Sunday, 2 November 2008

Saturday night's alright for fighting...

Week 7
Tx: 1st November 2008

Last week on Strictly, there were thrills! and spills! This week, there will be even more drama. This! Is! Strictly Come Dancing! Live!


Please welcome your hosts, Brucie and Tess. Daly Dresswatch: black, strapless, skinny gold belt; not an immediate assault on the fashion senses. [I am proud of Tess's stylist this year. - Carrie] Apparently Strictly has won a National Television Award for best talent show. I don't know why Brucie gets to have it, but he is lulzing at Simon Cowell's face when it was announced: "By the way, we can lipread. Don't feel bad. Next year, try harder." Hee.

Welcome back the couples: Tom and Camilla, Christine and Matthew, Lisa and Brendan, Austin and Erin, Jodie and Ian, Heather and Brian (he picks her up and carries her down the stairs - good job he's got better balance than Ian "Butterfeet" Waite), John and Kristina, Rachel and Vincent, Andrew and Ola, and Cherie and James. That's ten couples. We're supposedly at the halfway point of the competition, but it really doesn't feel like it when we started out with 16 couples and now we're down to ten, does it? The idea of an another two months of this is exhausting, frankly. This week every couple is doing a different dance. Hopefully Brucie won't ask Len to explain what he's looking for in every one, or we'll be here all night.

Austin and Erin are first this week, and everyone's obviously expecting great things from their quickstep. I hope you have noted that Austin's old rugby knee injury has flared up, because a bit of sympathy voting never hurt anyone. The quickstep is Erin's "favourite dance in the whole wide world" and she wants to get 10s for it. It also suits Austin, because some of the steps are like rugby exercises he used to do.

Erin's dress is orange and yellow, and I'm not sure I approve. It looks more like a Latin dress, except for the length. They're dancing to ''S Wonderful', which Erin obviously chose because she didn't want Len to have anything to bitch about. This is a classic quickstep, and it's very, very good. Introducing the judges, Bruce tells us that he's been asked, "Why on earth is Craig one of your judges?" It's because he's a "successful, award-winning West End choreographer. Arlene, Len and Bruno, I trust that has answered your question." Teh LULZ! Poor Craig. Every week at about this time, I decide to start a "Craig for Head Judge" campaign. It always seems like too much effort though. Speaking of Head Judge, Len naturally brings out his sporting metaphors for Austin: "It's coming up to half-time," and how many more times are we going to hear references to it being the halfway point of the competition this evening? He follows this with much more rugby-related blah, concluding with "a try under the post! Perfection!" [SHUT UP, LEN. Idiot. If you're not careful, Georgi will launch her "Craig for Head Judge" campaign and I shall lobby for Michael Flatley to replace you on Strictly too. - Carrie] Bruno observes that Len's "going to bust a gut", and then, "Austin the Majestic delivers another bravura performance." He had spring in his feet and sporty (naturally) delivery. Craig says that he "enjoyed it very much". It was "light, bright, clean", although he thought it was a bit cheeky coming past and winking at the judges, but I think we know that wasn't for Craig's benefit and it will "get you extra marks, I'm sure". That said, there were "two timing issues" [like Vincent had with Flavia? - Steve] - boo! Austin is all like, "Really?" But Craig reiterates that he did love it. Bruce says he has a timing issue with Craig: "that you turn up". Arlene praises the "dazzling execution" and for some reason calls it "as exciting as Lewis Hamilton in the Formula 1".

Backstage, Tess says they've kicked the show off in style. Austin has really enjoyed himself all week, and he's been looking forward to the quickstep for ages. Tess, hanky in hand: "You've still got lipstick on your cheek. May I?" Austin: "What, rub it off or add to it?" The scores are in: 8 from Craig, a "fabulous 9" from Arlene, 10 from Len, 9 from Bruno, for a total of 36. That is, lest we forget, the first 10 of the series.

I could have sworn in the throwback, Bruce just called Tess "Jess". He proceeds to make an American election gag: he likes "the Irish guy, O'Bama". What about McCain? He's 72 years of age - "he needs to be older, like me". Because he's not doddery, etc. Heather and Brian are next. She waltzed back into contention last week, and says she broke through a mental barrier and actually enjoyed the dance last week. 'Moving on Up' is, inevitably, playing in the background. Brian says she's a different dancer this week - he "took a step back and said, 'Wow, the comeback kid'." This week's dance shows off their relationship perfectly and Heather is hoping to come up with the goods.

They're dancing the cha-cha-cha to Estelle's 'American Boy', and DO YOU SEE what they did there? It's like Brian is Heather's American boy! Brilliant. I'm sure Len won't be impressed at all the faffing about at the beginning. For me, Heather doesn't seem like she's throwing herself into the performance quite enough. I do like her little hot pink dress with black tassels, although I don't like the US flag on Brian's sleeve. We know he's American already. Brian ends by sliding through Heather's legs, but she doesn't have them very wide apart and he almost doesn't make it through. Bruno says the dance "lacked so much bite it was like a cha-cha-cha with dentures". There were timing issues, and Heather's "hips and arms were all over the place". Craig accuses them of "slipping into mediocrity", and says they "need to raise the game plan". Heather was a bit pigeon-toed and "some hip moments went amiss", but there were some good moments as well. Arlene agrees there were some good moments, but Heather was "sluggish and behind the beat". It was "like a damp squib instead of taking off like a rocket". Very topical, Arlene, as Bruce obvserves. Len says that Heather messed up early on and it put her off, but he thought she came out and performed very well.

In the House of Tesstosterone, Heather says she's used to getting tough comments from the judges. She had been looking forward to the cha-cha-cha, it's her favourite, and now they've got halfway, everything else is a bonus. The judges' scores are: Craig - 5 (boo!), Arlene - 5 (boo!), a predictable "Sev-unn!" from Len, and 6 from Bruno, for a total of 23. Once again, Heather and Brian need your votes, and probably won't get them.

The next couple to dance are Jodie and Ian. Bruce says he's not going to make any more horsey jokes about Jodie, and he sent her some flowers this week to apologise - she said they were delicious. [Do horses eat bouquets? - Carrie] Jodie was certain she would be in the dance-off last week, but wasn't. Nevertheless, she's going to work incredibly hard this week - although I'm sure on It Takes Two we were told they've trained the least hours of anyone this week - 12.5 hours, if I recall correctly. Jodie has been "struggling with the romance of the waltz", because oh my God she's such a tomboy, etc. Their waltz has a Pride and Prejudice theme, so they're going out riding to get in character. Ian has a cravat on again. What is he like? His horse is so tiny though! Hee. Seriously though, how about practising your bloody dance rather than prancing about on horseback?

Let's get the sartorial commentary out of the way first: Ian's suit is way too baggy, and Jodie's dress makes her look fat, which shouldn't be possible, but there you go. Her hair looks nice though. There is nothing Pride and Prejudice that I can see about the dance, aside perhaps from the formal bow at the beginning. It's a bit dull, but competent. For one horrible moment at the end, I thought Ian was going to kiss Jodie's neck. Craig says Jodie has "proved that you're much better in hold and when Ian is leading you". He thought it was beautiful, "but too saccharine, too Mills & Boon". Boo! Why is Craig always forced to defend his views? He emphasises that it's a "personal choice", and he did think it was good. Arlene says that, "You charmed me, I'm sure you charmed Mr Darcy here, and I hope you charm all the viewers at home". That's easy for you to say, Arlene. I think she's hit the gin again. Len tells Jodie, "If you hadn't done a beautiful waltz, I'd have gone home and pickled my walnuts." I wish he would. It was the perfect dance for her. He does have one criticism, although "not a big thing like Grumpy over there". Really, Len, just shut the fuck up. Craig has every right to have thought that the choreography was too sickly sweet, and he wasn't saying the dancing wasn't good. Anyway, Len says Jodie has to lead on her heels. Ian says they did work on it, and Len says Jodie was "all balls". Bruno think's it's obvious that Jodie is "comfortable in a man's arms", and blah, blah, she's improved so much and he looks forward to her getting even better.

They're a rowdy lot back in the House of Tesstosterone. Jodie thinks she's "getting there", and the more they do it, the more natural it gets for her. Tess thinks little girls at home will think she looks like Cinderella. No, Rachel last week looked like Cinderella. The scores are: 7 from Craig, 8s from everyone else, for a respectable total of 31.

The fourth couple to perform is Andrew and Ola. Brucie reminds us again that during the '80s, Andrew was Britain's number one tennis player - and he's currently the number one dancer at GMTV by quite a big margin. Then he apologises to perennial butt of the joke Kate Garraway, who's in the audience, and says he was talking about Fiona Phillips. Andrew and Ola are doing the samba this week, which will be nothing if not hilarious. Andrew is a bit narked about the fact that last week he made an improvement and ended up in the dance-off, but he refuses to go away. He says he's never done anything like a samba, and Ola is like, "What, haven't you done a kneeslide before?" He says he has, but not at his age. Then he does it and injures his knee. D'oh. Ola obviously needs to take some lessons from Kristina on how to choreograph to the level of her celebrity. Andrew says he's only got one chance to do the samba - though I think quite a few people will be hoping he'll get two - and he's going to do it with a smile. Sympathy vote alert!

The opening both sounds and looks more like a paso doble than a samba, although I suppose that's partly the fault of the song, which is Jennifer Lopez's 'Ain't It Funny'. [Which puts the Strictly Singers in the unfortunate position of being less good at singing than Jennifer Lopez. Ouch, indeed. - Steve] Andrew needs to take some shoulder-shimmying lessons from Mark Foster. Ola appears to be dressed as a flamingo. Bless him, he's trying, but there's not much of a party going on. Stop waving your arms about, man! Make it stop. Aww, and at the end he looks like he thinks it went well. Arlene starts us off, saying, "It's really odd, but I feel like you're in the frozen food aisle and I want you to get out into exotic foods. Unleash the beast!" On behalf of the British public, please don't. Len says the key to the samba is bounce, so he should be "like a Bouncy Castle". Wah wah waaaaah. The samba is, of course, the hardest of the Latin dances, until Len decides something else is, and he thought Andrew did "quite a good job". He is wrong. Bruno says that, "The samba should have the excitement of the Brazilian grand prix" - why is everyone obsessed with Formula 1 this week? - "but this was a Brazilian grand flop". Andrew was heavy-footed and it didn't work. At least there was no headbanging. Craig says it was "too taut and tense", and he thought Andrew looked nervous halfway through. It "went downhill after the opening", which Craig also thought was a paso opening, so it's not just me. Andrew points out that they had to change it from the kneeslide, but that is no excuse. Craig thought the best part was "your rave step", waving his arms in the air, but I think he means in entertainment terms rather than dance terms. [Well, he didn't like it a few weeks ago when he called it "that go-go booty thing". - Carrie] Bruce decides they're his second favourites. I must have missed who his first favourites were. [Heather and Brian. - Carrie]

Tess asks Andrew how his knee is, and Andrew tells her it's much better, and it doesn't hurt when Ola sits on it at the end of the routine. So no sympathy votes needed, then? Andrew says he had a great time doing the samba and he's trained harder than anyone else. He's not bothered by the judges' comments - if he gets the chance, go back and look at the problems and come back next week and implement it. The scores are in: 4 from Craig - boo! 5 from Arlene - boo! 7 (but not "sev-unn!") from Len. 5 from Bruno - boo! That gives them a total of 21, putting them at the bottom of the leaderboard. Andrew jokes that he's off to get his mobile, and Tess reminds him that the lines aren't open yet anyway, duh!

Lisa and Brendan are next to dance. Bruce says he was chatting to Lisa about fashion and she said hotpants are going to be all the rage next year. He said, "I hope not". She said, "Why, do you think they look cheap and vulgar?" He said, "No, they chafe my thighs." That's an unpleasant mental image right there. Lisa and Brendan woz robbed last week, and they really would have liked some 8s, and to have ended up higher than fifth on the judges' leaderboard. Lisa says it's "starting to feel like a competition", although she clearly knows what a daft thing that is to say. They're dancing the tango this week, and Lisa is confused as to whether it's ballroom or Latin. (It's ballroom, but you see her point.) Lisa has to concentrate on the steps, to the detriment of everything else. Her dad pops in to rehearsal to keep her spirits up. Lisa says she wants to make her dad and Brendan proud.

Lisa's dancing in a turquoise dress, which is backless with orange lining, and Brendan is all in black. Grrr! They're dancing to traditional tango tune 'La Cumparsita', they're obviously desperate to get the Head Judge Len onside. It wasn't the most exciting routine, but I didn't see any errors. Len, as predicted, says they did "a proper tango", and had "proper music for it". They "came out, didn't mess about, got on with it. Superb." Bruno calls it "a tango of classic purity and beauty - strictly irresistible". Craig says it was fantastic. Arlene is pleased that she gave Lisa a correction last week and "not only have you corrected it, but it was phenomenal - your spine was riveting". Next week she wants Lisa to be "sharper on the flicks", though presumably that will depend what dance they get next week.

In the House of Tesstosterone, Lisa says it's her favourite dance so far. Tess asks if she sees herself as a contender, and Lisa says she'd "like to think so", while Brendan jumps in with a resounding "Yes". Lisa says she's starting to get competitive. The judges' scores are: 8 from Craig, 9s from everyone else, for a total of 35. Brendan's happy with that because he likes 9s, as we know, although presumably after those comments he would have liked 10s.

Time for a quick check on the leaderboard: Austin and Erin are at the top once again with 36 points, while Andrew and Ola are languishing at the bottom with 21.

Cherie and James are up next. Cherie got off on the wrong foot last week, ho ho. She didn't think her dance was up to standard, but James points out that she still got great scores. Well, yes, and we had a bit to say about that. There is a whiff of schadenfreude in the air at SCB Towers this week, I must admit. So far Cherie has got away without doing an upbeat Latin dance that might challenge her, and after last week's scoring travesty, I'm rather looking forward to her doing a dance that the judges can't possibly justify giving her 8s for. James says that Cherie is the oldest lady in the competition and salsa is a young person's dance, so if she can do that, she can do anything. The're off to "the hottest salsa club in town" to practice. Cherie says that if she hasn't got it after that, she'll never get it.

They're in red, and it doesn't really suit them, dancing to a Gloria Estefan song. Cherie's not loose enough, and doesn't look confident. Whenever she's on her own, she looks a bit all over the place.
They do some intricate arm work, admittedly, but it seems to go wrong towards the end and they just sort of stand there holding hands. Bruno says that, "The dress was red hot but the salsa was not". Cherie was too tight and lacked fluidity. "You got yourself into a mango quite a few times," whatever that means. [Mangle! - Carrie] James interjects that it's not bad for four days. Bruno replies, "No, but it's not good enough." Ha. Whose fault is it that they only rehearsed for half the week? Celebs shouldn't come on Strictly if they don't have time for training. Craig says it was "too careful and placed", there should be "more uninhibited, wild impulse". "Abandon?" interrupts Cherie. Len agrees, "Gay abandon", but Bruce is like, "No, not gay abandon!" and Bruno is all like, "What's wrong with that?" and puts his pouty face on. Brucie put his foot in it a bit there, didn't he? Going back to the dance, Arlene says it was "exasperatingly underpowered" and "wasn't saucy or sexy or sassy or naughty, all things I know you can be". Head Judge Len says that last week the paso didn't suit Cherie's character - it's not like she's an actress or anything, is it? - and neither did the salsa, but as long as they get through, that's only two dances she can't do. James points out that at least it will be the best salsa of the night.

In the House of Tesstosterone, Cherie says she has found the Latin dances difficult and was nervous tonight because she's out of her comfort zone. The ballroom dances are more her. She tries to make excuses again that it's complicated and fast, and she only had four days to train. Whatever. James covers Cherie's eyes as the judges give their scores: 6s from Craig and Arlene, "Sev-unn!" from Len, and we saw that coming, 7 from Bruno, for a total of 26, which is - gasp! - their lowest score so far.

Next to dance are John and Kristina. Bruce says that he told John the way he dances reminds me him of that great Hollywood star - not Fred Astaire, the fat one out of Laurel and Hardy. Brucie adds that he knows it's cruel, "But it made me laugh and that's why I did it." Heh. John explains that it's nice to please the judges, but (that being an impossible task) the main thing is to connect with the public. He's keeping up the nation's spirits in a time of financial crisis. Cut to the Great British Public saying things like: "He makes you smile before he even starts dancing", "If he's happy, we're happy", and "People love an underdog". John says this week they're going to be fun and amusing - intentionally amusing.

True to form, the audience are cheering John and Kristina on to the floor. They actually start up on the steps, and their foxtrot is all Hollywood glitz, performed to 'I Wanna Be Loved By You', although most of the glamour is admittedly provided by Kristina. She's choreographed a lot of basic steps, and this is probably John's best dance so far. Bruce comments that "He did a few fleckerls there, didn't he?" Head Grump Len says, "No". Craig says that, "Kristina, as always, does all the work." John's frame was really poor, and between them there was "a gap you could literally drive a tank through". Yes, LITERALLY. If you had a very small tank. Arlene say that it's "not polite to let the lady lead" but she loved "ONLY the end where you got into a trot". Len observes that the trouble is can't have a go at other people about poor technique and not have a go at John. Yes, because Len never shows any favouritism. He says, "It's not Help the Aged," which is rude. He was "impressed with your sparkly dicky but that's about it". Bruno says it's clear that "the old fox is running out of tricks". He thought Kristina covered for him well and "bedazzled us, but we can see through it". Bruce decides to make them his third favourite.

Backstage, Tess says that while the judges might not have liked it, John's keeping the nation's spirits up and they're keeping him safe. John says that his dream would be to lose two stone, and if they stay in for another week, he'll make the target. This isn't WeightWatchers! The scores are in: 3 from Craig (boo!), 5 from Arlene, 6 from Len, and "a very kind 6" from Bruno, for a total of 20, which means they've replaced Andrew and Ola at the bottom of the leaderboard.

The eighth couple to dance are Tom and Camilla. Tom got married a couple of weeks ago. Why were we not informed? Brucie makes a joke which falls flat, so I won't bother recapping it. Tom messed up on the fleckerls for his waltz last week, and Len and Bruno got in a fight about it. Tom says he knows how lucky he is to be there. Camilla says the honeymoon is over - literally - and this week she wants to wipe the smile off his face because he needs to get into the character of the matador for the paso doble. Cue hilarious bit of training footage where Camilla tells Tom, "I don't know if you can look sexy in the dance", and throws his cape down and stomps off.

They're dancing to Cutting Crew's 'I Just Died in your Arms' - how '80s. I don't think I approve of it as paso music. Tom's caping is alright. [Ooh, I liked the caping. I love a bit of caping, me. - Carrie] They have black paso costumes, which help with the atmosphere. I did think last week that Jodie and Ian might have done a bit better if they hadn't been dressed in white. Tom does some good jumps, looking quite light on his feet - at some points I almost want him to be a bit more stompy. The paso face he pulls at the end is hilarious, as Camilla pretends to die in his arms - do you see what they did? Arlene begins, saying that occasionaly Tom has his weight too far back, but she loved his cape action and occasionally he made "the most exciting and brilliant lines". Len hates caping, as we know, and says Tom looked like he was "trying to put the cover on the duvet". However, his twist turns were the best I think I've seen a bloke do them". It captured the "passion and drama of the dance", but he didn't like "all that messing about". Bruno says that Tom had "the attack and determination of an action hero on a mission - mission accomplished!" Craig says the paso is "all about big shapes and storytelling, and you guaranteed us with both those things. The conceit is to have arrogance all the way through. which was brilliant." And unlike Len, he loved the caping. Len complains that it's nothing to do with ballroom dancing, and Craig is like, "So fucking what?" You tell him, Craig. Len says that he doesn't want props, and Arlene counters that Tom acted the story of the dance with the cape. Len calls it an easy option, but Arlene is having none of it. Len gets booed off for a change.

In the House of Testosterone, Camilla explains that she was trying to get Tom into character with the cape and then she becomes the cape. She says that Tom's new wife - because he GOT MARRIED, in case you missed that - didn't just like Matador Tom, she loved it, and she texted Camilla to say so. [HAHAHAHA. I lulzed like a loon at this - Mrs Chambers thanking Camilla for sending home a fired-up matador! Rrrrrr! - Carrie] The scores are: Craig - 8, Arlene - 9, Len - 8, Bruno - 9. Bruno is laughing at Len, probably because after all that arguing, he gave it exactly the same mark as Craig did. That puts Tom and Camilla near the top of the leaderboard, with a total of 34.

Christine and Matthew are up next with their American smooth. Christine says that Saturday was dreadful, and when Craig gave her a 3, "He may as well have punched me in the gut". [Does Christine have a gut? Or just a random collection of bones and tendons? - Carrie] But it's fired her up for this week. Matthew takes her to watch Fred and Ginge to put her in the mood for this romantic dance.

They're dancing to 'Singin' in the Rain', and I'm expecting the judges to go on about how much better suited to Christine the American smooth is, compared to the paso last week. Still, she doesn't look very sure of herself, in fact she looks very nervous, and there's not enough pizazz. They do get going a bit when it comes to the instrumental, and do a couple of great lifts. Len says that from the waist up, everything was gorgeous, but "not quite as much from the waist down". He did like it though. Bruno tells Christine that although her "face was singing in the rain", her "legs were crying in a puddle". He demonstrates how she needs to "stretch and extend, stretch and extend". Arlene says that Christine needs to go to ballet class and understand how to work her knees and feet. Craig says that he doesn't think ballet's going to help at this stage - although surely it's not that late in the competition - but Christine just needs to point her feet more. That said, he thought her upper body gorgeous and he loved the series of lifts. Arlene says the "top half was Hollywood", but lower down "it's Deadwood". Bruce says he's got a third favourite now, so even he has lost count of his favourites this week.

Backstage, Tess says that Christine has come back with renewed vigour, but the judges weren't impressed - were their comments fair? Christine says that the comments were still better than last week, so she's got to think positive, and she can work on her "Deadwood legs". The scores are: 7s from everyone except Len, who gives them 8, for a total of 29, which is better than last week. Ever the optimist, Christine reckons things are looking up.

The final couple of the night are Rachel and Vincent doing the jive. Bruce says he had to explain to Vincent this week how trick or treat works - people knock on your door and ask for stuff. "Don't you have anything like that in Italy? Yes, the Mafia." He better watch out making jokes like that. [Yes, he might wake up with Jodie's head in his bed. - Steve] Last week, Rachel and Vincent failed to wow Len despite doing a perfectly good waltz. Vincent says they just have to put up with the consequences of being so pretty - it distracts the judges. To get into the mood of the jive, they went to Ed's Diner and then a rock'n'roll dancehall, and they seem to have actually been dancing with people, not just showing off, unlike some people who went out to a dance club this week.

Rachel looks fabulous in a tiny dress which is silver with gold tassels, and I'm sure a lot of men are pleased that she's finally got her legs out. The jive ought to suit them because they're both petite, and they look like they're enjoying themselves. It's not perfect, but it's good. If I have one criticism of Rachel, it's that she's not really flicking from the knee, but shaking her whole leg. Bruno welcomes back "Rachel the firecracker". He thinks she really sold the dance, and while their synchronicity is always great, tonight they were united. Craig observes that there were "a few sticky transitions where it looked lumpy and lost impetus", and Rachel needs to pick her feet up more, but "apart from that, it was great". Arlene says it had "a sparkly finish", but she wants Rachel to "push into the floor more to get the bounce for the ounce that you really need". Head Grump Len says he's seriously concerned because he was expecting the jive to be Rachel's dance, and "If you can't come out and knock my socks off on a jive, I don't know what you can do it with." He concludes that it was competent but it didn't wow him. Boo! That'll still be an 8 then, Len?

Back in the House of Tesstosterone, Rachel says she's not sure what she's done to upset Len. Still, she loved it, "had fun out there", and it's been a brilliant week. She really enjoyed it and went out to entertain. So no, Rachel still hasn't developed a personality. Tess tells her that, "It's great to see your lovely legs", which is slightly creepy. The judges' scores are: 7 from Craig, 8 from Arlene, 8 from Len (how did I guess), and 9 from Bruno, for a decent score of 32. It's also their first 9, so they're pretty pleased with that.

That's your lot for this evening. Austin and Erin top the final leaderboard with 36, with Lisa and Brendan hot on their heels. Down at the bottom are Andrew and Ola with 21 and John and Kristina with 20, but here's guessing that neither of them will be in the dance-off. Coming up on the results show tomorrow, Kelly Jones of the Stereophonics, and two professional performances. Carrie will be here with all the latest!

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