Sunday, 25 September 2016

Let's Dance

My, what a glorious pink puffball of an opening sequence. Give me that over Pans-People-Do-Star Trek any day. I enjoyed Friday evening's show - lots of potential but no ringers - so had high hopes for last night. So, Saturday night - did it hit the spot? Don't believe me, just... er... read.

The Right Louise and Kevin

Faff Rating: 6

Louise was holding back but it was a nifty little (swingy) jive nonetheless. She clearly has natural ability and it's endearing she's not overly confident. Twitter was awash with costume haters but, despite it looking a little like it might have once belonged to Santa Claus' wife, I didn't think it was all that bad. Kevin's choreography is often a little all too much about Kevin (we need to talk about him) but Louise may end up being quite a match for that. Technically, she's a bit too good for week one but perhaps her journey will be one to confidence. I can cope with that.

Melvin and Janette

Faff Rating: 8

Let me start by saying that there is absolutely no reason why Melvin should not be a good dancer. He has all the same bits and pieces as everyone else and he was in time, which is well over half the battle won before you've even started. The problem? I'm so sorry to say it, but it's Janette. She just doesn't seem to have the same level of ballroom and latin expertise as the other pros and it really does show. It was loosely a cha cha (so loose in fact I suspect it would have been more comfortable in a TV studio snarking alongside Carole McGiffen and a random Nolan) but mostly filled with poorly executed tricks, standing still and Janette dancing around him like a maypole. I worry for him. 

Daisy and Aljaz

Faff Rating: 0

Oh isn't Daisy a delight? Don't you just totally want to be her when you grow up? (She's younger than me. I don't care.) I loved her dress for starters. I want to wear it. Like, for work and stuff. One could argue, much like in the case of Louise,  that the dance was a little too good for week one but that seems all the most excusable when the person performing it hasn't had extensive previous dance training (note Abbey Clancy.) She does have the air of that girl at school that was good at everything but you couldn't hate even if you wanted to because she was actually really nice. Let's wait for her to break out a latin but I'm possibly tipping her for the final already...

Danny and Oti

Faff Rating: 4

Well doesn't Oti look like the cat who got the Cornish clotted cream? Great to see her able to stretch her choreography skills. He's excellent. But therein lies the issue. His timing was bang on, he was spotting in turns, to be blunt, he's this year's uber-ringer. I'm not warming to him - he isn't in any way humble, which is kind of why we excused Jay of the same level of expertise. I'm getting Ricky Whittle flashbacks. 

Tameka and Gorka

Faff Rating: 4

A really tough dance to get week one but perhaps being an actress helped out with that, as it needs so much character. One of the judges commented on her arms but I thought they were excellent. She really seemed to be moving from her core to me, which is something that is not easy to do. I think she's a natural dancer so I hope the props, themes and jokes don't take over in the coming weeks. My favourite thing was basically Gorka being happy to be on 'The Strictly.' 

Anastacia and Brendan

Faff Rating: 8

First of all, is Brendan trying to get a presenting gig by mimicking Brucie's famous pose? Second of all, this was much-faffy for Brendan, who, in recent years has choreographed some gorgeous stripped-back routines. Like many of the contestants on Friday evening, Anastacia displayed just the right balance of potential and 'improvement required' to make her a very interesting one to watch. 

Ed and Katya

Faff Rating: 7

A little tentative but Ed is perhaps the contestant who is furthest outside his comfort zone. It wasn't a bad job. I spotted heel leads. We've seen trained dancers *Cough Kelly Cough Brooke* dance without those. Being with a new pro may go against him in the public votes.

Claudia and AJ

Faff Rating: 6

One trick would have been cool. Two OK. Many. A bit too much. Still enough cha cha content to just about excuse it though. And I don't really remember anyone going on to Louis Smith about it. However, I guess the purpose of the first dance is to make an impression, and she certainly did that. She's good actually. Very good. And they make a cute pair. Looking forward to seeing how they tackle a ballroom.

Will and Karen

Faff Rating: 6

Really wish they wouldn't break out the tango in week one. It's so unfair as such a dramatic dance is way way better a few weeks in. Nevertheless, Will did do a good job. Quite clearly has danced before but doesn't come across quite as... cocky... as other contestants. Karen pulled a bit of a Janette and did way too many kicks and flicks whilst Will stood there as though waiting for a bus. My main problem with these two is that when I think Will and Karen, I basically this Truman and Walker. If Karen Clifton can break out these moves, they could go a long way.

megan mullally will and grace karen walker 215863

Friday, 23 September 2016

Off to a flying start!

This episode had me hiding behind a cushion before it was confirmed the Strictly spaceship wasn't going to appear again, that was scarier than the daleks...Thankfully, after a quick cup of tea, we got down to dancing and spangles pretty quickly!
Laura and Giovanni
Well the winning formula states that she should be sailing through to the final, pushed out into the blinding lights first and all that. She also had the perfect song and outfit for a cha cha, all the pieces were there. Props to Giovanni for not giving her a ridiculously hard routine, lots of basic cha cha in there for her to get to grips with. It was a bit hesitant in places, but a perfectly passable first dance - she also had very good Karen Hardy Facial Expressions potential.

Naga and Pasha
That is a seriously gorgeous dress for Naga. Now this time last year, Pasha descended from the ceiling on a sparkly thunderbolt, and I don't think there is anything anyone can do to top that so a gentle waltz was probably the way to go. Her top line was lovely, lovely, lovely and will stand her well for the other ballroom numbers, but they were right that she kind of lost it right in the middle. I would have put her more for ballroom than latin, so it's all to play for...

Rinder and Oksana
Was it just me that was happy that he could bang the gavel on the glitter in time to the music? I need to watch that again cos those spins at the start temporarily blinded me. It was all a bit crazy and SO MUCH, but I definitely want to see more from the two of them. Hopefully it won't be comedy all the way, he's got some natural talent that needs to be harnessed.

Lesley and Anton
Well it all seemed a bit predictable. The biggest shock was when the black and white effect faded and I saw she was wearing a neon pink dress. Lesley also pointed out in the VT that she is too short for Anton, but he can deal with that and it's better than a celeb male trying to sort that out - although getting lost in Anton's chest sounds a bit scary. The actress in her certainly added something to the routine and she will hopefully bring that again. Who knows where we will be with the latin...

Ore and Joanne
I had been waiting for this one, with Ore as my designated Dark Horse of the series, and also a chance for Joanne to flex her choreography muscles. But first Ore had to ride a bike for no reason. NOW, there was a good tango hidden in there somewhere, but I was glad Len went off on one of his rants so early - the break in the middle especially infuriated me. I thought the word 'faffing' was going to trend on Twitter.

Greg and Natalie
O to the M to the G, we were so exited. Greg and Natalie finally getting to step out, and I didn't even mind an early jive so they could get it out of the way - and then he went and did a pretty good jive anyway! It was a bit rough around the edges and gangly at times, but there was content, he remembered the steps and actually performed them. We thought performance was going to be a weak point for him - I guess it goes to show Olympians know how to give 100%.

What an exciting opening night! We're back in the game people, see you tomorrow!

Sunday, 18 September 2016

The Winning Formula - Version 8.0!

As I sit down to write the 8th version of the Winning Formula (for the newbies, the totally-scientific way I determine who will win SCD every year) I think to myself, should I have pursued a career in algorithms? Then I realise that last year the Formula only predicted two of the finalists...admittedly, it was Georgia and Jay, so that's pretty good, but it also included Kirsty and we all know how that turned out. (The fact that I also had to Google how to spell algorithms should also say something). Formula, you have your work cut out this year.

1) Get the party started
I'm astounded that year after year this seems to work - it started out as a joke way back in series 4 I think (sigh, those were the days). If you dance first on the opening show, you get to the final. End of. Last year it was Kellie Bright, with the really annoying pseudo-tango-with-60s-theme-wedged-into-it on the Friday show, and the fallback option of the Saturday show saw JAY dance first! Seriously, we might as well just decide after the first 10 minutes if we are to believe the evidence. I don't think we should expect Ed Balls on first this time around...

2) Quit your day job
If there's something Jay vs Kellie taught us last year, it's being an unemployed boyband member makes for a much more relaxed contestant than one that is being simultaneously flogged to death in the Eastenders sweatshop of the performing arts. This will bode well for Ed Balls, I'm sure, although I fear for Tameka's sanity. Saying that, I don't think there's an abundance of day jobs this year, Laura and Melvin may still be working, but I'm not seeing a lot more. Although I'm sure for Rinder, the law never sleeps. As for the BBC-newsreader-anomaly, we actually have TWO contestants this year, who's up for a Naga-Ore final?

3) Blondes don't have more fun
Another blonde was pipped to the glitterball, soz Kellie, the odds were stacked against you. I don't know what the British public has against blondes, but Anastacia, Laura and Rinder have an uphill battle on their hands. Also, as it is officially the Most Ginger Year Ever on SCD, we will continue to root for Greg in our crusade to have our first ginger winner - hey, if he could even make the final that would be a triumph for his species.

4) Latin fever
It's true, we have never had a ballroom specialist pro win SCD, the latin types continue to rule the sparkly roost. Now this means that whoever Anton dances with is automatically disqualified, but it also leaves us GUTTED that it means Natalie's partner has to go, and there has never been a time I have wanted to be proven wrong. Joanne has also made a return, evening up the balance of ballroom vs latin pros ever so slightly - could this be the year one of them finally lifts the glitterball? 

5) Age is more than a number
Well since this is supposed to be the youngest line-up since 1987 or whatever, it seems unlikely that someone over the age of 40 is going to finally break that age barrier and win SCD. British public, you are so cruel with your hatred of slightly older people, blondes, ballroom dancers and...people in employment? This includes Anastacia, Ed and Lesley. Louise is 41 and should have given in to those long-standing requests to do SCD a couple of years ago, same goes for Naga. They should have taken a leaf out of Tameka's book and snuck in aged 39!

6) Embrace the sparkle!
As we have learned, year on year, embracing the sparkle is key. Whether it be fake-tanning to a delightful shade of teak, to double-dipping yourself in glitter, you've got to feel it, or you won't win it. And it has to be said, this year's line-up of people seem to have it in bucketloads! You've got super-fan Laura, the ball of energy that is Tameka, bonkers Anastacia, Ore desperate to get on the dancefloor, and Rinder seems to already be having a life-changing experience. People who I think are holding back include Louise and Will, but give them a couple of weeks cha-cha-ing and I'm sure they'll be swinging from the glitterball.

So there we are, here is my patented Winning Formula equation:

Dance first - day job + brunette x latin pro > 40 years old + sparkle = WINNER!

Come back after opening weekend to see who the Formula predicts will make the SCD final!

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Blast Off!

OK, first things first. What was with that opening? Whose brain concocted that sparkle-infested oddity? The only explanation must be that one of the producers has genuinely lost his/her heart to a fecking starship trooper. I never seen anything quite like it in my life. From Craig busting questionable moves to Brendan doing a cartwheel, it was nothing short of bonkers. And not really in a good way.

Louise and....... KEVIN!

She needs no surname. She is the right Louise, despite what dem yoofs on Twitter may think. There was a little talk online about her costume not being as nice as some of the others - but some folks had heard she had actually asked to cover up a little, which implies she's a little wary and inhibited. That's not necessarily a bad thing. We all love a journey, after all. I'm not always Mr Clifton's biggest fan but I think in this circumstance they will make a really great pair. He's such a perky little package of energy, he's bound to bring her out of her shell.

Naga and........ PASHA!

Naga has already perfected her Paso Face. That's the only reason for having perfected a death stare. Right? At least that will get put to use. Looking fabulously statuesque in red, Naga already seems to be (to use Frankie's phrase) 'embracing the sparkle', despite it being so far removed from her usual reality. Pasha is an all round darling and I'm looking forward to seeing what these guys come up with. 

Anastacia and.........BRENDAN!

We get so super excited when an American is on the show. Why is that?! Do we expect they will be bringing over stockings and gum? And remember Williamsgate 2010 where we all expected her to be the bee's knees and she was about as rhythmic as a baby giraffe who has been slipped a dram of Scotland's finest? Not that I am expecting Anastacia to to be terrible by any means. Brendan's reaction and her performance in the group number suggest she's going to be good. And embrace every second of it. Love her ombre-mermaid dress. 

Laura and............. GIOVANNI!
Oh I do love a Strictly-Superfan-On-Strictly. Their excitement is infectious. I'm expecting the tabloids to latch onto this partnership like a limpet on a sequin-encrusted rock. She's the standard PYT (Pretty Young Thing), bound to start relatively well and end more or less on the level of a professional backing dancer. But Strictly needs these stock characters as much as it needs feathers and fake tan. 

Melvin and.......... JANETTE!

I didn't realise he was quite so dinky and therefore almost inevitably destined to be partnered with Janette. He seems like he's going to be a jolly good sport and possibly a nifty dancer. Perhaps how many times 'Dance of Odoom' is uttered by the presenters could become a drinking game. 

Greg and....... NATALIE!

I have never quite shipped a couple from this early on before. This pairing seems like destiny. I was eyeing him closely in the group dance and his timing looks good. I already love these two. Natalie managed to get Michael 'I have no rhythm' Vaughan to dance a passable ballroom, I genuinely can't wait to see how she does with Greg, who actually seems to have potential. He's humble and doesn't take himself too seriously either. My very-early-on faves. This rarely happens. 

Judge and ................ OKSANA!

Yes, yes, he shall henceforth be known as 'Judge'. That is his first name right? I'm not so much looking forward to his dancing (although he does look like he has some rhythm going on) as his out Craiging Craig at judging time. This partnership should be a good measure of Oksana's televisionability (I'm totes coining that,)  Remember how adorable the partnership between John Sargeant and Kristina was? They don't always need a ringer year one to make an impression.

Danny and .................. OTI!

Ooh, he's a wee bit of a charmer, isn't he? Oti seemed positively delighted with her new partner. I have to admit, the last time I watched Hollyoaks, Monica and Chandler were not yet married, we had only just been introduced to the KitKat Chunky and construction began on the Millennium Dome. That is, I had absolutely no idea who he was. He's another PYT. Expect to see him at least up until the quarter finals. 

Claudia and............. AJ!

Have we seen a couple this tiny since Tina and the teeny one from High School Musical who didn't know how to dance ballroom? And still the height difference is huge. I hope they don't fill all their routines with gymnastics instead of dance. I'm not sure I can stomach a triple full layout in the middle of a Viennese Waltz. Her little pink costume makes her look like a little cupcake. They are uber cute. 

Daisy and....................ALJAZ!

Now officially a modeliser, Aljaz looked delighted with Daisy. And boy, they do make a pretty pair. She seems genuinely excited, which is nice. Who doesn't want to bathe in glitter? She has a touch of the Sophie E-Bs about her. I'm expecting some nonchalant cool. But perhaps I'm wrong and she'll go all eyes-and-teeth camp? Who knows?

Lesley and......... ANTON!
Oh these two were always a certainty. She can quite clearly boogie though and these two are going to be great fun. Prime candidates for the Race-To-The-Bottom, I'm wondering whether Anton is going to camp it up enough to rival the pure weirdness of Ed Balls taking part. 

Tameka and........ GORKA!

I don't watch Eastenders so I wasn't sure who she was. But I love her. If you could bottle that enthusiasm and take it to Dragons' Den, they'd be throwing offers all over the place. She looks all kinds of fabulous in her take-me-to-the-emerald-city costume. These are potentially the most fun pairing of the series...

Ore and...........JOANNE!

Oof, now this two could be a pair to watch. He is quite clearly a good dancer. I just hope he can overcome his nerves. Joanne should now get the chance to show us what she can do. I was impressed with her on It Takes Two last year and she clearly knows what she is talking about. 

Ed and.........KATYA!

Officially the most random contestant of the year. Yet, his taking part, seems like a weird kind of inevitability. It was always going to happen at some point. Katya didn't seem all that impressed, but with a line up full of potential ringers, getting Mr Balls is quite surely a short straw. But see above re Kristina and John. Sometimes the one that seems like the dud is a blessing in disguise, especially if he can make fun of himself. I'm expecting dad dancing and high camp. 

Will and ......... KAREN!

Karen! Let Will go! No wonder he was wanting to initiate a #SaveWill hashtag. I adore the thought of him dancing a rumba in his kitchen. I totally do that. That kind of self-deprecating nugget of information gives him a wonderful air of inevitability. I think he'll be pretty good from the start. I hope not too good though, as that often can ruin the show for me...

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Line them up and watch them go!

So here we finally are, it's been a funny old lead-up to the start of the series - what with no-one knowing who the pros were going to be, was Aliona in or out, will the press ever give up on its hilarious delusion that Daniel Craig would ever do Strictly? This confusion has put a bit of a dampener on the rumour mill this year, but now we're finally off with a lovely batch of new pros to, welcome, that's the word.

Ed Balls
Seriously, UK Twitter legend Ed Balls guys. Oh yeah, and apparently he used to be a politician. Our track record on Strictly for politicians is not great - Vince Cable may have put in a steady waltz, but Edwina Currie just sat on a chair and pointed her toe. And we continue to pretend Widdy never happened because we can't pay for therapy out of the licence fee. As for Mr Ed, he seems to be having quite a calm mid-life crisis, going on Bake-off and generally appearing like a normal human being. The Vines of him doing serious dad dancing at least shows he has basic rhythm and enthusiasm, so he stands a chance of a good few weeks. I feel like he would have been a shoo-in for Kristina.

Will Young
Ah, the lovely Will Young. Everyone got all excited at the rumours, and then he was announced and I can't remember the last time someone got such a positive reception! He might have a touch of the ringers about him (ballet, musicals, not exactly Denise van Outen though), but I also think he could be rather nervous about the whole thing to begin with. And just like in 2002, I'd much rather have Will than Gareth Gates....

Laura Whitmore
Our first girl is very much in the Caroline Flack stable of contestants, not massively-well-known TV presenter who seems pretty plucky. I also stood next to her in a lift on holiday in Malta last year when she was presenting at an MTV summer festival, and if that's not a claim to fame I don't know what is. I see her with a new male pro, just...because.

Ore Obuda
I remember seeing Ore doing the sport on the BBC a few times and somehow just KNEW he'd end up on SCD someday. My next hot tip is the business presenter Victoria Fritz, you heard it here first. Ore is also a Newsround veteran, where I think it's contractually obliged to be an all-round good egg. Also, that video he made of himself dancing to Hot Stuff whilst checking his tweets showed more basic skill than some contestants who've had a week to train. Could be a dark horse, this one.

Melvin Odoom
Not going to lie, this was the first contestant that made me go "Who?". In case you're wondering, see the Xtra Factor and presenting the breakfast show on Kiss FM. Also, he did CBBC, which gives you the valuable SCD skill of 'mucking about on live TV' - if you're lucky Brucie will chase you with a broom. Wikipedia also tells me he's 5ft 4, so I'm expecting him to be with Janette, or maybe Natalie for a laugh, who knows?

She needs no surname, for she is The Right Louise! We were very confused when a YouTuber started the hashtag #GetLouiseOnStrictly, but she was The Wrong Louise. Hoping they go down the 90s route for Mrs Redknapp, we need more in our age group these days rather than trying to appeal to the young 'uns. Plus nostalgia also beats going on about her new cooking ventures. There is also the rather awkward fact that she was a judge on SYTYCD, although I suppose that might matter more if anyone had actually watched it. I am going to say she will dance with...Pasha?

Danny Mac
I always find it odd when Hollyoaks people pop up on SCD, since it's their fault I stopped watching Hollyoaks cos it clashed with ITT.  This guy came after my time, so I have no idea who his character was and I can't make any amusing observations, what is a girl to do? He also has a background in musical theatre, having been in Wicked, so he will probably be good and pretty and all that. Not very excited about this one...

Daisy Lowe
A model! A bit out of the box, but they've done quite well in the past, good posture and all that. Bit of a bright young thing, loves the sparkles and not taking things too seriously - these should always stand a SCD contestant and good stead. At 5ft 10 there aren't a huge number of male pros she can be partnered with....make of that what you will...

Naga Munchetty
A much welcome surprise, I don't think I heard any Naga rumours, but so glad she's come on board. We love a BBC newsreader, statistically it's the only day job you can still do and win SCD, not that we're setting the bar high here or anything...Also, she's a pretty good golfer and it would be good to salvage their reputation from the spectacular low that was Tony Jacklin. Bring it on Naga.

It's a bona fide worldwide popstar, hurrah for her not being a thankless tabloid rumour! I love how we all get in a tizz when an American appears on the show, we're like WW2 factory girls getting giddy when the GIs come over. She can't possibly be as bonkers as Michelle Williams. Probably. Everyone seems very excited about this signing, and I'm sure great care will go into her pro partner, here's hoping she's got some natural skill!

Claudia Fragapane
So this was one of those people where everyone knew who they were and got really excited, and I had no clue whatsoever. And I always watch Olympic gymnastics. So she is very young, and very very tiny, and Italian - where is Vincent when you need him?! Olympic gymnast is a bit of a niche category, but a category that has done very well previously.

'Judge' Robert Rinder
Sorry to be pedantic, but he isn't actually a judge, the inverted commas may stay all series depending on how much we like him. I've never watched a show (I don't think I've even seen an advert for it) but apparently it's massive with students - smooth move BBC. There's also already a conspiracy claiming the BBC is playing the long game for roping in his BFF Benedict Cumberbatch. Why do I get the feeling he's going to be paired with Joanne?

Greg Rutherford
The announcement that made Twitter lose its collective sh*t. We've always wanted Greg but I don't think we'd ever thought he'd actually do it - so we're totally over the moon. Also, there's total potential for a journey here, I can't imagine he's going to all out spangles and cha cha from the start - we do like it when they need a bit of warming up. He's ginger and will be wearing the Union Jack, I smell a Spice Girls number on the horizon...

Tameka Epsom
Hurrah, Tameka is finally here! She was asked previously but had to pull out due to being pregnant, so glad the BBC stayed interested in getting her on the show. Watch her marvellous Lady Gaga routine from Lets Dance for Comic Relief if you don't get why people are excited, anyone who can do those moves whilst simultaneously making sandwiches definitely deserves a place on SCD as the obligatory Eastenders contestant.

Lesley Joseph
Possibly the worst-kept secret in SCD line-ups ever, with celeb friends openly asking 'when are you being announced for SCD?' on Twitter, great work guys. But who cares, it's a fabulous signing, someone had better start creating those leopard-print outfits pretty sharpish or we will all be disappointed. I have never seen this woman having anything but a jolly good time, and her theatre experience makes me think what whilst her dances might not be the most technically achieved, her performances will be great.

Monday, 21 December 2015

The Impossible Journey

This has been the strangest series of Strictly Come Dancing yet. The whole thing has felt very odd and bad feeling has been at a high. Allegiations - from the public, pros and celebs - that it's fixed, have left an odd feeling hanging over the entire show. Of course there has been a sense building over the past few years of 'over-production' that there has been an attempt to control every last detail - whether that includes the scoring or not, I don't plan to comment, but Strictly's charm, being live TV, was often its spontaneity (something Brucie was a pro at, I must say). Viewers do get a sense when they are being manipulated. They may not know the details, but it has certainly felt that something is amiss. And this year it came to a head. 

However, this series' problems may also boil down to one over-riding and quite simple fact: there were too many previously trained dancers in the competition. Now, I don't have a problem with a 'ringer' or two. In fact, I think they bring a lot to the competition. Firstly, they provide viewers with some excellent dancing in the early weeks of the competition when everyone else is getting to grips with the basics. Secondly, they set the pace and give the rest of the contestants something to aspire to. 

Two examples of this are Denise Van Outen and Natalie Gumede - both brilliant from week one, and did we mind? No. Did we enjoy their dances? Absolutely. Both made the final but were beaten to the Glitterball by celebrities who did not have the same level of dance background but - and this is crux of the matter - progressed more. I doubt either Denise or Natalie would complain about this - they had a great run - the full experience - and both appeared to enjoy it immensely. 

So why was this year different? In short, there were too many Denises. Georgia, Kellie, Helen, Jay and -arguably - Peter, all started the competition, week one, at a relatively high level.
It normalised that level of dance to the point that other celebrities' progress was lost somewhere in the middle. Jamelia (regardless of her level of popularity with the public) improved beyond measure. Anita, with no previous dance experience, did that absolutely wonderful Paso Doble, one of the best dances of the series. Now, yes, you could argue that the 'middling' contestants are the ones who usually get lost - but the problem is that Anita particularly shouldn't have been 'middling' at all - another year, she would have been right up near the top. 

Let's put scoring scandals to one side for a minute and assume that all the marks given to each couple this year were fair and square. Even in this instance, having four or five consistently getting 8s, 9s and 10s from the start effectively locks many others out of the final stages. From the very beginning. Anyone not already at that level was never really given a chance. We could have held the final at week three.

This is not a dig at any particular contestant. We do all have our favourites but they have all worked hard and all in the final were wonderful dancers. However, I think a terrible miscalculation when casting this series - amongst quite a few other issues - has caused many fans to question their loyality to the show. We may all mock the J... word but that's what Strictly's always been about. Only this year, a journey has been all but impossible. 

Sunday, 20 December 2015

A funny old final...

Here are at the final! The pros are dancing around the production studio like a super-spangly, super-camp version of Is This The Way to Amarillo - while the celebs cling on for dear life whilst suspended from the ceiling. Fun, but not a patch on the golden chariots of Blackpool.

As ever, we're not going to do the dances we've seen before, but will have a quick run-down. Jay's quickstep was a sensible choice to show improvement, and he sure did - he was even smiling! Georgia got the tricky choice of a rumba (I'd rather die than do a rumba in the final!), but certainly managed to pull it off, although again not perfect. Kellie got lumbered with a week one tango that I had completely forgotten was supposed to be a tango, and it was just as annoying as last time - despite the technique being great, it's just not a worthy routine. Cue national eye-rolling for the 40. Thank goodness Katie and Anton arrived to give us a bit of ballroom class with their lovely old-school quickstep, admittedly full of mistakes, but so likeable.

The first four dances were all a little meh, despite the judges' feelings about Kellie's. I think they possibly got carried away there because she displayed more oomph than the other three put together. Jay's quickstep, Georgia's rumba and Katie's quickstep were all good, but weirdly lacklustre. But I guess that's what happens when the judges make them do dances they'd struggled with initially. Problem is, it was the final and I wanted to be wowed. I wasn't. 

Jay and Aliona
He's upside down, oh the drama! Not sure about Aliona's yellow pants. And this song makes me feel old cos I have no idea what it is. I quite liked this as a whole, it was a tight routine rather than a frantic hyper-active showdance like so many of them are. But with that, you lost a bit of the razzmatazz. As a few people said on Twitter, they tried to be cool and it didn't really work, SCD is not a place to try and be cool.

The hipster of showdances, it was like the dance thought it was too cool to be there. Jay is an exquisite dancer, and turns like a professional. This was slightly odd and uncharacteristically clinical. A bold move by the couple that sort of backfired. Beautifully danced, though.

Georgia and Giovanni
It was Coldplay, it was contempo, there was a blindfold - and yet it worked! It was pretty and there was hefty amount of ballroom in there for a showdance, which is always brave. Also, Georgia's dress was gorgeous and not a showdance glitter-bucket. Again, not a knock-your-socks-off performance, but still very good and they tried to do something different without being overly gimmicky. They've worked hard, this pair, and deserve to get to the very end.

Twitter wasn't keen on this, but I thought the beginning at least was very powerful. Mostly though I was just snorting at Frankie's interpretation that Giovanni made a blind woman see by the power of dance alone. I was on the wine by this point. Georgia danced splendidly again and this showed she would have been a very worthy winner.

Kellie and Kevin
The training footage looked great, and like an actual dance, which is always a good start. And the porn train came back, the most infamous prop ever! I was still super-cross about the 'tango' but they totally won me over with the showdance, I loved it. It's what I want to see from a showdance; energy, technique, personality, joy. Yes it was jazz-handy, but not gurning, how they managed that I do not know.

I expected nothing less from these two. Gusto. Razzmatazz. With aplomb. Slightly annoying but my goodness, they were both fighting for it and I can't knock that. 

Katie and Anton
Oh my stars and garters, it's an Anton showdance! We'd waited for it for literally years, and he wasn't going to disappoint us, I do not see how he could possibly have given anything more. It was cram-packed full of content, brought the wow-factor and had some death-defying moves. And Katie got to be Roman and haughty, in a Game of Thrones on acid dress, some people have all the luck. Still wobbly, but I don't think Katie's ever going to overcome her natural wobbliness. If they do go, it was a pretty cool dance to go out on.

This was high camp and dramatic. Katie was just an accessory in this crazy, epic showdance that Anton's probably been planning in his head for years. 

So we're back after our trip to the loo, make a cup of tea, wrap some Christmas presents break. And the person to leave us is.......KATIE!

Sad to see you go Katie, you always had an amazing time and your pairing with Anton was very special. And you had some blummin' fabulous frocks.

Bye Katie. I kind of wanted you to win because it would have annoyed the judges so much. 

So we're back down to the final three dances. Jay oddly did his paso, which was a mistake since the first show did not go very well. Saying that, I loved this paso first time around and thought this was even better - his technique was so good, especially on the Spanish lines and jetes. However, Georgia just went and knocked it out of the park! This was the proper boom moment of the final, her Charleston had everything you would want to see, and you just felt for her when she was so excited and happy she couldn't actually speak. And then after that, Kellie and Kevin did they're Charleston - another bad choice, it couldn't help be underwhelming after Georgia blew the roof off.

The only one of these three I really loved was Georgia's charleston, and despite not being a particular fan throughout the competition, I sent my three web votes her way after that. Jay's paso was good, of course, but we all just wanted to see that jive. Kellie and Kevin's charleston just looked like kid mucking about after the clean performance from Georgia.

And as for the group dance, I love the mess it always is - and this one was no disappointment Leaves me on a happy high for the end. Highlights included Jezza on his horse, Jamelia sassing it up with a backflip followed by Peter rolling is hands like a dad-dancer, Pasha on his cloud of ultimate randomness, Daniel reminding us he existed, and everyone looking gorgeous!

They don't even bother making them dance any more do they? Apart from Jamelia. Jamelia was fabulous.

After what seems like a million monologues, we finally hear our's JAY!

Was this expected since that jive? Quite possibly. But either way, he's been one of the most talented males we've ever had on the show and kept us on our toes the whole way. And his crispy perm hair was forever immortalised in the opening titles.

Extremely talented dancer. Probably the best male celeb who's ever been on. But yeah, his best dance was week three - so did the show peak then? We love to see a journey and I suppose his journey to confidence was a big one.

Thanks to everyone who's read the blog this year, it's been a bumpy ride, but great to have you along with us! See you on Twitter for Christmas!

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Semi-interesting, semi-spectacular, semi-final

The semi-final is upon us already! This year seems to have flown by, like Craig Revel Horwood ostentatiously pirouetting past the camera every week. There's hardly anyone to come down the stairs for us to go 'oooh' at, and everyone's a wee bit knackered. Remember the snore-fest of last year's semi-final? Hopefully we're up for a bit more drama this year...

Katie and Anton
Anton gives good Charleston. You wouldn't think it at first, but the man has been quickstepping half his life. And I mean old school Charleston, not hyperactive gurning. Unfortunately, Katie was not giving us good Charleston, she looked like a gangly drunken spider. Although a drunken spider having a good time, I'll give her that, but it was rather out of sync. Also, are their outfits intentionally supposed to clash?

They really did get out of sync but given the over-inflated scoring (for some contestants) this series, even I think Craig's four was nothing short of ridiculous. Unfortunately, that set me on the back foot for the rest of the show. I beg to differ that she had no swivel. One side was fine. The other was a little awkwardly jerky, but hey, everyone has a good side. 

Jay and Aliona
Starting with a fleckrl, how nice. Of course this is Aliona, so there was wafting, but I do actually like to see Jay wafting. And spinning, gosh, how that boy spins. Although now we're all on boob watch: Jay seems to put his head on Aliona's boobs in every dance, I dread to think how that's going to turn out in the Charleston. Lovely waltz moves in there too, the song was appropriate. It didn't set the world on fire, but it was rather nice.

Jay gives good waft. It was lovely but strangely static in parts. I expect a VW to swing around the room with sway and momentum, and I can't say this did. When he's out on his own, he's exquisite, but in hold (and I know that is hard for a bloke) he's not as good as he could be. Jay has really allowed Aliona to flex her choreography muscles this series though. I haven't been a fan before but I have to admit, she has come up trumps this year. 

Georgia and Giovanni
I wish I looked like that when I had a stinking cold...I assume this routine was brought to us by the incredible healing powers of Lucozade. Problem with doing a late cha cha is that expectations are way too high, like Alesha high. There was plenty of choreography in there, but it did feel a bit like they were going through the motions.

I know cha cha action is difficult, especially at the end of the series when we care about it more, but Georgia's technique was as iffy as 6 week old cheese sandwich that's accidentally been left in a teenager's locker. That's fine, she was poorly. But, the judges should have marked accordingly. Yet another example of the extraordinarily inconsistent comments and marking this year. Yes, Georgia is talented and probably should make the final. But if she has a bad week, maybe not. That's the game. But no one's really playing ball this year, are they?

Anita and Gleb
Antia looks amazing, even with the random arm streamers. It's a toughie to do a foxtrot at this stage, but getting a showstopping number like New York New York is always a help - remember when Natalie pulled off an actual miracle to it with Michael Vaughan? And as foxtrots go, this was one of the more memorable. Don't care what Len says, compared with many other routines this was jam-packed with work in hold and proper foxtrot.

Gleb's coming in for a lot of criticism from Anita fans. But tell me this, how is he supposed to keep to the rules when the rules change on a weekly basis? Len, I just wanted to scream STFU at you. Not because you were wrong - you weren't - you were spot on right, but this had more foxtrot content than Kellie had Viennese Waltz last week, yet there were no comments there. And why was it OK for Georgia's routine to be packed full of disco, then this get penalised for being out of hold too much?

Kellie and Kevin
Never sure about a rumba where you can see someone's pants. Other than that, quite a nice dress and colour on Kellie amid the shockers she's had this series. I thought this was going to be really cringey, but it was actually quite sweet. And it looked like an actual rumba, with lots of flowing steps. She did have that proper wobble that made me gasp though, thought she was going to face-plant down in the middle of the floor. All in all a pretty good turn is a rather patchy first half to the show.

For a rumba, it was very good. Didn't blow my socks off, but my feet were pretty cold anyway so that would have been tricky. I liked that it genuinely had rumba steps in it, and despite starting the show as my least favourite pairing, by this point, this was my favourite dance. 

Right, let's go round again!

Katie and Anton
Oh what a delightful dress, it was even good for sweeping away the overload of dry ice, the audience probably needed gas masks. As Len said, it was a nice classy routine, but it just wasn't neat enough to be beautiful. Maybe if it was a different week and they'd had time just to focus on the one dance, they could have nailed it.

This should have been perfect. If you're going to ace a dance with Anton, it should be the waltz and I thought she had kind of lucked out getting it so late in the competition. Nevertheless, there were issues. Gapping, being one. There should be no gapping at this stage. Having said that, I would love to see both of them in the final. Katie is not a trained dancer, and to me that is what Strictly should be about.

Jay and Aliona
We've been building to the Jay Charleston Redemption for weeks now, and we got it! The theme was actually pretty cute, although not sure what Aliona's wig was about. And Len was right, it had a sort of casual charm in it that was great to see. And oof that footwork, Jay's knees obviously have an extra hinge in them. Too bad about the clumsy lift near the end, I think they could have taken at least one lift out at the moment. At the moment, this is the standout dance of the night by a long way.

Now Jay is a trained dancer. I'm not going to make a deal of it, but he is. But sometimes a trained dancer is so unbelievably good, it ceases to matter. I adored this charleston. I loved the modern, cool feel to it and Jay's legs are extraordinary. Hurrahs. 

Georgia and Giovanni
I kind of wished they'd actually dressed Georgia as one of the Corrs, but then they might have made Giovanni be Jim. It was lovely and cute, and they do lovely and cute so well. A nice routine, and her top line has definitely improved. Not much else to say really, the question is whether it will save her from the bottom 2.

A beautiful song to use and quite shocking it hadn't been used before. This was quite adorable. As Len had been getting picky over people's footwork this week, I'd expecting a comment about that good or bad. I couldn't tell from the camera angles but I know I saw a standing spin instead of a flerkerl. If it had been good, would Len have not commented on it? Maybe. Seems like it matters for some contestants but not others. 

Anita and Gleb
What were those outfits about? A tribute to Gwen Stefani's Hollaback Girl? Also, I was expecting there to be a latin version of this rather odd song, but no...So we just had to go with it, as did Anita, throwing herself quite literally into one of  the most surreal SCD moments ever. She was very good with what she was given, she always is, but it was odd odd odd.

Anita is one of my  favourite contestants this series and completely sums up to me what Strictly should be about. I rarely care for the celebs who have come in week one and danced almost perfectly, than hardly improve. I like to see those who haven't had previous dance experience learn. It's why I loved Goughie, and Ramps. Having said that, I despised this dance. It was the furthest thing from salsa I think we have ever seen on the show, and that is saying something. The music was the wrong rhythm and impossible to dance to. How DARE the judges ask for fluidity when they had been expected to dance to an extremely 'unfluid' song? Now someone on Twitter claimed that they had been given a charleston choreographer? If that's true, added to the fact the music was ridiculous, it is totally unreasonable to have a go at Anita (or Gleb) saying there was no salsa in it. This to me summed up everything that is wrong with the show. It failed Anita. And it failed dance. 

Kellie and Kevin
See what happens when you're given an appropriate song choice and theme? Well, the theme was basically just doing the actual dance. This was blummin good, the jumping lifts near the start were an actual delight. And I as watching Kellie throughout, not Kevin, which is always a good sign. I been pretty meh about Kellie most of this series, but tonight she totally raised her game and deserved to go through, even if it means a Kevin Clifton showdance. 

Lovely. But I think most of our couples could have done a great job with this number. I don't want to take away from Kellie though who thoroughly deserves to go through to the final. She was the only contestant who seemed to be fighting for it and that's admirable. As I said earlier, she's been my least favourite for a while but if she gets through, and ups her game next week, with the same pluck, vim and vigour, I can see the public getting right behind her. 

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Maybe This Time (Anita Won't Get The Death Slot - Oh, Wait.)

So MUSICALS week. Now, I do like a musical. However, it's a theme week. And I don't like those. In some ways, musicals week is the least offensive of all the theme weeks, but in one crucial respect, it is the worst. This is where the production of each routine takes precedent over everything else. Think along the lines of Frankie Bridge's tango (although not in musicals week, as kindly pointed out by Mr Monkseal!) - there was no concern that the music was the wrong time signature, or that after all the faffing there was little time to choreograph many real steps - all that seemed to matter was that it replicated the stage production of Wicked. I don't tune into Strictly to see a poor reconstruction of a West End show. If I want to see that, I'd head to my local am dram society's latest play. They say if you can't do, then teach. But if you can't do theatre, you apparently end up as a frustrated producer on Strictly. But aaaanyway...

The dances... 

Georgia and Giovanni

I have to admit, Georgia did look very much like a Disney Princess. She wouldn't look out of place on a 5 year old's lunch box at all. Giovanni too looked rather dashing as the (rather unhairy, now I think of it) beast. It was a beautiful dance despite the distraction of the human props wandering aimlessly around in the background (this was Peak Prop - I mean, a dancer dressed as a clock - does it get much weirder?) and I was somewhat surprised it didn't score higher. Then, who can tell this year at all?

Anita and Gleb

Ya'll know I've been a fan of Anita from the beginning. I was concerned for her after the rumba last week, and I am concerned again. This was not good. It was also not an argentine tango. The music was too hard. A strong theatrical piece of music has no place with an argentine tango, which should be quiet, and smoky, and sultry. Gleb looked, like Anton, to be having trouble with the hold. I would be interested to know whether this was his first go at this dance too. All in all, I didn't want to be disappointed, but I was. 

Kellie and Kevin

Oh dear. This was like watching a Year 8 production of Oliver. Only the participants were not 12 and certainly old enough to know better. Kevin and Kellie both singing along as though they were auditioning for I'd Do Anything. I was yelling at the TV "You've got the wrong show!" (well I wasn't actually, because my neighbours might have thought it a little strange, but you can imagine the picture) Honestly, I'd do anything not to have to see that again. Apparently on theme weeks the 'rules' (whatever they are these days) don't apply at all, and breaking hold and lifts are just fair game. Which again begs the question WHAT THE FLECKERL IS THE RELEVANCE OF THE 'AMERICAN SMOOTH'? Oh, oh. This wasn't danced badly. But oh. I genuinely despair.

Jay and Aliona

Jay, the lumbersexual with limited facial hair, and Aliona, the Bassetts Fruit Salad chew. They meet, they move, the audience applauds. Thank the gods of latin that this rumba had some rumba in it. I thought it was beautifully choreographed and wonderfully performed. It was understated, quiet and tender. Dance of the evening. 

Katie and Anton

I was semi-dreading this dance purely on the basis that once this song is in my head, it refuses to leave. For weeks. MAYBEEE THIS... and just creeps into conversations at random intervals TIIME, I'LL BE LUCKY... Anton managed to make the choreography stand out over the production in this (this is where Gleb sorely failed) MAAYBE THIS TIME... and it was generally extremely pleasant to watch. I still like this couple and Anton looked to genuinely HE'LLLL STAAAAAYYYY delighted when receiving positive remarks from the judges. I would like to see Katie in the final.

Helen and Aljaz

Again, the production completely overshadowed Helen in this. However, in this case it may have gone in her favour because the judges didn't mention her lack of spanish line, the fact that it was too placed and dainty, that grimacing doesn't necessarily equate to feistiness. At one point, she was being dragged about by Aljaz like Linus dragging his blanket. Thankfully they did mention her balance and timing issues, though they didn't reflect that in their scores. Helen isn't a bad dancer by a long way but she hasn't improved, and I see that as a problem at this stage. 

Sunday, 29 November 2015


After Blackpool, it' s always like the January blues, after all the excitement and glitz there's always a bit of a comedown. On the plus side - so much training footage! Great to see them actually learning the dances rather than prancing about in a field dressed as llamas or whatever, I assume it was because of quickstep-a-thon time constraints, but who cares at the momen

Kellie and Kevin
Is Kevin modelling for the River Island sale rail again? I know wardrobe hate Kellie, but I quite liked her Barbie-does-salsa spangly top. The dreaded Jackson Five music actually had a vague attempt to be remade into something approaching a salsa number, thank heavens. But on the whole it seemed a bit meh, a run of the mill SCD salsa that no one will remember by next week. She's already been in the bottom 2 once, does the death slot not bode well?

Thank goodness it was the latinised version of the song - and the band did a pretty good job with it. Despite my moaning I don't expect all salsa dances on Strictly to be danced to the hits of Hector Lavoe, just some pinch of latin flavour would be nice. This had it. So, win. This wasn't bad, but it wasn't memorably great either. I wouldn't be too surprised to see these guys in the dance off. 

Katie and Anton
Anton's first AT, in case you hadn't picked up on the million and one times it was mentioned. Lovely outfits, but not too sure about Katie's sparkly bra, not very Radio 2. Really loved the scissor-tastic opening lift, but also that they didn't obsess over the lifts either. This was technically very difficult and executed pretty well, but was missing the sex appeal of the epic Argentine Tangos - but do you really want to see that from Anton?

Tangos and Argentine Tangos are starting to merge into each other. The hold for this wasn't correct - they couple should be leaning into each other - it would have helped Katie pick up on Anton's lead too. That comment of Craig's I did agree with, though from the perspective of a follower, it could have been Anton's lead that was a tad late, rather than Katie's picking-up-of-it, if he is unfamiliar with the dance, which we know he is.

Helen and Aljaz
Have they chopped the top half off of Katie's week 1 jive dress to make that gown for Helen? Nice to see her looking comfortable in a dance for once, she seems to have been on edge for weeks, but this was a delight. Well done on the choreography from Aljaz, lots of nice flourishes to add a bit of variation, but also not straying too far from the VW. All in all, a lovely a ballroom dance - and sometimes that's all we really want!

THERE it is. I may have moaned that Helen has been overmarked in latin (she has) but this was right up her street and quite evidently the best dance of the night. Absolutely beautiful and well deserving of 9s and 10s. The footwork looked good to me from what I could see. Mistakes in ballroom tend to be trickier to spot on TV than mistakes in latin. 

Jay and Aliona
Now this is what happens when you do a tango to appropriate music! Imagine if they'd made them do that routine to the Spice Girls or something. Absolutely loved this routine, it's what I want to see from a tango - staccato, sharp, sexy, serial killer faces. Gotta love a Game of Thrones face at a time like this. Easily his best since the Epic Jive of Epic-ness.

Eep. Again, I keep saying it, but this boy's musicality is to die for. I could watch him dancing all day. In terms of technique, he was too 'up' - should have been more into his knees. But the choreography was genius: played to his strengths, hit every accent and break, just...divine. What a talent. 

Peter and Janette
Well this was always going to be awkward after last week's drama...The song did a lot of the work here, along with them trying to bribe us with cake. It was alright, the hold was decent, but it wasn't very memorable. He did look really scared at the start actually, but then it was taken over with crazy faces that reminded me of Jake Wood.

OK. It was better than last week's. It really was. But it was still coated with a thick, saccharine layer of Andre-ness. He is unable to commit fully to a style or character. Where Jay and Anita (for example) are beginning to be able to 'live' the dance they're doing, and perform with conviction, Peter is just always 'Peter moving about', 'Peter moving his leg, 'Peter wafting his arms.' He's unable to escape himself and that is his biggest failing. 

Anita and Gleb
After that all-out-amazing paso last week, following it up with a rumba was always going to be hard. This flitted on the edges of contempo-rumba but thankfully not too much to be annoying, and lots of actual content. This wasn't a natural fit and wasn't ever going to be, but she'd obviously worked very hard and made a lot of headway - hopefully she'll never have to do it again and we can all move on...

Oh this wasn't Anita's best dance. Take it from me though, rumba is hard. It's hard to do without toppling over and requires such control. I don't think she was undermarked this week, and the judges' comments were more than fair. Nevertheless, I voted and voted to keep her in because she has such huge potential, but to have her in the dance off this week could end tearfully... 

Georgia and Giovanni
Loving Georgia's dress, it's a total Ola Jordan knock-off, she also looks a lot like Kristen Stewart in make-up like that. Also, props to her doing a massive solo at the start with full-on faces and nostril-flaring. This was waaay undermarked by the standards of this series, it had attack, lots of steps and commitment to the drama.

Nah, I think it was marked about right... I know Frankie likes a rock paso, but come on, The Final Countdown?! It's hardly hardcore. Anita was given such an advantage with her traditional music last week - the flavour and movements come so much more naturally with an authentic piece. Georgia didn't do a bad job with it at all but it didn't blow me away.

Ooh we were all ready for a pile up!  There wasn't so much a pile-up as a lot of tentative, nervous people trying to smile. Here's a random stream of consciousness...Jay doing some amazing pivots and just Charlestoning when in trouble. Peter and Janette spending the first 30 seconds hogging the middle and hopping around. Helen and Aljaz flitting around looking delightful. Katie and Anton hiding in the corners. Scoring fair on the whole - apart from Jay being put much too low.

This was super hard to keep track of but Helen stood out, and to me, so did Jay. However, the camera didn't focus on any one couple long enough to make a thorough decision, so I will have to trust the judge's judgement on this. Wise, or not, I don't even know any more.