Friday, 11 September 2015

Jess the two of us

Launch Show 

Saturday 5 September 2015

Welcome back! Apologies that this recap is so late: Steve has been holidaying away in Berlin and I have been dying of the worst cold ever. Still, look at it this way: there’s that bit less time to wait in between our update and the new series starting. I will just note that, due to having managed to skillfully injury both my arms over the summer most of my entries this year are likely to be written using dictation software. Therefore, if our entries make even less sense than usual, we're blaming it on that (yes, even in Steve’s weeks). [Purple monkey dishwasher. - Steve]

So, onto the launch show. This year’s cast is perhaps mid-range in terms of excitement. Mostly recognisable, mostly BBC-grown, mostly a bit bland, thankfully not containing Me Mark Wright. At this early stage, I’m going to call it a scrap between Peter Andre and Daniel O’Donnell - at least for the first few weeks, until we see whether or not the others can dance. [I'm now imagining an actual scrap between Peter Andre and Daniel O'Donnell, and wondering how many rounds it would be before either one of them actually managed to land a punch. - Steve]

We open in a rural idyll, the location of ‘Strictly Street’, where all our pros live. I choose to believe this is a real place, because if not, the amount of tabloid outrage that would be caused by OMG! BBC LIEZ! would bring down the case for the licence fee in one fell swoop. I wonder if they have a little retirement village just off Strictly Street, where Erin sits knocking back Pina coladas, Camilla rocks back and forth yelling at the telly with all the scores she would have given them and Artem and his teeth are used as a standard lamp. [And if you happen to ask where Hayley Holt lives, you're always greeted with the reply "Go away! There ain't no Hayley Holt, and there never was!" - Steve]

Anyway, Tess and Claudia awake in their bunkbeds, where Tess is asleep with a ‘Bruno Bear’, Brendan helps Anton pack, and then Tristan does the washing up for all the women, whilst Kristina Aliona and Ola perfect their bitch faces; Joanne idly files her nails and Natalie looks so over this shit it’s unreal, and she manages to land a piece of toast directly into Clifton’s mouth. Kevin, Aljaž and Pasha are, adorably, living together and I think the whole of the Strictly audience is hoping that there is a vacancy for a fourth member of that particular holy Trinity. [I'm already writing three separate fanfics about why Kevin left his phone in Aljaž's bedroom. - Steve]

Then, to ‘Dancing in the Street’ and ‘The Locomotion’, it’s all aboard the least scandalous scandal that has beset this show so far (Shock! Horror! A thing was shot using a train that at least one other thing also used to film!). For some reason, the new pros are present, but weren’t invited to take part in any comedy skit based antics. To further demonstrate how traditional this show is, all the male judges take the parts of driver, conductor and engine boy, whilst Darcey is a trolley dolly.

We arrive at the launch, where an excited bunch of middle-aged women discuss how much they are looking forward to Strictly being back. And that’s before they unleash the O’Donnell and the Andre. The celebrities are welcomed and have a little boogie on the stage: some looking more comfortable about it than others. Implausibly but excitingly, Jeremy Vine and Jamelia have a little twirl together. The celebrities all talk about how excited they are to be on the show and how much they are loving being transformed. I have to say, whilst there isn’t much in the cast to make me truly excited, I am quite pleased with most of them. There’s only boring Iwan and possibly-boring Anthony that I couldn’t care less about, although Kirsty Gallacher feels like she’s already done this thing, and I fully expect her storyline to be Gabby Logan redux, so this probably not a lot of entertainment there, save Brendan (or whoever she might be partnered with, I can't imagine) pulling some inevitable judge drama out of the bag somewhere around week four. [Same - they're not necessarily all interesting as individuals but I think they gel nicely as a cast, so I'm hoping we'll get some good stuff from the Clauditorium. - Steve]

Then there are lots of smiles, sequins, selfies and sashays and we dance to ‘Let’s Get Loud’ as a transition from waiting area to studio. New pro Oti has tried to steal the patented Natalie Lowe wink to camera. I kind of love her, but I also kind of resent her a tiny bit for nicking our Nat’s signature move. I do love that, according to her official bio, she is a trained civil engineer. I hope she will work that into the routines somehow.

Tess emerges, along with the judges, as the music transitions into 'Uptown Funk' and Claudia is revealed to be the DJ. I can’t really believe that this would be Claudia’s tune of choice, but I am quite willing to endure for a night of DJ Winkleman to find out exactly what would be on her playlist. Claudia and Tess welcome us back. Daly dress watch: a royal blue thing that looks really nice up top, and, coupled with her wavy hair and her make up, gives her a whole Aphrodite-era Kylie thing going on. However, the bottom of the dress is a disaster, with weird net fabric kind of flailing around at the bottom, doing nothing much. Oh well, Tess, start as you mean to go on. What Winkleman's wearing: a black skirt, with a kind of silver and black boob tube thing. Nice colours; bit boxy shape. Tess warns us that ahead, we have two performances from Jess Glynne and, having had to watch that first time round, ain’t no way I’m sitting through them again, sorry. Tess and Claudia remind us that tonight is the night where the celebrities and dancers are paired up and, the moment we all came here for, car crash group dance! They welcomed Dave Arch, the band and the live singers, who are not described as fabulous or wonderful, I note.

We get a group shot backstage of the celebrities. Anita Rani is giving it the full gurn. God, I love her, even if I know full well I’m going to be the only stan she has from now until her inevitable early boot. [I love her too so will be stanning right alongside you. It's good to know we're on the same page. - Steve]

Now the moment we've all been waiting for: we get to hear how the stars have been monikered for the series: EastEnders actress Kellie Bright (and can I just say that my voice software spelt her name correctly first time. Maybe by the end of the series, it will have learned the names of the pro dancers as well and not be calling them a Leona and alley hash); Olympic medal winning boxer Anthony a go-go (oh, go on, I’ll let the voice software have that one as it is); TV presenter Anita Rani; singer AND entertainer Daniel O’Donnell; sports news anchor Kirsty Gallacher; celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott; star of Call The Midwife Helen George; singer and TV personality Peter Andre; actress Georgia May Foote: BBC broadcaster and journalist Jeremy Vine: singer and Loose Women Starch Amelia (= star Jamelia) [I absolutely insist that we call her Starch Amelia for the rest of the series - Steve]; sports commentator and Olympic medallist Iwan Thomas; BBC weather reporter Carol Kirkwood; ‘From The Wanted’ pop star Jay McGuiness and BBC Proms and Radio Three presenter Katie Derham. And apparently it’s pronounced Derrum not Dare-ham which means I’ve been saying it wrong all these years. In all those many conversations I’ve had about her.

Starch Amelia’s hair is insane, by the way. It makes Natalie Gumede’s look positively lank in comparison. Over with the men, Jay is giving her a run for his money with his slightly ridiculous lion mane. Len says he has great expectations for this cast and wishes them good luck. Note how he can’t even be bothered to trot out his usual line about best cast ever this time. Bruno tells them to immerse themselves into the wonderful world of Strictly, Craig tells them to put in the hours and work hard and to have talent above all! Darcey says it’s about time we had a male winner and start standing for one already. Calm your boots Darcey, we’ve only had two women in a row. It isn’t exactly a major crisis in masculinity. [Exactly. We've had 12 series so far and a perfect 50:50 split of winners gender-wise. Calm down, Beyoncé. - Steve]

First up are some of our male stars. Ainsley Harriott is one of those people who just seems so Strictly, it’s crazy that he hasn’t actually done the show before. You kind of would assume he would have been one of those series one or two people everyone had forgotten about. He says that he’s been cooking on television for 20 years. I hate to point it out, Ainsley, but what have you actually been doing for the last 10 of those, beyond shilling the couscous equivalent of super noodles? I mean, I don’t see you making ‘witty’ savoury jam roly-poly on Great British Menu, or shouting at contestants on MasterChef about how cookery has ruined your life. [He actually did a series about street food on More4 quite recently that I really enjoyed. - Epicurean Steve] He pre-empts all the natural rhythm jokes by saying he used to dance a bit on his cookery shows (DIRTY RINGAH) and once recorded a dreadful single. Iwan Thomas’s VT talks about him being the British record-holder for the 400 m. It doesn’t talk about how he’s done pretty much every other reality show going. Filling the ‘slightly anonymous member of a famous ex boy band’ gap previously filled by Harry McFly, Nicky Westlife and Simon from Blue is Jay McGuiness who gives the usual nervous spiel. Jeremy Vine is next, pointing out that he now does the swingometer, not Peter Snow, and is only 50. Sorry, Jeremy, you just look like one of those men whose been 50 for the last 10 years. That’s not a bad thing, honestly, you may well look the same age for the next 10 years, too. (/Dig)

Tess asks Ainsley what kind of partner he would like and what starts as a cookery metaphor basically turns into him saying that he would be up for a bit of the old showmance rumpy pumpy yes please, so let’s move swiftly along. Tess lines up the female dancers (Joanne is not present, as her metamorphosis into the new Karen Hardy has fully completed and she will now be on It Takes Two) and says a quick hi to Oti. But for Ainsley, it’s… Natalie! She looks pleased that she hasn’t been paired with Vine as she probably expected. I kind of love that Ainsley and Natalie are a couple. I think they will have a lot of fun, but can you imagine how off the charts the facial expressions are going to be? Ainsley thanks whoever chose Natalie to be his partner and they bounce up to the Clauditorium (as my dictionary has that word saved from previous years, the voice software picked it up straight away. <3

Iwan tells Tess how he wants to be the first person to demand the clothes get more tight. Somewhere, Nicky Westlife is shaking his head and warning him to be careful what he wishes for. Even Tess is slightly shocked by how eager he is to show off the flesh, and that’s saying something, as we all know. He is paired with Ola, whose fake delight face is not entirely convincing, as we all know.

Tess introduces Jay as from The Wanted again, I think his full name may always be prefixed with that.  Tess reminds him the boy band members have always done okay on this show because of their rabid fan bases.  He calls Tess ‘cruel’ and she promises she isn’t. Come off it, Daly, we’ve seen the show before. Somehow, Aliona has been freed from her hell of doddery old no hopers and has been given a chance to relive her boy band glories by being his partner. She looks like she can't believe it.

Jeremy tells Tess that this studio is also the one where they hosted the election coverage and he hopes his kids aren’t embarrassed, but thinks they’ll be hiding behind the sofas. He is paired with Karen, which is not a pairing I necessarily saw coming, which could be interesting. [I mean, it's Karen, so I'd be careful about using the word "interesting". - Steve] He says she is not only the best in the UK, she’s the best in the world and I’m sure somewhere, Karen’s sister-in-law is probably spitting at the screen. [Iveta is the best in the world! At ten dances! Must we forget her so quickly? - Steve]

In the Clauditorium, Jeremy says they’re all brilliant dancers but he’s especially pleased with his partner. Jay says he hopes Aliona will look after him, Claudia says Ola will probably get Iwan’s top off like he wants, and somewhere James Jordan explodes.

We now have the first performance of two from Jess Glynne and I’m sorry, but I just can’t. There is something about her voice that just really goes through me. I think it’s that most of her songs seem to be written in the wrong register for her voice. Or maybe she’s just an ‘acquired taste’.  There’s some dancing from Aliona and Tristan and Aljaž and… Ola?  OK then.

Back in the Clauditorium and Kellie is scared, whilst Jamelia knows exactly who she wants and exactly who she doesn’t want. [My favourite part of this was Jamelia making it clear that there were pros - that's plural, so not just Anton - that she didn't want. Starch Amelia <3 - Steve] Claudia declares her ‘scary’.  She says nobody brings their family, except Peter, who has brought his mother-in-law. The poor woman then has to wave to the camera.

Sexy new pro time! We get to meet Gleb, 31, Russian, who has been a pro on three different national iterations; Oti, 25, South African, who likes to fly/do lifts and Giovanni, 25, Italian who reckons he is the reincarnation of Kenny Craig from Little Britain.

They do a sexy dance with the existing pros to Seven Nation Army, and it's all very sexy and what have you until it one of the male dancers falls on his back. The camera is above the stage and I can’t tell who but I think it might be Anton, as he looks a bit flustered when the dance ends. Still, the new pros look promising, or as promising as they can from a short routine.

Tess and Claudia remind us of everything that is coming up: more pairings; Caroline and Pasha dancing again and group dance mayhem.

Before that, though: the first set of female stars. Helen George reveals herself to be a bit of a Darcey stalker and says she used to get her friends to pretend to give birth to her dog when she was rehearsing scenes for Call the Midwife. Oh, she is one. Jamelia says some people might know her best for the song 'Superstar', but most people will know her for being a rent-a-gob/Loose Woman/warm-up act for Jane MacDomination next year. She pretends she can’t dance, despite having been a DIRTY RINGAH pop star. Like most people, she is doing it for her kids. And the headlines, probably. The youngest participant this year, is 24-year-old Georgia May Foote. She was someone in Coronation Street who apparently had a baby with little Chesney. If you think that’s shocking, fith-finger botherer Tom Cunningham in Hollyoaks has just become a dad. I KNOW. She is excited, blah blah blah. Kirsty Gallacher has been a sports reporter for over 10 years and says she is going to struggle with being sexy and gracious and feels like she will cringe a lot. She reminds us that her dad is a SPORTSMAN, perhaps hoping that she will become one by proxy and thus get Len’s vote. [Are we absolutely sure she's not just Gabby Logan re-entering with a wig and a pseudonym? - Steve]

Helen is paired with a ‘150lb’ bundle of joy (bit personal, Daly) Aljaž. She is really surprised and said she thought she was getting Anton (I think you’re probably about 30 years too young for him, love). Still, let’s assume they don’t think you’re going to win, Helen. Sorry. Jamelia is sadly not paired with Brendan for the super evil team of villains we were all hoping for, but with Tristan, who looks completely and utterly terrified by the prospect, whilst the other male pros kind of laugh that they’ve dodged a bullet. Georgia is paired with Giovanni for her ‘cute young ones’ narrative that won’t get tired somewhere around week two or anything (and he flings her off her feet and she feels dizzy, which bodes well for the Viennese Waltz), whilst Kirsty and Brendan make up an inevitable coupling. Tess points out that Bruce is a friend of Kirsty’s family and lies that no one knows the show better than Bruce. You presented the show with him for years, woman, you must know how little sense he had of what was going on half the time.

They are dispatched to join the rest of the couples in the Clauditorium and Claudia calls her adorable, but, she senses competitive. Claudia welcomes Giovanni. He says he’s a little bit scared of her and she says ‘Good. Just kidding, I’m in love with you’ then turns to Jamelia and says ‘that was divine’. Helen says she feels like she’s someone who has written in and won a prize to be on the show. D’aww.

Bruno calls the line-up ‘as fit as it gets’ and Tess asks Darcey for her advice to the female dancers. Given how blatantly Darcey said she wanted a male winner, Tess, I presume her answer is either ‘be a man’ or 'don't expect to come higher than third (/joint second these days of not knowing).

Now it’s time to catch up with last year’s winners, Caroline and Pasha. We are reminded of their journey. You guys, I kind of miss last year already. I mean, not all of it, obviously, but these two anyway. Caroline says how she used it to get what she wanted (Simon Cowell to apologise and give her the main presenting job on X Factor. She also calls Strictly the best show on telly, which is just wonderful trolling (that made the front pages of the papers). Love her.) They dance a cha cha cha (I think?) [it was actually her salsa - Steve] to '1 2 3 (Maria)' and you can tell that Caroline has not exactly been keeping up the dancing since last year. It’s sloppy as all hell, and clearly not rehearsed more than once and I kind of love it for how little she gives a shit and yet how much she is enjoying it. One of my favourite winners ever, especially as she then tells them that you don’t get that sick, butterfly feeling you get on Strictly anywhere else just to ram the point home to her current employers. <3

Now it’s our annual celebrities meeting the pros moment. Ainsley asks Ola to teach him to dance and he says he’ll teach her how to cook. #notmeanttobe Ola is looking out for all the showmances, along with Claudia, who favours Giovanni and Georgia. Jay is single BTW.What a year of tabloid stories we have before us guys. Anthony has his arm in a sling. That bodes well then. Perhaps they should have paired him with Ola to get all the injury porn Artem could dream of.

The latest in Claudia’s surreal props: a sparkly boxing hat to prepare for the pro-dance carnage.

The final round of male celebrities now. Anthony is an Olympic bronze medallist. Remember when they had gold medallists on this thing? Oh, Pendledrama. He says people see him as a rough and tough boxer but he is all about shaking the hips (natural rhythm klaxon). Daniel O’Donnell says he thinks people will know him for his music. No they don’t, Daniel, they know you for your legion of gran fans (and God bless you, in my other life, I recently wrote a book chapter about your fans and those of others like you). Pop ‘legend’ Peter Andre reminds us that his only real hit, ‘Mysterious Girl’ was 20 years ago and says his biggest fear is embarrassing his kids on national TV. I thought that was pretty much his full-time job.

Anthony is paired with Oti. He has a shoulder injury. As someone who has one of those and knows how annoying and difficult they are, I really don’t see how him being partnered with someone who is a self-confessed lover of lifts is going to end well. When do we call him breaking beyond repair? Somewhere around week three? [He seemed really confident that it would be strong enough by the time he'll actually be required to do any lifts, but I'm not entirely sure I share his optimism. - Steve] Daniel is paired with Kristina. This may, unlikely as it could seem, be her best chance at hitting the top, given his fans. I’m sure the idea of this pairing is to throw the tabloid heat off her, but what a fun scandal it would be if these two did get together. This means that Janette is paired with Peter. However annoying you think this might become, just remember that she was once paired with Julien MacDonald.

Up in the Clauditorium, Peter makes a joke so bad it would make Bruce wince. Anthony says there aren’t enough superlatives in the world to describe Oti and lovers of showmance make ‘oooo’ noises, whilst Claudia notes his use of the word superlative. Another guest performance now, from Gregory Porter, singing ‘Putting on the Ritz’. He is wearing some very bizarre balaclava-cum-deerstalker hybrid that doesn’t really go with his glitzy suit, but whatever, at least he’s not Jess Glynne. There’s some lovely ballroom twirling from Joanne, Natalie, Kristina and Brendan, who gets to partner all of them, the floozy, and then they get tired and draped themselves all over the judges’ desk, which is a bit boring. Eventually, Natalie reclaims her wink and they dance a little bit more and then it’s over.

And now it’s time for the final sets of pairings with the remaining four female celebrities. Anita Rani, presenter of everything, is being described as ‘Countryfile’s Anita Rani’. My pick would have been ‘Four Rooms’ Anita Rani’, even if I am the only person in the country who still watches it, having managed to negotiate most of Channel 4’s ridiculous scheduling decisions, and their sneaky shifting off to die a death on More 4. [I'm sure it's been shunted off to More4 to die at least twice now, but somehow it keeps ending up back on C4 again. The scheduling of Four Rooms is honestly one of the most baffling things in the world to me, and I say this as someone who has worked in the general environs of TV listings for most of my working life. - Steve] Anyway, she’s a classic early to mid-series boot, because she won’t have the fan base to sustain her, but I totally love her. If you think Nadiya on Bake Off gives good face, then you’re in for a treat with the many expressions of Anita. Let’s just hope she gets to perform her Charleston before she is unceremoniously dumped after surviving a couple of dance offs for full face effect. She says she will still be doing Countryfile whilst doing Strictly. That’s the least exciting of her shows that I want to see on location. She reminds herself of being a teenager wearing Doc Martens and black nail varnish. We are kindred. Kellie Bright says people mostly know her for playing Linda Carter in EastEnders. No, we mostly know you for being in T-Bag and T-Shirt and The Upper Hand, which she says we will only remember if were really old. I’m quickly going off you, Bright. [I was screaming "I KNOW YOU AS KATE MADIKANE FROM THE ARCHERS", but then I'm fully aware I'm not normal. - Steve] She does the typical actor ‘not sure about being myself’ line. Katie Derham says Strictly is the only thing that has more pizzazz than the Proms. Can anyone else sense this is a BBC bid for making Strictly educational by forcing us all to learn about classical music via the medium of comedy VT? The final woman is Smiley Smiley Carol Kirkwood, a woman who is so cheery she makes Carol Smillie look like a goth. She reminds us that lots of people from breakfast TV has been on the show and a couple of them have one. But a lot of them haven’t.

Anita, looking good in yellow sequins (if she wasn’t early favourite of mine enough, she wears my favourite colour. Attagirl), is paired with Gleb and she looks utterly stunned at this. Got to say, I’m a little surprised too. [Me too. Given that I'm not sure what Anita's fanbase is like, I thought they might at least give her an established pro to shore herself up for a few weeks rather than playing fast and loose with a newbie. Gleb is my favourite of the newcomers though, so I'm trying to keep the faith. - Steve] She says she can’t look at him because he’s so beautiful, so she’s not sure how he’s going to teach her to dance. Kellie is paired with Kevin, which seems like a good populist pairing that should go quite far, although not necessarily to his third final in a row, depending on how desperate they are for an all-male final at that point and on whether there are any more likely female contenders that will get to the final instead. Katie is next and paired with Anton, which is an interesting development, because Carol and Anton was surely a match made in cheese heaven, but I’m actually really interested by the pairing of Carol and Pasha. [I heard on the grapevine that Carol was quietly campaigning to get Pasha in the run-up to the launch show. <3 - Steve] Let’s hope he doesn’t get all grumpy like Artem did when he was paired with Fern. Anton is quite speechless to be paired with Katie, because he thinks she can actually dance. She might well be able to, but I really don’t want to have another ‘Anton’s partner is actually OK SHOCK HORROR’ storyline. How many of those have we had to endure now?

In the auditorium, Anton says he thinks he will go all the way. Claudia tells Kellie that Kevin has never been in a dance-off, so there’s no pressure, and Anita and Claudia talk about how lovely Gleb is. And now the moments we’ve all been waiting for, car-crash group dance! Unfortunately, the music is also a bit of a car crash, as its Jess Glynne performing ‘Hold My Hand’. I wouldn’t actually mind this song in and of itself, but the high notes are just so painful with the way she sings it. Perhaps she should write songs for other people instead of herself? I mean I’m sure she’s a lovely girl and everything, but it’s just fingers down a blackboard to me. Still, she’s been number one loads of times and sold a billion records or something, so what do I know?

It’s quite difficult with so many dancers to see who is okay, but first impressions suggest that Helen, Anita, Jamelia, Ainsley, Katie and Peter might all be OK. Daniel, Iwan, Kirstie, Carol and Anthony look a little less promising and Jay looks pretty lost. Georgia looks like she’s forgetting to move except when the cameras on her, which bodes well. Jeremy dad dances. For some reason, Jay and Peter get a couple of show-off spots dancing with the pros whilst the other celebs are off-stage. Any bets on who they are hoping will make the final? Claudia and Tess remind us to come back at the end of September to see both them and us.  Until then… a new catchphrase: start dancing.


Penny said...

Hurrah! So glad you are back. You know we only watch the show so we can understand your wonderful deconstructions?

I hope your shoulders/ arms/ everything else gets better soon!

Scott Willison said...