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):