Top 7 perform aka BLACKPOOL Week: Saturday 19 November 2016
Last! Week! Another man hit the dance-off, as Greg dropped there following a problematic paso. However, he was up against Daisy and she was obviously getting put out of her misery against anyone but Ed, and Greg’s dance off performance was thankfully good enough to justify the save, so we’re now down to two women and five men, but who cares about that when there’s only one story in town: BLACKPOOL!!!
We open with a bell ringer (not the only ringer on this show, eh? EH?) and the traditional string of locals welcoming the show and then we see all the celebrities and pro dancers taking a seafront train. It looks super cold and if you look closely, you can hear their teeth chattering. BLACKPOOL! When they finally get inside the tower ballroom (which also seemed cold from the fact most of them were wearing coats inside there on It Takes Two), Ed pulls a lever to make the BLACKPOOL tower light up in rainbow lights – and that’s not even remotely the most gay thing to happen tonight… but more on all of that later – to the credits! Poor Oksana, trying in vain to shut Judge Rinder up even before they’d begun their training.
Because it’s a special event, we open with an American Smooth-style group dance, this time to ‘One’ from A Chorus Line. We have moments of Natalie showboating marvellously before the celebs enter. It is worth noting that Greg and Ed don’t get to actually dance [to be fair to Greg, he does have a little brief skippy-step section to do, we can't really lump him in the same category as Ed who spends the whole thing glued to a chair - Steve]; Danny dances lots, Louise has another fan, which she might need to watch doesn’t become a repetitive motif, because she’s better than that. Judge Rinder descends on a very shaky, very cardboard looking star – this thing makes that rickety moon on Over the Rainbow look stable. Brave, brave man. Oh, and Ore and Claudia are there, too. Speaking of just being there, Darcey is brought out of a door in a grand entrance moment, whilst the other judges just appear. Then there’s some awesome business with all the women wafting great big fans, which also prove to be useful umbrellas when a glitter explosion occurs. That was a lot of fun! [Agreed - the whole thing came together really well and made for a fantastic opening to the show. Much better than if we'd just gone straight into Claudia's jive, yeesh. - Steve]
Tess ‘kiss me quick’ Daly and Claudia ‘squeeze me slowly’ Winkleman arrive. I can’t help think that there’s something amiss there – Tess is clearly the squeezer, albeit mostly of the unwanted harassment variety. Daly Dresswatch: raspberry with yet another asymmetrical neckline. Does she get these from a special store? What Winkleman’s Wearing: navy, quite cute.
The judges dance on again despite being on already – one of the weird consequences of having a group dance upfront, I guess, but surely that could have just meant no judge introductions? Maybe they’re still dealing with the scheduling consequences of Will’s early exit. Craig has only the middle button done up on his jacket, and when he spins in, it really makes his belly stick out and he looks pretty unkempt. Sorry Craig, but it’s exactly the kind of thing you’d pick up on if it were one of the celebrities.
After what is either a very quick costume change or some shenanigans with the ‘liveness’ of the show, our celebrities and pros emerge: Louise and Kevin; Judge Rinder and Oksana; Claudia and AJ; Ore and Jo; Greg and Natalie; Ed and Katya; Danny – who looks like a circus ringmaster, not a waiter, as was trailed on ITT – and Oti.
First on tonight are Claudia and AJ, both dressed in black and gold as a jock and a cheerleader, as this show continues its weird obsession with presenting them as belonging to an American High School. Their VT focuses on how BLACKPOOL is special and she’s never been – although we can’t get the promised footage of her on the Big Dipper because the Pleasure Beach is closed. AJ takes her to the Winter Gardens. She declares it “amazing” and we’re shown some photos of younger AJ and Chloe winning competitions here. So which is the sacredest of the sacred sites in BLACKPOOL, the Winter Gardens, or the Tower Ballroom? And why does that sound exactly like a metaphor for a battle of the sexes? Also: Claudia rides a donkey, is infantilised some more, yadda yadda.
They are jiving to ‘Mickey’ and, as all dances will have tonight, there’s a bunch of prop dancers supporting them. Other than one really neat move where she twirls under the arms of one of them and then AJ, the extra dancers mostly serve to highlight the difference between her skills and those of professionals, as she seems super nervous throughout and seems to make quite a few little mistakes. It’s all a bit clumpy, especially in the leg work, which may be due to her legs being on the short side, and there’s this really ugly side hold where the height difference between them is incredibly pronounced. You know, what guys, although it goes against all received Strictly wisdom, I think her (lack of) height really hindered her here. [Bloody hell, next you'll be telling me the rumba isn't hard for men or something. - Steve] The dance ends by her waving pom-poms for a bit and looking like she wants to die. WELCOME TO BLACKPOOL!!
We welcome our singers and orchestra and we’re over to the judges.
Len calls it full on, crisp and sharp (LOL in what universe) but notes that there was “a” mistake early on. He gets booed and snarks that he is only telling truth, and will ‘speak to Judge Rinder about you lot’. That lot who are almost definitely going to go wild for the Judge. Who isn’t an actual Judge. Bruno stands up and sings the lyrics back at her, which is always welcome in a critique. He says it had the spectacle of a Busby Barclay production (I was thinking more an off-episode of Glee in one of those later series where it somehow kept going and going despite all its story arcs having been concluded and everyone clearly hating every contractually obliged second. Which is basically every series after the first one, let’s be honest). Craig says the routine could have scored a 10 (really?) without the mistakes but he loved the kicks and flicks and really and truly loved it (Craig always falls for the weirdest routines, doesn’t he?). Darcey calls them ‘fast pumping jumping magic beans’ FFS and says it was dynamic throughout with ‘one tiny mistake’. That mistake being… the whole routine? [That was the same conclusion I came to, yes. - Steve] And, as Claudia hasn’t been patronised enough, Tess calls her a cheeky little cheerleader. Le sigh.
In the Clauditorium, we are reminded that BLACKPOOL is amazing - and let’s just assume this said for everyone from here onwards. Scores 9, 9, 9, 9 for a BLACKPOOL inflated 36. Please tell me I’m not the only person who hated that routine? [No, it was a bad routine, danced poorly. I don't know what the hell the judges were on. - Steve]
T&C time – and for some reason, this comes with a dose of Unexpected! Peter! Kay! in a hi-vis jacket and weird hat. Natalie’s reaction is amazing – she has a total fangirl meltdown – although it’s Natalie, she’d probably even react like that to, let’s say, Michael McIntyre. Peter reads the terms and conditions out wrong and Claudia frantically waves to correct him and then bursts into hysterical laughter. The teleprompter goes too fast and the whole thing descends into chaos. At one point, Peter pretends to be groped/bummed by Judge Rinder (who later pinches his bottom) and I know people were offended at the implicit homophobia there, but as I’m not a gay man, I’ll leave it to Steve to decide how outraged to be – personally, as distasteful as it was, (and I wasn't keen), I didn’t find it quite as troubling as what Len’s about to say (twice). [I'll be perfectly honest - I've never found Peter Kay that funny so I just kind of tuned out the moment he appeared and didn't even know he'd said anything until I saw complaints on Twitter later, so I'm hardly the best judge either. - Steve]
Ore and Jo are the second couple – she in bright cerise, looking like a neon-rendering of Madonna circa ‘Material Girl’; he with cerise tie. Tess makes a mention of BLACKPOOL being the Vegas of the North and the look of utter disdain on Jo’s face is lifegiving.
In the VT, Jo says ‘it’s the first time I’m gonna dance… in BLACKPOOL… in Strictly… with a celeb’, just to emphasise how ‘special’ it all is. They go to the BBC props store which looks scruffy and a bit murdery, where she spins him in one of those gravitron things they’ve presumably had left over from one of the many dead-family-entertainment-Saturday-spectaculars in the broadcasting graveyard (poor Ore, at least Greg got to go to a space wind-tunnel) and he says now he’s done the time-honoured make you sick exercise, he’s ready for the Viennese Waltz and Jo’s like ‘LOL no, that was just for comedy VT purposes, you still have to learn the actual technique and steps and stuff.’ I don’t know how I feel about this show finally being self-aware about the pointlessness of its VTs.
They are dancing to ‘That’s Life’. And it has a spectacular opening involving a card game with Jo, Neil, Janette and two prop dancers, where they keep freezing in tableau and then unfreezing into dramatic poses, which they continue throughout much of the routine. It looks amazing but it is probably the kind of thing that should have been saved for a pro dance, as it means we are watching them, not Ore, who is pretty much lost in the mix – something that’s only enhanced when one of the women puts her hand into Jo’s cleavage (makes a change from all the male-centred homoeroticism, huh?). Given all the shenanigans, there’s not much time for actual Viennese Waltz content, bar a never-ending, super-fast fleckerl at one point. When they do move about, his legs seem a bit stuttery – but I guess that’s possibly the pace of the song. There is a good end moment where he pulls out an ace and then spins Jo off into a cool end pose, but it feels very much a dance of spectacle over content, and I am not sure if that’s down to Jo or the production team, but it just doesn’t really work as a VW – an American Smooth, possibly. So we’re two down and both have underwhelmed, drowning the celebs in a sea of better dancers. Yay, BLACKPOOL!
Bruno calls it ‘a jazz Viennese Waltz out of Ocean's 11’ (I don’t remember that scene myself, but it is many years since I saw that film – the remake one, anyway - and I’ve only watched it the once). Craig says the top line in the fleckerl bothered him and he was a bit skippy at the end, but he loved the double jumps and calls him an amazing showman. Darcey says it was the longest lasting fleckerl ever (in these post-Record Breakers times is there any way we can verify these things or not?) and no one could hold it that well (again, I’d like some verification). Len says it was a mix of flair and care. He’s just sticking together words that rhyme as critiques, now isn’t he?
In the Clauditorium, Claudia reckons there were 12 spins in a row and Ore says there were ‘a few sicks in the week’. Mainly after everyone celebrated his and Greg’s birthdays, I expect. Scores 8, 10, 10, 10 for a total of 38 and Jo is somewhat baffled and hysterical at that score. I mean, I concede it was worth a couple more marks than what Claudia did, so… Yay, BLACKPOOOOOOL!! That hangover is gonna hit haaaard next week, good luck with that Steve.
Louise and Kevin now and I’m kind of looking forward to this but also kind of nervous given the BLACKPOOL paso history (well, the history of the previous three BLACKPOOLs anyway with Susanna and Kevin, Pixie and Trent and Anita and Gleb. Also – 10 women have scored 37 or more in a paso, compared to two men – Jay and Austin - and yet the show still thinks rumba is the hard dance for blokes). In their VT, they go to a rock factory and have the message ‘L&K BLACKPOOL’ inscribed in it, which is about as EDGY as you’d expect from these two. Why not ‘DANNY MAC RINGER’ or ‘ED BALLS IS CRAP?’ or the evergreen classic ‘MY SISTER IS A POOHEAD’? They dance around in the rock factory and get given a few sticks from their batch of rock. I bet the show sold the rest of them at an inflated ‘SUPER STRICTLY SPECIAL PRICE’ like all those shops that get ‘duped’ into buying useless crap on The Apprentice do.
Their paso is to something called ‘Explosive’ and it seems to be set in an alt-universe Game of Thrones, and I bet there are already a ton of crossover fics on AO3. Louise descends the stairs dramatically as a bad-ass matriarch in a huge capey skirt that gets removed. [I'm sure I can't be the only person who feared some sort of Madonna-at-the-Brits moment happening here. - Steve] The prop dancers are used more effectively here to lift Louise and mostly support the routine – other than one point towards the start where they full on obscure both Louise and Kevin, though that may just be bad camerawork. There’s lots to like here – amazing dramatic lighting, high-intensity strings, fantasy-medieval staging – all of which add to the drama, but her footwork is lacking in a couple of places and she keeps grinning, which dilutes the mood a bit. Her arms and posturing look good, especially as it’s fast. I love it – it probably feels a bit performance over technique, but it is BLACKPOOL and putting the celebrity both at the centre and in a routine where they actually seem too be able to do the dance they’ve been given is a welcome turn of events. [I loved it too. I agree with you that it wasn't perfect, but it was just so much FUN (and so very camp) that I didn't care. - Steve]
Craig says he loved the skirt work, the arabesque and the flamenco hop, and calls it ‘full of gorge’. Darcey says she loved how Louise kept control and that the routine was dynamic and strong, with beautiful arms. Len says he was blown away (enough about your private life etc). Bruno loved the Game of Thrones style and her being a killer queen commanding her turf – with beauty, artistry and power. So GoT works better for a paso than Harry Potter, what a surprise.
In the Clauditorium, Louise says she didn’t want to let Kevin down with his favourite dance. Scores: 9 (which is booed), Darcy scrambling for ‘a passionate’ 9 (which produces some laughs), 10, 10 for a total of 38.
Danny and Oti now, which… kind of means it’s likely to go downhill from here, doesn’t it? [Yes, the running order this week was a bit baffling, front-loading all the ringers and leaving Ed, Greg and Judge Rinder for the second half. - Steve] In their VT, we see him dropping her badly. Fortunately they have a crash mat in place, so she’s fine. They also go to a ‘restaurant’ for him to get into character as a waiter-dressed-as-a-ringmaster but lol it’s a chippy. God, I would really like some chips right now.
Their Charleston is soundtracked by ‘Putting on the Ritz’ and pretty much off the bat they go into a single handed (each!) joint cartwheel, holding hands. I literally shouted ‘WOAH’- I’ve never seen anything like it from a celebrity that I can recall, especially as they just naturally went in and out of it in time with the music – properly thrilling. There’s another spectacular lift but after that, it is a lovely, jazzy, well-danced and joyous routine, with some table-top tapping to boot. The problem is that having two spectacular moments early on meant it just needed one more spectacular moment at the end to be a truly shut-the-show-down routine, but I still wouldn’t like to be one of the dancers following that. The prop dancers were used as support here, rather than overshadowing the dance, which made it look like an excellent stage show routine, not that Danny’s ever been involved in anything like that, of course.
Darcey says it was impressive, especially the cartwheel and that it’s hard to distinguish who’s the professional dancer and who’s the West End Ringer. Len says it was a choreography overload and he likes dances on the edge where they could easily go wrong but don’t. That… doesn’t normally strike me as the kind of dance Len likes, but OK. Bruno calls it a table topping showstopper, like watching a Broadway show (which is obviously not West End, not at all, that’s a whole different thing which usually just involves sitting in a chair). Craig’s only comment is a ‘fab-u-lous’ so he’s presumably giving up his 10 like he said he would on ITT. He’s made weirder choices for his first 10 in the past, to be fair.
Scores: 10, 10, 10, 10 for our first 40. The noise is deafening. Claudia says there’s some technical difficulties with the phone messages, and if you’re thinking no-one votes on the phone, you’re wrong. Ed Balls voters do – I heard one in a café last weekend – so maybe technical hitches are how they’re going to manage to get him into the dance-off. [I vote on the phone too. Three free votes are never enough. - Steve]
Time for our weekly dose of Claudia comedy – this week’s gag is cueing up Ed hanging 40ft up on a piano, and Claudia holding it by a rope. Tess says Claudia dropped a prop last time she held it up, and Claudia makes a pinky promise not to… Kerrash.
Ed and Katya’s VT opens with him playing a real piano (although not necessarily really playing a piano), then Katya decides to get him to play a poor plastic-sheet-like version of the floor piano from Big. Badly and half-heartedly.
As we have known since last week, they are jiving to ‘Great Balls of Fire’ one of those classic first week song choices somehow arriving late in the day. He descends with a piano, looking way more stable than Judge Rinder’s infant-school-nativity level star. The routine starts with Katya and the prop dancers dancing for a while before he comes on, which is probably for the best. This is not his dance - as much as anything could be his dance, and you can see him thinking about what move comes next rather than it feeling natural the whole time, leaving it disjointed and lumpen. The final line of the dance, as he leaps into the arms of five women dancers? ‘Goodness gracious Ed Balls of fire’ – just in case you hadn’t spotted the connection. [My patience has been running thin with Ed of late, and I think "Ed Balls of fire" might be the point where it snapped. - Steve]
Len says he’s getting better… as last week he was 8th and this week the worst he’ll be is 7th. Miaow. Bruno says he’s booked a shrink, a chiroporactor and a trip to Himalayas to get over Ed’s dancing [but he's never been to me - Steve] – so Bruno is into alternative medicine, who’s surprised? Craig says it looked like playing hopscotch in a girls’ school (#everydaysexism) and he had very heavy feet, when a jive needs to be lighter but he likes that Ed keeps going. Darcey says he needs more retraction but she loved the end. Cold.
In the Clauditorium, we hear that Ed went to the Winter Gardens yesterday to watch the professionals and this makes him want to keep dancing. For another week, two tops, before the bussing that began tonight starts to approach with the intensity of one that will blow up if it goes at less than 50mph. Scores: 4, 6, 7, 6 for a total of 23.
Greg and Natalie are our penultimate couple. Their VT sees them perform in aisle of a packed train to lots of ‘happy’ customers who aren’t at all enraged at being stopped from getting to the buffet. First Corbyn starts blocking the aisles and now this? [I mean I'd be far happier to bump into Greg Rutherford on a Pendolino than to bump into Jeremy Corbyn but perhaps I'm biased. - Steve] Anyway, a random passenger asks him to ‘do it for the gingers’. I’m thinking ‘the gingers’ are going to be out of luck until we eventually get MegaRinger Bonnie Langford competing. [NICOLA ROBERTS DOMINATION 2017 - Steve]
They are dancing the quickstep to ‘Born to Hand Jive’ and the setting, with its rainbow balloon arches and streamers suggests this is set at prom in that LGBT+ school Claudia and AJ go to with the rainbow lockers, and Nat and Greg are the youngish teachers who like to think they’re cool. Greg is wearing purple velvet, not the pink we were threatened with in the week. Not that this seems to have made him more comfortable because he looks completely terrified throughout, especially at the bit in the middle where they have a little sit down and do the hand jive. It’s super quick and parts of it are reasonable, but there are several small mistakes and it’s not very ‘clean’ and I think it bodes ill for his chances. [Although I did laugh at how even when he clearly went wrong, he still had more body contact with Natalie than Abbey Clancy did with Aljaž in her 10-scoring Blackpool quickstep YES I AM STILL CROSS ABOUT THAT ACTUALLY. - Steve]
Afterwards, Greg says it was one of most incredible and fun moments. I’d advise him to tell his face, but he’s a professional athlete and looking miserable/terrified seems to be their idea of ‘fun’, if Louis Smith, Pendledrama and Andy Murray have taught me anything. Bruno says it was bubbly and bouncy like a springbok on the run and it was nice to see him having a good time but his footwork needs to be refined. Craig says there was too much power going into the floor, giving him too much height in the chasses which made it bouncy (I’m guessing the sprung floor maybe didn’t help?). Craig argues that Greg went off the wrong leg in the jeté and Natalie says not, but even she doesn’t quite have the energy for a full-on fight about it. Craig then says he did dance brilliantly. Hmmm, bokay then. Darcey says he has a natural spring in him, which I guess is like natural rhythm for white sportspeople? She liked that he was smiling all the way through. He was??! Len says he maintained speed and great movement throughout, but the queer thing was that he messed up the leap. I haven’t heard that term used in that particular way for a good couple of decades and it makes me feel super uneasy, especially given this show’s audience and many of its cast and crew. I dunno, to me snarling that something is ‘queer’ as an insult seems even worse than Peter Kay insinuating Judge Rinder was after his ass – but there’s not been any outrage about this so maybe I’m oversensitive. *shrug*. [With Len's general track record of distaste for anything effeminate I would prefer him not to use the word "queer" for anything, but I think he genuinely intended it for its stated meaning of "a bit peculiar", so I couldn't really bring myself to get aerated about it. - Steve] Greg says he’s been trying to calm down his athletics and Len is like ‘yeah but you’re supposed to be a world champion long jumper and you messed up the jump.’ Is Len’s love affair with SPORTSMEN officially dead and buried now?
In the Clauditorium, we learn that when Natalie and Greg were first paired up, Natalie said she was worried about doing the quickstep with ‘that man’ but that she loved it in the end. Scores: all 8s for a total of 32.
Our final dance of the evening (I love it when the numbers dwindle… although not the point where they dwindle so much that two-dance week is initiated, which must be fairly imminent) is from Judge Rinder and Oksana, and it seems odd that they put his salsa here rather than, say, his foxtrot. I could be wrong, of course, and maybe it’ll be a salsa for the ages. I'm sure that's what will occur.
We’re reminded that last week we met his amazing grandparents, but sadly there is no word on whether or not they’re in the audience tonight. I suspect Tess might have taken a restraining order out, which would be the first time she’d be the one needing protection rather than the one people need protecting from. Even though the Pleasure Beach is meant to be closed, Oksana and the producers have found somewhere with fairground rides and they send Judge Rinder up on one of those enormous tower type rides. The tenuous connection is training him to stop being scared of lifts and, in another knowing VT, he whines about how loose the connection is and sarky voices the ‘Oh, now I can do the lift.' I refer you to my earlier point about knowing VTs.
They are dancing to ‘Spice Up Your Life’ and this is really not a track that suits our generally-improved Strictly singers in the slightest, who not only struggle with the notes but sound so unimpressed with the whole thing that it feels less ‘party anthem’ and more ‘murder ballad’. The staging for the dance is a load of technicolor flowers and Judge Rinder’s in bright cobalt blue with Oksana in clashing lime. This dance plays to his theatrics, he has a big gaping gob throughout, to the extent that his previous facial expressions seem subtle. There are lots of wiggles and bum shakes and those arm rolls they have in ‘Agadoo’. He lifts her successfully, but looms scared the whole time, never more so than when her skirt falls in his face. STRAIGHT PANIC! There’s a lot of energy in this routine, but it’s lacking in timing and technique and I really wish we’d gone out on Louise or Danny’s dances because then BLACKPOOL would have gone out with a bang and not a whimper. [Oh, I thought this was a bang, personally. It was a mess, but it was a glorious mess and I loved it. - Steve]
Craig calls it hiptastic, and says he loved the booty shakes and wants to call him Judge Grind(e)r. Darcey says she’s never seen a guy shake his cheeks as well. I kind of feel we need a direct comparison with Aljaž and Greg here. Just for scientific research purposes, you understand. Len says he got excited and started rushing and then, again, ‘something queer happened’ – well, the whole routine could be classified that way, depending on the way you’re using the term, and, more importantly, who is using the term. People boo him saying this and he snaps and says he doesn’t hold a grudge for the Judge. Bruno calls it ‘spicier than a scotch bonnet’, despite the timing issues, it heated up the ballroom. Maybe they should have gone on first in that case, given the bracing BLACKPOOL weather.
Not much of interest happens in the Clauditorium beyond dance being marvellous and BLACKPOOL likewise. Scores: 8, 9, 8, 8 for a total of 33.
Shall we have a specially-inflated BLACKPOOL leaderboard?
Danny and Oti 40
Jo and Ore 38
Louise and Kevin 38
Claudia and AJ 36
Judge Rinder and Oksana 33
Greg and Natalie 32
Ed and Katya 23
I’d say the four bottom couples all look in danger, although I don’t think they’ve put the brakes on the Ed Express or Rinder Railways hard enough yet so a Greg vs Claudia dance-off with Greg going would be my prediction.
To open the vote, Peter Kay has been safely stashed out of sight, and instead, Ore has a neon ‘open’ sign of the style you get in shops and it doesn’t work. When he eventually gets it switched on, the light quality is so poor that he may as well not have bothered. And they say BLACKPOOL’s illuminations are world class. Tomorrow! We somehow fall through a wormhole and end up in 1988 and Simple Minds and Rick Astley perform! Join us then to see if another man might actually leave the show at long last!