Saturday, 10 September 2016

Ringer-ing in the new series

Launch show: Saturday 3 Sep 2016

Welcome back! 

Yes, it’s been a whole year since we last visited the ballroom (well, okay, just under nine months from the Christmas special but you know what I mean). In that time, there has been PRO-AGEDDON with Aliona, Kristina, Ola, Tristan and lovely Gleb all departing the show. Some of those people will be more missed than others, I suspect (Put it this way, it took me ages to think of one of those people, such an impression had they made on me during their two seasons on the show).

Tonight! Let’s see which of the pros announced for the series actually gets a celebrity dancer! Let’s guess how invested Brendan Cole is going to be this year! And in this cast, which looks to be the ringiest of all time (possibly), let’s see if we can spot at this stage who really is a dirty RINGAH! It’s time! To! Troll Simon Cowell by having X Factor runners-up give guest performances! [It'd better not be Ray Quinn or I'm walking. - Steve]

We open with a sci-fi-esque tribute to Star Wars/Trek/etc (and possibly the X Factor’s giant X), with a giant planet glitter ball and a little cutesy rocket. Some Star Wars style text scrolls up, with lots of lame gags until we get to the punch of our planet’s life being in the hands of Tess and Claudia. Let’s just be glad they didn’t get special guest Ollie Mares (Dragon is usually quite good at recognising celebrity’s names, dancers aside, but apparently it doesn’t know who he is and I envy it its blissful ignorance). #justiceforcarolineflack

Somewhere in the bowels of the Tess’n’Claud helmed ship, Bruno “accidentally” finds himself sitting on Len’s lap, Darcey stands around looking vague and Craig turns up in a sub- Darth Vader costume choking on the dry ice – which he calls ‘cosmic dust’ (clearly the substance that the brains behind this sequence were imbibing). Darcey then ‘activates’ some of the pros (Brendan – cuddled up with a kitty, Pasha – wearing a sequined eye mask and both in white vests and boxers which yes I’m sure is how they sleep) [it would be on Hollyoaks, especially if they were lovers - Steve], who have been lying in stasis chambers. As she presses to activate Anton, Craig asks her, anxiously, to THINK IT THROUGH. Heh. Anton is reactivated in a suit. And painted grey. For reasons which I hope are nothing to do with Fifty Shades, but given who his celeb partner will be…

Then we see Aljaz and Janette walking through the corridor carrying bins as… robot… cleaners?  And Kevin exercising with glitterball dumbbells whilst a robot Karen makes the obvious filthy joke about Uranus. [But enough about the VILE TIRADE she had against Ola that time. - Steve] Then Oti turns up in a white frightwig and makes some sort of protein shake –and shakes as well, and looks about as bemused as I feel and she’s also subtitled which… Hmmm.

Then Giovanni gets into a fake tan machine where the settings are ‘orange’, ‘very orange’ and sadly not the correct punchline, ‘Artem’, but the far stupider ‘alien’.  He comes out covered in green paint and I would like to know precisely how much Pasha paid the make-up people for that not to be him yet again. A newly-blonde (or re-blonde given it’s her natural colour) Joanne and Natalie put their hair under driers and come out with dos about half the size of Pixie’s tango hair.

Then they all dance to Nicki Minaj’s ‘Starships’ [though sadly without the "we're higher than a motherfucker" bit, which I for one would've loved to hear at Saturday teatime - Steve], apart from Brendan and Anton who float about in space suits before gazing at each other romantically, then holding hands and dancing together – FOR ALL THOSE WHO WANT SAME-SEX DANCES AMIRITE? We see Natalie and Joanne gushing over this unlikely ship, whilst Craig pulls a ‘hmm, this is skating perilously close to queerbaiting’ face.

Have I mentioned we are three and a half minutes into the show, we’ve only met a handful of pros, no celebrities have arrived yet and I’ve already been recapping for half an hour?  Yikes. Craig pushes a button to send them crashing to the floor and then he leads everyone in a corridor dance which seems to involve elements of Thriller and Riverdance and fucking Gangnam Style and what the hell even is this? Then they dance a bit more and the judges throw some score paddles about and the audience do a countdown and the wobbliest cardboard space ship you have ever seen floats onto the red carpet outside with the waiting fans.  Much as I appreciate the sentiment of paying tribute to sci-fi in Star Trek’s 50th anniversary year, I’d rather they brought back the porn train. (I just rewatched it – it has ACTUAL DANCING in it. And a full complement of pros. And Aliona sassing the camera like she knows she’s about to be the most successful pro ever. And Natalie Lowe hitching her skirt a bit too high and loving it, the saucy minx. And it looks fun! Everyone in the space sequence looked painfully aware of how awful the whole thing was.)

The spaceship lifts to reveal Tess’n’Claud (looking lovely by the way – Tess in a long navy blue dress and Claudia in a red strapless number) and the judges. And then the stars – and we get the first glimpse of all our celebrities. Tameka Empson is upfront and centre and already grabbing attention, which bodes well. I think? Danny Mac makes some desperate ‘from Chester to Char Char Char’ comment like anyone’s even remembered you were actually on Hollyoaks given your secret twin sister has just been banged up for the murder of your secret father which was actually committed by your secret incest daughter who found out your secret dad was trying to frame his wife who was your illicit true love for about five minutes and your other dad is sort of missing in action these days and the serial-killer doctor who killed your serial-killer brother who killed your mother - the brother whom your incest serial-killer daughter also tried to kill was killed by yet another serial killer - and no-one’s even bothered to tell you about any of it. 

Also of note? Lesley Joseph and Judge Rinder dance on together which could be an interesting buddy combo. [Insider info: they were paired together for the pre-launch press junket, and they spent pretty much the entirety of their interview arguing about Blackpool, it was amazing. - Steve] Ed Balls does the wiggle that launched a thousand GIFs and Anastacia says this is ‘the madness’ she’s ‘always wanted’. Yes, that Anastacia, whose performance style doesn’t suggest an unfamiliarity with ‘the madness’. I suspect we’re having a year of kooks and I am all for that as long as they are more Mark Benton/Nancy Dell’Olio than Russell Grant/Widdy.

Now, I thought the absence of new pros in the space thing was to save them for some kind of big in-show launch, but as C&C Music Factory’s ‘Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)’ kicks in, Neil and Katya Jones are present amongst the pros flinging themselves around whilst the celebs stand watching with looks of terror on their faces (hee). The music morphs into a mashup of that and Justin Timberlake’s ‘I Can’t Stop the Feeling (Dance Dance Dance)’. What is with (songs employing parentheses)? This is more like it – we have a frenetic mash-up of ballroom, Latin, disco and god-knows what, from pros old and new, taking us from the carpet to the ballroom. Brendan does a biffed cartwheel, and there’s some weird business where Anton takes Natalie, Jo and Karen to be his three wives in some unholy dance harem (I am already steeling myself for the idea that Brendan and Anton could be even more over this than their previous few series, Katie and Sophie excepted, would suggest), but otherwise it’s glittery and fast and fun.

Tess and Claud come on and I recall my previous comment about their attire – Claudia is actually in bright pink and ’s OK.  Tess is in a ‘blurple’ type dress and whilst the colour is lovely, it has some weird-ass shoulder/arm things going on – one side has a standard strap over bare shoulder thing happening, but the other has a full-on sleeve with a hole cut out on the shoulder. I think Claudia might have been raiding the Sewing Bee cut-off bins again. They preview what’s coming up: 6 new pros! Two of the most annoying ever X-Factor runners up! A final reliving of the blessed Jive of St Jay PBUI despite Aliona’s insistence last year that it was too pure to ever be tainted by a second performance. The judges dance on and Claudia reminds us that it’s Len’s last series ‘and Craig’s too, but we haven’t told him yet. SURPRISE!’ The glee on her face makes the gag worth it.

On the subject of Len leaving, by the way – yes, long overdue, but I am not looking forward to it being dragged out all series in every comment he ever makes with loads of tribute clips of him shouting SEVUUUUN and the endless speculation of whether or not we’ll see Head Judge Anton or Karen Hardy or Ashley Banjo or that man with the bum from Money Supermarket adverts or whoever else the tabloids seize upon take his place (I’m all for head judge Erin Boag. I’d also take Kristina or Joanne going on their choreography corner stints.) [I vote for Erin too. Head Judge Miss Whiplash 4lyf. - Steve]

And now to the best part of any launch night – finding out the job titles our celebrities’ agents have wangled for them: TV presenter and singer Louise Redknapp; BBC Sports Presenter Ore Oduba; Actress Lesley Joseph; Star of Judge Rinder, Robert Rinder (and it’s Rinder like Tinder, which I did not know, having never seen it); Olympic gymnast Claudia Fragapane; TV presenter and radio DJ Melvin Odoom; Model Daisy Lowe; Actor and pop star (not idol?) Will Young; ‘From BBC Breakfast’ Naga Munchetty; World Champion Long-jumper Greg Rutherford (I guess you don’t get to be ‘Olympic Gold Medallist’ if you didn’t win it in the most recent Olympics then?); EastEnders star Tameka Empson; Former Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, TV host Laura Whitmore; Actor Danny Mac, and finally, singer Anastacia. They are all a little ho-hum, aren’t they? [I'm quite impressed that Daisy is, to my recollection, the only model to compete on Strictly whose agent was happy just to have her identified as a model. Remember when they tried to convince us that Clancy was also a presenter? - Steve] Though I’d say Will Young getting 'actor' from being in that one thing once and Louise Redknapp still getting ‘singer’ 20 years or so after she last released a song are a bit generous. 

Len calls ‘the girls’ risky and frisky and ‘the boys’ powerful and perky (Jeez, Len, we’re onto your private fantasies this early on?!).  Claudia asks Bruno who will win from the way they walked down.  Bruno says some of them were flamingos and cheetahs and some were wildebeests. [Looks like Craig wasn't the only judge exposed to the 'cosmic dust'. - Steve] OK then. Time for our first meeting celebs and pairing them up!

Former reality dance show judge Louise Redknapp tries to counter the ringer accusations by saying she’s not done any preparation at all.  I dunno, there’s something about her that makes me suspect she’s super-competitive and has spent years watching clips on YouTube and forcing Jamie to help her perfect every single damn genre on this show until she’s been ready to finally take to the floor.  She says she wants a kind and patient partner who shouldn’t expect ‘too much too soon’ and that she couldn’t do Strictly before when her kids were young, but now the time is right. See! She’s totally been spending years practising! I knew it!

Naga Munchetty is used to millions watching her on telly, but not hundreds in an audience (fun fact!  I nearly went on BBC Breakfast to talk about celebrity deaths earlier this year and one of my colleagues was very jealous that I’d get to meet Naga. Then Prince died the night before I was due to go over and it was called off because it’d look a bit too on-the-nose, so no nattering with Naga for me). She reminds us of some of the previous Breakfast competitors, omitting Natasha Kaplinksy, who is clearly DEAD TO BREAKFAST for some reason.

Anastacia spends her entire VT gurning it up and says she’s not into militancy in a partner (I didn’t follow James Jordan’s twitter meltdown about how OMG IT SO RIGGED but did he moan about this at all)?

Laura Whitmore says Tom Hanks taught her to dance and we see a slightly cringey clip of her interviewing him. I know the show likes to cast A-listers by proxy by putting their partners on the show, but this is taking things a bit far.

Louise is first to meet her partner, and she has her hair pulled into a ponytail that makes her still look as young as she did twenty-years ago. [And an ill-fitting dress that ages her by 20 years. - Steve] We are shown the line-up of male pros, and Neil Jones is absent – guessing he’s this year’s Joanne, being shunted off to ITT?  I have also heard rumours of the *shudder* dance troupe being revived.  I thought that went back to its home planet never to be seen again? [I think he's down to play a significant part in choreography over the series, so he'll probably be looking after the group numbers and stuff. - Steve] Speaking of being partnered with someone who seems young for her age, Louise is dancing with Kevin. Much as I like Kevin, he really is overdue a duffer and I don’t see Louise being that. They’re both very happy with the pairing, understandably.

Naga, wearing a red dress that flatters her nicely, is partnered with Pasha for a vaguely rhyming partnership. He kneels before her and pulls her onto his lap and a million viewers screengrab the shot and Photoshop their faces into it. [I've told you before, take that camera out of my home. - Steve]

Tess asks Anastacia if she can dance and, straight down the camera, she deadpans ‘There’s no promises here and I’m just glad to be in your country.’ Tess tells her it’s a win win situation whoever she gets, and Anastacia, aware that Anton has not yet been partnered says ‘really?’ She’s paired up with Brendan, who looks a little terrified, but I think I’m going to enjoy her and if the two of them get on, it could be a lot of fun. [I think Brendan's going to find her exhausting, but that could be fun too. - Steve]

Tess asks if Laura ‘can move as well as she looks’. I dunno, Tess but maybe she can grammar as good as you does. Laura is wearing a fringed dress in my favourite shade of bright yellow. Seriously, I’d demand that colour every week if I was on. She’s partnered with Giovanni and she says Irish and Italian is a spicy combo. And the showmance rumours have already started good god.

The first pairings are standing in the Clauditorium because they’re not yet familial enough to sit, I guess. [Either that or the male pros literally can't sit down in those trousers because MY WORD they are tight. - Steve] Laura says it’s even sparklier than she imagined.  Claudia asks Naga whether Carol’s advice was to make sure she was paired with Pasha and Naga says Carol told her to ‘take full advantage’. Ha! I like this year’s female cast a lot already. Claudia and Louise gush over Kevin.

Len says he watches Naga every morning and the female celebrities are a bit like muesli ‘bitty, soggy and give you the shits’. Or you know, fruity and nutty blah blah blah.

Time for our first ‘special’ guest, whose performance I will watch for approximately five seconds in order to answer the following burning question: Does Rebecca Ferguson still honk like a goose? Answer? Yes, unsurprisingly.

Claudia tells us there are six new pros, and we’re going to meet them through the medium of… Conga.  Great. Confusingly, the dance (a Gloria Estefan backed generic party Latin ‘conga’ rather than the Black Lace Party Party variant) opens with the existing female pros beckoning us to the dancefloor, where they dance with the existing male pros who are wearing the most godawful shirts known to man – some black, brown and orange rectangle shape things that even a 70s dad on holiday would think were too ugly.  Even more confusingly, our first introduction is to: ‘Four time British champion Kevin Clifton and World Mambo Champion Karen Clifon’, then ‘Eight time Australian ballroom champion Natalie Lowe.’  Interesting how, when our celebs get slightly underwhelming intros, our pros get the starriest ones they’ve ever had.  We also meet: ‘Nineteen times Slovenian champion (of…?) Aljaž Škorjanec’ and ‘International Latin Superstar (oof) Janette Manrara’; ‘First ever Strictly Champion (damning with the faintest of praises there) Brendan Cole’; ‘Legend of the ballroom (dear oh dear) Anton du Beke’ and ‘World Ballroom Showdance champion Joanne Clifton’; ‘US national finalist and 2014 Stricly champion Pasha Kovalev’; ‘Eight time South African Latin champion Oti Mabuse’; ‘Italian Latin Champion Giovanni Pernice’. 

And now the newbies: ‘Ukrainian Latin Champion Oksana Platero’; ‘British, European and World Latin Champions: Neil and Katya Jones’ ‘Three time undefeated-something-I-couldn’t-make-out ["youth Latin" - Steve] champions and also apparently contestants on BGT once-upon-a-time looking at their website which also looks like it’s emulating the style of a Geocities homepage from 1998 because millennials, huh, AJ Pritchard and Chloe Hewitt’ and finally ‘Spanish Latin Dance Sensation Gorka Marquez’ – who comes on dancing a bit like David Brent infused with Scott Mills as a crab, so… yeah, guessing he’s going to be producing some Gorka Specials before the series is out.

Also: that's it.  No promo videos where we get to meet them or anything like that, which means they're going to have to work harder than usual to stand out. Also: Neil's role (or lack thereof) is not explained. (Also Chloe's but I entirely forgot about her when I initially wrote this recap. Poor Chloe.)

Claudia, bedecked in a lengthened golf jumper which looks like another Sewing Bee alteration challenge gone wrong, says she’s looking forward to seeing Greg Rutherford because she’s always been a fan of a ‘long jumper’. Ho. Time to pair up the first set of male celebs.

Melvin Odoom looks very cheerful and does a high-pitched impression of his over-excited mum and says you can put him in every kind of outfit and he won’t be scared.

We’re reminded that Greg has won gold and bronze in LIMPICS and he has a young son who likes dancing. BABY WARS KLAXON! Greg says he wants to rectify ‘losing’ in Rio by winning Strictly.

Judge Rinder next.  Having only ever seen pictures of him before (he looks like the baddie from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?), I imagined he’d be some mouthy American type, but no, he’s got a slightly camp and posh British accent. He loves the ‘absolute joy and escapism’ of Strictly. Oh God, he’s a luvvie! *Rubs hands in glee* [He is the absolute luvviest of luvvies and that's precisely why I love him. I'm so excited he's on the show this year. - Steve]

Dodger reminds us about some of his sensational Hollyoaks storylines and says he did to dance at college BUT THAT WAS YEARS AGO AM NO DIRTY RINGAH.  Oh this cast and how defensive they’re all going to be about their SECRET DANCE PASTS.

Melvin says his mum loves Tess and Tess is genuinely surprised at this.  Poor Tess.  He’s paired up with Janette, who does her typical manic ‘can’t tell if real or fake excited because it’s Janette’ reaction.

Greg is shaking and we can see some sort of odd tattoo on his side, a rose? Can’t tell! He is partnered with Natalie, WHO IS TALL and who looks like all her Christmases have come at once. On paper it’s her best chance of a win in years, but athletes are certainly not guaranteed to be any good, so… [Also Greg spent the entire pre-launch telling everyone he was incredibly shit at dancing and that getting Natalie was literally his only hope of not falling on his arse, so...good luck Natalie? - Steve]

Judge Rinder (what are we calling him?  Judge?  Robert?  Rinder?  I can’t wait for the proper credits to actually tell us) makes a joke about looking forward to being judged by Len, Darcy and Bruno (‘I missed someone? Did I?).  He’s paired with Oksana for a series of blonde jokes and he says he’s never been so excited about meeting a girl and Tess says ‘there’s a first time for everything’. Hee.
Tess says Danny played ‘Mark Savage’ on Hollyoaks and that’s also Craig’s judging strategy. She asks Danny how he feels about what he’s wearing and he says it was either what they’ve put him in or nothing and Tess gets the sexual harassment in early by expressing her clear disappointment. Oh dear, I just noticed the weird leg thing on Tess’s dress – one half is straight and normal, the other cuts off with an uncomfortable curve on the thigh. Danny is paired with Oti, who seems happy, but in the Clauditorium, he reveals he has ‘a rogue shoulder’ and you can just tell Oti’s suddenly having flashbacks to last year. [I feel like "poor Oti" is going to become a meme at this rate. - Steve]

Claudia asks Oksana what phrase Judge Rinder will most likely hear in Russian, and she says something… which we don’t get translated. [Was I the only person who found this incredibly uncomfortable, given that Oksana is Ukranian? - Steve] Claudia reminds us of how obscure Melvin is by pointing out he works ‘on Kiss radio’ which is never a thing anyone has actually listened to, right?

We throw over to some meaningless glibness from Bruno and Darcy before the annual visit from last year’s winners. Jay says he and ‘Ali’ formed an amazing friendship. Aliona, whose hair has been bleached almost white, says she was glad to leave on a high (/with a ‘fuck you bitchez’). They reprise DAT JIVE and, like all returning winners’ dances, it suffers a little from the loss in athleticism of the celeb involved, but it’s still a stunning routine – just not as stunning as it would have been IN LAST YEAR’S FINAL FGS. [It wasn't quite the disaster that Caroline's salsa was last year, but it really did look quite rough. Maybe they ruined the specialness by doing it EVERY NIGHT ON TOUR and that's why? - Steve] Aliona says she had an amazing seven years and she’ll miss it, but she won the glitterball twice. Jay, out of breath, says to enjoy it, just as Caroline Flack told him to last year. Aww.

It’s been a good twenty minutes since our last comedy VT, so here comes another: Grange Hill music accompanying Tess, Claud and the pros to the first day of training to meet the celebs. Of note: Judge Rinder says he’s never seen so many attractive people in one place before outside of a magazine. Louise is all ‘oh noes I hope I can dance, it’s been sooooooo long.’ Claudia struggles with ‘having a partner… the steps and stuff.’ Anastasia says the thing she can bring to the show is doing the splits. She does the sideways splits… kind of. With a bit of an angle thing going on that makes it look a little like ‘sitting.’ Judge Rinder is secretly ripped. [And so are Ore's trousers. Look, I just get paid to report the facts, okay? - Steve]

Back in the ballroom, Tess says she’s looking forward to Claudia doing gymnastics and then our Claudia (or a body double? Maybe not going on the audience whoops, but who can tell, for as we all know, the BBC LIEZ) does some impressive backflips and splits before Tess says she means Claudia the gymnast contestant (pronounced Cloud-ia to distinguish).

More VTs now.  Claudia F says she loves the audience reaction at the Olympics and she wants the crowd to go wild in the same way on Strictly.  She says she’s 4 foot 7 and can barely walk in heels so she’s nervous about that. 

Daisy says she’s acted and written a cookbook and knows Sam Smith and stuff but is first and foremost a model (/daughter of celebrities /ex of a Doctor.  Sidebar: Why is Pearl Lowe on apparently-still-going-even-though-noone-can-follow-the-scheduling Four Rooms now? And where has Anita Rani gone? And what is Raj Bisram doing on some BBC daytime antiques thing, still wearing the same costume he wears on FR? And why, of all things, is it now Sarah Beeny's Four Rooms?).  Daisy’s looking forward to the costumes, hair and make-up.  I'm more here for the tango to Kraftwerk's 'The Model' but whatever floats your boat.

Lesley, dressing like Dorien, says she’s looking forward to having a spray tan, never having had one in her life. I find that kind of hard to believe. She’s pleased to be the oldest ever female contestant as it could be inspiring.

Tameka says she can’t imagine why people mix her up with Kim and then full-on-Kim-gushes and says she’s most looking forward to doing the showdance in the final. Ha!

Tess reminds Claudia that she’s eighteen and tiny and she looks about half the size of Tess, bless her, although I think the ‘awww isn’t she cute’ thing is going to get old fast, especially as she’s paired up with little puppy AJ. Tess calls them ‘pocket rockets’ and oh yeah, that’s going to be a thing, isn’t it?
Daisy says she wants someone to be tough with her and work her quite hard because it’s going to be intense and she delivers this in a very breathy wanting to meet Christian Grey kind of way. She’s paired with Aljaz, who has form in dancing with models-who-are-closely-associated-with-people more-famous-than-themselves.

This means Lesley and Tameka are left to discover who’ll be the Anton – it’s Lesley, unsurprisingly, with Tameka getting Gorka.  Lesley says she’s reasonably fit for a woman of her age, and the hairstyle and purple they’ve got her in make her look like an older Deanna Troi. She doesn’t appear to be that thrilled to get Anton but jumps into his arms and calls him a legend anyway. Tameka (who plays a Salsa teacher in EE, RINGER ALERT), fakes spinning herself dizzy and then says she’s happy to be working with a dancer who can lift her up and place her down on the dance floor and she and Gorka hug and his arms are kind of stuck out at weird uncomfortable angles like he doesn’t quite know what to make of it all.

In the Clauditorium, Tameka writes Len’s jokes for him by saying she has a ‘corker’ of a partner.  Lesley says she’ll be sleeping in her dance for the rest of her time, Daisy claimed she had a bath of just glitter and Claudia says she feels sick. Claudia says AJ looks 11 and a half and asks if his school has given him permission to be here. [We're really going to need some sort of code to distinguish the two Claudias in these segments, aren't we? - Steve] Craig says he adores Tameka and he’s looking forward to seeing Oti and Danny.

Time for our second ‘special’ guest, whose performance I will watch for approximately five seconds in order to answer the following burning question: Does Olly Murs still come across as an unsufferable twat whose face I would like to punch? Answer? Obviously. 

Time for our final set of celebs and our first Ed Balls. Ed Balls. Joke. Cos that’s not getting tired.
Ore shows us that he was in Rio, in case you don’t know who he is.  He also says he’s a crybaby.  He doesn’t mention he has RINGER FORM from Let’s Dance. Ed Balls says he’s coming in below novice level and that this is going to be tougher than politics. Will Young enthuses about all the characters he plays in his pop videos. The luvvie-offing between him and Rinder is going to be what I live for, I can sense it. He says he’s done lots of dance at college BUT NOT LATIN OR BALLROOM OK.

Ore says he’s going to just dance everywhere in his daily life and that he’s really looking forward to the jive. He is partnered with Joanne who seems quite pleased. Hopefully he’s as much of a contender as I suspect, because I would love to see her with a serious contender (and for some reason, her blonde hair seems more serious than the red as well).

Ed is partnered with Katya, who will at least get herself some publicity for having the komedy kontestant, I guess. Maybe it’s punishment for that fat suit internet outrage thing the other week. That leaves Will to be partnered with Karen, who is delighted, much to the rage of James Jordan (who got to the final twice, whilst Karen has had to dance with the likes of Dave Myers and Nicky’s nono). [You'd need a microscope to find the amount of fucks I give about James Jordan's opinion, but it really is rich of him to complain about anyone getting preferential treatment considering he got megaringer after megaringer during his time on the show, and usually managed to guide them to an early boot. Eat shit, James Jordan, I hope we have our first three-way tie for the win this year and it's ALL CLIFTONS. - Steve]

Then there’s the usual rounds of gushing and judgely ‘advice’ about having fun and hard work. 
And now we come to the annual car crash group dance! Given that there’s been little in the way of actual content, recapping this show has felt like a slog so I’m happy to get here.

First impressions? Ed Balls is as dad dancey as we all expected, Ore looks to have some moves, Anastacia can growl, Daisy can pose, Naga can flirt, Claudia seems a little nervous, Tameka is less OTT than expected, Laura looks more Rachel Riley than Caroline Flack, Judge Rinder has the energy at least [he moves like a muppet and it amuses me so much, his body moves about a clear second before his head follows it <3 - Steve], Louise and Will seem to be coping well, Lesley seems enthusiastic and the others are a bit obscured in the crowd apart from one moment where Greg does the mashed potato.

Tess and Claudia remind us to come back later in the month, and we'll be back with you then.  But for now… Start Dancing!

Friday, 1 January 2016

A very Harry Christmas

Christmas special 2015
Broadcast Friday 25 December.

Welcome back! Since we last met: Aliona has quit in a blaze of glory after being fired, being rehired, suffering through duffer after duffer and finally emerging as the first pro to win twice (what a journey!); Andy Murray won Sports Personality of the Year Again - although Judy was presumably not as excited about this as she was about Anton Du Beke getting to the Strictly final; half the country has taken to living in boats due to our apocalyptic weather; and hopefully all of us have eaten more than our fair share of mince pies. Still, whatever the weather, the Strictly Christmas show (recorded weeks ago) must go on!

Cue credits! Weirdly, because we aren’t yet supposed to know who the participants are, instead of featuring our pairs, it features an array of ghostly gold dancers. And I thought Halloween was some weeks ago.

We open with a slightly strange Harry Potter themed dance, largely set in the WB studio tour. You could, if you’d been avoiding any form of entertainment media over the last few weeks (including, if I recall, the main show itself), take this to mean that they are setting us up for one of those Christmas specials where we get people who are “far too busy” to commit to the full show, only this time, perhaps they mean it and they’ve got a bunch of guest stars from the Harry Potter series. Or maybe, a Harry Potter themed dance? (Nope, they did that back in Halloween week). Instead, it seems we are at Hogwarts for… well, I’m sure there were reasons. *shrug* [*looks pointedly at Kevin Clifton* - Steve]

Anyway, it’s an American Smooth themed dance, and we meet our pros: Pasha, Joanne, Oti, Brendan, Natalie and Robin (don’t they usually wheel out Ian when they’re lacking in current male pros? Sigh). Our contestants are then revealed. Riding on the Hogwarts Express are Abbey fucking Clancy and Tom Smug Chambers. People’s Strictly champion and ringer Cassidy Little (I know Anna wuzrobbed, but she was dancing with Robin and Cassidy was dancing with Natalie so, you know…) is waiting in Diagon Alley as is Alison Kaffee Babes Hammond.  Lisa Snowdance Snowdon is hosting a feast in the great Hall, and Harry Not-Aliona’s-Favourite-Winner-Any-More Judd is late to proceedings. The pairings are revealed as the couple’s waltz around: Abbey and Brendan; Oti and Tom; Cassidy and Natalie; Alison and Robin; Lisa and Pasha; Harry and Joanne. The obvious point of ‘Oooh, what’s gone on there?’ gossip is, of course, Lisa and Brendan not being partnered. Robin and Alison seems like a fairly good fit, it’ll be good to see more of what Oti and Joanne can offer, and we can all be grateful that it’s not Lisa Bloody Riley again.

I am not sure whether I like the returning contestants’ version of the Christmas special more than the new contestants’ version-although you do often get a better standard of dance this way round-but I think this is generally a decent cast. You have three winners (okay, two of them nobody really likes, but they won nonetheless), a spin-off winner, a finalist and a popular comedy contestant who was not entirely terrible.

We go through the mirror in the Great Hall and we are suddenly transported to the world of the Strictly studio, where Tess and Claudia enter. Tess is accompanied by a smart-suited Brendan, whilst Claudia is accompanied by Robin in lederhosen - I assume the reasons will become clear later. Daly Dress Watch: bright pink, off the shoulder, very summery, looks nice but somewhat unseasonal. What Winkleman’s Wearing: a sleeveless maroon dress, bit more Christmassy. In the audience, Jeremy Vine is mugging away for the cameras. Tess and Claudia tell us that it’s going to be an all-stars extravaganza, and later at we have a guest performance from Blake, which Tess pronounces in the audible version of all lowercase small print, and then contrasts this with DAME SHIRLEY BASSEY. Ha, sucks to be Blake.

The judges enter, dressed as characters from Snow White: Darcey as Snow White, Bruno as the handsome Prince (!!), Len as a king (wearing a robe with some odd cutout patches on the arms through which she can see his white shirt) and… If you were expecting Craig as the wicked Queen here, prepare to have your illusions shattered, as he comes on as… Grumpy the dwarf. Even though this was filmed mid-series, they don’t bother doing ‘the Strictly’. 

Our contestants enter, and time to see if they have simply reused the introductions they had for them when they were on the show proper, or if any of them have been up/downgraded since then. Model and presenter Abbey Clancy and Brendan; actor Tom Chambers and Oti; presenter Alison Hammond and Robin (Alison appears to be dressed as some kind of weird techno Heidi, so now I’m hoping that their dance is going to be to Bring Me Edelweiss); People’s Strictly champion Cassidy Little and Natalie; presenter Lisa Snowdon and Pasha; McFly star Harry Judd and Joanne.  So, no ‘pop stars’ or ‘TV presenters’ and ‘actor’ rather than ‘Holby City star’ which I guess might be downgrades, albeit small ones?

Tess says that, for the ‘first time ever’, they have four Strictly champions in the same show. If we are counting The People’s Strictly as canon.  And discounting this

We then cut to the Strictly version of the Queen’s speech: a message from the absent Bruce. Part of the joys of Christmas Strictly is watching it with the family and seeing how people who like the show, but aren’t perhaps as invested as we are, view it. My parents both talked about how good it was that Bruce was no longer presenting the show and how much better Tess and Claudia were. As we were watching the show after recording it, I asked if this therefore meant we could fast forward Bruce’s speech. Apparently not. Anyway, Bruce has a message for the nation (and notes the similarity between his speech and the Queen’s) - he is gutted not to be in the studio, but his operation went well and he thanks everyone for doing the Christmas show and calls them all his favourites. Thanks Bruce!

Tess lies that this could be one of the closest Christmas specials ever. Tess, haven’t you been watching these for the past 12 years? They have all been a) close and b) wildly over marked. That’s how Christmas works. [Remember the year there was a four-way tie for top of the leaderboard and Len had to rank them all again? Ahh, memories. - Steve]

The first couple of the evening are Lisa and Pasha and Tess makes a joke about how they will be dancing in the snow, despite wearing Alice in Wonderland getup. Lisa, for the record is in a fairly inoffensive blue dress, whilst poor Pasha has yet again invoked the ire of hair and make up and is dressed as the Johnny Depp Mad Hatter. Their VT talks about Lisa’s memories of being on Strictly, including ‘the 40s.’ Such a troll. [I just assumed she meant the 1940s, it feels like that long ago. - Steve] She says that she hasn’t danced since being on the show. Except for the 2008 Christmas special. She thinks Pasha is fabulous and as she got a 40 last time she did the quickstep, she’s feeling some pressure tonight. She thinks the way to win the judges over will be to sneak in their dressing rooms and leave them a mince pie (?). Meanwhile, because he can never get away from the comedy VT, Pasha takes Lisa into Wonderland via a ‘drink me’ vessel, where he is the white rabbit, leading her through a maze of brightly lit flowers and an enchanted forest.

I am not quite sure what the theme of this Christmas special is. It’s not really panto, nor is it films, nor fairytales. I guess it’s as loose as ‘fictional characters’? To complete the sense of loose theming, they are dancing (the quickstep) not to this, this, this or even this, which would have made at least some sense, but to ‘Let It Snow’ because Lisa’s surname is Snowdon do you see what they did there?

We open with Pasha hosting the Mad Hatter tea party, then Lisa, as Alice, distracts him and they start dancing. That’s as far as the storytelling goes. As for the dance itself, you can tell that she hasn’t been dancing much lately and that this is pretty under-rehearsed, because there are places where it looks like she’s running to keep up with him. [Yeah, I feel like of all the dances you can get in a Christmas special, a quickstep is one of the unluckier draws. - Steve] That said, she’s clearly still a capable dancer, and for the most part she copes well with the rhythm, and in some places there’s quite nice footwork. It does feel somewhat under committed, with a lot of the jumps and kicks being a bit subdued, but it’s decent enough and, given that she is up against a bunch of previous champions, it’s likely to give her a solid mid-table position tonight. Or at least place her above Alison.

Len says it was magical, with her dancing with ‘Pasha the Dasher’ (and Dancer and Prancer?) and they were going faster than he does when he goes for his pickled walnuts. Bruno says it was like a flute of the finest champagne, bursting with fizz and popping with bubbles. Craig says she clearly hasn’t lost it and it had a great cross-section of steps and good energy where she covered the floor several times - and overall he loved it. Darcey says it was magnificently fast and she was really light on her feet and she looks like she’s never stopped dancing.

In the Clauditorium, Lisa declares it so much fun. For some reason, there is a guy dressed up as an elf in there. I don’t know if he is a bonus backing dancer, or just some poor man who they made dress up for the fun of things, but he looks somewhat uncomfortable either way. There is a buffet table, complete with the giant sprout from the BBC idents. I guess he’s going to be eaten? That’s as dark as that time when Noel Edmonds blew up the Christmas robins #scarred4life.  Tom Chambers is also there, wearing a waistcoat that is a little bit too small for him and bunching up in all the wrong places. He is not particularly a large guy, but this is making him look quite tubby – reminding me of when Chris Hollins came back for this last year and the judges kept telling him how fat he was. Rude. /miranda. 

Anyway, scores: nine, nine, nine, ten for a total of 37. Lisa says she loves Bruno, and Claudia reminds us that the winner will be decided by a combination of the judges’ scores and the studio audience vote. We then have some random carol singers emerge singing ‘Deck the Halls’, with the most audible line being ‘don we now our gay apparel’. Never let it be said this show is beyond the cheap double entendre. Take that, Bake Off!

Alison and Robin are the second couple of the evening. Apparently, they are Hansel and Gretel. Thanks for telling us, Tess. I genuinely had no idea. Tess also tells us that they will be dancing in a house actually made of sweets, which I’m quite excited to see. Alison’s retelling of her Strictly story shows that she has absolutely no awareness of her TV journey, highlighting her favourites as her cha-cha and her Charleston rather than the correct choices of these two. She says she can’t wait til Christmas because she hasn’t told any of her family she is doing the show. I think the surprise will probably have been ruined for them by the time this airs, love. She says she’d like an eight, because it’s Christmas. And I think that is the reason why she’s probably quite likely to get one. She says that she didn’t ‘keep dancing’ after the show, but stopped. Such an advert for ‘this changed my life, I’m in love with dance et cetera’ this lot, aren’t they?

They emerge for their cha-cha-cha from a ‘gingerbread’ house that looks like it’s been constructed entirely out of MDF and glitter, with not a literal sweet in sight. Call Ofcom, everybody! They are dancing to ‘Celebration’ as the theming on this episode falls more and more apart. As dances go, this is generic week one party Latin, except for the hilarious bit where she pushes Robin to the floor, but Alison is always exuberant, which sells it a little bit. The fact that she is not wearing heels makes the footwork look quite leaden, but she does have a sense of the atmosphere in her performance which slightly compensates for the lack of technique. Then there’s a really weird bit where they do some handclapping staff which I could possibly buy if they were going full on thigh-slapping Austrian style, but they’re not, so…

The audience, including bonus Peter Crouch, seemed to enjoy it, anyway. Bruno calls it a luscious Christmas hamper, full of delights and treats and he loves it when Alison does, but forget about Robin. If only we could, Bruno, if only we could. He then starts singing Kylie’s ‘Your Disco Needs You’, so extra judge points to Bruno for that one. Craig says it was incredibly flat-footed, but ‘it is Christmas after all’ and so he loved the disco feel and the fact that she has natural rhythm (drink!) and brings joy to the dancefloor. We cut to a woman in the audience who I assume is Alison’s mum, which makes her VT even more redundant. Darcey’s favourite bit was where Lisa pushed Robin.  Ha! Poor Robin. Darcey also has three weird gold dots painted on her neck – anyone have a clue what that’s about? Len calls them ‘the yummy Brummie’ and ‘throbbing Robin’ which prompts the exact looks from Lisa and Robin that you’d expect.  He says it was more fun than warming chestnuts on an open fire and they epitomise enjoying yourself and having fun.

As they arrive in the Clauditorium, Alison gives Aljaž a little kiss and says he shouldn’t be too jealous as she’ll see him later.  Claudia asks if Alison would like an 8.  She says she wouldn’t mind it, ‘not because I’m a big fat lady but because I want an 8’ #bingoshoutout. Scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 for a total of 31.  Claudia offers Tess a ‘massive Brussels sprout’ which would work better as a visual gag were the cabbage she is using green rather than white.

Next is Cassidy Little, ringer winner of The People’s Strictly, dancing with Natalie, making him the only returning contestant tonight to be matched with their original pro. We are reminded of him winning the ‘first-ever’ People’s Strictly with his paso doble. I hadn’t noticed any announcement that they were doing it again, but perhaps they’re planning it for Red Nose Day 2017? Cassidy says he isn’t a celebrity, he’s a veteran, but he’s looking forward to it. Natalie says she’s really happy to be working with him again. For some reason, he wears a turkey mask and bright sunglasses in his VT. I guess wardrobe like him about as much as they like Pasha. He and Natalie then go and visit some people who’ve been helped by Help for Heroes, and Cassidy tells a bunch of veterans that they should get into dancing. They look fairly unconvinced by this suggestion.

Cassidy and Natalie are dressed as Puss in Boots. I think she is the Puss in Boots from Shrek, given that she is in red and slightly more Latin themed clothing, while perhaps he is a standard Puss in Boots from pantomime. Who knows? Make up hasn’t really gone to town on either of them, with them just having noses and whiskers rather than full on face paint assaults like Pasha. They are dancing the jive to something I’ve never heard before, but Ultimate Strictly informs me is called ‘Cool Yule’. Now I’m not saying you should necessarily treat people with disabilities any differently to other dancers, and if Cassidy were to do a full series of the show, obviously you’d expect him to master every genre. However, given that this is a one-off special, it seems slightly unfair to give a jive to the person with a prosthetic leg. It doesn’t really strike me as the best choice of dance to show off his abilities. He does seem to struggle with the footwork, unsurprisingly, although he has a good feel for performance, and his timing isn’t bad. His hip work isn’t too shabby, FOR A MAN WHO IS TALL, and he ends with a lift which involves Natalie kind of being chucked over one of his arms and looks pretty impressive.

Craig calls him a true inspiration, who has great musicality. He says it was compact and clean and he brings an enormous amount of Canadian charm to proceedings. Cassidy looks a bit like John Barrowman here. I don’t know whether that is a good thing for him or not. Darcey said she really enjoyed the lifts and tricks, but it was the performance value that really did it for her. Len says he’s happy and he says that ‘Little and Lowe’ are a great combination. And are quite ironically named, being tall people. Bruno says he’s a wonderful performer and can really sell it.

In the Clauditorium, Cassidy says he still a bit nervous and he says that the jive is totally different to the paso, but he’s really grateful to Natalie for guiding him through it. Natalie says he hasn’t done any of the ballroom dances in his life, so she thought it was great things come out and do a jive like that. Scores: eight, nine, nine, nine for a total of 35. Natalie thinks this is amazing, but that’s Christmas for you, Nat.

The some reason, we need the filler of a preview of the remaining couples. There are only three of them left, so this is pointful. Still, we get a bit of Kylie soundtracking it, so I’m not gonna complain too much. [My mum was on a bizarre anti-Kylie crusade all over Christmas. I'm still not entirely sure I understand why. - Steve]

Time for this episode’s random Claudia costume moment. Because there’s a lot of people upstairs and a turkey might not be enough, she has come as the ostrich from future comedy contestant Bernie Clifton’s set.

Our fourth couple are Abbey and Brendan. Abbey’s VT reminds us that she won, to everyone’s surprise, including her own. She also recognises that she has a tough challenge to win the Christmas special against Harry Judd (and some other people of course), so she’s bringing out BABY WARZ yet again, with an update on her cute daughter Sophia, as featured two years ago, who comes to rehearsals with her and Brendan, and brings some Rapunzel wigs to put on both Abbey and Brendan. Brendan is quite adorable with Sofia. Unfortunately for them, the ovary voters in the audience have a Chambers and a Judd coming up, as well as having just seen Cassidy and Pasha, so this may not be enough to secure a victory for them. We also see her and Brendan let off a party popper in this VT, without the party poppers exploding and still maintaining their cardboard base. More BBC lies! [To be fair, my party popper did something very similar on Christmas Day. Bloody shoddy merchandise. - Steve]

They are dancing the waltz to ‘When I Fall in Love ’ and the nod to the theme is Abbey standing in a turret, with a trail of tinsel dangling down representing Rapunzel’s hair, which Brendan loosens so she can come down and dance with him. Such storytelling! There is a lot of dry ice around the footwork, which is always really annoying in a waltz. Otherwise, it’s a lovely enough dance, but not especially exciting. These two do have quite nice chemistry though, and the audience really love it, including Abbey’s Famous Husband Peter Crouch.

Tess says she makes it look so easy and Brendan says ‘this girl’ (drrrrrrrink!) can dance. Darcey says it’s one of the most elegantly controlled waltzes she’s seen ‘at Christmas’. Damning with the faintest of praise there, Darcey. Len says, forget Westminster, she’s his favourite Abbey. If you were going for that joke, why not make it ‘Forget Downton’? He declares it ‘like a warm hug on a cold Christmas morning, just delicious’. Bruno calls her his dancing queen, waltzing her way back into his heart as if she never left. He says she was conditioned to perfection with not a split end in sight and says she really is a dazzler. Craig said it had grace, elegance and style. He said her top line was marvellous, although there was a bit of gapping. ["A bit" - Steve] Brendan says it was to allow room for the Christmas pudding. Teehee.

Up they bound to the Clauditorium, where Natalie Lowe tries to do a one-woman arch to welcome them up. Claudia reminds us that Abbey hasn’t danced since 2013. Oh dear. They then wish happy birthday to Brendan’s little girl Aurelia, whose birthday is on Christmas Day. Aww. Scores: nine, 10, 10, 10 for a total of 39. Claudia then holds up a gravy boat to offer Tess some and then says ‘my mistake, it’s fake tan’.

Harry and Joanne are the penultimate couple of the evening and it looks like they have also incurred the wrath of hair and make-up, as both of them are festooned in in glitter everywhere. That stuff is a bugger to get off, you know. [Seriously. On Christmas Day it was all over my crackers (not a euphemism) and I was still finding it in the bed several days later. - Steve] We are reminded in his VT that he won Strictly with Aliona. We are not, sadly, reminded that he is no longer Aliona’s favourite celebrity partner, nor of the wonderful moment after they lifted the glitter ball, when the rest of McFly gatecrashed proceedings and Bruce tried to sweep them all away. Harry says he’s been in McFly for 12 years and talks about the band’s achievements (note, not McBusted, who are apparently well and truly OVAH.  For this week), but says people still stop him in the supermarket to talk about Strictly. Again, he hasn’t danced for four years and has ‘missed’ it, although he says he does sneak out a cheeky move here and there.  He notes that in the future he will be able to catch up in BABY WARZ, because he and his wife are expecting their first child. He is dancing with Jo, who tells him in training that he was brilliant, worth ‘about a four’. What I love about that is that, given Joanne’s background and what we saw of her on choreography corner on It Takes Two this series, she was probably not joking with that score. We then have the obligatory comedy moments of the VT, involving Harry developing Jack Frost powers and turning everything to ice. Harry says he is doing the American Smooth, and last time he got a 39, but as it’s Christmas, this time he wants a 40. I love how everyone is basically trolling the Christmas special scoring this year.

Harry and Joanne are dancing the American Smooth to ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’, which is the closest anyone’s got tonight to having a synthesis of theme, song and luck-as the sets, lighting, costumes and make-up all fit with the same theme as the song and the characters. There is a moments where Joanne ends up on a bench, because apparently the Cliftons can’t leave tables and their ilk alone. I know we were somewhat unconvinced by Joanne’s first series as a pro with Scott, but going on the form of both her choreography corner this year (where she’s been a revelation), and this lovely routine, I’m gonna start now and say it: ringer for Joanne in 2016 please. [I agree. I've really come around on Joanne this year. - Steve] This is a lovely dance, well executed, light, romantic and just the right balance of cheesy without going too over the top. Harry dances well and the two of them seem to have a decent chemistry going on as well.

Len says he has truly missed watching Harry dance and loves the way Harry has lovely wide elbows, a flat back and dances onto the ball of his foot-this is pretty much the first piece of dance critique anyone’s had tonight where their technique has been concentrated on. Bruno says the hits keep coming and when it comes to smooth charm and exquisite dancing nobody does it better than Prince Harry, at which he stands and bows, leaving Harry looking mildly embarrassed. Craig says he absolutely loved it and thought it was fab-u-lous, whilst Darcey says it’s a close competition but he’s certainly up there. She says the style was glamorous and the dance felt effortless, especially when he lifted Jo. Darcey congratulates Joanne getting partnered with Harry because it's all about the men for her.

In the Clauditorium, Harry says he absolutely loves dancing. Jo said she’s not going to lie, he hasn’t danced for years, but she’s still delighted to have danced with him. Claudia says Harry danced the American smooth his wedding because it is favourite dance and Harry says yes it is, his wife’s in the audience. Scores: 10, 10, 10, 10 for a total of 40 and I presume that will be the winning dance of the night? Jo looks beside herself as well she might. Claudia offers him an eggnog without the nog: an egg and a glass. She then makes a joke about Uncle Terry who licks the chocolate off the Brazil nuts. Well I guess he had to be doing something when he wasn’t presenting Children in Need this year, hey?

Tess says that Tom is going to be dancing as Scrooge, grumpy old man, but of course Scrooge isn’t his full name, it’s Scrooge Revel Horwood. As anyone knows, Tess, this series it should have been Scrooge Goodman. Or rather, Len Scrooge, given that Scrooge is a surname, not a first name.

Tom’s VT shows is that when he was on Strictly the first time, he was a vaguely successful actor in a popular ongoing BBC drama serial, whereas now he is… A former Strictly winner? It doesn’t enlighten me as to what else he’s doing. He said that since he’s been on Strictly, he’s been jealous of everyone else who's got to do the Charleston, and that seems kind of believable, given that it probably is the kind of dance that Tom and Camilla would have lapped up. The comedy element of their VT centres on Oti trying to get Tom into character, but him loving Christmas far too much to be Scrooge.

Their Charleston is being danced to ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’, and opens with a comedy montage of Tom getting out of bed and falling into the scenery, before Oti comes along and helps him dance. It’s not really clear what her role is: the ghost of Christmas specials future, perhaps? I have to say, that although Tom is not exactly one of my favourite ever winners, he can dance, and this genre really does suit him. It has that slightly cheesy vibe that he suits quite well, and he is pretty light on his feet throughout. The theme doesn’t seem too bad either, as he is transformed from a curmudgeon into a cheerful bouncer, which does seem to fit the Scrooge theme. As with the recent series, Oti’s presence here only makes me want to see her get a decent partner next year so that we can see what she can do – as with Jo. I think they definitely saved the best two dances til last, although I do think Harry’s had the slight edge. My dad thought they were pretty equal, whilst my mum was Harry all the way - kind of not the way I expected her vote to go, to be honest.
Bruno says they were soaring with festive spirit and it was the crowning glory of a wonderful night. Craig says it was full of character and used every Charleston step in the book, with complex changes of weight and it was absolutely brilliant. Darcey says she wasn’t expecting that from a grumpy old man and they weren’t being stingy with the amount of dancing in there and the precision of it all. She thinks it was a brilliant Charleston. Len says if he was a real king, he’d knight Tom 'Sir Dancealot' because he’d come out with a full on, flat-out fabulous routine.

The audience loved it, as they have been loving everything tonight, although I don’t know whether that or Harry’s got the loudest reaction. My favourite part of them getting up to the Clauditorium is when Tom holds mistletoe over Claudia for ages before she reluctantly gives in and gives him a kiss. Tom says his family and friends all told him he should do the Charleston and he said he would love to do it, either with Aljaž or Oti. OK then. Scores: 10, 10, 10, 10 for a total of 40. Tom said he never got straight tens before, so that score was amazing. Claudia then gives them a cracker and Oti has no idea what to do with it - both Claudia and Tom offer her the end to pull and, adorably, she shakes it as if she was shaking its hand.

Shall we have a Christmas leaderboard?
Harry and Joanne 40
Tom and Oti 40
Abbey and Brendan 39
Lisa and Pasha 37
Cassidy and Natalie 35
Alison and Robin 31

So I think that is likely to be Harry vs Tom for the popular vote, and that Harry will take it. Tom then explains to Oti how to pull a cracker and she finally does so. For some reason, Janette and Karen have come in matching pink lady style costumes, with Karen wearing reindeer glasses. I think that has been rather a lot of festive spirit imbibed by the non-dancing pros tonight. We then get a recap, which I’m really not going to recap, before Blake and Shirley Bassey duet (/quartet?) on a very weird ballad version of ‘The Christmas Song’, replete with a Viennese waltz style dance from Anton and Joanne, which is lovely and classy, even though the arrangement of this song is kind of bizarre and turns a festive pop ditty into a funereal dirge. Sorry Shirl, but this is not doing it for me. Blame those three losers standing beside you. It then randomly goes into a jazzed up refrain just as you think it’s finished, and Bassey looks like she’s slightly embarrassed, and then they slow it down again and start singing all over each other, Shirley Bassey obviously dominating the other three. Good God that was an unholy mess, and didn’t sound too unlike a battle round from The Voice (Shirl would be team Tom, obvs, the other three haven’t got the raaaange).

We then see a random selection of celebs and pros: Kevin, Karen, Iwan, Georgia, Giovanni, Carol and Pasha, visiting a party for young carers. There is not really any comedy to be mined here, I’m afraid, what with it being a good cause and all that. The kids say they can’t wait to see everyone dance, but we only really get to see Kevin and Karen having a few twirls.  I would feel cheated if I were them. I mean, not cheated out of seeing Iwan dance, and maybe Carol, but apart from that. Then they all dance with the partygoers and Carol seems to really enjoy taking part in the conga, which is not particularly a surprise.

Results time: we get a little recap of a comment for each pair, before the winners are announced: Harry and Joanne. Well, that seemed deserved for a lovely, light very festive dance. But especially delicious is that, despite Kevin always being in the final of the show proper, Joanne is the first Clifton to take the trophy (albeit a non-canon Christmas trophy). Harry dedicates the win to Jo and neither of them seem to want to touch the trophy so it’s left to Tess to shove it in their hands for their winner moment. 

And if you think that’s it, you’re wrong! There’s always time for one last comedy VT, where Harry and Abbey are late for a Christmas dinner party blowout dance to ‘What Christmas Means to Me’ in which Harry and Abbey takes centre stage, dancing together. Do you think they were anticipating it would be between those two for the win? Brendan is playing the role of the drunk uncle who falls asleep because Anton was otherwise unavailable.

And that’s it for another year. We would wish you to keep dancing, but the message of this show seems to be not to bother, so we hope you had a great Christmas and have a fantastic 2016. We’ll see you sometime in the summer no doubt for a series culminating three-way final featuring Jo, Oti, Natalie and their ringers.  Or Kevin’s fourth final in a row, who can say?

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Jay walks it

Week 13: The Final (Part 2) - 19 December 2015

So, after an episode of Casualty featuring Sean Hughes, La Prenj and Dr Browning from Hollyoaks, and a Lottery update in which Ore Oduba seemed to have insider knowledge that Frankie Bridge finished in second place last year (I'm kidding, off-hand remarks on other shows are not canon, don't write in) we're back in the ballroom. The top four are all dressed ready to perform their couples' choice dances (Jay - paso, Georgia - charleston, Kellie - also charleston, Katie - Viennese waltz) and Tess reminds us that one of them will have changed clothes for no reason because one couple is about to finish in fourth place.

Special Truncated Top-Four-Only Final Titles!

Tess and Claudia have also changed outfits: Claudia is wearing a strangely summery burgundy strapless dress, and Tess is inexplicably wearing an Ellen DeGeneres-style white trouser suit [I thought she looked great, however unlikely an outfit choice it was - Rad]. Claudia confirms that the vote is frozen (and has been ever since Prenj was wheeled into Holby City A&E, more or less) so we must not vote now, as our votes will not count but we may still be charged. Which is also true if at any point you voted for someone other than Jay. I'm suddenly nervous for Kellie here, because while I think she easily did enough to propel herself past fourth place in the main show (and her odds came in impressively during the break to the point where she breezed past Georgia into second place), she has not yet proven herself to have any sort of reliable fanbase (even last week, it's mathematically possible for her to have been bottom of the public vote) and she is also dressed as Princess Leia Organa, and to have to leave dressed like that for no good reason would be kind of humiliating.

Tess teases an upcoming performance from Ellie Goulding and the reunion performance for the class of 2015, but before we get to the results, it's time for our behind-the-scenes glimpse from earlier. Len declares it "the tightest final ever", making it a whole 12 months since he last said that, Katie describes the whole atmosphere backstage as "fantastic" and Georgia declares this the biggest night of her life. Aliona congratulates Jay on recovering from his quickstep mistakes, Georgia says something that sounds like "fantastic" in response to her rumba feedback but it all happens so quickly it's impossible to be sure, Kellie screams about getting 40, Katie shrugs off her quickstep, Aliona has loved every little second with Jay, Giovanni is really proud of Georgia, Kellie is having her best day ever, and Anton declares Katie's showdance "epic". There wasn't really a lot of notable backstage action this week, was there?

Tess has got her cue cards, so someone's going home. The couple with the fewest votes, finishing in fourth place, is...Katie and Anton. The top three applaud her, Katie blows kisses to her family, and Katie's Awesome Daughter Natasha is seen saying something to her dad which might well be "fair enough". Tess tells Katie she is "leaving as a finalist with your head held high", and Katie says she can't quite believe that she's here in the final, having descended from the ceiling "in a spangly box, like a pop star". She's absolutely chuffed to bits, and declares it the right decision for her to be leaving now, and I like that I can totally believe that she honestly feels that way. Katie thanks Anton for teaching her to dance, and says that he's had to put up with some bumps in the road, but he's been very patient, and she will be forever grateful to him. We look back over Katie's Best Bits, which strangely don't include her surprisingly competent week one jive, but her undoubted highlight is being at the top of the leaderboard in week 4 with her Viennese waltz because no one will ever be able to take that away from her. Katie thanks everyone one last time and heads up to the read-only section of the ballroom in the Clauditorium.

Trying to get things back on track, Tess reminds us of the three couples still remaining, but pauses for applause after each one and none comes until she gets to Kellie and Kevin at the end. (This is clearly just the audience being off their game rather than an indication of who's got support, but it does make me giggle when I think of that DS poster earlier this year who claimed that they had to move Jay to the end when they introduce all the couples at the beginning of the show, because the screams for him were just so much louder than they were for everyone else and it was making everyone who walked on after him look bad...and then everybody else pointed out that Jay had always been the penultimate person to walk out anyway and therefore became the last one by default after Kirsty - who had been the only person walking out after him - got eliminated.) Claudia informs us that the vote has been re-opened, and that the totals from earlier have been carried over as well.

Up next to perform their favourite(ish) routine of the series, it's Jay and Aliona, who will be reprising their paso doble. Do you know, at the start of the week, the one thing I wanted more than anything else was for nobody to do a paso in the final, because at that point Anita had the highest score for it, and I thought that, considering she was pretty undermarked for the most part, it would be nice for her to at least have one highest-score to her name at the end of the series. And I thought she'd be pretty safe, because obviously Jay would do his jive and obviously Georgia would do her charleston, and obviously Katie would do her Viennese waltz and...well, I wasn't sure what Kellie was going to do but I was pretty sure it wasn't going to be her paso. And then this happened. THANKS A LOT, JAY. [WHY this?  His tango was also way better even if he wasn't going to reprise the jive.  Even his rumba would have done, I guess.  Not only was Anita robbed, I feel we were robbed as an audience of seeing the winner doing one of his best dances, because there was nothing memorable about his paso - Rad]

In his VT, Jay says he thought doing Strictly would just be all showbiz, and he didn't realise just how much blood, sweat and tears would be involved, and that was just the time that somebody posted the wrong bottom two on the Digital Spy spoiler thread. Jay and Aliona were very excited to be paired, and Jay says that they got on really well because they were both so similar. Aliona calls Jay "the best dance partner [she's] ever had" for about the ninetieth time this week. Justice for Tony Jacklin! Did you not appreciate that free trip to Florida you got out of it?! Looking back at his opening cha cha cha, Jay thinks he looked "like this huge mountain of hair". Then the haircut happened, then the Holy Jive happened, and then this basically became a fight to see who got to finish joint-runner-up to Jay. Jay says that Strictly has made his mum more proud of him than ever, though we should probably bear in mind that prior to this his main claim to fame was being the one at the back in the boyband mostly notable for all having different-shaped faces. Speaking of which, Rhombus and Square turn up to say how proud they are of him. Oval--sorry, "Jay"--says that being able to lift the glitterball would be an amazing end to his journey.

So, why hasn't Jay picked the jive for this round? Well, it's because he and Aliona really wanted people to be begging them to do the jive all week, pleeease do the jive Jay, it's the best dance Jay, it won't be the final without it Jay it was such a perfect moment the first time, they already did it the best they could possibly do it, and they wanted to pick a dance they could improve on. What absolute horseshit. Just do the fucking jive, princess, because it's what the people want to see. Honestly, I've had a long time to reconcile myself to Jay winning this series, and I've mostly been fine with it because he's done some good dances, particularly but not limited to The Holy Jive, but I really went right off him this week after he and Aliona spent their entire stint on It Takes Two disappearing right up their own arses about not sullying The Holy Jive by performing it again. What sort of champion doesn't want to perform their most famous dance again because they don't think they can do it as well as they did the first time? And sure, I'm cross because Anita's going to lose the 'highest scoring paso of the series' title in about three minutes' time, but I'm also cross because nobody wanted to see Bon Paso again anyway, so stop being so goddamn self-indulgent and do the fucking jive, you twit.

My pleas fall on deaf ears, so we have to see their paso to 'It's My Life' again. I would recap it, but you know what? I already recapped it once, and I recapped it to the best of my ability, and I really don't think I could improve on that recap, so I'm not going to recap it again. Instead, I'm going to recap this piece of toast. What a lovely piece of toast. I'm spreading Bertolli Light on it, and then some Marmite. I put it on a plate without cutting the toast. Then I pour myself a refreshing glass of milk, and I eat the lovely toast, which is delicious, occasionally stopping to drink the milk. It's not as technically precise as I would have liked (crumbs all around my mouth, for starters), but it's still very enjoyable. And that was my piece of toast. I know you came here to read my recap of Jay's paso, you guys, and I'm sorry, but I just have to be true to myself as an artist.

Len says that Jay has been the most consistent of all the contestants (like that time he scored 37 for his jive and then one week later scored 25 for his quickstep? Okay Len) because he's just given his all to every dance. This was powerful, aggressive and clean, and Len's loved watching Jay dance. Bruno says it was more loaded with power and artistry than ever, and Jay has perhaps the best arm movements he's ever seen on the show. Craig tells Jay that he had no personality when he started, and now he has drive, passion and he dances brilliantly. I mean, still none of those things are a personality Craig, but let's just get on, I've got places to go. Darcey loved the confidence that he brought onto the dancefloor, and declares him "number one in my book" [by virtue of having a penis - Rad].

Jay heads up to the Clauditorium where Claudia reminds him that at the beginning of the competition he was so scared he couldn't even talk to anyone, but look what he just did. Jay jokes that he's heavily tranquilised, and says that whatever happens now, that was the perfect end for him. Scores: Craig 9, Darcey 10, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39. #justiceforanita

Georgia and Giovanni are to follow that with their Chicago-themed charleston, and Chicago may or may not be Georgia's favourite song/movie/country this week, Tess doesn't actually clarify. Georgia has loved being on Strictly and will never forget it - her highs included being top of the leaderboard with her charleston, and her lows included being in the dance-off in the quarter-final. She's been quite surprised with her progress because, coming into the show, she thought she would be all about the latin and crap at ballroom, and indeed her week two waltz didn't go terribly well, but then she had a transformative moment in her ballroom with her American smooth in Blackpool. She says she's not used to getting instant reactions from an audience "being an actress in TV", but now that she's experienced it she wants to go into theatre. Georgia's proud parents appear, and her mum says that Georgia "bursts my heart" (aww), and Georgia hopes she could repay their faith in her by winning the competition. She tells us once again that she and her Joe Varney have been like brother and sister, including the occasional fight, and she really wants to do her charleston again because that was the point when she really started to feel like a dancer. She got 39 the first time around, but she knows she can do it better. You hear that, Jay? 39 first time around, and she knows she can do it better.

So Georgia and Giovanni do their charleston to 'Hot Honey Rag' once again, and I'm glad that they at least have an idea of how to end on a crowdpleaser because this is absolutely the one I would have voted for them to reprise. If I'm honest, I've always found Georgia a little bit dull even when I've been marvelling at the beauty of her performances, but she just completely comes alive in this one - the energy and joy absolutely shines out of her, and it's the perfect marriage of choreography and personality. She's absolutely fearless here too, hurling herself into some dangerous lifts and looking completely relaxed the whole way through. Watching this through for a second time, I'm actually getting goosebumps, it's that good. Let's just put it this way: Georgia's mum isn't the only one welling up when it's over. Well-played, Georgia May Foote. Well-played indeed.

Bruno tells them this was a "sparkling cracker of a charleston", and she's taken all of the Fosse references and put them in the right place and made them her own. She's really shown how she's grown as a dancer and a performer with great range. Craig tells her she has been extraordinary, and he thinks she's had one of the biggest journeys on the programme, from being a little bit insecure to learning how to tell stories through dance, and he would be very, very proud to put her into "any of my West End shows". Georgia cries with joy, and I assume she's trying to figure out if this legally constitutes a binding verbal contract. How many West End shows does Craig actually have, though? Darcey says it was full of "the naughty little Georgia that we like", not that she's patronising her at all, and she nailed it. Len says that he wrote down "pure joy" as she was dancing, and he calls her "a little fireball". He says that if he's ever asked what makes a terrific charleston, he's going to tell people to watch this one. Yeah, take that Hollins!

Georgia runs up to the Clauditorium, using her hat to hide her tear-stained face (hee), and Claudia cautions Georgia to make sure she watches Craig's shows before she signs any contracts. Ha! (Helen absolutely cracks up at this, which makes me laugh even more.) Claudia checks where Giovanni's crying, and he insists he isn't. He says he's so proud of Georgia for being amazing at dancing everything, including the charlesssston. Scores: Craig 10, Darcey 10, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 40. Anything less would've been a crime. Georgia says that's a fantastic way to finish, and Giovanni says that he is over, over, over, OVER the moon. Bless.

The last couple of the series to dance is Kellie and Kevin. Also doing a charleston. After that. Now, I loved Kellie's Star Wars charleston, I think it was a good choice of dance to go out on in light of recent pop cultural events, I'm delighted we get to see it again...but the running order absolutely did her in here, because having to follow Georgia's perfect-score charleston with one that's a lot sillier and more knockabout is, I imagine, going to do serious damage to Kellie's momentum. Ah well. She was never going to win anyway. [Shame they didn't reprise this in show one and their AS in show two as that was a proper showstopping, pandering for votes number - Rad]

In her VT, Kellie says that doing Strictly is one of the best things she's ever done, and Kevin says they've just genuinely had a brilliant time. One of Kellie's personal highlights was Blackpool, because she got to dance with five boys instead of one, and Kevin praises Kellie for just running with whatever daft idea he had on any given week. He thinks she's been the perfect partner. Kellie loved getting to do some proper Fred 'n' Ginge for her American smooth, and she feels so lucky that she got to do this show with Kevin Clifton of the Grimsby Cliftons. She wells up a little bit when she thinks about how much Kevin has given her (phrasing), even to the point of holding her up when she was too exhausted to stand, and he never raised his voice or got cross with her. Danny Dyer says she deserves to win, "no disrespect to none of the other finalists", and Kellie's cute husband says that she's amazing and he's very proud of her. They've chosen their charleston to close their time on the show because they had so much fun doing it, and it feels like a fitting end because they get to be überdorks one last time. Kellie says that as far as she's concerned, they're winners whatever happens. Which is just as well.

So they charleston one last time to 'Cantina Band' (which is apparently actually called 'Mad About Me' - who knew?), and I still love this routine. I love the way they flip a switch and turn from serious intergalactic rebels into goofy charleston dancers, I love the little performance accents that they give it, I love the shit-eating grins they both have as they do a little shimmy right down the camera, I love how the whole thing really doesn't make any sense at all and yet is somehow completely compelling all the same. My only reservations are that they're still not quite synchronised in some of the side-by-side sections, and that I still feel that the dance fizzles out a little bit - the final lift is very anticlimactic, and I rather hoped that, since this would be the close of the series as far as the performances were concerned, Kevin might have made it into something more snazzy. But, as ever, I understand that Kellie has two jobs and is exhausted and that there probably just wasn't time.

Kellie's overjoyed and, I think, mostly relieved when it's all over and Karen's welling up again on the balcony. Tess asks if they could be worthy winners based on that, and Craig says that everyone in the final now deserves it. Judicious use of "now" there, Craig. He thinks Kellie is one of the most exciting performers on the show, and her energy and commitment have been extraordinary. Darcey calls her the princess of precision, and was impressed once again with the precision and synchronicity of the performance, and calls it "perfection". Len says that he loves watching them, they bring joy to his heart, and he thinks Kellie deserves to win. Bruno says that this was even better the second time around because he could appreciate the wit, the inventiveness and the attention to detail. He's loved the quirky details they've been putting in all season, and the way they've continued to surprise him all series long. He thinks she can deliver the ace when she's required to, and that's worthy of a champion.

They force themselves up to the Clauditorium, where Kellie says that she loves Len too, and she adds there were a few dances she considered choosing - with Kevin adding that she tried to get him to do 'Boom! Shake The Room' - but this one just felt like it summed them up somehow. She thinks that the whole experience won't hit her until it's over and she can sit back with a cup of tea, but it's been wonderful and she's loved every single second of it. Scores are in: Craig 9, Darcey 10, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39. Kellie says she's very happy with that, but there are shouts within the Clauditorium that it was undermarked. (I don't think so, there's no way they could've marked it on a par with Georgia's, and I say that as someone who voted for Kellie to win nine times.)

Final, irrelevant leaderboard?

1. Kellie & Kevin - 40 + 40 + 39 = 119
2. Georgia & Giovanni - 36 + 36 + 40 = 112
3. Jay & Aliona - 36 + 35 + 39 = 110

Claudia tells everyone to grab their favourite prop from the series as she reads the terms and conditions one last time, and Jamelia and Kirsty realise they don't have any props within reach, so they just grab each other. Heh.

After a recap of all of our top three's performances, it's time to find out what the public liked best about this year's show in a filler VT. They included: the porn train, Daniel O'Donnell's quiff, Jeremy's dad dancing, the new pros, Gleb, the Gleb Special, the thought of being held by Giovanni, Oti even though she went out early, Movie Week, Peter Andre being sexy, Kirsty dressing up as a dog, The Holy Jive, Blackpool, Anita's paso, Anton making the final, the female celebrities in general, Carol living her best life, Helen George being lush, Jamelia being a trouper despite her dance-off woes, Musicals Week, Georgia's paso, watching with their grans, Darcey, Craig mellowing, Len's one-liners, Bruno falling off his chair, thinking about Strictly 2016. (Imagine your actual highlight of the series being Georgia's paso, though. Imagine.)

Then in "sing up, luv" corner we have Ellie Goulding performing 'Love Me Like You Do' and somehow managing to be nearly inaudible despite singing right into a microphone. Thank goodness Oti and Gleb and Aljaž and Janette are here to do some showboating right in front of her and make this somehow not a waste of everyone's time.

And that's it - Tess declares the lines officially closed, so while the independent adjudicators tot up just how many million votes Jay has won by, it's time for us to check back in with the class of 2015. Anita says that nothing in her life could have prepared her for Strictly, and Helen can only barely remember stepping off The Porn Train during the launch show. Anthony felt like a star for a little while. Kirsty remembers being scared as the partners were being handed out, and Anita remembers wanting to be partnered with Gleb when she first saw him, while Carol wanted Pasha from the off. Ainsley remembers how hard the working was, and Jamelia remembers doubting her dance ability on the first day of training. Peter recalls being stressed every Monday worrying if he was ever going to get the routine, and Kirsty now has a Pavlovian fear of Alan Dedicoat's voice. Anthony remembers his trousers splitting during his jive, Carol remembers forgetting her cha cha cha, Jamelia remembers being desperate for validation, Ainsley longs to drag all the judges into the kitchen and tell them they're chopping an onion wrong. Peter remembers getting his first 10 from Len, Jamelia loved getting into character for the theme weeks, Helen particularly loved being Marilyn Monroe for movie week. Peter still gets kids telling him that they loved him as Captain Jack Sparrow. (Yes, Peter actually mentioned kids without telling us that he loves his. Perhaps he really is evolving.) Daniel loved being Danny Zukko with his Tea-Birds, Carol loved having two Pashas fighting over her for Hallowe'en VT purposes, and Jeremy realises how sad he was after he got eliminated because he'd had so much fun. Everyone loved each other and nobody wanted to see anyone go home, and Anita thinks she's one of the luckiest people on Earth because she's one of the few to have "the Strictly experience" and she will treasure it forever. Daniel tries to mimic Craig's "fab-u-lous" and sounds so very bored, and then everyone tries to sum up the experience in one word: Jamelia goes for "rollercoaster", Anthony for "exciting", Ainsley for "unique", Carol for "exhilarating", Daniel for "amazing", Kirsty for "incredible", Jeremy for "overpowering", Peter for "fantabadosa", Anita for "exhausting", Helen for "unforgettable" and Iwan for "fabulous". I wonder how many of them picked a word someone else had already chosen and had to come up with another one, like on Family Fortunes.

That seems like as good a cue as any for the class of 2015 to return to the floor, doesn't it? They're dancing ("dancing", in some cases, with thanks as ever to Jamelia for the sarcasm-quotes) to 'Do You Love Me' by the Contours, and it starts with Daniel, sitting in the Clauditorium and weeping over a pillow with Kristina's face on it and Iwan doing the same to one of Ola, with Ainsley offering them each a tissue. Well, you could certainly read this little tableau in more than one way, couldn't you? Then Pasha, Gleb, Tristan, Jeremy, Brendan and Aljaž appear, and it could just be the camera position, but it looks as though Iwan accidentally hits Aljaž in the face. They lip-sync to the chorus and part to reveal Ola doing her final dance EVER on the show atop the chairs and Iwan doing the worm. Anthony throws a few punches inside a mocked-up boxing ring with Oti, Karen, Janette, Joanne and Natalie dancing around, and I'm no doctor but I still don't think his shoulder has fully recovered. Daniel skips by apparently doing some sort of ceilidh with Kristina, and then the music transitions into 'I Only Want To Be With You' as Ainsley stands by the judges' desk while Tristan, Aljaž and Gleb wave cards with green peppers and red tomatoes on them. Gleb clearly has no idea what any of this means and is just grinning his way through it, and I love him for it. Brendan and Kirsty chomp on the same strand of spaghetti, but thankfully Kirsty is not dressed as a dog this time. Carol holds up a glittery umbrella while Gleb, Aljaž and Tristan conga past and chuck glitter at her (life goals, right here) and then Pasha descends on a cloud again! Jeremy rides in on a horse pushed by Brendan and Tristan and attempts to lasso Karen, but pulls in Craig instead, brandishing his 3 paddle. Then, in possibly my favourite part of the whole routine, Jamelia leads all the female pros (minus Aliona, of course) in a 'Proud Mary' jive and even does an assisted somersault with Tristan, and then Peter just gets to...run across the stage. Hee. Helen swoops in to be borne aloft by Aljaž and Anita gets one last Gleb Special and then finally everybody assembles for a dramatic end pose. You know, it really was a good cast this year. [Except Iwan.  And Antony's shoulder. - Rad]

We go from that into a teaser trailer for the Christmas special, which is apparently going to contain some fairly terrifying costumes and special guest star Shirley Bassey. Yes to all that.

The end is in sight as the class of 2015 joins Claudia in the Clauditorium, where Daniel says that he's been singing to everyone via video message when they've been stressed late at night. Helen says she's really missed being with everyone, and it's been really emotional watching those clips back. Claudia asks Jeremy what people say to him in the street now, and he answers an entirely different question by saying how much everyone has loved their professional partners (obviously not IN THAT WAY, no scandal here, although he says that he did hug Craig earlier so maybe the Strictly curse has a new form now?). Carol says she's so proud of everyone and they're all winners as far as she's concerned. Ainsley says this has been a really special year in terms of the camaraderie, and everyone's been so cheerful - even Tess and Claudia. Claudia asks Peter who the naughtiest person was during group rehearsals, and Peter says it was absolutely Iwan. And that's that.

Just to make sure there is absolutely no danger of, say, having time to reveal who is in third place and having a quick exit chat with them before revealing the winner, we get a VT of the judges talking about the top three. What is even left to say at this point? It's been such a close competition (lies), everyone's been so extraordinary, Georgia has learned how to ballroom, Jay is the last man standing, Jay is for Jayourney, That Jive, Kellie is full of joy and a brilliant performer, apparently nobody else could've done that Viennese waltz, she's a fighter and never gives up, all of them are technically great and great performers, they all deserve to win.

It's time for that final result. The Strictly Come Dancing champions of 2015 are...Jay and Aliona, of course. Kellie and Georgia both put up a good fight at the end, but the Jay train has been rolling for 10 weeks now and there was no way of stopping it. Like I said earlier, I think he's been good across the series, but I really wish it had felt like he'd actually turned up for this final, because he kind of sleepwalked through it and, on the basis of the dances performed tonight, he doesn't feel like the right winner, which is a shame. As it is, he joins Darren, Tom, Chris and Louis in the ranks of celebrities to win from the bottom of the leaderboard, and Natasha, Darren, Alesha, Tom and Kara in the ranks of celebrities who won without ever receiving a perfect score and... I dunno, I feel like both of these could have been fairly easily avoided?

Anyway, to the runners-up: Georgia just wanted to get to the final and she's done that, and Giovanni tells her she's become an amazing dancer. Kellie has had the best time and she's glad she got to be here to the very end and do as many dances as possible. She wanted to entertain everybody, and she hopes she's done that. (Also, let's hope 2016 is finally the year where Kevin knows what position he finished in, eh?)

But Jay and Aliona are our champions, and Aliona is the first pro ever to win twice (lol). Jay says that he feels spaced out, and Aliona deserves this so much. It's been one of the most special things he's ever done, with the most special person, and he's really happy that people liked what he was doing. Claudia summons the rest of the cast back in and Jamelia's at the front, making a beeline for Kellie and Kevin. A weeping Jay gets lifted into the air on Aljaž's and Gleb's shoulders (what a way to go out, amirite?), 'Flashdance (What A Feeling)' plays, gold confetti erupts from the ceiling, Jay weeps some more, everybody hugs everybody, and we're done.

And that's it for the 2015 series, but Rad will be here at some point post-Christmas with a recap of the Christmas special. Thank you all for sticking with us once again, we really do appreciate your support and your comments, and we hope that you all get a Gleb special for Christmas. Bye!