Sunday, 28 September 2008

She's a lady, whoa-oh-oh

Series 6: Round 2
27th September 2008

Last week on Strictly, the men fought it out on the dancefloor! Gary Rhodes was particularly rubbish but somehow made it through the viewer vote (Great British Public, I fear you and I are going to have yet another falling-out if this sort of behaviour continues) and it was curtains for Phil and Flavia. Tonight! The female celebrities go head-to-head! It's Saturday night. It's 6.45. This is Strictly Come Dancing! Cue titles!

Daly dress check: not too hideous, one-shouldered red gown. It's so long it's trailing on the floor though, threatening to trip Tess up during her "dance" "moves". Brucie makes a topical joke about Ruth Kelly quitting. It doesn't really work and he has to explain it. Sigh. Now I think about it though, some ex-politicians would make a change from all the soapsters, TV presenters and athletes. Does anyone have Ken Livingstone's number? [No, but he lives round the corner. Let's go round and knock on his door! - Carrie]

So, tonight the ladies are taking to the floor for the first time. Well, the first time not as a group and being marked by the judges. Jessie Wallace's dress is boldly revealing, as is Lisa Snowdon's. Erin looks like she wants to compete with Lilia in the dress stakes this year, as do the new girls, Hayley and Kristina. There really is a lot of flesh on show tonight, folks. Erin is clapping along off the beat; Austin doesn't understand. Bruce pervs over the ladies a bit and jokes about the credit crunch making hemlines shorter. The girls will be doing either a foxtrot or a salsa for your votes, while the men will be entertaining us (oh yes) with a group merengue.

Jessie and Darren are first up. Jessie says that when you play a character for as long as she has played Kat Slater in Eastenders, some elements of yourself do creep in; cut to clip of her calling Shane Richie a plonker. Excellent editing. This is Darren's fifth series, and could he be any more smug? Gah. I sort of liked him when he won with Jill Halfpenny, but he seems to have got progressively more unbearable since. [But he's married to Lilia, who is awesome, and makes him about 85% more bearable by association, surely? - Carrie] Jessie says Strictly is the best thing she's ever done, and can't wait to get up and get to training. She wants to make her little girl proud. Awww.

Jessie has cleavage, legs and gold tassels in abundance. They're salsa-ing to some salsa-y music. Jessie's certainly got the moves, and a sense of rhythm (not natural though, evidently), but she looks a bit clumsy occasionally. I reckon the judges will like the party feeling of it. Bruce points out that Bruno pronounced John Sergeant's name wrong last week, which Bruno excuses with, "Well, it's live, isn't it?" Not really the point, Bruno. Then Bruce calls him "Bonzo Tortellini". Take that, you insane Italian. Len says salsa is "a hot, spicy dip dance with lots of hips and lots of rhythm". He thinks Jessie did a good job, but is thinking too much about the routine and forgets to perform. Bruno tells Jessie she did everything she had to do, but he didn't see the "walking on the wild side", and she needs to let her wild child out. Craig thought the energy was good, but he wants to see cleaner and more precise footwork. Her legs were splaying, "which was driving me a little bit mad", but "not a bad effort". Arlene says her dress and smile were working overtime, but she needs to control it all and show finesse.

The applause is resounding in the House of Tesstosterone. Jessie thinks she got a bit too excited but she enjoyed it, and Darren says she did him proud - drink! The scores are in: Craig - 4, Arlene - 4, Len - 6, Bruno - 6. I think I'm more on Len and Bruno's side for a change - it wasn't that bad, was it? That gives them 20 out of 40, and Darren points out that at least they're top. Boom-boom!

Next to dance are Christine and Matthew. Bruce makes an unfunny joke - shock horror - and says he's learned a new word, "gagging", as in "gagging for it" (a cup of tea, in case you wondered), so "I'm not doddery, doddery I'm... not!" Interesting new catchphrase. Is this some kind of Brucie fightback? Has he heard the rumours that they're grooming Anton to replace him? (I hope that wouldn't mean he'd have to quit his lucrative team captain role on Hole in the Wall. - Steve) Anyway, on with the show. Christine is worried her dad will think her skirts are too short. Matthew wants to win again this year. Christine is concerned because she's not a natural performer. Because TV presenting has nothing to do with performing.

Christine and Matthew are dancing the foxtrot, and she's in hot pink. I thought they usually made them wear pastels for ballroom. They're dancing to 'The Way You Look Tonight'. Christine is quite elegant, but I'm always a bit bored by the foxtrot, to be honest. That bloke from The One Show is in the audience. [Adrian Chiles, you mean? A good friend of Christine's, by all accounts. - Carrie] Len says that what he's looking for in the foxtrot is all grace and elegance, "and that's what we got". He says Christine needs to keep her feet a bit more in contact with the floor, which I'd have thought was a good tip for most dancing. Bruno says she had "a light and ethereal quality, a bit like Titania", and her face was radiant, but she needs to work on her frame. Craig says he doesn't think she has a confidence problem; she showed great control and had lovely shaping through the arms, but needs to learn to finish the line off. The only thing that let her down was her frame. Len rudely interrupts to say there was nothing wrong with her frame, but Craig counters that her chest and back sometimes looked awkward.

Arlene says that "coltish Christine has turned into an elegant lady" and she's stunned, but she needs to remember that her arms have hands on the end. Tess tells us that their dance made everyone backstage go "Aaaah". Apparently it's very difficult when you're not a dancer and have never done it. Here come the judges' scores: Craig - 6, Arlene - 6, Len - 8 (so he's marking relatively then), Bruno - 7, for a total of 27.

Lisa and Brendan are next on the floor. Bruce jokes that Brendan wants to shorten his name, "so from now on I'll call you Brenda". Lisa says she feels blessed to be in the show and wants to learn every dance, but she's out of her depth. Brendan thinks she's fit and sexy and sounds pretty pleased on the whole. Lisa says his reputation is worse than he is. Yeah, when he gets a partner he fancies. Lisa says she's putting a lot of pressure on herself, but she's going to pull it out of the bag on the night.

I quite like Lisa's dress. It's covered in silver sequins and has risque cutaways at the side and, I realise when she turns round, no back to speak of. They're dancing to 'Rhythm is Gonna Get You'. There's a lot of fancy footwork and a lot of spining, and it's all pretty competent. Craig says that Lisa has "the most natural rhythm I've seen..." and the rest of the sentence was drowned out by the audience, but it maybe have been " a white person". In any case, it didn't save her: it was a bit on the cool side and lacklustre because of the hip action. Also when their hold was released, her arm was doing its own thing. Arlene says it was "a fierce set of turns", but the rhythm didn't get her - she wanted the streets of Cuba but it was very English rose. Len agrees the spins were fantastic, as well as "the thing on the floor" - a technical term for you there - which apparently they used to call "the sitting hen" and is now called "the pepper pot". Len says that "although the spins were great, there were so many that we didn't see enough rhythmic dancing". Bruno says it had "everything but the juice", and Lisa has to get down and dirty. Yes, well, when you're dancing with Brendan, it's only a matter of time. Hands up if you can't wait for their rumba? (And hands up if, after that, you suspect they won't make it that far? - Steve) He thought she was "a bit goofy and hesitant" out of hold.

In the House of Tesstosterone, Lisa says she's loving her time on the show. Does anyone ever say anything interesting at this point? The scores are: Craig - 5, Arlene - 5, Len - 6, Bruno - 6. The audience forgot to boo on the 5s. Get it together, people! They have a total of 22, which may leave them near the bottom of the leaderboard.

Next up, Jodie and Ian. Bruce makes a joke about Jodie treating Ian like a horse, and thinks she might get him put down if he hurts his leg. Jodie blahs about everything she does - modelling, racing driver, "polo with the princes". She says she's going to give 110% - drink! - and then whinges about how difficult it is being tall. Ian is pleased that she's so tall (6'2", just under 6'5" in her heels) because it's easier for him than dancing with a midget. Ian says it takes longer to learn dances because there are "more inches to train". It also probably helps when your partner bothers to turn up for practice, like Jodie didn't last week. Jodie wants to prove that tall ladies can dance as well as smaller ones.

They're dancing the foxtrot, which shouldn't make it too hard for them to look elegant. Just wait until they get some Latin dances. Her dress is white, with blue sequins on the bodice and no back. They're dancing to 'I've Got the World on a String'. Jodie's high kicks are excellent, definitely the standout feature. In hold they're good, but Jodie looks a bit worried when she's left to her own devices. Ian kisses her cheek at the end - bless. Arlene says she is "El-E-Gant". Judges, could you not punctuate words like this, please? They mean the same thing whether you emphasise every syllable or not. The footwork was a bit ropey but the top half was good. Arlene noticed "a lot of feet coming off the floor". They're called kicks, Arlene! She says she knows that "dance has been nowhere near you all your life", which: WTF? Len predictably says that "Tall girls can dance". He was expecting awkward, but it was light and elegant and he "liked the heel turn you tried to attempt". Brownie points for effort then, Jodie. Bruno says the foxtrot requires control and as it was her first dance she did incredibly well. She's not a performer, so he advises her not to "go from goofy to ice queen", but "decide on the role and play it all the way through". Craig says that height magnifies all flaws, but he loved the punctuation and the high kicks saved it for him. He thought she "controlled a lot of body quite well".

In the House of Tesstosterone, Jodie informs us that the ballroom floor is totally different from the catwalk: you don't just walk down, turn around and come back. I don't know, that does seem like all some celebrities have been capable of - although I must say the standard this series has been reasonably high. The scores are in: Craig - 5, Arlene - 6, Len - 7, Bruno - 7, for a total of 25. It's a respectable score for the first dance. Also, it's Jodie's 30th birthday this week.

Let's take a quick look at the leaderboard: Christine and Matthew are currently at the top with 27, while Jessie and Darren are languishing at the bottom with 20. I really didn't think they were that bad. Before the rest of the ladies, time for a quick training VT of the men's group merengue. They started training on Sunday morning, and Andrew Castle looks a bit hungover. John Sergeant says it's less like a school outing than having exams pending. Andrew feels like a pawn being moved round a chess board, and can't really do pelvic thrusts. Their teacher thinks this is Don's routine. John seems quite sweetly bad at it. Tom says he's trying to emulate him.

Tess has a quick chat to the boys. Don says it has been great this week, after getting through the dance-off last week. Austin says the girls have been amazing and the boys are going to have to raise the bar next week. Andrew's tangoing next week - in matching catsuits, Tess wants to know? He says Ola's in charge. Tess is also curious to know whether Mark's going to wear sequinned or studded Speedos if he makes the final. The question is tantalisingly left open.

Heather and Brian are dancing next. Heather says she is "best known for singing". Or! Only known for singing. She's doing the show because her family are huge fans and said they wouldn't speak to her unless she did it. Brian is new. He is from Dancing With The Stars. He says he's a well-mannered young man who likes to dance. The consensus in my living room is that there's something a bit creepy about him. Heather's hips are looking good in rehearsal, and I'm enjoying her throaty laugh.

They're looking resplendent in green, although she hasn't got as much leg out as some of the girls. The camera is showing too much Brian and not enough Heather. He's got a bit of the Brendan showmanship about him. There's a lot of hip-shaking going on. It all seems quite technical. Brian kisses Heather on the cheek at the end as well. These two definitely seem to have a bit of chemistry going on. Bruce says he loved the choreography. Bruno is getting all excited: "Sassy momma, you know how to shake that tush!" He says she missed a few accents, which surprised him because she's a musician and should know when to hit it and when to hold it back. She says she does when she's singing, and he says it's the same thing. Craig liked the attitude, but her feet were a foot apart through the whole thing, which let him down. He thought "the neck drop was very trustworthy". Arlene says they're "moving on up", despite the fact that it's their first dance and she probably should have saved that one for a later week. (She should've said she'd searched for a hero and found it in Heather. Or that this was what Heather has done today to make her feel proud. I totally could do Arlene's job. - Steve) Heather had the hip action but she was "in and out of the attitude". Arlene wants her to "go out there and sizzle". Len says Heather is "queen of the salsa", he loved it. I get the impression he isn't even going to bother worrying about the details.

Backstage, Tess says Heather's the most nervous celebrity they've had, and she says she feels exhilerated having done it. The scores are: Craig - 5, Arlene - 6, Len - 8, Bruno - 7, for a total of 26. Heather's particularly pleased with the 8 from Len.

Gillian and Anton are the next couple to dance. Bruce points out that Phil called him "Anton du Berk" last week, and now he's out of the show. Yeah, don't mess with the Anton! Bruce then repeats it in his intro. Don't say we didn't warn you, Brucie. Gillian is worried about the judges - she might cry and get very low marks. Anton says he's danced in all six series, "you'd think they'd let me win". Maybe if he didn't get saddled with special students every year. Poor Anton. He says Gillian is "coming on wonderfully", and she says he's supportive, as we know. "I've got a good man to pull me through". Awww. Everyone hearts the Anton. [I certainly do. Bless him. - Carrie]

Gillian's dress is lemon with a huge flower on it, which I originally thought was a bunch of cherries. They're dancing to 'Razzle Dazzle', which is a bit slow. I haven't been very impressed with the music this week. Gillian's out of time in the intro; not a good start. Anton, though, is king of the foxtrot, and he can make anyone look good. Well, anyone but Kate Garraway. [To be fair, Kate's foxtrot was pretty good, if I recall correctly. She was nearing the end of the road by then, though. - Carrie] It's all a bit flat. Was it really a good idea to choose a song with the lyrics, "Long as you keep them way off balance, how can they spot you've got no talents?" Erm... Craig says it was "rough around the edges" - boo! - "a bit of gapping going on, but that's easily solved". Her heel turn looked like it was on the whole foot, but it was "not a complete disaster". Lulz, damn them with faint praise, why don't you? Arlene says that when Gillian started there was "lots of the fox", but there was "less and less of the trot". She looked like she was trying to lead Anton, but she should melt into his arms and it would all go right. Len says that he always looks for the good, unlike Some People who look for the bad. Yes, because judges don't need to note faults with the performance. He thought her footwork was beautiful and he loved the performance. Gillian needs to look to her posture - tighten her diaphragm and lift her ribcage. Bruno says that compared to Anton's previous partners, Gillian is Ginger Rogers. He says she had butterflies in the stomach and tightened up. He has to tell the rest of the panel to shut up. Bruce thanks Anton "for fitting us in with all your other commitments". [Gosh. I think Brucie is feeling threatened by Anton, isn't he? - Carrie]

In the House of Tesstosterone, Gillian says she's been having Strictly nightmares. Tess is shocked because Anton has actually shut up for a change. The scores are in: Craig - 4 (boo!), Arlene - 5, Len - 7, Bruno - 6. To make up for his earlier silence, Anton talks over Tess's filler, telling Gillian she's gorgeous. Awww.

Rachel and Vincent are the penultimate couple to take to the floor. Rachel is from S-Club, obviously. Vincent knows all the words to 'Reach'. He says Rachel is his little princess. She says she might sleep with her dance... shoes on. Snarf. Vincent has become a bit weird this series, don't you think? He keeps smoothing down his eyebrows. Rachel says balance isn't really her strong point. She hopes it will be alright on the night. Rachel and Vincent are the new Louisa and Vincent - just so diddy, you want to pick them up and keep them in your pocket.

Rachel is wearing a sky-blue dress which is remarkably modest. I'm surprised Vincent didn't make her wear something more skimpy. There's a slow intro, but their music turns out to be a Spanish version of 'Can't Buy Me Love'. Perhaps they're trying to challenge the singers. Rachel doesn't look too confident, although she should be because she's pretty darn good. Arlene says she was enthralled by the slow opening and a sexy salsa, but Rachel needs to "deliver, deliver, deliver - don't hold back". Len agrees with Arlene - he thought it was fantastic. Bruno says "Rrrrrachel" was "like a cocktail - smooth at the outset but it kicks in and gets you high!" Not sure what kind of cocktails he's been drinking. Craig would like to see more rotation. Bruno interrupts to say that she was "spinning like a carousel". Craig carries on and says she was "ama-zing". Bruce wonders if the girl from S-Club 7 will get some 8s and 9s? Isn't it a bit early for that?

Backstage, Tess says the choreography was ambitious and points out that Rachel's fiance was in the audience, but it doesn't seem to bother her. The judges' scores are in: Craig - 7, Arlene - 8, Len - 8, Bruno - 8, which puts them on the top of the leaderboard with 31. That's going to give them a lot to live up to every week.

Cherie and James are the final couple to dance. Bruce says that Cherie has been the female lead in Oliver Twist - "That's the last thing we need on this show, another Nancy". Oooh, get you! Cherie says Strictly is a dream come true. James thinks that "for a mature lady", she's very sexy. He thinks they might get the dads' votes - yes, because older men don't fancy younger women. Cherie keeps treading on his feet and swiveling on them! Hee! Apparently they have a wonderful partnership.

Cherie may be wearing the ugliest dress of the night in lime green for their foxtrot, which they're dancing to 'Sweet About Me'. This is rather good actually, with an excellent series of turns. The music bizarrely fades out at the end. Bruno enthuses, "That's a leading lady! Totally focused from the beginning to the end." Craig calls them "One class act - fabulous". Arlene "was going to say 'What a performance!'." In fact she did say it. She reckons Cherie is "going to give that rugby-playing motor car, Austin Healey, a run for his money". Len says it was the best dance of the night, and for a change he might just be right. His one criticism is that James's hair is longer than Cherie's. Old fogey.

Tess says Cherie looked natural and at home on the dancefloor. James says she was shaking, poor thing, and that Len can't really comment on his hair. They think it's best not to mention the mistake they made. The final scores of the night are in: Craig - 8, Arlene - 8, Len - 9, Bruno - 8, for a total 33, which is even higher than Austin scored last week. James is proud of Cherie - drink!

So, all the couples have now danced. A glance at the leaderboard reveals that Cherie and James, closely followed by Rachel and Vincent, are sitting pretty at the top. Jessie and Darren are at the bottom with 20, with Gillian and Anton not far above.

Now the moment we've all been waiting for - the men's group merengue to Ricky Martin's 'She Bangs'. John looks a bit out of his depth, desperately trying to keep up. He does look like he's enjoying himself though. He's doing a good job of endearing himself to the public. Gary is surprisingly looking a lot better than he did last week. Mark looks a bit awkward. I am loving Don's shimmying Latin moves. Austin and Tom are still looking like the main contenders. Everyone else is average.

Bruce asks whether it's possible that anyone impressed Craig. He thought Tom stood out: "The hip action was filthy, I like that sort of thing." Who doesn't? Arlene thinks that Austin has improved: "He pushed that girl around, and that isn't easy". Bruce asks Len who hasn't improved, and Len gives a typical fence-sitting answer because he just can't bring himself to be critical, and says they all did a pretty good job. He does admit that "Mark looked awkward occasionally", so I'm a bit worried that I was channelling Head Judge Len during that dance. Who was Bruno's favourite? Apart from Bruce, he says he has to go for John. Maybe it's me, but I can't hear what the judges are saying over the crowd half the time this week. Tess thought the hip action was great, and clearly her view counts for a lot.

The phone lines are now open until 9.30. Recap! Jessie and Darren's chunky salsa; the Fairy Queen - dancing with Christine, lulz; Lisa and Brendan's spinning salsa; Jodie and Ian are so tall OMGZZZZZ; Heather was a green goddess of salsa; Gillian didn't really razzle dazzle them; Rachel and Vincent's eyebrows with their pocket-sized salsa; Cherie and James outclassing everyone else with their foxtrot.

So that's it for this evening. The ladies turned out a bit better than we had been led to expect from their group dance last week, and are looking like they could match up against the boys. On Sunday's results show, Jill and Darren will be performing their jive - yet again! - the pros will be showing us how to tango, plus the Sugababes will be performing. Join Carrie for all the fun and filler!

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