Monday, 14 September 2009

The second coming of Christmas

Christmas Special 2008
TX Date: 25th December 2008

Hello everyone! Now, you may think this an odd time of year for me to be recapping a Christmas special, given that it is neither current nor seasonal, but in fairness it has always been my intention to recap this episode, and it's been sat on my PVR since December for that reason. I kept forgetting to do it, though, and with the new series just a few days away, I thought it very much a "now or never" kind of thing. And it's now. So let us journey back, back to those gloomy days of Smuggo, The Mechanoid and That Tall Girl Who Wouldn't Go Away and see how they fared against some old hands. But enough about what Len does in private. Hey-oh!

Right, we begin with David Morrissey in the Tardis. Oh, wait: this is the end of the Doctor Who Christmas special. Hang on. *fast forwards*

Okay, we actually begin with festive titles, mixed with a touch of 'Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time', arguably my least favourite of all seasonal tunes. Bleck. Gosh, what a lot of baubles!

There is Bruce, and there is Tess. Tess's Christmas present from the wardrobe department is an outfit that at least tries to suggest she is not some grotesque, shapeless lump. This is a step forward, certainly: perhaps if Tess is a very good girl over the next nine months, we'll be able to see an actual outline of her figure in the next series. [Or perhaps she'll be pregnant again. - Carrie] Bruce welcomes us all (nice to see you, to see you etc). Aw, Heather Small is in the audience, sitting next to James Jordan. She just can't catch a break, can she? Bruce and Tess do a bit involving the time taken to get that golden colour, which refers not to the turkey, of course, but to the fake tan. Wah wah wahhhh.

Tess explains that six couples will hit the ballroom tonight - the cream of the crop, in fact. They are: Alesha Dixon and Matthew Cutler (ahhh, remember the days when people still liked Alesha? Before she was symptomatic of everything that's wrong in society for reasons entirely outside her control? Sigh), Lisa Snowdon and Brendan Cole, Jill Halfpenny and Darren Bennett, Rachel Stevens and Vincent Simone, Kelly Brook and Brian Fortuna (since Brendan can't be in two places at once, something I think we should all be thankful for) and finally Tom Chambers and Camilla Dallerup. Y'know, rewatching all of this is making it much harder for me to pretend that series six NEVER HAPPENED, which I've managed to moderate success all year.

Tess informs us that Alesha, Kelly and Jill are "back by popular demand". No such claim is made of Tom, Rachel and Lisa, and I suspect we all know why. Bruce asks if we're ready for a festive feast of fun, and about three people in the audience give a half-hearted "yay". Snerk.

First up are Alesha and Matthew. Bruce tells us that Alesha's been very successful lately and has been travelling all around the world with her album. There follows a joke which I consider to be quite good by this show's standards, in which Alesha allegedly told Bruce of a time she shared dinner and a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio, resulting in him asking what happened next and her replying "the plane landed and we both got off". Hey, it made me laugh. And it made Alesha laugh that oh-so-recognisable laugh of hers. Heh, I've missed that.

We see their Viennese waltz training: Alesha says they decided to do the dance because it was elegant and graceful. Cue shot of Alesha falling over in rehearsals and saying to Matthew, with [sics] all over the place, "we never was elegant, was we?" She remembers the basics, she thinks, but she's a bit rusty and needs to "fix up, look sharp". They would like to move people emotionally, and they'd love to "do the double", as the saying apparently goes. For a second I wonder if she means double-dutch, and they're just going to start skipping in the middle of the routine. That would be cool.

Mattesha hit the floor, both of them looking lovely, dancing to a horrid jazzy version of 'White Christmas'. There's lots of smouldering and shoulder-waving before they get into hold and start twirling, but when it gets going, the routine is lovely. And anyone who still thinks Alesha won't have the technical know-how to be a judge can just come around here and shut my mouth, because I think she'll be fine.

Bruce tells Alesha he loves the back of her dress, which is largely non-existent, and is glad she didn't put it on back-to-front. BOOBIES! Bruce gives a shout out to the wonderful singers, who he says are going to play "like they've never played before - together". Ah, if only that punchline had been "in tune", then I would've given it a standing ovation, even if all by myself, Arlene-style.

There are also judges! The now-departed Arlene, who reminds Bruce of Cinderella because she's spent all these years sandwiched between Craig and Bruno, the ugly sisters. Gay people are funny! Bruce apologises to Bruno and says that he only named them because he didn't want to offend Len, who he thinks can get very tetchy lately. Craig nods at the camera, all "you have no idea", which is quite funny. So, what did the judges think? Len thinks it's business as usual for Alesha - fantastic. Bruno thought Alesha was a vision, like crystals of snow under a beam of sunshine. Wouldn't they melt? Craig was concerned at the beginning because it was out of Viennese waltz character (I thought this too, actually), but he loved it in the end. Arlene says that "from the Wicked Witch to Snow White" (um, unfortunate), Alesha dances like a dream.

Over to the House of Tesstosterone. Tess says that Alesha was like a princess, prompting Alesha to go "aw, I wish I was one in real life", like she's forgotten where she is right now. Everyone cracks up. Alesha says that she wanted to do ballroom this time because the dresses are so lovely, and says that she missed Matthew. Awww. Scores - Craig: 9, Arlene: 10, Len: 10, Bruno: 10. 39 out of 40. Well, it's good, but it's no Lisa Snowdon, is it? This bit always feels so audience when there's no public vote.

Speaking of Lisa, here she is, sporting a vaguely unflattering 1920s hairdo. She and Brendan will be doing the quickstep, and this leads to a Bruce joke which returns us to the "too awful to transcribe" territory. We are subjected to some revisionist history that tries to convince us Lisa was all that, even though she was essentially a nice girl who improved a lot but was still very awkward a lot of the time. Grumble, grumble, 80 out of 80, bloody farce, grumble grumble. No, really, I'm over that now. Honest. She and Brendan claim to have morphed into one person after spending so much time together. What a terrifying thought. Lisa thinks it would be lovely to win. I wouldn't hold your breath, sweetie. Brendan reveals that they have a "special move" planned, which the judges may or may not go for. Honestly, after your showdance, I think they'll be happy with anything that at least attempts to acknowledge the laws of physics. Also, "special move" makes it all sound a bit Street Fighter II. Shor-yu-ken! They're pleased to be able to do this one last dance together.

They're dancing to 'Sleigh Ride', and skip around the outside of the dance floor out of hold to begin with, Lisa's manic smile making her look like she's on day release. It certainly is quick and steppy, though some of the hops are a bit out of sync with each other, and there' a part where Lisa seems to drift away from Brendan slightly and his attempts to pull her back in make her stumble ever so slightly. Nitpicking? Me? Never. The special move, apparently, is to run across the floor and sit on the steps, with Lisa on Brendan's lap. Hey, it worked for Matt di Angelo.

Lisa and Brendan seem to know it didn't exactly go brilliantly as they walk over, with Lisa asking with a giggle if they can do it again, and Brendan saying, "I'll save you the trouble: five!" Heh. Bruce applauds their wonderful spirit. Bruno says they took us for an amazing ride, and it was a quickstep full of festive fizz. Craig thought it was fantastic, and they maintained energy all along, but they did mess up over by the judges (the hopping part, I think). Arlene says that Lisa dazzles on the dancefloor. Len says that it was a perfect Christmas dance - he knows what Craig is saying, but commends Lisa on her posture and says that if she ever gives up the day job (which one? She's got, like, three!) she can come and work at his dance school. Lisa, bless her little cotton socks, goes "are you serious? January 1st, I'll be there, hahahahaha!" Aww. I'd forgotten how much I liked her before they started overmarking her to a ridiculous degree.

House of Tesstosterone. There are no tantrums, mercifully, and Lisa says she will be carrying on dancing after tonight, if Brendan will teach her. Brendan says he will, the universe is unconvinced. Scores - Craig: 8, Arlene: 9, Len: 9, Bruno: 10. Bruno's been on the sauce already, clearly. 36 then, for Lisa and Brendan.

Who's on next? Why, it's Jill Halfpenny and Darren Bennett. I never actually saw Jill's series, so this is something a bit new for me. Jill will be dancing the American Smooth, NOT THE JIVE, though the jive is of course mentioned because heaven forfend we discuss Jill Halfpenny and neglect to mention HER MIRACULOUS JIVE. Still, it all leads to a joke at John Sergeant's expense, so that's good.

Video: Jill says that she's still terrified, even now. She says that Darren isn't just her dance partner now, but her friend. They'll be doing lifts, which they never really did in series two, so she's quite excited even if he isn't (he is). They make reindeers with their fingers. It's a visual thing. Jill wants to go out and give it everything she's got and have a good time on the floor. Fair enough, really.

Their routine is to another ghastly jazz butchering, this time of 'My Favourite Things' from The Sound Of Music. I mean, if they're going to fuck with a classic, they might at least have done the Big Brovaz version. "Buy me diamonds and rubies, I'm crazy 'bout Bentleys" indeed. I'm not very taken with Jill's dress, which looks lovely when she is still but not so great in motion, which is surely a flaw in a dancing dress? Their routine is lovely, though, and they're clearly loving every minute. And wow, Jill can kick her leg up really high. [Ah, but can she bend and snap? - Carrie] A final lift and a flourish, and they're done.

Straight over to the judges: Craig was exhausted watching them - he says it was like viewing something on fast forward, but he loved it. Arlene says it was stunningly danced and brilliantly staged, and then she likens it to tossing sprouts into boiling water. It's times like this that Arlene's removal from the programme becomes less of a mystery. Len says it jingled his bells. Oh dear Lord. He likes that they controlled it so well considering the speed. And finally Bruno who calls Jill a "cracker of a performer". Cracker, because it's Christmas, innit.

House of Tesstosterone. Tess reminds us that Jill's never danced the American Smooth, and she says that she's always wanted to try it, so getting to dance it at last was a dream come true. Scores - Craig: 9 (gasps of disbelief, because Lord knows this show has done enough know to make people think that 9/10 is the sort of score a miser gives), Arlene: 10, Len: 10, Bruno: 10. 39/40, putting them in a tie for first place with Alesha and Matthew.

Next up are Rachel and Vincent, another "popular pair", per Bruce. So popular that they were in the bottom two twice! Bruce reminds us that all of their dances have been raunchy, even though I'm not sure there's a machine code for "raunchy". Bruce then demonstrates what a raunchy hokey-cokey might look like, and Christmas or not, no one will ever be drunk enough to deal with that.

Rachel's VT reminds us that she scored more tens than anyone else in Strictly history. They will be doing a rumba, but a romantic rumba, not a raunchy rumba. Vincent continues to be kind of creepy, Rachel continues to attempt to be interesting. Rachel says they got pipped to the post at the final, so she hopes they can take the trophy away in the Christmas special.

Rachel and Vincent are on the dancefloor, and Rachel looks like the spangliest bauble on the Christmas tree. Their rumba is to '2 Become 1' and begins with Rachel lying lifelessly (insert your own joke here) as Vincent lifts her from the floor. It is very similar to their raunchy rumba, just a lot slower. The Strictly singers are butchering the song, by the way. And seriously, when you are not vocally up to the task of performing a Spice Girls song, maybe it's time to switch careers. Meanwhile, the romantic rumba continues. It is pretty sweet - for all I mock Rachel and Vincent, they do have a lovely connection on the dancefloor, and that's one thing I would like to see in the upcoming series.

Bruce calls it a "raunchy rumba", either displaying comprehension fail or just proving my point (or possibly both). Arlene calls Rachel a "goddess", and enjoyed the Aled Jones tribute, because Rachel was walking in the air, d'you see? Len says Rachel's rumba is brilliant. Bruno says that Rachel and the rumba are the ultimate naughty treat. Craig would've liked a smoother transition out of the first lift, but he thought the lifts in general were exceptional.

HoT. Rachel fans herself. Tess reminds Rachel how they narrowly missed out on the title, and Rachel says that winning would be a wonderful Christmas present. Scores - Craig: 9, Arlene: 10, Len: 10, Bruno: 10, for a total score of 39, tying them with Alesha and Jill. Tess gripes that Craig isn't giving out any tens. Yes, because truly the biggest problem this show is suffering right now is its compulsive undermarking. Get a grip, Daly.

Up next are Kelly and Brian. They're doing a jive - and in front of St Jill of Halfpenny! Gasp! Such brazen cheek cannot be condoned! Their VT contains the infamous three-lifts American Smooth, and reminds us of how Kelly's journey was tragically cut short. Brian Fortuna and his uneven eyebrows and strange undereye bags are very excited to be working with Kelly, who has taken to wearing a large crucifix and smelling of garlic. Possibly. Brian says that they're fresh and new, and Kelly says the others won't know what to expect. They have planned a backflip, and Kelly promises their routine will be entertaining. Kelly wants Brendan to do well, but not as well as she does. Heh.

Kelly's in purple like she has a caramel hazelnut centre [with a skirt that is so obviously velcroed around her that the Surprise in the routine is rather less of a surprise and more a fait accompli - Carrie], and their jive is to 'Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree'. It starts in hold, oddly, as they sweep around the floor, then Brian whips off the bottom half of her dress, Bucks Fizz-style, and the jive proper begins. It's a fun and exciting routine, if slightly sloppy in places, but overall it has lots of lovely Christmas sparkle. "I don't know what it looked like, but it felt good!" are Kelly's first words after the dance. That's what she said. Bruce talks about how he and Kelly share a love of digestive biscuits. No, really.

Len tells Kelly it's lovely to see her back, and the highlight was when her skirt came off. You lech. Len says the jive was brilliant. Craig calls it uh-may-zing. Arlene thinks Kelly was popping corks all the way. Now there's a party trick. Then Bruce forgets Bruno, who's marginally offended in a not-really sort of way: eventually, he tells Kelly "you jive me crazy". That can't be difficult. Actually, the punctuation in that sentence is open to discussion. I have my suspicions it should actually be "you jive, me crazy."

Tesstosterone Residence. Brian says Kelly is all he could want for Christmas. The scores are in - Craig: 10, Arlene: 9 ("awww!" goes the crowd), Len: 10, Bruno: 10. 39 again - that's a four-way tie for first place. Oh dear. Brian asks if they beat Brendan, and Brendan jokily launches himself at him, causing Kelly to shriek. Hee.

And finally, the 2008 champions (groan), Smuggo Chinnerson and his dance partner Camilla Dallerup. Oh, and they're doing the foxtrot - because we didn't get enough of those in the final. His VT reminds us of his crushingly inevitable victory, which has been choreographed to 'Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer'. Their rehearsal footage is WACKY. I mean, everyone's is, but theirs is intolerably so. Tom suggests that if they win they could keep the trophy in the centre of London and both visit it. Camilla is unconvinced.

Oh God, there is so much cloying Business (yes, with a capital B) at the beginning. I'd forgotten just how awful all that was. Credit to Tom: he does do a lovely foxtrot, even if I spend the entire time staring at his chin. Then they ruin it all by going into a junior version of the robot halfway through, for reasons best known to Camilla and Camilla alone, I suspect. Tom's wife, WHO WAS NEW AT THE TIME BUT IS NOT SO MUCH ANY MORE, is in the audience.

Bruno says that it was a foxtrot with a panto feel (ain't that the truth) and calls it a festive treat. Craig thought it was more of an American Smooth than a foxtrot, but he'll overlook that, it being Christmas and all. He thinks it was a great routine. Arlene says the showbiz razzle dazzle is back, and says he was three reindeer in one: Dasher, Dancer and Prancer. Len says that the comedy was like John Sergeant, "but in a good way". Heh.

House of Tesstosterone. Tess asks if Camilla's stopped crying yet since winning on Saturday. Well, we're now 50 minutes into the show and I've not seen a single tear, so there's your answer, Tess. They would like to win, but do not wish to be greedy. Scores - Craig: 9, Arlene: 10, Len: 9, Bruno: 9 for a total of 37. Smuggo and Camilla look underwhelmed, but do their best to cover it.

Leaderboard: accompanied by a loud "OH NO!" from the House of Tesstosterone, which can only be either Brendan or Tom - I would've assumed Brendan, but it sounds more like Tom to me. Alesha, Jill, Rachel and Kelly all have six points, Tom has two and Lisa has one. Since they've had more than enough tied-scoreboard fuckups for one year, it's decided that Len should rank the top four couples, although he seems the least qualified of the four to do it, if you ask me. Curse that Head Judge title! Give it to Craig already. Bruce claims this all shows the calibre of the dancing tonight, and not the fact that the judges are always far too complimentary with their marks at Christmas, and have been so all series anyway. Anyway, Len says that the judges have discussed matters, and Alesha and Matthew are first, Jill and Darren are second, Rachel and Vincent are third, and Kelly and Brian are fourth. Incidentally, now that the tie for first place has been resolved, the names are still in exactly the same order on the leaderboard that they were beforehand. They're also in descending order of performance. I'm not saying that's necessarily suspicious, just pointing out an interesting quirk.

The studio audience will vote, and in the meantime, we have a very special performance from Russell Watson. I'd normally go "oh God" here, but Carrie will lynch me if I do. [HA! I heart the Russell. - Carrie] He sings 'Let It Snow' while Brian and Kristina and Vincent and Flavia foxtrot around them. It's lovely, but it's ultimately filler, so let's move on. [Does he not fall over a microphone, though? That's always funny. - Carrie]

Bruce and Tess have the cards in their hands, and it's final results time. Bruce and Tess reveal the four couples who will definitely not win the title, in no particular order: Tom and Camilla (like they care at this point), Lisa and Brendan (who saw it coming a mile off), Rachel and Vincent (barely any reaction) and Alesha and Matthew (they hug and applaud the others). Jill and Darren and Kelly and Brian step forward to approach the trophy. So close you can almost taste it, the rest is still unwritten, etc. The Christmas champions are...Jill and Darren! Fireworks, and so on.

Congratulations all round - Bruce seems to think it is remarkable that "a young mother" has won the title. Tess asks Jill how old her baby is ("seven and a half months", incidentally), and Bruce is all "ladies! See what you can do?" as though feminism never even happened a little bit. Sigh. Darren says it's an honour and a privilege to have danced with Jill, and he thanks her for giving up time away from her baby, WHICH IS NEW, to train with him, and Jill's all "yeah, it's been amazing, my feet hurt, can I go now?" And so Jill and Darren are named Christmas champions, and they hold the trophy aloft.

My PVR cuts off there, but I think it's safe to assume that's pretty much the end. See you over the weekend for series seven! Keep your fingers crossed for appropriate scoring and vaguely interesting contestants!

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