20th September 2008
Hooray! After last week's preview show, in which yours truly made a brief but thrilling appearance (waving a dictaphone at Gary Rhodes, just in case you were wondering), it's officially time for the new series to start properly. And despite having been slightly less enthused by the celebs taking part at first than I was last year, now the show's about to get on the road, I'm very excited. So without any further ado...
16(!) celebrities are ready to, as Tess's voiceover reminds us, put the sparkle into Saturday night. They've been working flat out, and they're already feeling the pressure: cue shot of Gillian Taylforth shrieking about how much she has to remember, and Anton internally sighing that he won't be lifting the trophy this year either. It's the biggest Strictly ever: more couples, more dancing, more excitement. Well, we'll see about that one, won't we? John Sergeant says that people will be watching thinking he won't be able to dance. Gary Rhodes drops Karen, Phil Daniels drops Flavia. Everyone will be dancing tonight. This! Is! Strictly Come Dancing! Live!
Titles, which look great on my new telly. And I'm pleased to see they've corrected the misspellings of Cherie Lunghi's and Christine Bleakley's names after last week - tut tut tut. Good God, there really are a lot of them this year, aren't there? Tom Chambers has a lovely smile.
Bruce and Tess take to the floor. Crikey, Tess's dress actually looks nice - please let this be a precedent she'll maintain for the rest of the series! Of course, after five series Bruce and Tess's little dance together still looks risibly amateurish. Alesha is in the audience! No sign of The Nans, sadly. It is nice to see us, to see us...nice! Tess says the cast is amazing, and Bruce cracks a joke about how he phoned Gordon Brown last week, who said he would've been taking part if he weren't prime minister, to which Bruce replied that he'll put his name down since they don't start for another week. Topical humour! It must be because we have a political correspondent on board this year.
The couples are announced: Holby City's Tom Chambers and his partner Camilla Dallerup, actress Jessie Wallace and her partner Darren Bennett, actor Phil Daniels and his partner Flavia Cacace, singer Rachel Stevens and her partner Vincent Simone, actor Don Warrington and his partner Lilia Kopylova, TV presenter Christine Bleakley and her partner Matthew Cutler, rugby star Austin Healey and his partner Erin Boag, TV presenter and model Lisa Snowdon and her partner Brendan Cole, Olympic swimmer Mark Foster and his partner
Tonight is boys' night, and next week will be the girls', as has been the usual pattern over the past few series, except this time we'll be doing it for four weeks instead of two because there are just so many people! The men will be dancing either a cha cha cha or a waltz. Bruce explains how the voting system works, but we all know that by now, right?
Our first couple is Tom and Camilla. Tom is wearing a sequinned electric blue shirt and has a pleasing amount of chest hair on display. Requisite joke about Tom's doctor friends in white coats. In his intro VT, Tom explains that some people will know him as Dr Sam Strachan from Holby City. I am not one of these people, but my sister is, and apparently she loves him. Anyway, he is a lothario who enjoys snogging Patsy Kensit while Tina Hobley watches, and also a maverick who gets slapped by Connie Beauchamp (dammit, I can't remember the actress's name) before she just has to snog him right there and then, because that's how the medical profession works. He denies being a heartthrob, and to be honest, I think he's a little bit too bland for my tastes, heartthrob-wise. He is very cute, though. Camilla says Tom ticks all of the boxes for a dancing partner, if not all of them. Tom tells Camilla he's had to move his wedding, which was planned for midway through the series, to a Sunday and cancel his honeymoon. That's dedication for you. And at least they're not even vaguely trying to pretend that the Sunday dance-off show isn't blatantly recorded on Saturdays any more. He trips Camilla up in rehearsals, and apologises. He talks about the difficulty of working on Holby, doing this show and organising a wedding. Seriously, that is kind of asking for a nervous breakdown, right there. [Since when does the groom have any say in organising a wedding anyway? He'll be fine. - Carrie] Is it wrong that I already approve of him based on the fact that he does not rehearse in dodgy sportswear? Camilla says Tom doesn't know how well he's doing. He says that if they're the first ones out, he'll probably have a cardiac arrest, but he'll try to make it look like there's nothing wrong.
They are dancing the cha cha cha to 'Nowhere To Run', and bless him, Tom looks so camp when he dances. I think that's an unintended side effect of him trying to get the requisite amount of jiggle into his cha cha cha. He's not too bad, thought - especially for a first week, this seems competent enough, though the routine is maybe a little uninspiring. Or uninspired, I'll leave it up to you to decide. Tom looks kind of terrified the whole way through, and pulls lots of adorkably nervous faces.
Bruce says it's a good time to welcome back their "fabulous singers" and orchestra. Oh Bruce, it is never a good time to welcome back those singers. And of course we have judges - Bruce cracks another Topical Joke about their summer holidays which doesn't really have a punchline. Unless Craig not being able to find someone to go on holiday with tickles your funnybone - it doesn't do it for me, though. Bruce reminds us that Head Judge Len is Head Judge, and Head Judge Len thought that Tom showed great hip action, and danced it "absolutely great". Shame Head Judge Len's feedback isn't absolutely grammatically correct. He needs to work on the arms, but overall it was a good job. Bruno says he was a tomcat (geddit?) claiming his new territory - he ascribes the errors in the footwork to nerves, but says it was a good first outing. Craig has a few small issues - the hands are flat and shapeless, the arms are thrown away without much definition, and the "char char char" walks were a bit mincey. Predictably, the studio's reaction to this is one of scandalised hilarity. Craig also found the whole performance "smug", but thought it was danced well. Arlene reminds us that "they say" hips don't lie (does anyone say that apart from Shakira?), and Tom has magic movement in his. Also, it's lucky that his breasts are small and humble, so we don't confuse them with mountains. She tells him to work on his arms and upper body, but she loved it.
Backstage in the House of Tesstosterone, Tom is glad his trousers didn't split. Camilla says it's unnerving going out first, and Tom did well. Tom says he was nervous. Wow. Fascinating. Scores! Six from Craig, seven from Arlene, eight from Len, seven from Bruno, for a total of 28. Not too shabby.
Couple two is Phil Daniels and his partner Flavia Cacace. I'm trying to figure out when would be a good time to crack my "Cacace in the Rye" joke. I'm just not going to transcribe Bruce's jokes unless they're actually funny, is that okay with everyone? It'll save us all a lot of time. Phil is wearing a hot pink shirt in his VT, which is an impressive commitment so early on in the series. He says that he's best known for Quadrophenia, and was also in EastEnders for two years, in which he was AWFUL. He doesn't say that last bit, but it's true. Anyway, he played Deano's dad - Deano, of course, being played by Matt Di Angelo, who was Flavia's partner last series - are we all fully up to speed on the fittingness of this partnership? Jolly good. Phil claims to be fairly fit, and ran the marathon this year. Flavia thinks Phil has a lot of pressure because she made the final last year, and wants to do the same again. Phil is comfortable flinging Flavia around, but is not sure quite where she'll land. Flavia says Phil is a joker, and Phil calls himself "Anton Du Berk". Heh. Phil says that their ability to laugh about his mistakes makes them a good partnership.
God, Flavia's dress is horrendous. It's like someone shredded an entire four-pack of magnolia Andrex and glued it haphazardly to her body, and then shoved some yellow tinsel round her shoulders. They are dancing to an infuriatingly slowed-tempo version of 'I Have Nothing', which is sung incredibly nasally by one of the singers. Phil is obviously concentrating very hard, because he is neither exhaling nor looking at Flavia, ever. As a result, it's hard to feel much of a connection between the two of them just yet. There's potential here, though, I think. Head Judge Len says they are looking for the hold, the posture and the movement. Len thinks the movement was very good, the other two need work, but it was good for a first week. Bruno calls Phil "a bit of rough" and says the dance was shaky and unsteady, and points out that Phil "looked like [he was] going for a dive". He tells Phil to relax. Craig says the steps were all there, but it lacked grace and was "common", and the rise and fall was lumpy. He doesn't think Phil was engaged, but it could just be nerves. Arlene gets scary and says she's worked with Phil and seen him as a master of his art where she was in awe of him, and now the tables are turned and she's thinking he ain't all that sistah, nuh uh, z-snaps. She tells him he needs to introduce his right foot to his left foot and make them fall in love, because they never came together.
House of Tesstosterone. Phil enjoyed it, but is glad to have it done with. Phil's friends think it's strange that he's on the show, but he thought "why not, eh?" Scores: four from Craig, five from Arlene, six from Len, five from Bruno, for a total of 20. I predicted every last one of those scores before they actually happened, by the way. Sometimes this show is very predictable. Anyway, the audience boos pretty much every score except for Len's six, even though that's not really a bad score for opening night. Just ask Quentin Willson or Fiona Phillips.
Next up are Don and Lilia. Don is best known for Rising Damp, and thought his series Manchild was "rather good". He's very deadpan, I love that. Lilia reminds us that she won once with Darren Gough and it was fantastic, and she wants to do it again. [I love Lilia. I love that she always calls Darren Gough "Darren Gough", to distinguish him from her husband. - Carrie] Don walks like a zombie in rehearsals. He says it's very challenging, and he feels like a baby learning to walk. Lilia says that Don likes to analyse things, and it looks like he's picking up towards the end of rehearsals. They are dancing a cha cha cha to 'Let's Groove Tonight'. Most of it is a bit of a mess as far as Don's concerned, but there are sections where he gets it together and is surprisingly good. It would probably help if his face didn't seem to be frozen into a permanent state of confusion. Just for the record, the post-dance shot of the House of Tesstosterone shows Lisa Snowdon jumping up and down and clapping like a mad thing, which I thought was quite sweet. Bruno says Don started with more wrong turns and bad timing than Gordon Brown's comment, which elicts a boo from somewhere in the audience, though I don't know if it was his politics or his critique that caused the offence. But, Bruno says, Don got it together at the end, and if he's back next week, focus on the good bits and forget about the bad. Craig says there were some timing issues, but Don does possess - wait for it - "natural rhythm". I'm still waiting for any of the judges to say that to a white contestant. [Mother of God, they've got the casual racism in early this year. - Carrie] Craig says it was flat-footed and Don's shoulders were raised, and there was a brain/body disconnect. Arlene says it was rising and then going damp all the way through - wah wah waaaaaaaaah. She wants more of the "cheeky chappy" in Don, because those moments were what made it work. Len welcomes Don to the show, and then proceeds to patronise the living shit out of Don by going on about all the effort he's gone to in rehearsals and wearing a costume and dancing in front of the judges. Len? Don's an actor. Lift the word "dancing" out of that sentence and there is nothing here that is not innately part of his day job. I don't think he needs you to mollycoddle him. Len says that it was "deplorable" for "these two" (gesturing vaguely to his left and right, so obviously meaning Bruno, but I don't know whether the other one was Craig or Arlene) to "castigate" him so. Head Judge Len, of course, does this while mugging to the audience and cameras so we are left in no doubt that he is the Voice of the People. Shut up, Len. I found your treatment of Don far more offensive than anything any of the other three said (with the possible exception of Craig's "natural rhythm" comment).
Tess calls Don "debonaire" and says that Don's struggled in rehearsals; does he feel it came together? Deadpan Don says he thought it was "rather good" and he really enjoyed it. Lilia loves him, but I'm sure anybody would be a step up from the ass-drumming buzzkill that was Dominic Littlewood last year. Don's cha cha cha gets a three from Craig, five from Arlene, six from Len and five from Bruno, for a total of 19. Lilia points out that that's the same score she got week one with Darren Gough, so it's not that bad. That's the spirit, I suppose.
Fourth are Austin and Erin. Erin is looking hot this year, might I add. [She has new teeth. And her new hair suits her. Makes her look a lot less like an ageing Goth. - Carrie] Austin says he had to create a barrier of confidence and arrogance as a rugby player, because he was a small man in a big man's world. I can only assume this sob story got lost on its way to The X Factor. Austin has apparently been getting jeering texts from Matt Dawson because on Matt's first night back in series four, Austin sat in the audience and blew a raspberry at him. We even get a VT insert from Matt about the "pathetic giggling imbecile" that Austin was, and oh my God, I do not care. Get over it, it was two bloody years ago and you ended up coming second. Stop acting so goddamn butthurt. Erin says she's seen grown men cry on this show, and this comment is followed by the sound of a whip cracking. Hee! Good to see Miss Whiplash is still in rare form this year. Austin is apparently a bit of a joker, and asks Erin if it's like rugby in that they can have a bath together afterwards. He manages to stay just on the right side of creepy with that one, but it's a close one, I don't mind telling you. Austin does The Worm, but sadly Erin does not use this as an opportunity to make Austin list five ways in which she is better than him, or use the phrase "yeah, suck it, I DO read the paper!" Missed opportunity, that was. Austin wants to go out with a good start, but doesn't know how he'll cope with a live show - he might freeze and have to do The Robot for five minutes. Heh.
Austin and Erin are dancing to 'The Rainbow Connection', and Erin's dress is gorgeous. The dancing's pretty good, too. Austin looks confident and in control and is even smiling, and it's generally pretty great. I can't even see much sign of him messing up the footwork. Wow. Craig is surprised, and found it graceful and elegant with really clean lines. Craig's shocked, and thought it was great. His little "but", however, is that the feet are slightly turned out when they come together. Arlene says "Austin Healy: a rugby player, a motorcar, and you certainly know how to drive a waltz". Everybody on planet Earth just smiles and nods politely at the crazy old lady. She asks if Austin was one of those private school boys who had ballroom lessons, and Austin says he was not. Len calls it the best first dance he's ever seen from a man, and Bruno says that Austin was "soft and gentle" and "Mr Sentimental", and calls it "the surprise of the night".
In the House of Tesstoserone, Erin says she wasn't expecting that at all. Austin was wetting himself, he says, but he loves it. Scores are in: seven from Craig, eight from Arlene, NINE from Len and eight from Bruno. Not that I don't think Austin was good, because he was, but nine on the first night? That doesn't leave a lot of room for improvement. Len's probably just going to start holding up two paddles and awarding double-digit scores soon. Anyway, that's 32/40, which is fantastic.
Flash to the leaderboard: Austin and Erin are top, and Don and Lilia are bottom so far.
To fill a bit more time, we get a VT dedicated to the girls. The male dancers all stride purposefully across a bridge like they're in the opening sequence of The Apprentice, and James Jordan says he's not the sort to stand in the background, and he thinks Cherie will be the lady of the series, with her elegance and sophistication. Brian cracks about the "over-30 crowd" behind him, and is generally too gay to function. Also, my boyfriend had it bang-on when he said that Brian looks like the shameful school photo of someone who later turned out to be attractive. Matthew is the guy they have to beat, and what makes Christine stand out is that she's gorgeous. Not that she can dance, then? Brendan is looking for perfection. Anton pretends to be charming, but is kind of annoying, though I think he'll be a good partner for Gillian. [I really, really, really love Anton. I wish I had been walking across the Millennium Bridge when he was dispensing kisses to passing women. - Carrie] Darren's going to take Jessie's fiery personality and turn it into dancing dynamite. Ian is TALL and so is Jodie. Vincent loves Rachel because she's like a princess. Thass wha' I'm talkin' abahhht! [The men seem to have borrowed Arlene's Botox stash. Many odd-looking faces this year. - Carrie]
House of Tesstosterone, and inane conversation. Jessie Wallace will not be drawn into Tess's conversational gambit, so Tess turns to Rachel, who is currently the lady who has rehearsed the most. Cherie is not overly confident, but is going to try very hard. Tess asks who's feeling nervous, and everyone raises her hand except Jessie. Heh.
Next: Olympic swimmer Mark Foster and his partner Hayley Holt. Damn, Mark wears a tailcoat and trousers well. He gets drenched in his opening VT, and he says that he's best known for being an Olympic swimmer, even if I know him best for advertising multivitamins on posters on the Underground. He walked out with a flag at Beijing and was evidently called "Mark Forster" by whoever was commentating at the time. He didn't win any gold medals, of course, because he is not Michael Phelps [and because he's a world-renowned lazy tosspot and bottler - Carrie], so he wants to win Strictly instead, though clearly he hasn't got a hope because swimming is not a butch and manly sport of the kind that Len endorses. New dancer Hayley is from New Zealand, and is thrilled to have a handsome athlete for her partner. Mark stumbles a bit in his rehearsal. He has a nice smile. They are waltzing to 'The Tennessee Waltz'. The dancing seems competent if not thrilling - I think what lets Mark down is he doesn't have the same air of confidence that did so well for Austin.
Having confirmed Hayley is from New Zealand, Bruce tells her he's always liked her butter. Heh. Arlene drools over Mark's body and tells him he moves beautifully, but that he needs to think "gold medal" because it lacked attitude. Len tells Mark he knows how hard it is to dance ballroom as you get taller, and he thinks Mark had great control, but he chastises Mark for not leading with his heels. Bruno tells Mark he looks like a god and basically flirts outrageously while telling Mark he needs to engage with the audience and make the public feel it. Craig calls it "D-U-L-L dull" and says it was boring and lacked skill. Bruno offers to give Mark a private lesson. Down, boy. Arlene tells Craig this is one of the best men's first week performances they've ever seen.
In the House of Tesstosterone, Mark offers to dance in his swimming trunks if he makes the final. This, of course, is fine in a way that would not have been the case had Jodie Kidd made this pledge re: her underwear. Ah, the many mysteries of objectification. Craig gives it three, Arlene gives it six, Len gives it seven and Bruno gives it six, for a total of 22.
Oh God: next are Gary and Karen - the match made in hell. And I like Karen. Gary loves food, unsurprisingly, and is a perfectionist. He wants to be perfect on the dancefloor. Karen hates losing (no! really?) and she likes to think she can take Gary as far as she took Mark. Yeah, good luck with that, Delusion Girl. She says she's absolutely screaming at the moment because Gary refuses to progress until he gets each bit perfect. Karen rolls her eyes and grimaces a lot in practice as Gary umms and ahhs. Word, Karen. She points out that his perfectionism is holding up their rehearsals. Gary says he won't be happy until Karen is happy. After a beat, Karen sighs "Good Lord, how long have you got?" Heh.
They are dancing the cha cha cha to 'The Hippy Hippy Shake' and Karen is wearing an ill-fitting dress make of Bacofoil, and Gary cannot dance at all. [Glad to see Karen hasn't had Botox - her mad dancing faces are just as insane as ever. - Carrie] He is very ungainly, and there is an utterly bizarre bit in the middle where Karen leans over and Gary just sort of waves his arms over her back like he's putting some pizzas in the oven, or swatting some flies, or playing on a Nintendo Wii or something. It's just insane. Oh, Karen. I think this is two years in a row you'll be leaving first. Len likes that Gary came out and went for it - but that's about the only good thing he can say about it. Bruno says "Gary! This is not-a the pasta that Mamma makes!" Hee! He then likens them to Miss Piggy and the mad chef from the Muppets. Awesome. Karen is kind of scandalised by this, of course. Bruno calls it "barmy". Craig doesn't want to be vile, but...Gary massively went wrong at the beginning, and it was all downhill from there. It lacked control, the arms were random and awkward... "Okay, stop there!" says Karen. Heh. Arlene says Gary looks like he came on to have a good time, and for sheer energy he delivered, but what needs to happen now is that Karen needs to get a firm whisk and whip those feet into shape. I don't think he'll be around long enough for it to matter, to be honest.
Backstage, Gary says he enjoyed himself, and that's what was important. Craig gives it a one. HA! Arlene gives it five, Len gives it six, because he's an idiot, and Bruno gives it five. A total score of 17. Ouch, although it should've been lower.
Next are John and Kristina. John has retired from Westminster and is looking forward to having some fun. He likes being a dancer because Kristina is so pretty. Apparently John has lied to Kristina about how famous he is, which is cruel/awesome. John refers to them as "beauty and the beast", and Kristina thinks people will enjoy watching John develop into a professional dancer. John's hoping people will think he's actually quite good. They are waltzing to 'Come Away With Me', and Kristina's dress looks like a ribcage with wings. I rather like this dance, though - it's kind of the opposite of Phil's, in that Phil focused on the technical aspects at the expense of the connection and delivery, whereas John's strength is his engagement with Kristina and his ability to sell the romance of the dance, even if his footwork is rather clumsy in places. Bruno says it was so cute and cuddly, "like watching Winnie the Pooh and Tigger". Craig found it to be a "warm and honest" performance, though it was a bit "wind-up toy" at the end. Arlene is thrilled John shares some of his brain with his feet, but he needs to get more of it down there, and she thinks he's the first person tonight to look like he's enjoying himself. Len thought it was understated and charming. Bruce says he thought it was "politically correct". Heh.
In the House of Tesstosterone, John promises not to wear his swimsuit if he makes the final. Hee. Fives from Craig and Arlene, sixes from Len and Bruno for a total of 22.
Next are Andrew and Ola, bearing the torch for GMTV after Fiona Phillips and Kate Garraway blackened its name so. Andrew is a FORMER SPORTSMAN, though whether that endears him to Len remains to be seen. [I did laugh at his analysis of his tennis career. Srsly, he played for six years. And Jeremy Bates was the best British tennis player of the 1980s. - Carrie] Andrew wants to learn to dance so he can dance with his daughters - I assume he means at their weddings, rather than anything creepy. Ola likes Andrew's competitive side. Andrew says he will be an embarrassing dad. His daughter Georgina turns up to rehearsals and says she hopes he doesn't get kicked out first.
They're dancing the cha cha cha to 'Mercy' by Duffy, and Ola's catsuit which I at first thought was surprisingly modest by her standards quickly proves to be almost entirely backless, so order is restored to the universe. Andrew Castle trying to be sexy is kind of scary, and there's kind of a height imbalance between the two of them, but he's giving it a good go, and not embarrassing himself too much. The dance ends, and a cameraperson runs into the faces of Andrew's family but is not quick enough to catch their reactions. Craig found it stiff and thought the "go-go booty thing" was embarrassing, but there's potential. I presume "go go, booty thing!" was the contraption Inspector Gadget had but never used. Arlene says he's the first GMTV presenter with rhythm. Len says there's great potential, but more energy needed. Bruno says that compared to Fiona and Kate he's Fred Astaire, so there's hope. None of these really feel like ringing endorsements, do they? Andrew congratulates all of the "amateurs" who've done so well tonight. Scores: four from Craig, six from Arlene, seven from Len and six from Bruno for a total of 23.
Final leaderboard: Austin and Erin are top, Gary and Karen are bottom. Andrew and Ola are third, which I find quite weird, because he wasn't that good, but then there's only six points separating third place from eighth.
Time for the women's group dance. It will be cha cha cha-based, and Christine is beginning to get excited. Brendan hits Lisa in the face - by accident, I hasten to add. Jessie doesn't want to look bad in comparison to everyone else. Heather and Gillian are quite confident. Cherie is going to give it some "kapow!" and possibly other Batman sound-effects.
The women's routine is done to 'Lady Marmalade', Moulin Rouge version. Jodie Kidd could not possibly look more miserable than she does throughout. Cherie and James's solo spot is kind of messy. Christine looks like she's having fun, but her footwork looks a bit lumpy. Jessie just stands around, gets lifted by Darren and gets led by Darren, which I can't help thinking doesn't bode well. Lisa and Brendan do a decent lift. Jodie is awkward and ungainly. Gillian pulls hilarious faces and has very little co-ordination. Heather isn't too bad. Rachel is teh best of a bad bunch. If I didn't already think we were guaranteed a male winner this year, I do now, because this whole thing was a hot mess. Rachel and Lisa look good, and Christine, Heather and Cherie have potential, but otherwise it doesn't look good.
Arlene says Christine grabbed her eye because she was all over Matthew. Fair enough. Len thought Jessie was one of the few girls who wasn't looking at the floor all the time, and he hopes they won't do that next week. Bruno thought Rachel was clean, sharp and sexy and a good sign of things to come, and Craig thought Lisa was very good, but if he's going to be selective it's got to be Gillian "because just looking at that, I can't wait for next week." Ooooooh, but Gillian takes it with good humour.
The phonelines open, and it's VT recap time. Tom and Camilla being camp and kind of dull just like Gethin was at this point last year, Phil gurning like he thinks he's on Comic Relief Does Fame Academy where that sort of thing is mandatory, the bit of Don and Lilia's cha cha cha that went well, Austin and Erin's impressive waltz, Mark and Hayley's nice-but-dull waltz, Gary and Karen's HOT HOT MESS, John and Kristina's dignified waltz, and Andrew and Ola's wiggly cha cha cha.
That's it! Tomorrow night (i.e. tonight) all sixteen couples will be dancing together, so God help us all, one couple will be leaving, and according to the credits, Mark Foster was the vision mixer as well as a contestant. Wow, he's quite the multitasker!