Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome back to the stage, for one last number…
Just to be clear, before we start, this is primarily covering the period of Strictly that was covered in this blog, that is to say, Series 5-17. Other series will be touched on when it augments the point (madam), but as much as I loved Julian Clary’s showdance, everything Ramps, EVERYTHING Denise Lewis, and also Carol Smillie’s samba, let’s face it, this entry is the bonfire this blog is getting burnt on, so let’s go down together.
1. Nancy Dell’Olio : Let’s start off by getting an obvious one out of the way – I’m not sure any Strictly contestant has ever, for me, provided more value per second of tv time than Nancy Dell’Olio. Everything Nancy did was instantly iconic. The gorgeously trashy vampy evening-wear, the liver sausage coloured lipstick, the updo, the lashes, the mascara. The absolute completely confident incoherence of every single sentence that came out of her mouth. Her getting tangled in her feather boa, her lurching out of a coffin swigging champagne, her visibly counting out every single beat of her paso, her humping a chair in “Be Italian”, every single…movement she made in that salsa right up to her getting jam-wedged into a splits and having to yell “CAN YOU PULL ME UP PLEASE?” to Anton (who looked like it took a lot of consideration before deciding to do it). Her CONSTANTLY threatening to sue everyone, the inspiration she served as Bruno’s muse, propelling him to some of his most iconic commentary ever, her confusing the living life out of Alesha, “THIS IS NO MADRID!”, her somehow lasting on the show for over a month…I could go on all day, but this is all going to be self-indulgent enough, so suffice it to say that when I grow up I want to be Nancy Dell’Olio and you will all want to either be with me or be me all you little men and girls!
2. Lisa Riley’s Cha Cha : Specifically the part where she stomped up to the judging table, spanked her arse in Craig’s face, then gave him the kiss-off. She never quite captured that week 1 feeling again, but it was enough to propel her all the way to the semi-finals. Now was that nice enough that I’m not going to get abuse if she name-searches? Let’s hope so.
3. The Emancipation Of Judy : It’s very easy to forget now just what Judy Murray’s public image was like before 2014. Chiefly she was seen as a grim faced humourless dark cloud sat hovering over every one of Andy Murray’s matches. People were convinced her presence was putting him off, that she was embarrassing, and frankly some less tasteful people let their imagination run to the effect that there was something Oedipal going on. And then she was on Strictly, flirting with Anton, passing around the shortbread, flirting with random audience members, dressing as Cruella de Vil, and flirting with Anton to the extent that mid cha cha she stuck his face right in her crotch and shimmied it around in there with a towel (NB : my memory of this may not be 100% actually what happened, but it’s CLOSE TO IT). This was PR on a grand scale, a total reinvention of the likes that really only Strictly can give, and God bless it.
4. Austin’s Jive & Rachel’s Argentine Tango : Welded together here because they’re two of my favourite Strictly dances ever, and also because I think within them lies for me, combined, the perfect contender Strictly contestant. Rachel loved to dance, Austin loved to win. Rachel had the technique, Austin had the personality. Rachel had the commitment, Austin had the sharp elbows to shove every other contestant out of the way. Rachel had the sweet agreeableness and professionalism to come back every single year as a capable hand whenever a gap popped up in a Christmas Special or a tour line-up, Austin had the self-belief and chutzpah to chew the show out non-stop every chance he got after he wuzzrobbed. All these things and not much more, that’s what I want from a Strictly winner.
5. Katya’s Hat :
6. Kelvin Fletcher’s Samba : Really, there are many Strictly dreams (we’ll get to Gemma Atkinson, believe me), but one of the most potent has to be the idea of the man who wasn’t even supposed to be there, plucked out of the crowd (of former Emmerdale actors desperately trying to get on the show) in order to replace someone nobly suffering from a tragic injury, then going out and winning the whole show Week 1.
7. The Wit & Wisdom Of Stephanie Beacham : “That Gabby creature can get her leg up over her head”, “if Kelly Brook were my daughter I’d tell her one flash a day and make it a good one”, “Vincent’s 28! I can double that and have a drink on top!”. She was with us for only a brief period (and certainly not at all on the live show itself), but the quotes will live forever.
8. Calling Rachel Riley “Numbers Bitch” : I don’t want to harp on, because hey, as a blogger I do have complicated feelings about how much I loved and laughed with and a bit at Caroline Flack for being a big-hearted sloppy over-romanced messy mess given her sad death this year, but I did laugh every single time I wrote it and Caroline Flack being absolutely gay for Pasha is one of my favourite running gags because she was, and who can blame her.
9. The Mollie Army : Were a fanbase ever so sweetly deluded I love you all. Mollie loves AJ! AJ loves Mollie! The Mollie Army are going to powervote them all to the final and they’re going to win! Her latin is totally watchable! Her music career is going to SOAR SKY HIGH after her amazing Strictly showing THEN they’re going to get married and have THREE children, two girls and one boy and they will be called Poppy and Lily and AJ Jr! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had the odd Strictly Stan experience myself, often against all reason (WHY DID NONE OF YOU VOTE FOR MARK BENTON, WHYYYYYYYYY?) but there was something endearing watching such a blatantly doomed endeavour from the outset, legions of online posters banging a drum for a former Saturday awkwardly doing Carry On Satan to Kylie Minogue in a spangly red catsuit.
10. Helen George’s Viennese Waltz :
HAS Aljaz gone to the “sad and wistful lady hears a song and it conjures up the image of her lost love, who then dances ballroom with her from beyond the grave” well too many times over the course of his Strictly career? Probably! Was this still Helen George’s finest hour, the perfect combination of ham, cheese, and erm…really graceful bread and elegant egg mayonnaise? YES! Helen spent most of Series 13 dodging one crisis or another, whether it was that rampaging army of clones at Blackpool, the fact that her dressing room was built on an ancient worship site to a demonic pagan stag God, that one week where she got possessed by the ghost of Marilyn Monroe, Darcey constantly pulling the big sister “oh my dear I can see you did ballet as a child and weren’t very good at it and it’s given you all sorts of horrid tics oh well, you’ll never rise above the corps now” card, or, well, being asked to do things like this
but here? She found peace.
11. Emma Bunton’s Paso Face Scale : Paso Dobles are funny old things aren’t they? Standing apart from all of the other Latin dances (not even from the same continent!), it’s a seething mass of fiery passions, often best viewed from a greater distance than afforded by tv cameras. And whilst Emma Bunton’s sneezing hamster was the originator of the scale, the weirdness subsequently came in as many varieties as there were contestants. Who could forget Tom Chambers snarling like he was trying to keep a pencil balanced on his upper lip? Brian Conley channelling Mick Jagger by way of Stella Street? John Sergeant’s Colonel Blimp? Even semi-divine goddess of dance Rachel Stevens pouting around like a sulky toddler and tossing her cape away like it’s a dirty binky? Not all of these contestants were actors and well… even amongst the ones that were, the appropriate face often eluded them.
12. IT’S CALLED FASHION, LOOK IT UP!
My biggest fear in stopping recapping is that they do this concept again in 2021 and elevate it even further, but I’m not even really sure how that’s possible.
13. GENE KELLY’S WIDOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWW! : Did anyone else find themselves saying this quite a lot in their day to day lives, as a sort of semi-piratical, semi-superheroic curse? “BY GENE KELLY’S WIDOW, you will not beat me to that parking space!”, that sort of thing? Anyway, Ore’s American Smooth, inspired by Singin’ In The Rain was really charming and good! But what really put it over the top into Strictly legend was the ringing endorsement of GENE KELLLY’S WIDDDOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW, who was minus 8 years old when Singin’ In The Rain came out, and therefore is the highest authority. (Reports that they tried to get Debbie Reynolds to endorse Ore, and that she told them to bugger off she was voting for Claudia Fragapane, are entirely unsubstantiated).
14. Alex Jones’ Erotic Awakening :
Let’s be honest, like a lot of people working in daytime tv (ie PHIL AN HOLLY ARE FWENDS AND TODAY THEY HAVE THE SILLY GIGGLES!) Alex Jones’ tv persona is a little bit childish. So much so that my running gag for her in Series 9 was that she was an 8 year old who’d been allowed to stay up past her bedtime to do a silly dance for the grown-ups. So when she appeared at Wembley, stone-faced, clutching those giant satin sheets in her balled up fists as the band played Relax and Tommy scrowled out all those lyrics about cumming everywhere….well it was the closest Strictly’s ever come to Anais Nin.
15. Snowdance :If I had to pick my FAVOURITE moment in Snowdance, and lord knows there are so, so, so many iconic moves and moods in it, I would have to say it was the part when, as the music rose to a roaring dramatic Steinman Soft Rock crescendo as the singers wailed “YOU’D BETTER BELIEEEEEVE IT!”, Brendan, heavy breathing like a 92 year old who’s just carried two heavy bags home from Tesco and almost over-balanced themselves on their front doorstep, dropped Lisa down from a plank position in which her left tit was nearly falling out to a swinging position, with her gripping onto her own ankles for dear life, and then very slowly swung her around like he was repeatedly barcode scanning her bum to see if he could get it to ring up as a 2-For-The-Price-Of-1. 90 seconds of pure hubris, pure ungainliness, pure bacofoil.
16. Chucky Venice’s Street, His Samba, And To A Lesser Extent His Charleston, Also, In My More Tender And Appreciative Moments, His Rumba : Oh yeah and his cha cha, mostly because “Ain’t No Love (Ain’t No Use)” is a CHOON.
17. Kara Tointon Bowling A Perfect Game : For all the madness going on in Series 8, it still wouldn’t have been quite the series it was without a solid winner to anchor the whole thing. Not that Kara didn’t have her flaws – her uptempo latin was definitely her weakest suit, she didn’t have the zingiest personality (although the intrigue of her romance with Artem offset this a bit), and at times she clearly felt a slight ambivalence to the whole circus of the show that has since manifested in her not really ever popping in to say hello the way most of the other winners do. But when she was on form? I can’t think of a celebrity on Strictly I’d rather watch dance. Her tangos, her paso, her foxtrot, that one two semi-final punch of her rumba and her Viennese Waltz? Strictly magic.
18. The Man In The Hat :
19. Erin Island : Erin Island was a running blog gag invented in the wake of Series 6 (when AUSTINWUZZROBBED) to describe the look that passed over Erin Boag’s face whenever her brain decided she didn’t give a shit any more. Have to persuade Peter Shilton to do the Charleston? Sit there whilst Bruce “accidentally” made another joke calling her an old banger? Choreograph a full jive for Garry Hobbs from Eastenders? No thanks, 90 seconds of nothing but kick-ball-changes, done, now if you’ll excuse her in her head Erin is off to a tropical beach, surrounded by glamorous men in Speedos, bringing her cocktails and fanning her with palm fronds. So imagine how excited, and satisfied in the most narcissistic part of myself I was when, only three years into the Feems & Gimmicks Era, It Takes Two told me that Erin was actually going to do a routine set on a tropical island? And then how satisfied I was thematically when it turned out to be her last Strictly routine ever? Whenever I picture Erin now, it’s always on that island. Richard Arnold, less so.
20. Brendan vs Shirley : Could have watched it all day, what a feud. Snipey It Takes Two interviews, aborted pot-stickers, “actually I think it’s her job to impress us”, Shirley leaving him on read in her twitter DMs, “I think you’ll find if you watch the tape back my dear”…It was clear from the moment that Shirley walked out into the Strictly studio that there was absolutely no way that she and Brendan were both walking out of the series alive, and then they didn’t! Dynasty had absolutely nothing on this, even without benefit of shoulderpads.
21. Debbie McGee Pulling A Tambourine Out Of Her Vagina : Now that’s magic.
22. Katie Derham’s Viennese Waltz & Rumba : I loved Katie Derham in her own right! She was a great laugh, she seemed half-cut most of the time, and she fully deserved to make the final and should have managed at least one 10 during her run on Strictly, I’m sorry, do you see who gets 10s these days, at least one she should have got. BUT, let me do what the show did for most of Series 13 here, and talk about Katie Derham as though she was just a conduit for Anton – that rumba really gave a lie to the idea that Anton can’t choreograph latin, and that Viennese Waltz really gave the lie to the idea that Anton couldn’t compete at the top level of Strictly generally, because it was easily the best trad ballroom routine of the entire series.
23. Ainsley Harriott’s Juicy Tomatoes :
24. The Series 16 Showdances : It’s fair to say I’ve had mixed feelings about the art of the Strictly Showdance over the years. Mostly I think they’re overhyped, overpraised, and a constant source of the show putting all its eggs in one basket only to see them smashed all over the floor in a generic disco medley, where they find themselves having to look me in the eye and say things like “wow, Joe McFadden definitely won on the strength of that showdance, what a worthy champion!”. Still, even I can’t deny the sheer power of the Series 16 line-up, delivering two all-time iconic performances from Faye (West End Musical division) and Joe (Running Around Having A Laugh division), one all-timer trainwreck from Stacey (what a MESS) and…well Ashley was also there. See? They’ll never get it quite 100% will they?
25. Thom Evans doing the show being an excuse to look up his nudes again : I’M ONLY HUMAN.
26. Blackpool Pasos : Don’t get me wrong, I always love a Blackpool paso, even lesser loved ones like Laila Rouass’ and Louise Redknapp’s and when Nadiya was the perfect Bond villain. But let’s face it, when we’re thinking about Blackpool pasos, we’re thinking about four people : Susanna Reid, Anita Rani, Kevin Clifton, and Gleb Savchenko. Two different flavours of the same ham – one slightly more smokey and sexy, one slightly more theatrical and spicy – but both great big delicious slices of ham all the space. The scarlet red outfits, the massive trousers, the capes, the flamethrowers constantly spurting fire everywhere, the sheer VASTNESS of the space. It’s what Blackpool was made for.
27. Auntie Cath’s rumba : Sometimes it just all comes together. A celeb’s natural theatricality, a new pro with something to prove, and my love of yelling “AHMMMM OFF THE DEEEP ENNNNND, WASH AS AH DARRRRRRRRRV’EN!”.
28. The Donologues : Everyone was very excited when it was revealed that Jason Donovan was doing Strictly! He was one of this nation’s most beloved 80s heartthrobs! He’d come back from drug addiction to rebuild his career as an all-round family entertainer! He’d come across really well on I’m A Celebrity! Kristina deserved a really good partner after the last three years of calamities of varying degrees of lovability! His Week 1 cha cha was really fun! And then he opened his mouth, and what came out was Grandpa Simpson, but pretentious. Who knows why Jason decided we needed to hear his opinions on art and life every single week, but eventually it became hilarious and endearing in its own right. Expound on Jason Donovan, expound on! Tell us more about what it means to you when you sniff a lady’s hair in the Argentine Tango.
29. Daisy Lowe’s waltz : Strictly trades in sentiment surprisingly rarely, compared to X Factor, or especially Dancing With The Stars, with its “My Most Memorable Family Member With Cancer Week”, but Daisy Waltz’s Week 1 waltz (probably my favourite Week 1 waltz in Strictly history, sorry Austin, sorry Zoe) (not sorry Abbey), a tribute to her recently deceased grandfather, actually prompted a tear from me. And not just because Aljaz was wearing white trousers again.
30. The Great Strictly Roller-Skating Disaster Of 2013 : Remember Patrick Robinson? Pretty good dancer, sexy guy, pretty much the most boring human ever to appear on the show? Did routines like the fun Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Charleston, the Hallowe’en voodoo priest quickstep, and his Nat King Cole American Smooth? Wonderful stair-hopping, beautiful stair-hopping? Well one day the Strictly producers decided to try to have a personality in his VTs by sticking him in roller-skates for no reason and shoving him down the stairs. IT DID NOT END WELL! IN AN ENTIRELY PREDICTABLE WAY!
31. Brendan Cole Flouncing Off The Set Because Craig Compared Jo Wood To Skippy The Bush Kangaroo : I’ll be honest, from a recapping standpoint, Brendan Cole is easily my favourite pro over the 55 to do Strictly. In all of his fifteen years on the show, other than maaaaybe Kirsty Gallacher, Brenda didn’t have one filler partnership, ever. There was sometimes great dancing, sometimes iconic trainwrecks, sometimes fast friendships, normally fierce mutual loathing, but always always always at any given moment either Brendan was going insane or his partner was, there was no middle ground, there was no respite. And I’ve struggled for a while to come up with the most iconic Brendan moment, from Claire King’s fake-out of an illegal lift, to him riding in on a hoverboard/motorcycle without an engine in it, to everything vampiric, to “I wasn’t GIVING YOU a filthy dirty rumba!”, to…everything that happened with Bloody Lulu but just look at the sentence above. Could any 16 words better encapsulate the Brendan Cole experience, I don’t think so.
32. Dr Patsy Frankenstein :
She was working on the show, late one night
When her eyes beheld a campy site
Her pro minced to the floor, dressed in green
Jived over to her, and made her SCREAM
HE KISSED HER TITS!
PATSY KENSIT’S TITS!
HER BUBBY TITS!
THE CROWD WERE ALL IN FITS!
HE KISSED HER TITS!
NOT HER OTHER BITS!
ONLY HER TITS!
PATSY KENSIT’S TITS!
33. Gemma Atkinson Living The Dream : Now we all know I’m never one to say “well the REAL winner is” in association with Strictly. 999 times out of 1000 the real winner is the one who gets the most votes in the final and is given the glitterball trophy. HOWEVER, I think we can all agree that, given that Gemma Atkinson by her own account spent the entirety of Series 15 eating junk food and getting dicked down by Gorka Marquez, that she was, in fact, the real winner. Not a bad paso either!
34. Mark Benton’s Party Latin :
Salsa : a Carnaby Street fantasia, all psychadelic melted candy stripes, aggressive horn sections and Mark Benton being the cat, Iveta being the cat, us ALL being the cat, screw you George Galloway
Cha Cha : bling bling, gold lame, the hammer dance, random slow-motion just to show off that that Iveta creature can get her leg up over her head, STOP IT IT IS HAMMER TIME
Jive : a truly memorable tribute to Hairspray the Movie, the Musical, and then the Movie again – the ritz, the grit, the product, the peversity, the…random pretending to be a T-Rex
Samba : even on shot knees, even wearing a potato sack, even after 50 dance-offs in a row, still the perfect exit.
35. The question “WHO IS FAYE TOZER?!” : Did you ever watch a member of Steps go through an existential crisis live on reality tv? I mean other than on Totally Scott Lee? Or when Lee got thrown out of Upper Street (a band featuring Dane Bowers) for not being able to sing? Or when Claire clearly strongly considered smothering Heidi & Spencer Pratt in their sleep on Celebrity Big Brother? Or H realising on Dancing On Ice that nobody’s really interested in watching him “making history” as part of the first ever same-sex partnership? Or…the entirety of “Steps : The Reunion”? OTHER THAN THAT THOUGH. Faye Tozer saying that her fame has caused her to lose sight of who she is as a woman? A little sad, a little hilarious. Faye then using this as a springboard to try on various different personas (Sex Demon, Goatherd Demon, Screaming Blackpool Paso Demon, “Please Cast Me In Top Hat” Showdance Demon) in various different bravura dance performances? A little bit amazing.
36. Jake Wood’s Cone Of Preparation : Apparently, before every live show, Eastenders bad boy Jake Wood went into his own Cone Of Prepartion, wherein he sat alone, in his dressing room, in the dark, in complete and respectful contemplation of the art of dance. Remembering every move, allowing the story of each dance to flow through him, his body slowly suffusing gently into the performance, without interruption or distraction. And then he came out every week and did this
37. Gavin Henson :
Just like Nancy Dell’Olio, Gavin Henson is truly singular, I don’t need to add any words, or specify a particular dance, it’s just…Gavin. Never has a man looked so confused, 100% of the time, but also always had a comeback to hand whenever Katya was feeling her fantasy a little too hard in the training room. Snogging Bruno, hating the jive, performing in the most erotic Hallowe’en routine of all time (I still can’t believe the BBC let Katya choreograph in a dress change symbolising her losing her virginity to Satan in the bloodest manner possible), Gavin was at times, truly the greatest straight man ever to live, in both senses of the word.
38. Anton & Ruth Finally Winning The War On Latin : Now Anton’s made it very clear over the years that, except maybe for the odd paso, he’s not really into the latin half (/third nowadays) of the Strictly Come Dancing dance-card. And there have been signs of it in his work before (Laila Rouass’ jive for instance was a clear attempt at homicide via hit’n’run) (backwards, off the beat) but something within him clearly snapped in Series 16, when he and his muse Ruth Langford decided to just openly take the piss and parody the entire endeavour, in every routine most fruitfully in their samba, chock-full of deliberate pink fizz chintz, cringe, and delicious bad taste. There were drinks trolleys, trousers got ripped off, the works. And most deliciously of all, when Shirley reeled off the list of antiquated old “they’re codified so they’re authentic” moves Anton wedged in there, he grinned her square in the eye and told her that he knows, he got them all from old videos of her dancing back in the day. Hey, when you win, you win.
39. This Pro Dance, Which I Like To Call
40. Alesha Dixon’s Cha Cha : Name one other cha cha you remember for being good, not just because it was funny. YOU CAN’T! Tell me that you can hear the first few notes of Crazy In Love now without mentally picturing Alesha Dixon and Matthew Cutler glamorously THRUSTING their arms, their hair crackling with the static electricity of dahnce. YOU CAN’T! Tell me that Alesha Dixon isn’t by a clear margin the biggest success story to come out of this show career wise. YOU CAN’T! Alesha probably had better dances, technique wise, but none were as powerful as this, and what’s more, it single-handedly caused Bruce to call her “the British Beyonce”, and he didn’t even know who Beyonce was when he said it. The words just happened!
41. Kelly Brook’s Extra Lift : Series 5 really was exceptionally well cast. You had the heroine (Alesha), the competing audience love interests who were basically two flavours of the same thing, who everyone can go to war over, like OOH, WHICH OF THESE TWO DIFFERENT VANILLAS IS THE MOST APPEALING TO ME (Matt and Gethin), the lovable underdogs (Kate and Kenny), the ha ha point and laugh shock boot (Gabby), the Stephanie Beacham (Stephanie Beacham), the pantomime dames (Darren Bennett & Letitia Dean) and, of course, the villain. A role that Kelly Brook took between her teeth and ran with. Constantly giggling that nobody liked her and she didn’t care, slagging off Alesha’s nans, seizing the caping away from Brendan in the name of feminism, making sure to constantly namedrop her Hollywood Boyfriend Billy Zane, and most villainously of all, doing the most flagrant illegal lift (remember when the show pretended to care about that sort of thing, I KNOW?!) in Strictly history at the end of her American Smooth, dressed like the best kind of film noir femme fatale. As Brendan lifted her up to the ceilings in a whirl for that final third lift, I’ve never seen a woman look more ecstatic.
42. Kate Silverton’s Raw Sexual Magnetism :
What a woman
43. Karim Zeroual’s Enormous Talent, Most Obviously On Display In His Charleston And His Jive : YOU HEARD ME.
44. Scott Maslen’s Jive : After maybe peaking too late with Ricky Whittle, there was no danger of that with Natalie Lowe’s Series 8 partnership, as both she and Scott went for it full-bore from Week 1. Swinging from the chandeliers, pushing the choreographical envelope, really swinging for as many 10s as they could as early as they could. Their sexy waltz, their hypey pepped-up salsa, their disnified quickstep, their hyper-aggressive tango, their spellbinding Hallowe’en Viennese Waltz and then (after the first signs that maybe the rot was setting in in their rumba) this. At that point in time, by far the best jive by a man in Strictly history, a true feat of storytelling, as Natalie burst through that door, flinging suitcases around and garotting Scott by his tie. A scorned woman par excellence and a rare case of a true groaner of a song choice (HIT THE ROAD JACK! BECAUSE HIS NAME IN EASTENDERS IS JACK! GEDDIT?) actually working. And then from here? The crash…
45. Don Warrington’s Tango : Sometimes a contestant does Strictly, and they only really have one good dance, and they go out quite early, and they’re not even really that remembered, except by me. And by “sometimes” I mean “Don Warrington”. Stately, brooding, impeccable menace, and truly Lilia Kopylova’s last hoorah.
46. Anastacia’s Parting Tune : Many exits from Strictly have been somewhat iconic. Deborah Meaden semi-drunkenly wailing about how much she loves everyone in the cast, Letitia Dean’s triumphant dance-off performance to The Impossible Dream, Darren Bennett stomping out onto the dancefloor like he was going to punch Dominic Littlewood aht, Jan Ravens screaming “I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY CRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIG”…but no exit has ever, or will ever, produce a reaction in me quite like when Anastacia decided, apropos of nothing, to sing-scream “I’M NOT OUTTA LERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRV WITH STRICTLY UK YEAHHHHH!” right down the camera lens as Tess side-eyed the nearest fire escape. My butthole is still not fully unclenched ladies and gentlemen.
47. The Relaunch : If you asked me for my favourite Series of Strictly I’d probably say Series 8. The winner was great, there were several (ie 4) really good dancers, the comedy midtablers delivered, there was someone you could really root against, and the show managed to rope in quite a few really big names. The relaunch freed the show up to be a little looser, a little more theatrical and less staid, it brought Artem into all our lives, it reduced the size of the cast to a SENSIBLE NUMBER again after a couple of years of pointless excess… All hail Moira Ross, she really did the thing and delivered the show its biggest ratings ever. Briefly, it felt kind of thrilling to be a Strictly fan, as the show implemented the changes it need to eventually push it past X Factor, rather than…say…shutting its eyes, pointing, and saying LET’S ADD COUPLES CHOICE JAZZ STREET COMMERCIAL AND/OR A JUDGES CHALLENGE THAT NEVER HAPPENS!
48. Louis Smith’s Salsa : Yes yes I know Ashley probably ultimately did it better but the point of this show and Dirty Dancing is that you are sitting at home, imagining you’re the Baby. You are projecting yourself as the ingenue being transformed to self-confidence in the arms of a sexy rebel. Sorry straight men, you just *are, sit this one out please. Nobody watched Ashley’s routine and envisioned themselves as the Baby, I can guarantee you LOTS of people were watching this imagining Louis Smith was their Johnny (including, apparently, So You Think You Can Dance UK Series 1 Winner Charlie Bruce, and GOOD FOR HER)
49. That Time Zoe Ball Mused Out Loud On It Takes Two About How Much She Wanted To Ride Ashley Taylor-Dawson Til His Dick Fell Off : and didn’t realise the cameras were on.
50. Susan Calman’s Bring Me Sunshine : All you jelus hatahs can say what you want, Kevin Clifton did it, more than any other pro in Strictly history this dance was doing it, he got a complete novice to be able to dance, a 4ft 6 Scottish lesbian comedian, and if it didn’t win them the show it certainly won them the tour, and you can all think on that.
51. Joe McFadden’s Commitment To Method : You’d think it was difficult to surpass Tom Chambers, but of all this show’s winners, I think it was Joe McFadden who most embodied the spirit of Musical Theatre Student. From the moment that clip aired on It Takes Two of he and Katya singing “My Immortal” in semi-perfect harmony around the piano, it all just clicked. Because Joe lived every single role he was given out of the great Strictly tombola. That 60s Rock’n’Chips swagger for his jive, such authentic paso styling and energy that Shirley was forced to stan and give him a 10, the “end of year show” vibe of his Quickstep (We’re playing BUILDERS lol can you imagine so cheeky!), the sheer chutzpah it takes to do a samba as the MC from Cabaret and sort of making it work, and lest we forget, being so committed to the art that he grew a moustache in the space of ONE WEEK for his Viennese Waltz. I’ve also heard on the grapevine that in order to prepare for his Ride On Time rave fantasmagoria bosh bosh bosh Blackpool salsa, Joe spent many many many hours practicing riding giant clocks. At least I think that’s what I heard
52. Bruno Is Too Good To Be True : Can’t take his eyes off you, you’d be like heaven to touch, he wants to hold you so much, at long last SCOTT has arrived, and Bruno thanks God (and his pharmacist) he’s alive, you’re just too good to be true, can’t take his eyes off of you…
BARR BUH BARR BUH BARDA BAP BAP BAH DARDA DARDAA DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.
53. Pasha’s Hat Flick : Picture the scene. It’s “Around The World Week” so y’know…already off to a perilous start. Your celebrity partner has just about recovered from being in the dance-off a few weeks ago, but her ballroom is still weak as water and it’s getting to the business end of the competition and the field is now, other than Jake Wood, pretty much nothing but buff’n’pretty ITV2 types who could easily be seen as interchangeable, so you really need to stand out amongst the Pixies and the Simons. And your Charleston (historically a series clinching sort of dance) is going well from the off (ie you’ve taken your shirt off) (oh also your celebrity is full of energy and charm and goofiness) but OH NO, WHAT’S THIS!?! In going up into a lift, she’s knocked your fez off! This is a HAZARD, and your celebrity has already had one routine ruined by getting banglehoofed by a wardrobe malfunction, what to do, it’s just lying there on the floor getting in the way! Well, if you’re Pasha, you just neatly backheel that sucker right into the audience, look out Jon Culshaw, there’s more important people here to consider than you! Consummate professional, CONSUMMATE.
54. Alexandra Burke’s Quickstep : Was Strictly the best time of Alexandra Burke’s life probably not. Her mother had just died, the British public weren’t terribly enthusiastic or supportive of anything she did, she flunked out on the tour, and ultimately it looks like she felt like her pro partner did her dirty, for whatever reason. But even in the midst of all that Alexandra did some cracking dances, and put a lot more personality into them than some of the hated ringahs of the modern era. My favourite? Her Blackpool quickstep, a real romp of a dance, and who wouldn’t like money with their own face on it I know I would.
55. TIME WARP : Probably the greatest underdog performance in the history of the show. Michelle Williams, the third brightest star in the constellation of Destiny, had endeared herself to the British public by screeching at the judges (“I AGREEEEEEEEEEEEE!”), screeching at the male pros (“COME TO MOMMMA!!!!”), screeching at Ann Widdecombe (“WE LOVE YOU AAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNN!”) and generally coming across like she was on so much, let’s say it, cocaine, we can say “cocaine” now that Tony Montana himself would tell her that it was a liddle much. And she was with Brendan who, let’s be honest, was having one of those series where it looked like he couldn’t be arsed. And then his dad died and he had to take most of two weeks off to go to the funeral. And then Michelle injured her knees. And then she got jive. Following two weeks in a row in the dance-off. AND YET! TIME WARP! Who knows where it came from (it certainly never came back again) but Michelle’s cheerful muppet face gurning out from behind Brenda stomping around in a bald cap? INDELIBLE.
56. Vanessa’s Reasons Why : There are many reasons why someone might want to do Strictly Come Dancing : pounds, Euros, dollars, AUSTRALIAN dollars, roubles, whatever the currency is on whatever planet Nancy Dell’Olio comes from…oh and also the love of dahnce I guess. Wanting to perform. Getting to meet Bruno Tonioli. Vanessa Feltz though, had enough reasons to do Strictly to fill an entire series, and they changed every time she got on camera. She’s here because she’s just turned 50, she’s here for her daughters, she’s here to learn to dance, she’s here to lose weight, she was there to spar with Craig, she’s here to meet hunky guys, she’s here on a bet, she’s here specifically so they could troll James Jordan again on the way out the door…I laughed every time, what a wonderful mercenary woman.
57. No Title Needed :
58. My Steadfast Belief That Daniel O’Donnell Would Win : Look, it could have happened, is all I’m saying. He theoretically could have hit this show’s target demographic square in its heart, they all could have power-voted him through to the top 4 at least, there is more than one parallel universe where this actually happened, it’s not my fault that in this one pensioners are as horny for boybanders, Antons Ballroom, and Gleb Specials as the rest of us, leave me alone.
59. Shirley & Darcey :
Harold they’re lesbians.
60. Natalie Gumede’s American Smooth : Both a bravura performance in its own right – passionate, committed, emotive, powerful, climactic – but also as the performance that gave us the truly iconic moment where Natalie Gumede walked into the Tesspit, and in front of the nation decided to announce that she felt like she’d just “touched the divine”. People call Strictly just a piece of Saturday Night entertainment fluff, but for some people it’s clearly a religious experience.
61. The Winning Moment : To my mind, a truly satisfying Strictly Winning Moment needs two things :
a) your favo needs to win
b) a significant part of your brain has to be thinking that someone else might.
For me? Mark, Kara, Caroline, Jay. For you, it might be any other combo of other people. And yes I can’t believe they conned me even a little bit that Kellie might win at the death in Series 13 but YOU GOT ME GIRL, WELL DONE *slow clapping*. Cheering, whooping, dancing around my sofa, yelling “TAKE THAT WIDDY!” even though she left two weeks beforehand. Is any part of the Strictly experience sweeter than when your horse comes in first against all the odds, I don’t think so.
62. Dr Laila Rouass : MD : Say what you will about reality tv, that it’s trashy, that it’s vapid, that it’s generally lowest common denominator dumbing down, but thanks to Laila Rouass, a nation now knows what to do if you break your ankle. Stick it in an Ugg boot and apply frozen peas.
63. When Jodie Kidd produced her breast : Best malapropism on Strictly ever? When Bruce called Darcey Dave? Nah. “Jelly Wallace”? Definitely not. Any time Bruno “accidentally” swore? Almost, but no. Ian Waite tripped over his tongue on It Takes Two worse than he tripped over his own feet during Zoe Ball’s showdance, and a moment was born.
64. Sunetra Sarker wondering how she got 8s FOR THAT?! : Never has a nation’s general frustration with this show’s occasionally wacky judging been so adroitly expressed. It takes a Scouser.
65. Victoria Pendleton swinging into Wembley Arena on a giant flying bike :
“Hey, what sport is Victoria famous for again?”
“Cycling! She’s a multiple time Olympic gold medallist!”
“OK, so, how about, for Wembley, she enters on a racing bike, with a giant glamorous paso cape in the Team GB colours billoughing behind her”
“Oh wow yeah, actually that sounds like it could be a really cool image, obviously we’ll have to find a way to make sure that the cape doesn’t get itself tangled in her spokes b…”
“NO HANG ON, I’M NOT FINISHED, ALSO, SHE SHOULD BE ATTACHED TO A BUNGEE CORD, ALSO BRENDAN COLE SHOULD LOOK LIKE HE WANTS TO DIE”
66. Lauren Steadman’s Waltzes : All…I dunno 6 of them, did they find a way to let her do it 6 times, it felt like it.
67. The Flight Of The Rindermoth :
You can forget your “first ever same-sex couple on Strictly” nonsense, nothing that Nicola Adams & [*Insert Pro Here*] do on this show will ever be as glamorously queer as this utter display. “Judge” Robert Rinder flinging himself off the balcony to Lady Gaga in a bedazzled cape/kimono, turning the paso doble inside out and back to front, whilst Oksana flailed around glamorously inside a giant lit-up tube sock looking like Farrah Moan playing the parachute game. Of course the best thing about this routine is you could so easily, with only very minor changes of outfit and videowall, have done this whole thing on Movie Week as A Silence Of The Lambs tribute. I’d fuck me, wouldn’t you agree Oksana?
68. The Holly Valance Hand :
Handy mostly because I used it whenever I wanted to show that I knew the joke I was making was really lame, but also as an example of how Strictly at its best is a wonderful mix of old-school and modern entertainment, as Holly Valance came into the show chiefly known for being a pop star who was COMPLETELY SEXY NUDE in her most famous music video, and here she was, stood next to Party City Zorro, cracking herself up like Marie Lloyd over a truly lame joke. (If you needed reminding
Len : this competition isn’t about where you start, it’s about where you finish
Holly : well I HOPE this isn’t where I finish herp derp a berp where’s me washboard?)
69. Dr Hamela Stephenson’s Sexual Healing : IS IT appropriate to write lurid newspaper columns about how your professional partner makes you really horny, and you often fantasise about having a threesome with them and their wife? NOT REALLY! Was it kind of funny that James Jordan was clearly praying for years to get a partner who was good at dancing who the public would also like, and he got one, and it was in fact a hyper-liberal sex monster pensioner who wouldn’t leave his crotch alone? YES!
70. Michael Vaughan’s Jive/Michael Vaughan’s Quickstep/Michael Vaughan’s American Smooth : Who would have thought that Michael Vaughan had such multitudes within him? This is pretty much an entire perfect improvement arc over the course of three dances alone. The absolute hilarious mess of his jive, all gangly limbs, rhythmless flailing, and generally, let’s face it, naffness distilled into its purest form : Shakin’ Stevens. Then the quickstep as a perfect breakthrough, out of nowhere, elevated by a memorable theme and classy music, Strictly at its most unexpected and exciting to the extent that just this year they tried it again twice IN THE SAME SHOW with David James and Mike Bushell and it did not work because you cannot force it. Then finally that Wembley American Smooth. The kickline, the Dad FM classic on the soundtrack, the pizazz, the glamour, the confetti, the fireworks, the Natalie Lowe bursting all over the floor at the end like a big golden Australian pinata. Magical!
71. Colin Jackson’s Festive Rumba : It’s really rare that a Christmas Special dance is something unique and special in its own right. Usually it’s a celeb coming back and doing a dance they were good at, quite well, or, in the case of Kimberley Walsh, lurching around doing a crap jive dressed as one of Santa’s tattier reindeers. But Colin Jackson’s Christmas rumba was something else, in that it was more or less Colin’s first public appearance after coming out (aged 50) and…I don’t know, kind of sweet just for that fact alone. Colin’s dancing was certainly better technically when he was in his mid 30s, with a younger body and springier heels, but this rumba felt somehow more authentic? To me? Look let me indulge myself it’s my blog, hooray for coming out at 50, that’s what I say.
72. The Vincent-Flavia-Matt-Alesha-Matt-Arlene-Gethin-Camilla-Nicole Love Quadrangle : So the early days of this show were much less discriminatory with their press rumours of romance than they are now, believe it or not. Back in the day, the press department would just throw out any old rumours any old how. Erin and Martin Offiah, James Martin and Camilla, Denise Lewis and Ian Waite (lol), pretty much anyone on camera with one another at the same time was fair game, as the show tried to recapture the magic of Brendan and Kerplunk and get the nation hooked on a love scandal. All this reached its boiling point in Series 5 which was, to put it squarely, a complete mess, plot wise. Flavia was leaving Vincent for Matt Di Angelo, who fancied Alesha, who fancied Matthew Cutler, who was just on the verge of leaving Nicole Cutler. AT THE SAME TIME, Arlene was poking her boxy little head in, openly trying to woo Gethin (who was going on date nights in his VT with Camilla, who was exs with Brendan but slowly becoming friends with him again) at the SAME TIME as poking at being some sort of dominatrix figure to Matt Di Angelo, purring at him in his critiques that he’s clearly not fully sexually mature yet but she’d be willing to teach him (or words to that effect). It all makes a crafty snog down an alley seem the height of simplicity and romance doesn’t it? Oh…erm…was some of this entry supposed to at least notionally be about the dancing…erm….Gethin’s foxtrot, Matt’s salsa, Alesha’s a lot of things, there we go.
73. John Sergeant Quits : An Hour Long It Takes Two Special : Even though it was just before the show’s peak era in terms of ratings, the show has never quite had as much cultural crossover as when John Sergeant quit Strictly. There was a press conference broadcast live! It was on the news! Jeremy Paxman opined about it in all seriousness! So how could the show not pause, take a deep breath and really commit to smelling its own farts by dedicating an entire episode of It Takes Two to the Great Event? And yes, it was madness. Claudia clearly not having a clue why the fuck this was happening, Kristina decorously weeping, John telling us all that someone had been RUDE TO HIS WIFE and that was the final straw, James Jordan going mental and calling John a coward, Cherie Lunghi hovering over everything looking more sour than lemon posset, and Anton breaking in to tell everyone to get the fuck over themselves because way back in Series 1 LESLEY GARRETT got robbed by Chris Parker, and he’s over it, so they can all get over it as well. AN HOUR this went on for. Divine madness.
74. John Barnes Salsa : Apparently the one and only time someone’s actually danced the salsa on Strictly Come Dancing.
75. Karen Hauer’s Haircut :
People say that Karen became more likable because of her split from Kevin, I say it is entirely and completely because of her Butchy McFabulous hairdo. I’ve never seen someone on this show so transformed, Jay’s haircut WHO, Aliona suing them to stop forcing her to dye her barnet WHAT?
76. Joe Calzaghe’s Hype : There has never, ever, been a fall from grace on Strictly quite like it. It’s hard to fathom now, but the one thing everyone knew going into Series 7 was that Joe Calzaghe was the cast iron favourite to win. A SPORTSMAN in his prime, a nifty mover, a public favourite, riding high on a wave and ALSO partnered with Kristina, the nation’s sweetheart after the tender and empathetic way she manoeuvred John Sergeant around the dancefloor. To paraphrase Big Brother UK 7 legend Bonnie, even CRAIG was sat at home flicking his bean, merrily telling all the tabloids that he thought Joe had all the potential to be the greatest Strictly contestant ever. And then Joe actually started dancing, and he was SHIT.
77. Jay’s Jive : Truly there has never been a dance quite as totemic. Not just great in its own right, but a white hot black hole of all discussion for about three entire series afterwards if not more. Sure Jill’s Jive (the original That Jive) had also been a holy icon that all who followed genuflected before, but it was a little inert. Jay’s Jive was the most important thing to happen in the Series 13 final, by virtue of not happening. Jay’s jive ate Ore’s (“MOVE OVER JAY!!!” is genuinely the most psychotic thing Len has ever done on this show, you knew he was quitting the moment he said, you have to admire the balls of the man), and Danny’s (YEAH BUT NOT AS GOOD AS JAY’S!), and Alexandra’s (IT WAS GOOD BUT TOO FRANTIC (UNLIKE JAY’S)), and Ashley’s (TOO MECHANICAL AND STIFF, BORING, JAY’S HAD REAL PERSONALITY) and then Karim’s (WHAT WE SAID ABOUT ALEXANDRA’S, BUT AGAIN!!!) and still shows no sign of slowing down. Who would be good at jive ever on this show again, just aim at like…34 or something, it’s safer.
78. Chizzy Wiping Out, But Succeeding Anyway : Let’s face it, there’s a tier of “celebrities” on this show, who are not famous, and they’re there hoping that they will become famous. And Chizzy was very clear about this – she was there because someone dropped out, she knows she got lucky, and she was imagining all the juicy roles she might get and sketching out her weight loss journey on the wall of her living room. And then…she was out Week 2, and she took it hard. She cried a lot, she kept on trying to poke in on social media on the side of all of her friends in the cast in their twitter feuds with Dan Wootton when…I mean maybe they were her friends I dunno, and she turned up for the finale looking a bit…still over-invested. Frankly, you worried for her. But THEN! She got asked on panel shows, she got cast in fairly high profile theatre roles, she thrived! At least slightly above the level a former Casualty actor might expect. Somehow, even for those having the show’s most perfunctory stay possible, the Strictly magic can still happen.
79. Harry Judd’s Viennese Waltz : Did we swoon? Ladies and gentlemen we melted.
80. Series 12 Hallowe’en Week
A night most iconic to me. And yes, Brenda did the speech.
81. Jamelia – Queen Of The Dance-Off : That Jamelia would end up in the dance-off a lot isn’t really surprising. She’d spent the last year writing opinion cheques (eg : “fat people shouldn’t be allowed to buy clothes”) that were bound to get cashed in on a public vote reality show, she was a middling dancer, with a less high profile pro, and didn’t seem that bothered about making herself liked. Still, FIVE TIMES is an all-time record, and there was something about that Blackpool Week in particular, where Jamelia’s continued presence on the show felt somehow…dangerous? Like she no longer feared death (in Strictly terms), had already mentally left the competition, and was quite happy just to roam the halls of the Tower Ballroom, wild-eyed, heedless, scaring the life out of roving reporter Gethin Jones. And then she was in ANOTHER dance-off, which she undeservedly lost, then eviscerated Peter Andre via air-quotes on It Takes Two. Would it be wrong to posit they should in fact rename the dance-off as the Jamelia Off in her honour, no it would not.
82. Hallowe’en Giovanni : I have to admit, when Giovanni arrived on Strictly, I wasn’t immediately the biggest fan. He and Georgia melded together in a way that I could only describe as “quite loud, quite irritating” and his partnership with Laura was lets face it, a bit of a non-starter. But gradually, I thawed, and I thawed for two reasons above all others – his charming partnership with Debbie McGee, and HALLOWE’EN GIOVANNI. Brownshirt Ghostbuster Giovanni? DISHY! Getting Laura Whitmore to do a decent tango Giovanni? MIRACULOUS! *mumbling about whatever the fuck Debbie’s Charleston was supposed to be* YES! THIS HAPPENED! Half Dead Fuck Monster Giovanni? MORE LIKE IT! Gomez Addams Giovanni! EXCELLENT CHOREOGRAPHY, CAMP PERFECTION, MORE PLEASE! Maybe one day they’ll let him do the Brenda Speech.
83. Danny Mac’s American Smooth : Never underestimate the sheer perversity of Strictly voters. Danny Mac’s American Smooth was easily the best dance of Series 14, embodying Gene Kelly more even that Ore’s Singin’ In The Rain dance, impeccably performed, incredibly graceful and masculine and dramatic. And yet the voters looked at it, and decided that, do you know what, we’d rather vote for Louise doing the samba with all the latin flavour of a Brady Bunch Christmas Special. Sometimes I just don’t know what you people want, I really don’t. It’s not even as though he was a ringah and she wasn’t. She went to Italia Conti! She never scored below 30! I AM BAFFLED!
84. Johnnie Peacock dressed as Indiana Jones for Movie Week/a cowboy for no reason whatsoever : I mean…it was just…Jesus Christ…he was so very…Jesus…ok give a minute.
85. Sophie’s Charleston : I think what I love most about Sophie’s Charleston is not its chic glamour, its death-defying flips and tosses, its idiosyncracies, or even that spray of glitter champagne that served as the perfect capper, it’s that Sophie did this dance, looked at this dance, and said “I am not ever expending this amount of energy in one dance, ever again, for the rest of the series”. You can have waltzes, a quickstep where some sexy mens carrying her around, a GENTLE, NON SEXY DIRTY rumba, and a disco showdance on mogadon.
86. Karen Hardy Telling Gary Rhodes To Lose Her Number : No, really, forget it, we’re done, no, I’m not going to pop round your house to teach you a ballroom dance, no, forget it, ask Flavia, she’s not doing anything at the moment, not me, we’re done, no Gary, I’m hanging up now, that’s it, I’m not saying it again, not even a quick 10 highlights segment on the finale, nope, we’re done, bye.
87. Emma Weymouth Goes Through Her Own Personal ‘Nam :
Really I’m not one to go on about the cossetted lives of the celebrities on Strictly. It’s high pressure stuff, in front of 10 million people every week (give or take) and mostly these are fairly ordinary tier stars who probably live quite a normal life on the B/C list, reacting to artificially tense circumstances. But really, there’s no denying that Emma Weymouth, daughter of an oil billionaire, wife of a viscount, owner of her own zoo, treating everything that happened to her on Strictly from her Dance-Off With Dev onwards like she was recounting it in a monologue at the end of an Oliver Stone movie tickled me pink. YOU DON’T KNOW ZOE, YOU DON’T KNOW TRULY UNLESS YOU WERE THERE! Oh wait, you were there, a decade ago? Erm…STILL, I’VE NEVER FELT FEAR LIKE IT IN MY ENTIRE LIFE, NOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO TRY THE SALMON?!
88. Lilia vs The Dance Machine : Every year on Strictly now, the pros are asked to try to break a Guinness World Record for the most repetitions of an individual dance step in 30 seconds. Believe it or not, this is a rare case of dumbing UP over the course of the show’s history, as originally in this segment pros were asked to get high scores on Dance Dance Revolution and/or that giant kids toy floor piano out of the movie Big. And every Strictly veteran will tell you this segment was notable for two things : the godawful theme tune, and Lilia Kopylova, usually one of the more placid pros, going absolutely schiz when she balls’d it up. “I DON’T BELIEVE YOU!” she screamed. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN ZERO POINTS?! I DISAGREE!!!!!!!!!” she wailed. “I’M NEVER GOING TO COME BACK AGAIN!” she hollered, as two burly security guards rushed in to drag her out of the studio. And she never did. (Until she did Choreography Corner about 8 years later)
89. Claudia Winkleman : *dolphin noises*
90. Chelsee’s Quickstep : No, not her jive, we all remember what they did to Pasha’s face, I CANNOT ENDORSE IT! And let’s face it, Chelsee’s quickstep was more emblematic of her Strictly journey anyway. It showed she could be classy (doin’ a quickstep!) whilst still maintaining her inherent Chelsee’ness (she was playing a air stewardess!). It was her kicking it to all the haters (Ian Waite having spent an entire week of It Takes Two telling us all it was going to be rubbish!) and topping the leaderboard! It was fun, bouncy, energetic, lively, and constantly riding the edge of turning into a mess without tipping over! It was ultimately overshadowed by a degree of 5-10% by what Harry Judd did in the same genre! (Also, didn’t Pasha look nice in his suit?)
91. I’M 34 BRENDAN! : Can I just say, I’m now 35, and one of my biggest regrets in life is that I did not spend enough of 2019 and the first bit of this blasted year saying this as much as possible, to everybody, to anybody, to the cashiers in Marks & Spencers, to Passport Control, to GOD. Truly the best and most iconic response to Brendan Cole’s ever blathering and expounding stream of “THIS GIRL!”s.
92. Fiona Fullerton vs Susanna Reid : aka the Mapp & Lucia of Strictly Come Dancing. Every series of Strictly, The Daily Telegraph get one of the more Middle England Mum friendly contestants to write a fairly benign column about how much fun everyone’s having, how much hard work the show is, and how they’re really looking forward to getting back to real life but also at the same time don’t want this wonderful dream to ever end yadda yadda blah blah. Except halfway through Fiona got bored, decided to announce in her column that everyone (except Natalie Gumede) hated Susanna Reid because she was a charmless self-promoter, and then devoted almost her entire airtime on the finale to screeching seagull noises at her to try to put her off her dances. I’m sure every series of Strictly has its cliques and exclusions but…well, Satan bless Fiona for laying the battlelines in Series 11 out so clearly and really committing to war. UP WITH ABBEY AND SOPHIE, DOWN WITH SUSANNA AND NATALIE, RAH RAH RAH!
93. Pasha’s [REDACTED]s : the left one, the right one, and most of all, the one in the middle.
94. Ricky Whittle’s Semi-Final : Sadly Ricky Whittle will sadly probably go down as one of the more entitled contestants in Strictly history. He and Natalie never really got why they were in the dance-off when they were (hint : it’s probably more to do with things like dancing a really preening foxtrot to “Too Marvellous For Words” or being arrested on (even trumped up) charges of assault, rather than “they just thought we were safe”) and him saying the producers needed to release the full public vote numbers in full because he couldn’t quite believe he’d lost to Chris Hollins both smacked a little of self-importance and arrogance. But then you looked at how he danced in that semi-final, with a swooningly romantic waltz and a menacing Argentine Tango, and you couldn’t help but feel that arrogance was a little warranted.
95. Matt Baker’s flick-flacks : Bouncing around the Blackpool floor three times in a row to put the final dot on his samba, just because he could. Sometimes this show really is just about showing off and God Bless Matt & Aliona for that.
96. Kimberley Walsh’s American Smooth :
I think it’s fair to say that Kimberley Walsh’s time on Strictly was a case of one leap forward. For the first three quarters of the competition she coasted a little on ringahness, sitting on 34, letting the Richard Arnolds and the Fern Brittons and Sid Owens below battle it out in the actual competition, fully aware that she could take any of them in the dance-off. And then, in Fusion Week, the burners clicked on, the breakthrough happened, and it was 40 after 40 after 40. But we don’t talk about Fusion Week, because it was bollocks, so let’s instead key in on her sultry, seductive, American Smooth, reeking of cigarettes and Dark & Stormys and Double Indemnity. Would I have murdered Kimberley’s husband so she could claim the insurance? You bet I would.
97. Georgia May Foote’s Charleston : I mean, I didn’t even like Georgia but this was, y’know, dead good and that.
98. When Widdy Got Eliminated : Look, I know it’s not edifying, but yes I celebrated. In the week run-up spending the whole time preening about what she was going to do in her showdance, fluffing her pillows over how much the public loved her, gliding on serenely having been validated that she was right, you don’t need to dance latin, it’s obscene and then WHAM, she was no more. Not as morally righteous as glorying in a winning moment, but sometimes a good dose of schadenfreude is almost as sweet.
99. When Edwina Got Eliminated : Imagine coming on the show specifically trying to be The New Widdy and failing that badly, that embarassingly, lying on the floor flashing your knickers frantically at the audience whilst everyone looks on mortified. I revelled.
100. Ian Waite’s sambas : Denise Lewis doing her best Josephine Baker in an apple green fringe explosion to Tequilla? Zoe Ball ushering in the Age Of Aquarius? Penny Lancaster stalking the stage like a campy 60s Adam West era Batman villainess to These Boots Are Made For Walking? Jodie Kidd shaking her bubbies to Tom Jones? Jade Johnson in a GIANT SILVER SPIDERS WEB dancing to INDEPENDENT WOMEN and doing the “QUESTION!” part before reversing gender roles by spinning Ian around on his arse? This, ladies and gentlemen, is camp.
101. The Blog : Well here we are at the end. After thirteen years of Safety Sex Faces, endless polls, big quizzes, tasteless lusting, and people getting into fights in the comments section ON MY BIRTHDAY, it’s time to wrap things up. A large part of my Saturday Night, and then Sunday, and then Monday, and then Tuesday evening and then, in later years, about half an hour every day recapping what Rylan just done on It Takes Two, and now it’s over. Thanks for all the clicks, thanks for most of the comments, thank you for the camaraderie, and the gossip, and the indulgence. And now I’ve given you all the gift of looking at this wonderful show sideways, keeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep on taking the piss in an affectionate manner without crossing the line!
THANK YOU CHRIS. ❤ It's the end of an era. I am now going to drink to your health and stalk you on twitter instead. You are a legend. 10 10 10 10
Thank you for the funniest blog on the internet. Mwah!
I shall miss you SO MUCH
It was the best fun while it lasted.
You got me through night feeds with my daughter. I’d be awake, and your blog would ping in, and my world would be fabulous again. Thank you!
Thanks for being there. It’s been fabulous.
I loved loved loved your blogs from beginning to end, and I don’t want to say goodbye, but life moves on. Thanks for everything darling, you are fab…uh…luss!
Thank you so much for all the laughs you have given me through your blog!! I will miss you enormously. My fellow commuters, maybe not so much…
I hope you have a blissful and relaxing retirement on Erin Island sharing party snacks with Alesha, broken only by holidays to Madrid with Nancy Dell Olio.
I am off to dry my eyes on some relatively expensive double quilted eye make up removal pads (what?? I can reference other shows you recapped!!)
Maybe some day miracles will happen and you will come back to do another pro poll, or Janette will reach the final (LOL NO!!)
Until then, it’s been AMOYZING!! And please keep twitting your twats.
Thanks Monkseal for all your years of hard work. You’ve raised the entertainment value of Strictly by 200%. No more I can’t wait to read what Monkseal will make of this…
Thanks again for all the fun.
102. Pasha’s Shrek ears.
Thank you Chris, you’ve made Strictly for me. Best of luck in your future endeavours!
I’ll miss you. Thank you.
This post (and indeed this blog) is the only canonical Strictly the Best I will ever acknowledge, get someone to adapt this for the BBC Christmas TV line-up pronto.
By way of a tribute and thank you, I’ve compiled a list of moments in this one post that made me the produced some of the ugliest laughter ever (and for each one a totally unique sound that I didn’t know I had within me). (But I’d truly love it if someone (with a lot of free time) could compile a 101 (/1001) Reasons to Miss The Mighty Mighty Monk Seal.)
– the whole Snowdance description, you truly have a gift for the most lunatic imagery
– ‘Now that’s magic’ (so succinct, so witty)
– HE KISSED HER TITS! PATSY KENSIT’S TITS! (but I equally love it when you go full-speed in the opposite direction)
– ‘let’s say it, cocaine, we can say cocaine now’ (sometimes it’s the most unexpected lines that get me rolling… and no, not that kind of line, Michelle)
– hyper-liberal sex monster pensioner (what a combination of words that is, such a bevy of irremovable images)
It’s been real. Thank you so so much, I don’t mind saying that (over almost a decade) you’ve genuinely had a huge formative impact on the way I consume and critique media, the lens I view things through, your style has shown me new and unique ways to appreciate things, your writings are consistently thoughtful, immensely perceptive and never predictable. I feel like nobody rips the piss out of Strictly as much while equally taking it (and reality TV as a whole) as seriously as you do, and that’s so rare.
Well done on this AMOYZING blog, and if Tess and Claudia haven’t given you a personal live on-air shout-out by the end of this wretched year, then defund the BBC and cancel Strictly forever.
Thank you so much for every belly laugh, I hope you know how much joy you have brought to so many. As long as I live I will never forget the ‘This Girl’ speech you wrote for Brenda when Charlotte Hawkins was eliminated, it was genius. Strictly won’t be the same without you!
I’ve loved your blog – the best accompaniment to Strictly there ever has been. You can now enjoy the show as we all do now, you deserve it!
Not to be too sentimental, but this blog has brought me great, genuine laugh-out-loud happiness over the years. Chris, you are a great writer. Your impeccable taste shines through this entire list. Long live Patsy’s Monster Mash, Pasha’s [REDACTED], and the incredible amount of work that went into the blog. Enjoy your retirement to Erin Island!
If anybody needs me I will be sulking big style in a dark cupboard. I only discovered you two series ago and now you’re abandoning me!
I will miss the safety sex faces most, if I’m honest, but I’ll also miss the snort out loud version of the thoughts going though my head at the time. I will even slightly miss the very few occasions when your views don’t align with mine and I find myself questioning my very being in a Faye Tozer like way.
So I am now going to flounce off more flouncily than Brenda could ever imagine – flinging my feather boa over my shoulder, kicking my sparkly heels off into the corner and pouting furiously as I stomp over to the sulk cupboard muttering darkly like de Lolio stuck on the floor.
It’s been a ball. You have a wicked way with words and I thank you from the bottom of my godets.
I was the one person that voted for Gratziano. Claim to fame.
*curls up and weeps* Who’s going to keep me sane during Strictly season now??
AND I VOTED FOR MARK BENTON, TOO! EVERY DAMN WEEK! I wanted him to stay in as long as possible, even though I accepted it when he was gone because the man’s poor knees were just nothing but porridge at that point.
Also, God bless Gavin Henson. (In fact, I think that might have been the year I found this blog.)
Here’s hoping WP allows the blog to stick around long enough so I can finish re-reading all the recaps.
Thank you – great post to end on (but keep being funny about Strictly on Twitter please, getting your jokes is the best reason to watch)
Loved it. Thanks for all of it.
Clever Monkseal. Always leave ’em wanting more.
Will miss you.
This has blog has been an absolute joy and will be very much missed.
Thanks for all of the laughs.
I will miss this blog so much. You’ve provided so many laughs over the years. Thank you – Strictly just won’t be the same without you! (And, although I know you stopped recapping it a few series ago, I loved your Apprentice recaps just as much).
Your legacy to me will be that I’ll continue to watch ‘Strictly’ through your wicked lens….
Excellent list, something for everyone to either approve of, argue over or squeal in reminiscent joy at. Especially glad you got the Pasha Hat Flick in, I remember watching and catching my breath over just how fleet of thought and foot he was in that instant. Whatta guy.
Personally, I would add the following:
102. Monkseal Blog Finale Strictly Fairytales. I loved your ridiculous fairytales, and IVETA/GORKA Social media updates that you did to gently, sweetly mock the contestants and dancers that had hit the finale. My own personal favourite was of course the Year of the Women, where you went all out on an Enid Blyton Jolly Hockeysticks pastiche for Sophie, Natalie, Suzanne and Abbey. You were touched by genius that day, honestly. Thank you for that, and so many other delightful recaps.
All the best for the future, Mr Monkseal.
Ah well. The end of an era. Going out on a high and leaving them wanting more. Every blog has been a joy, every sentence a gem. All the best for the future. You’ll be missed.
*SOB*. *GUFFAW*. *AWKWARD CRYLAUGH*
Enjoy getting the feeling back in your wrists (not like that. Or maybe like that, no judgement). Still, we’ll always have Erin Island, Brenda, Pasha’s [REDACTED], Iveta’s social meedz, Katya’s hat, the Holly Valance pic, BRUNO SINGS!, Snowdance, the Vorderumba, and Natalie reigning supreme as the final Pro Poll winnah. Will miss the recaps so much but thanks for this last hurrah!
You’re a rare wit, and I loved every edition of this blog (and The Apprentice blogs back in the day). Laughed like a loon countless times – and still bemuse my family with references to Numbers Bitch, Brenda and The Claw (and about a dozen others).
Sorry to say goodbye.
I’ve read your recaps for ever, it seems! Well, at least since the “Dorothy – Confident Monster!” year. What will we all do without them? Loved them all, will miss your blog muchly. Big thanks and hope the future brings you joy.
Always leave them wanting more!
Oh, the memories! (or in Jodie Kidd’s case, the mammaries)
I always looked forward to your reality show write-ups, I have spent many an hour on here laughing out loud. Thanks for all of the time and the hard work 😀 I won’t miss doing shit in the Strictly quiz though
I enjoyed your blog posts more than Strictly itself. There were times that I would watch it and think “I wonder what Chris thinks about this?”. Vale, dear blog.
*sobs quietly into Nancy Dell’Olio’s martini*
Thank you Chris. Your blog has been a big glittery part of my Strictly enjoyment. Some weeks it has been the entirety of my Strictly enjoyment. When life is a bit shit and I need cheering up, I often read back through old entries just for the laugh.
It’s been a blast, and Strictly won’t be the same without it. Enjoy your unaccustomed free time.
Standing ovulations and a giant virtual glitterball to Monkseal
I’ve been slowly consuming this list in teeny tiny slices, savouring each sentence and trying to extend the nostalgia trip for as long as possible. As a proud supporter of the Mollie Army I was chuffed with our inclusion at number 9 (sigh, the great romance that never was).
Having finally reached number 101 I’ve been trying to think of a witty parting comment, but in truth feel choked that your brilliant blogs are over and so will just say a heartfelt thank you and wish you well in retirement.
Thank you for everything, I will miss the blogs so much.
Also, point 83 – I will go to my grave still mad about this. That American Smooth is one my favourite Strictly dances of all time.
You’re the Natalie Lowe of Strictly bloggers. And like her you will be much missed – though I reckon your running splits aren’t quite as good.
Thank you for putting so much time and effort into making us laugh. I’m going to miss you terribly.
Brilliant as ever. We will miss you so much.
Bye bye Monkseal! When will SCD do a themed week entitled “The Best of Strictly” like what X Factor did in 2013 for their “10th birthday” (actually 9th birthday); Strictly’s Strictly themed week would include songs Crazy in Love, You Never Can Tell, Gangnam Style, I’m Still Standing, Hot Hot Hot, Istanbul, the endless Sigala tracks from Series 4 (I mean Series 16; to be honest, 2018 as a whole almost felt like a rehash of 2006, not just TV shows etc), Espana Cani, La Cumparsita, Runaway Baby, Bacofoil showdance.
Could you imagine in a few years time if Dianne Buswell was still in it, what if had partnered another celebrity called Joe or bonus points if it was Joe Sugden from Labourdale (aka Emmerdale); would it be Joe & Dianne 2.0?
I am a hardcore early Strictly fan 🙂 In 2030 (if it’s not axed, I’m sure it will be still on!):- Dancing the jive, Nicki Minaj & Aljaz Skorjanec to Meatloaf (ft Nicki Minaj). Alan Dedicoat:- “From Capital FM’s constant airplay, it’s Nicki Minaj”.
Thank you. I have loved your commentary and will really miss it.
Bye Monkseal, i have loved your commentary and i will really really miss it
also last years was iconic and hilarious with the obscenely rich Emma Weymouth, whom surprised us all to come across so down to earth
I kept watching Strictly for about five years more than I should have done just to keep up with your blogs!
Such nostalgia. Off the top of my head, the only thing I’d add is the one-handed vadge lift (Matt and Flavia). It’s as iconic (drink) to me as the Dirty Dancing one.
Erin Island. Oh man…when it actually appeared for real on the show. Some people have winning the championship, I have that.
Please come back to us! How can we cope with a happy dentist themed Salsa to “I love your smile” without Monkseal keeping us sane….