Sunday, 25 November 2012

Cycle killer, qu'est-ce que c'est?

Top 8 Results: 25th November 2012

I'm not suggesting this week's results show is particularly light on content, even by its own standards, but I had a full five minutes of Countryfile on my PVR before it started, and even then it still finished on time. So hopefully we can race through it and then get on with more important things, like...oh, who am I kidding? I have no life outside of the internet.

Once the titles have finished rolling, we begin the show with a special guest performance by Flawless. Remember them? They were the street dancers on the same series of Britain's Got Talent as Susan Boyle. [That series was to BGT what the Alexandra/JLs/Ruth and co series was to The X Factor, wasn't it? What is the SCD equivalent? Do we have to say Series 6? I'd rather not - Rad] No, not Diversity, the other ones. Actually, I kind of preferred Flawless to Diversity, but don't tell Ashley Banjo I said that. Anyway, it's nice to have a bit of a change of pace on the show, and a chance to showcase dance styles that aren't necessarily ballroom- or Latin-based. Although frankly I could've done without the shot of the judges at the end, all wearing trilbys and trying to look gangsta. Some more successfully than others, I might add.

Claudia and Tess enter, and...oh, for FUCK'S sake, Daly. You were doing so well last night, and then you had to go and ruin it. Tonight's outfit is a black bustier-style top with mesh all over her arms and upper torso, and black leggings to go with it. She might - might - just have got away with this if it weren't for the mesh panels on either side going all the way down the outfit. I despair, I really do.

Claudia tries to get us excited about The Script and Len's Lens being on later, and then she and Tess try to come up with a little trademark hand gesture to use whenever they mention the Dread Dance-Off. After welcoming the judges, it's time for the customary backstage "drama" video, which involves: Brendan trying to woo the ladies of a certain age who've come to watch the show, not all of whom look especially delighted to be on camera; Kimberley eating some chips; Louis reading his mail while he gets his hair done; Lisa trying to cop off with Pasha (HANDS OFF RILEY, I SAW HIM FIRST); Nicky practising his charleston in the corridor (bless); Robin arriving late; Natalie having more makeup put on her chin (♥), and then the actual show. Backstage, Dani and Vincent can't stop doing their Beyoncé moves, while Pasha grants Kimberley official permission to smile again. Someone's obviously fairly certain he's not in the Dread Dance-Off this week. An increasingly hysterical Victoria giggles that she's trying her best - it just so happens that in this competition, that's only enough to get her to the bottom of the leaderboard. There's no Secret Backstage Footage of Louis or Flavia, possibly because Flavia was too busy running around holding a very sharp knife screaming "YOU WANT BLOOD? I'LL GIVE YOU BLOOD!" Lisa vows to make the judges smile again if she gets through this week, while Michael and Natalie are also not featured in any sort of post-dance scenario. Nicky and Karen do some suitably charlestonesque celebrations in the corridor, and Denise is thrilled to have had another ten. Meanwhile, Bruno disappears off somewhere, possibly to powder his nose, while Craig, Len and Darcey pad down the corridors discussing the show and the crushing inevitability of Denise being at the top of the leaderboard again, and indeed Victoria of being at the bottom again. Craig even admits he actually enjoyed himself this week.

Time for Tess to give us the first set of results for this week. In no particular order, the following couples are safe: Kimberley and Pasha (given that Kimberley didn't really get an opportunity to celebrate last week, she makes up for it tonight with a scream that bore a 78% chance of shattering your television screen), Louis and Flavia, and Nicky and Karen. The first couple in the bottom two, however, is Michael and Natalie.

Tess asks Bruno what Michael can do in the Dread Dance-Off to sell the dance to the judges this time, and Bruno advises that Michael needs to tell the story. Oh, that's all? That sounds like something you can learn to do in 20 minutes. Thanks Bruno!

Up in Claudia's Counselling Centre, the three safe couples are pretty chuffed. Nicky thought he might be in the Dread Dance-Off again, but was thrilled to get four nines, especially as he hasn't actually had any nines prior to this. Claudia then asks Louis if he thought this might be his final week, and Louis says that they pretty much all think that at this point. Victoria, in particular, has been thinking that for about the last month, I think. Well, I say "thinking", I imagine it's more like "hoping". He says he tried to step it up after Wembley, but he felt a bit deflated in front of the judges. Oh, and guess what he's got next week? Yep, the charleston. I wait with interest to see whether that's going to be a sudden breakthrough as he learns to harness his magnetic personality, or whether it's going to be a charleston trainwreck of Peter Shilton-esque proportions. I fear it may be the former, but I also feel that Louis's journey on the show is going to kick over into a sudden "you did it! You learned how to act!" epiphany any day now, so I see no reason why it can't happen on charleston week.

Kimberley, meanwhile, squealed so loudly that dolphins are now saying, in Claudia's words, "what happened?" "Walsh is through!" Heh. Kimberley admits she might have been a bit over the top, but she was so relieved to be through. Actually, so was I; I really thought she might be in trouble this week. Though I imagine she probably could've taken Michael in a Dread Dance-Off if it came to that.

After a trailer for It Takes Two, it's time for a little Len's Lens action. First up for evaluation is Len walking into the studio before filming begins, smacking his own bottom as he does so.

And that's the end of the show! Goodnight everybody!

...what, I really have to continue with this? Ugh, I knew I shouldn't have signed that contract without reading it. Claudia tells Len that he was very hard on Louis, and Len says that Louis has a great personality when you chat to him, but he doesn't bring it out on the floor. "I love you, but I believe you might be wrong," declares Claudia, and shows some slow-mo footage of Louis snarling. Len says that we all have our moments of passion occasionally, even him (bleurgh), but it needs to be more than that. Then we get to a special mocked-up silent movie edition of Nicky's charleston, all sped up and accompanied by a manic piano. After that, it's time to revisit Pasha's Crack-gate. My favourite bit of all this, incidentally, is the fact that Kimberley, through her laughter, is clearly mouthing "armpit". I love that she really is retaining all of the technical stuff that Pasha teaches her, even if she doesn't always execute it correctly. Craig explains that a lot of people slip into regular ballroom hold instead of proper tango hold, and we see some footage of Kimberley dancing with her thumb firmly wedged in Pasha's armpit to show us what it's meant to look like. Bruno continues to have little to discuss on the matter of Dani's samba beyond the overall Beyoncéness of it, and then we discuss Len and Bruno's gigglefit after they were scoring Lisa, which was apparently all due to them both being really queeny about it when Darcey gave Lisa a six. I think we're going to have to separate those two.

Time to reveal which of the remaining couples have got a safe journey through to next week. In no particular order, they are: Dani and Vincent, Denise and James (with Denise screaming "oh thank god!" in a manner that suggests she really thought she was in trouble, despite being top of the leaderboard), and Lisa and Robin, leaving Victoria and Brendan in the Dread Dance-Off. Hilariously, Victoria just sort of shrugs at this. Possibly because she wants to shout "WHOOPEE I'M GOING HOME!" but is trying to be professional about it.

Tess asks Darcey what Victoria can bring to the Dread Dance-Off now to save her. For reasons that I will never understand, Darcey does not reply "a substitute", but instead says that Victoria needs to really listen to the music and have fun. These bits are almost always entirely useless, aren't they?

Claudia's with the three recently-saved couples, and Dani says that waiting to be declared safe is just the worst experience, and the show should just not do that. Claudia promises to ask the boss about it. Claudia reveals that while the music was playing, James said "it's us" to Denise, because they no longer believe that anyone's safe after the results of the last two weeks. Lisa's over the moon to be through, but still grouses about the judges not loving her rumba as much as she did, and thanks the public for keeping her in.

Then there's a musical interlude featuring Him Out Of The Script along with The Rest Of The Script performing 'Hall Of Fame'. He was the worst thing about The Voice UK (and that's quite an achievement), and I refuse to let him pollute this show with his awfulness, so fuck it, I don't care what my contract says. *fast-forwards* [Pfft.  I have watched every stupid guest performance when I'm on duty.  On the other hand, I totally fast-forwarded this too.  Stupid The Script - Rad]

(Yes, I know Pasha was dancing to that. Not even Pasha can make me sit through The Script, I'm sorry.)

Afterwards, we briefly see Darcey doing some sort of exaggerated hand-jive. Len's Lens is over for this week, love, calm down. Then it's over to Claudia, who asks Victoria if she's prepared for the Dread Dance-Off. "It's still rubbish," Victoria giggles. She and Brendan head down to the dancefloor full of gallows spirit, knowing full well that there is no way they're being saved and both of them actually seeming quite glad about it. Claudia asks Natalie if she and Michael can manage more chemistry in the Dread Dance-Off, and Natalie replies "look out, that's all I've got to say!" Bless her.

Victoria and Brendan reprise their salsa, and it's still a mess - probably even more than it was the first time around - but I'm quite glad to have been proved wrong when I said earlier in the series that Victoria would go to pieces the minute she had to do a Dread Dance-Off. If anything, it's the opposite: I think she's actually just relaxed and enjoying the moment because she knows it's a foregone conclusion. Michael and Natalie then reprise their Argentine tango, and he's making a stab at being more severe, though he still has too much of an air of politeness to really create the right mood. Then again, he's up against Victoria so really the only thing he needs to do to make it through to next week is to not actually die in the process.

Time for the judges to vote: Craig votes for Michael and Natalie, Darcey votes for Michael and Natalie, and Bruno votes for Michael and Natalie. It's all very matter-of-fact, as it was always going to be - it's not rude, but there's no point in pretending it was a close call. Tess asks Len if he agreed with the others, and Len says that he would also have voted for Michael and Natalie - at which point Victoria, playing with her hair, says that she would have voted for Michael and Natalie too. Ha! Good for her. Tess says that it's been an emotional journey for Victoria, and Victoria says that the last four years have been an emotional journey, and then she wells up and giggles that she thinks she needs a holiday. She says that she's had so much fun on the show and loved every second (she doesn't say "except the samba", but I think we can take that as a given) and Brendan has been fantastic, as has everyone behind the scenes. Brendan says it's been an emotional rollercoaster, but he said at the beginning that he was excited to get Victoria, and he hasn't changed his mind, because he's proud of the way she went for everything. "It's a shame I can't dance!" chirps Victoria, and giggles again. Aw, I'm going to miss her. I mean, this was the right time for her to go and everything, but I'll still miss her.

Victoria and Brendan take to the dancefloor for their final dance to 'Don't Leave Me This Way', and then we're done. Join Rad next week as the top seven perform to see if Louis finally has that personality breakthrough, and to see if Denise can cling on to the top spot for the fifth week running...

Back to the ballroom

Top 8: 24th November 2012

So, last week, then: the annual nightmare that is WEMBLEY. To be fair, it was slightly less shit than last year, but we still suffered from the usual problems of the dancefloor being far too big for most of the routines (particularly the ballroom ones), and the cameras trying to film everything from the rafters, so god help you if you were actually trying to, y'know, look at the footwork or anything. Although this worked out pretty well for Lisa, since Robin TROD ON HER FOOT and even Len's Lens didn't pick it up. (Okay, that's the last time I mention that, I promise.) Still, things worked out well for Denise and James who were top of the leaderboard for the third consecutive week with probably the best charleston in the history of this show, though sadly time ran out for Richard and Erin who were castaway on their desert island. Don't worry, it's fine: Erin found a volleyball lying on the beach and drew a face on it and called it Susan and Susan totally agrees that Austin Healey should have been saved over Lisa Snowdon in the dance-off, so in the island-verse Erin won series six. Really, she's much happier this way.

Anyway, eight couples remain and must troop back to boring old Television Centre after the excitement of WEMBLEY, and the show decides to celebrate this with an oh-so-topical pastiche of the opening titles from Friends. Presumably, since this is series ten, we're just a few episodes away from that hilarious storyline where Denise recruits Lisa to plan her wedding, only to discover that Lisa has secretly been an incorrigibly awful human being all this time and would rather her best friend have a miserable, disastrous wedding day than not get her own way at something. The laughs, they keep on coming! Still, I suppose it's a welcome distraction from whether Nicky and Kimberley are going to finally get together even though he slept with someone else while they were on a break 86 years ago. [Is this a cue for you to update your blog of the best Friends episodes ever?  Hint Hint - Rad]

From there, we go to the actual title sequence. Lisa's hair in the titles looks much better than it has at any other point in the series. She really should speak to the make-up department about that. Then we're live in the studio with Bruce and Tess. Daly Dresswatch: not actually that terrible this week, she's wearing a silver halter-neck dress with an integrated black belt to cinch it in around the waist and some sort of ivy-like design over her boobs. If we're grading relatively here, considering some of her disastrous ensembles from this series, it's at least a seven or an eight.

Bruce appears somewhat disorientated; whether this is due to having been at Wembley last week or simply because Bruce is now 108 years old is a matter for the BBC medical advisers to determine. Bruce tells us that we've had two birthdays in the Strictly family this week: it was Kimberley's on Tuesday, and it's Bruno's on Sunday. (It was also Zoe's on Friday, but apparently she doesn't merit a mention. Poor Zoe.) Bruce, of course, thought he'd get them each a little something to mark the occasion, so he got Kimberley an angel cake because she's an angel, and he got Bruno a fruitcake, because HE IS A GAY. Well, at least this show gets its homophobia from the 1970s as well as its jokes. Perhaps they get a discount for bulk orders. (Bruce attempts to clarify that it's because Bruno is a nutty fruitcake, but that's not really how the joke was structured. Then again, I'm probably expecting too much from this show, aren't I?)

Shall we meet the stars of our show? Here they are: Kimberley and Pasha, Nicky and Karen, Michael and Natalie, Lisa and Robin, Louis and Flavia, Dani and Vincent, Denise and James and Victoria and Brendan. Everyone actually looks rather nicely turned-out tonight, so there's nothing for me to make fun of. Nice for them, unfortunate for me.

After a joke about the scantily-clad tricks the show hired last week for Denise's routine that doesn't really make any sense, Bruce continues to stumble over the autocue as he reminds us how the scoring works, while Tess informs us that Sara Cox will be joining Karen Hardy in Red Button Land this week. Up first this week are Dani and Vincent, and after a moderately amusing joke about Bruce going on the original 18-30 holiday in 1830 (subsequently ruined by Bruce pretending that 1830 was the departure time in 24-hour clock format), we get right down to business: Dani thinks that performing at Wembley was the biggest thing she's ever done. The show shows remarkable restraint here by not shoehorning its 95th "BECAUSE SHE'S SO SMALL!" joke in here. Don't get your hopes up, though - I'm fairly certain that's the only opportunity for a height-related gag they'll be missing before the end of the year. Dani says that getting four nines made her feel like one of the Spice Girls: presumably Emma Bunton, who was also frequently overmarked on this show. This week they've got a samba, which they're dancing to "'All The Single Ladies' by Beyoncé", and at this point my indifference to Dani Harmer crosses the line into active dislike, because if you can't get the title of that song right, you cannot expect to rely on my support. Dani relates to this song, because she too is a SINGLE LADY, and this segues into a comedy VT in which Dani goes speed-dating and all of her dates are Vincent. To be fair, I've been speed-dating before and I'm fairly certain all of my dates were Vincent as well. He gets around, does that one. Also, Vincent appears to be rehearsing in pleather trousers. I can't imagine Claudia approves of that.

So, the opening of the routine is properly ripped-off from the 'Single Ladies' dance, and part of me is hoping that they are just basically going to do the entire original dance rather than bothering to do any actual samba choreography. I doubt they'd be marked down for it, the way things are going. Dani does a pretty good job of it, to be fair, but given that she's a bit...stumpier than Beyoncé, it doesn't look quite as smooth when Dani does it. Eventually Vincent arrives and it turns into a hybrid of the 'Single Ladies' dance with a smattering of samba thrown in, and to be honest, the samba parts are where it falls flat for me. It's just all a bit too slow and placed for my taste, and it doesn't really have a lot of bounce. There's one point where it looks as though Dani's about to go into a floor spin, but she doesn't (I hate it when that happens, it's such a tease), and then in typical Dani and Vincent style, they end the song out of time with the music, though this time they're late rather than early.

They head over to Bruce, who introduces the judges and tells us that Craig said in the papers that he was thinking of taking a year off Strictly. There's a very loud cheer from Brendan up on the balcony, which makes all the other judges crack up and is frankly much funnier than the show's actual punchline, so let's just move right along. Len tells us that the samba is a party dance from Kuala Lumpur (or wherever it's from this week), and Dani got the party started with that routine. He thought it was brave of her to start on her own, and there was lots of basic stuff going on in the routine. That sounds like an insult, but apparently it's not. Bruno tells Dani that she won't be single for long, because he's going to put a ring on it. Yeah, I'm sure Bruno's very particular about what he puts his ring on. He thought the dance was charming, and bubblier than Babycham. He thinks it was well-placed, and she had amazing placement with great hip action and bounce. I honestly didn't see any of that. Craig thinks she's a hot dancer and he loved the bounce action and isolation, declaring it "a very tidy samba, darling". Darcey finishes off by saying "the boys are right" and every move was detailed and clean, and Dani's attitude and confidence are good, but she needs to finish off her arms in the running promenades.

Dani and Vincent scoot up to the Tess Circle, where Tess calls them her "tiny tidy dancers". I don't even know if I've got the energy to be angry at the show for doing this sort of shit every single week, especially when Dani and Vincent are so happy to enable it, but all the same I wish they'd give it a bloody rest. Dani tells Tess that the samba is a lot harder than it looks, and then they do a bit more Beyoncé dancing for her. Tess asks if they're hoping for a ten this week, and Dani very sensibly says that she'd love on, but she won't complain whatever the score is. And indeed, it's nines all round again for a total of 36 - which I think is a bit overmarked (I think it was closer to an eight than a nine, personally), but all the same is a very respectable score for the samba.

After Tess gets involved in another ill-advised dance breakdown (a breakdown in every possible sense of the word), it's time for Kimberley Walsh, "and her partner Pasha Krbbrbrfr", if Bruce is to be believed. I hadn't realised he was from Serbia. To mark Kimberley's birthday, Bruce tells her that the team all clubbed together to get her a strippogram, and if you don't know where this joke is going...well, I envy you. Bruce attempts a sexy dance, but gets completely tangled in the bead curtain (not a euphemism, thankfully) that's suddenly appeared across the stage, nearly garotting himself in the process. I was watching the show with some friends this week, and it was around this point where we all started discussing what would happen if Bruce actually died in the middle of something like this. I'm sure it's a discussion the show's insurers have to have on a fairly regular basis as well.

Anyway, thankfully Bruce gets no further than removing his bow-tie and undoing his top shirt button, and then we get straight into Kimberley's VT. Her samba at WEMBLEY went pretty well, and despite being left right to the very end, they made it safely through when the results were announced. This week they're dancing the tango, which Kimberley loves, but there's a slight problem in rehearsals: every time Pasha does tango-face at her, she bursts out laughing. Kimberley says that it's hard to be angry at Pasha, and she's worried that if she can't get that right on Saturday night, it could all fall apart.

They're dancing to 'When Doves Cry' (previously used by Rachel and Vincent for their Argentine tango in series six), and Kimberley's been given a hairdo that's not entirely flattering - everything's been scraped up onto the top of her head like a croissant. She's giving it full pout for this dance - probably a bit too much, because her chin is wrinkling - but there's some lovely staccato movement and head-snapping in it. Her posture seems a little loose, though - there are moments when it's very good, but as they move around, you can see it slipping every now and again. I'm impressed with her commitment to it all, though - she's courting some serious whiplash with those neck movements. [Whiplash is totally this year's addition to the SCD drinking game - Rad] There's a nice bit of choreography at the end too where Pasha lets go of Kimberley and she slides to the floor, curling around his leg as she does so.

As soon as it's over, Kimberley lets out the giggle that she's been struggling to contain throughout, and Bruce directs them to look at the standing ovation they've been gifted by the audience. Bruce mentions that two weeks ago, Tess introduced the singers by name and he thought that was a nice thing to do, so he's going to do it as well. In fact, he goes one better by naming most of the orchestra. I hope this turns into an extremely embittered game of one-upmanship that culiminates in Tess listing every single member of the production crew by name in the final.

Bruno calls Kimberley "an ultra-vixen with the killer attitude", and does an impression of Joan Collins in Dynasty. He loved the attitude, but the dance was brilliant too, and he thinks she's getting better and better, but thinks he might have spotted a slight wobble in the middle. Craig agrees that there was a wobble in the middle, but he loved the drama and the storytelling. We know how Craig likes his thumb-placement, so he was pleased to see Kimberley's thumb "tucked into the crack of his..." and then the audience starts laughing. Well, I'd quite like to tuck my thumb into Pasha's cr-- [THAT'S QUITE ENOUGH OF THAT. - TellyBitching Compliance Team] Anyway, he was going to say armpit, you dirty-minded rapscallions. He also thought her frame was a bit loose, but by this point everyone's still giggling and Bruce declares that it might be a good idea to move on now. Darcey loved the storytelling and Kimberley's pouty lady, as well as her top line and her attack. Len's  been pulling a stress-face throughout everyone else's comments, so we know he's going to be at least a little bit critical, and while he agrees that he loved the story and the mood, he thought Kimberley's hold was a bit loose from time to time, and she never did any heel leads which meant her feet were flat throughout. The intensity was spot-on, though. Shortly before they exit, Bruce calls Pasha "Pasha Bolognese", thereby making this officially my least favourite running gag of the year. Yes, I like it even less than "Vincent struggles hilariously with English idioms". THINK ON THAT.

They hustle up to the Tess Circle, where Kimberley is very flattered to have had a standing ovation, and does the moody pout again for Tess. It's been a busy week for Kimberley, with Girls Aloud stuff and birthday stuff, so in order to get her training done, she's been taking Pasha with her and the rest of the group wherever she goes. Pasha deadpans that this was a "terrible, terrible experience", and then asks if he can spend next week with them as well. Bless. Scores are in: Craig 8, Darcey 9, Len 8, Bruno 9 for a total of 34. That's the third week in a row Kimberley's scored 34 - I think she may be a little bit stuck in a rut at this point. Tess reads out the voting numbers, including a very strange reference to people being "a fan of the landline". [I am not, in fact, a fan of the landline.  I leave mine unplugged unless I need to call an 08 something number - Rad]

Our third couple tonight are Victoria and Brendan, and GOOD GOD HOW HAVE I NOT NOTICED VICTORIA'S HAIR BEFORE NOW? That is some serious crimping going on there; she looks like a King Charles spaniel. In her VT, Victoria tries to put her best spin on the disastrous bicycle paso doble from WEMBLEY, and this week they've got the salsa to 'Candy' by Robbie Williams. Victoria openly admits that she does not have a good track record with Latin dances. If I were Victoria, I would have followed this up by saying "but I've set a lot of CYCLING TRACK RECORDS!" and pulled out my Olympic gold medals. Possibly kissing them for good measure as well. Brendan talks about how the salsa is all about confidence and showboating, and we see Victoria asking sarcastically "do you mean I'm not a sexy Latino dancer?" you want to explain to her why she's definitely not a Latino dancer, or do I have to do it? Anyway, we'll deal with that later: Victoria reiterates that she knows her Latin skills have historically not shown her in the best light, but she's going to try and hope that it's enough on the night.

Brendan's choreographed Victoria a little solo moment on the stairs to start the dance off, but it might not have been the best idea, as she can barely even perform that with any great enthusiasm. Regrettably, the rest of the dance doesn't go much better - the underarm spin is inelegant, the side-by-side section is a mess, even the lifts are a bit sloppy. She does better than I would've expected with the armography sections, but she just can't seem to figure out what to do with her arms the rest of the time, and eight weeks in, she really ought to be a lot better than this by now. I know she's held up surprisingly well in the public vote thus far, but I think this might be the point where her support starts to crack. She's been an enjoyable presence to have on the show, I've liked having her around, but considering that last week even Victoria admitted she should've been in the dance-off, I think her time might have come this week.

There's a bit of business as Bruce hands out some candy to the judges to go with the song, except he messes it up by handing the wrong sweets to the wrong people - although he does at least manage to give the gobstopper to Craig, which was the punchline. Craig tells Victoria that the prop candy sticks had more fluidity to them than she did, and that's all the feedback he has to offer this week. Darcey was amazed that Victoria achieved all the "armography", and she thinks the lifts were great because of Victoria's "amazing core". Len thinks it was a bit light, and calls her "a light Victoria sponge" - he thought the lifts were good and clean, but it just needed a bit more oomph. Bruno calls Brendan "Brenda", because he's wearing pink (and also because he's been reading Monkseal) [With TXF clearly reading our blogs, and SCD clearly reading Monkseal I think it's time for our combined telly blogging DOMINATION to extend beyond Only Connect quarter finals, don't you?  The YerFiyud panel?  Angry Xtra Factor phone callers demanding Funsponge Borelow explain his entire existence?  Those people who send in mental videos of themselves to It Takes Two? - Rad] and tells Victoria that she looked absolutely gorgeous - "when you stand still, you're fabulous". He thinks the rhythm wasn't there, and she needs to let herself go. He doesn't understand why, because she looks amazing, and she needs to use her body better, because her current performances defy belief. As my friend put it, that's tantamount to saying "it should literally be impossible for you to be this shit - how are you doing it?" Poor Victoria. To her credit, she just laughs and says that she tried, and Brendan ushers her up to the Tess Circle as quickly as possible.

When they get up there, Victoria is slightly hysterical and says that she's not sure whether to laugh or cry, so Tess quickly grabs her some tissues. I suspect they've had those on standby for Victoria all series. Victoria ends up just repeating that "it's tragic" and laughing to herself, while Brendan attempts to politely beg the public to put them out of their misery by pointing out how everyone left is much better than they are. Victoria manages to get herself together long enough to say that it's been really good fun and she's enjoyed trying to "shuffle around in the salsa". I think that sort of outlook might be part of the problem. Scores are in: Craig 4, Darcey 6, Len 6, Bruno 5 for a total of 21. Victoria laughs that it's an "all-time low", and then she and Brendan both realise at the same time that her cha cha cha was worse and have a good laugh about it. I'll say this for Victoria - despite her emotional incontinence, she does appear to at least have the ability to laugh at herself, which is a fairly good quality to have on a show like this.

Louis and Flavia are next, with Bruce reminding us that Louis was a "silver medallist in the Olympic". You know, that Olympic. In his VT, Louis explains that before going on last week, he felt "physically sick". As opposed to what - mentally sick? Despite lukewarm feedback from the judges, they were kept in by the public and now they're moving on to the paso doble, which they're dancing to 'Dirty Diana' by Michael Jackson. Louis is a big fan of Michael Jackson, and has spent most of the week doing the moonwalk according to his VT. That's pretty much it. I'm beginning to think he might not be that exciting as a human being.

Their paso has most of the same problems that Louis has faced week after week: Flavia's done some great choreography here, and for the most part he's executing it well, but his face just reads as a total blank, and he's not really delivering the sort of aggression you need for a paso doble. I know that so many people overplay the paso, and that's always fairly irritating, but it turns out that underplaying it isn't that great either. To be honest, the most interesting thing about it for me was seeing Bruce lurching through the audience in the final moments on his way to the stage.

Darcey tells Louis that he has it all to give, but she lost the storytelling this week: the man needs to be arrogant and dominant in the paso, and while he was clean and exact and precise, there just wasn't enough performance in it for her. Len says it's "not cupcakes and ice-cream, it's thunder and lightning" (o-kay...) and that while Louis had great lines, there was no attack or fire in it. Bruno agrees - Louis can produce beautiful shapes, but this is about blood and passion and killing and revenge, and this is meant to be a fight to the death. Louis is a bit unimpressed with the way things are going and mumbles something, so Bruce asks him what he was going to say, and Louis snits that with all this talk of blood, he wonders what time the show's going out because there will be children watching. Oh, Louis. I think it's a bit late for "won't somebody think of the children?" at this point. You have met Bruno before, right? Craig drawls "I think we might be live, darling" and tells Louis that if he wants to move up the leaderboard, he needs to learn to act the dances: "you can go no further with us unless you give yourself up". [Blimey.  That tone is all a bit charismatic Christianity / AA meeting / Payday loan at 1800000% interest plus both kidneys and your first born - Rad] So there.

They exit toward the Tess Circle, where Tess says that the audience gave it a standing ovation, as if that means much at all these days. She asks Louis if he can give himself up to it, and Flavia tells Louis that the little moment of talking back to the judges was "the most vicious I've seen you all week". Louis thought he'd got into it, and Tess pulls out the "not a performer by trade" card, for what that's worth. Scores: Craig 6, Darcey 7, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 27. "Interesting," says Flavia, in a tone of voice that implies that the judges might get the bloodshed they were craving once the cameras are switched off.

Next we have Lisa and Robin, and Bruce says that he loved their disco routine last week. To be fair, it's probably a lot easier for Bruce to enjoy Lisa's disco routines, because the benefit of advanced age is that he probably doesn't remember that each one is basically the same as the last one, only a little bit less good. Last week, Lisa was absurdly overmarked for a decidedly mediocre samba and then cried a lot about it. This week they've got the rumba, which they're dancing to 'As If We Never Said Goodbye' (Robin continuing to use this show like his own personal Divas Live concert ♥), and this leads us into a comedy VT about Lisa never leaving Robin alone because she's just such a hard worker, dammit. Although to be honest, it's mainly an excuse to show Robin getting undressed before getting in the shower, presumably since he's following the Artem plan of getting his tits out in case the dance isn't that impressive.

The routine is very West End, right down to Lisa starting the whole thing at her make-up table and the screen behind them projecting their names on a marquee. It's not that I don't appreciate Robin's innate sense of showmanship, but sometimes I'd just like him to dial it down a bit. In terms of the dance itself, it's not too bad - it's obviously not a natural fit for Lisa, but she acquits herself fairly well in it with some good shaping and, once the first 20 seconds are out of the way, a genuine attempt to underplay it. I could've done without the assisted pirouette at the end that made her look like a lawn sprinkler, though.

Len liked the detail of the dance, but found it unexciting overall, so he couldn't get excited about it. Tautologies ahoy! Bruno liked that it was understated, but he wanted something fierier, something more Norma Desmond. I can't believe Lisa finally managed to reign in the playing-to-the-back-row faces and now they're telling her to do more of it - it's Richard being told off for not being gay enough all over again. Bruno declares it "nice, but not overwhelming". Craig thought it was tempestuous and a bit aggressive, which lost the sensuality of the routine. He doesn't think it suited Lisa, but that she danced it well all things considered. Darcey agrees that it's hard to stay in the slow moves, and it must be tough for Lisa because she's so brilliant in the Latin (...which is the genre that rumba is classified under on this show, so well done Darcey).

They head up to the Tess Circle, with Lisa shaking her head. Tess asks what gives, and Lisa says that she was responding to the other couples telling her it was beautiful. Ladies and gentlemen, I do believe we have the beginnings of a pity party here. Lisa says that she really enjoyed it and tried to find her "inner actress" in it (remind us again what your day job is, Lisa?) but the judges didn't see that. To be fair, I think we all saw Lisa's inner actress during last week's samba during those split lifts. Lisa says that they usually have a laugh but she wanted to bring the emotion tonight, and it's a shame that the judges didn't find that in it. I appreciate what she's trying to say here, but she is still coming across a little churlish. Tess asks Lisa what the reaction is like for her with people on the street, and apparently it's that everyone loves her everywhere she goes. Tess's response to this is essentially "cool story bro". Scores are in: Craig 7, Darcey 6, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 27.

Michael and Natalie are next. Last week they got an amazing response for their American smooth at WEMBLEY, and this week they've got the Argentine tango, where Natalie gets a little bit overexcited in rehearsals when describing how intimate they need to be. Things do not get off to the best of starts, so Michael arrives the following day dressed as a sweaty gaucho (you can practically hear Len creaming himself from here) and promising to take Natalie to Buenos Aires - the steakhouse, that is. LOLOLOLOLOL COMEDY VT!

They're dancing to 'Bust Your Windows' (previously used by Chris and Ola in series seven), and Natalie's got her hair up and an elongated fringe which actually really suits her. It's a shame she's wearing one of those ugly Argentine tango dresses with the long strands of fabric hanging between her legs which always look like an unnecessary trip hazard to me (can you imagine if they put Victoria in something like that?). Oh, right: the dance: well, Natalie is great, and Michael is trying his best, but he's a bit too gentlemanly in his manners for an intense, sexy dance like this. It's all rather polite.

Bruno tells Michael that the look of painful concentration on his face wasn't sexy, and looked like he was passing a kidney stone. He thought it was like a series of steps with no relationship between Michael and Natalie, and it lost all the fluidity and sexuality that it should've had. Craig thinks it lacked any resistance and lead, and that his adornments were very stiff. Fnar. He thought it was a good effort with great choreography, but it didn't all come together. Darcey says that Michael is such an attentive partner who works hard, but she didn't get the sense of the domineering man in the dance - though she admired the ease with which he lifted Natalie. Len opens by saying "I wish I had a stiff adornment" (EWWWW) and then protests that he was just repeating Craig when everyone reacts in horror. Darcey's response in particular is a treat: she sort of draws her hands across her breasts with a look of complete befuddlement on her face. I don't quite know what message she was trying to convey there, but she really made me laugh, so that's a point in her favour. Len says that the performance was lacking, but it was a full routine with great lifts and a lot of good stuff going on. He then, for some reason, has a go at Craig by saying that the man's supposed to lead every dance and why doesn't he comment on that more often? Well, perhaps it isn't always an issue, Len? Just a thought. Also, does the man really lead every dance, or is Len just discounting most of the Latin dances because he doesn't care about them? Len starts ranting about how "virtually none of the men lead any of the pro girls because they don't know how to." Well, perhaps as head judge you should be pointing that out, eh Len? Also, nice division of the genders into "men" and "girls", you ass. [I flirted with hating Darcey more for a few weeks but now she's settled in a bit and has been very funny drunk on Graham Norton's show I am fully back onto FUCK OFF LEN mode - Rad]

Up in the Tess Circle, Natalie explains that they came out of one turn a bit early, so they had to try to hold the rest of the routine back. Michael thinks it's an achievement to provoke an argument between Len and Craig - clearly, he didn't watch the last couple of series. He vows to keep trying his best, and says that having a week dancing with Natalie is always generally a good thing. Scores: Craig 6, Darcey 7, Len 7, Bruno 6 for a total of 26. Tess: "Well, it's not your highest score, but it certainly isn't your lowest." I'm sure that sounded a lot more reassuring in her head.

Bruce hems and haws about whether the next couple is couple number seven (it is), and eventually introduces Nicky and Karen. Nicky and Karen talk extensively about how WEMBLEY was the greatest thing that ever happened to either of them, until that unfortunate incident with the bottom two. I'm glad this show isn't even bothering to pretend it doesn't record both shows on the one night any more. Karen talks about how being in the bottom two actually made Nicky look like he gave a shit for once, and Nicky agrees that he needs to nail his routine this week. Handily, he's got the charleston, which as Len keeps telling us requires no technical expertise of any sort. Every year, at least one contestant gets the obligatory "judged by a panel of children" VT, and this year Nicky's drawn the short straw as he brings various moppets from his family in. They're all pretty adorable, and mini-Len is every bit as informative as his grown-up equivalent. Mini-Craig is pretty sweet with his attempt at "disaster, darling", too.

Okay, first of all, the staging is amazing: there's a train heading towards us on the screen at the top of the stage, and they've projected railway lines onto the dancefloor, with Karen giving it Mabel Normand realness as she pretends to be tied to them. Nicky arrives and gives it some flaily Steamboat Willie action as he pulls a convenient lever that happens to stop the train instantly (physics? What's that?). Second of all, they're dancing to 'Doop' by Doop, and I can't believe it's taken four years for someone to actually use that for their charleston. It can't quite live up to that amazing beginning, but it's still a pretty good routine: Nicky's got some good swivel and manages to channel enough goofiness without turning it into a complete mugfest. His arms are still too spaghetti-like for me to declare it a complete success, but it's still his most enjoyable dance so far by a long shot.

Craig says it suited Nicky down to the ground, and it was his best routine yet. Darcey declares it "magic", and says that he looks like he's just come off the set of The Artist. Len thinks this was the no-stress express and he thinks Nicky will be in the top two this week after being in the bottom two last week. Bruno loved the character-driven slapstick, and he thinks Nicky never lost the charleston even when he went a bit hip-hop.

They giddily trip up to the Tess Circle, where Tess points out they've got a standing ovation, and Nicky deadpans "we didn't even know what that was like before - it's good, isn't it?" Heh. Tess says that they've both been practising all night long even up on the Tess Circle, and they chat about the adorable kids from the VT. Scores are in: nines all round for a total of 36. Probably a little bit overmarked, but I enjoyed it so much that I don't really care. [Me neither, and Nicky is my least favourite.  I expected Karen to be good at the charleston after she was a bit 'goofy' in the first couple of shows, but was surprised he was also good - Rad] Nicky can't believe it, and asks Tess if this is in fact rehearsals rather than the real show. Heh.

To close the show, here are Denise and James. We're reminded that last week's WEMBLEY charleston was pretty epic, and got them three tens for their troubles - but as Denise points out, this means that there's a lot of pressure on her to live up to that from now on. They've got the American smooth this week, and in practising one of the lifts, there's a bit of miscommunication where James ducks away from Denise's arm but she doesn't realise and carries on with the lift, thereby falling flat on her arse. I don't think it's quite such a terrible fall as the show wants us to believe (and anyone who saw Something For The Weekend knows that Denise has experienced more than a few nasty slips in her career), but I like how they take pains to show how sympathetic James is by including him shouting "you idiot!" at the fallen Denise. Denise confirms that she's fine, and that she hopes it's knocked some sense into her. James says that the funny thing is, that wasn't even the dangerous lift - the one at the end is the real hazard. It's the same lift, incidentally, that went wrong with Ola during rehearsals very early in rehearsals and ended up with James getting a broken nose, so it's quite brave of James to even be attempting it with Denise in the first place. It involves Denise sliding up onto his shoulders and resting on his neck, and he admits that trying to learn it in four days is a big ask.

They're dancing to the Eva Cassidy version of 'Imagine', which I think might actually be worse than the original. Their dance is Viennese waltz-based, and I'm sure it's no surprise to anyone that the lifts all go off without a hitch. It's a lovely, lyrical routine but coupled with the music choice, it's all just a little bit too saccharine for my tastes. [I thought it was lovely but with you on the music.  I hate 'Imagine' as we all know - Rad]

After Bruce calls Denise "gutsy" for continuing with the routine despite that fall in rehearsals, Darcey informs her that she is a pleasure to watch, and it's extraordinary how effortless she makes those lifts look. Len describes it as "like the sea - wave after wave of effortless motion". He spotted a few foot issues, but overall he loved it. Bruno thought it was smooth and weightless like the finest silk, and thought that it was perfection. Craig tells James that his thumb was up on occasion, that his bottom was sticking out and that he lacked any rise and fall - but Denise was perfect. James makes a big show of being the bigger man by saying that his mum told him to be nice this year, so he's going to stay quiet. He'll just duff Craig up backstage later.

Up in the Tess Circle, Tess says she was nervous just watching those lifts, and James quips that he was nervous too. She says that it takes incredible skill to do those lifts, and James replies "it does, I'm very good". BANTERLOLS. When asked if they can top the three tens from last week, Denise says she's not sure if they can. Time to find out, because the scores are in: Craig 9, Darcey 9, Len 9, Bruno 10 for a total of 37. James then declares magnanimously that he and Denise did have a little muddle of the feet in one of the turns, so the judges were right not to give them 10s. He really is insufferable, isn't he? Ola must have the patience of a saint.

Everyone's danced now, so let's have a look at that leaderboard:
1st: Denise & James (37)
2nd: Dani & Vincent (36)
2nd: Nicky & Karen (36)
4th: Kimberley & Pasha (34)
5th: Louis & Flavia (27)
5th: Lisa & Robin (27)
7th: Michael & Natalie (26)
8th: Victoria & Brendan (21)

So that's it. I think it'd be a big surprise if Victoria escape the dance-off this week, so the big question is who'll be in it with her (and, inevitably, saved over her). I wouldn't rule out Kimberley - she was on early, got positive-but-faintly-critical feedback, and is in the middle of the table with two popular couples tied directly below her - but we might also be seeing Michael back there as well. Either way, it could be an interesting hint as to how the voting is likely to pan out for the rest of the series...

Saturday, 24 November 2012

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

- Yellow is not Richard's colour.
- Pasha's nipples have their own make-up artist
- The Strictly  hairdressers are possessive enough to put their names on their crimpers.
- Natalie was brought to tears by the prospect of WEMBLEY.  So were we, Natalie. So were we.
- Richard is the most tactile man Erin's ever met.  We had noticed.
- Craig's marking is relative to the quality of the series, rather than the quality of the dahnce and he only gave Chris Hollins a 10 for his Charleston because series 7 was rubbish.
- Natalie gets embarrassed when she sees herself on TV. Don't worry about it, Natalie: you're amazing, we promise.
- Zoe thinks the Dread Dance-Off is horrid and should be ignored. Guys, she's ONE OF US!
- Karen Hauer isn't entirely sure how to spell "Elvis".
- Vincent pretending that he doesn't understand English idioms is starting to get REALLY annoying.
- Zoe does not want anyone to steal the title of "highest-scoring samba" away from her.
- Victoria wasn't bothered by being dangled from a great height in her paso, but she was a bit concerned about getting properly untangled from her harness.
- Victoria has lost 11lbs of muscle mass over the course of the show - particularly from her legs.
- Robbie Williams is one of Brendan’s heroes
- James does a very cruel (but quite funny) impression of Anton.  His Artem and Vincent are OK too – at any rate, he’s better than John Culshaw.
- Michael and Natalie have been training in Darren and Lilia’s dance school in Sheffield.  For some reason they didn’t invite your Sheffield-based SCB correspondent to watch.
- Denise has three arms.  The sign of a RINGER!
- Zoe doesn't appear to know the difference between a salsa and a samba either, despite being the (joint) BEST-EVER at the latter.
- Ian and Zoe both struggle with the charleston swivel, so let's all be grateful it was never a part of series three.
- Denise's left tit fell out in the dress rehearsal for her charleston. Bit disappointed that didn't make Len's Lens.
- Vincent can really work a pair of sparkly heels.
- Pasha has taken to saying "go on my son". Not sure about this development at all.
- Zoe did the splits on the Strictly tour 43 times and now she's got a dicky hip.
- Louis is struggling with being the man and Lisa with being the woman.  Damn Strictly and its Cissexism!  Trans agenda 2013 FTW!
- Kimberley is too sweet for the Tango.
- Nicky is worried about the technical parts of the Charleston.  Don’t worry, Nicky, Craig gave Denise a 9 because hers was too good for a 10.
- Karen Hauer doesn’t want to get dropped.  In other news, Katya is BACK for the Christmas special.
- The dance of love and sex is now the dance of farmyard… yes, Lisa and Robin are having LOLS about the rumba.
- We should all be very grateful we’ve never had to see Karen Hardy’s Charleston.
- Wardrobe lady Vicky will never recover from Wembley.  Us neither.
- Russell Grant thinks seven years of Strictly has aged Vincent beyond all recognition.  MIAOW!
- The charleston as we know it today is based upon the choreography for the 1923 musical Running Wild.
- Kimberley has trained the fewest hours again this week. Either she's really busy with Girls Aloud stuff or she's just kind of over it now. Possibly both.
- Ricky Whittle has the most 10s of anyone in Strictly history. Harry Judd is the winner with the most 10s (second place overall), series 6 was the series where the most tens were awarded, Bruno is the judge who has awarded the most tens, and Louisa Lytton got the earliest ten of any series (for her jive in week three)
- Kimberley now has a dodgy hip to go with her dodgy knee.
- This week, a madigascan lemur predicted Denise and James to top the leaderboard.
- Karen Hauer has an obsession with odd numbers, has a 7 tattoo on her wrist and has to get up at 7:53 am.
- Flavia doesn’t know how you can call Louis’ gymnastic skills tacky and then kind of undermines her point by saying they did it especially for Wembley.
- If Louis makes the final, he wants to do a moonwalk in his showdance.
- It’s not nice to say goodbye to couples.
- FINALLY someone's doing a charleston to 'Doop' by Doop. It's only taken four years.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Club Tropican't-a

WEMBLEY Results: 18th November 2012

Last night!  It was like playing ‘Where’s Wally’ with all the dancers as the WEMBLEY cameras zoomed so far out they became microscopic.  From what little we could see, Denise and James’ Egyptian Charleston worked against all odds; Victoria was useless, as was Richard, but at least he had ERIN ISLAND (even to the point of wearing a shirt with it printed all over) - and most of the people inbetween were overmarked to a fairly ludicrous extent, especially Lisa and Robin – although we still had a ZOMG MIDTABLE SHOCKER in the form of Louis and Flavia.

I watched both this results show and The X Factor one with my parents, by the way.  Their verdict?  My dad likes Lisa, my mum is not admitting that Nicky is rubbish, they think Richard is entertaining, and that Michael is improving loads and Denise is amazing.

We open with a 1950s’ style dance to the band caterwauling through ‘Tears on My Pillow’ (for why?  Kylie had a number one with a cover of it and I’m sure she’d have obliged if you asked her) which involves the pros flitting between dancing with each other, their celebrities and other celebrities – it then turns into ‘Rock Around the Clock’ and the projections are very good indeed – giving the impression of huge stacks of poker chips or similar with clock numbers on.  The pros and the extra dancers ‘rock and roll’ a bit whilst the celebrities stay tucked away in a car.  Most notably, Flavia gets chucked about by all the men, which I bet she loved.  Then the celebrities are allowed to come back on to ‘We Go Together’ which is the 1970s doing the 1950s, but I think we’ve established my feelings on the decades business.  Bizarrely, Darcey is with them all and she and Richard hold up a card saying ‘Strictly Class 2012’.  Please let this mean that Darcey is vacating the panel in favour of Head Judge Erin next year.  Dani throws (yup, throws) a bowling ball at some huge skittles because SHE IS TINY.

Craig is sitting in a kissing booth where no-one is coming to get them, even though they’re free, hoho.  And then it descends into a dodgem crash between Bruno and Len and Claudia and Tess, which Bruno is a little bit too into.

Claudia, who must have just run from the Mitchell/Coren nuptials (awwww) [I can't believe we didn't get an invite. We were on Only Connect and everything - Steve] looks rather lovely in a navy dress with lace frontage, whilst Tess is wearing a silver ribbed sack and looks rather embarrassed about it.
Wembley ‘welcomes’ the judges it only saw about an hour earlier and Tess reminds us of the dance-off.  The audience are too rowdy during all of this.  BLOODY WEMBLEY.

Last night’s recap includes meeting the public.  Boo!  Everyone – audience, celebs and pros - says WEMBLEY a lot.  Lisa cries at getting good feedback; Louis thinks it was as scary as the LYMPICS; Dani is in a state of shock at becoming a new potential favourite; Kimberley and Pasha are shaking it a lot and Michael says it’s the best feeling since winning the Ashes.  Len got ‘trembly at Wembley’ and wants Wembley every week.  I knew there was a reason I always get the urge to shout FUCK OFF LEN, because, seriously, FUCK OFF LEN.

Results time – safe are: Dani and Vincent, Michael and Natalie, Lisa and Robin, Denise and James.  In the bottom two?  Richard and Erin, who look about as unsurprised as it is possible to be.  Tess asks what Richard needs to do to survive.  Be up against Victoria and hope she crashes and burns?  Len says he needs to have fun and enjoy it.  Thanks, Len.

In Claudia’s Counselling Circle, there is an apology for Scotland missing Michael and Natalie’s dance and a reminder you can watch him on the website.  Michael has loved being at WEMBLEY.  Maybe as penance they should go to SCOTLAND next year?  Denise loved it and BANTER BANTER BANTER.  Lisa says it was the most insane, but best, night of her life – to have opened Wembley.   So many things wrong with that statement that I can’t even…

Claudia then demands people stand to welcome Girls Aloud who are celebrating ten years of Girls Aloud who have been together for ten years and 2012 is their tenth anniversary.  TEN!  (Let’s just gloss over those years when they essentially had split up to do solo things/or things anyway).  My dad (who is 80) was all ‘I bet they’re off on tour, aren’t they?  That’s why they’re doing this’.  Very astute.  Now I love the Aloud so very much. I can even live with their covers of ‘See The Day’ and ‘Jump’ (notsomuch ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’) but I am really struggling to get on board with ‘Something New’.  I like the chorus, but I hate the Beyonce rip-off tribute bits and the rapping is pretty rubbish and whilst a little bit of rubbish Girls Aloud rapping is fine, there is far too much of it on this track.  It’s also a bit too verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge for me, which isn’t very Girls Aloud.  At least Sarah’s face looks a little better than on Children in Need – or maybe that’s because I’m over the shock of how different she looked when they performed on Friday.  The thinness of Nadine’s legs still scares me a little.  Their silver dresses look a lot nicer than those orange things they’ve been wearing for this single though; and they do the ‘Sound of the Underground’ bit with the microphones at one point, so hooray for that.  And ‘we’re the leaders of the pack, you’d better watch your back’ does sound like a direct threat to The Saturdays and Little Mix, doesn’t it?

Claudia tells us that the dance floor is six times the usual one.  SO THAT’S WHY IT SUCKS SO MUCH.  Len’s Lens time and we relive Lisa’s splits and Bruno’s keenness to crash into Tess and Claudia with the dodgems.  Claudia cries ‘whiplash’ – everyone’s favourite injury this series, and Bruno lowers the tone with a ‘Miss Whiplash’ comment.  Len says he didn’t like Louis’ American Smooth because it wasn’t what he was expecting.  As criticisms go, it’s not the most well-developed.  He should go judge the X Factor where everyone does the same thing every week.  We see some rehearsal footage of Louis doing the Robot and Flavia looking exasperated.  Poor Flavia – paired with someone who could potentially be a winner and who clearly has the ability, yet who behaves like a teenager and spends every dance sulking. 

They then relive what Darcey called the ‘bluebird’ lift in Michael and Natalie’s dance and Michael’s face of terror, then we see Natalie high-kicking him in the face and him doing dramatic arms to back away.  Love it.  Craig is happy that Denise and James did the ‘birdie’ step in their Charleston.  If we start having The Birdie Song as a dance, I will not be happy. [Count your blessings, they added hip hop to Dancing With The Stars in America this season. Yep, Len Goodman judging hip hop. Amazing. - Steve] Craig says he didn’t give them a ten because she needs to get her feet together and then Len shouts all over him before he can finish his critique.  Len is insufferable most weeks, but there’s something about WEMBLEY that cranks that up to ten.  We then see Craig and Bruno rehearsing their parachuting in – Craig is loving it, taking photos of himself and the arena from up high – which is way braver than I could ever be, whilst Bruno takes the approach I would – screwing his eyes up, pursing his lips and trying not to have a full blown panic attack (wrong show!).  The audience laugh at him, big meanies.

The rest of the results are in!  Safe: Victoria and Brendan and Louis and Flavia (Flavia’s mic is on and she goes ‘Us?  I didn’t even hear our names, did she say us?’).  Meanly, they leave Kimberley and Pasha hanging until the very end – seeing as the dance-off almost broke her last week, this seemed far too harsh when the dance-off tease could have been Victoria and Brendan or something.  Anyway, in the bottom two are Nicky and Karen which pleases me as I was so worried he’d be topping the phone votes.  (I suppose that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been doing so in several weeks)  Kimberley looks like she’ll vomit.

Tess asks Craig why Nicky is in the bottom two seeing as he’s a WEMBLEY veteran.  Because being in Westlife and dancing on this show are the same thing, apparently.  Craig says it’s because the audience don’t realise how much power they have to overturn the judges’ vote.  Except for all those weeks Nicky went through whilst being in the bottom few on the leaderboard.  And all the times Victoria has gone through.  And Kimberley’s bottom two appearance overturning the judges’ marks in the other way.  Oh, Craig.  He then says that in the dance-off Nicky has to be entertaining and technical.  Seeing as he is usually neither, this could be fun.  Tess says ‘so he has to be flawless?’, which isn’t quite what Craig said, but when Craig replies ‘perfection’ she says ‘Oooh, I’m worried for Nicky’.  Heh.  I don’t know if she meant that burn or not but if so, nicely done, Daly.

In Claudia’s Counselling Circle and Kimberley is still white as a sheet and struggling to articulate herself.  Claudia reminds both Kimberley and Victoria that they’re nervous.  So not only has being Bruce rubbed off on Tess, being Tess has rubbed off on Claudia.  Louis says he came close to crying and Claudia screams ‘I really wanna see you cry!’  The audience ‘aww’ and Claudia tries to cover up her clear sadism with ‘Then I can make him feel better’.  But judging by Flavia’s laugh, I suspect the two of them are secretly concocting torture for him as we speak.  We all know Flavia has a Red Room of Pain after all…

Special guest two now, and ten years is nothing as an anniversary (and as Strictly has made little of it being its tenth series, I’m guessing all the DECADE OF DAHNCE stuff will happen next year?) when you compare it to a SILVER JUBILEE.  Yes, 25 years of Kylie singles, and she’s here with her first (in Australia) single, ‘The Locomotion’ in the big band version she’s done on the Abbey Road album – which is absolutely wonderful and a great Christmas present.  She’s surrounded by female dancers in bondage-style leotards and men in shirts, girdles and tights.  My parents’ verdict?  ‘She never ages’ ‘Well, she’s just iconic isn’t she?  She’ll go on forever’.  I’ve brought them up well.  They weren’t so keen on the male dancers’ outfits, but I suppose they’re a bit of an acquired taste. 

Claudia is with the bottom two couples and lies that they have an equal chance.  Erin’s all ‘yeees’.  Richard says he’ll party like it’s 1983 and wishes the other two good luck.  Claudia tries to pretend that Nicky being in the bottom two is a shock and Nicky tries to compare him being there to Kimberley being there, like he hasn’t languished in the bottom half of the leaderboard most weeks.

Richard’s salsa does seem to be an improvement on the first run, with a little more looseness in his hips, but it’s not exactly the improvement he made last time he was in the bottom two, and as it’s his third dance-off, it’s pretty much a fait accompli at this stage.  The singer still can’t sing the bloody name of the song, either.  Nicky’s performance hasn’t improved to any noticeable degree, although his timing remains pretty good, apart from that really long ending, and even my mum, who won’t admit that he sucks, had to concede he was really flat footed and she ripped into Len’s ‘this is not a jive, this is a rock’n’roll’ bollocks from Saturday night straight away. 

Results time!  Craig saves Nicky and Karen for ‘exuberance and energy’, Darcy saves them for ‘content and energy’ and Bruno saves them for ‘power and content’.  CONTENT?  Richard and Erin had ERIN ISLAND and men in speedos and Erin being launched off into the sea!  How much more content could you want?  Len concurs that Nicky and Karen should stay.  Tess asks what Richard will miss most, he jokes about it being wardrobe, but he says he’ll miss Erin saying ‘welcome to another week’ on a Monday and he’ll take her out somewhere special.  Erin says she’ll miss dancing with him and she now calls him a friend.

And, to the band completely eviscerating ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, confetti falls and they have their final dance, with Richard hugging everyone, and Natalie giving Erin a big hug (Natalie and Erin lezzmance 4eva)  So Erin gets to go back to her island – several weeks later than she no doubt anticipated.  Next week we’ll hopefully be going back to a ‘normal’ week, or at least one where we can actually see what’s going on.  Join Steve then!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Wembley I See You Again

17 November 2012

Last week!  Everyone was surprisingly good but someone had to go, so Fern left, taking Artem’s tits with her. [*sniff* - Steve] To add insult to injury, Pasha was also dumped unceremoniously in the bottom two, although he and Kimberley were saved by a clean sweep of judges.

Tonight!  Last year’s WEMBLEY (Arena) show was the worst in this series’ history, so they’re doing it again!  Hooray! (It makes me even miss BLACKPOOL, as annoying as it was).

And to celebrate the WONDER OF WEMBLEY, we have a half-baked theme (just how half-baked will only become apparent as we get into it.  I warn you to expect a lot of grump from me about this so-called theme – not least as every week has songs from a range of eras and they don’t usually need to dress that up with any kind of theme nonsense) and as we all know, half-baked themes must have a terrible comedy VT.  The premise is that they’re in a limo – possibly the same one from last week that Fern couldn’t get into (prophetic or what?) although the weird grass skirts seem to have gone – and Craig is the driver.  It then becomes like the Delorean from Back to the Future and takes them back in time –  to 1970 (represented by Michael, Nicky and Louis doing Saturday Night Fever, from 1977; surrounded by flower power symbols from 1969) , to 1920 (represented by Dani looking like Charlie Chaplin and Victoria in a flapper outfit), 1980 (represented by Richard, Lisa and Kimberley in trackies and ra-ra skirts – from later in the decade (and not even from the 80s judging by Richard’s top) soundtracked by ‘Footloose’  - from 1984).  This whole segment is replete with BANTER.  The punchline to it all?  Dani is still in black and white and dressed as Charlie Chaplin.  SPOILER: This doesn’t continue into the main show.

Cue titles!

Because one comedy VT is never enough, we open with a terrible skit done in a mock-WW2 style with Len telling the other judges they’re launching ‘operation sequin’ and it descends into a bunch of nonsense and innuendo.  Hooray for Wembley!

We then see Bruno and Craig descend in harnesses as if they were pilots, which cues us into a 1940s themed pro-dance to ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ that has more than a nod to the 00s in the form of the female dancers wearing outfits in the colour of the Britney Spears ‘Toxic’ one (possibly also a nod to Chelsee and Pasha from last year).  Our regular pros (Erin and Anton, Brendan and Natalie, Flavia and Vincent for this bit) are joined by a troupe of others throughout.  It then fuses into Len and Darcey doing some random dancing nonsense before the rest of the pros arrive – including Aliona, BACK FROM THE DEAD! – to ‘Proud Mary’ which appears to be a mash-up of the 1960s and 70s (with very 1980s coloured clothing) – although I’ll let them off as the Credence Clearwater version was around in 68-69 and the Tina Turner one 1970.  For no reason we then have a load of military drummers.  Then the celebrities come out to another decade mash-up: this time the 1980s and 1990s, for they are now apparently one and the same – a medley of some of the best bracketed songs ‘Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)’, ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)’.  They’re all wearing T-shirts with slogans on.  Sadly the slogans we can see (and that’s not all of them as the mens’ jackets obscure theirs and the stupidly large stage obscures everyone else’s) mostly seem to be Len-isms: ‘Love Lisa Lightfoot’, ‘Love Nimble Kimble’, ‘Lovely Ooh Van Outen’, ‘Byrne Baby Byrne’, ‘Love Tricky Dicky’, ‘Love Victorious Vic’.  Aliona gets her paws on Louis for a bit, which she seems inordinately pleased about.  Then it all goes Gangnam Style yet again.  Look, I sat through Children in Need, and there was one bit where that song/dance happened three times in a row in different sections.  ENOUGH!  Then there’s an Andy Warhol-esque portrait of all the celebs’ faces projected onto the floor and some fireworks.  

Well that was… somewhat shambolic.  And already the perils of Wembley are visible – even though all the celebrities and pros are on the stage, accompanied by backing dancers, people waving flags and a load of projections, it still feel vast and empty.  There’s also a really ugly raised stage bit in the middle of the floor which will scupper a few people tonight (whoops, spoilers).  Can’t we just kill WEMBLEY WEEK with fire already? [Agreed. I know that there are noble intentions behind it because it's for charity and everything, but couldn't they just make BLACKPOOL the charity night instead? - Steve]

After last week’s triumphant Claudia takeover of the Tess Circle (and Tess’s rather less successful attempts at being Bruce), Bruce and Tess are back doing their usual duties.  They have to walk so far to get to the stage in the middle that Bruce only does a couple of dance steps and doesn’t even do the velociraptor dance.  He then panics that ‘we haven’t done the leg’ and Tess reluctantly shoves it at him.  The ‘nice to see you’ bit then goes on FOR AN ETERNITY as a lead-in to Bruce saying it’s because Craig has a headache. Bokay then Bruce. He then reminds us of the stupid non-theme and Tess says they’re going ‘from the 20s to the 00s’.  SPOILER: Notsomuch.  Now if you really were going to do that theme, you would, I suppose, need to give everyone a different decade.  And make everything feel decade-appropriate.  But I have nine dances to exercise THEME RAGE on, so best not spend them too quickly.

Daly Dresswatch, BTW?  Adequate black thing let down by a nasty shrug with a horrible neckline.

Bruce then says we need to start with ‘the decade we’re in’ (it’s called the 2010s, Bruce.  Not hugely snappy, I know) and YET AGAIN MORE GANGNAM STYLE.  Was that necessary?  No it was not.  Tess thanks everyone for buying tickets and raising money for Children in Need and Bruce and Tess remind us how the show works. On the red button this week, Russell Grant.  Can you imagine how loud Russell and Karen together would be?  *Shudders* [Imagine if she'd actually been his partner on the show. I bet the results would've been...special. - Steve]

Lisa and Robin are up first.  Lisa is very excited that Bruno compared her to Liza Minelli last week and she’s all ‘Liza Minelli, Lisa Riley – SAME SENTENCE!’  Heh.  She blames her bosom for not giving a big enough gap between her and Robin.  This week they’re going to the 1970s for their samba, which is the cue for them to prat about like they’re in a Flares bar.

They’re dancing to ‘Car Wash’ and there is a literal car wash on stage.  In a tribute to Artem’s tits (RIP) there are two male backing dancers in bare chests and dungarees washing the car.  Lisa is wearing a pink and orange dress which is an interesting colour choice.  Robin's also got his tits out and is half-wearing dungarees – with red converse for… reasons, I guess.  The other dancers then lift her and all four of them start dancing – is that even allowed?  The dance has its moments, but it’s mostly pretty sloppy and imprecise and Robin is having to drag Lisa around for a lot of it. [And he blatantly stands on her foot at one point. - Steve] It’s not *that* samba-y either, but then I blame the disco music for that one.  It ends with Lisa in the splits, though, which gets them a massive whoop from the audience. [I laughed, because all I could think of was how much she reminded me of Mystique doing the same thing on RuPaul's Drag Race, and how the editors always used to soundtrack it with a massive THUD. - Steve]

Bruce welcomes the judges as Lisa looks overwhelmed at the audience reaction.  Bruce then makes a semi-OK joke about the judges going out for a meal: ‘Len says he could murder an Italian’.  Len then makes a load of innuendo about Lisa’s bumpers and headlights.  So classy.  Lisa, bless her, looks somewhat affronted by this – although it’s probably best not to draw attention to these things in your VT if you don’t want them mentioning, I suppose.  Bruno calls her ‘funky, frisky and frothy’ and continues his bisexual moments by telling her she can polish his bonnet anytime.  STOP THIS SICK BBC FILTH NOW.  Craig calls it big, bold and beautiful.  Bruce asks if that was a film, ‘The Bold and The Beautiful’?  It was a Channel 5 daytime soap import from the US, Bruce, as well you know.  Darcey loved it but felt they needed more spring, which gives Lisa and Robin an excuse to bounce up and down.          

It’s a very long way from the judges’ desk to the Tess Circle at WEMBLEY.  Lisa is freaked out by being ‘Lisa from Manchester’ at WEMBLEY.  If only this were BLACKPOOL, you could pretend it was a homecoming.  Tess notes that Robin’s guns are out.  Naturally.  Scores are in: 8,8,8,8 for a total of 32.  Really??  I’d have given it a 6 if I was feeling particularly generous. [I can't believe they got eights when he STOOD ON HER FOOT. It's like the judges on this show are genetically predisposed to overmark anyone called Lisa. - Steve] For some reason Kristina gets to be central in the Tess Circle, even though she’s not playing.  I can only presume it’s so we still get the full extent of her epic bitchfaces.

Next up: Nicky and Karen.  Bruce implores the audience to have a riot for some reason, which is HARDLY APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOUR and I expect a FULL PUBLIC APOLOGY.  Bloody BBC.  Nicky and Karen say  how happy they were about getting good comments last week, but this week it’s a jive, so this is the excuse for Nicky to put on the worst and least-Elvis wig ever and threaten to have a Jedward haircut.  He says Westlife have played Wembley Arena the most times and have their handprints in concrete outside (only four prints are present though, clearly this was from when Bryan had been erased from history).  Karen comments on how little their hands are.  And we all know what little hands mean, eh?  *Nudge nudge wink wink* [If this was supposed to be some suggestion that Nicky has a small penis, I LAUGH HEARTILY. We've all seen the evidence to the contrary, Karen. - Steve]

The 1950s theme consists of Nicky being dressed like Him from The Script and he starts by jigging about on the judges’ table before jumping off uncomfortably.  The dancing is very leaden and clumsy, Nicky is clodding around rather than having the nimble energy the jive needs – although it’s marginally better in hold than out of it.  His kicks are really ungainly and it’s incredibly flat-footed, although his rhythm is better than Michael’s, I suppose.  It ends with him skidding into a cell at the bottom of the stage and Karen being the jailer with a terrible ‘Criminal Record’ sign.  And this happens before the music ends, fans of the comments about Dani and Vincent's timing last week. 

Bruce thanks the singers, DaveArch and the wonderful wonderful orchestra and then asks Nicky if he’s a lifer or a Westlifer.  Nicky says ‘Westlifer’ and Bruce gets offended and is all ‘it was just a joke’.  The joke was just as much lost on me as it was Nicky, Bruce.

Bruno says his timing was good but his kicks and flicks weren’t very sharp.  They were the bluntest thing I’ve ever seen.  Nicky attempts to high-five Bruce and Bruce misses it and Nicky just stands there, awkwardly, with his hand up for ages until Bruce reciprocates.  Craig calls it flat-footed and says he needs to straighten his legs more when he jumps but he loved the energy and character.  Bruce then snarks that it’s better when 6000 people boo Craig, even though there weren’t that many boos for this.  Darcey says he isn’t kicking properly and Karen needs to ‘get him on the ground and stretch his hamstrings’ which prompts a ‘whooo’ from the audience.  FILTH!  Len calls it ‘quick, slick, with plenty of kicks and flicks’ because he wrote this line even before the dance and he’s going to say it, dammit, whatever the quality of the thing.  He then snarks that it wasn’t a jive anyway, it was Rock’n’Roll which has a different leg action.  To which: a) it was supposed to be a jive, and that’s what it should be judged on and b) I thought it had been agreed to never mention the abomination that was the Rock’n’Roll ever again?

Nicky then falls over on the way to the Tess Circle.  The perils of Wembley!  Tess asks him if he’s finally found a love of dancing.  Ha!  (And probably not)  Nicky is pleased he’s performed at Wembley more than the others in Westlife now.  Scores: 6,8,8,8 for a total of 30.  Even the 6 was too high, if you ask me.

Next up, the ‘time machine’ is taking us back to the “1920s” for Denise and James’ Charleston.  Denise is going to be Cleopatra (69-30 BC according to Wikipedia) and Bruce makes a rubbish joke and then asks the audience to boo him, which they do.  Bruce is really weird again tonight.  Denise loved her Paso Doble last week and this week in their dance, she’s going to be Cleopatra and James an explorer.  Their VT is all about Denise not being able to jump because she’s not a BLOODY RINGER, honest.

Their ‘1920s’ dance, set in approximately 40BC, is done to a cover version from the 2000s by the Puppini Sisters of ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’, a track from the 1980s.  So, presumably, they’ve just come as ALL THE DECADES AT ONCE.  Whereas if they’d not mentioned the stupid decade thing, they could just have got away with it.

James enters as Tarzan (origin: 1910s) on a rope and Denise enters as Nancy Dell’Olio from the Tour – same props and music and everything.  Now, when I read they were Charleston-ing to Walk Like an Egyptian, I thought it’d be a car crash of epic proportions, but actually, it works really well and is one of the most interesting Charlestons I’ve seen on this show – although as our erstwhile colleague Carrie pointed out on Twitter, she did spend an age in Chicago, which has several Charleston-esque sequences in.  Despite the obvious RINGERness, I could watch that routine several times and still enjoy it. [I really enjoyed it too - this week was the point I actually became okay with the idea of Denise winning. I'm not proud of it, but there you go. - Steve]

Craig calls it the best Charleston he’s ever seen on Strictly, although (spoilers) he won’t give it as high a score as he gave Chris and Ola’s.  Darcey says it was brilliant and clean, Len liked it when Denise’s skirt flew up and says it’s the best dance of the series so far, whilst Bruno makes some Nefertiti/titty remarks and calls it the jewel of the nile.

On the Tess Circle and Tess has already pinched the topless men who carried Denise on.  And then she goes on about how much she likes the boys a few times.  Scores: 9,10,10,10 for a total of 39 and whilst that score might be a tad on the high side, it’s still the least overmarked dance of the night.  Tess makes a really, really bad joke which I won’t repeat and tells us there is gossip on Facebook and Twitter.  Gossip like how much Louis hates training?

And on that note, Louis and Flavia are next.  In Bruce’s lead in, we see people moving the set and he seems to carry on quite professionally for once, saying the people are ‘just moving the ancient relics’ – then two men come and lift him off.  Bravo, scriptwriters and Bruce, that was actually pretty funny.

The VT reminds us of JUDGEBRAWL over Louis’ dance last week.  This week, like Denise and James, they are ‘dancing through the decades’ in their American Smooth, rather than sticking to any one in particular.  Their American Smooth is Quickstep-based and the lifts involved lead into a comedy VT of Louis carrying Flavia in Fireman’s Lifts all over the place.

They’re dancing to Ray Charles’ ‘I Got a Woman’ (1950s) wearing clothes that are hard to place but could be any mid-20th century, really, and there’s a break in the middle that is taken from ‘Gold Digger’ (2000s).

As is par for the course at stupid Wembley week, the camera is so far from them for most of the performance that it’s hard to tell whether or not it’s any good.  Some of the kicks are nice and there’s an unnecessary gymnastics/breakdancing showcase in the middle which is hardly in the spirit of the dahnce – and it’s potentially a bit worrying that Flavia’s resorting to those tricks already.  Darcey says she loves the tacky tricks, but says he needs to save them for SHOWDANCE (well, ‘just in case you’re in the final’ which is the same thing).  Len thinks it’s just an enhanced Quickstep rather than an American Smooth.  I thought American Smooth was essentially just an enhanced whatever you choose, but then I’m no expert. [Something about FRED AND GINNNNGE, that's all I know. - Steve] Bruno is disappointed that they didn’t have any of the side by side Hollywood-esque moves.  Craig says it was refreshing and nice that they weren’t doing Fred’n’Ginge.  Bruno snarks that ‘it’s still wrong’.  Bruno being the arbiter of the PURITY OF DAHNCE.  Who knew?

Up in the Tess Circle and the ‘olympic feel of the arena’ comments come out.  Le sigh.  Scores: 7, 8, 8, 7 for a total of 30.  Not their best score, and an agreement from Craig and Bruno despite the sniping.

Next it’s Richard and Erin, which is the dance I’m most looking forward to after what they said about it on It Takes Two this week.  Last week, Richard loved gurning his way through the Charleston and he and Erin are going to the 1980s for their salsa, via the medium of ‘Club Tropicana’.  He is very excited to be sharing the stage with Girls Aloud and Kylie.  LOLGAY.  But also: who wouldn’t be?

The stage is the best one of the night: the central platform is a beach, replete with three backing dancers in nothing but tight yellow speedos – one of whom is Shem from the dance troupe - and some sparkly palm trees and a deckchair (Which Richard sits in reading a ‘Strictly Gossip’ magazine) and surrounding it is water full of turtles.  But what’s more exciting, is that this is ERIN ISLAND, for REAL.  Now, you may not know about Erin Island, but our good friend Monkseal has been mentioning it for the past several series, and here it is – I can only wonder if this is Erin’s swansong to the show (before taking up her destined role as Head Judge), because how on earth can she top that?

Then the singer fluffs the lines massively – the main line he misses being CLUB TROPICANA.  IT’s the name of the song, you idiot.  He also James Arthurs it later by saying ‘fun and sadness’ instead of ‘sunshine’.  The dance itself is not brilliant, nor irredeemably terrible, but it’s pretty clunky and Richard’s hips don’t move very much – and again, much of it is seen from OUTER SPACE, stupid Wembley cams.  It ends with Richard pushing Erin onto a crash mat in the sea, i.e. KILLING HER, so he can take the speedo-clad men. 

Bruce is shocked that any man could forsake Erin just for some other men.  Bruno is very excited about the banana hammocks and says he bets Richard can’t wait to go back to Speedo world (other brands are available) and it was sketchy but fun.  Craig says it was stompy and flat footed and Richard’s hips need to do more figure 8s.  He likes the boys though.  Richard asks if he has a VPL and Darcey mishears and says ‘what, no knickers?’ And Richard’s all ‘I can’t go commando on the BBC’ (not in this climate anyway).  Bruce has had enough of the gayness and the filth and packs them of to the Tess Circle, where Kristina is getting drunk.  Scores: 5, 6, 7, 6 for a total of 24.  Tess says ‘it’s not your lowest score’.  Thanks for the faint praise, Tess!

Coming up, the “60s” with Dani and Vincent and the “90s” with Kimberley and Pasha.  But we’re back in the 1970s now, with Team Brendleton (sorry, that’s terrible, I know).  Bruce reminds the audience he was on telly in the 70s (and the 90s, Bruce) and pleas for them to bring the Generation Game back.  Victoria loved her quickstep last week and tries (fails) to sound excited about Wembley.  They do a 1970s impression in hippy gear, which really is late 60s and early 70s and probably not 1978 when ‘Bicycle Race’ came out.  Victoria can jump better than Denise.  It’s possibly the only thing she can do better though (cycling aside).  And Victoria is going to fly.  I think we’re all worried.

The costuming for their paso doble is inspired: Victoria’s in a lycra glittery catsuit (very period) with Union Jack printing and a caped skirt in the same colours.  Her hair is crimped and woven with blue and she has mad eye make up on – so far, so glam rock.  She enters flying on a bike, which she doesn’t even pedal – meaning Victoria is probably trailing Louis in gratuitous use of Olympian skills right now.  Then Brendan capes about for ages with a Union Flag whilst Victoria is nowhere to be seen and he gets it stuck on his face at one point.  This song, by the way, is entirely wrong for a Paso – it has totally the wrong tempo and rhythm.  And whereas odd song choice paid off for Denise and Brendan, here it really doesn’t.  Victoria looks a bit lost swishing the skirt (I can just imagine Fern screaming at her TV at home) and she mostly stands about looking angry – although she at least does angry face quite well.  Her arms aren’t very strong and she’s a bit awkward, although she can indeed jump.  She then staggers down into the final pose and it’s all a bit ungainly – but that whole routine was hampered massively by the music.  It just wasn’t much of a paso.

Bruno says the shaping wasn’t there and Brendan was being too ambitious in the choreography.  Craig says her arms need shaping and her shoulders need to be down, Darcey says it started well but she was overwhelmed by the space (which is stupidly big and can hardly help any of them).  Len says the jumping was a bit repetitious but there were some good twist turns and sometimes her arms were placed.  Darcey tries to interject and Len snarks that she’s had her turn.

In the Tess Circle, Victoria says she enjoyed it ‘but unfortunately you don’t get points for that’.  Scores: 5, 6, 7, 6 for a total of 24 and a space rooted alongside Richard and Erin at the bottom of the judges’ leaderboard unless anyone else coming up is worse, but I imagine that’s unlikely.

Dani and Vincent next and Bruce makes a rubbish joke about hotpants which you can guess the punchline to.  After their visit to the 1950s via the medium of a 1970s TV show, they’re off to the 1960s for their quickstep although Vincent’s bright pink costume still looks a bit 1950s in style.  Maybe he just liked it so much he decided to stay there.  Their comedy VT is all about how exciting and big Wembley is and how TINY they both are.  I’m so bored of a) Wembley and b) the tiny storyline. 

They’re dancing to ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’, which apparently hasn’t been a quickstep song since Will and Hanna in series two although it feels like it’s been used a lot more than that.  The song, by the way, is from 1966 and the lighting is in the design of the colour test card, first used in 1967, so hooray for being closer to your decade than most other people. 

As usual, the camera work means you can barely see this dance, but from what you can see, they’re struggling a bit with the enormity of the space, and Dani’s kicks could have more conviction, but the pace is really quick and they look good together. [I wasn't really taken with this - Dani's face just looked so strained throughout. - Steve]

Craig calls it fast, efficient and fearless.  Darcey says it was light and clean.  Len says the quantity of steps and the quality of movement were there.  Bruno calls her his ‘gorgeous little Smurf’.  Isn’t that a bit heightist?  (Like the whole of this series hasn’t been a bit heightist where these two are concerned) and liked the Motown touches they put in the routine.

Tess notes that they had a good go at covering the whole floor.  Vincent says it was too much and Dani concurs, as do I.  Tess drops the ‘dark horse’ bomb and Dani says you’ll have to ask ‘Papa Smurf’ (Vincent.  Also: ewww) whilst Vincent calls her the ‘Dark Pony’.  They don’t really help themselves, do they.  Scores: 9, 9, 9, 9 for a total of 36 which I think it probably would have earned in a smaller space, though I’m not convinced the performance we’ve just seen merits it.  But then the scores tonight are... something else.

Next up it’s  Kimberley and ‘Pasta’ and Bruce decides his mistake is a thing now and calls him Pasha Carbonara.  Last week they got their best score ever and were second on the leaderboard but nobody voted for them so they were in the dance off.  This week is the samba.  Pasha says there’s a lot of shaking in the carnival in Brazil and Kimberley says she likes to shake it.  Like everyone else, they’re going to resort to extreme showboating this week in the form of Pasha’s tits. And Kimberley’s judging by her outfit – something for everyone!  She enters shimmying with a long skirt attached to the stage.  There’s then a clumsy bit where she has to undo it, but they recover.  The song, by the way, is ‘Livin La Vida Loca’ but nothing else about this screams ‘90s’.  Stupid theme.

The dance is better when they’re side by side rather than together, as they’re in sync and working things well, but it’s energetic and fun, if a little strained in a few places – not as strained as the singer trying to get out the last refrain though.  MINE EARS.  Darcey says she needs to do more work on her core, but otherwise it was fiery and she can shake her tush.  Bruce asks what a tush is.  Oh, Bruce.  Len says he’ll pickle his walnuts if she’s in the dance-off.  I’d rather hoped we would be free from that image this series, but… it’s Len.  Bruno makes a perv joke about her reaching his core.  Craig says her steps were fabulous and he hopes people vote.  Bruce then tries to make more pasta jokes but Pasha has already run away.

In the Tess Circle, Kimberley says she had so much fun  She and Tess pervs over Pasha’s chest before reminding them they were in the dance-off.  Sensitive as ever, Daly.  Scores: 8, 8, 9, 9 for a total of 34 and their joint highest score today. [Craig and Darcey are ON MY LIST for apparently thinking Kimberley's samba was no better than Lisa's. Fuck's sake. - Steve] Tess says 'Livin La Vida Strictly'.  I think the stint of her being Bruce last week has gone to her head.  Bad Tess!

And finally, it’s Michael and Natalie.  They’re dancing to an ‘old Frank Sinatra song’, ‘Theme from New York, New York’ which I am genuinely shocked to hear is again from the 1970s (70s domination!  Where’s Bake-Off Brendan when you need him) and was originally a Liza Minelli song –which is one of those facts I should totally know and feel ashamed about not doing.  Last week, Michael was thrown a bit when he made a mistake but this week he’s excited about BLOODY WEMBLEY.   SIGH.

Their costumes aren’t at all 70s, but that’s fine because the theme is bobbins anyway.  They have a lot of leotard, jacket and top hat wearing female dancers behind them – I’m not sure I approve of all these extra cast members everyone has tonight.  Except the residents of Erin Island and that’s only because it was exactly how I imagined her island in my head.

Anyway, the dance is elegant, with some accomplished lifts, although in one of them, Natalie’s skirt smacks Michael right in the face and in another he looks completely terrified of dropping her, although he doesn’t.  His legs are a bit awkward in a couple of places and he’s not much of a one for the kicks, but these are small things in a bloody good routine.  It earns them a standing ovation and Bruce tells him to remember it forever.  Michael just says he was frightened of dropping Natalie and asks who would believe he nearly left six weeks ago?  Well, anyone who’s seen his Latin, Bruce, but bless his heart.

Len says it was a proper production that deserved to be the last dance.  Bruno says he lived up to the production values but there were a couple of places where you could see the terror in his face.  Craig says it shows how hard he’s been rehearsing and Darcey invokes the dreaded Fred’n’Ginge and says the lift was perfect.  Bruce says it’s amazing what Natalie has done and Natalie says ‘it’s not just me!’  Bless these two, I love them so much.

Tess says the lift was ambitious and Natalie says she trusts him and Michael says he was rubbish at catching when he was a cricketer.  Tess asks if he has his eye on the goal.  Wrong sport, Tess.  Scores: 9, 9, 9, 8 for a total of 35.  Bruno is booed and he says it was for the arms, although I thought his arms were pretty decent and his legs needed work.  Still, what do I know?  (And of course I couldn’t see half of it.  THANKS CAMERAS.)

Denise and James 39
Dani and Vincent 36
Michael and Natalie 35
Kimberley and Pasha 34
Lisa and Robin 32
Nicky and Karen 30
Louis and Flavia 30
Richard and Erin 24
Victoria and Brendan 24

I’m not sure what kind of world we’re living in when Louis and Flavia are both below Lisa and Robin (especially after their effort tonight) and on a par with that clomping about Nicky and Karen did.  But also: OUCH at the gulf of marks between the bottom two couples and everyone else.

Well, we made it, everyone.  Just the results show to go and we can put the horror of WEMBLEY behind us for another year.  And please for EVER?  It just doesn't feel fair on the performers to make them use that space, and it certainly isn't fair on us viewers.  

Bruce calls it 'Ballroom's Biggest Night of the Year'.  Latin didn't come out of the experience quite so well,, however.  He reminds us KYLIE will be here 'tomorrow' and also Girls Aloud with their slightly ropey new single.  Tess reminds us to give to Children in Need and then the pros and celebrities all run back on with Aliona centre stage - then all the pro/celeb couples get namechecked and do a little dance - were they running under time or something?  I know it's in front of a live audience, but the live audience will be seeing them all again in a few minutes for the results.  Fireworks explode, Bruno cries, we get told to keep dancing, and then it keeps going a bit and Brendan showboats all over the place.  I'm not sure that was all entirely planned.

Anyway, join me tomorrow for KYLIE!  And someone going home as well, probably Richard and Erin seeing as there's no way she will ever top tonight.