Sunday, 5 October 2014

And Dave Arch Played On

Just for information purposes, I am blogging Strictly this year, but am mainly co-blogging with the wondrous Why Miss Jones. I might re-post some stuff here, but be sure to come and see us at

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Strictly Come Dancing, Week 1, Show 2: Bye James Jordan and please take Aliona with you.

Just the Saturday show from me this week, you guys - if you want to read about Friday as well, why not step on over to the new blog I am sharing with the amazing Why Miss Jones - And Dave Arch Played on.

So, THIS WAS A SLOG, I won’t lie. I love Strictly, you know I love Strictly, but the early week combo of cannon fodder and VT filler as we are forced to “get to know” these poor doomed clodhoppers makes for some grueling viewing. Here’s another thing – I don’t miss Bruce, I will never miss Bruce, but the tumbleweed blowing through the studio every time Tess murdered a joke with her utter lack of comic timing was almost enough to at least have the question, “Do I miss Bruce?” pop into my mind. I KNOW!

Onto the show.

That pro dance was fun. I didn’t really understand the VT, and I don’t want one Aliona on my telly, never mind three at once, but it was fun. Two main takeaways – Joanne Clifton’s dance faces are AMAZING, and do you think Ola is as relieved that she can dance with Pasha instead of James now as we all are? BYE JAMES JORDAN.

Also – is this the first year they have let the singers have names? Or just the first time I’ve noticed? Either way, Hayley, Lance, Andrea, Chris – I KNOW YOUR NAMES AND I AM COMING FOR YOU.

Mark & Karen
I still don’t really know who Mark is, but he does seem to have charm, I will give him that – and when he’s dancing, at least, it isn’t even smarmy charm – he just looks like he’s having fun. I might be a fan. Incidentally, this routine was danced to Wham’s “I’m Your Man”. Not 24 hours earlier, after considerable amounts of wine, two of my male friends danced together around the kitchen to this exact song. I can honestly say their dance was more memorable than this one. As ever with Karen, two days on from viewing I can’t remember a single thing about the dance. Come on, Karen! This one’s got potential! Don’t stay the pro who didn’t win with Nicky Westlife! Don’t make me do another season of "yawn"s in review of your routines….

Alison & Aljaz
The brief bit of VT I actually managed to sit through suggests Alison has the potential to go full Riley, both in success and downfall. I have a bit more faith in Aljaz than I did in Robin, though – do you hear me, Aljaz? Let’s own the camp, not let the camp own us. I am VERY PRO a disco cha cha, it has to be said, and this was tremendous fun. If I were Bruce, I would say “You’re my favourites,” right now. But I’m not. So I won’t. Moving on.

Steve & Ola
I live in America now, you guys, so here’s a bit of American for you about Steve: THIS DUDE IS JACKED. Seriously, I actually have pre-traumatic stress thinking about him trying for some Spanish shaping during the paso with those shoulders. Anyway, this is a tango from Ola so, motorcycle cartwheel aside, I am 99% sure I have seen this entire routine before. Several thousand times. Pretty well-stomped though, Steve, I’ll give you that.


Lady Irish & Chap Irish
Oh, this poor lady. She has zero clue. Chap Irish has apparently been fairly successfully steering older lady contestants around in Dancing With The Stars here in the US for a few years, and he’s clearly been tapped up for that role in the absence of Sweet Darling Bobby. But they gave poor tall Lady Irish the jive in week one, and it was cruel and miserable. Also, HayleyLanceAndreaChris, this was hands down the most joyless version of Happy that I have ever heard. The song is literally called “Happy”! It is impossible to make it joyless! And somehow you managed it!

Tom & Iveta
Let me start by saying that “You Raise Me Up” is not only an egregious song crime, it is also not a waltz. It is not a waltz. And it sounds really, really dumb as a waltz. Also, I’m pretty sure that Tom doesn’t have a personality. Is that wrong? Did I miss it somewhere along the way? Have any of you seen that episode of Parks & Rec where they’re running a campaign for a handsome congressman who switches off entirely, like a robot, whenever he’s alone? That. Iveta does have a personality, though, so maybe that will be enough for me. The footwork is terrible, and Tom does his swimwear model smile throughout, but Iveta wins this week’s Ola Jordan Memorial Award for Most Obvious Use of Pivots as Cloaking Device.

(Also, they do not get a Standing O. I would feel judged SO HARD if I didn’t get a Standing O on this show.)

(Sorry for calling it a Standing O. I’ve gone native.)

Sunetra & Brendan
Sunetra plays a doctor, you say? On a show about doctors? So, maybe we should mention doctors? Involve doctors in some way via props and sets? Anyone know a song about doctors, preferably with Doctor in the title? Twice? Quick, someone write Tess some jokes about heart rates, no need to resuscitate that one etc etc. Do we need a dead on arrival joke? No need, it’s Brendan, he’s always pretty good week one, keep it in the bank for Craig week 7 when it's time to boot her out.

Perfectly serviceable tango.

Gregg & Aliona
Jesus effing Christ. Aliona – for real this time, just quit. In a show that has made an art form out of unconvincing VTs, Aliona’s, “I hope maybe it goes well,” stands alone in its horrificness. This poor fellow has absolutely no clue, and Aliona literally abandons him on the dancefloor -  she looks bored to death, and makes no eye contact with him EVER, and at the end where a pro would usually throw the celeb an ecstatic squeal and squeeze, or maybe a consoling hug, Aliona just pats Gregg nonchalantly on the shoulder and goes back to contemplating what she’ll be doing with her winter while these fools are all on tour.


Kevin & Frankie
This isn’t a bloody waltz either! Just pick a bloody waltz? How hard is it? There are loads of them! HayleyLanceAndreaChris are bad enough as it is, but trying to get them to sing Adele in 3/4 time is tantamount to physical cruelty. This is, however, a pretty dance, and it is rare that more can be said about a waltz than that. Though it’s not unknown. Here is my favourite. I don't have much to add about this dance - very competent, she's a ringer - so can we quickly acknowledge that whatever Kevin is doing over Frankie’s shoulder during the credits is weird and should be stopped?

Simon & Kristina
OH THANK GOD IT’S FINALLY THE END. Seriously, that’s a long bloody weekend. Turns out I am a fan of Simon Blue. I wish I could say I am surprised, but All Rise appears on a surprising number of my playlists. But quite aside from that shameful  confession, Simon turns out to be adorable in the training room and bouncy on his feet. This was super fun, though I hold back from full fandom until I see something he has to dance with more precision (TANGO, BABY), but he sold the hell out of this with charm alone. Kristina did, however, choreograph a move in which he played her like a piano. We’ve talked about this before – automatic deduction as far as I’m concerned, and Kristina’s got serious form for this shit. You heard me, Kristina – I’m watching you.

Faves of the weekend were Simon and Alison, you guys, because there was joy and delight. Judgment reserved on true contenders until week 2...

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The Ice Bucket Challenge, and ALS/MND - some thoughts and feelings

I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about the Ice Bucket Challenge, you guys, and while (as the lack of updates on this blog clearly indicates) I pop up here only rarely these days, I would quite like to get some of these thoughts and feelings out there. 

As many of you reading this will know, my Dad suffered from Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and specifically the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) form of it. He was diagnosed in the spring of 2008, about eight months after his first symptom, and he died in January 2010, less than two years after his diagnosis. Before Dad was diagnosed, my knowledge of MND/ALS extended to, “Isn’t that what Stephen Hawking has?” If pushed, I might also have known about David Niven. But I didn’t really understand what it was, how it affected sufferers, or their families, and I didn’t really understand that it is incurable, and generally fatal within two to five years of onset. I learned much of this by reading Wikipedia once I learned it was possible that this was what was affecting my Dad. Needless to say, it wasn’t exactly a fun read.

Unless you have been directly affected, or know someone who has, it is a disease which is not often talked about or even mentioned. And to be honest, that’s fair enough - it is, compared to the Big Diseases, relatively rare. But because of this, it has low levels of funding and awareness, and without those two things, there is no hope of ever finding a cure.

And now suddenly there is the Ice Bucket Challenge. Every single day of the last month, Twitter and Facebook (and all the other things I don’t know about because I’m too old) have been loaded with videos and requests to donate and information about ALS. And just when it began to tail off in the US, it crossed over to the UK, and MND began to be a part of the conversation. To give you some idea of the impact it had here in the US, the ALS Association’s website says, “As of Wednesday, August 27, The ALS Association has received $94.3 million in donations compared to $2.7 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 27). These donations have come from existing donors and 2.1 million new donors.”

That’s just one ALS charity. It’s an astonishing boost in donations and in awareness for a disease that seldom, if ever, gets this kind of attention. From a personal perspective, every time someone I know, or know of, chucks a bucket of ice water over themselves and namechecks ALS or MND, it gives me a huge boost – that’s one more person who knows about ALS now. Even if they don’t donate money to the charity now, they’re more likely to sign a petition for more funding, or sponsor someone to do a walk or climb a mountain in support of the charity. And if they ever have the misfortune to know a sufferer, or a family member of a sufferer, they’ll understand what that means and be able to offer the support that those people desperately need.

You have seen a ton of these videos by now. You are probably bored of seeing them. But, this will all peter out soon enough, as social media viral whatevers generally do. Other charities are being donated to as well (which, incidentally, I completely support – charitable giving is a personal choice, and there’s no such thing as a wrong charity to give your money to (actually that’s probably not literally true, but you know what I mean)) and those charities might for the next phase of the challenge become more high profile. 

But for those of us for whom ALS/MND is or has been a personal reality, this month has been an utter joy, a moment in the sun, lightning in a bottle. Thank you so much for talking about it. And here are some links, in case you want to know more, or want to donate, or just want to watch some videos (both fun and sad):

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

StrictlyChat 2013, Week 2, in which the show is so long that I briefly forget my own name but still remember I hate James Jordan

Fifteen couples, you guys. Fifteen couples. No wonder we’re all so exhausted this week, am I right? I watched all the bloody dances, but I basically fast-forwarded through everything else, so I only have the tiniest idea about what the VTs were like, though I am guessing Jordan was annoying, Ashley Wassisname went on about his baby and Natalie and Artem pretended she wasn’t a massive ringer some more forever please don’t hate me just because I’m amazing. Let’s get down to business. What follows is a bit stream-of-consciousness because there are too many bloody couples and I wrote down a load of nonsense as I watched, so a load of nonsense is what you’re going to get.

General observations

Once again we are taunted with the perfect world of a Bruce-less Strictly, and lo it was good. I think if there is one thing we have all learned in eleven (ELEVEN) series of Strictly, it is that Tess hasn’t got a natural unrehearsed bone in her body. Therefore she is about eighty times as good when she’s doing all the scripted bits. And she keeps a show running on time, which is a lot harder than it looks (I am guessing – I mean, it’s not like I’m a host of live TV, which does seem a crying shame now I come to think of it) and Claudia is ALL natural unrehearsed bones, so this is a good combo, and let’s just stick with it, ok BBC?

Let’s all just say a big NO to Matt Goss remixing Bros songs and wearing a hat, shall we?

And did anyone else think that pro dance looked weirdly under-rehearsed? Possibly it just seemed that way to me because I wasn’t really watching it – I spent the first three-quarters looking to see which of the fifteen pros was missing and then I realised that of course it was Anton. It is always Anton.

Susanna & Kevin - Tango

Let’s just get this out of the way – PLEASE stop giving us VTs of EARLY MORNING WOES for breakfast presenters, ‘kay? I mean, I get it, it’s a gruelling schedule, blah blah blah, but they did after all choose to do the show. It’s not our fault they’ve got breakfast jobs as well. Having said all of which, I do hope Susanna copes with the schedule better than poor Andrew Castle did – he looked like a sweaty, hollowed-out shell of a man by week three.  I liked this, though. Floppy frame and some wobbly moments, but she had to do the jive and the tango first up, and didn’t screw it up, and I reckon that is HARD CORE. Susanna is steely. I wouldn’t want to get in her way.

Tony & Aliona – Charleston (I suppose)

Poor Tony. Why did he do this show? I imagine he will console himself with his pots of cash and Florida mansion, mind you. That would help me get over elimination pretty damn quickly. Len got to say SPORTSMAN! though, so it wasn’t all for nothing.

Natalie & Artem  - Waltz

I am so disappointed to learn that you pronounce her surname Goo-med-eee, and not Goo-mead. It makes me like her less.  Beyond that, what is there to say? She’s insanely good, and to call her a ringer is to malign the ringers of previous years. She is the Muhammad Ali to their club boxers. Artem’s biggest challenge this week was getting his arm over her enormous hair do during the underarm turns. I will enjoy watching her dance, but where is the journey, producers? WHERE IS THE JOURNEY?

(Quick aside – how mental is Artem going to make their American Smooth, given that she can do literally anything (even Crazy Natalie Lowe headspins)? Could be epic.)

Hairy Biker and Karen – American Smooth

He’s terrible. He’s absolutely terrible. But I’m weirdly charmed by it. I KNOW! WHO HAVE I BECOME? New York has changed me, you guys.

Patrick & Anya – Tango

For God’s sake, Show, do NOT give this band a Michael Jackson song to sing. Have we learned nothing from Dirty Diana? I liked this though! The dance, not the singing! Attitude! Not perfect! Shitloads of mistakes! But attitude!

Deborah & Robin – Cha cha

This was completely by the numbers, but I smiled all the way through it. Why? WHY? Robin magic? Aretha magic? SOMEONE EXPLAIN THIS TO ME!

Rachel & Pasha – Salsa

Oh dear. Standard polite, chilly posh girl salsa (see Snowdon, Bastian). No amount of fringing on the dress and pouting at the camera is going to cloak the fact that she is too embarrassed to move her hips. Acting coach, my friends. Acting coach.

Feltz & Jordan – Waltz

Echoes of Pamela Stephenson here with the hamming and the styling, I thought, except with basically no dancing. Say what you like about Pammy (and I could say plenty) but she did actually dance. No monologue, thank God, but the crying OH GOD the crying. Loved it when Bruno said, “There were some technical issues to work on.” Oh really, Bruno? Like what? The footwork, maybe? The frame? The lines? THE DANCING? And just when I thought Jordan couldn’t annoy me more, I was reminded of how unbelievably annoying his resigned-to-the-dance-off-even-though-we-don’t-deserve-to-be-there face is. SHUT UP JORDAN.

Julien & Janette – Tango

Forgive me for this, everyone. Forgive me. But all I can say about this is that Julien danced the whole thing as if he had done a massive poo in his pants and he had to bend his legs and keep his feet apart to stop it falling out and hitting the floor. I have nothing further to say about it.


Fiona & Anton – Cha cha

Nice posture, and Holy Dance-Face, Batman! Other than that, it’s an Anton and Older Lady Latin, so who cares, really? Starts well, goes madly wrong, pose a bit, Anton cracks a joke about it all being part of the choreography, the end.

Mark & Iveta – Salsa

Iveta is well clever and I love her. There was absolutely nothing happening dance-wise from Mark in this salsa, but somehow it was still a super-fun time. Arse bongos, though. NO, Iveta. No. If I wouldn’t put up with it from Queen Erin Boag, did you think I would put up with it from you? Should be an automatic point deduction, but there weren’t a lot of points to deduct…

Sophie & Brendan – Charleston

Well, this was awesome. Tons of soloing, amazing attitude, great dance faces, her and Brendan’s crazy long legs in perfect sync. Loved it. This sort of choreography is why Brendan has always been one of my favourites (echoes of Bruce, there. Sorry.) Not sure I agree with Claud that this was his best ever dance on Strictly, though. What about this? Definitely not this, though.

Ben & Kristina – Waltz

Look, it’s an early week waltz, ‘kay? What else can we say? Perfectly fine. But Ben, pleeeease make a facial expression. Anything will do. I really think he needed a taller partner, though, right? Like ERIN WHERE IS ERIN I MISS ERIN.

By this point, I was literally just going dance-to-dance. I skipped Claudia. I love Claudia. WHY IS THIS SHOW SO LONG?

Abbey & Aljaz – Cha cha

Footwork, on occasion, but no hips. None. How on earth did it get 30? Is it so it vaguely looks as though someone MIGHT be in the same league as Goo-Mead? And Abbey needs lower heels. I know she’s a model and stuff and totally used to high heels, but they threw her balance off. I think. By this point, I’m delusional with tiredness and possibly, POSSIBLY boredom, so what the hell do I know?

Ashley & Ola – American Smooth

Oh good the baby has been born oh god the baby is on the telly oh this is going to be so tiresome. Nice side-by-side sections, some patented Ola vote-getting spins and some nice lifts. He needs more drive though, lots of leaning back, which makes it look as though he’s not leading. I mean, he’s NOT leading, but at least fake it, Ashley.

(Quick aside – this dance led to the most amazing Tess moment of the night. “Ashley – they’re on their feet! (Pause) On this side!”)

In conclusion, Goo-Mead is a ringer, Abbey was overscored, Rachel continued to be dull, Sophie was a revelation, Ashley was the only male celeb who has a hope of making the quarters, there is SO MUCH CHAFF, and Aliona Redux was mercifully short-lived. Join me next week to see if I can manage to get to the end of a two-hour show two weeks in a row and maintain any semblance of sanity. I have my doubts, you guys. I have my doubts.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

StrictlyChat 2013, Week 1, in which it appears as though I never moved to New York, even though I totally did

 So, guys, remember when I moved to New York, yeah, and that therefore we all thought my Strictly-watching days, never mind blogging the thing, were over? Well, it turned out that didn’t take. Oh – the New York bit did. I’m still here. But via the minor inconvenience of buying a whizzy new laptop, a whizzy lead, and doing a clever downloading thing, I can still watch Strictly! Instead of doing New York things like, I dunno, buying shoes and drinking cocktails and stuff! Which means I’m also blogging, you lucky devils.

So let’s get right into the first StrictlyChat of series 11, shall we? (Wow - SERIES 11. How the hell did that happen?) There’s way too much cannon fodder this early on (SO MUCH CANNON FODDER) to go couple-to-couple, so for the time being we’ll go with some general themes.

General Observations

I totally get that it’s a good idea to mix it up a bit in the first week – those endless waltzes and cha-chas did get a bit wearing. But tangos and jives in week one? Very tough on the celebs who got stuck with them, plus it’s annoying to waste two of the coolest dances on the early weeks when nobody is going to be any bloody good at them.

The Dearly Departed

I officially already miss Vince and Flav. And Erin! Oh, I miss Erin. Even if by the end she had the half-crazed look of a Shawshank lifer who doesn’t have a chance of making it on the outside (Brooks was here. So was Red. Makes me cry every goddamn time.) But having greeted the unceremonious departure of Aliona with whoops of joy, what’s this? She’s back? And beloved Crazy Natalie is gone? Do these people actively WANT me to hate this show? Fortunately, it seems like the Aliona hate lives large still at the BBC and this was some kind of desperation move as she’s promptly been stuck with the first likely evictee (I mean, maybe he’ll survive a week out of pity, but COME ON) so I won’t have to tolerate[/scream at the telly during] her bleurgh choreography for long.

By the way, what the hell is Karen Hauer still doing on this show? They did give her the Hairy Biker, though, so perhaps the Powers-That-Be agree.

The New Kids

Like: Anya (though she made the classic new kid mistake of overdoing the choreography in week one; let’s hope she learns from this where others have not); Kevin; Notorious Partner-Killer Iveta.

Not like: Aljaz (though potential here to change my mind); Janette (no potential here to change my mind). 

The Ringers

I have used the plural in this sub-heading for consistency. We all know there is only one ringer this year and she is a MIGHTY one – yes, Natalie Gumede, we’re looking at you. Whoever Artem’s agent is, he/she is doing a solid job, wouldn’t you say? In four years, Artem has had three serious contenders, which surely isn’t the norm. Do we think he just threw his toys out of the pram after the Fern-mauling he suffered through last year? What is his leverage? What does he know and who does he know it about?

Tell you what, in the Interests of Science, let’s look at the evidence. Here is a list of all the male dancers who have done at least four series, and here are their first four partners:

Anton – Lesley Garrett, Esther Rantzen, Patsy Palmer, Jan Ravens (writing was on the wall early for Anton, n’est-ce pas?)

Artem – Kara Tointon, Holly Valance, Fern Britton, Natalie Gumede

Brendan – Natasha Kaplinsky, Sarah Manners (she was on Doctors, and yes, I had to look her up), Fiona Phillips, Claire King

Darren – St. Jill of Halfpenny, Gloria Hunniford, Emma Bunton, Soap Star and National Treasure Letitia Dean

Beloved Ian – Denise Lewis, Zoe Ball, Mica Paris, Penny Lancaster

Jordan (Ugh) – Georgina Bouzova, Gabby Logan, Cherie Lunghi, Zoe Lucker

Matthew (I love and miss you, Matt Cutler) – Siobhan Hayes, Carol Smillie, Alesha Dixon, Christine Bleakley

Robin – Patsy Kensit, Anita Dobson, Lisa Riley, Deborah Meaden

Vince – Louisa Lytton, Stephanie Beacham, Rachel Stevens, Natalie Cassidy

A few observations:

1.     There are certain dancers that the Beeb decides early are never going to be winners, eg. Anton, Artem. They are then given A Role. Anton partners the older ladies in elegant ballroom and clusterfuck Latin while he is groomed for BBC presenter stardom (Hole in the Wall, LOL). Bobby partners those lacking in self-esteem and bolsters them cheerfully with his rote choreography for six or seven weeks before everyone gets bored and boots them in a charming way that doesn’t dent their new sense of self-worth. No contenders for these chaps.
2.     With very occasional exceptions, the rules are: top four or five one year, loser the next.
3.     No other dancer in his first four years on the show got the same level of talent in his celeb partner as Artem. Fact. Even Jordan had to wait a bit before someone decided to Make James Jordan Happen.

I love Artem, I really do. His dances are never boring or by the numbers (yes, Ola Jordan, I am talking about you and your bloody writhing and your damned pivots). But I ask you: IS THIS FAIR? IS THIS RIGHT? Natalie seems like a laugh, though (a genuine laugh, not an I’M WACKY, ME!! sort of laugh like DVO)  so maybe I’ll get over it.

The Possible Future Flowering of Talent

Patrick Robinson, if Anya tones it down a bit and gives him some time and space.

Rachel Riley, if Pasha can loosen her up a bit. The first Latin week could get awkward.

Susanna Reid, as long as she attempts no further cartwheels and Kevin keeps being adorable. I quite liked this jive, however (though let’s all just remind ourselves what a genuinely good jive to this song looks like).

Abby Clancy – I think so anyway. Am I right about this? She was right at the end of the show, and I was really, really bored by then. And I’d had wine. Oh wait, it was to that HORRIFIC bloody Des’ree song. That song is completely unforgivable.

Ellis-Bextor, MAYBE, though I have my doubts (as, I am sure, does Brendan).

The Tom Chambers Memorial Category for Tedious Personal Storylines

Ashley Taylor Dawson and his soon-to-be child. Right now we’re dealing with: the baby could be born at any moment! Soon it will be: new dads get very little sleep and Ashley isn’t really coping, followed by many montages of him sleeping on the training room floor. I ALREADY DON’T CARE.

(Incidentally, I haven’t watched Hollyoaks for years, but my chief memory of ATD was that he spent most of the time with his mouth hanging open, so I thought of him as being generally adenoidal. Is this still the case?)

The Early Acting Coach Klaxon

Ben Cohen. Footwork was awesome, but the man was shuffling about the place shamefacedly like a dad at a wedding. I give it three weeks at the most till Rihanoff calls in that grey-haired dude to get Ben in touch with his inner diva.

Possible other candidates for the acting coach: Rachel Riley (I’m no performer! I’m just good at maths!) and Ellis-Bextor, the most self-conscious pop star of all time. Have they ever called in the acting coach for a lady? I don’t remember them doing it, it’s usually just for the SPORTSMEN. And Gethin the Faux Sportsman because he played rugby that one time because he’s Welsh and stuff.

The Older Ladies and Gents who Won’t be a Total Embarrassment

Mark Benton – lots of charm, not too shabby in week one, likely to have the best of him brought out by Iveta, who seems promising (and who we love for killing off Rickaaay last year).

Fiona Fullerton – she’s not going to last long, but I thought she was reasonably charming. I reserve the right to change my mind completely if they follow the bastard James Bond theme every week. Didn’t we talk about this after Colin Salmon? Have these people LEARNED NOTHING?

The Chaff

Hairy Biker – he’s just going to go full Russell Grant/Richard Arnold, yes? Sadly for him, I don’t think Karen has the wit of Flavia, or the high camp of Erin, so this shtick is unlikely to keep him around for long.

Deborah Meaden – inexplicably high scores for Deborah, I can only assume because she could literally buy each and every one of those judges for cash money.

Julien MacDonald – he is batshit, and his partner is not that appealing. Could go out first.

Tony Jacklin – he is a total legend, but he was hopeless, and the Latin is going to be a car crash. Why on earth did he say he would do this show? Did Bruce talk him into it?

Vanessa Feltz – we can only pray that this comes to a conclusion swiftly and brutally. She is going to be RELENTLESS and Jordan is going to mug endlessly to the cameras during her non-stop monologues and really the only thing that might make this worth it would be if she went full Jan Ravens at the end of everything, but she is far too clever and good at her job for that, so instead we’ll all just have to settle in for several weeks of Craig baiting her and her Witty Retorts while James throws looks to the camera and occasionally tries to interject which will end up in a camp remark back from Craig which will then devolve into a catfight that will be played out in ITT all week and Oh GOD I want to die.        

I was totally going to keep it brief. Yeah. Anyway, chime in with comments if you feel so inclined – I am terribly isolated over here in New York, you know, and I need StrictlyChat, so bring it on…

Friday, 21 June 2013

Global MND/ALS Awareness Day

So, it's Global MND/ALS Awareness Day today. For those of you who don't know (look at me, raising awareness!), MND is Motor Neurone Disease. It's a progressive disease that attacks the motor neurones in the brain and spinal cord, affecting the brain's ability to initiate and control muscle movement. There are different forms of the disease, but ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) is the most common. With ALS, both upper and lower motor neurones are affected, meaning the sufferer gradually loses the use of both upper and lower limbs, followed by slurred speech, difficulty swallowing and ultimately difficulty breathing.

Diagnosis can take a long time as there is no test for MND. You have to diagnose by excluding other possibilities. And there's no cure. Once you know you have MND, it's not if, but when. The person most people think about if they're aware of MND at all is Stephen Hawking, but he is actually an unusual case - he has lived with the disease for fifty years. Most people with the ALS form of the disease die between two to five years after their symptoms first present. That's what happened to my father - he died less than two and a half years after his first symptom, a fairly inocuous-seeming loss of strength in his leg.

My father died in early 2010 and even now, three and half years later, I'm not yet able to talk or write in any meaningful way about his illness and the effect it had on our family - maybe one day I'll have sufficient distance and strength to do so. My family and I have, though, tried to raise awareness of the disease through fundraising - a 10k run, a marathon and a Kilimanjaro climb (I hasten to point out that these athletic feats were performed by my sisters and my brother-in-law, rather than by me), and several years of ticket proceeds from Christmas musicals by the wonderful Mighty Fin. We have no such fundraising planned this year, so to mark Global MND Awareness Day I am volunteering as a steward this weekend at one of the ALS Association's Walk to Defeat ALS. Frankly, it's only a small contribution, but even a small contribution can help.

If you are interested to learn more about MND/ALS, why not head to one of these websites:

Or try to find a way to watch the film "I Am Breathing".

Or if you're moved to contribute to the charity, you can do so directly via the website, or maybe sponsor someone who is taking part in a walk or a run or a climb. Why not this girl (who I learned about via England cricketer Matt Prior on Twitter) - Or check out what the Broad Appeal is doing -

Or maybe just share this blog post. Thanks for reading.

Friday, 22 February 2013

The movie review you've all been waiting for. Right? RIGHT?

So, you know how you've all been crying out for my critique of Les Mis: THE MOVIE EXPERIENCE? Here it is at last.

Why did it take me so long to go to see it? I'm an absolute sucker for this musical - I've only seen it once on stage, but I've listened to it endlessly, and I've been known to clear a room at karaoke frequently with my dazzling rendition of "On My Own". And yet, several weeks after release and with only days to go until the Oscars, I still had not gone to see it. Why? Why? Well, I've been thinking about that, and here are my conclusions on my reasons for not seeing Les Mis, in pie chart form:

Then on Wednesday night I admitted to my two sisters, my frequent partners in Les Mis singalongs (usually while in the car), that I had not yet seen it, and I was immediately subjected to such derision that I had to revisit my choices. To be honest, I still might not have gone (I tend to react in a strongly counter-suggestive way to peer pressure) but my sister, in Hong Kong, googled film times for places near me, in New York. You just can't fight that sort of commitment.

So I saw it. And I present to you my conclusions as presented to my sisters by e-mail immediately after the viewing. I should probably be embarrassed at showing the world [/my eight readers] the sort of obnoxious language my sisters and I use when e-mailing each other, but I think you'll all probably get over it. Oh, um, SPOILERS? I guess? Anyway:

Jackman - really good. I bet he thought this was his Oscar shot and wishes Daniel Day Lewis was dead.

Hathaway - yeah, ok, good. But every award going? Really? There is really noone else anywhere in any film this year who might for one award be considered better? Hmmm.

Redmayne - good. Bit Kermity when he's trying to sing high and be emosh, but nice falsetto and Empty Chairs was great.

Angry Nancy - good to see Angry Nancy in a part that allows her to be Angry. Well-played, casting director.

Cosette - Holy Vibrato, Batman! Liked her though.

Thenardiers - whatevs.

Enjolras - yeah. Liked him. Yeah. A bit Young Julian Ovenden, no?

Crowe - whose idea was that? Srsly. I actually thought Stars wasn't too bad, probs because it's all so low, but his opening bit at the hard labour prison was an absolute clusterfuck. Did anyone else think it was all a bit... Bowwwwwiiiiieeee?

[Bonus insert from an e-mail from younger sister, in which she offered to recap the whole film for me in excruciating detail, beginning with the following description of the opening scene: "Javert inhaled deeply, puffing out his barrel like chest to proportions only ever seen before in Wagner and, looking down on the grizzled, soaking features of wolverine/jean valjean/curly from Oklahoma, mewed a warning about parole or something, in the timbre of a soprano kitten."]

I cried three times, though only mildly - death of Eponine (surprised myself with that one, but I think Redmayne was selling it HARD), Crowe finding dead Gavroche, and Jackman dying, obvs.

Good to see some Brit musical theatre stalwarts hidden under some wigs and make-up. Adrian Scarborough! Daniel Evans! Bertie Carvel! Hannah Waddingham! Nice to see them getting out and about. I bet the first time they heard Crowe "sing" they were totes WTF.

There you have it. That's what I thought of Les Mis. And I'm ashamed to say that I'll almost certainly go again...