Sunday, 21 October 2012

Twirls on film

Top 13: 20th October 2012

One week ago, Tess's voiceover tell us, Strictly Come Dancing took the box-office by storm. I think that's polite BBC-code for "beat The X Factor in the ratings". While Denise and Louis were the big draws, Richard and Erin proved that it's still hard to get good numbers when you bring the gay characters to the front instead of relegating them to the sidelines, and ultimately we lost a star of the small screen. Still, I'm sure Iveta will be back next year when Aliona/Karen/Erin gets cut loose. Oh, and also Johnny Ball was eliminated. [Oh, and then Steve got a bit lonely blogging here all on his own so I showed up!  Hi Strictly Come Bitching readers.  If you read The Apprentbitch and The Bitch Factor you know who I am already, and you all read those anyway, don't you?  Excellent.  I'll be mostly taking it in turns with Steve to recap from now on... although he's on duty again next week because I've got to do the horror of X Factor Halloween week. - Rad]

Just in case you hadn't already worked it out, the reason for all that cinematic imagery is because it's Hollywood week! As everyone gets their best silent-movie-overacting faces on (or, in the case of Denise and James, their regular faces) Tess assures us that there will be laughter, emotion and drama, but most of all, there will be BLOOD. Oh, sorry, there will be "action". But how amazing would a There Will Be Blood-themed salsa be? Answer: very.

Titles! The HD broadcast had all sorts of trouble here, as the sound was all tinny for most of it, and then the attempts to fix it seemed to involve just shoving all the faders up and making it as loud as possible. My ears are still ringing now. [Oh thank goodness this wasn't just my telly then - Rad]

Since the show is the same length this week but we have one less couple to contend with, we get a pro dance to kick things off. It starts with some Busby Berkeley-style overhead choreography featuring Kristina front-and-centre, with some bussed-in female dancers making up the numbers to create the full overhead spectacular. For some reason, they've decided that the best possible soundtrack to a tribute to the golden age of cinema is a song by the woman who finished seventh in the second season of Australian Idol, and who was known to readers of CFB Goes Pop as "the disco cow". I'm sure they had their reasons. Anyway, Kristina's giving it the full Marilyn, then the male pros arrive and the superfluous female extras are sent off to wave feathers around. Essentially, everyone who isn't Kristina is at best an afterthought in this dance, which is interesting and makes me wonder who choreographed it. I want to say "Kristina", but I feel like it's such an easy answer.

Once the Kristinaxtravaganza concludes, Bruce and Tess arrive. Daly Dresswatch: a floor-length silver sequinned number with a little hint of a mermaid-fin at the bottom. It's better-fitting than either of last week's travesties, but it does look a little bit like something you might expect the compere of a drag show to be wearing. For those of you keeping score, they forgo the fist-bump this week and return to the leg-kick of yore. It's nice that they're keeping us on our toes, even if Tess can't quite stay on hers. Spotted in the audience: series eight winner Kara Tointon, looking very immaculately-coiffed. Bruce prepares the band, the audience and the judges for the show, only to discover that Craig is missing. This is the cue for Craig to enter, jerkily stumbling across the dancefloor wearing what looks like the off-cuts from Tess's outfit and holding Natalie's axe from last week - dressed as the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz, in other words. It's not exactly a huge mental leap to assume that the punchline of this joke will be "if he only had a heart", but the show still takes a full 30 seconds to get there and subjects us to Tess's singing into the bargain. Still, despite how wretchedly amateurish that entire section was, it was still more polished and enjoyable than the recent West End revival of The Wizard of Oz. (Unless it got miraculously better in the second half - I wouldn't know, I left in the interval because I lacked the necessary masochistic streak to subject myself to any more of it.) Incidentally, the judges all have their names displayed on the front of their desk, on glitterballs mounted on Walk of Fame stars. This is mostly interesting because the D in "Darcey" doesn't really get picked up by the camera, hee hee hee. Another shot of the audience reveals that Nancy Dell'Olio is sitting next to John from The Great British Bake Off. What I wouldn't give to be eavesdropping on that pre-show conversation.

Tess tells us that each of tonight's couples wants to be on the Walk of Fame, but one of them is heading for the Walk of Shame. If I had to guess, I'd put my money on Louis and Flavia, assuming that their ongoing complete lack of interest in each other is in fact masking seriously unresolved sexual tension. This is Hollywood night, after all, and that's how it works in the movies. Bruce almost knocks Tess over as he goes to grab her, she looks spectacularly unimpressed, and I wonder at what point this crosses the line into harassment. In the meantime, here are the stars of our show: Kimberley and Pasha, Nicky and Karen, Fern and Artem, Michael and Natalie, Lisa and Robin, Louis and Flavia, Dani and Vincent, Sid and Ola, Denise and James, Richard and Erin, Victoria and Brendan, Colin and Kristina, and Jerry and Anton. Level of post-intro shimmying: disappointing. Pasha's the only one even trying.

This week, Karen's joined by Katy Brand in her red button commentary lounge (Pamela Stephenson continues to sit by the phone, sobbing) and our first couple of the night is Fern and Artem. They'll be dancing to a song from Mary Poppins. Bruce does a "joke" about how they're remaking that film with Rihanna in the title role, and how it'll be exactly the same except at the beginning she'll fly in on her "umbrella-ella-ella". So...exactly the same, then? Sheesh, if you're going to do a predictable joke, at least make sure it scans coherently. [Oh Steve.  It's Bruce.  What do you expect? - Rad]

Fern interviews that she felt a bit of the Strictly magic getting into her soul last week, and Artem applauds her for living in the moment. Fern was thrilled to get four sixes, a whole five points up on the week before. Artem explains that they've got the charleston this week, and anyone who thought the comedy VTs had exited along with Evil Moira Ross, prepare to be disappointed: Fern's brought a Mary Poppins-style back which she opens with a flourish of CGI sparkles, and pulls an increasing amount of "hilariously" oversized items from it. Then in a puff of smoke, Artem transports her up onto a rooftop to practise amongst the chim-chiminey-chim-chiminey-chim-chim-cherees, and Fern says that she just hopes she can get her "Mary magic" out on the night. I suggest asking Ola for advice, Fern: she gets her Mary Magic out nearly every week.

They're dancing to 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious', and the routine begins with Fern lying on the floor holding her umbrella "aloft" with the projection behind her giving the impression of her floating down through the sky. As she touches down on "the ground", Artem arrives to pick her up and they parade around each other for a few more bars. There's no actual charleston yet, so I'm already anticipating Len getting into a fury about how long it's taking them to get going. Incidentally, Artem looks very dashing in his straw boater and Dick van Dyke-style striped blazer, even though it feels a bit wrong to admit that. Once they start the actual dancing, Fern's legwork is a little laboured - if you look at what Artem's doing next to her, they might as well be dancing entirely different routines. They make up for it in terms of presentation, because there's an infectious energy to it and Fern's clearly enjoying herself - and showmanship-wise, Fern doing the splits through Artem's legs is pretty impressive. There's just not a lot of actual charleston in there. [There wasn't a lot of actual anything in most of the dances this week as far as I could tell.  Stupid film movie Hollywood week. Halloween week on the other hand, I'm all for - Rad]

Bruce takes an age getting the judges' intro out of the way, but it's fine because Fern's having a giggle with Artem and trying to fasten her umbrella up, so she's clearly not listening for the first minute or so anyway. Len says that Fern made "Hollywood into Jolly Good", and that it was fun and entertaining and a lovely start to the show, though he would've preferred to see more actual charleston in there. Bruno thought it was prim and proper and extremely nice, but Fern needs to "pump it a bit more", movement-wise. He adds "Julie and Dick were going for it!" Is that widely-known? Scandal! He wants the charleston to be punchier, but the characterisation was good. Craig thought it needed a lot more swivel in the charleston, and Fern needed to bring her feet together in the plies. He thought it was laboured as a whole, but there were parts of it he enjoyed the hitch-kick (I think?) section and the back-jazz split. "But it wasn't laboured! Why bring politics into this?" says noted Conservative Bruce Forsyth. A barely-audible Darcey says that she thinks the energy was much better this week, and then Bruce points out that he doesn't think Darcey's mic is on. Part of me hopes that this means the sound mixer for the show is One Of Us. Darcey bellows "can you HEAR MEEEEEEEE?" and Fern quickly interjects "she's saying I'm fabulous!" Heh. Darcey leans over into Craig's mic and says that Fern can be her kids' Mary Poppins any day. Darcey's kids are all "actually, we preferred it when we thought Rihanna was going to do it."

They make their way up to the Tess Circle where an usherette is waiting with a tray of snacks, and Artem takes his time perusing her wares before selecting a pot of flumps. He offers Fern one, and she sensibly opts to pop a flump in her mouth rather than actually talk to Tess. Fern says she thinks that's the cleanest she's ever done it - presumably because every other time she was yelling "fucking kids! Get your arses back in here and clean up this bollocking mess!" Tess tells us that Fern is the Mary Poppins of Strictly because she's always the first one to hug people as they come off the dancefloor, and also because she knows a lot of men with dodgy cockney accents. Scores: Craig 5, Darcey 6, Len 6, Bruno 6 for a total of 23. One point lower than last week, and Fern's clearly a little disappointed with that.

Up next with their rumba are Victoria and Brendan. They were both pretty impressed with how well things went last week, especially considering the enormous first week fuck-up. Victoria explains that they're dancing the rumba to 'Up Where We Belong' from An Officer and a Gentleman, and Victoria's wary of having to do the acting side of things, because that's not something she's used to. "I want the audience to really engage with what we're doing," says Brendan, "and when they watch it, I want them to be holding their breath." Oh Brendan. Be careful what you wish for.

To be fair to Victoria, things do start fairly well - she's doing a reasonable job of selling the emotion, and her movements seem to have come on quite a lot; there's a lyrical quality to her dancing in the first twenty bars or so that's very encouraging. Unfortunately, it doesn't last - there's a section where Brendan drags her across the floor and she can't travel smoothly with her connecting leg at all, and later on you can see Brendan whispering instructions to her once again shortly before she completely fails to do one of the spins quickly enough and gets all entangled in her dress. This throws her concentration off again, and the rest of the dance suffers quite a bit. There are also several lifts in there, and I thought those weren't allowed in the rumba, but at this point who knows, frankly?

Bruce asks Victoria if she'd rather have done that with Richard Gere, and Victoria replies "not at all", with the subtext of "good god, man, did you not see Chicago? He was dreadful." Bruno tells Victoria that just when she was starting to sizzle, she boiled over - she was really going for it, but she got into a mangle and lost her concentration. However, the beginning was good enough that he encourages her to keep going. He demonstrates a bit of rumba passion on Len, who's less tolerant of this sort of thing than Alesha used to be. Craig says he's beginning to see an actress emerging, which is fantastic, and there were some great straight legs and hip action. He knows that there was a costume drama, but that was Victoria's fault for not getting her arm out of the way sooner, which was the same note he gave her last week. Subtext: GET A GRIP, VICTORIA. Darcey tells her she looks beautiful and freer, but she still needs to work on her splayed fingers, and suggests Victoria try holding a piece of paper between her fingers in rehearsals to create a better line. Len's in a good mood (so he claims), so he's not going to be too critical: instead he deploys an excessive amount of bike-related metaphors which ultimately amount to "you're improving, well done". They're going fairly easy on her, aren't they? [I think they probably have to in a duty of care kind of way.  If this was The X Factor of course, they'd have her going into a full-on meltdown in front of the camera or something equally tasteful given their whole 'yay, panic attacks and abusive fathers make for good VTs' theme this year - Rad]

Up in the Tess Circle, Victoria giggles about how much she fucked up with the chiffon and nearly strangled herself and Brendan. At least she's got a sense of humour. Brendan takes the opportunity to gallantly give props to the wardrobe team (and wardrobes to the props team), while Victoria tells Tess that it's easy to give a better performance when you're working with someone as wonderful as Brendan. Well, she's mastered the post-dance patter, if nothing else. Scores: Craig 4, Darcey 5, Len 7, Bruno 6 for a total of 22. Brendan is clearly unimpressed, and Victoria asks if they can do it again. Someone needs to point out to her that it's a good idea not to sound like you actively want to be in the Dreaded Dance Off.

Michael and Natalie are next. Last week, Michael's performance was simultaneously both the best and worst thing that ever happened to the jive, and he giggles that he actually thought he'd done quite well. He's hoping to get some good comments this week, because at present he's getting "battered". Michael hints that he's got a Sheffield-themed performance this week, and the VT segues into an homage to the opening moments of The Full Monty, while Natalie says that Michael is "just like every other bloke in the country: a dad trying to learn how to dance." [I am aggrieved by this whole section.  Kristina went to Canada, for goodness' sake.  They could at least have done some filming in bloody Sheffield.  And then I could have nicked one of Natalie's Fierce Scarves for Monkseal - Rad] I'm not sure there are enough dads currently learning to dance in the UK to really make that comparison work, Natalie. They've vowed to practice "everywhere" this week in order to avoid being in the bottom two, though as someone who used to work in the area, I can assure you that "everywhere" as shown on screen appears to be within a five-minute walk of Television Centre.

Natalie's taken a few liberties with the plot of The Full Monty for their cha cha cha to 'Hot Stuff', in that she's written herself a part as the waitress who does a lot of dancing while Michael's character has a nice sit down [They could at least have put some Henderson's Relish on the table to make it vaguely Sheffieldish though. - Rad] . A bit of artistic licence, admittedly, but probably very sensible in the long run. They've worked a striptease in, of course, though it basically involves Michael stripping off his uniform to reveal...what appear to be some cricket whites. [Boo - Rad] He's better than he was last week - there's some decent hip movement in there, and his legs are doing the right thing at least some of the time. To be honest, I'm willing to give him a lot of points for effort, because I'd say he's trying a lot harder to actually dance than Russell Grant or Anne Widdecombe ever did. Also, the end is memorable for all the wrong reasons as Michael throws himself into the chair again, overbalances, flails, manages to regain his balance and lean on the table all tits-and-teeth just in time for the final beat of the song. Masterful.

"Hot it was not," declares Craig, saying that there were timing issues throughout and he was landing on the wrong count frequently, and he suspects Latin is not going to be a good fit for Michael. Natalie protests that it was definitely better than last week, god love her. Darcey was much happier this week, and while the timing was out, at least his top and lower body seemed connected this week, and he was giving it his all. Len thought there odd moments where Michael lost timing, but all the celebrities do that, he claims. I think Len's just remembered that Michael is a SPORTSMAN and therefore must be protected at all costs. Len praises Michael for straightening his leg at the right times, and having good hip action. He thinks Michael's gone from Borehamwood to Hollywood. Bruno says he was waiting for the full strip to distract himself from the lack of musicality, and that it was nearly a disaster at the end.

In the Tess Circle, Michael admits that he nearly went flying on the chair and "that could've been the best bit". Tess asks him if he's enjoying himself, and Michael says he really is - he's trying to learn, but every Saturday night he just decides to go for it. Scores: Craig 3, Darcey 6, Len 6, Bruno 4 for a total of 19. Natalie frowns that score-wise it's "still not as good as the waltz", but hopes they might fare better with a quickstep next week. Tess demands that the next person to come up should bring her some sweets, and Michael produces a flump as if from nowhere. He's smooth, I'll give him that.

Jerry and Anton are next. She was pleased with how well the dance went on Saturday, but she thought the judges were a bit harsh - though she agreed with them. Well, that makes no sense. I'm starting to find Jerry a little grating - everything she says just sounds so ragingly insincere. Rehearsals for their quickstep to 'Mrs Robinson' from The Graduate. Anton reminds us that this is a role that Jerry herself played, but forgets to specify that she did so on stage rather than in the film. Jerry says she wants to concentrate on getting her posture right this week and show those darn judges what-for.

They've got a giant silhouette screen which Jerry is positioned behind, daintily fiddling with her stockings. The casting of Anton as the young, guileless male being corrupted by the older woman in this is intrinsically hilarious, but I suppose they couldn't really have done it any other way. I don't know if Jerry benefits from low expectations, but her quickstep is pretty passable. It's awfully bumpy, but her posture is better and she's actually dancing, so that's two improvements on last week right off the bat. It all fizzles out a bit at the end as Jerry leads Anton halfway across the floor by his tie, reclines behind the screen and prepares to make sweet, passionate love to him - at the same time that Bruce's mic gets switched on about 15 seconds too early, which is something of a moment-killer.

Darcey tells Jerry that the quickstep suits her and she clearly loved telling the story of the quickstep, but she needs to learn not to fade before the end. Len thinks it was a bit Upstairs Downstairs rather than Hollywood - there's still some upstairs problems with Jerry's posture, although "downstairs you're quite neat and tidy." The audience bursts out laughing at this point, and even Len gets the giggles and decides to give up. Craig thinks the whole thing would've been better behind the screen, and says he has three notes: posture, posture, posture. Anton says that surely it was an improvement from last week? Craig will not be drawn on this.

They amble leisurely up to the Tess Circle, helping themselves to more flumps on the way (this episode is doing nothing for the popcorn industry, is it?) [Yeah, but... flumps.  No contest - Rad]. Jerry says that it was a very energetic dance, and she thinks it was "one for HRT, so vote for me!" Heh. Tess asks Jerry what she still has to give, and Jerry says they'll be dancing to 'Paint It Black' next week. Scores: Craig 3, Darcey 6, Len 5, Bruno 4 for a total of 18. Tess tries to make a case for Jerry being a "starlet", which I think is a losing  battle from the get-go.

Next we have Sid and Ola, who have come dressed as Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne. Respectively. Sid thought last Saturday was great, but Ola thinks there were some problems, though overall she's just happy he didn't drop her on her face. I guess being married to James has set her up for a lifetime of very low expectations. They've got the tango this week, danced to 'Here I Go Again' from Rock of Ages, which isn't so much a movie as much as it is a permanent stain on humanity. [But it gave poor Shayne Ward a job, Steve!  Have a heart! Oh, yeah, and Justin Lee Collins.  Forget I said anything in that case - Rad] Ola says that she needs to get Sid to perform in the rehearsal studios so that he's used to giving it his full energy, and that way he won't need to step anything up on Saturday night.

Oh dear. I think the first problem is Ola's decision to have Sid holding the guitar quite as much as he does, including sections where they're in hold. The second problem is that very little of this is recognisable as a tango - and in the parts that are, Sid looks like Ola's leading him. I'm not sure what he was going for in his performance, but I can't help thinking that "rocker who fried his brains out on skunk years ago and is just barely clinging on to consciousness" might not have been the best idea.

Len: "I don't know about Rock of Ages, you took blummin' ages to get started." And once they did, it was too smooth and there was no aggression in the dance. Bruno thinks it was like watching "Les Dawson trying to be Van Halen in AC/DC." And if you can make any sense of that, then I can only assume that you and Bruno get your "supplies" from the same dealer. He thinks it was a lot of headbanging, but once they got into the tango, it wasn't good. Sound familiar? Craig thought it was Stompy, Clompy and Clumpy - which along with Stumbly, Drunky, Limpy and Floppy make up Strictly's answer to the Seven Dwarves. And also provide the description of the end of an average night out with me.

Bruce ushers them upstairs to the Tess Circle as quickly as possible, which is the most sensible thing he's done in years, and once up there, Sid says that whatever happened he enjoyed it. Then he apologies to Ola and gets a bit teary, and Tess proceeds to needle him with all the sensitivity of Mitt Romney answering a question about equality. Scores: Craig 4, Darcey 4, Len 5, Bruno 4 for a total of 17. Tess is all "I actually thought that was the most original tango we've ever seen on the show!", thereby demonstrating why her opinion is rarely welcome.

Bruce is not ready yet, but we go to him anyway, as he introduces Kimberley and Pasha, who get a very warm reception from the audience. They're dancing to a song from... Summer Stock? Oh, Pasha - you can't just make films up. Next you'll be telling me that Gummo is a real film as well. In her VT, Kimberley admits that their last dance on Saturday was probably the worst they've ever done it, and that Len's comments were on the money - but even so, she didn't expect him to be so mean. Pasha tries to reassure her, because he's lovely, but she still got very tearful afterwards. They're dancing to 'Get Happy' this week, and Kimberley thinks this is good advice, generally. Pasha says what would really make him happy this week is if Kimberley nails the dance. What will make me happy will be when Pasha's bad haircut eventually grows out. It's getting there, I suppose.

They're dancing a quickstep and Pasha is wearing nerd-glasses (swoon!) as Kimberley arrives to dance on his lap and make him happy. Hang on, that came out wrong. It's a far more confident performance than last week's, although there is one fairly serious stumble near the beginning and Kimberley still needs to tuck her chin in a bit. This is a real boost for Kimberley's chances in ballroom, anyway - it's a fun and nicely-crafted performance, with the running splits an impressive touch. Pasha knows what he's doing with a quickstep, doesn't he? She looks much happier when it's all over and gives Pasha an enthusiastic squeeze. I wouldn't mind giving Pasha an enthusiastic squee--[that's quite enough of that, thank you - Ed]

Bruno declares "now we're in business!" and says that Kimberley really captured the spirit of the song, and her frame and body contact were much better this week. We skip Craig and go straight to Darcey who says it had great attack and beautiful light steps, and Kimberley's really worked on her core and her top line. Len declares "good news from Goodman", saying that he liked it, but warns Pasha that Kimberley's getting too far over on his right-hand side, and that's making her right arm too straight. Kimberley admits quietly that Pasha has already told her about that, and Len says "then tell her again, because she's not doing it." Yeah, Pasha! Train your woman! Otherwise Len might have to address her directly!

Up in the Tess Circle, Kimberley says she really enjoyed that, but she's not quite sure what happened out there. Tess asks if Pasha's now like the sixth member of Girls Aloud, and Pasha shoots the most adorably excited look at the camera. Tess asks if Pasha is coming on tour, and Kimberley replies that "he might be". She really needs to work on her banter, but I do like how she nonchalantly eats a flump while waiting for her score. Speaking of which, here it is: Craig 7, Darcey 7, Len 7, Bruno 8 for a total of 29. It's their highest score so far, and Kimberley and Pasha are thrilled with that.

After them we have Denise and James. Bruce tells us that Denise has been performing since she was 12 years old, BUT DEFINITELY IN NOTHING THAT INVOLVED STANDING UP OR MOVING AROUND, I AM NOT A RINGER OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT. Denise recounts how well things went for her last week in her jive, while James smugs that he's been doing the show for seven years (really? It feels like TWENTY) and this is the first time he's had a "fab-u-lous" from Craig. I'm sure that would be a breakthrough moment if anyone gave even the slightest toss. This week they're dancing a foxtrot to 'You've Got A Friend In Me'. Denise: "I love Toy Story, so I'm really excited that we're going to be dancing as Jess and Woody." Apparently she doesn't love the film enough to find out what her character is actually called, or to note that she doesn't even appear until the sequel. Mind you, I feel like getting Denise to play Jessie was the wrong move anyway - if there was a role she was born to play, it's clearly Hamm. Meanwhile, James tells us that they work hard and play hard and BANTER BANTER BANTER FUN AND GAMES OH FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND PURE JUST KILL ME NOW.

The routine is unbearably twee as they play-act being toys in the way you'd expect a child to do, but the foxtrot parts of it are pretty decent. There's not a lot to pick up on, fault-wise, other than Denise's horrific eye make-up, which I suspect is not her fault. Craig liked the posture and control, and thought it was beautifully acted and danced. Darcey thinks the turns were clean and the pivots were well done, but she has to watch not to get too comfortable. "Just a very elegant couple you were," she Yodas. Len tells them it was excellent, and she even released her toe. "I've been practising so hard!" gushes Denise. Yes, for the last 26 years, you BLOODY RINGER. Sorry. [I am perfectly OK with Denise being a BLOODY RINGER.  It probably means she hasn't a hope in hell of winning anyway as she'll have had no 'journey' and it also means we might see some really good dancing along the way.  Just a shame James is involved, but you can't have it all - Rad] Finally, Bruno thinks they were made for each other, and he thinks they retained the character without making it wooden.

Up in the Tess Circle, Denise reminds us that they've worked SO HARD again, and also that she's REALLY NERVOUS. Tess cracks a terrible joke, and then the scores are in: eights all round for a total of 32 again. "I'm glad they commented on your footwork as well," says James loftily. I think the parts where James critiques the judges' critiques are possibly my least favourite part of the episode.

Next we have Colin Bond - sorry, "Salmon", dammit I keep making that mistake - and Kristina. Last week went well, Colin thinks, and Kristina says that she felt like a little princes next to Colin. Emphasis on the "little". This week, they're dancing to 'GoldenEye', because Colin has been in some James Bond films, I don't know if you're aware of that. It's tricky for them to rehearse this week because Colin's in Vancouver filming on "The Arrow", as he calls it. I knew he was in that series, I just assumed that as he was committed to Strictly, he was going to get killed off quite early on or something - obviously not. Quite brave of him to take on both at the same time, really. Anyway, Kristina flew out to Canada to eat Kraft Dinner to join him for some rehearsals, and Colin hopes that will help on the night.

They're dancing an Argentine tango, and apparently Karen made sure on the red button commentary that this was her song from when she won with Mark Ramprakash. Oh Karen, never change. You can tell they've not had a lot of rehearsal time this week, and much like the opening number this week it feels like a feature piece from Kristina that also happens to feature another dancer, but it's decent enough. And hopefully now the show has got this out of its system, it can stop with the damn James Bond references already.

Darcey says she would've liked to have seen "a much dirtier spy" because the Argentine tango is "a dirty street dance". I feel like with every week that passes she's getting perilously close to saying "sexy party" again. *shudder* She wants more risks in future. Len's looking grumpy and says he was "more shaken than stirred", and he felt that if you remove the lifts and "all the stuff on the table", there wasn't much Argentine tango in there. Bruno tells Colin that he does "Baddy Bad-Ass" very well (I think that's the name of the main antagonist in the next Austin Powers movie) and he can take anything Kristina throws at him - which was, by all accounts, quite a lot. Like Len, however, he would've liked to see more dancing. Craig thought it was full of authority and dominance, which he loves (TMI) and he adored the lifts.

Up in the Tess Circle, Kristina says they've had 10 hours' training in total this week. And fair enough, that was an impressive achievement for 10 hours' work, but at the same time: if you sign up for this show knowing that you're going to have to juggle it with another job, then don't expect too much leniency just because you haven't got as much time as everyone else. Colin promises Darcey he can get dirtier. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 7, Len 6, Bruno 6 for a total of 26. Tess asks Kristina if she can wear her dress for the results show "tomorrow night". Clearly, things have got so bad on the wardrobe front for her that she's reduced to begging for scraps.

Onwards we go to Richard and Erin. Last week's gaymazing cha cha cha didn't go down especially well with the judges or the audience, and landed them in the Dreaded Dance Off - but they survived. This week they've got the quickstep to '9 to 5', which Richard says is one of his all-time favourite songs, and he'll be playing the part Dolly played in the film. "I'm halfway to being Dolly!" he declares, wearing a few strands of spaghetti on his head. Not with that accent, I'm afraid dear. This week Richard takes Erin to Daybreak to have a go at working 5 to 9, and Erin stands in the production gallery looking at the proceedings and clearly thinking that it all just needs a few more loud shirts and wigs. She's never off-duty, is Erin.

They open with Richard playing the overstretched office boy (thankfully without the Dolly wig or fake tits, though I imagine that idea was on the table at some point during the week) as Erin strides in looking like Melanie Griffith in Working Girl. Two films for the price of one! Fortunately they've gone down the traditional choreography route this week and the quality of the performance has improved as a result. It's a little skippy in places, but definitely a step up from last week.

Len says it was light and bright, but a little bit mincey in the footwork. "Flow, my old sausage, flow!" he implores. Did that take anyone else on an uncomfortable mental journey to bedtime at the Goodman house? Bruno says he's surprised that it wasn't full-on Dollywood, but that turned out to be a good thing because Richard has clearly been listening to Erin and there was a lot of improvement: his frame and his footwork were both better, and there was just enough comedy to set it up. Craig "didn't mind it, actually", and thought there was a good use of the floor and some nimble footwork. Darcey declares it Richard's best dance so far, but warns him not to allow his weight to go back on his heels when he's tired.

Up in the Tess Circle, Richard quips a bit and talks about how everyone is amazing and reveals that he's wearing Brendan's shoes. Scores: Craig 6, Darcey 7, Len 6, Bruno 6 for a total of 25. They're quite pleased with that.

Dani and Vincent are next. Last week they got good feedback, the dismount from that final lift notwithstanding. Dani even got a 7 from Len, which she says was all she wanted from the whole series and she managed to get it on the second week. I'd be very careful about concluding your narrative too quickly if I were you, Dani - that sort of thing rarely ends well. Although handily enough, she's got a new story for this week's VT - Vincent forcing her to train in dance shoes, so that she can get the hang of using the right muscles. Of course, since they're doing a Wizard of Oz-themed routine, Dani has to put on some ruby heels and click her heels together three times. Unfortunately, they spark a little, but nothing happens. That'll teach Vincent to steal his props from Alesha's attic! *tumbleweed* Oh, please yourselves. [I laughed if that's any consolation, Steve - Rad]

They're dancing the foxtrot to 'Over The Rainbow', and I'm surprised they've not dressed Vincent up as the head of the Lollipop Guild. I suppose such restraint can only be applauded. The routine's nice, but a little unexciting, even by foxtrot standards. Still, points for the shameless pandering of having a dog run on at the end. Bruce has dog treats in the pocket of his waistcoat for just such an occasion; I like to think he has them there all the time, possibly to reward Tess for her good work. Bruce says that "friends of Dorothy are going to be so pleased", ho ho ho. He thinks it was very pretty, and that she linked her lines very well and it was romantic and sweet. Craig loved the routine, and Dani's turns are lovely and clean, but she needs to pick her eyes up when she's spotting. Meanwhile, the dog is running wild (not a euphemism). Darcey thinks it was very smooth and encourages Dani to keep working hard because she's doing wonders every week. Len thinks she'll be walking down the yellow brick road straight into next week.

They go for WALKIES! up to the Tess Circle, where Betty the dog promptly attacks Vincent. No, Betty, no! We told you to attack Tess! Bad dog! Dani's finally got the hang of dancing in her ruby slippers, and is hoping to keep them. Tess decides not to pet the dog, perhaps wisely. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 6, Len 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 29.

We return to Bruce, who tells Dani not to worry about cleaning up after the dog, because he's already done it - and produces a bag ostensibly full of shit, which he hands to Bruno, who squeals and leaps out of his chair. Len grabs it and tosses it at Craig, who promptly chucks it into the audience. Well, I guess they're all used to flinging shit, etc etc etc.

Next up are Lisa and Robin. Lisa's had a good start so far, but was warned by Bruno not to lead Robin. "Sometimes I need a bit of a forceful hand," winks Robin, for the benefit of anyone who's not already seen his Grindr profile. Lisa was thrilled to be called "light", which she claims has never happened to her before. They're dancing the jive to 'Hanky Panky' from Dick Tracy [I love how Madonna was totally doing mainstream BDSM way before Rihanna or EL James, or even herself for that matter.  Nothing like a good spanky indeed - Rad], and go to great pains to remind us that Lisa has a cheeky personality again, some more.

As a jive, it's a little disappointing: there's a lengthy section at the beginning that's entirely hand movements, and rather mechanically-so. When they get to moving around, Lisa's leg movements aren't terribly energetic, but they do at least seem to be on the beat. Again, they get by on energy and enthusiasm, much as they said they would, but it wasn't quite as impressive as her cha cha cha.

Craig tells Lisa he gets very excited watching her because she really sells a number. Darcey gushes that Craig is right, that Lisa never fails to entertain, but she was missing the spring and bounce aspect of the jive. Len thinks they captured the feeling of the jive if not always the technique, and Lisa's a real goer. Bruno agrees that he loves watching her - she's a breath of fresh air who brings the whole room to its feet.

Up in the Tess Circle, Lisa's excited that Craig's being so kind. Tess chortles that Robin's more out of breath than Lisa (possibly because he was doing more dancing than she was? Just a thought), and asks Lisa if this has been a good workout. Lisa says that she never thought her thighs would be on British television. Belgian television on the other hand, you can't escape them. Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 6, Len 7, Bruno 8 for a total of 29. Tess shouts that Darcey is the new Craig based on that scoring. I'm not so sure: Craig can string a sentence together, Darcey's yet to prove that.

Nicky and Karen are next. Nicky recalls last week when everything went horribly wrong, and Karen openly admits that she had to grab his face to stop him fucking up any further than he already had done. This week, they're doing a quickstep influenced by The Mask, and Nicky says that he feels like he hasn't given it properly yet, whatever that means, so going out this early on isn't an option.

They're dancing to 'Hey Pachuco' and...I don't wish to be indelicate, but will they ever find an outfit for Nicky that conceals his GIANT PENIS? I swear I can't take my eyes off it, and not just because I'm a pervert. There's an improvement to his dancing this week, when I actually manage to tear myself away from his crotch - I think part of it is him being carried by the cartoonishness of the theme, but his footwork and his flow around the floor does seem to have improved.

Darcey tells Nicky that she loved his energy and his attack, and there were no nerves - but warns him against having too much bounce in his shoulders. Len tells Nicky that Mr Westlife has gone from "no life" to "full life", but tells him to straighten up a bit because he's always got his knees bent. Bruno tells Nicky that the mask gave him a chance to hide behind something and give a performance, and he was leading with conviction - but Len was right about the legs being too bent. Craig says that Nicky's starting to win him over - the characterisation and movement around the floor was good, though the bent knees made it seem more like a tango at times. Probably more like a tango than Sid's actual tango, I imagine.

Up in the Tess Circle, Karen says that she's so proud of Nicky, and then starts to pile it on a bit too much, all "this is a blessing for us, it really is *tear*." Calm down dear. Scores are in: Craig 6, Darcey 7, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 27. A vast improvement [and overmarking - Rad]: "our goal was to break 20", Karen admits.

Finally we have Louis and Flavia with their salsa to '(I've Had) The Parentheses Of My Life' from Dirty Dancing. Since I felt some strange desire to reveal this on Twitter yesterday, I might as well say it here as well: me mentioning that I'd never seen Dirty Dancing on this very blog during series five indirectly led to me meeting my boyfriend. Perhaps that's why I didn't feel quite the same antagonism towards Jennifer Grey last year that everyone else did. [But you've seen it now, right?  I mean, it's DIRTY DANCING.  - Rad, who is a gurl]

Louis says that Flavia has been harping on at him about never having seen this film before, but what she doesn't realise is that she's like well old because she hasn't even seen Transformers 3. I think this is one of those arguments where you just have to accept that both sides are as wrong as each other. Flavia wants to educate Louis about Dirty Dancing, so she brings in a watermelon. In fact, she CARRIED A WATERMELON. Do you see? They're recreating the iconic moment of the film - no, not the bit where Patrick Swayze looks like he has an erection if you freeze-frame it correctly (what? I used to share a house with three girls, leave me alone), because they're waiting for Nicky to recreate that bit in a few weeks' time, but rather the bit where he lifts her right up over his head. Louis thinks the lift could make or break the routine - and him, for that matter. [I adored Flavia in this segment.  She was representing practially every woman I know aged 25-40 - Rad]

Much like last week on The X Factor when Ella sang 'Lovin' You' and nobody cared in the slightest about anything other than that high F-sharp, clearly no one really cares about anything in this routine that isn't The Lift. For what it's worth, everything building up to that moment is acceptable - there's good footwork and hip movement, although Louis still looks pretty bored. Flavia's clearly having (ahem) the time of her life, though. The lift is so important that there's barely any choreography for about the 20 seconds leading up to it - just Louis doing the splits in mid-air and then him and Flavia vamping it up, getting the audience going. Then, The Lift. And it works! So, tens all round, then?

There's a standing ovation from the crowd that lasts forever, because: The Lift, then Bruce takes the piss out of a woman in the audience for calling it "The Jump". Len thinks The Lift(s) were good, but the salsa itself lacked a bit of attack, and he would've liked Louis to give him "a really oily dance". Maybe in the late-night repeat, eh Len? Bruno thought it was very smooth and very well-placed, and The Lift was done wonderfully. He also quite liked the mid-air splits, though I can't possibly imagine why. Craig thought it was contained, simmering and understated - he loved the hip rotations and thought it was fantastic. Finally, Darcey saw a spark of emotion in there (god knows where, I was looking for it with little success), but she wants him to go out to a nightclub and free up. Bruno takes this opportunity to suggest that Louis go with him. Tonight. I don't think G-A-Y was quite the nightclub Darcey was thinking of, Bruno.

Tess asks if Louis's inner-performer is coming out, and he says he thinks so. That's all the actual dancing-related discussion taken care of, because after that all the women want to harangue him for having never seen Dirty Dancing. "I've seen clips!" Louis protests. Allow me to assure you, Louis, you've seen all the good bits. Let's just say that although I haven't seen it all the way through, it's not for a lack of trying. Flavia vows to buy Louis a copy. Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 8, Len 6, Bruno 8 for a total of 30. The gasp that accompanies Len's 6 is quite something - the audience reacts like he just ripped the head off their cherished childhood toy or something. Clearly, intolerance for The Lift will not be countenanced!

So there we have it. The final leaderboard looks like this:
1st: Denise & James (32)
2nd: Louis & Flavia (30)
3rd: Kimberley & Pasha (29)
3rd: Dani & Vincent (29)
3rd: Lisa & Robin (29)
6th: Nicky & Karen (27)
7th: Colin & Kristina (26)
8th: Richard & Erin (25)
9th: Fern & Artem (23)
10th: Victoria & Brendan (22)
11th: Michael & Natalie (19)
12th: Jerry & Anton (18)
13th: Sid & Ola (17)

Ola makes a wonderfully panic-stricken look behind Tess, as the phone lines are declared OPEN. Tomorrow night we'll be joined by the legendary Dionne Warwick, and the slightly less legendary Tom "Chinno" Chambers with the cast of Top Hat - and one couple will be going straight to DVD. Please, don't let it be Michael & Natalie. I'm just not ready to lose them yet, not when there's still so much potential for trainwrecks left as-yet unexplored.


Seminaranalyse said...

This was a rubbish week.They all may complain about Aleshas Scoring, but Alesha overmarked at least consistently and had also 2 and 3 paddles. The tie cumulation is really stupid, but i still think Darcey at least gives constructive criticism.
One little criticism i have about the blog is that i think the story of you and Chris is too short told, but fantastic work as always.

purplexia said...

Why does Tess Daly feel the need to play with her tongue so much?! I actually saw her on the results show, take it out stick it out then slurp it back in...I cannot stand her..and brucie actually gently put his arm round her..when she 'fell' last night, We feel she is setting up Brucie to fail so Vernon (bleurgh) can have his job...
Anyway...I cannot stand Tess, Denise or Kimberly, but adore Pasha whom I remember from America's So you think you can dance...and artem too...swoon swoon and double swoon....!

purplexia said...

this blog is amazing btw..just discovered it!

PumpkinSpider said...

OOh how I love this blog!

I felt quite sorry for quite a few of the couples this week - Charleston & Argentine Tango are usually left until later weeks when their strength, confidence, and skills have been built up a bit (week 4 Halloween is the earliest I can remember).

Also, thanks to you, every time Denise appears onscreen, this household has taken to shouting "RINGER!" in a Life of Brian People's Front of Judea-esque "SPLITTER!" style...

lausace said...

yaaaaaaaaaaaaaay Jerrys gone. poor anton though
agree with everything written here.gonna start backing louis and Flavia

Steve said...

Seminaranalyse: "Alesha at least overmarked consistently" is possibly my favourite comment ever on this blog. I agree wholeheartedly.

purplexia: Welcome! Hope we manage to encourage you back for the rest of the series.

PumpkinSpider: I think inevitably some dances are going to be tough in the early weeks - I thought it was particularly cruel making Michael Vaughan do a jive in his second week! The charleston similarly would probably benefit from the added flexibility the contestants get when they've been in the competition a bit longer.

lausace: I've just discovered Louis has a backtat. This makes it much harder for me to support him. :(