Launch show. Sunday 7 September 2014.
We're back! Yes, it's time to polish the sequins, slip gel cushions in the stilettos and get those vocal chords ready for repeated shouts of 'Fuck off Len'. It's time for Strictly Come Dancing 2014!
We open with a slightly surreal sketch set in Brucie's stately manor as his official 'handover' begins - he's been set a mission to retrieve 'the team' via the means of a comedy VT. The narrative of this VT is thus: we cut to Tess'n'Claud in a wardrobe room with Claudia on a sewing machine (Great British Sewing Bee represent!). He rings Kevin in some mock-up chippy called 'Grimsby's Fish and Chips' as if there is such a place (TBF I am just assuming it's not a place. Or plaice. I might be wrong). He retrieves Anton, Aljaž and Brendan from the golf course (now there's as an unlikely a set of golfing buddies as there ever was), Natalie and Ola from a spray tanning booth, Janette, Kristina and Karen from a shopping trip and Pasha, Iveta and Aliona from a snowball fight (LOL FORRINS). We then get a weird glimpse into Bruce's severance package whereby Darcey serves as his secretary, Len as his chauffer, Bruno his tea boy and Craig his shoeshine boy (What makes it delicious is everyone else camping this skit up and Len very visibly FUMING at the indignity. And that is exactly what I pay my licence fee for so well done everyone. The only thing that would have enhanced it is a quick cut to the Big Brother house to see James dying inside as he watches Gary Busey playing with his man bits yet again).
We then get our second introduction, involving everyone on the red carpet, including Bruce, Tess and Claudia being announced together (and Bruce is still the alpha presenter on the website. God, he has a gooood agent). Some woman in the crowd cries that she has waited all her life for this. For the rerecorded launch show of the twelfth series of a celeb reality dancing show in which there is barely any dancing (and some would say barely any celebrity, miaow). I feel for her. The celebrities talk about how excited they are to be there. Max Branning says it beats a night at the Queen Vic. Given that an average night at the Queen Vic involves at least four shouting matches, a fist fight, at least one arrest and some sort of familial revelation, I expect a stint on this show is going to be like a nice up of Horlicks and a sit down in comparison. [Max is hardly ever in the Vic these days, anyway. He's usually just slumped at his dining table looking surly and being rude to his daughters. - Steve]
We open with a pro partner-swap dance to 'I Haven't Stopped Dancing Yet' which makes me shudder at the memory of this - and don't tell me you're not having nightmares about being made to recreate it, Scott Mills [I was entirely unaware of this before I clicked on the link, and now I'm scarred for life. You're a cruel, cruel woman. - Steve] - before replacing it with a new horror in the form of Brucie tap dancing. And to think I was hoping we'd be spared all of this with his new 'role'. Then a bunch of randoms (let's assume they are more associate members of the Clifton family) join them and they dance off the red carpet and into the ballroom (with a glitterball projected on the floor and stage) where all the judges get to dance on, and then Claudia and Tess arrive, held aloft on thrones reminding us of the grand tradition that is the Strictly sit-down.
Brucie welcomes us and does the nice to see us to see us nice bit and tells the audience they're better than the audiences of the past ten years and gets a stooge to ask him why he didn't leave ages ago. Bruce says he'll miss the show, Davearch and the band but he's perfectly happy to be able to shag Poor Wilnelia every Saturday instead. He introduces Tess and Claudia as beautiful young women which I can't help but feel is a BBC dig at those who claim it retires women once they hit their 40s, given its two biggest shows are now both presented by over-40s female presenting teams. (This is, of course, brilliant, by the way, although we've still got a way to go until octogenerian women grope their younger male counterparts' thighs openly on primetime Saturday night, eh, Bruce?) Also, you know, a bit safer in these post Operation Yewtree days, I suspect. Daly dresswatch: a nice enough long black thing with a white trim. Claudia dresswatch: black. [I suspect Claudia Dresswatch is going to be a fairly repetitive strand in these recaps. Also, to keep the alliteration going I would like to suggest renaming it What Winkleman's Wearing. - Steve] With sparkly stripy bits. Bruce tells us he's not really leaving, he'll still be hanging round like a particularly eggy fart for the Children in Need and Christmas specials.
Anway, enough of Brucie, it's time to see whose agents are working for the money and getting them the most hyperbolic introductions! Star of MasterChef, Gregg Wallace! Pop Princess Pixie Lott! Wildlife expert Steve Backshall! Tennis coach Judy Murray! TV presenter and radio DJ Mark Wright! Star of Casualty Sunetra Sarker! Bargain Hunt's antiques expert Tim Wonnacott! From the Saturdays, pop star Frankie Bridge! Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills! This Morning reporter, Alison Hammond! Rugby star and model Thom Evans! Star of Mrs Brown's Boys, Jennifer Gibney! From Blue, pop star Simon Webbe!, TV Presenter Caroline Flack! EastEnders star Jake Wood! Or, as you might otherwise know them, 'Surely he must have already done Strictly?', 'Are times that hard already love?', 'Not sure who he is but he's not Ray Mears or Bear Grylls', 'That's someone's mum, OMG WORST CAST EVER', 'HIM OFF TOWIE GOOD GOD THIS ISN'T CELEBRITY BIG BROTHER', 'Zoe Hanna off Casualty, so underappreciated when we could have had the Connie/Zoe ruling bitch team of awesome', 'David Dickinson lite', 'The one from the Saturdays whose name you might know', 'Radio 2 is beckoning'. 'HER OFF BIG BROTHER ARE YOU SHITTING ME WHAT IS THIS', 'Tess Daly's latest harrassment victim', 'Mrs Mrs Brown, who is also Mrs Brown's daughter and what people get up to in the privacy of their own bedrooms is their own business but I'm not thanking you that now I have to think about this', 'The one from Blue that isn't Duncan, Lee or that one that pisses in the street' [that we know of, anyway - Steve], 'OMG EVIL OLD HARPY DIE (Harry Styles fans) / Ha! Fuck you Simon Cowell! (others)', 'Max Branning'. (Actually, despite all the grumbling on that there internet, I think this is actually a pretty good cast that should appeal to a wide demographic). [Yep, I'm generally pretty happy with it. Although I think the real test will be their chemistry as a whole over the coming weeks. I'm dying for something to rival the epic Susanna/Fiona hatemance from last year. - Steve]
Tess and Claudia remind us how the show works and that after tonight's pairings, the training will begin in three weeks' time. They welcome the judges back. The judges tell them all the usual gubbins about working hard and Craig lies about how awesome last year's standard was (I mean it was good, but I can think of at least two series, probably three or four, where the overall standard of the best dancers was stronger). [And really, when your overall winner is ABBEY FUCKING CLANCY, there's always room for improvement. - Steve]
We meet our first male celebrities. Gregg Wallace tells us he likes eating pudding and he's about to be "40-10". Oh boy, we know how much fun that narrative was when Patrick Robinson was on the show. GET READY EVERYONE. [No one's landmark Strictly birthday will ever have the longevity of Letitia Dean turning 40. - Steve] Jake Wood says he hopes people don't think he's actually Max Branning and he begins baby warz early by getting a cute picture of his kids in there. Steve Backshall tells us about all the dangerous animals he's filmed with and we get our obligatory Craig joke. Thom Evans has played rugby but got injured and then made a career taking his top off [and how! - Steve], so he'll be right at home here. He also claims to have choreographed N*Sync routines with his brother as a kid, which would be super adorkable if it didn't make me feel old (N*Sync ARE kids aren't they?).
Gregg's partnered with Aliona whose bitchface is a sight to behold as you might expect. Cheer up Aliona, he might secretly have a house in an exotic country like Tony did last year. Or else he might be in the market for yet another young wife. I mean, win/win right? Tess introduces Jake as Jaykwood, like Jedward. He is partnered with Janette and looks vaguely scared at the prospect. Steve is paired with Ola who seems happy enough with her inevitable mid-table placing. Tess pets Thom who is paired with a surprised and happy Iveta.
Len says he thinks he fancies Thom the most of the final four because he is a SPORTSMAN (not in so many words, I mean, he attempts some pun around the word scrum, but we all know what he means). Up in Claudia's counselling circle, Claud pervs over Thom but is too far away from him to pet his gunz.
It's now time to meet our new pros: Trent Whiddon from Australia, Tristan McManus from Ireland and Joanne Clifton - Kevin's sister - from Grimsby. Trent introduces himself as a 'dance champion' from Australia. Very specific there, Trent. Joanne is the current 'world ballroom showdance champion'. Tristain has won the 'All-Ireland championships'. They jig about to 'Rather Be' and are then joined by the other pros. There seems to be a lot of partner-swapping in the pro dances tonight so it's probably a bit too early to say who's paired with who - although that was pretty tricky last year too. [Pasha is definitely paired with Ola, because James made a huge deal out of it on Twitter. That's all I know. - Steve]
Up in Claud's counselling centre, we welcome Davearch, the singers, the audience and the remaining celebrities who are all nervous, obviously.
We then have 'special' guests Five Seconds of Summer, who sound like they were named after one of those dramatic Hollyoaks trailers that promise SPLOSIONS and DEATH. Their music sounds like hot fried arse, however. Kevin and Karen do some wafting in front of it and Karen almost has a wardrobe malfunction. 5SOS (as I assume they're nicknamed) look like what would happen if McFlea, Alex Parks, the Zaynwreck (<3) and Benjamin Cook had progeny, by the way. Which is... a look.
Tess and Claudia remind us of all the filler that we have waiting on our way to the actual good stuff - the routine where we try to decide which celebs can actually dance.
Time to meet our first female celebrities. Caroline Flack is more sensitive than teenage girls give her credit for and also fuck you Simon Cowell. Jennifer Gibney is on Mrs Brown's Boys which is not a thing that I know anything about save that it is very much not my thing. But it IS lots of people's things and she does seem like quite good fun so mark her down as this year's menopausal goddess for the mams' vote. [I can't bring myself to enjoy Mrs Brown's Boys, but whenever I've seen her being herself she seems like a laugh. - Steve] Pixie Lott tells us she went to stage school but is not a DIRTY RINGAH.
Claudia gets Caroline to do paso face. She is partnered with Pasha, who seems quite shocked given he's long overdue a Widdy or a Fern. Claudia calls their pairing adorable on every level. Jennifer wants to have fun and she's partnered with Tristan so cue all the cougarly VTs and Oirish banter, which they get in early so that I hope the whole of Ireland votes for you get the message (can the Irish vote in Strictly, or am I just making assumptions here?). [Online, maybe? I've never seen heard them read out ROI phone numbers at any point. - Steve] Fourth place in the final, I'm calling it now. Pixie is paired with Trent and Claudia says they look like twins. I look forward to their recreation of all the incestuous twin storylines from Phil Redmond soaps but via the medium of dahnce.
Abbey and Aljaž are welcomed back to remind us they existed: you know, Scouseness, army VTs, surprise winning, me nehves. They recreate their 'Kissing You' waltz involving Aljaž's bum in white trousers which is all very lovely.
Claudia has the newly created pairs up in the counselling circle and Pasha seems slightly nervous as Caroline starts to reveal the madness encased within that suggests she might be much more fun than I expected.
Footage of the celebs and pros meeting for the first time and rehearsing the group dance follows with everyone talking about the first day of school feeling. Caroline and Mark have a wee ITV2 reunion which basically goes 'I can't believe we're on actual BBC One!' 'I know! It's like being on proper telly!' The men seem... a bit star jumpy. The women a bit... aerobics at the community centre. Tess still can't pronounce Ola's name.
The rest of the male celebrities are introduced now. Simon Webbe has done one of the Christmas specials before and I remember absolutely nothing about it, which bodes well. He wishes to point out that even though he was in a boy band, he's not a RINGAH as all they did was shrug their shoulders a bit. He's been down the gym and seems quite willing to get his tits out, which is probably good given his partnering. Tim is not actually David Dickinson. Yes, he does Bargain Hunt, but his gimmick isn't Ronseal, his gimmick is some sort of awkward leg kick thing. OK then. He seems rather game for a laugh for such an obvious first boot. Scott does quite a good Nick Grimshaw impression. Mark has a poor grasp of grammar, saying 'there is so many things to be excited about' and jokes that he's never worn fake tan despite being from TOWIE.
Simon is paired with Kristina. I voted for her to win in Monkseal's pro poll so I'm vaguely hopeful, boy band and all that - but then Kristina's had people who looked like contenders before and they were either not (Joe, Ben) or they wore themselves out (Jason) - and boy band members aren't always a shoo-in (hi Nicky Westlife and Nicky's no-no). [Also, Simon got the same score as Barry McGuigan when he did the Christmas Special, which doesn't seem to bode that well. - Steve] Anyway, Kristina is suitably excited about her potential to go full on Camilla-Flavia and get the hell out of here running as fast as she can with the glitterball under her arm good god hasn't she done enough years on this show already surely now is Kristina time. Tim is paired with poor Natalie, who is surely overdue a ringer, but perhaps she's being eased back in gently this year after her injury. NATALIE LOWE FACT: I saw her on the train in the summer hiding in the corridor bit on her phone the entire journey, wearing all white and looking immaculate. Scott is paired with Joanne and he twizzles her around a bit and says he's very happy because he was secretly hoping for her. This means Mark and Karen get to be the Digital Spy villainous couple of the series. Can you IMAGINE the amount of hatethreads there probably already are on there? We haven't even started yet.
Craig says he's looking forward to judging Gregg Wallace after Gregg judged him on Celebrity MasterChef. These celebrity reality shows are all getting a bit meta aren't they? [I love how nobody ever mentions that Gregg and Brendan were on the same series of Just The Two Of Us. And Brendan thrashed him. - Steve]
In Claudia's counselling circle, Natalie lies that she's wanted Tim all along but they do at least seem to be able to make each other laugh. Claudia points out to Scott that Joanne is a world champion. Mark says Karen is really kind and he wants her to be patient with him. Karen's LOLWHUT face is quite adorable.
Time for more filler! It's Smokey Robinson duetting with Imelda May on a version of 'Get Ready' that manages to completely change the tune - and not in a good way. Can we get an SOS out there to Paloma Faith please? Pros dancing together in front of it: Pasha and Ola; Brendan and Aliona; Kristina and Trent.
The final women are introduced now. Alison Hammond is basically now the most successful person to come out of civilian Big Brother think on that. She likes glitter. Judy Murray is famous for having successful sons but also coaching tennis. Her sons don't want her to embarrass them on TV and she thinks it's hilarious. She likes the idea of a challenge. Judy = <3. Sunetra Sarker can do minor first aid but isn't an actual doctor, y'know. Her mum used to dance but she's NOT A RINGAH. She's doing it for her kid Noah. But if you think the BBC drama stars got the baby wars in early, Frankie from the Saturdays and S Club Juniors has a baby that's actually still a baby. Also she's not a RINGAH and the Saturdays are on tour. They've got a Greatest Hits out and with her and Rochelle doing all the reality shows I think we can smell the splitting up vibes a mile away. Sorry Mollie, whichever one is Una and whatever the fifth one is called. [Vanessa. She's already done Popstar To Operastar. - Steve]
Alison is paired with Aljaž and she screams about Ali and Ali. There are quite a few alliterations among pairings, both pro and pro-am, this year. Claudia asks if Judy would put all the boys' tennis trophies in the bin if she won the Glitterball and Judy agrees. The smile is then wiped off her face when she's lumbered with Anton. I was rather gutted that Judy and Brendan didn't get to be the fierce evil team of awesome, but as people pointed out on the Twitters, Judy isn't going to let Anton get away with his usual shit, and watching her take him to task might be quite fun. [I really wanted Judy and Brendan too. Or Judy and Pasha, for the lulz. - Steve] Also, the, er, complexion of the final four might have made it obvious who was being paired with Anton. Sunetra gets Brendan and is thankful for it - it could be a fun pairing. Kevin and Frankie are then paired up which means he could, potentially, have another finallist. He says he loves Saturdays. Given the lack of definitive article, he presumably means the day. Sneaky way of pretending to compliment your partner Kevin, I like it.
Len says he fancies older men so hopes Tim sticks around. Claudia asks Bruno which pair will make him fall off his chair and he says Tess and Claudia but also all the contestants are sexy. Can I also just point out that I didn't quite get why the internet was full of congratulations to Tess and Claudia on their 'first' show. They presented much more of the last series (if we include Sundays, which we presumably do) than Tess and Bruce did, so they're hardly inexperienced.
And now for the bit we're all interested in - which celebs can move. Unfortunately we don't get as much of a look at them as usual, but on first glance, the pop stars seem good as you might expect from NOT RINGAHS HONEST, Alison and Judy can keep time and Tim and Jake seem a bit cumbersome. The pros and celebs all pretend to be happy with their pairings - and that's it for a few weeks. We'll be back when the live shows start - join us then!