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.
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).
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?
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…