In search of the next great judges’ showmance.
First of all, a moment of silent respect for the editor who put together a breathily-voiced over trailer for the upcoming Motsi and Shirley interview just so they could do this gag:
Worth it? You decide.
Alex & Neil : It’s possible that I’m just never satisfied, but having complained about how hard it is to recap this bit when the contestants are clearly still very emotional about their ouster, it turns out that it’s equally hard when they’re resolutely chipper about it. The overwhelming sense throughout this exit interview was that Alex had taken a sportsperson’s approach to the whole competition: wanting to get as far as she could but also being realistic about the fact that you can’t win ’em all. To that end, she never saw herself getting this far in the first place and so she’d decided to just be happy about getting as far as she did rather than being upset that she was out. Which is great (indeed admirable) from a psychological perspective, but not especially gripping in televisual terms, particularly if you’ve got to write a blog post about it afterwards. Indeed, the only thing that really cut through all of Alex’s very measured platitudes about how lovely it had been to make it so far on one of her favourite shows was a typically strident tweet of support from Michelle Visage and the revelation that Michelle had taken Alex out to dinner last night to cheer her up. Dare we dream of Alex Scott as a guest judge on Drag Race UK season two? A football-themed maxi-challenge? Or will Alex prove to just not be fash enough to meet Michelle’s usual standards for lasting friendships formed on a reality show? Actually there was one other part of this segment that did catch my interest and that was, in seeing the extended disco version of Alex’s best bits, noticing how this show didn’t really know what sort of journey to craft for her in those disappointing first few weeks until she did the charleston in week five. Remember when Shirley tried to claim that her rumba (her RUMBA!) was some sort of breakthrough? Dark days indeed.
Backstage At Musicals Week :
Johannes sings! Book him for the finale now, Taylor Swift outsold.
Pro Challenge : And just because this blog can never have too many screengrabs of Johannes:
WEEEEEERRRRRRRQ. Johannes was unexpectedly invested in this challenge because he really, really loves the samba and he wanted that world record. Sadly, despite getting complimented by Flavia on having arguably the best combination of speed and bounce action that she’d seen so far (and let’s pretend she wasn’t basing that entirely on having only seen Neil, Nadiya and Anton), the pressure got to Johannes a little bit around the halfway mark and he got a bit panicky and erratic. So while he managed not to incur any disqualifications, he only scored 49, leaving him in fourth place. (Also I may have misinterpreted what he was saying but it’s possible he thought that having steps disqualified meant you were disqualified from the competition entirely?)
Motsi and Shirley : This was a bit of an odd one because you might think that getting two judges on the show is a rare chance to grab some insight into the scoring process and what we can expect for the final two weeks of the competition (I mean, you might expect that if you were being charitable, anyway), but they didn’t actually leave much time at the end of the show to talk to these two and we did end up galloping through the whole thing with slightly indecent haste. There was just about time for a quick soundbite on each of the Top 4 (Karim: got a kick up the arse from being in the dance-off, Kelvin: came in as an underdog but works hard and delivers every week, Chris: needs to just keep bringing the personality but also somehow nail basic ballroom technique in the next five days, and Emma: has been up and down in their estimations but did the best and most authentic charleston of the series and deserves to be in the final) and for Shirley and Motsi to talk about what their own struggles were technique-wise back in their competitive days (Shirley: keeping her shoulder line in check, Motsi: finding that you can’t move as freely in the ballroom dance world as she was used to in South Africa and as a direct result being told by her stern Russian teacher over here at the age of 18 that she couldn’t dance), but let’s be honest, I know what you’re all here for. The big question on everyone’s lips: would Shirley and Motsi being interviewed together on the sofa be as homoerotic as when Shirley and Darcey did that interview together two years ago? To be perfectly honest: no. Despite some excellent early work by turning up in matching outfits, they gave it a creditable go
but it was all a bit PG-13 compared to this cavalcade of filth, neva 4get
And the Queen stays Queen.
Natalie’s Nhoreography Norner : Yes, they gave the dame, the legend, the icon, the goddess, THE Natalie Lowe, the shortest Choreography Corner of the series to discuss, what a swizz. Normally I’d be outraged, but I do have to bear in mind that she is heavily pregnant so
instead I’m going to be outraged by this cheapo depot baby shower gift they got her. This woman gave you eight of the best years of her life and this is how you repay her? OUTRAGEOUS. I’ve seen a number of people wondering where Natalie was hiding her baby (which, in true Natalie Lowe style, is apparently MASSIVE) but I feel these people should really bear in mind that she is 9ft tall. Speaking of which, as if the prospect of Natalie Lowe giving birth live wasn’t enough of a tease, we were also tantalised
with the lost possibility of a Rylan & Natalie mega-pairing on the show. Sigh, how amazing would that have been? (Yes, of course Natalie Lowe still did Demo Time despite being fit to pop. IT’S NATALIE LOWE). Oh yeah, the dances from Saturday. Right. Emma was born to be a flapper, Natalie could see why Craig said that Kelvin was out of time but he WASN’T, and Karim was so amazing that she cried throughout, and she would have scored it 10,000! As for Chris…well…erm…she thought he gave a lovely performance and the choreography was JUST RIGHT. The technique could have been stronger but oh well. Look she tried. Even the radiance herself couldn’t be 100% positive about that walking about, come on.
Pro Challenge : AJ’s turn here and he was already getting the excuses in from the off. All he remembered about his day dancing from Craig, Flavia, and the other one, was that when he got home his knees were hurting Rylan, they were hurting so bad. I wonder how many extra botofogos from Craig that was worth? Well, to keep things short, not enough, as AJ, despite huffing and puffing and squealing like a rusty door the entire time, ended up on a score of 63, with two disqualified steps pulling him below Dianne and down into fourth place. To say AJ was put out by this turn of events
would be an understatement, as he went into a mini rant about how he’d like to see Craig try the Pro Challenge (literally nobody else would) and how AT LEAST HE’S ABOVE KATYA AND GORKA HA HA HA HA HA HA LOSERS! (The leaderboard at this point already having discretely knocked Anton and Nadiya’s efforts off the bottom of the screen and into the memory hole forever). Poor AJ. Never the most magnanimous in defeat is her?
Tunes On Tuesday : Still to placate him
he got given a great big wowwipop by the producers only a few minutes later. This was to symbolise “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond, which Karim has been given for an American Smooth. Speaking of giant things to suck o[PUNCHLINE REDACTED]. Anyway, not that I don’t like Sweet Caroline, but this song was already nailed in a semi final American Smooth by Abbey Clancy, so it does feel like we’re giving Karim things that have already been proved to work here. Y’know, as opposed to a samba to a gospel track. Elsewhere Kelvin has a paso doble to “Seven Nation Army” (Denise Van Outen – ditto) and Emma & Anton will be performing a waltz to Gymnopedie No. 1. Honestly have you ever heard of anything more self-consciously classy in your life? I’m expecting a sudden puff of smoke in the dance-floor and Darcey to appear out of it in her dressing gown, looking confused, that’s the sheer force of CLASSINESS I’m getting here.
Jenny Thomas : A quick and painless chat here with
the woman herself here, who you may know from having choreographed some of the most iconic charlestons and salsas on this show since she started in Series 7, and also from that one VT last series where she had to play chaperone, you know the one, you remember, I don’t have to spell it out. Not really much to talk about here, as we focused on how she arrived on Strictly (poached from Strictly Dance Fever) and her list of achievements in the world of DAHNCE (too lengthy to go into), but it’s nice that the show is fully recognising some of its most tenured behind the scenes talent. GREG NEXT PLEASE, CLOTHING OPTIONAL.
Chris & Karen : Bless Karen, but she really did manage to hit every single excuse as to why her foxtrot didn’t look entirely like a foxtrot here, I guess that’s what eight years of Strictly experience will give you. It’s a theme week, it’s an entertainment show, she was choreographing to the music, she was working to Chris’ strengths, she wanted him to have fun…all this when it probably had exactly the same amount in hold as every other foxtrot this series, she needn’t have bothered. Otherwise Chris talked about how liberating he found the dance-off, and also tried to maybe tilt things a bit more in favour of his underdog status by angling that the judges have been against him more than they perhaps have been. In particular he said that if it had been down to the judges he would have gone home Week 1 when…James Cracknell was still here then mate. David James was still here. ANNEKA RICE. Even if you shuffle Dev up the boot order a bit you’d still have at least made Hallowe’en Week, don’t sell yourself short. This week they will be dancing the rumba and the Viennese Waltz, and Chris is apparently really enjoying the difference in tone between the two, from the delicate romantic emoting of the rumba, to the puke-flecked spinny spinny spinning of the Viennese Waltz. They played the song he’ll be doing his rumba to, and to be honest I didn’t have a clue what it was and it sounds dead borin’ BUT his Viennese Waltz is to “Somebody To Love”, so that’s something. As long as you ignore it being the dance and song that got Dan Lobb bounced way back in Series 9. Katya Virshilas’ last dance EVAH on this show fact fans, good luck Karen. Still she can take superstitious solace in the fact that she also danced Viennese Waltz and rumba in her semi with Mark Wright and she got through! Barely! So that augers well! As
much as anything that looked like this can be taken as a positive auger. Not exactly blessed with gorm was he?
Kelvin & Oti : Despite spending all week trying to teach his daughters that Gaston is ABSOLUTELY not a role model, Kelvin, having donned the wig and breeches, spent most of this interview saying that his opinion of Gaston now is that he is “self-obsessed, but also lovable” and dribbling over how tall, sexy, and accomplished Luke Evans is, so really profound mixed messages there. What are those girls supposed to think now? Although I guess Chris didn’t say whether he spent all week telling his 2 year old son not to go into a life of housebreaking and pick-pocketing so fair enough. And speaking of that wig, we watched, in fast-motion the process of it being fitted.
It took TWENTY MINUTES apparently. I’m saying nothing. Much more exciting was the footage of Oti wobbling her jugs
madam. Regarding their American Smooth, Oti was particularly proud that the backing dancers stayed backing, and didn’t, say wander through the cameras line of sight dressed as a massive teapot, not being specific or anything, just saying it’s happened in Beauty & The Beast routines past. This week they will be dancing the quickstep and the paso doble, with Oti much keener to talk about the quickstep, despite it (apparently, allegedly, they’re saying) presumably because the sentence “Kelvin Fletcher doing the paso doble” sells itself really doesn’t it? It’s going to be set in THE RITZ ITSELF, TAKE THAT EMMA BARTON.
Waite’s Wednesday Warm-Up : Unsurprising? At this stage, Chris’ rehearsal footage isn’t looking too inspiring, with his rumba lacking hip action and his posture in the Viennese Waltz being all floppy, floopy and wrong. Maybe slightly more surprising? Emma Barton isn’t looking much better, with her cha cha looking a bit of a state and also not much like a cha cha (oh is Emma dodging party latin by doing stage school stuff AGAIN, I almost fainted) and her waltz being, to copy Ian “basic”. So yeah, looks like we’re on for a continued tussle between our two best boys, with both of them, whilst looking better than their competitors, conforming to the prejudices of their hatahs a little still, with Karim’s Argentine Tango looking a little too fast, and Kelvin trying to insert hip action where it doesn’t belong yet again in his paso doble. HE JUST CAN’T STOP HIMSELF LADIES!
Irish Dancing With Aljaz :n Yup, it’s that time in the series again
time for one of our pros at a loose end to don national attire and do some Cultural Enrichment in a sports hall somewhere in Norwich. So here Aljaz was, learning how to be the LORD OF THE DANCE. Sadly I got a little over-excited when they promised us he was going to show us his long click, so it’s probably time I went off and got my ears syringed. It’s a dance step apparently. Not really a lot to this segment other than Aljaz trying very hard to be adorable but hey, that works sometimes.
The Pro Challenge : Giovanni on today, so let’s cut to the chase
there we are. Giovanni is never in the habit of not making these things a fight and after he finished 7th (OR WHEREVER IT WAS) last year, he was always going to come back roaring. Three disqualifications AND an obvious segment at the end where he briefly lost the plot, however, do leave room for someone else to sweep in and steal his glory. There was also quite a bit of bemoaning from Giovanni of all these new handsome young kids who’ve come in and stolen his thunder by being faster than him so…expect him to get beaten by Kevin then.
Let’s Get Fucked With Vicky Gill : This week, Oti will be wearing a dress with flahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhs on it.
It Takes Who : A vibrant discussion of masculinity here, as our first question was “who sleeps with a soft toy called Sully?” and everyone rushed to say whichever male pro they thought would be funniest. Mostly AJ, although some people keyed in to Janette’s Disney obsession to claim that it must be a Monsters Inc doll she’d given Aljaz. Don’t ponder too much about the implications there of her getting Dr Ranj to dress up as him for Hallowe’en, it wasn’t her anyway. It was Karen who figured this one out, as she saw the toy in question in Luba’s bed whilst they were having a sleepover. Feel free to ponder the implications there if you want. If that’s your sort of thing. Our second question for the session was “who can’t swim?” and everyone went off on their best flights of fantasy (ALJAZ MUST KNOW HOW TO SWIM BECAUSE HE LOOKS GOOD IN SPEEDOS! GIOVANNI AND GRAZIANO MUST KNOW HOW TO SWIM, BECAUSE THEY ARE FROM SICILY, WHICH IS AN ISLAND! JOHANNES MIGHT NOT KNOW HOW TO SWIM BECAUSE HE’LL BE TOO BUSY SIPPING COCKTAILS AND LOOKING FABULOUS!) when really
the answer was simply Nancy. Who nobody mentioned. Bless her, this really was the closest we’ve come to a true “it takes WHO?”. I’m sure they’ll get to know her in time. And do sleepovers.
The Pro Challenge : Amy’s turn to take on the challenge today, as she was here already for her regular interview with Karim, so why not? She didn’t seem too optimistic about her chances whilst being interviews, and as soon as the clip was cued up you could see why, as apparently the Pro Challenge this year was filmed in the period where she had the lurgey. So…you know, really narrowing it down there. To counteract the hideous bug, Amy gave herself up to a higher power here
seemingly praying for the entire time she was dancing. Not sure if that’s the correct form or not, who am I to judge. The end results were successful enough – only one step disqualification (is it just me or does every single pro seem surprised not to have had more steps thrown out? Almost as though the judging is a bit suspect) and 71 botofogos, putting Amy second on the overall leaderboard. And with only Kevin and Graziano left to run, we’re officially down for a male winner this year.
Giovanni Pernice’s Strictly CV :
Ooh look, it’s this segment again. At this rate, AJ will be getting one of these next year, imagine him talking about all five of his partners like they’re different human beings with different personalities and different qualities, it could definitely happen. Although let’s face it, we’re all waiting for Gorka’s, whenever that is, and the incoming “AND THEN IN 2019 I WAS WITH…OH NO WAIT, THEY NO GIVE ME A PARTNER IN 2019, I FORGOT, SILLY ME”. The main event here of course was the lovely Debbie McGee, with Giovanni confirming her year was his favourite on Strictly (which we already knew, because of FACTS and also TALENT, but it was nice to have it confirmed) because he felt like Debbie really proved to everyone that anybody can dance, no matter what their age. Of course it also helps if they’re a trained ballerina. Also Dr Hamela already did it. And Cherie Lunghi a bit. But hey, for GIOVANNI, it was a first. We also touched on how bad his English was when he first arrived and he was partnered with Georgia (it really was), how “…determined” Laura was, how much fun and laughter he had with Michelle, and how Faye’s talent really allowed him to tap into his creativity as a choreographer. So he liked Debbie and Michelle the best, the end, it’s settled. Also, for those of you wondering, no he didn’t talk on camera about all the shagging over the years, but then Debbie is a lady and I’m sure he respects that.
Karim & Amy : An exciting stat to open today’s It Takes Two interview with these two, as Zoe revealed that Karim now has only one fewer 10 than Stacey achieved in the entirety of Series 16. I WONDER IF HE’LL BE ABLE TO OVERTAKE HER THIS WEEKEND, THE TENSION! After that stat, it felt like most of this interview was about Michael Balls. Michael Balls being so proud of Karim, Michael Balls thinking that Karim is one of the best dancers Strictly has ever had, Michaels Balls offering to officially adopt Karim and have him come live with him in a special wing of his big mansion with Cathy McGowan and have Christmas with him with a great big delicious goose, and maybe write a show together, with Karim serving as his amanuensis. Nothing from Luke Evans about Kelvin but I’ve always heard that you’re on your own there from the morning after onwards. This week they will be dancing the Argentine Tango and the American Smooth, which means lifts aplenty and also differences in town, with the Argentine Tango being all about PASSION and CONNECTION and SEX (Amy’s visible panic as Karim was going on about this by the way, bless her, it was palpable, we all saw the first tango love, we all know you’re capable of it, calm down) and the American Smooth being all about FRIENDSHIP and WARMTH and CUTENESS. She said desperately trying to bring the tone back down to CBBC levels.
(Chris is at his work Christmas party tonight so you’ve got Steve again to see out the week. Hi!)
Kevin Clifton, What Are You Wearing? :
We’ll get to this in more detail presently, but just for the record: GOOD GOD.
Gethin’s Homoerotic Backstage Adventures : You know, some people are talking about the endgame of this series feeling a bit formulaic, but perhaps the greatest sadness of all has been the decline of Gethin’s homoerotic adventures lately. It’s just like his heart’s not in it any more, you know? I think it speaks volumes that when I was watching this segment, I found myself wondering if Karen’s hair was butch enough to make any Gethin/Karen tension count as homoeroticism, since there wasn’t really any going on anywhere else. (I mean there wasn’t any Gethin/Karen tension either, but the fact that I was even looking for it in the first place is pretty telling.) Honestly, the closest we got to sexual tension was Kelvin telling Geth about his achey legs and his sore back, which…I mean, maybe he was trying to get Gethin to rub some Deep Heat on him? No, I’ve got nothing.
Friday Panel : Strong familiar faces this week in the form of Mollie King (series 15, 5th place), Richard Arnold (series 10, 9th place), and Marian Keyes (non-participant but evergreen It Takes Two Friday panellist). Mollie opened by telling us that she never shuts up about having been on Strictly and even her own family are telling her to stop it now, but you wouldn’t have necessarily noticed that from watching the show because it was Richard who filled that niche at every available opportunity (my personal favourite strained segue was when he used the footage of Karim’s paso to talk about how the paso is a very *emotional* dance, which reminds him of that time Bruno criticised his facial expressions during his…foxtrot). Elsewhere, there were some questionable opinions, like Marian thinking that Emma and Anton always looking like they’re having so much fun together, or Marian thinking that Anton deserved a win just for long service, or Marian hoping Chris would do a comedy rumba full of cartwheels…let’s just say I wasn’t terribly on board with most of what she had to say. Beyond that, there was some groundwork laid for Kelvin to get his first 10 from Craig on Saturday, and everyone thinks Chris is going home this weekend but Marian had to get a train to Newcastle right after the show so she voted for Emma and Anton for political reasons.
Craig Revel Horwood’s Strictly CV : I’m not saying they were a little light on content for tonight’s show, but this segment aired in TWO PARTS. I thought they were finished and then they WENT BACK TO IT. Still, it was quite nice to hear the evolution of the show from Craig’s perspective (even though I went to “An Audience With…” him in Reading a couple of years ago so I’d heard quite a few of these stories before), particularly as he cringed over the footage of the first show looking so cheap with its weirdass tables-and-chairs audience set-up. He also explained that he got moved from Bruno’s seat after the first show into his current position on the left because of all the booing he got for his comments, and I have no idea if that’s accurate because I didn’t watch series one but I’m sure there’s someone out there who knows the whole story. There was, delightfully, due prominence given to Jan Ravens:
Whoops, hang on.
I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY! I know I was. (Also lol at Anton’s face and this somehow being too much drama even for him.) Craig also admitted that his favourite trainwreck was Fiona Phillips’s rumba, to the extent that he still rewatches it and has a good chuckle even now. And he paid tribute to Bruce for helping him to coin all of his catchphrases, basically by parroting them all back at him until they caught on with the public. Ah, the great double acts of our time.
Emma & Anton : Arguably the biggest takeaway of this segment was Anton insisting that Emma was the star of the charleston and he was a bit player at best, thereby proving what we’ve suspected for a while: that he reads the blog. Ha ha, marvellous. Emma’s highest score was, of course, celebrated jointly as Anton’s highest score, and Anton launched a late salvo in BABY WARS
(strictly speaking, it was launched on his behalf as I don’t think he knew they were going to show the footage), and revealed that his kids think this is the first time that he’s been on the show and that he must be really good. Wow, I see the Katie Derham erasure extends all the way back to the Du Beke household, and it’s infecting the younger generation. Is the war already lost? Looking ahead to this week, Emma said that her goal for her waltz was for the room to be so quiet that you could hear a pin drop, although looking at the state of her cha cha practice footage (which even Emma admitted was basically 10 seconds of her fucking up over and over), that might end up being the case for both routines.
This Weekend’s Pro Group Dance : is the aforementioned collaboration with Carlos Acosta, who was not actually there for any of this footage, so it was basically the pros and Jason Gilkison throwing together some moves they thought Carlos might like. Jason Gilkison was bigging the routine up because “the worlds of ballroom and ballet don’t usually collide”. No, except when prima ballerina Darcey Bussell was a judge on this show for six-and-a-bit years, of course.
The Pro Challenge: The Grand Finale : And so the final two pros came to botafogo, one of them having been mentioned repeatedly by the other pros as the one to watch out for in this competition, and the other one being…Kevin Clifton. Apparently Giovanni has been trash-talking poor Kevin behind the scenes as well, saying he feared he might get beaten by Graziano, but not by Kevin because “he’s old and I’m faster than him.”
(As for that outfit: his excuse was that he’d been at the studios in Elstree and had forgotten to bring any clothes to wear on It Takes Two, but the wardrobe department had been having their end-of-series sale/clearout, so he picked up some new threads from them for £50. I mean, it’s still not exactly an excuse but at least it’s an explanation.) Anyway, turns out that everyone was right to predict Graziano as a threat because he pulled in 90 botafogos with no disqualifications, while Kevin had to settle for third place (with 74 botafogos, no disqualifications, once again making me think that they probably really weren’t looking at the footage all that closely to be honest, and all the while wheezing like an asthmatic pensioner on a charity half-marathon), which means Graziano is the new world record holder! Graziano was ecstatic to win, the guy from Guinness World Records came on and told him he was amazing, I thought “I wonder if they spelt his name right on the certificate”,
they did not, poor Graziano.
Martin And Shirlie Kemp : Bless them, but no.