I’M SO EXCITED I’M GONNA WEE!” it’s time for the parade of our new judge

who’s come dressed as a pompom, and our celebrities!

Oooh look the BBC staffers have been shown where the cameras are already. Jamie never stood a chance. All the celebrities gush over how this is the beginning, this is the start, they can’t believe it, they never want it to end (unless that means the paycheque doesn’t clear), and Saffron says all this

into a selfie stick because she’s here FOR THE YOUNG PEOPLE! With their phones and their nose rings and their avocado pina coladas. I blame Tonty Blair. Oh and in case you were worrying, yes your favourite part of last series is back and ready to go.

That’s right, tight white trousers on all the male pros, wahoo! Oh and also

these two are still together and very much in love. Could you IMAGINE? Fortunately they turned around three times, touched the ground, and said ippie-dippie-doo, so no Strictly Curse here!

Everyone all soundbited out, it’s time for the seemless and elegant transition between the red carpet show and the studio show, as usual done via a great big Latin Showcase Pro Dance and as usual it’s generic as hell and

even the cameramen appear to have just put their tools on their floor and left everyone to get on with it, so why not me as well? (The medley this year is the Strictly Theme, Crazy In Love, Giant and The Audience Clapping Along Vaguely Near The Beat)

Boom! (That’s New Pro Nancy at the front. There was a bit where all the male pros were flapjacking her around mid air that I guess will have to count as her Official Introduction. On a sidenote, the female pros are already all quite thin, I don’t think we needed to draw ribcages onto their actual dresses)

And speaking of dresses

here’s the carpet remnant Tess is starting with, paired with Claudia doing an unusual and timely tribute to Michael Jackson. They’re of course here to welcome us all to “Strictly 2019” and yes it really does feel like there have been that many series at this point doesn’t it? New pro, new judge, new celebrities, a new glitterball trophy,

oh no wait,

and of course, a newly heightened sense of all of our own mortalities. It’s the point where there have been so many winners they can’t find space on the trophy for plaques for all of them that your knees really start to creak isn’t it? As well as pondering whether we will outlive Strictly or whether Strictly will outlive us, we’re of course going to be doing some pairings tonight, listening to Mark Ronson, and marveling at Stacey & Kevin’s most exciting and dramatic dance of last year! Their amazing showdance that was 34 years in the planning in Kevin’s brain that redefined Strictly, television, and all of dance forever? LOL of course not, it’s the pasta dooley innit? (ITS NAME IS LIKE HER NAME!).

Of course we can’t do any of that without our judges (although…actually we could to be honest) and in a weird case of order shuffling, it’s Shirley who is now in the memorial Darcey Bussell

“I met Rod Stewart after 50 years as the head of his fan club and now I can’t think of anything to say so I’m just going to stand here and wee down my leg a bit” slot, whilst Motsi has been given Shirley’s old slot – ie the one where you’re on last so you have to peg it across the studio to get to your mark in time for the end of the music without clarting yourself.

And in that dress. As soon as they’re sat down Tess gives Motsi the whole “how are you settling in love?” part of the induction, and Motsi proves herself an excellent fit for the show by saying that she already feels part of the family (*drink*), and referring to her own arrival on the show as being part of “a beautiful journey”. It’s like she’s been here forever isn’t it? Even the bloody judges are on a journey now, how marvelous.

Judges introduced, and it’s time for our celebs to do the very first walkout of the series. During this, I learnt that it’s apparently pronounced “Jamie Leng”, that Viscountess Emma Weymouth is as you’d expect, a seasoned pro in the art of smiling and waving and that Karim

is going to have me reaching for a strong drink on quite a few occasions this year probably. Even Kevin waits til he’s got down the stairs Karim. EVEN KEVIN.

Once everyone’s arrived, Shirley is asked for her words of advice for success on Strictly. She tells everyone to really put the work in, and check their egos at the door.

Bruno looks confused by this, as well he might, having negotiated a week off every series to go do poppers by the pool in Palm Springs, and also who never bothers to remember the names of anybody on the show other than him. And he’s paid more than everyone! Work it out Shirley, lazy narcissists only! Bruno is next asked what he wants from this series, and he of course leaps out of his seat and yells he wants to be “thrilled, dazzled and transported!”. I don’t think they’re doing that Biggins Buggy section on It Takes Two anymore Bruno, you might have to settle for an Uber. Craig does his usual Sneery McGoo bit to intro, and then Motsi tells all the celebs that she wants to see them having fun and connecting with their partner, and they also need to “switch on” so they can “give Bruno what he wants”.

You can see the excitement fade from Karim visibly. He can’t just switch it on on demand! He needs to be relaxed and comfortable! He thought he’d applied for Strictly, not auditions for Third Pool Boy From The Left in Bruno Bangs Bondi! Oh well.


This is Catherine Tyldesley! She tells us we’ll know her from playing Eva Price on Coronation Street. If you say so. Apparently she did this for seven years, so she must have a pretty extensive highlights reel. Here’s her

inflating Shayne Ward! Here’s her

giving Shayne Ward bunny ears with some pint glasses! Here’s her

forgetting she’s acting for tv, not for the back row of the Palladium, in a wedding dress! Here’s

her tits, I guess! Catherine tells us all that Eva Price is a headstrong wilful sassy diva, but she herself, Catherine Tyldesley, is very different – she actually has quite small tits! The magic of television! Catherine goes on to tell us all that her signature dance moves are the shimmy and the jazz hands and that her pro partner is going to have to have a great deal of patience. I’m getting very mild “WHAT MA LIKE?!” from this one, although maybe I just miss Gemma Atkinson that much and I’m projecting. To show off her acting skills, here’s Catherine

pretending that one of the Strictly dresses isn’t significantly uglier than what she’s already wearing, and that she really wants to try it on. It looks like a smashed jar of crab paste Cath, you’re not fooling anyone.

This is Saffron Barker!

She’s off the Youtubes. This would be an amazing villain intro shot for the series if it didn’t turn out that Saffron is in fact really really really really really bland. She loves her followers, they’re all amazing, they’re all so supportive, she’s so excited by the spray tans, the hair and the make-up, she’s excited to meet her partner, she’s so excited to learn a new skill, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, she doesn’t know how well she’ll do, she’s going to embrace every single moment…it’s kind of appropriate that Saffron is here representing the digital age, as this entire segment was basically that “I showed a computer 1000 hours of Strictly Intro VTs and asked them to write their own” meme.

This is Michelle Visage!

Coming the closest I’ve seen anyone come to wearing Marge Simpson’s hair-do on an actual person. She tells us that she’s probably best known as the “tough judge” on RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’ll say this for Michelle, one time she was so critical of a contestant that they actually quit the entire show, Craig needs to catch up. Michelle tells us all that we probably think RuPauls Drag Race is just boys dressing up in girls clothing, but there’s a lot more to it than that (well…I wouldn’t say a lot…). Anyway, this is all just a backdoor advert for Drag Race UK (COMING THIS OCTOBER TO BBC THREE!) but it does result in fourth place icon

Chi Chi DeVayne appearing on prime time BBC 1, so I’m all for it (this shot is taken about a minute before she absolutely exterminates another contestant in a lip-sync face off to “Call Me” in front of Debbie Harry herself, what a hero, what a moment, what a legend, get well soon Chi Chi we love you!). Michelle then goes on to tell us that she’s one of those Americans who just loves the UK, she loves it, fish n chips, gor blimey guvnor, she loves all that stuff, National Health Service, teabags, Mrs Browns Boys, Big Ben, Kasier Chiefs, mad for it, she’s an honorary Brit! She says it’s an honour to do the show, as not many Americans have done it. No, and none have done it and been remotely popular, so GET READY FOR THOSE DANCE-OFFS!

This is Alex Scott!

She’s a footballer! Or at least she was, but very slightly before LadyFootball got the ratings it does now, which is a bit awkward, so here’s some swirling headlines about how she smashed down barriers

in talking about football! I definitely don’t think it’s a bit sad we’re presenting Alex even getting to talk about men’s football as being as an achievement on a par with actually playing football herself (she won the FA Cup!), or that they’ve apparently struggled to find dynamic footage of her career vs

her awkwardly pulling Ann From Little Britain Face pre-hoof. Alex tells us she’s really proud that little girls can now look at her and see they too can live the dream of being vaguely patronised by Martin Keown, DREAM BIG GIRLS, DREAM BIG!

To the studio where

YES! Catherine has resting bitch face! Get ready for me to exploit that so I can make jokes around her thinking something she probably doesn’t, for as long as she lasts. Catherine tells Tess that it’s so surreal being here, and it feels like she’s watching herself on telly.

Quickly, she probably comes to miss that physical distance from actual proceedings. Who’s she got? It’s

oh wait, he’s been distracted by Anton’s camel-toe. LOOK THIS WAY JOHANNES! Honestly, bloody newbies. He sprints over, and reassures Catherine that he’s very patient. Is there a silent “I had to sit there and be patient on the bench whilst Graziano got his chance and did that cha cha all over everyone’s faces, that’s how patient I am” on the end there, you be the judge.

Next up, Saffron. She’s living the dream, her nans are so excited, she’s living her nan’s dream, she wants to do her nan proud.

God you can even see Tess glazing over, and you wouldn’t think there was anything there to glaze. This segment might have been redeemed by a left-field pairing surprise but

no, she’s with AJ, everyone knew she’d be with AJ, youngest pairing in Strictly history, let the PATRONISING BEGIN! Saffron makes a very long very low noise like a kid being 7/10 excited over a party magician and then says she’s over the moon and her nan will be crying right now. Great.

Michelle next, and she and Tess indulge instantly in a round of showbiz “no you look great, NO YOU LOOK GREAT!” licky licky tongue bath before Michelle says that what she wants from a partner is someone who’ll really push her to graft and put the effort in, as well as making her laugh.

I don’t want to speculate about the personal life choices and interests of the boys in the front row here, but let’s just say that they are transparently very here for Michelle Visage. Her pro?

Sneezing? Let’s say sneezing. He runs over into a big hug, and Michelle says this is perfect, because they’re both Italians! American, British, AND Italian. Michelle really is just collecting nationalities for herself there. She’ll be half-Korean by Hallowe’en Week and demanding Vicky Giggles let her dress up as a dokkaebi. As Michelle is a gay icon, Giovanni does a finger-snap and very half-heartedly says he’s “ready gurrrrl”. Please, never do that again.

Alex next, and she tells Tess that she’s so excited to be “Strictlified”, because she’s such a tomboy normally! She’s been in a tracksuit since the age of 8!

I hope she showered. Tess tells Alex that it’s amazing – they’ve never had a footballer win Strictly before. Aye, you’ve never had a Coronation Street actor, Youtuber, or reality tv show judge win either, but nice that we’re not setting up certain celebs up more than others already, eh? You’ve had two sports pundits win, focus on that. Alex for her part says that she’s just glad to be the first female footballer to do the show. Her pro is

Neil, who goes full Charlton Heston At The End Of Planet Of The Apes before his name is even half out of Tess’s mouth. We then get some mad football bants about how Neil has red hair and Alex played for Arsenal who played in red so that’s good, but Neil supports Liverpool, who also play in red, so that is bad. Yeah, sure, why not.

Straight up to Claud 9, where you can tell that Neil is

pleased to have Alex, but also a bit disappointed he’s not going to get to drag up this year. Probably. He and Alex do some more football bants (WHY) before Claudia turns to Michelle and says she wants to talk about her two girls.

Well, they’re smaller than they used to be, because it was hurting her back, and there were signs that they were leakin…oh right, her kids. Yeah they’re super embarrassed and mortified by her mum doing Strictly, not by her being a regular on the show where she regularly makes cum jokes and dresses like Gina Gershon in Showgirls, yeah, that tracks, that makes sense. Saffron’s next, and it’s revealed that she was four years old when Strictly first aired (do you know what’s sadder? They’ve done their maths wrong and she was 3) and then we close with Catherine being asked to say what fictional character she’s most like on the dance-floor and she says “MR BEAN!”

WHAT MA LIKE indeed. (Michelle laughs because she knows who Mr Bean is, she LOVES Mr Bean, she just loves that British sense of humor, honorary Brit!).

Back down to the floor, where Shirley is asked for her opinion on the partnerships so far. She says that Catherine “The Actress” will bring character to the dances, Saffron is clearly full of energy (WHERE?!), Michelle is sassy and Alex is a footballer so will be a really strong and powerful dancer. Yes, that’s how I remember Robbie Savage. Strong and powerful. Motsi is then asked what her role as a judge is going to be, with Craig being the Mean One, Shirley being the Technical One, and Bruno being The Flamboyant One. This is all a bit meta isn’t it? Anyway, Motsi says that she’s going to be the judge who’s stood there as a contestant and knows what it’s like. God, you can hear half this show’s audience (we all know which half) (at least) think she actually is Oti can’t you?

About 10% probably think Alesha’s back.

This all cues in a VT package introducing our new judge and

they really are going all out for diversity with these new Dr Whos aren’t they? To a jazzy soundtrack, Motsi tells us that as a dancer she’s been three times German champion, a European finalist, and a World finalist, and as a tv personality she’s been a judge on Strictly Germany for the last eight years, so don’t be doubting her CV guys.

Look at those other judges. You can tell which one is the Bruno and which is the Craig can’t you? You can just TELL. Motsi tells us that she’s all about the fire and the passion and the fun and her name is so close to it already that I just want to call her Moxie Mabusi and imagining her running a speakeasy in 1930s Detroit. Ah well, not til one of the many many dress-up weeks.

As if this wasn’t enough to convince us that Motsi has what it takes to be a judge, we’re getting a whole group routine, just for our most exciting new cast-member this year


Anyway, the idea here is that each judge has their own little illuminated room to dance in. A bit like Kevin & Stacey’s showdance but…you know, not embarrassing.

Mostly. Shirley’s room is orange and she gets to play Mrs Robinson with her pick of the male pros

although it looks a bit like the male pros got bored waiting and decided to busy themselves all over Neil’s shirt before she got there, Bruno’s room is blue and I can’t look directly at anything that happens in it, and Craig’s room is green and we all saw him as Britney Spears on Lip Sync Battle, he just does that, I suspect his choreo as Miss Hannigan looked like that as well, I expect his Judges Challenge round choreo is going to look like that as well, he has a niche. All this done, Motsi

EMERGES (look at those big ol banana hands on Craig, dear me) and

gives everyone the finger? If only. Anyway, Motsi latin showcases herself all over whichever male pros Shirley hasn’t worn the arse out of already, giving it lots of face and bombast and energy. Apparently she’s selected “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran to do it to but ah well

Nobody’s perfect.


This is James Cracknell.

It’s alright, you can put the gun down, he’ll do the show. He says that we may know him best for rowing in a boat at the Olympics wearing very tight lycra. How tight?

Well there we are then. James chuckles self-deprecatingly at the memory, the first of about five self-deprecating chuckles in this VT. He tells us that he won gold in Sydney, gold in Athens, a bunch of medals at other things that weren’t on telly so much, and then since then he’s avoided getting a proper job as much as possible, focusing instead on a bunch of ADVENTURES! He rowed across the Atlantic, which put him off rowing forever, he went to the Antarctic, which put him off ice for life, and he went and…I don’t know, did some stuff in the desert, which put him off sand for life. So all that’s left is Strictly now, which will amongst other things, put him off dancing, Italians, parquet flooring, and also Comedy VTs for life most likely.

No James, put them back in the cupboard, that’s Flavia’s special cupboard, we keep it stocked just in case she ever comes back. James spends the rest of the VT self-deprecatingly chortling away about how rubbish he’s going to be. I suspect he might be right.

This is Karim Zeroual!

He does kids tv! You might know him from kids tv! Or if you have kids, they might know him from kids tv! Erm…he knows Hacker The Dog!? That one who turns up at Wimbledon to molest Sue Barker but it’s ok because he’s a puppet? HE’S REALLY FAMOUS, HONEST! Mostly I’m distracted during this intro by

the fact that the Broom Cupboard seem to have a higher budget for Hallowe’en costumes than this show. Also

could have led with the fact that he won Eurovision in 2014, I might have known who he was then. Anyway, Karim says his day as a kids tv presenter can be really hectic – he can come in, and the first thing that happens is that he gets cream pied whilst wearing a dress! Ah, I see the audition process for CBBC presenters isn’t any different from back in the day then…Karim closes by saying that he loves music, and grew up particularly with a lot of jazz and reggae playing in his stage house. Well, that’s fortuitous anyway, because you’ll be doing a Viennese Waltz to it soon enough Karim.

This is Chris Ramsey!

His act is mostly that face! He’s a stand-up comedian and tells us that he’s done stand-up on telly, in theatres, and big arenas. Yes, but have you ever done it whilst rowing across the Atlantic, naked, whilst juggling, with Ben Fogle, to fend off a midlife, Chris, that’s the question. However, despite his experience with big live audiences, Chris has never danced on tv before, and indeed didn’t dance at 95% of the weddings he’s been to (it’s Strictly Chris, just lie and say you’ve never danced at a wedding, it’s better copy) because he hates being watched whilst dancing. Well, given the ratings trajectory established by last year, you may be in luck!

Oh also this face. He does this face a lot as well. In terms of what he’s looking forward to on Strictly? The audiences, the spectacle, the pomp, and also the spray tans, because despite the fact that he’s from the North East, he’s never had one!

This is David James!

Apparently we might know him from football. Specifically, from his 53 England appearances, or his 18 years playing in the Premier League. Liverpool, Manchester City, Portsmouth…what no Aston Villa? Such Midlands erasure, bloody typical (yes I looked that up). David says his favourite part of being a footballer was the roaring crowd of adoring expectant fans that greeted him whenever he came down the tunnel. And also when he played for Portsmouth. (BANTA!). Also apparently he has four children and two grandchildren which, to be honest, I didn’t need to know. David says he hopes to do some groovy dancing for his grandkids, and then asks if that makes him sound like a granddad, saying “groovy dancing”.

No, it makes you sound like someone trying to sound like a granddad, you grew up in the 80s, not the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo.

David hopes he can have a journey like Stacey Dooley did, and also that he gets to wear outfits on Strictly as loud and outrageous as he did as a footballer and

ah, the 90s. I do not miss you.

Back in the studio, where Tess is saying to James that she hears he likes coming first (…) so they’ve decided to get him out the way. There’s then some very awkward banter that necessitates two big cuts and canned laughter, so let’s get this poor guy partnered up already. Oh wait, we have to intro our female pros first! There’s British National Champion Amy, Australian Open Champion Dianne, South African Latin Champion Oti, World Mambo Champion Karen, World Latin Champion Katya, World Ballroom & Latin Champion Nadiya, Italian Latin Champion Luba, and Three Time Backstage Strictly Disney Quiz Champion Janette!

This is her SEVENTH series. Seventh. What a testament to the power of positive thinking.

Anyway, of these, James’ partner is

Luba! Honestly, I know we’re supposed to think the bench-botherers have been an integral part of the Strictly family, or whatever, but a brief intro VT for her and Johannes at the very least might have been welcome, I doubt anyone in the audience knows who she is. James says he’s very happy (/doesn’t know who she is) and Tess asks how Luba is going to cope with a partner who is used to just sitting down. Yes, that’s what that body says to me. Just sat on his arse all day. Luba says she’ll figure it out. Mmm hm.

Karim next, and he vibrates over, gabbling away, and Tess is all “you’re a giddy one aren’t you?”. It’s very easy to forget that Tess is 50 years old isn’t it? She doesn’t need this energy. Karim babbles away about how much fun he has on CBBC and how he doesn’t want to let his partner down and how excited he is and ohmygodican’tbelieveit, then Tess

throws Amy at him to get him to shut up. And goodness me, Amy is into it. To be fair, you could double Karim’s age and he’d still be the youngest partner she’s had on the show by six years. She almost knocks him over hurling herself at him and goodness me, this is going to be a lot. As they go off, Karim salutes at me and yells “SEE YA LATER!!!!”. Good-o.

Chris next, and as he arrives at Tess he tells her that his mouth is really dry and

does his face. Tess then says to Chris “apparently you don’t like being watched” and yes, he just said that, in that VT, two minutes ago. Chris says “no”, then

does his other face. He asks the audience if they can help him out by turning away whilst he dances and why do I feel like I’m watching a panto? You know, more than usual. If we turn away and clap, will a fairy appear?

Nope, just Karen, looking more like the principal boy than anything. Do we think Karen has butched up to angle for a role in that same-sex partnership we’re definitely getting one day soon, next series, honestly, 2025 at the VERY LATEST? I hope so.

David next, and Tess gasps in awe at his height, and says that she can see why his codename on Strictly was “The Incredible Hulk”.

Tess, it was the same reason as for all the other codenames, a researcher went down the pub, shut their eyes, and pointed. Will Bailey’s codename was Absolut Citron for a week before someone noticed. Because of his height, David is of course destined for

Nadiya, who doesn’t do gurning with excitement. Which I’d be more supportive of if she did much of anything else, personality wise. Tess refers to them as “The Incredible Hulk” and “Wonder Woman” and neither of them have much to say, and my general impression of a fairly vanilla partnership to come isn’t really helped by

a random shot of the judges looked bored off their arses. And we’re only halfway in!

Up to Claud 9 we follow them and

can we get old Slouchy here up on Karim’s shoulders so she can do a proper interview? She tells David that he looked really relieved to get Nadiya, and David tells her that he was lying to everyone backstage that he didn’t care who he got partnered with, but actually he totally did! He doesn’t quite go the full Jamelia and start giving it “IF I’D BEEN GIVEN ANTON, I’D HAVE QUIT!” but…I do kind of want him to name names.

To Amy, and we go through again the fact that the pros DEFINITELY don’t know who they’re with beforehand, and if they, say, conveniently followed their celebrity and only their celebrity on Instagram the day after the first group dance rehearsals it’s just a MASSIVE COINCIDENCE for SURE, and Amy says she’s so happy. Karim yells “AW, THAT MAKES ME SO HAPPY TOO!” and good grief pace yourself, I think Karim might be the first celeb ever to hit the Scott Maslen Wall just from screaming in interviews. Next, Claudia addressees the elephant in the room, which is that James is clearly hating every second of this, and he’s all


Down to the judges again, and Tess asks Bruno what specific challenges the male celebrities are going to face. Like Bruno ever gave a shit about the male celebrities, good grief. Bruno IS the specific challenge the male celebrities are going to face, unless they’ve got a bum you could crack Brazil nuts with. Bruno says the biggest challenge for the men will be learning to lead, and yes this is just an excuse for him to grab at Shirley like a BTS fan at a £300 Meet’N’Greet.

It never ends.

Next up, it’s time for our B Tier musical guest for the night (no offence), Mark Ronson, featuring Yebba.

YEBBA DEBBA DOO! That’s it, that’s my coverage of the performance, Yebba Debba Doo, deal with it, this show is a good 20 minutes too long as it is. (lol look at Nancy trying to get into shot again, bless her heart)

Next up, a beloved Launch Show tradition – the first tentative rehearsals for the Car Crash Group Dance – and also what they’re trying to make a beloved Launch Show tradition

cramming all the show staff into wacky cars “driving to the studios”.

Loser Pros in the backseats guys, sorry, those are the rules, Giovanni gets to ride shotgun like a big boy because he’s the best at being a Strictly, sorry. Oti, Karen & Nadiya and Janette get a minivan

like they’re going on some sort of soccer moms wine weekend and let’s face it, I’d watch that movie, I’d watch Nadiya tentatively finding love with an oenophile (“oenophile” madam, calm down) whilst Karen embraced her bisexuality with Special Guest Mom Jada Pinkett Smith, Janette realises that she and Aljaz don’t have to have kids and that’s ok and it’s also ok if they do, and Oti…I dunno, yells at some people and makes spaghetti. Don’t pretend you wouldn’t.

Dianne, Katya, Luba and Amy

get a smaller car, because their presents for Jason Gilkison’s wedding were less good, Aljaz & Glasses Kevin are squeezed into an even tinier space

quick, let me write a fanfic,

fuck only knows what’s going on here, and

Nancy’s descent into hell continues a-pace

This all culminates

sadly not in parachute games, but everyone meeting one another the first time in a big sweaty group dance rehearsalathon. This is the first opportunity for the celebrities to get used to moving about, lifting their pros, mucking in, and in a few cases (Will Bayley) speaking to camera in any context than a BBC pundit asking you “how are you feeeeeeeeeeeeeeling?”. And speaking of talking naturally on camera, it also marks the very first case this series of

AJ Face. Four years in, I’ve just given up, I’ve just accepted he’s always going to be a vaguely uncanny presence, this is it now. Beyond that, there’s no real “x is good, x is bad, x has potential, x wants y as a pro” content, other than Jamie Biscuits gooning into the camera about how crap Chris Ramsey is which…nice work tempting fait there Baron.


This is Emma Barton!

They had to tell her three times that she was getting Anton, she fainted and forgot it three times, this is the footage, such a trial for the runners, every year this happens. She tells us that we’ll probably know her best for playing Honey Mitchell in Eastenders. Honey Mitchell being one of those boomerang characters where the actor leaves and then comes back a decade later, because they weren’t getting much other work, and they all call it “part of the rich history of Eastenders”. Honey is a model

(touch the fashion, change your life) who pulled “Billy” out of the big bag of Mitchells to bang, and they had a kid with Down’s Syndrome and then…I dunno, lots of shouting and crying and stuff, it’s Eastenders. Emma tells us that Honey is lovable and kind, but also “a few pork pies short of a picnic” as she demonstrates

via subtle acting and costume choices like in this scene here, where Honey asks Billy if milk comes from bears. Emma goes on to say that she’s done a bit of dancing, but nothing like Strictly, and that’s not even “but not ballroom and latin” someone SOUND THE RINGAH ALARM. Oh and Emma is this year’s THOOPAFAN, meaning that she’s cramming two archtypes into one body. She tells us she lives, breathes, and eats Strictly, and yes I think a few of the female pros are on that diet as well.

This is Emma Weymouth

also Emma Weymouth’s great big massive house, also a parrot. Emma is a viscountess, although also the daughter of one of Africa’s richest oil magnates, so marrying into the scrag-end of the British aristocracy is probably a step down for her, if anything, socially. In global terms. Emma tells us that we might know her from her BBC reality show Animal Park, and this is then followed by one of my favourite things ever on a Launch Show

an insanely rich woman just draping herself over a variety of rare endangered baby animals in her own private zoo. It’s taken me eight years to say this but honestly? Holly Valance outsold. Hook it to my veins. That shot of her werking it 12 feet away from a rhino, I’m never going to recover. Emma claims she’s very involved in the day to day running of Longleat, mucking out the wallabies and cleaning the rhino’s horns and I don’t buy this for a SECOND but I’m still enchanted. Also?

Her own sub-Nigella cooking show on Youtube. Amazing. Emma says her signature dance style is “clapping like an embarrassing mum” and her dream on Strictly is to get Bruno to leap to his feet after one of his dances, because “that’s how you know you’ve really nailed it”. Or that the day has a Y in it.

This is the headmistress of a private girls school where there’s been foul play involving the Shaista rubies in a Poirot

Oh no, wait, it’s Anneka Rice. And let’s get this over with.

I’m very enamoured of this shot used to illustrate the very concept of “Treasure Hunt” by the way

Makes Anneka look like a very modish King Kong. Anneka briefly runs us through both of her shows, describing herself as an “action girl” who has Jeopardy as her middle name (I mean…she is posh enough, I believe her, “Anneka Jeopardy Rice would like to announce”, you’d read that in The Times Hatch, Match & Dispatch section wouldn’t you?). She’s basically here because her youngest son has just finished University, so that’s officially all of her mothering done, so it’s TIME FOR ADVENTURES again. So many posh people here this year just to have an adventure, this could go very well or very badly, Kevin Clifton as a Gap Yah though, it’s a concept.

Out to the studio again, where Emma is dressed

like she’s here to greet us to the Guernsey Cultural Centre and tell us all about the island’s proud history of folk dancing and button making. She claims to Tess that she is the biggest Strictly fan ever, and then Lisa Snowdon, Natalie Cassidy, Faye Tozer, Miss Ranjie, Fiona Fullerton and Chizzy all leap out the audience and dogpile her yelling “NO, I’M THE BIGGEST THOOPAFAN EVER, ME!”. Once they’ve all been pulled off her with a crowbar, it’s time for Emma to get ready for the ULTIMATE Superfan Experience.

16 years of Strictly gossip buried in that brain, if you want to know what colour underwear Andrew Cuerden wore Emma, now’s your chance. ALL the names Erin called Zoe Ball backstage when she scored 10 for that tango? What really went down between Craig Revel-Horwood and Jan Ravens’ husband in that car-park? Whether Ian Waite and Denise Lewis were REALLY shagging? It’s all in there, it’s a treasure trove. Anyway, the audience go wild, as they have been conditioned, at Anton basically getting Kellie Bright 2.0. We get the usual round of “Book me in til Christmas!” and “my mum will be so happy!”

and look, this is an escalation. We did “LET’S GET ANTON INTO DECEMBER!” with Laila, and it worked, just about, through Ugg boots and…post spray tan comments. We did “LET’S GET ANTON TO THE FINAL!” with Katie, and it worked, just about, because Gleb did that salsa and all bets were off in the semis. There’s only one step further we can make here, let’s see what happens.

Emma Weymouth next, and as she’s the first ever viscountess to do the show, Tess asks if Emma’s going to make them curtsy to her. Curtsys were invented so women didn’t flash their boobies whilst bowing Tess, it’s not really a thing for men. Emma giggles and says there are no rules and she won’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to and then

starts petting Tess like she’s one of her wallabies. New favourite? I’d say so. Also glad to see Emma using her social pull to get the best (/only good) dress. She’s with

Aljaz, which I am thankful for, because you know Kevin would have over-egged the life out of this pairing, you just know it. Aljaz runs over and actually curtsys and

suddenly I’m not opposed? Yes Aljaz, smash those gender norms! He then yells “GET IN!” which is one of about…three things he’s tried to make one of his things in recent years that I’d quite like him to stop doing. Maybe replace it with more curtsy’ing Aljaz?

See, much better.

This leaves Anneka with Kevin, and you can tell Anton’s slipped her a fiver to continue his story-line, as she gives the full “I don’t dance, I’ve got a phobia, I feel so ashamed of my body when I dance, I’m so sorry, I’m going to be such a burden, they should call this show CHALLENGE KEVIN!” speech that’s intended to leave us in no doubt as to who she “should” have got. And to cap it all off

she leaves Kevin hanging for a high five. What a development.

Up to Claud 9, where Anneka beams away merrily that she’s got the reigning champion as a pro, so they barely need to dance do they? I mean, looking at Stacey’s showdance last year I can see why she’d think that but…. Off in the corner Emma and Anton

continues to happen. No chat with Posh Emma, I’m guessing because bluebirds have flown unbidden out of her sleeves and are crapping all over the floor, whilst she feeds a duck-billed platypus out of a baby’s bottle. And makes it FASHION.

Back to the judges for more of their opinions now – Craig’s two couples to watch are Michelle & Giovanni (on sassy gay catfights please watch RuPauls Drag Race UK launching this October on BBC 3 grounds) and Karim & Amy (on dance grounds).

Next up!

THEY WANT TO BE TUGEVVAH! So what the show’s got here, is exactly, and entirely, 100% the point of the show. This entire Heath Robinson contraption of an entertainment franchise was set up to have a rough and ready non-dancer learn how to dance (and “be a lady”), fall in love with their partner, win, and then end up riding off into the sunset with them forever, but not before coming back at the start of the next year to show us all the dream came true. That’s it, that’s the show. That is, as they say, give or take a live pregnancy announcement, PEAK Strictly. When they started this show in 2004, Stacey Dooley & Kevin Clifton was the ultimate ham and egg and chips with extra ketchup of the concept, and now it’s finally happened, and they can’t go for it full throttle, because she had a boyfriend and he seemed alright and whilst there’s no suggestion Stacey ever cheated on him they can’t do everything they want to do with this perfect gift of a set-up, and you can feel the show just bridling as a result. Anyway, Kevin and Stacey are really excited to dance again, and she’s glad to have all her accessories back and chitter chatter banter banter, remember when Joe binned this segment off last year because he has a wedding to go to?


Happily I can report that Stacey doesn’t completely Caroline Flack her return here – physically she still looks a bit stompy and clip-cloppy, but doing the routine night after night on tour’s clearly really given her a lot of experience in terms of really performing it and milking every last second of drama out of the smoke’n’mirrors’n’Spanish guitar out the whole thing. In terms of Stacey’s 100mph sprint from Blackpool to the finale it’s still behind her Charleston and her FONTEEEEEEEEEEN for me, but hey, she didn’t flash her underwear this time.

That’s a plus.

They go over to Tess, with Stacey full on huff-n-puffing and talking about how she’s past it now, and Tess asks her what advice she’d give this year’s beginners and the camera flashes up to Claud 9 and

that’s Luba guys. That’s one of the pros. Keep up. Stacey tells them all to enjoy it, and put the hours into training, but don’t take it all too seriously

(*flashback to Kevin on semi-final week of It Takes Two flinging a napkin covered in biro around yelling “AND MY SISTER SAYS, CRAIG, THAT ACTUALLY THERE WAS 52 SECONDS OF VIENNESE WALTZ IN THAT ROUTINE, NOT 34, SO THERE!”*). Most of all though, you only get to do Strictly once (or, if you’re Jamie Laing, not even that), so really enjoy it!


This is Mike Bushell.

He presents the sport on BBC Breakfast and he’s apparently made his name from trying out various sports to demonstrate how they work, and also from being really bad at them. The show then makes the mistake of showing Mike’s HILARIOUS VIRAL MISHAPS falling over in a swimming pool and whilst curling, thus demonstrating they really are very dinky plops to the ground indeed. (Admittedly, they do also show him falling off a horse, which did not go viral, and which looks very much like the horse came within inches off kicking his face in). It is worth it though, for the footage of Naga Munchetty

screeching with laughter at a colleague almost seriously hurting themselves. I would expect nothing else. Mike tells us that he really loves early 00s trance music, particularly Faithless (???) and that he’s here for all the dad dancers. Yeah, you and about five other male contestants this year mate. Mike says he’s happy to go out in Week 2, in such a way that really does suggest he thinks he at least has a Jeremy Vine level run in him, but let’s see.

This is Will Bailey

He won the table-tennis gold medal in Rio De Janeiro and it was one of the best moments of his life

One day one of these medals actually is going to be made of chocolate, and this is going to pay off. But until then…we continue. Will started playing table tennis out of boredom in hospital, and look at him now! Maybe something for you think about Jamie, keep you busy during all the weeks of empty schedule ahead. Will has arthrogryposis, which affects his joints, but he just wants to be judged on Strictly the same as everyone else. YOU HEAR THAT, MENTALIST FANS! IT’S ON TAPE! Will goes on to say that he’s most worried by Argentine Tango, and the other erotic dances, because he doesn’t think he can pull off “sexy”.

If the theme is “Gavin Henson gets asked a long division” I can see it

This is Dev Griffin!

He is best known for being a DJ, kids tv presenter, and for finishing third on Celebrity Masterchef behind Ulrika “Queen Of Raw Lamb” Jonsson. He tells us how as a teenager he used to be a DJ as a hobby for all his friends, and then that slowly grew into a profession, as he appeared on kids tv as a DJ.

I think the term is “glow-up” right? Dev says that whatever outfits they give him on Strictly, he’ll definitely wear them happily, as they can’t be worse or more ridiculous than some of the stuff he’s dressed up as for kids tv, which includes the back end of a llama, and a hot dog. Well that sounds like a challenge. Look at the time they tried for “Buzz Lightyear” with Simon Rimmer and ended up with “grape in a condom” then get back to me. Dev, like Catherine, thinks his partner will need patience, but also to think of him as a blank canvas, which they should paint themselves all over. Nobody tell the Joe Sugg fans that, we’ll need riot shields.

This is Jamie Laing!

aka Baron von Biscuit, air to the McVitie’s empire, and also star of “Made In Chelsea”, which according to Jamie is about “young people living in London”. He leaves out the “obscenely rich and incredibly unpleasant” part because…well you would. In fairness, Jamie’s come across reasonably well on every other show he’s been on (and…he’s been on a lot of other shows), it’s just that nobody watches these shows to like people do they, really, let’s be honest. Like…one person per cast who gets to be the sacred martyr and then the rest are dickheads.

Jamie talks about being a reality star, and about all the knowledge you and your family get about yourself second-hand via watching yourself on a screen, like how he learned that he was a really bad kisser, and how his mum learnt that he has a tattoo

(It’s not because of that, there are pictures on the Internet, it’s fine). Apparently his mum would describe him as “fun, energetic, and unreliable”. Whether this is because he is, or because he seemed like it on Loose Women, he doesn’t say.

Back to the studio and

so much blue suede here you’d half expect Elvis to appear and stick his feet in them. Tess discusses with Mike how he’s obviously the most excited celebrity to be here (I’d say “shade” but…it’s Tess) and Mike agrees. He feels like a dog that’s been let off its leash, ready to leap and bound and jive so fast that he just becomes a blur, so fast and furious the judges won’t even be able to mark him. He’s also looking forward to working his signature move in – the jumping pixie kick, which apparently he does all the time to entertain his kids. The long winter nights must just fly by. His partner is

Katya! I mean, this does feel a bit like a PR rehab year for her doesn’t it? Makes sense. She eagerly eggs Mike on into the pair of them doing his “signature move” together and

jeez, don’t blow your load already, this could have been an entire Couple’s Choice.

Will next, and he says that whilst he’s now had the spray tan, and walked the Red Carpet, for him Strictly won’t truly have begun until he’s properly met Bruno.

Let’s hope for his sake this is the limit of it. As Will walks away again, Bruno yells “DON’T TOUCH CRAIG!” at him, and this is ascending to psychodrama at a rate I’m very uncomfortable with, as Will promises Tess that he didn’t just touch Bruno for points, he’s a really big fan, honest. I mean, it wouldn’t be the first time, and it won’t be the last. Someone who (probably) wouldn’t get bonus points for giving Bruno a quick probing?

JANETTE! Who is Will’s partner. Suddenly I’m very glad she didn’t get Mike. Will and Janette chase one another round the floor in a circle, like Chicken Fight, and then finally collide and both agree that they’ve “got this”. What “this” is, they don’t say, although given Janette’s competitive record in the world of ballroom dancing and Strictly as laid out earlier this evening, maybe it’s a pie-eating contest or something.

Dev next, and Tess gushes at him that as he’s a DJ, surely he can dance!

Dev says that actually, as a DJ, you just stand there with your legs splayed, wagging your hips, pointing your fingers in the air, not doing much, and taking the credit for other people’s hard work. Oooh, an Ola Jordan latin routine, I remember them well. Tess then gets her Tess on, probing into family matters. Apparently Dev has three sisters who all make fun of him for his bad dancing. Sisters is a new one right? I can’t remember a significant sister before? Maybe Melvin’s, although…that doesn’t bode well does it. I hope they turn up for Hallowe’en for a fun VT dressed as witches. Dev shows us all the moves from his teenage years that his sisters mock and

it’s Charleston isn’t it? Wobbly legged arm-crossovers on the knees? Suddenly I have visions of Dev as some sort of Jacob Rees Mogg Old Before His Time Edwardian throwback going down the clubs in Victorian eveningwear and throwing out his best Burlington Berties. It’s possible! The options left for wrangling Dev are Dianne and Oti and

sure, let’s alliterate, why not? Dianne gingerly jogs over, then pretends she can’t replicate Dev’s wobbly legs, when she obviously can, bless her. She does promise to teach Dev to impress his sisters though. It’s a motivation, I guess.

This leaves Jamie with Oti, and Tess asking if he’s brought any biscuits with him. He has not. Let’s not dwell, we’ll get to the denouement in a bit.

Up to Claud 9 one last time, where it turns out that Jamie and Karim already have a whole bromance angle sorted out, complete with secret handshake and Karim kissing Jamie on the face, and this would all be more heart-warming if I hadn’t seen Karim running the exact same angle on Rylan’s Red Button Red Carpet Rundown with Chris. What a promiscuous boy. (*sings Nelly Furtado*). Anyway, Jamie says that getting Oti Mabuse as his partner feels as good as winning and…good job really. Finally, Will gets gifted a specially glittery table tennis paddle for use in the upcoming European table tennis championships. It’s the thought that counts.

Back to the floor now for one last round of judge chatter whilst the celebs get into place for the group number. Shirley is asked what she wants to see from the celebrities, and she promises she’s all about the technique and heel leads and all that, but she also loves personality, energy, and the entertainment factor. Also if you’re with AJ and/or dance to “You’ll Never Walk Alone” that will also help. Tess then tells Motsi that she’s about to see her first ever celebrity group dance (do they not have those in Germany? Do they have a massive game of Twister instead?) and Motsi says she’s very ready, and wants to see lots of energy and fun. Does she want to see a posho got his ankle fucked? Fortunately then for me personally, as I’ve spent this whole episode gradually getting more and more worried that Motsi is going to be a bland “everyone have a good time and try hard and do your best and enjoy yourself” judge, she then cackles that they should have fun now because from next week…THE FUN IS OVER!

Craig, Motsi and Shirley villain-laughing in unison whilst Bruno checks his watch to see how late the delivery boy is with his fun powder? My aesthetic.

So now it’s time for the Car Crash Opening Group Dance! Firstly, in an omen of ill portent, Anneka is already off having a Stephanie Beacham Memorial Sit Down And A Nice Cup Of Tea, something’s clearly amiss there. Secondly

oh are we doing “I COULDN’T TELL YOU APART FROM THE PROFESSIONALS!” messaging already? Here, in the opening routine? OK. That’s Alex by the way. Like on the Sports Relief Special, she’s fine, but Neil is going to have to work on her enthusiasm and performance. Actually, to be honest, pretty much all of the women look alright – Other than Michelle (who does three seconds of vamping then disappears entirely, attagirl, go share that tea with Anneka) Saffron’s probably the weakest but even she’s got a “oooh, you’re very untidy but such RAW TALENT” storyline written all over her. The men on the other hand…I’m not sure why James and David have been put in the same cast, because they seem like exactly the same contestant, but maybe one of them will get better soon, Mike does exactly what you’d expect Mike to do, and Will…also did exactly what you’d expect Mike to do. Dev seemed to know there was music playing but in a different studio, Chris did some nice rhythmic walking about, and Karim seemed ok?

Maybe they had to rechoreograph it all last minute because all the men’s parts involved worshipping Anneka like the goddess she is, yes that must surely be it.

That done, Anneka is carried back on, and Tess and Claudia tell us all to tune in next weekend for Strictly The Professionals, which will no doubt feature at least 5 minutes of Ann Widdecombe belling on so no thanks. Incidentally, Karim and Janette are quite violently nobbing around together through the entirety of this speech, so, you know, there’s another bullet we all dodged. Until then though



Oh no, hang on.

Unfortunately, as well as being too hardcore for Anneka Jeopardy Rice, that opening Group Number seriously injured Jamie, and now he can’t compete this year.

INJURY PORN CRASH ZOOM! Might want to put some frozen peas on that mate, otherwise it won’t heal properly. Oti comes in and gives him a hug, and tells him he will be missed, before Jamie himself tells everyone to go out there and rock it for him, and he’ll be there in the front row supporting them all the way. I mean…there are going to give him another go next year right?

12 thoughts on “Strictly Come Dancing 17 – Launch Show

  1. Nicky91

    you’re gonna love this what i heard then too Monk, apparently Posh Emma and Aljaz could rehearse at her own ballroom hall at Longleat, because she wants to be close to her children

    maybe we’ll see her father, half sister pop by (yes she has a good relationship with them, her jadesimi side of the family, her father even gave her away on her wedding day to the viscount Ceawlin) her mom suzanna is from poshest london community, so yeah i guess this emma has only been used to the rich, glamorous lifestyle, so the strictly glitter, glamour is hardly unknown to her, more so she might give strictly a boost in terms of glamour this series 🙂 so emma give loads of fashion tips to Vicky Gill, that would be cool if all celebs and pro’s are glammed up even more than in past series of strictly

    i’m scared if british public might warm to her, since we have seen before the posh not being likeable, Jerry Hall, Daisy Lowe, but i find emma quite loveable, charming and in the group dance she showed some potential i thought, only thing aljaz does need to work on is core strength but her latin might not be disastrous as i first had thought, and she avoided anton so there is still hope for the latin at least

  2. Anne

    Oh Chris, did you have to mention Matt vs Gethin? Thought I had laid that miscarriage of justice to rest. 5’6″ boy vs 5’10” action man – now let me think!!!!! Twelve years on, where is the boy now? did he ever grow up? who cares……. Action man has matured nicely, thank you, and that will do for me.

  3. Sweetpotatocheesecake

    I love reading these more than anything. This is what I aspire to be like with my blog.
    Ps. I feel like Gio seemed scared by Michelle. I mean, he should be, but how fun?… 😬

    1. monkseal Post author

      He’s normally a little hidden away on the Launch Show I think? I feel like this is an annual panic and then he’s fully on display in the first live show.

    2. Anne

      Start of the ‘car crash’ 0.03 seconds in look to the extreme right of the stage, just to the left of the stairs, there is a glittery art deco type ‘display piece’; you can just see Trev’s (man in the hat) hat.

  4. thefluffy1

    Marvellous stuff.

    Agree wholeheartedly about The Viscountess(TV)’s dress being the only nice one. In the past I suspect any celeb who got the nice frocks to be simpering along daily to Vicky and her Let’s Get Frocked Department, holding aloft homemade sweet treats. I supect TV just gave Vicky and the LGFD a long, hard stare when shown what they originally expected her to wear and they whipped out the good gown pretty sharpish – no bribery by sugar needed…

    And I am beyond thilled that Kevin Clifton’s Ego has been confronted with the partner he (and everyone else) expected to go to Anton. If AJ had got Madame Visage and Anton Little Miss YoutTuber then my cup would have runneth over.

  5. Kate

    So having watched the online bits’n’pieces I can confirm to myself that Catherine Lystnyme is exactly as “Hee heeeeee! Aren’t I awwwwwfullll!” appalling as I thought from the launch show so I am delighted to be able to hate at least one whole partnership. I suspect she thinks she’s “being naughty” when she eats overdecorated cupcakes.

    Otherwise, though, the pros I love are with celebs I don’t care about (Karen/Chris, Oti/Kelvin), and the celeb I was most looking forward to (Alex) is paired with someone I can’t look directly at without wanting to smash the TV screen with the spoon I just used to remove my eyes. I might have to go for Will (am I the only person who’s adored him ever since he became the Bad Boy of Para-Ping-Pong with that table stunt? Am I the only person who even knew who he was?) and Janette.

  6. Ooooop!

    They were *really* determined not to allow it to look like Stacey was flashing her foof, weren’t they? Black underwear rather than flesh-coloured, she didn’t raise her skirt even as far as her knees, and the camera instantly cut to an “above the waist” shot.


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