Top 14, Part 1: 30th September 2011
Over nostalgic shots of the launch show (can we be nostalgic for something that happened less than a month ago?), the Voice Of Tess reminds us that 14 celebrities have signed up "to the Strictly cause". I think calling the show a "cause" is pushing things a bit - it's not a charity, unless you count the part where it continues to provide work for Bruce Forsyth into his dotage. Or the part where Aliona Vilani is still inexplicably gainfully employed, but I think that's less charity and more a conspiracy of some sort. I still think she has incriminating photos of Moira Ross somewhere. There are vox pops of people talking generically about their excitement for the upcoming series, and still shots of some of the press coverage so far. I'm trying not to take it personally that none of the articles I wrote are in there. There's also the obligatory shot of Rory Bremner doing an impression of someone that sounds like no-one recognisable. I think we'll be getting quite a lot of those between now and his eventual elimination. (I was going to say "hopefully swift" elimination, but I've drawn him in my office sweepstake. Hey, I never said I was an impartial observer.) Tess reminds us that the partnerships have been formed, and some looked harmonious (Anita and Robin), while others were marriages of convenience (Brendan and Bloody Lulu, of course, although I'd be lying if I said I wasn't also hoping for a shot of Matthew and Nicole Cutler here). This ends with an extended metaphor about bacon that I'm not sure works all that well, but it wouldn't be Strictly if there weren't some extremely dodgy scripting in here somewhere.
Titles! There is a close-up of Ola's lower back, and Bloody Lulu is the last person we see before the glitterball appears. Bloody Lulu.
Live in the studio, we have a Bruce, and we have a Tess. Brian May is in the audience. I think he might possibly be married to one of the contestants. Bruce tells everyone to sit down, because they're not in church. B'okay. It is nice to see us, to see us nice. First Daly Dresswatch of the competition: an ill-fitting mauve number that's all drapey in the back. It's not a particularly inspiring start. Also, Tess's posture is dreadful. Has it always been that bad? (Maybe she had to beat up Vernon Kay for marital transgressions shortly before the show? - Carrie) Bruce jokes that there are a couple of women his age in the competition: Anita and Lulu, if you add them together. Titter titter. Bruce tells us that seven couples will perform a waltz or a cha-cha-cha tonight, and Tess adds that the other seven will be performing tomorrow. We all know this, of course.
It's time to meet the stars of our show: "astrologer to the stars" Russell Grant and his partner Flavia Cacace, "singing legend" (singing bellend, more like) Bloody Lulu and her partner Brendan Cole, "comedian and impressionist" (quote marks used for irony, though this is a direct quote as well) Rory Bremner and his partner Erin Boag, Waterloo Road's Chelsee Healey and her partner Pasha Kovalev, TV presenter Dan Lobb and his partner Katya Virshilas, "actress and pop princess" Holly Valance and her partner Artem Chigvintsev, Olympic champion boxer Audley Harrison and his partner Natalie Lowe, former MP Edwina Currie and her partner Vincent Simone, boyband McFly's Harry Judd and his partner Aliona Vilani (boo, hiss, etc), "queen of the soaps" Anita Dobson and her partner Robin Windsor, premiership football's Robbie Savage and his partner Ola Jordan, "Italian siren" Nancy Dell'Olio and her partner Anton Du Beke, The One Show's Alex Jones and her partner James Jordan, and finally "stage and screen superstar" Jason Donovan and his partner Kristina Rihanoff. Nobody appears especially committed to the hip shimmy on the end of the musical sting apart from Chelsee.
Tess says that no one's leaving this weekend, but the judges will still be scoring them. As with last year, the scores will be carried over to next week. Tess tells us that on the red button we have live commentary from former champion Karen Hardy (hooray!) and comedian Katy Brand (...why, exactly?). Bruce hopes they will only be critiquing the dancing, and not his jokes. Don't count on it, Bruce.
First up are Holly and Artem. In their pre-performance VT, Tess reminds us that Holly is a "pop temptress" and a pin-up, but it was Neighbours that gave Holly her first big break. Remember when Flick Scully stole Steph's hot fiancé? And at the time we all thought it was awful of her, but now with hindsight and knowing what a humourless martyr Steph turned out to be, it doesn't seem quite so bad? Holly trots out the age-old excuse of anyone on this show with a pop past about how that doesn't necessarily mean she can DANCE, because music videos are all about looking funky and sexy. And normally here I'd be all "YEAH RIGHT" but after Michelle Williams last year, that argument has a bit of weight behind it. (Bless Michelle. Blazing a trail for all inept pop stars. - Carrie) Holly reminds us that Artem was last year's winner, so she's got a fair bit to live up to. Holly says that this "boggles her marbles", whatever that means. Artem tells us that last year he got the trophy and a girlfriend, so he had pretty much the best start to the competition imaginable.
We see them in training. Holly says that she's struggling with the cha-cha-cha, as she elbows Artem in the gut, adding that Artem doesn't "give compliments out willy-nilly". To back this up, we see Holly attempting some steps and a horrified Artem asking "what the hell was that?" Holly replies, "Shut up." I think it might be love. Holly pulls a series of fart faces at the camera, and Artem tells her that her routine is looking "all right." "Is that another one of your compliments?" replies Holly, her tone bordering on fury. Holly says that she hopes to impress the judges with her first cha cha.
They're dancing to 'Who's That Chick?' by David Guetta featuring Rihanna, and Holly's movements are a little bit sluggish in the opening of the routine. I think she's actually dancing off the beat a little bit. There's also a lack of finesse to her movement - she hits all of her marks, but doesn't quite finish her extensions. I know it's early days and everything, I'm just reporting what I see. Also, she's looking at her feet a lot. Having said all that, this looks a lot better on second viewing than it did first time around, and as openings for the series go, it's a lot more encouraging than Felicity and Vincent last year. Holly does improve as the routine goes on - I wonder if the initial sluggishness was just nerves before the adrenaline kicked in properly - and she doesn't do too badly in her short section out of hold, but again, her arm placements need work. All in all, nothing groundbreaking, but a very solid first attempt.
Bruce thanks Our Fabulous Singers Dave Arch, And His Wonderful Orchestra. One of these days, he'll get the punctuation in the right place. Hopefully. Bruce tells the judges that he's missed them: he's missed Alesha's words of wisdom, Craig saying "dahhhling", Len saying "sev-unnn!" and Bruno saying...whatever it is that Bruno says. Bruno hollers that he will SPEEEEEK VERRRRRRY SLOOOOOWLLLLLYYYYY. I like that Bruno is basically talking to Bruce like one does to an elderly relative. Len is asked for his thoughts, and he says it wasn't the best first dance he's ever seen (Audience: "AWWWWW!", and dear God, I'm going to get tired of that sort of shit quite quickly) but it was close. He thinks it could've been crisper in the action, and Holly needs to straighten and flex her legs more, but he thinks everyone following her has their work cut out to beat that. Alesha thinks Holly is a very good dancer, and looks sensational. She thinks that Holly was convincing throughout, and that her technique is at a very high standard for the beginning of the show. She finishes by saying that Holly could push it further, and that she anticipates Holly will be sensational. Bruno thinks Holly is "tasty eye-candy" and he's impressed with her extensions, but the performance needs more bite. "Go for it, because you've got it," he advises. Craig thinks she needs sharper arm placement, and points out that her knees were flexed almost constantly and there was very little straight leg, which affected her hip action. He thought her walks were clumsy, but knows she can improve those. He loves the layouts, but thinks that the first one "never quite got there". Holly nods, which is impressive, because she seems to know what he's on about, which is more than I've managed. He thinks there was "a lot of good" in the performance.
They proceed up to the Tess Circle, and Tess points out that she's just kicked off Strictly 2011 with the reigning champ: "Does it get any better?" Tess enquires. "I hope so," Holly replies, giggling. Tess says that the judges think she's got more to give - does Holly agree? Holly meekly agrees that she very much agrees with the assessment, and that it was all "excellent and constructive criticism" that she's going to work on. Tess asks Artem if he's planning to make the final again, and he says he's not going to think about it, and just take it week by week. That'll be a no, then? Time for the scores: Craig 6, Len 7, Alesha 8, Bruno 7 for a total of 28. A fair score in total, though I think Alesha's 8 was a tad over-enthusiastic. Tess reminds us that no one's going home tonight. Literally, they're all staying LOCKED IN THE STUDIO.
Our next couple are Dan and Katya. Dan gets a "very popular man" from Bruce, which I assume is a precursor to an eventual "very popular couple". Dan's VT features some clips from Daybreak, which I understand will now be incorporated into the consolidated viewing figures to prove that people really are watching it, definitely, honest, and it's not underperforming at all. He also has a nice line in looking plaintively into the camera, which basically means that there is serious danger of Dan Lobb being my designated woobie this year. Dan says that he's trying to champion that man who spends his life watching others on the dancefloor rather than joining in himself, which is pretty much the story of a good 50% of male contestants ever to take part in this show, and I'd argue at least two of the winners. Whether that bodes well for Dan or not is up for debate at this point. Dan busts some moves in his VT, and on the basis of these, his reluctance to dance in public seems well-justified. (I love Lovely Dan. Even my boyfriend admitted that Dan was quite funny and nice based on this VT. - Carrie) Dan is concerned about dancing, and also swears that he is not being distracted by Katya's womanly wiles. Just you wait until she starts getting her hats out, Dan. I said HATS. God, get your minds out of the gutter.
Katya tells us that she's excited to get back into training, and that she may be tough, but if she's going to spend ten hours a day training with someone, she wants him to make her laugh. Instantly my mind flashes back to "I'm thinking sexy thoughts." "Good for you." and how Gavin Henson's faultless comic timing wasn't appreciated by enough people. (Incidentally, if you haven't been watching him on Channel 5's The Bachelor, you really must. It is a car crash of epic proportions, and I'm loving every minute.) In training, Katya interviews that she and Dan are quite similar, and that there's bound to be a battle between them. Dan says she's good cop and bad cop. Basically Katya harangues him the way she's harangued all her partners, but she's Katya so everything about the way she does it is awesome. I actually think Katya might be my favourite pro on this show. The VT ends with Dan and Katya high-fiving and Dan saying "I love it when you get happy, 'cos I know I done something good." I bet no one will pick him up on his grammar the way they always hassle Alesha for hers. Just a hunch.
They're waltzing to 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?' and the routine begins out of hold, with Dan standing on one side holding a rose, and Katya on the other side, sitting on a bench under an archway that I'm fairly certain was used last year to house Aliona's swing of infamy. Incidentally, if Dan's rose is a sly nod to The Bachelor, Katya is an absolute genius. They take hold quickly (probably for the best), and it's not too bad: Dan's face reads as one of intense concentration which ultimately comes across as too aloof for the waltz, but his footwork seems reasonably good, if occasionally a tad skippy in places. He's a little stiff too, but again: for a first night performance, not bad.
Bruce declares it "elegant", and says to Dan of Katya, "isn't she wonderful?" "Yeah, she's getting there," Dan replies. Heh. Katya plans to make him suffer for that later. Len says that it was "a bit wooden" and is interrupted by more lowing from the audience, at which point he tells them to stop going on like that, and we get our first "getting on my wick" of the series. He thought it lacked musicality, but the hold and footwork for good, and also Dan is TALL and DID WELL FOR A TALL MAN. (I really hope Len's been informed that Dan used to be a tennis player. - Carrie) Alesha thinks Dan was elegant, and he looked very confident, relaxed, and like he was leading Katya. Bruno thinks it was technically accomplished for a first go, but he was distracted by Dan's gloomy expression: "you liked like Adrian Chiles on the sofa." HA! Bruno explains that Dan needs to look at Katya with love in his eyes, and takes hold of Alesha to demonstrate. Alesha wears an expression indicating that Bruno might benefit from some Listerine. Bruno says that they need to create a performance that's believable all the way through, and that that takes time. Katya promises that they'll get there. Bruce tells him he's got a lovely smile, and he should use it. "Thanks Bruce - so have you!" replies Dan. Bruce finds Dan "a bit lippy". Katya cracks up. Craig thought it was a very tentative lead, and that his steps were too turned out and his top-line was hideously rigid, and the rise and fall was all in the knees, and his transitions were crumbly. Also, he needs to smile. Alesha yells that it was his first time. Blimey, two couples in and the infighting's started already.
Dan and Katya make their way up to the Tess Circle, and just as they arrive, Chelsee crosses from one side of the room to the other. I'm intrigued to know what's going on there. Had she just been to the loo? Tess points out that Len and Alesha liked it, and Dan reveals that apparently Alesha's mum is his biggest fan, so as long as he's keeping the Dixon family happy, he's doing all right. No disrespect to Alesha's mum, but if we're canvassing the opinions of her family, I'd much rather know what her nans think. Dan says that he's started to enjoy training and they've found a nice rhythm to their sessions, and he thought they'd done better than the judges suggested. It's odd that both Dan and Tess seem to think he only got a lukewarm reception from the judges, because the only one who criticised his actual dancing to any great extent was Craig, and Craig does that to pretty much everyone in the first week. Anyway, scores are in: hilariously: the camera's on the judges ready to award the scores, and Bruno realises he's not holding his paddle, so there's a bit of frantic fumbling under the desk, much to Alesha's amusement. It's a four from Craig, sevens from Len and Alesha and six from Bruno for a total of 24.
Our third couple are Bloody Lulu and Brendan Cole. Bruce reminds us of Bloody Lulu's look of horror when she saw who she was partnered with, and refers to Bloody Lulu as "him" in the process, tee hee. He reminds us that Brendan hoisted Bloody Lulu over his shoulder, which is typical of Brendan: the competition's not even started, and he's already done an illegal lift. (As before, I'm only transcribing Bruce's jokes if they're half-decent or better.) Incidentally, Brendan is looking FRESH-FACED this year. I'm not going to speculate how or why, but it's worth noting. Bloody Lulu interviews in her VT that she's a singer, she's a songwriter, she's an actress, she's a mother, she's a grandmother, she's a businesswoman, she's a sometime model, she's a bitch, she's a lover, she's a child, she's a mother, she's a sinner, she's a saint, and she does not feel ashamed. She also chucks in the fact that she had a TV series back in the day (which will serve as a handy rebuttal to anyone who claims that modern TV is dumbing down - LOOK AT THE SHIT THEY USED TO BROADCAST) and did a bit of dancing for that, but IT WAS DEFINITELY NOT AN ADVANTAGE FOR THIS SHOW OR ANYTHING. God, everyone's always so defensive about prior experience. Bloody Lulu pretends that her horror on being partnered with Brendan was because of his "bad boy reputation" and the fact that he is TALL, and definitely not because nowadays he frequently gets lumbered with the hopeless hoofers or anything.
Brendan says that he thinks he's a nice person, and he gets on with most people. Most. Over their training footage, he interviews that Bloody Lulu is "a ball of energy" with the air of a man who's already reading the terms of his contract to see if there are any circumstances in which he's legitimately allowed to slip her a sedative. He didn't expect her to struggle so much so early on. Bloody Lulu says that dancing makes no sense to her. It all comes together for them in their final rehearsal, but "who knows what will happen when we go and do it for real," as Brendan put it. Oh, Brendan. Just you wait.
Their cha-cha-cha is to 'I've Got The Music In Me' and Bloody Lulu starts the routine by looking as though she has absolutely no idea what she's doing, which proves to be a fairly accurate portent of what's to follow. To be fair, the first ten seconds or so of the actual routine proper aren't too bad, although her legs are too rigid to generate any hip movement. It's after that that the problems really start: she's unstable on her feet and at one point actually has to grab hold of Brendan's arm for support, she stares at her feet constantly and there are large chunks of the performance where she's clearly just forgotten the routine entirely because she's out of time or she's facing in the wrong direction or she's standing in the wrong place, and Brendan's working hard to try to get her properly placed, but he's powerless in the face of Bloody Lulu's complete ineptitude. It ends with him picking her up and carrying her over to the judges, much as he did in the launch show - or, if you prefer, much as he was frequently forced to do with Fiona Phillips.
Alesha thanks Bloody Lulu for "getting the party started" and says she knows that she's got lots of potential. She knows that it went "a bit wrong" - oh Alesha, that's like saying that the maiden voyage of the Titanic went "a bit wrong" - but it doesn't matter, because she's got the first dance out of the way. Bruno gives us a 'Shout'-style "WEE-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-LLLLLLL...what the HELL were you doing?" I love Bruno. He says she's a great performer, and the energy was great, but the steps went down the toilet. "That's exactly how I choreographed it!" Brendan protests. Heh. Bloody Lulu cowers from Craig, who calls it "a complete dance DISAHSTER", and that she made it up almost from beginning to end. Len says there was "plenty of boom-bang-a-bang, but not much to shout about", and it was a shame because he had great expectations for her. He says that you cannot go wrong, because that'll make your marks tumble, so she needs to work on nailing the choreography first and foremost, but at least she was entertaining. Bloody Lulu? Is Bruce's favourite.
Tess tries to drum up support in the Tess Circle, and Bloody Lulu assures us that the dress rehearsal was much better. Brendan grabs them a cushion to hide behind during the scoring: Craig 2, Len 5, Alesha 5, Bruno 5 for a total of 17.
Audley and Natalie are next. Bruce cracks a joke about how boxing is totally for gays because they fight each other over a purse. He then goes all Lady Bracknell about how it wasn't even a handbag. I'm still trying to decide if the implicit homophobia of the joke being buried by its eventual descent into total nonsense makes things better or worse. Tess informs us that Audley Harrison is hoping to perform as well on the dancefloor as he does in the boxing ring - presumably by getting paid a million pounds for only doing one step. (THANK YOU WIKIPEDIA!) (Oh Steve. - Carrie) Audley believes he's the biggest celebrity on the show, by which he means he is TALL. He's got size 17 feet, so if he steps on Natalie, I imagine it's going to hurt. He talks about how his wife is "the lady boss", but his partner will be the temporary boss.
Natalie, in an interview I can only assumed was filmed long before she discovered who her partner is, states that she's going for gold and would love to hold that glitterball up. Aww. I know it was inevitable after she was given two good dancers and had two good runs on the show that Natalie was bound to get a no-hoper at some point, but I was still holding on to that faint hope that she might become the Derek Hough figure who always gets the ringers. Only not as hateful as Derek Hough, obviously. And without pretending to date Cheryl Cole. (Natalie Lowe sent me a DM the other day. I win at life. - Carrie) Audley begins his training in LA with someone who is not Natalie. Eventually he arrives in London to train with Natalie, and Natalie reports that they have three days of rehearsal together, compared to the three weeks that everyone else had. I'm intrigued as to why Natalie couldn't go to LA. I like to think it's because she's secretly a spy posing as an awesome ballroom dancer and entering certain countries would blow her cover. She says that he'll dance until three in the morning if she can get them a studio that late.
They're waltzing to 'Angel' by Sarah McLachlan, and Audley's lack of rehearsal with Natalie is pretty evident. He dances like he's marking the routine, really. It has actually been well-choreographed by Natalie to draw a veil over most of his shortcomings, but there's only so much obfuscation you can do. It's a sweet routine, but not a great performance and not especially memorable. Unless they manage to pull out an amazing salsa next week, I suspect they're toast.
Bruno thinks Audley is surprisingly light and graceful, which is an achievement, but he needs to watch his footwork. Craig criticises the hands a lot, and thinks the plie was bizarre. Len thinks there was a charm about the routine, and invites Audley to punch Craig as he walks past. Ah, incitements to violence on primetime family entertainment on the BBC. Truly, we are living in a golden age. Alesha is not invited to comment, because we're already running really behind.
Tess asks Audley how this compares with boxing, and Audley says that he enjoyed it, but Craig's a tough guy. He jokes about meeting him later in the back room. LOL VIOLENCE! Scores: Craig 3, Len 5, Alesha 6, Bruno 6 for a total of 20.
Speaking of violence, here are Robbie and Ola. We're reminded of Robbie's 100 yellow cards and reputation as the dirtiest player in the premiership. He reminds us that he started in a youth team at Manchester United with David Beckham, Gary Neville and Nicky Butt. And are any of them on Strictly Come Dancing yet? Nope. LOSERS! Apparently his last game was in May, and he finished it in his underpants. I don't understand why this is special: my knowledge of football is admittedly limited but I thought it always ended with everyone removing their clothing and homoerotically putting other people's shirts on instead? He'd like to get to Wembley on the show, because he didn't play there enough as a footballer.
Ola interviews that for her partner to think she's sweet is a BIG mistake. Robbie has big trouble straightening his legs, and Ola is not at all happy with his progress. Robbie interviews that she's basically criticising everything he does and constantly making him do things again until he gets it right. Which is pretty much how dance tuition works, surely? My favourite part of the training montage is Ola saying "when you pick me up, don't go URRRRGHGGHHHHH!" Sound advice for us all there, I feel. (Also, Ola probably weighs about as much as my big toe, so I really can't see how lifting her would be strenuous in any way.)
Their cha-cha-cha is to 'Bad Boys' by Alexandra Burke, and Robbie's wearing a sleeveless hoodie with "Bad Boy 8" (or "Bad 8 Boy, technically, but I assume they were going more for the former) on the back. I make a mental note to see whose grindr handle that is later. The whole thing reads slightly more like a paso doble than a cha-cha-cha, with lots of dramatic pushing each other away, and I note with interest that Ola has choreographed it so that her arms are on his shoulders a lot, because it does look a bit like she's using this as a trick to surreptitiously pull him around the dancefloor into the right positions. There's also a fair bit of the standard Ola Jordan starfish choreography where he stands rooted to the spot with his arms and legs splayed while Ola cavorts around him. To Robbie's credit, he doesn't entirely lack rhythm and he is clearly trying, but the whole thing is a bit of a mess.
Bruce gets weirdly obsessed with Robbie's tattoos and insists the camera gives them a close-up, but the director clearly does not agree. Craig thought it was all very Abercrombie & Fitch - all about the look and no dancing whatsoever. Yep, that's what always annoys me when I go to Abercrombie & Fitch - they're just never committed enough to the dancing. He points out that six-eighths standing there while Ola dancing around him isn't much of a CHAR-CHAR-CHAR. Len likes that their hair matches, and agrees that there was a tendency for Robbie to stand there "while Ola flew about like a wasp at a picnic" but there was a lot of dancing, and plenty of attack, and he thinks Robbie is the best footballer to have been on the show so far. Not exactly a ringing endorsement when the others were Peter Shilton (eliminated third), John Barnes (eliminated 8th and dragged through three dance-offs to get there), and Peter Schmeichel (eliminated 7th, bottom of the leaderboard three times). Alesha gives Robbie an A for effort, and says that it's never easy for a MAN, especially a FOOTBALLER, to do a cha-cha-cha. I think Alesha's been taking Len's pills. She trots out her obligatory first night "lots of room for growth" hollow compliment, and we move on to Bruno, who thinks Robbie left the cha-cha-cha "completely ravaged". He says he can't attack it all the time, and a bit of finesse is required sometimes. And he likes Robbie's cleavage.
Up in the Tess Circle, Tess is all "GWON ROBBIE! BACK OF THE NET!" Robbie is worried because it's Ola's birthday and he just let her down, but Ola protests that he did no such thing. Scores: Craig 2, Len 6, Alesha 6, Bruno 5 for a total of 19. "At least you looked beautiful," someone calls out in the background, and I'm 99% sure it was James.
Our penultimate couple for the evening are Anita and Robin. We're reminded that, while she might be an Olivier-nominated theatre star, the role of Angie Watts in EastEnders was her most famous one. Anita cackles while remembering how she did a pop song version of the EastEnders theme, and how iconic her '80s perm was - especially when she meet soon-to-be-husband Brian May, whose hair looked like that naturally, and thus they looked like siblings in photographs. I love that she says this like it's a good thing. She says that she wants to learn to dance more than anything.
Robin Windsor embraces self-delusion by describing himself as a "tough-looking guy". I think it takes a bit more than a shaved head, dear. He proceeds to look really tough while taping an L-plate to Anita's chest in rehearsals and vamping "this is something you don't see me doing every day, OH STOP IT!" Honestly, it was like they recruited Jason Statham as a Strictly pro for a minute there. Anita says that she's a novice at the beginning of her journey, and she hopes to look like she's ballroom dancing, but she's going to need it all drummed into her. (Fnar.)
They're waltzing to 'Three Times A Lady', and Anita's pretty good - there's a softness and delicacy to her dancing, and she moves smoothly, although there are a few slightly stumbly moments. It's definitely one of the evening's more professional-looking routines though, with some lovely deft touches. Anita's nerves catch up with her a few times, but not enough to particularly disturb the routine.
Anita screams that she's SO HAPPY TO BE HERE, and Alesha tells her that she gave the most sincere dance of the night. Bruno thinks it was elegant, poised, and beautifully acted, but she needs to watch her top line. Craig thinks she needs to sort her head placement out, but the routine as a whole was gorgeous. Bruce clarifies that this means she should not remove her head from her shoulders. Len's opinion is not sought. Hooray!
Up in the Tess Circle, Tess asks if this means she can ditch the L-plates now, and Robin says that she's a Formula 1 racing driver. Anita's all emotional and says that she's having the time of her life, and this is the best present anyone's ever given her. Bless her, this is only week one. She'll be a puddle on the floor by the time she has to do the Argentine Tango. Scores: sevens across the board for a total of 28.
Rounding off the night are Russell and Flavia. His VT informs us that he was the official astrologer to the Queen. Does the Queen get two horoscope readings, one for each birthday? Russell promises that he is the high priest of camp, and says that he hasn't danced for years because he was too fat, but if Strictly was something he could eat, he'd swallow it whole. Eww. I think he's playing to the back row a little too broadly - for an opening episode, I can handle it, but that amount of scenery-chewing is going to get wearying quite quickly.
Flavia interviews that her partner will have to realise that they get one chance, and one chance only. She says that Russell is a big diva, who never says no or complains. Russell says it's like a new lease of life for him, and whatever happens he's going to love it, so he hopes we do too.
They're dancing the cha-cha-cha to 'Venus' by Bananarama, and Flavia has decided to seize the role of Girl-Anton right from the off by gimmicking this routine up to the hilt. Russell emerges from a clamshell covered in glitter, because he is VENUS YOU SEE. What Russel's doing is not particularly recognisable as a cha-cha-cha, but they're clearly just going for the Widdy vote, so it's not like it matters. Russell's off the beat quite a lot, but hey, he's having a good time, and I have a lot more patience with him than I did with Widdy, because at least he's actually trying to dance, rather than just bumbling around the floor and expecting points for turning up.
Bruno says it was uncanny - like watching Frankie Howerd doing Bananarama. Craig says it was "definitely the birth of something, dahling, but it certainly wasn't Venus." Len says he shouldn't worry about Robbie Savage and Audley - this was macho. Alesha congratulates him on the first standing ovation of the night, and tells Russell she wants to go clubbing with him. I quite want to be there when that happens. (Me too! I'm friends with someone who is friends with Russell, so I'll see if we can get an invite. - Carrie)
Russell returns to a hero's welcome in the Tess Circle, and is congratulated on the campest cha-cha-cha in the show's history. Russell says he's so happy here and has the most fabulous friends. He thinks Flavia is fabulous, too. Scores: Craig 4, Len 5, Alesha 6, Bruno 6 for a total of 21. Tess tells him he's got salsa next week, but surely not? I thought the whole point was that everyone would get the chance to do one ballroom and one Latin before anyone got eliminated? I guess we'll find out in a few days once the training videos start surfacing.
Leaderboard: Holly and Artem and Anita and Robin are currently tied for first place, followed by Dan and Katya, then Russell and Flavia, then Audley and Natalie, then Robbie and Ola, and with Bloody Lulu and Brendan at the very bottom. Of course, we still have another seven performances to follow tomorrow, and another 14 to go next week, so it could all change.
Recap: Holly's routine definitely looking better in comparison, Dan grimacing through his waltz, Bloody Lulu being a total shambles, Audley staggering around while Natalie valiantly tries to cover, Robbie making gay porn face into the camera, Anita emerging as an early contender, and Russell...well, Russell.
Bruce reminds us that we've got three months left of the series (hooray!), and tomorrow we'll get a chance to look at the other seven's skills. Carrie will be here to guide you through that episode. See you next week!