My relationship to Strictly in recent years has been something along the lines of, “Really, there’s still a competitive dance competition on British television in the 21st Century? Weird.” That it’s a primetime, Saturday night, loved by mums and the mums of mums staple is more of a mystery. Growing up, my two most feared continuity announcements were ‘And now on BBC Two, The Money Programme’ and ‘Now on BBC One, From the Tower Ballroom Blackpool it’s Come Dancing’. They were about as far from Russ Abbott’s Madhouse as my pre-pubescent mind could except and always brought on early onset sighing and bedtime.
It seems such a bizarre concept; watching and judging people dance. Like we are all the wallflowers standing at the edge of a youth club disco in a community hut, witnessing the cool kids gyrate and praying that someone slips and splinters an ankle, or at least spills Vimto down their spangly tops.
The pure, outmoded ludicrousness of the entire scenario is obviously something the BBC is mindful of, as they treat to us to an opening montage of plebs telling us how great the show were are about it watch is. I wish they did this with every show. ‘Ooh Doctor Who is brilliant, I love that new one who is doing it’ or ‘I wonder what will happen in tonight’s exciting edition of EastEnders, something ribald no doubt’, then the theme tune.
Tonight, as it’s Saturday, it’s more ‘ The Gathering of the Freaks’
Friday’s Strictly show might have been dubbed the ‘Cavalcade of the Reasonable’ with all the contestants who might be vaguely able to cross a dancefloor without somehow spilling blood being showcased. So we had the sporty ones, the boyband one and the one who had appeared in West End musicals and so was mysteriously quite good. Oh and Fern Britton. Tonight, as it’s Saturday, it’s more ‘ The Gathering of the Freaks’. We’ll get the fat one, the old one and the one with the seemingly undiagnosed inner-ear problem.
One thing I think everyone can agree on, is that Sir Bruce Forsythe is the place where gags go to die. He is like the zinger elephant’s graveyard. He is the Valhalla for one-liners. Waiting for him to reach a punchline is like watching a really old lady struggle to get off a bus. You grit your teeth, try not to watch, then suddenly take enormous interest in that sign about fare evasion. Wow, the fixed grin that was shoehorned onto Tess Daly’s face when Brucie grabbed her in a dancing clinch perfectly highlighted the macabre spectacle. It was like a scene from Thomas Hardy when the grizzled ancient landowner finally gets his stubby fingers on his new, young, nubile arranged wife.
Both when they cut to Red Button Expert (a new circle of hell, I’m adding it immediately to my CV) Jason Donovan and when Lisa Riley inexplicably blurted out ‘tickle me fantastic’ when discussing her partner’s shimmering dancing vest, Bruce looked as baffled and lost as Michael J Fox in a corn maze.
Surely being a regular in Girls Aloud involved a certain amount of dancing? Or was Kimberley Walsh focusing on the contracts or hovering over the mixing desk barking at the engineer that the floor toms needed more reverb during her stint in the combo? It seems a little unfair to involve someone who has spent the last decade formation dancing, when Fern Britton looks as if it was the first time she’d been successfully upright. But I guess that’s the idea. They can’t all be soiling the dance floor as if possessed by demons or scrabbling to the exit at a surprise Mumford and Sons gig.
Johnny Ball has already maimed his first dance partner, but luckily they parachuted in a replacement from, apparently, the world of softcore porn
Surprisingly, the judges liked the dancing of this woman who has spent most of her adult life dancing. Even Craig enjoyed it. It’s very odd to have a villain called Craig. It doesn’t strike me as the name of a bad person. Lee. That’s the name of a bad person. Never met a nice Lee. Any Lee in the world is sure to throw chips at you on a night bus. A Craig wouldn’t do that. A Craig would cup you tenderly and make you stew, while you tell him about the new lump on your neck.
Even dancing partner Ola calls Sid Owen ‘Ricky’. I mean, really, at this point shouldn’t he just change his name to Ricky? And his last name can be Outofeastendersyouknowwithbianca. It would save space on all those provincial pantomime posters. The two of them waltzed, as Ola wore a slightly erotic version of those crocheted toilet roll covers you get in seaside guesthouses, that a thousand travelling salesmen have wiped their semen on while weeping. Ricky bore an expression that flashed between ‘I’m undertaking a three-point turn’ and ‘I may have just dirtied myself’. Bruno called him a ‘rugged thug’ and slipped in the word ‘erection’. And apparently Ricky did something weird with his thumbs. Don’t know if this was connected to the erection. I was repressing at this point.
Johnny Ball has already maimed his first dance partner (or possibly she willed her own ankle injury after witnessing that thing he does with his face for the 70th time), but luckily they parachuted in a replacement from, apparently, the world of softcore porn. After twisting her lower leg like the girl from Exorcist’s neck, hopes were high for blood on the dancefloor. We were not disappointed. Dressed like the “uncle” who is given his own table at family Harvester buffets for mysterious, unsavoury reasons, Johnny was part Norman Wisdom, part Stoke Mandeville. The word ‘spasms’ was mentioned by the judges, which can’t be used very often on the live show. Possibly afterwards, when everyone is unwinding in the BBC’s Jimmy Saville suite, but not on the live show.
If you are the heaviest contestant on the show, as Lisa Riley is, it’s probably best not to have your partner dressed as a flamboyant old-timey circus strongman
I thought Dani Harmer possibly had something wrong with her, but I guess she’s just young. During her waltz, images of the ocean were super-imposed above her and her partner. It was just one of the many bodies of water I was ready to drown myself in at this point in the proceedings. That one judge that looks like the dad from Frasier damned them with faint praise. And apparently she has a ‘nice back’. I must file that away as a compliment to be utilised in particularly desperate circumstances. “Sorry that thing happened to youtr face… but… you know… your back’s still nice.” Tess presented them with voodoo dolls after their turn. Sinister. I doubt we’ll ever see them again.
If you are the heaviest contestant on the show, as Lisa Riley is, it’s probably best not to have your partner dressed as a flamboyant old-timey circus strongman. But that’s the direction they decided to go in, minus the curly moustache. It did remind me slightly of John Candy’s impression of Divine on SCTV – but they went for it, bless them. The judges condescended like the ‘special’ children at the school talent show had just dome a ‘special’ thing. ‘Energy’, ‘enthusiasm’, ‘fun’ were all words bandied about. Bruno just started barking ‘I love you’ over and over and I briefly had to check that I hadn’t been dosed with something. They got top scores, They deserved it.
Richard Arnold looked as if he’d been coshed with a brick throughout his waltz to ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers’ – one of the dreariest songs ever butchered by a BBC Light Orchestra. He got a collected ‘meh’ from the judges and the nation. I should think Richard Arnold is used to hearing that word. It must soundtrack his life like that talking dog soundtracked the Son of Sam’s. This entire segment started to resemble cheap over the counter sleep medication. Makes you slightly drowsy, but it’s never going to get you off your tits, no matter how much Baileys you mix it with. And you wake up with a headache and an unnecessary erection.
The traditional celebrity reality show role of ‘what the fuck are they doing in this’ goes to Jerry Hall. Wow, her accent is all over the place – a bit like Mr Mackey in South Park melded with Madonna choking on Frazzles. Isn’t she from Texas? Why does she suddenly sound Australian? Is that something that sleeping with Mick Jagger does to you? She started out in similar vein to her sexy shuffle from the Let’s Stick Together video, then quickly degenerated into a video used to promote this year’s Comic Relief effort. I guess being described as ‘statuesque’ for so long actually turned her to stone. She decided the best way to appease the judges was to pretend they were bears and stay perfectly motionless, despite being contracted to appear on a televised dancing competition.
The show ended with the traditional Bruce Forsythe ballsing-up of the outro. He seems to have decided that if you can’t say anything understandable, just say anything at all
Finally, Louis Smith threw a few gymnast moves into his routine and otherwise wafted his arms around like wasps were attacking his honeyed crotch. The judges enjoyed this and him. I don’t think I’ve heard the word ‘hips’ uttered so frequently on a BBC One show, except possibly the Panorama special investigating that crooked care home for the elderly. Everyone fancied him and his beguiling facial hair. He’ll probably win.
The show ended with the traditional Bruce Forsythe ballsing-up of the outro. He seems to have decided that if you can’t say anything understandable, just say anything at all. He just burbled words like ‘dance’ and ‘frock’ while the credits ran and Tess looked off to the wings hoping to see someone with a gurney. And then it was over.
I hate the idea of dancing having rules. Dancing shouldn’t have rules. Perhaps it was too much Footloose as a child, maybe its my romantic nature. As an example, here is Denis Lavant in the film Beau Travail dancing without rules. One of the greatest moments in cinema history. He’d probably be shown a paddle with a four written on it.