Sunday, 12 October 2014

Saturday night at the movies

Week 3: Top 14 Perform (Movie Week) - 11 October 2014

Just to keep things interesting, there's no recap of last week at the top of the show; instead we go into the first of many (many, many) comedy VTs, this one focused on the celebs "auditioning" for their Movie Week roles. Jake and Caroline audition with a scene from Forrest Gump, with Jake as an amusingly dead-eyed Forrest and Caroline as the woman next to him on the park bench who is none too pleased to discover that the box of chocolates that serves as a metaphor for life is in fact "disappointing and empty". Simon and Steve do the "I'm flying!" scene from Titanic, although Steve seems to be wearing Joanne's The Little Mermaid wig for reasons best known to himself. (Also I'm amazed he managed to tolerate Simon's hands around his midriff without his usual gay-panic fluster, but perhaps he's growing as a person.) Thom, Pixie and Tim (in a ginger wig!) attempt to be Harry Potter, Hermione and Ron, but Thom's wand isn't functioning properly. (Odd, that's never been a problem in any of his Dieux du Stade photoshoots.) Alison, Mark and Scott are auditioning for ET, but apparently Alison isn't entirely convincing in her audition to play a five-year-old white girl. Sunetra and Judy are auditioning for Jaws and neither one of them can keep a straight face, which I'm fairly certain was not the gag as scripted but hey, it works for me, and Jennifer just decides to bolt before her audition even starts. After all, it's not as if she's used to men in drag and punchlines that don't really land in her day job or anything. Cue titles!

If you thought the recent gimmick of having the judges pirouette on at the beginning was a bit excessive and hammy, you're not going to like what's coming: we open with a group dance to 'There's No Business Like Show Business', sung by the judges. Craig gets the first two lines, and Len gets the next one. Len can't really sing, but in the grand tradition of Len I'm going to award him a couple of bonus points for COMIN AHHT and GIVIN IT SUM GERCHA all the same. Bruno picks up from there and is disappointingly quiet, and then Special Guest Judge Donny Osmond hams up it up good. Darcey, in arguably the most sensible decision she'll make all series, does not join in with the singing at all. Imagine how great it would have been if Alesha had still been here for this: she could have broken it down and done some freestyle MCing in the middle eight. Strictly with the bump and flex! From there the band take over the singing, and I don't think any of us have ever been so glad to hear them. Points of interest during the rest of the number: the cut to Judy on the line about "a turkey that you know will fold", Pixie being inexplicably styled to look like Denise Van Outen, Darcey attempting to join a kickline in a dress that completely restricts her movement below the knees, Sunetra (as far as I can tell) being the only celeb who gets to use her actual outfit for her main dance in this number as well. [I think poor Jennifer was in the same dreadful dress, just sans demin pinny - Rad]

Once again Tess and Claudia are escorted down the stairs by Brendan and Aljaž. Daly Dresswatch: a white scoopneck top paired with a simple black skirt. (Her outfits this year, with a few notable exceptions, do seem to be a lot more flattering. Could it be that Bruce was behind all those hideous ensembles from years gone by after all?) What Winkleman's Wearing: black, obviously. In the audience: Nick Grimshaw and Denise Van Outen. She's sitting down, just like she did for the entirety of Chicago! Claudia reminds us that Donny Osmond is here, as if we'll be given any chance to forget that at any point tonight, and Tess reminds us that Movie Night will not prompt a sequel for Gregg Wallace, who was the first one to be booted out last week.

Let's welcome our box office draws, shall we? Jake and Janette (in mostly black), Pixie and Trent (as Belle and Lumière, which is so perfect I can't even), Steve and Ola (in matching leopard print), Judy and Anton (in gold sequins - Judy, thankfully, not Anton), Mark and Karen (as Superman and...Wonder Woman? Can that be right?), Alison and Aljaž (both in various degrees of red), Frankie and Kevin (Kevin sporting some natty red trousers), Tim and Natalie (with Natalie as Liza Minnelli, which has guaranteed them my vote before they've even done anything), Caroline and Pasha (with Pasha in silver trousers and a jacket unzipped to the navel so they're clearly going to be fighting Tim and Natalie for my support every step of the way), Simon and Kristina (him in an aviator jacket, her in a man's shirt), Jennifer and Tristan (with Tristan's chest hair out to play once again, and a nice tight pair of white trousers - seriously, good job this week, costume department), Scott and Joanne (wearing a mere suggestion of their actual costumes for this evening, so let's save the full horror for later), Sunetra and Brendan (yep, definitely the same outfit she had on for the group dance), and finally Thom and Iveta (with Thom in a sailor suit, so I guess that despite his wand problems from earlier, he's still got some very able seamen).

Once they're all in place, Claudia welcomes this week's "plot twist", the presence of guest judge Donny Osmond, and Tess reminds us that he won Dancing With The Stars. And if you think the gimmicky theme weeks on this show are insultingly cheesy, take a look at Donny's 80s paso doble right here. (Also, if you think we get a raw deal on the guest judge front, they've got Jessie J filling in for Len this week. JESSIE J.) Donny says that he knows what it's like to be in their shoes right now, and that he'll bring "an interesting perspective". I place a preliminary call to the Trades Descriptions Act.

Up first tonight are Alison and Aljaž. Tess tells us that Alison has been looking forward to this week because "she spends most of her working life interviewing the starsfilmstars and tonight she gets to be one". Smooth, Tess. Smooth. Alison tells us that she enjoyed her "character-driven" foxtrot last week - she was a bit disappointed with her scores, but is still happy that she scored above five. It's almost as if something's being foreshadowed here, isn't it? This week Alison has the jive to 'Footloose' from Footloose. She says that it's a perfect fit for her, because it's a film about people who love dancing, and she loves dancing - she loves it so much that she even dances when she's not rehearsing with Aljaž. That's pretty much it. There's not much of a narrative here. (Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but Footloose isn't so much a "a film about people who love dancing" as it is a film about an overly pious minister trying to outlaw fun. I'm amazed they managed to resist making any sort of joke about Craig here.)

They begin the routine, which is prom-themed, sitting down (Aljaž does seem to be fond of that as an opening, doesn't he?) and making dorkfaces at each other before getting up to jive. Alison's energy and enthusiasm is as present as ever here, but unfortunately most of it is above the waist - she gives the kicks and flicks section her all and gets her leg up impressively high, but her footwork is a little bit leaden, and if you watch how fast Aljaž is moving compared to Alison, it does show that she just hasn't quite got the nimbleness in her legs to do a really convincing jive. I think this dance in particular was always going to be a struggle for Alison, because it's one of the Latin dances where you do actually need some technique to go with the sass, but she gives it a go and maintains her energy all the way through, so it's all entirely passable.

Tess welcomes the singers (not individually this week) along with Davearch and his wonderful orchestra, and then Len opens for the judges by saying it wasn't just Footloose, it was "all a little bit loose" in places. Well, I guess we know who's playing John Lithgow in this version. But he credits her for coming out and giving it a go, because: Len. Bruno says that he doesn't think there's anything wrong with a loose woman (depends which one, if you ask me), and tells Alison that everything's working well up top, but she didn't have the precision in her feet. Craig thought there needed to be a lot more energy in the leg-department and it lacked any definition, but he enjoyed Alison giving it her "own flavour", as usual. Darcey says that the boys are right (she must be thrilled this week, there are even more boys to be right than normal!) - Alison knows how to sell a performance, but she felt that Alison wasn't as happy in this dance as she was in the previous two. Alison: "I'll be honest with you, Darcey, I did nearly have a heart attack halfway through." Donny bellows "HELLO ALISON!" and she squeals "HI DONNY! HAVE YOU GOT THAT 10 READY?" Hee. He says that the other judges know the technical stuff, whereas he was looking at the performance, and "BABY YOU PERFORMED IT TONIGHT!" Get used to Donny yelling a lot, readers. And saying "baby" a lot. It's going to be a looooooong night. [In a throwback reference to former Special Guest Judge Jennifer Grey, I wish somebody had put Baby in the corner tonight.  Badumtish.  - Rad]

Alison and Aljaž head up to the Clauditorium (again, thanks to Pet Monkey on DS for coming up with that name), grabbing some popcorn from a nearby usherette on the way, where Claudia congratulates her on opening the show, and Alison is excited that this means she can just sit back and enjoy the show now. Aljaž says that he's very proud of Alison, and he thought she was great tonight. It's amazing how much more fun Aljaž is when he has a partner with a bit of personality - it's not that I ever thought he was boring last year, but he was just sort of...there, mostly notable for having a nice face and a very nice arse. This year, he's way more entertaining, and I continue to be thoroughly impressed by his deft use of camp in routines without going overboard. Well, not yet, anyway. Scores are in: Craig 4, Darcey 5, Donny "7 BABY!", Len 6, Bruno 6 for a total of 28. For those of you who want to track the progress of the contestants without guest-judgey gimmicks, I will also be giving each contestant a Non-Donny Score (NDS for short), establishing the points they would have earned on the regular 40-point scale, so Alison has an NDS of 21.

Steve and Ola and their general air of Flintstones realness are next. Steve admits that he knew last week wasn't going to be one of his better efforts, but he just tried to enjoy it. Their theme for the week is The Jungle Book, of course, and he and Ola are going to be a pair of chimps. A pair of chimps in leopard print. Sure, that makes all the sense. To get Ola into the spirit of things, Steve takes her off to a wildlife park and introduces her to some ringtailed lemurs, which Ola doesn't look too thrilled about. You'd think she'd be more comfortable around uncontrollable primates with no understanding of your personal space, having been married to James for so long.

They're dancing the quickstep to 'I Wanna Be Like You', which of course was done brilliantly by Scott and Natalie back in series eight. Here, Steve and Ola spend the entire verse faffing around and doing monkey impressions and it's not until the chorus that they actually take hold, at which point Steve's frame is a bit loose and there's a bit of gapping, but it's a sprightly and fun performance. There's a charleston breakdown in the middle of it, which seems a bit of a cheat, but I've given up expecting anyone to enforce the rules in regular weeks, let alone theme weeks. However, I'm finding it hard to concentrate fully on the performance because Steve's trousers are clearly far too tight and have left him with the most alarming case of VPL I've seen on this show in quite some time (apart from Anton's VPL last year in Fiona's cha cha cha, but of course in that case the P stood for something quite different).

Bruno says that Steve "went from Gorillas In The Mist into sprinting cheetahs". He says that Ola gave Steve some very difficult footwork to learn, and he coped extremely well - apart from the three mistakes that Bruno noticed. Craig tells Steve that he's now back in the competition, but cautions him on the splayed hands. Craig liked the charleston section and thinks that Steve will be great at that when the time comes, adding further fuel to the fire that Steve is basically Chris Hollins 2.0. (Of course, in the interest of balance, Steve's charleston will now need to have a sizeable quickstep section in the middle.) Darcey really enjoyed it, but warns him to watch his arms in hold, and Tess gushes uncontrollably about Steve's arms, and everyone ignores her as usual. Donny says that he's a fan of the show and has been watching Steve for the last two weeks, but he has some advice for Ola (and pronounces her name "Oh-la", which just goes to show you should never go to Tess for guidance on anything): she should take Steve clubbing to loosen him up. Ola's all "sure, Guy Who Will Never Be Here Again, I'll get right on that." Bruno offers to join them. Now that I would pay to see.

Up in the Clauditorium, Steve says that his parents are here tonight, probably watching from behind their fingers. Oh, I'm sure they're absolutely fine with their 41-year-old son pretending to be a gorilla for an audience of nine million people. He says that it's been so much fun, and that he wants to do it again. You heard him, viewers! He wants to be in the dance-off! Scores: Craig 6, Darcey 7, Donny 6, Len 7, Bruno 8 for a total of 34 and an NDS of 28.

Our third couple competiting tonight is Jennifer and Tristan, who will be dancing to the title track from Mamma Mia!. Tess describes the film as having "a complicated plot" (I suspect that, where Tess is concerned, even Janet and John books have a complicated plot) where a woman does not know which of three men is the father of her child. I was honestly expecting this to lead into a joke about Darcey being pregnant by either Craig, Len or Bruno, and I swear I've never been so glad to be wrong in my entire life. Instead we get the basic "Jennifer's used to weird shit, her husband plays her mother on the telly!" punchline. The editors wisely cut to the VT before the audience are forced to laugh awkwardly.

Jennifer says that she was really looking forward to her dance last week, but then she made a mistake and it really threw her. She ended up in the dance-off, of course, and decided to look upon it as a chance to correct the mistake, which seems fair enough to me. This week, due to Jennifer's BUSY BUSY SO BUSY SCHEDULE (clearly there was a mix-up with some paperwork and Jennifer has been given Pixie's VT by mistake), Tristan has had to go to Glasgow, where Mrs Brown's Boys is filmed. Jennifer delivers the awkward segue that Mamma Mia! is very much like her family in Mrs Brown's Boys, because nobody knows who's related to whom. I thought the whole point of Mrs Brown's Boys is that everyone's related to each other, both onscreen and off? Jennifer takes Tristan off to meet the rest of the cast, and some of them hug him a little bit too closely, but that's understandable. Jennifer hopes she can make them all proud of her this week.

It begins with Tristan in a rowing boat, doing some fairly appalling rowing-acting, while Jennifer (in a dress with some Meryl-style dungarees stitched on the top, god bless Vicky Gill) is watering some fake flowers. They join in the middle of the floor to get into hold, although shortly after that there's a bit where I swear Tristan actually grabs Jennifer on the back and physically turns her to face outward, as though she'd gone into hold in the wrong direction. Jennifer is whirling her arms around like a windmill and singing along throughout, and it's hard for me to properly gauge whether she's any good at the foxtrot because it hardly even looks like a foxtrot in the first place. As I said earlier, I know theme weeks tend to throw all this askew to begin with, but even by those standards, it's a bizarre offering. Between Tristan and Joanne, I'm not at all sure about the choreography that this year's new pros are bringing to the table. Only Trent is really delivering the goods, and he wasn't even meant to be here. [I think they're both proving that 'good dancer' and 'good choreographer' are often not one and the same.  I mean, I guess there's no reason why they should be, but it makes me appreciate some of the longer serving pros more.  I mean, not Anton or Robin, but, you know, the ones who can actually choreograph - Rad]

Craig says that he found the miming very distracting, and that he thought the routine was "all over the place" - Jennifer was hopping on her turns, and the whole thing wasn't nearly smooth enough. Darcey is impressed that Jennifer kept up the miming-along all the way through, and it was a joy to see someone getting into the dance that much - but it did mean that she lost her posture again. Donny thought it was more relaxed than last week, but he found it very "nice" and "safe" and he thinks she could have "pushed the envelope" a bit more. He says this about three times, just to make it sink in. Len says that she looked more relaxed and confident than ever, but she needs to lift her ribcage in hold because she's holding her breath which is making her shoulders rise up. Bruno thinks that Jennifer immersed herself in the Meryl Streepness of it all, but forgot the technique of the dance in the process.

Claudia tells Jennifer that everyone was singing along in the Clauditorum too, and Jennifer says that the whole thing was great craic for her. Claudia reminds us that Jennifer has had a very hectic schedule with Mrs Brown's Boys this week in the hope of generating some sympathy, and while I do feel for her if she didn't have much time to train, I can't in good conscience endorse anything that leads to the existence of more episodes of Mrs Brown's Boys. Tristan reminds us that Jennifer is from Ireland. Scores: Craig 3, Darcey 5, Donny 5, Len 5, Bruno 5 for a total of 23. NDS? 18. Claudia reads out the voting numbers while slipping a frankly indecent number of Abba song titles into the mix, all delivered with a glorious side-eye. [Now these are the kind of jokes I can get on board with, autocue writers - Rad]

Simon and Kristina will be dancing the first rumba of the series to the Top Gun theme (although the way Tess pronounces it, I could've sworn they were dancing to the Tottenham theme. A rumba danced to 'Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur' would be quite something, wouldn't it?), so Tess asks Darcey what we should be looking out for. Darcey explains that the rumba is the dance of love, where the man has to pursue the lady right to the end, and the whole thing should be very sensual and ooze passion, at which point Brendan runs over, knocks her out, screams "I'm not here to choreograph FILTHY DIRTY RUMBAS!", at which point Tess breaks out the emergency chloroform and Steve and Thom (as the hired guns) carry him back up to the Clauditorium. Anyway, where were we? Simon claims that the tango was out of his comfort zone last week, and he was focusing more on the steps than the performance. This week they're dancing the rumba to 'Take My Breath Away', and Kristina reminds Simon that Bruno wanted to see his animalistic side this week. Simon says he knows JUST THE PERSON to help with that, and the next thing we know, he and Duncan are dressed in pilots' uniforms and propping up a bar. I'm not sure why Duncan James would be the person you'd invite over to make a Top Gun-themed rumba less homoerotic, but okay. It ends up with them karaoking 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling' to Kristina. If we have to have comedy VTs, can they at least have an actual punchline? This one made NO sense whatsoever.

Full disclosure: I love 'Take My Breath Away' and think that it's an excellent choice for a rumba, but I'm not really feeling this. Kristina, bless her, is earning every single penny of her salary as she twists and pivots and writhes and claws Simon throughout the routine, and if he were working even a fraction as hard as she is, this would probably be quite good, but there's just no reciprocation from him at all. He's very mannered and cold throughout, which just kills the whole thing stone dead. I know it's hard for a bloke to excel in a rumba, because it's a dance that really highlights the woman, but it barely even feels like Simon turned up for this.  [Poor Kristina, so many years where on paper it looks like she's got a contender and might finally get her hands on the non-Christmas glitterball and then... notsomuch - Rad]

Darcey tells Simon that he was in constant pursuit of Kristina, and was so attentive and paid her so much care, but she didn't really see that carrying through into his own moves. Donny says that the rumba is difficult for a man (drink!) and Simon just needs to make his hips work a little bit more, "but I gotta tell you, when Kristina went down and you grabbed her thighs--" STEADY ON THERE OSMOND, THIS IS A FAMILY SHOW. Tess asks Len if he "loved every second", and Len declares that he didn't: he says that Simon "could own this place", but he's spending too much time thinking about what's coming next and not focusing on what he's doing right now, and also there were a few heel leads. But, on the other hand, there were good lines and a nice feeling to it. Len sums up: "You've got to look back and what you were doing, and then come back do something else." Thanks Len! Tess protests that she saw a lot of hip action and asks Bruno if he did, and Bruno replies "no." It's almost heroic how much Tess is trying to steer the judges to be nice, and failing entirely in the process. Bruno tells Simon he knows that he can do better, and that he's presenting a dance rather than participating in it. Tess, still not giving up, gets Simon to do a figure of eight with his hips, at which point Bruno screams "NO NO NO!" and gets up to demonstrate how it should be done, almost taking Len's eye out in the process. Craig says that he didn't see any hips, and the whole thing left him "cold and passionless".

The reception is much warmer in the Clauditorium, where Claudia sternly says that she doesn't want Kristina to be sad and commands Simon to cuddle her. Simon doesn't really have a lot to say at this point, so let's go to the scores: Craig 4, Darcey 6, Donny 7, Len 6, Bruno 7 for a total of 30 and a NDS of 23.

Next we have Judy and Anton. Judy was disappointed with her poor performance last week, and was "gobsmacked" when the public saved them, but also relieved because she wanted a chance to put on a decent performance. This week they've got the quickstep, which they'll be dancing to 'Don't Rain On My Parade' from Funny Girl. Anton tells Judy that they're going to go glamorous this week, so he turns up at Judy's hotel room with some fancy frocks and heels for her to wear, and then she turns up at dinner looking fancy but also uncomfortable. I feel like this VT would be more appropriate for Pretty Woman than Funny Girl, not that I'm suggesting Judy is a hooker. [Don't make me imagine the band murdering 'It Must Have Been Love' thanks.  Especially as since some karaoke thing once got the lyrics wrong, it now always seems to get sung with the line 'a stare of silence' and not the correct (if more nonsensical, but that's Per Gessle lyrics for you) 'there's air of silence' and that sets my teeth on edge - Rad] Anton tells Judy that she has to bring all of this glamour to the floor on Saturday night.

Easier said than done, of course: you can tell that Judy's really trying her hardest to look relaxed and glamorous, but there's still something very rigid about her posture. Throughout the performance she seems to be in the wrong position (she's constantly face-to-face with Anton instead of off to his right) and for a quickstep, it's really not all that quick. There's also a lot of gapping, and a persistent sense that Anton is having to drag her into the right position. It ends with an illegal lift, so you know Anton's getting a bit desperate at this point. It's probably the best dance Judy's done so far, for what that's worth.

Tess: "Donny, you got great scores when you performed the quickstep, what did you think of Judy's?" Donny: "First of all, I don't like the quickstep, I got my worst scores on quickstep." Awkward. (Also, not true: Donny got 24/30 for his quickstep, whereas he got 20 for his foxtrot - although that was week one, admittedly - and 21 for both his rumba and his tango.) He thinks Judy did a beautiful job,  but even though she was smiling, he felt like she was nervous. He then offers this bizarre critique: "dancing is a 50:50 proposition, it felt like he was leading you the whole time." Anton, baffled: "That's what I do. I lead." Donny attempts to clarify that it felt "unrehearsed" to him. Len tells Judy that she was fine, but Anton has to improve - he enjoyed watching it, particularly the fishtail. I'm just going to assume that's some sort of crude innuendo. Bruno tells Judy that the intent was good, and she looked "more or less relaxed", but as soon as she puts a foot wrong, she goes rigid and there's nothing Anton can do to make her loosen up. Craig lectures him that one foot should remain on the floor at all times, but he's glad there was an illegal lift because that was the best part - he thought Judy was so wooden that she was getting rigor mortis. Can wood do that? Darcey liked Judy's smile and thinks she looks like she had fun.

Judy and Anton head up to the Clauditorum, declining the usherette's popcorn, and Claudia tells Judy that she looks like "a movie film star". Judy giggles that she's gone from "appalling posture" to "rigor mortis", so it appears she's getting worse. Claudia asks Judy if she'd like to say anything to the people who saved her from the dance-off last week, and Judy says "could you do the same again please?" Hee. Scores: Craig 3, Darcey 5, Donny 5, Len 5, Bruno 5 for a total of 23 with a NDS of 18. "Even with five judges we couldn't make 40!" laments Anton. Dude, even with five judges, you couldn't make 25.

Up next are Tim and Natalie. Good grief, this running order really is piling all the no-hopers at the front end, isn't it? I saw someone on Twitter suggesting that this was all a fiendish ploy to keep all the good people for the second hour and stop the viewers switching over to watch The X Factor, but surely Strictly would never do anything that cynical...would it? Tim says that he felt on edge last week: "it's like skating on thin ice". No, Tim, that's the other one. He was quite encouraged by Len's feedback last week, though, and Natalie reminds us that she "jumped for joy" when they were declared safe last week. This week they're doing the charleston to 'Money, Money' from Cabaret, and Natalie explains that Tim will need to act a lot in this routine, so bring on the acting coach! The acting coach, who looks a bit like Kerry Howard but isn't, gives Tim some hints as to what he can do with his face and how to handle his props properly.

To be honest, Tim could have been entirely absent from this dance and it would still have got a 9 from me due to Natalie's excellent Drunk Liza acting throughout. Which is just as well, because Tim's not much to look at throughout the performance: he hasn't got much swivel going on, and his timing is all over the place. Also, they've incorporated so much business with props that it ends up endangering the whole thing because both Tim and Natalie end up having serious struggles with their props at various points. In much the same way that Kristina was the only thing worth watching about Simon's rumba, Tim should count himself very lucky that he had Natalie there as a distraction in this charleston.

Len, who appears to be developing a migraine, tells Tim he wants to see him back next week "because you're doing paso doble, and I can't wait to see that!" Heh. Bruno says that Tim threw all his effort into his character and lost the technique. "But it's Movie Week!" protests Natalie. Bless her. Bruno says that the swivel wasn't there, and the routine has to be on time. Craig says that there's no amount of money that could change what just happened - he liked the character and the stylisation, but the charleston itself was a disastuh. Natalie leaps in to defend Tim at this point, saying that they had "a bit of a prop issue" which sent him off-time, and that he'd been doing it much better in rehearsals. Darcey says it was a lot of fun, and Tim is surprisingly nimble, but she would like him to finish each step properly to make it cleaner and more precise. Donny says it was charming, but it was more like a comedy routine than the charleston. Well, that never hurt Chris Hollins. He says it wasn't the charleston as he understands it. (Here's Donny Osmond's charleston, for comparison, if anyone's interested.)

Tim and Natalie also refuse popcorn and head up to the Clauditorium (while a bunch of poor studio assistants have to swiffer up all the prop money from the studio floor, no doubt) where Claudia tells us that Natalie's parents are here in the audience this evening, having travelled all the way from Australia. Aww. Scores: Craig 2 (Natalie: "WHAAAAAT?"), Darcey 5, Donny 5, Len 5, Bruno 5 for a total of 22 with a NDS of 17.

After a preview of the eight (8!) dances still to come this evening, Claudia takes over from the usherette temporarily and, while Tess is trying to introduce Caroline and Pasha, Claudia is throwing popcorn into Tess's cleavage. Caroline is very happy with how last week's tango went and thinks that she's got a great song for this week. My hopes are briefly raised when Kylie's 'Turn It Into Love' plays on the soundtrack (so I can only imagine how Rad must have felt) [Gleeful, obviously.  Gawd love this year's VT-soundtracker - Rad], until I realise that's not actually a song from a film as far as I can remember. Instead they're dancing the rumba to 'I Don't Want To Miss A Thing' from Armageddon (which, coincidentally, was on BBC1 two-and-a-half hours after Strictly finished last night - how's that for product placement?). Pasha encourages Caroline to get into character by thinking of him as a spaceman. I'd certainly like to see his helmet. I bet it'd be great to have Pasha explore Uranus. I'd get him lined-up for re-entry. I'd really like-- [THAT'LL DO. - Ed.] Ahem. They do a little skit where Pasha pretends to be sending a message to Caroline at mission control (/a spare production gallery at Elstree) and Pasha's acting is as...unique as it always is.

Right, the important thing first: Pasha's jacket is now fully-unzipped, I repeat, FULLY UNZIPPED. I'll be in my bunk. As far as the actual dancing goes, the good news is that this is the first dance all evening to demonstrate that you can produce a load of camp nonsense and still have it stand independently as a good dance. Both Pasha and Caroline are selling the hell out of this thing, it's monstrously overblown, but it's a rumba to Aerosmith, so how could it ever be anything else? It ends with a standard rumba bloke-walking-off move, which gives us a good look at Pasha's arse, so I really have very little to complain about here. [Loved it.  I love how Caroline is totally embracing the 'ho' role and trolling a certain section of the audience, no doubt.  She's amazing. - Rad]

Bruno says that Caroline is "like a generator of body heat", and loved that the connection between the two of them never faltered - it was almost perfect, but there was a tiny little stumble in there. Craig found it a little bit punchy with some slightly jarring transitions, but that's just him being picky because he loved it. Darcey loved Caroline's conviction, especially the sustained supported promenades. Donny screams "YEAH BABY!" and says that he forgot who the celebrity was and who the pro was. Len says that while Armageddon is the end of the world, this is not the end of the world for Caroline on Strictly. (Oof.) He thought it needed more hip action, but otherwise it was very good.

Tess instructs them to head on over to the Clauditorium (and actually calls it that, so she owes Pet Monkey some licence money, and possibly us too), and all I can say is god bless whoever ensured we got this particular camera angle.

Some feelings are being had.

Up in the Clauditorium, Pasha yoinks away the popcorn for himself (<3) and Caroline says that this has been her best week, dancing to her favourite song of all time. Oh, Caroline. Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 8, Donny 9, Len 8, Bruno 9 for a total of 42 and a NDS of 33.

Up next are Scott and Joanne, and...oy. I forgot I would have to explain this costume. So since we saw him walking on, looking relatively normal with his own skin colour and wearing a red suit, Scott is now in a red sequinned shirt covered in sea creatures with two little claws attached to the end of his sleeves [I thought he looked uncomfotably like a Black and White Minstrel... or a Red and White one.  It was NOT GOOD - Rad], and Joanne is now sporting a bright red wig and looking uncannily like Katy Perry. Scott thinks that last week's tango was an improvement on the previous week, and says that during the results show, there was some degree of confusion between him and Joanne as to whether they were safe or not, because they haven't quite figured out how the show works. Judging from Joanne's choreography so far, I'd say that's true every week. This week they're doing the first samba of the series to 'Under The Sea' from The Little Mermaid, and in this week's edition of Scott Mills And His Famous Friends, he places a call to David Hasselhoff for advice because David was on Dancing With The Stars, until Joanne points out that David was a first-boot. Scott hopes his samba will go SWIMMINGLY, d'you see.

There's not much positive that I can say about his performance. The outfit is terrible (his shirt doesn't even look like it fits properly, ffs), there's very little bounce, anything that requires him to move at speed is a disaster, his free arm is flailing all over the's all a terrible insult to the otherwise dignified memory of Sebastian De Crab. There's a bit over with Tess where she tries to stir up wardrobe malfunction drama until it turns out that one of Scott's claws almost came off...but in fact did not. Craig says it was "like a lobster on acid". He's a crab, Craig! Sebastian's a crab! Darcey says there was plenty of spring and bounce, but no double-bounce, and it was all a bit ploddy. Although Joanne gave him a lot of dance content, it didn't look like a samba. Donny loved it, even though the dancing was all over the place, and thinks that Scott is improving. Len thinks it was fun and entertaining. Bruno thinks "the crab is off-menu". He appreciated that there were proper samba steps in there, but it was all a bit wobbly. He thinks Scott needs to work on his strength, because everything is a bit all over the place. "I was under the sea!" Scott protests. "BUT YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE DROWNING!" retorts Bruno.

Scott and Joanne head up to the Clauditorium. "We loved it!" Claudia assures him. "Did you hear us screaming?" I don't know - did you hear me screaming?! Scott says it was really good fun, and Claudia compliments him on his general orange-ness. Scores: Craig 2, Darcey 5, Donny 7, Len 5, Bruno 6 for a total of 25 and a NDS of 18.

From one Grimsbian [It's actually Grimbarian - Rad from Grimsby] to another, it's now time for Frankie and Kevin. Last week there was a slight snafu in their charleston where Frankie's skirt ended up in Kevin's face and he couldn't find her arms in time, so he quickly changed the type of lift he was going to do - but the sharp-eyed judges spotted the error all the same. Frankie was pleased to end up third overall on the leaderboard, as it put them in a comfortable position without the pressure of being right at the top. This week, Frankie arrrives at training to find a note on the door saying "Meet me on the roof. Kevin, from Grimsby." Can we retire Grimsby as a punchline in its own right at this point? I feel like we've done all we can with it.  Kevin explains that they're dancing a paso doble to 'America' from West Side Story (sidebar: let's take a brief moment to remember the group performance of this song from Over The Rainbow, in particular Emilie's and Lauren's mangled attempts at Puerto Rican accents), so he thought that they'd go up on a rooftop to rehearse. This bit of information probably works better if you remember that the song is performed on a rooftop in the movie, which I didn't recall at first.

The music works better for the dance than I thought it would, although one unfortunate hangover from the movie's choreography is that Frankie's paso ends up being heavy on the skirt-wafting at the expense of some of the other elements of the dance. There's some nice shaping, and good attitude throughout, and on an entirely superficial note I really like her hair in this one. [I love how a pasty bespectacled geek from Grimsby seems to officially now be the King of the Paso as well - Rad]

Darcey loved seeing the fiery side of Frankie and loved that she kept in character throughout. She adds that Frankie really understood the dance and created some great shapes. Donny thought it was a beautiful performance, and that Frankie would be the perfect Maria for a West Side Story remake. (He does know that it's Anita who sings that song, not Maria, right?) Len cracks the "Frankie goes to Hollywood" joke again and says it's her best dance yet. Bruno really liked the combination of the references to the movie in the choreography while keeping the feeling of a paso doble throughout. Craig agrees with the others, and says it was dynamic.

Claudia says that during the week Frankie was worried that she was too smiley to do a paso doble, and adds that Frankie's husband is here tonight. Frankie says that Wayne would probably say "nah, she's grumpy all the time." Claudia assures her that you're supposed to be grumpy with your husband. This is clearly the feminist brainwashing that everyone warned us would happen when you let two women present a show together! Scores: Craig 8, Darcey 9, Donny 10, Len 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 45 and a NDS of 35, which puts Frankie and Kevin in the unfortunate position of having to celebrate getting the first 10 of the series while knowing deep down that it doesn't really count because it was awarded by Donny Osmond. Poor lambs.

Jake and Janette are up next, and Jake's not really sure how he's supposed to top last week's performance. This week they're dancing a waltz to 'The Godfather Waltz' from The Godfather, and Jake and Janette discuss how the movie is all about family (I....guess?), which is about as good a segue as you're ever going to get to wheel your kids out for the cameras, right? So Jake's wife and kids turn up, and his family is generally adorable [especially his daughter's gold sequinned Converse - Rad], and Jake gets a bit emotional about how nice it is to have his kids there for the rehearsals "because I won't be there for bedtime tonight". Gahh, you're killing me with this.

The routine is all very elegant and poised, but at the same time a little bit cold and staccato, and I wonder if that's the fault of the music as much as it is anything - you're never going to be able to dance a romantic waltz to this particular tune. Janette's come up with some lovely choreography, and Jake dances it very well, but it's perhaps such a tonal shift from last week's salsa that it can't help to feel ever so slightly disappointing.

Donny is impressed that Jake can dance so meanly for "a nice guy who plays nice roles". So I think we can establish Donny is unfamiliar with Max Branning, then? He loved the attitude and thinks Jake is extremely cool. Len says that the waltz needs swing and sway, and he found it a bit stiff up top with the flow lacking - but the footwork was good and there weren't any obvious mistakes. Bruno liked the idea of a waltz tinged with darkness, and played like an Argentine tango, but he would like more flow "if you do another waltz". When might that be, exactly? [The Viennesse Waltz maybe?  Although that's less of a waltz and more of an endurance test to see how many spins you can do before vomiting - Rad] Craig agrees with Bruno - he's pleased that it was theatrical because he liked their take on it, and he thinks too much swing and sway would've detracted from that. Len has a snit about this and insists that it's a waltz and it has to have SWING and SWAY and RISE and FALL, and Craig responds that he knows that, and that's why it won't get full marks. Touché. Darcey liked the steadiness of it, but warns Jake about the way his shoulder creeps forward when he's dancing.

Arriving in the Clauditorium, Jake grins that being called "the coolest man in the room" by Donny Osmond is pretty cool. I detect no irony here, which is interesting. Jake thanks Janette for giving him such interesting choreography to work with. Scores: eights all round for a total of 40 and a NDA of 32, making this only the second time all series that the judges have reached consensus on their scores. Interestingly enough, the other time was Jake's tango, which got four sevens.

Tess is in the audience now, perched between Grimmy and DVO, and everyone looks uncomfortably squashed. There's no real reason for her to be there, other than to hand Denise some popcorn, so let's move right along to our next couple, Pixie and Trent. Pixie loved last week's waltz, particularly because it impressed Darcey and she "felt like that's the kind of dance she would be into". Hmm. Pixie and Trent have a fairly lifeless conversation where he tells her what the song and theme will be this week ('Be Our Guest' from Beauty And The Beast) and Pixie responds unconvincingly that it "sounds magical". To get Pixie in the mood for a song all about fine French dining, Trent treats a tea party with a couple of Tricolores stuck into the macaroons, while the theme tune from 'Allo 'Allo plays in the background. I guess Pixie is SO BUSY SO BUSY SO BUSY that he couldn't actually take her to Paris or something.

I'm a bit disappointed that, given how overboard they went on Scott's costume, the wardrobe people haven't tried harder to make Trent look like a candlestick, but I guess sometimes you just have to let these things go. Their quickstep actually ends up being a lot of fun, and I wonder if Pixie is one of those celebrities who'll benefit from the theme weeks because it puts less of the heavy lifting on her own personality. It's very light with lots of intricate detail, and there's one bit that looks slightly stumbly but apart from that Pixie keeps up with the tempo extremely well.

Apart from the incident, that I'm assuming was the same one I spotted, Len thought that this performance was his cup of tea. Bruno tells Pixie that she really caught the Disney magic, but she went wrong a tiny bit in the corner. Craig was very impressed with the level of detail in the routine, and he loved the charleston section - but she was out of time with Trent in the jeté section. Darcey calls Pixie "one special lady", because apparently it's still the Sixties where Darcey lives. Her only criticism is that Pixie needs to remember to point her feet. Donny finishes by saying that this song means a lot to him because he played Gaston on Broadway, and says that Pixie could've been his princess any time. I object to Donny putting that thought in my head, because I can't imagine for a second that he's especially good at expectorating, I bet he hasn't got biceps to spare, and I sincerely doubt that every last inch of him's covered in hair. (Please, do not send me pictures if you have evidence to the contrary.)

Pixie, ever the individual, turns down the popcorn and instead plucks the only tub of tortilla chips from the usherette's tray. Trent says that Pixie did a great job, and in response to Claudia's question of whether she's living every little girl's dream, Pixie informs us that she's living her own dream and says that Trent was "a great candlestick". Snerk. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 9, Donny 9, Len 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 43, or a NDS of 34. I'm slightly worried that this might be where this couple peaks for me, because I honestly cannot imagine anything more perfect than Trent as Lumière. Prove me wrong, kids! Prove me wrong. [Trent as Ian Waite and Pixie as Zoe and/or Natalie - either works for me - in a Best of Strictly theme week.  Or just any week.  Rad]

Back in the ballroom, Tess rustles up a bit of low-level rebellion against Craig's 7 for Pixie's quickstep, and then we move on to Thom and Iveta. Are you excited for Iveta's first ever competitive charleston on this show? I know I am. Thom gives a giddy little wave at the camera, so at least he's trying to show some personality at last. Last week Thom was on first, and he admits he was a bit worried because he had to come out with a bang (hmm, I assumed that in the event of Thom Evans coming out, the accompanying sound effect would be more like a fap, followed by a sploosh. Shows how much I know). In their VT, Iveta tells Thom that she's looking for a leading man with a big personality. Good luck finding one of those in this cast, love. Instead, Thom offers to bring a selection of characters to the table for her to choose from, and what results is essentially Iveta playing sexual fantasy dress-up as Thom emerges as a cowboy, James Bond, and finally a naval officer (in an ill-fitting uniform), An Officer And A Gentleman-style, and that's the one that finally meets with Iveta's approval, which suggests to me that her tastes are disappointingly vanilla. I mean, if I'd had Thom Evans dressing up in a variety of outfits to arouse my interest, I'd have asked fo-- [I SAID THAT'S ENOUGH. - Ed.]

They're dancing to 'New York, New York' (no, not that one, the other one) from On The Town, and lawks amercy, it's actually quite good. [I scoffed at this music choice then immediately ate my words.  Iveta can do ANYTHING. - Rad] Maybe it's because Thom works quite well as a wide-eyed innocent, maybe it's because charleston is a dance that actually does most of the work for you personality-wise, maybe it's just because Iveta's finally figured out how to play to his strengths - I don't know the reasoning, all I know is that he dances it well and the whole thing is hugely enjoyable. His timing's a little off occasionally, but it's still a vast improvement from anything we've seen from him prior to this. And he didn't even have to take his top off!

Bruno says that he feels "the tide is turning" for Thom because they got to see his personality tonight, and his timing was "almost good" until he went off on the wrong foot at the end, but even then he recovered from it and didn't go to pieces. Craig says there were a lot of difficult rhythm changes which he coped with brilliantly, but it's a shame about the slip-up. Darcey loved his determination to get it right and she could see how hard he's been working, but she says she was distracted by the mouth (understandable) because it was hanging open a lot - "you don't suit being cute, you're a man, dance like a man" she finishes. Jeez, all right there, Rob Evans. Donny loved it, but warns Thom about having hunched shoulders in his turns because it's going to throw him off-balance. Len finishes for the judges by saying that in week one he got a six, and in week two he got a seven, and in week three...wait and see!

Thom takes his popcorn from the usherette and immediately hands it to Iveta (such a gent <3) and explains that he watched On The Town last night and was trying to copy Gene Kelly with the open-mouth thing. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 8, Donny 7, Len 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 38 with a NDS of 31. Thom takes this opportunity to thank Bill Deamer for his choreography this week, and hopes that he made him proud. Aww, I know he's a bit boring, but he does seem to have a little bit of that Harry Judd-style "well brought-up young man" thing going in his favour, doesn't he? Claudia makes an "all hands on deck" comment and I do my best to avoid following it up with an "all hands on dick" joke. Dammit! So close.

Our penultimate couple for the night are Sunetra and Brendan. Sunetra was very pleased with how it went last week because it was the only time she managed to get everything right in that routine. She notes that she moved from the second page of the leaderboard to the first page, and she was very happy with that. They're doing the American Smooth foxtrot to 'The Way You Look Tonight' from Swing Time, and Sunetra has brought in some outside help: her son Noah and his friend Samuel. Sunetra says that she's at her most relaxed when dancing in front of Noah, because he won't judge her when she goes wrong. Aww.

It's a lovely, elegant routine - and also, crucially, one that keeps enough of a distance from the theme that it could conceivably have taken place in any week of the competition. Sunetra's posture is occasionally a little bit stiff, and there's still an issue with her left elbow when she's in hold, but her movement across the floor in this is excellent, and the whole routine just sings with old-Hollywood glamour.

Craig found it smooth, confident and stylish, particularly her arms - but her shoulders do sometimes go up at the end of the dance. Darcey says that the choreography was beautiful and really suited her, but if she's being picky, Sunetra shouldn't flex her foot going into the lifts. Donny invokes Ginger Rogers. Len thought it had style, class and sophistication. Bruno says it had the right amount of elegance but with a little bit of sass on top - but Sunetra needs to watch her shoulders during the underarm turns, as she has a habit of hunching them.

They head up to the Clauditorium with Brendan flinging popcorn into the audience on the way up. Claudia tells them that they're incredibly moving to watch because they get on brilliantly, and Brendan says he's very proud of Sunetra. Sunetra grins that "an Indian Scouser doesn't get to dance like that very often" and thanks everyone involved for the opportunity. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 8, Donny 8, Len 9, Bruno 8 for a total of 40 (NDS 32).

And finally, it's Mark and Karen. Mark was pleased with how last week went because his score was higher than week one. Seems fair enough. This week they've got a paso doble with a Superman theme. Karen tells him that he has to be strong and powerful throughout the dance, and then the have a bit of a comedy VT where Mark, in a puffed up Superman costume, comes to the rescue of Karen, who's screaming "help! help!" Presumably Ola's threatening to make up stories about her and sell them to the tabloids again?

Their routine (to John Williams' Superman theme) [if Karen had choreographed the routine to this I would have loved her FOREVER - Rad] it's supremely silly, with the side of a building projected onto the floor so Karen can pretend to be dangling from a window ledge and screaming for help, while Mark Kent faffs around switching costumes and changing into Superman. The footwork's not bad, but it's mostly posing and paso face without much actual dance content. Also, there's a bit where he blatantly trips, which is not very Superman. I mean, I can see why they put this one at the end, with the music and everything, but I feel like switching Mark and Sunetra around in the running order would've given us more of a feelgood ending.

Darcey found it "weirdly enjoyable", but Mark wasn't a superhero for her because the shaping in hold wasn't convincing. "You were strong, and I could see you believing you were Superman, but it didn't come out in the whole dance." Darcey SHADE <3. Donny loved it, unsurprisingly. Len says that Mark came out, full-on, and gave it the aggression and passion, but he went a bit over the top with it. Bruno was a bit alarmed by the pelvic thrusts (and they must be bad if Bruno's terrified of someone's crotch) but "somehow it works". Craig found it hugely entertaining, although "I've never seen a paso quite like it" (oh Christoper Parker, how easily we forget), but he thinks it was a bit beyond Mark on a technical level.

Karen runs off screaming "POPCORN!" and leads Mark to the Clauditorium, where Mark says that normally in rehearsals it's a bit calmer, "but the audience got behind me and I genuinely believed I was Superman". Heh. Scores: Craig 6, Darcey 6, Donny 9, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 35 (NDS 26).

Right, let's have a look at the leaderboard with full scores and the NDS in parentheses.

1. Frankie & Kevin - 45 (35)
2. Pixie & Trent - 43 (34)
3. Caroline & Pasha - 42 (33)
4=. Jake & Janette - 40 (32)
4=. Sunetra & Brendan - 40 (32)
6. Thom & Iveta - 38 (31)
7. Mark & Karen - 35 (26)
8. Steve & Ola - 34 (28)
9. Simon & Kristina - 30 (23)
10. Alison & Aljaž - 28 (21)
11. Scott & Joanne - 25 (18)
12=. Jennifer & Tristan - 23 (18)
12=. Judy & Anton (18)
14. Tim & Natalie 22 (17)

So really the only people who got screwed by Donny's scoring were Steve (who would've been above Mark without Donny's score) and Judy and Jennifer (who would've tied with Scott). It's odd, it feels like his scoring was much more destructive than it actually turned out to be.

Recap: Alison's spirited but sluggish jive, Steve's wooby-doo-quickstep, Jennifer's whatever-the-heck-that-was-meant-to-be, Simon's boring-ass rumba, Judy's slowstep, Natalie's amazing Liza Minnelli impression (also apparently Tim was there somewhere?), Caroline's deep space rumba, Scott drowning not waving, Frankie's Puerto Rican paso, Jake's deathly waltz, Pixie and TRENT THE CANDLESTICK <3, Thom's shipshape charleston, Sunetra's classy American smooth and Mark's not-so-super paso.

To everyone who made it this far: thank you. We'll bring you all the results tomorrow as two more couples face the dance-off and someone else is going home.


1 comment:

AlScott67 said...

Let's face it, Donny was a total DISAHHHSTAHHH darling....