Tuesday, 30 September 2008

This week on It Takes Two, we have learnt...

- Karen Hardy's house is really nice.
- Lilia is in love with John Sergeant. But don't tell anyone. Kristina is very sniffy about her colleagues taking the piss out of her partner.
- Brendan definitely wasn't being a shit to Lisa in the corridor after their salsa. Honest. Ask Lisa, she'll tell you.
- Craig thinks Len overmarks, but not as much as Bruno, apparently.
- Lisa has natural rhythm. ZOMG!
- Claudia + button which prompts the drumbeat that precedes the closing credits on EastEnders = automatic win.
- Anton is backing Erin and Austin for the win.
- Jodie corrected all of her previous mistakes in the dance-off to the extent that Arlene thought it was like she'd had a year to practise. Given that they've always been somewhat lacking in candour about precisely when the results show is filmed, this may actually have been true.
- Both Craig and Arlene are very sad to see Gillian go.
- Claudia throws bananas at the screen on Saturday when she disagrees with the judges.
- Christine and Matthew have a secret weapon if they're struggling with a dance - Matt will wear a mankini.
- Matthew's hair seems to have gone grey in the ITT studio, and bears a resemblance to Richard Gere's.
- Christine fancies Mark. We're sure you don't need us to tell you the many things wrong with this as a possible showmance.
- Claudia talked about the boys' "meringue-gay". Too. Many. Jokes.
- Gary Rhodes gets up at 4:30am to go to the gym. We'd say you have to get up pretty early in the morning to best him, but judging by the week one scores, that's clearly not true.
- Craig dreams of 10s.
- Craig thinks it is acceptable to wear a tuxedo-print t-shirt in public. Craig is wrong.
- Rachel has already invoked the dreaded word "journey".
- Andrew's obsession with the physical attributes of every single female on the show is beginning to get worrying.
- Brian seems to have some kind of gay panic going on, judging by the horror on his face when James hugged him. We, on the other hand, rather enjoyed it.
- Len and his masterclasses are becoming equally and increasingly annoying.
- We would HATE to see what kind of ABBA albums Claudia has in her collection if she thinks Austin and Tom resemble Agnetha and Frida.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

We've only just begun. Oops, too late

Results show
Tx Sunday 28th September 2008

Last night was Ladies' Night! You know what happened, but we're going to get reminded of it anyway! Tonight one couple will leave the show for good, because that's the whole premise!


We welcome back the celebs and their partners, and Bruce and Tess, in a nipple-skimming purple rag. Bruce does some awful Antiques Roadshow analogising, before Tess takes over to recap. And then we get more recapping plus hot! backstage! action!

Jessie and Darren were bottom, but her dad has money on her to win, even though Roger Lloyd Pack thinks she was "clunky, but gorgeous as well"; Lisa apologises to Brendan, who then strops off like a child; Jodie's sister confirms her nervousness; Heather's fella deems her "awesome"; Christine was gobsmacked when Craig said nice things, and Adrian Chiles thought she was fantastic, hmm; Rachel has a gran, who is not a patch on either of Alesha's magnificent nans; Rachel's fiance is happy for Vincent to flirt with her, as long as nothing else happens; Len thinks the girls were better dancers but the boys were more fun.

The judges witter on and basically repeat what they said last night. Craig can't wait for the "war on the floor", and Bruce wishes he'd thought of that himself.

More filler - VTs about our new pros. Kristina's favourite dance is salsa; Hayley says ballroom is her forte; and Brian is good at street-style salsa. He has danced on Dancing with the Stars, but Strictly is the best; Kristina's family is proud of her; Hayley is excited to be in the UK, although she is going out with the All Blacks captain, but he is proud of her too, so that's OK. They do a random routine to Walk This Way.

Because half of the boys will have to do a jive next week, Jill Halfpenny is back to show them how it's done. She reminisces about being exhilarated at her victory; Craig says her jive won her the competition; Len is fascinated to see her back in the ballroom. Jill notes that both she and Darren are going grey now. (Also, her upper arms are looking more matronly than I remember. - Steve) He isn't happy. Anyway, they jive to I'm Still Standing (she in a poorly-cut dress) and they get a standing ovation. Backstage, Gary is inspired by the performance; Cherie tries and fails to come over as modest by talking up all the other women; Jessie says that if she has to dance off, she'll do her best to correct the errors. Good plan.

And because the other half of the boys will have to tango, the pro dancers do a group dance to Beat It, all clenched-jaw passionate intensity, and in Ola's case, hair-chewing as she snaps her head in the turns. Backstage, Andrew doesn't think his tango will be as good as that. You think? John has lost a stone in five weeks of training. Everyone whoops.

VT. Gary has realised it is a competition. John is a lot fitter, and seems quite excited about the tango. Andrew has no idea what he's doing. Ola pulls a face to the camera, and I'm not even sure she knows she's doing it. Back in the ballroom, Sally Lindsay knows Christine from a drunken wedding in Ireland, thus she is supporting her; Dermot Murnaghan is friends with "Gentleman John Sergeant" from the old ITN days. Bruce thanks them for being there. Bizarreness. And then we have to watch the boys do their group merengue again. Srsly, this is such a fucking waste of time.

This week on It Takes Two - Marian Keyes! Hooray! (Yay! I hope she swears again! - Steve)

Before we can get the results, we need to prolong this further with a performance from the Sugababes, complete with routine from Kristina and Brian, Vincent and Flavia and James and Ola. Sigh. I love the pro routines to a point, but I hate the special guest stars, even when I like them.

Finally. The couples who are safe are: Rachel and Vincent; Jessie and Darren (who are AMAZED); Heather and Brian; Cherie and James (who says, "Well done, gorgeous"); Christine and Matthew; and Lisa and Brendan. (I loved how Bruce read out Jessie and Darren's names so quickly and matter-of-factly, to the extent that no one seemed to take it in for a few seconds. - Steve)

So it's Jodie and Ian and Gillian and Anton to dance off. Craig says he will save the dynamic, showbizzy Jodie and Ian; Arlene opts to keep the couple who have improved phenomenally in such a short space of time, Jodie and Ian; Bruno says Jodie and Ian delivered a performance that made him gasp, and thus they are safe. Len would have saved them too, though that's a moot point.

Gillian apologises to poor Anton, who gets screwed over on this show time and again, and they take to the floor for their last dance to We've Only Just Begun. Oh, the irony. Bruce keeps insisting that this is the best first week for ladies EVAH, and Tess tries to look traumatised. Next week, the boys are back in town. Join us then!

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 "...in 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!

Monday, 22 September 2008

This week on It Takes Two, we have learnt...

- James Jordan thinks misogynist humour is the height of sophistication.
- Apparently this show is so tight that they use the same trophy every year, which makes us sad for Alesha, having to surrender it to one of this lot.
- Phil Daniels is kind of humourless.
- Len defends his decision to give Austin a 9 by pointing out that he'd already given Tom an 8 and Austin was better. The fact that he could avoid this situation by not FUCKING OVERMARKING EVERYONE appears to have escaped him (though Craig pointed it out to Len, bless his heart).
- Kate Garraway was the ONLY dancer last year who lacked talent and outstayed her welcome. Yup. Kenny who?
- Lisa Snowdon is an early frontrunner for this year's Jim Halpert Tribute Cute Mugging Glance To The Camera award.
- Craig thinks Heather Small has natural rhythm. O RLY, Craig? Who'd have thunk it?
- Matthew Cutler makes coffee for everyone whenever he goes on It Takes Two.
- Hayley thinks Mark is too nice and needs to be more aggressive. Hence, she has created the character Maurizio Fosterini for him.
- Claudia is taking Brian home with her.
- Viewers, we have another comedy alpha-male face-off! One suspects, however, that Tom Chambers, lovely though he is, might be a little out of his depth against Austin Healey.
- Gary Rhodes is following Kate's lead in being gracious at acknowledging his failings as a dancer and adopting a nice line in self-deprecating humour.
- Anton is not surprised that Claudia is not allowed in the Strictly ballroom.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

A sense of enormous well-being

Results show
Tx 21st September 2008

Last night! Our eight male celebs danced for the first time! Some were good! Some were bad! Some were Gary Rhodes!

We welcome back the entire horde of celebrities to the dance floor, along with Bruce and Tess, whose decent dress last night was, of course, a fluke - she's back in blue cardboard tonight. Nice to see us, to see us nice, etc.

For those of us who didn't see it last night or have the memory capacity of a Bruce, we get a recap. Gary and Karen were bottom of the leaderboard, and she is visibly pained at being reminded at her failure. Sue Barker didn't think they were that bad. Gary thinks he deserved more than 1 from Craig, because the others marked him higher, like that's an argument. Karen warns Craig to look out for her husband. Why, is he fit? Next came Don and Lilia. He thinks he gave 80 per cent last night. Lilia then goes apeshit at him for keeping 20 per cent in his locker. Dominic Littlewood, of all people, thinks Don should go tonight. Fuck off.

Phil and Flavia are offered advice by Christopher Parker - "his strength is definitely his comedy." Thanks. John and Christina Aguilera were AA Milne characters in ballroom shoes. She is proud of him. Drink! Dislikeable swimming lazyarse Mark and lovely beautiful Hayley didn't expect Craig to be nice because he's Craig. Sue Barker thought Mark was lovely, as did Stephanie Beacham. I don't think they are judging his dancing. Andrew employed the well-known distraction technique of Ola's arse. Tom nearly cried at the end of his routine with Camilla. Austin, Erin and her new face were top of the leaderboard. He tries to be self-deprecating but he clearly thinks he's marvellous. Sue Barker tips him to win the whole thing. Blah.

Len says that Erin always gets men and produces great waltzes. Everyone giggles, because they are all five years old. Bruno is in hysterics, and then mispronounces John's name. Craig also gave Quentin Willson and Fiona Phillips a score of 1 ("deservedly", he interjects) and he basically says Gary is equally shit. Arlene wants the twinkle in Andrew's eye to travel to his feet. Bruce makes jokes about the journey and the possibility of getting stuck elsewhere. Snigger snigger.

Oh, and here are ALESHA AND MATTHEW. I am happy. Winning Strictly was the best thing ever, and she cackles about putting her dancing shoes on again. "It's like a duck to water. Or riding a bike," she says, and then she snorts while Matt spins her round. "I'm gonna vote for Matt EVERY WEEK!" she declares. "I might...buy your record," he replies. "Mattesha - coming atcha!" she shouts, and Matt tries to look urban. Then they laugh. Bless 'em. They do their Crazy in Love routine, and as the champion, Alesha now has custody of the pink sparkly dress of YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY. [What, no cape? - Steve] Len's applause welcoming them is noticeable by its absence.

Bruce has a little chat to them, and Alesha says she isn't jealous of Christine. Pah. Alesha will be back in a few weeks to sing for us. Yay! Tess is backstage talking to Christine, who says it is overwhelming because Alesha is particularly fantastic, and she wants to hire her as her personal confidence coach.

Time for the professionals to do a group foxtrot. Blah de blah. I don't like group ballroom dances. Dull. I want cutesy Anton-Erin skits to the American smooth. Or alternatively all 32 dancers crammed onto the dance floor for something resembling a routine to I'm So Excited. Anton does not have high hopes for the "mischievous bunch". James and Andrew went to play tennis instead of dancing, and Ola is sulking because she cannot control either of her men. Karen says that Don has great rhythm. Heather agrees, but she is allowed to. Lisa sings along to the track in out-of-tune fashion. I like Lisa, she seems nice. [Me too! I wasn't sure about her before this weekend, but I've warmed to her a lot over these two episodes. - Steve]

This routine is hideous. There is too much going on, and the singers are AWFUL. Poor John cannot kick in rhythm and looks like he will fall over. Vincent and Rachel are miniature pocket-sized dancers. Andrew is stooped over Ola, perhaps looking at her arse. Jodie has a miserable face on. Mark looks like he is concentrating desperately but not having much fun while he's doing so. Then there's a big hokey-cokey at the end.

Len thought Lisa and Brendan were good. Bruno is a bit twisted, and says that Andrew looks like he was going to pass a kidney stone. Craig enjoyed it, and thought Rachel and Vincent were wonderful. Vincent kisses Rachel's cheek. She resolutely keeps her lips well away from him.

Claudia is backstage with Tess. She's had her hair cut into a grown-up style. I don't like it. And she doesn't have enough eyeliner on either. She likes Andrew and Ola. This week she is going to concentrate in her masterclass with Head Judge Len. Remember we'll be doing a weekly round-up of It Takes Two, so check back here on Friday!

As if this show wasn't gay enough, Bette Midler is tonight's special guest star. She has been given her script and plays along with Bruce's unfunny gags. She sings Wind Beneath My Wings and does some arm-flapping motions; James and Ola are our go-to guys for interpretative dance. At the end of the routine, he kisses her nose. Aw.

Nearly time for the results. Tom doesn't want to go. Nor does Phil. Andrew is enjoying the team spirit, and Ola. Mark wants to learn all 14 dances. Don wants to do the tango in a fortnight's time. Gary is hungry and his appetite has been whetted. Any more food references?

Here we go then. The couples through are - Austin and Erin; Mark and Hayley; Tom and Camilla; Andrew and Ola; Gary and Karen. Fuck's sake. The final couple through are John and Kristina, so it's Don and Lilia and Phil and Flavia to dance off.

Same routines as last night, but with more mistakes. Craig chooses the couple who made fewest mistakes - Phil and Flavia. Arlene thinks Phil and Flavia were on their way to taking notice of her corrections. Bruno saves Don and Lilia for being more entertaining. Head Judge Len has the casting vote, and says the performance that was the cleanest was Don and Lilia's. Hooray!

So Phil and Flavia are out in the first week, which doubtless means we'll have to put up with her and Vincent doing bloody Argentine tango as the pro show dance in a fortnight's time. Many platitudes, and they go off for their last dance. Ah well.

Next week, it's the laydeez, and they'll either salsa or foxtrot. Join us then!

A sporting chance

Series 6: Round 1
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 Nicole Cutler Hayley Holt, singer Heather Small and her partner Brian Fortuna, chef Gary Rhodes and his partner Karen Hardy, actress Cherie Lunghi and her partner James Jordan, political broadcaster and journalist John Sergeant and his partner Kristina Rihanoff, actress Gillian Taylforth (who appears to be wearing one of Kelly Brook's leftover dresses from last series) and her partner Anton Du Beke, TV presenter Andrew Castle and his partner Ola Jordan, and finally model and TV presenter Jodie Kidd and her partner Ian Waite. So many people! Bruce wants to know if they can get rid of six of them right now. That might not be such a terrible idea.

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!

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Strictly Come Fact-Finding

Yes, folks, it's that time of year again - no, not time for Strictly to return to our screens, but time to fill an hour of Saturday night's schedule with warm-up material. So here are some things we've learned this evening:

1. Kenny Logan is "the stiffest thing [Craig] has ever seen".
2. Bruno didn't really feel sorry for Anton, who had to put up with Kate "Two Left Feet" Garraway last series - actually it quite amused him.
3. Craig doesn't mean to make people cry - it just happens.
4. Bruno doesn't want to be a policeman.
5. Arlene would have liked a peek under Kenny Logan's kilt.
6. Len was disappointed in his mum when he discovered that she voted for Matt Di Angelo six times after his quarter-final meltdown when he forgot his entire routine.
7. Brendan doesn't believe in rules. But he does believe in Father Christmas. Probably.
8. Erin wants to go all the way with Austin Healey, and is looking oddly youthful.
9. Vincent thinks all the women love him. He doesn't realise it's because he's so diddy, you just want to pick him up and keep him in your handbag.
10. Rachel Stevens doesn't remember the words to S-Club hit "Reach". But Vincent does.
11. Vincent wanted a partner who's young and hot. Subtext: he is in crisis over Flavia's Di Angelo dalliance and wants to get his own back.
12. Vincent is "a proper Italian stallion in every sense of the word", according to Rachel. Oo-er.
13. John Simpson knows how to handle a powerful woman - he knew Margaret Thatcher.
14. For new pro dancer Kristina Rihanoff, dancing isn't her job, it isn't a hobby - it is her LIFE.
15. Gillian Taylforth *hearts* Anton, as do many women of a certain age. Well, as do we, to be honest.
16. Gary "Snake Hips" Rhodes has had six Michelin stars and an OBE, and has cooked for Princess Di and Stevie Wonder. But don't expect any of that to impress Craig.
17. James Jordan really needs a haircut and a shave. Does he realise he's on national telly?
18. James is promising to be "a real gentleman" this series, because Cherie is "a true lady". What's he saying about Gabby and Georgina?
19. The last time Andrew Castle danced was on his wedding day - 18th May 1991.
20. Don Warrington is a Proper Actor. He's done Shakespeare and everything.
21. Christine Bleakley is worried her dad will think her skirts are too short. Not sure it's the bottom half she should be worried about.
22. Tom Chambers is Holby City's answer to George Clooney.
23. Tom has had to cancel his honeymoon to appear on Strictly. Take note, Camilla: this one is strictly off-limits.
24. Mark Foster is modestly taking credit for Team GB's swimming success at the Beijing Olympics.
25. Mark is used to wearing Lycra in the water, but not for land-based activities.
26. Jodie Kidd has represented the country at polo, and is a part-time motor-racing driver.
27. Ian is "the most competitive person on the planet". Fact.
28. In the '90s, Phil Daniels did a song called "Parklife" with a band called Blur. Doesn't ring any bells.
29. Phil is dancing with Flavia, whose partner was Matt Di Angelo last year, who plays Phil's son in 'Enders.
30. Phil is a big fan of pink satin.

If that hasn't whetted your appetite, I don't know what will. We'll be here with our own special patented brand of insightful commentary every weekend for the foreseeable future, and we'd be delighted if you'd join us. The fun all kicks off next Saturday at 6.10pm.