Saturday, 12 December 2009

Team Awesome v Team Cola v Team Whittle - Strictly Semi-Final Drama

First of all, I was completely gobsmacked to discover that this little blog has been linked to by none other than the great Lib Dem Voice in a post by the funny, sometimes profane and slightly wicked Jennie. Jennie has written an article for Lib Dem Voice telling everybody that they can change the world by blogging. Now, there's absolutely zero politics in this post, so if you're reading this and half thinking about blogging but worrying that you have to be a white, male, with famous friends to do it properly, go and read her post and she will have you blogging beautifully within the hour, I promise.

Anyway the link itself has motivated me to write a preview of tonight's semi-final. Before I even go there though, I have to recount a totally brilliant Claudia Winkleman moment from last night's It Takes Two. She had on John Pienaar, the BBC's political correspondent along with a sports journalist and a royal correspondent who tells us that Camilla is apparently mad on the show. Pienaar was saying how Peter Mandelson would love to be on the show. Claudia came out instantly with one of her classic lines "that look of death would be perfect for the Tango." I wonder if she's being interrogated in a Whitehall basement as I write this.....

I expect the three Strictly semi-finalists are full of nerves as they prepare for their two dances in tonight's show. All are doing the lustful, actually downright filthy, passionate, Argentine Tango and a dance of their own choice which they've revamped from earlier in the series.

Ricky and Natalie have chosen to do the Waltz which they did on their ballroom debut. They made a reasonable job of it, too. 33 for a debut is pretty amazing.

The thing about Ricky is that he's not had such a marked improvement since then. He' not had the leap that both the others have had. The weeks when he's done badly have really been because he hasn't had time to practice, not because he can't do the dance. You can tell when he's trained for 12 hours and when he's trained for 20, but that's about it.

With Ali and Brian, they had a good start but then Ali's skills have had to develop. She's a good actress, but she can't always manage to bring the emotion of the dance into her performance. Mind you I can't criticise her because I certainly couldn't write a blog posting while learning to ride a unicycle. She's technically very good, and an extremely elegant and graceful dancer, though. Alesha said she had the best arms of any female celebrity ever and I think she's right. I thought her Samba last week was the best I'd seen since Zoe Ball's, full of party spirit and technically excellent. I do get annoyed with the judges telling the female dancers that they need to be passionate and sexy, though. Not all of us are like that and I don't mind the occasional bit of wholesome on my dancefloor. I wonder what their Argentine Tango will bring. It certainly looked good in the training footgage. I have to say, Lisa Snowdon last year came in for the same criticism as Ali's getting but her Argentine Tango was the sexiest thing I'd seen in a long time.

Here's a reminder:

For their second dance, Team Awesome are doing the American Smooth, which will suit Ali perfectly. Here's their first effort.

And finally we have Team Cola. These two are one of Strictly's legendary partnerships, along with Bill and Karen, Anton and Kate and Darren and Lilia. Chris has brought out a warmth and sense of fun I previously hadn't really noticed before in Ola. While Chris might not be technically brilliant, and he might forget the steps sometimes, he sells every single dance and he's enjoying himself. Who can forget their brilliant Charleston which made up in cheek what little it lacked in technique?

Ola's taken an enormous risk by going for a Rumba for their second dance. Again this was their debut dance and he performed what is an awkward dance for the celebrity very well for such an early stage in the competition. How well it will sit on Week 13, I don't know, especially when the first dance has a required element of passion. While Ricky and Ali are going for contrast, Ola and Chris just clamber down the smut-o-meter a bit.

This has all the ingredients of a dramatic semi-final - but then we have the added element of the dance-off being removed. I have to say that I think this favours Chris who would almost certainly have been in it but I think it's absolutely the right decision. The X Factor abandons the sing off for the last 3 weeks and I think there's an argument for Strictly to do the same.

Whatever happens tonight, a really good dancer is going to go out - unless, of course, for the second year running, we have some sort of muck up with their voting system so they can all go through to the final. If anyone can arrange this, I'll buy you a gingerbread latte! And if you can bring Natalie Cassidy back too, I'll spike it with rum.

I'm off to open the Rioja, make the dinner and put my feet up and enjoy. See you later.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

In Praise of Team Awesome - Ali and Brian to win Strictly

What a week it's been for Strictly Come Dancing. Just a week after losing Jade Johnson to a ligament injury, and a fortnight after Laila Rouass sprained her ankle hours before the show, Ali Bastian fell on her foot in training for the Charleston on Monday. A shell-shocked looking Brian Fortuna told Claudia on ITT on Wednesday night how he'd taken her to a specialist on Tuesday morning and she's had all sorts of tests. Thankfully there's no fracture or ligament injury, but her bone is badly bruised. Ouch.

The Charleston is a lively and energetic dance which requires lots of jumping and swivelly ankles so I can imagine how painful and unpleasant training must have been for Ali this week. Team Awesome, as Ali and Brian are colloquially known by their ever growing legion of fans, are usually right up at the top of the "hours trained" leader board, but as of Thursday's ITT were 10 hours down on Chris and Ola. It would be a miracle if their performance came anywhere close to the perfection they achieved with their Viennese Waltz at Blackpool.

For that reason, I'm quite worried about them tonight, so they are going to need every single vote. There's only five couples left and if they end up mid table, they could easily end up in the dance off. Natalie and Chris are, rightly, very popular. They may not get as high marks from the Judges but I suspect they run away with viewer votes. Neither has yet been tested with a dance off. Laila and Anton have had a couple of off weeks but the Charleston should suit them and they seem to be having fun with it.

If their performance has already been compromised by Ali's injury, then there is a possibility that the they could be eliminated in the dance-off. We know that this is only a blip in a series of amazing dances from them and it would be so unfair if they had to leave before their time.

Ricky may have the torso and the tricks, and he can certainly move, but Ali's graceful, often fragile, balletic style of dance is absolutely gorgeous. The Judges keep commenting on her arms and they are right - always so perfectly and precisely placed. Her attention to that sort of details is great. Ricky and Ali are by far the best dancers in the competition, and I guess the difference between them is like that between exquisite crystal and a marathon fireworks display. Both are great to watch.

Apart from the brilliant dances they've given us, from that perfect, enchanting Viennese Waltz, to last week's beautiful foxtrot, to the cheeky cha cha cha to their elegant and glamorous American Smooth, they are such a lovely pair. They obviously get on, whether or not they are actually an item. If they're not already, my guess is it's only a matter of time, but it's up to them.

I've been impressed too with the way that Brian goes out of his way to engage with their supporters. He often has some marathon Twitter sessions and he does make an effort to respond to everybody. I've had several replies from him, much to my surprise. He's also active on Facebook, too, not that the technology will let me into his page to link to it.

So, for great dancing by lovely people who are proactive about keeping in touch with their fans, there's no better team than Ali and Brian. Here's hoping they stay in tonight.

Here's a reminder of their brilliant American Smooth.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Bruce to miss Strictly show tonight

Poor Bruce Forsyth has the Flu and is very sensibly staying at home tonight. For the first time ever, he won't be present for a Strictly live show. I hope he gets better soon and is back there next week. That man has been brightening up my Saturday nights since I was a child and I adore him.

I'm glad that the BBC have not decided they need to bring in a random man to replace him. For tonight, Tess will take over Bruce's presenting abilities and the effervescent and just slightly bonkers Claudia Winkleman will take her unique interviewing style backstage to do Tess's job.

It'll be a unique show, I hope, but I can't wait to see how Tess and Claudia adjust to their new roles.

Nobody should leave!

I guess every year there comes a point in the season, athat you realise that you don't want anyone to go. All the really bad dancers and people who aren't enjoying have been eliminated. There's usually been a shock elimination of someone who should have progressed to the final, this year Zoe Lucker. Then you realise that what you actually want to do is lock everyone up in tv centre and simply not allow them to leave, having them dance each week in perpetuity for our enjoyment.

Every year you think it's the first time you've felt this. You completely forget as each season is caught up in its own little bubble.

This year, the eight couples left all have their unique selling point which endears them to the public.

For Ricky Whittle the attraction is obvious. Apart from his ability to dance, the man is, shall we say, not at all bad to look at, especially in Latin costume.

For Natalie Cassidy and Vincent Simone, it's her obvious love of what she's doing. She's like a wee kid in a sweetie shop and she sees every single dance as a challenge and an adventure. She needs to do a bit more on technique, but what she lacks there she makes up for in performance, throwing herself into the spirit of whatever dance she's doing. I can't remember hearing her whinge once.

For Laila Rouass it's the beauty of her ballroom dancing and her struggle to get to grips with the Latin. There's also the fact that she's dancing with Anton. He is back to his usual funny self after his faux pas earlier in the season. At least he had the decency to apologise and Laila the good grace to accept that and move on. The only real weakness is her Latin. That is not her fault. Anton, bless him, wonderful though he is in every respect, is not the best Latin dancer and choregrapher and it shows. He's competent, but he just doesn't get it. He also doesn't have any sort of love for it, thinking the samba is a silly dance.

For Jade Johnson, it's the fact that she's learning about being part of a team and not competing solely for herself, she's getting to grips with the girly side of the dance as well. I can't wait to see their Tango tonight - Ian Waite's first since the legendary performance he did with Zoe Ball 4 years ago.

For Ricky Groves it's the combination of his sense of fun and drama along with Erin's choreography which really gets the best out of him. I fear for them tonight however as they have struggled with their Viennese Waltz training and they were in the bottom two last week.

For Phil Tufnell it's the triumph over adversity thing - imagine going through surgery on your knee and being back in the training room two days later. He's been surprising in his ability to take it all seriously and he seems to have rediscovered his competitive spirit in the last couple of weeks. He could last a while more as long as he can stay out of the dance off.

For Chris Hollins it's been his fall from grace and slow rebuild after a fantastic start. That, and the fabulous and funny partnership he has with "Mrs Jordan". What is it about these BBC Breakfast presenters? Bill Turnbull was exactly the same. I've never really warmed to Ola as a person until this year but she and Chris obviously get on so well and have very complementary senses of humour. With Chris we've all been gutted for him in the weeks when he just lost it with the live performance and cheered when he rocked the house with his Foxtrot in Blackpool. His Paso looked fantastic in training - he's clearly been learning from Ola's tough love. I'm not sure about a Paso to the Darkness' I believe in a Thing Called Love, but I suspect it will turn out to be a real crowd pleaser.

For me, Ali Bastian has it all - a great chemistry between her and her partner Brian which they've had to endure a fair bit of teasing about, a fragility, grace and elegance that I don't think we've seen in anyone before. Alesha talked about how fantastic her arm work was. She really seems to have a good instinct for what she needs to do to make a beautiful line. Their Viennese Waltz last week thoroughly deserved its perfect score.

So I hope I've made the case for a BBC TV Centre lock in, but, sadly, it's not going to happen. I will be voting for Ali for sure this evening - the fact that she was in the dance off from fairly high up the leader board a fortnight ago worries me and I really want to see her in the final. Chris and Natalie also must stay, for me - they embody everything the programme is about - entertaiment and good dancing. I suspect that Laila and Ricky will be vulnerable - Laila because she's doing a Rumba which looked a bit awkward in training, and Ricky because he's doing a Viennese Waltz which is magical done well but uninspiring if not.

While we're on the subject of Viennese Waltzes, Ali's last weekend was so enchanting. It could have come straight out of a fairy tale.

Here it is again - it is simply not possible to watch this and feel miserable. Enjoy!

Saturday, 19 September 2009

The First Show - the Countdown to Christmas has begun

There's something about Strictly that makes it feel like all is well with the world, regardless of what else may be going on around you. I can almost feel myself relaxing and smiling with the merest hint of the theme tune and so it was with a sense of optimism that I dragged myself out of bed where I'd been languishing all day being ill to watch the first live show last night.

Bruce seemed sprightlier than ever when he did his little dance at the start. I'm constantly surprised by his fitness with every passing year. Tess looked great, in a fuschia off one shoulder satin dress with a thin black belt. I didn't look quite that good 3 months after giving birth!

It was fabulous to see the professional dancers produce a dramatic, tempo changing, complex, bright medley of all the dances they will be doing during the series.

There had been some musical chairs in the judges' panel. Alesha doesn't take Arlene's seat (which could be taken as a visual representation that she is simply not as good as the woman she's replacing) but cuddles up in between Len (who is now beside Craig) and Bruno. She was wearing some very scary green eye shadow and I think the make up people need to soften her look for tonight's show.

I like this new way of doing things - half the couples dancing a ballroom and then a Latin over two nights. It gives us a chance to see them in both disciplines to see if they take to one or the other. Although I was more than happy to see the back of the annoying Gary Rhodes last year, it did seem a bit unfair that he was given Latin dances, which he was clearly rubbish at, for his only two competitive shows.

While it may be fairer, it must be more stressful for the celebrities to have to learn two dances to performance standards which is why I really could have slapped Craig for being so mean to first up performer Rav Wilding.

Rav and Aliona kicked off with a Tango. They managed to capture something of the mood and drama of the dance, but Aliona really did all the work and Rav's posture and hold wasn't brilliant. To add insult to injury, they did an illegal lift which Aliona tried to make out was involuntary. Not big and not clever. Even so, he did a very good job but Craig was unduly mean, giving them only a 3, while the other judges gave them 5s and 6s. Rav is clearly throwing himself into the spirit of the show - and I laughed at a comment in his training footage where he shook his head and said "I can't even cross my legs."

The training footage for Erin and Ricky prompted me to tweet that her hair gets lighter every year, but it had gone very dark again by the time they took to the floor - as did her stare when Bruce referred to her as an old banger. I get the impression there might have been a few words said backstage after that one. Anyway, despite Ricky looking more petrified than a rabbit looking down the barrel of a gun, they executed a very nice looking waltz. He does have a dance background so may well be one to watch - although I'm not sure the Latin will work for him.

The Judges weren't so sweet to them, although Bruno's comment "I've seen more romance between David Cameron and Gordon Brown" was very funny.

Chris and Ola were up next with their Tango to Sharp Dressed Man - Ola certainly doesn't like conventional Tango music. I thought that they were technically very good, but there was just no great sense of drama and performance from Chris. Not surprising, seeing as he's a sports journalist, really.

Then in succession we had two elegant and graceful waltzes from the sportswomen in the field. First came Jade and Ian. Clearly they did very well, not perfect, as you wouldn't expect from a week one performance, but it looked fantastic, and it was to "Weekend in New England", which, and I don't care if it's a Barry Manilow song, I love. Jade's dress was so beautiful - creamy coloured, floaty and princess like. I think she needs to relax a bit more if she's going to get the public to take to her as competitive perfectionists don't tend to inspire votes in these shows. She was very self crtiical and clearly upset at the end of her performance.

You have to cut her a bit of slack, I think, because, unlike the likes of Tuffers and Martina Hingis, she's still part of that lonely, competitive athletic world and it'll be difficult for her to come out of that mindset. I think she needs to try though - and in fact, being able to be a bit more relaxed might actually help her on field performance, too.

Martina and Matthew were lovely, too. I think we were all waiting to see how Alesha would deal with her previous partner with whom she formed a close friendship. She told Martina to trust him because she was "in safe hands". I think the partnership has potential for the rest of the show.

They got some harsher comments from the judges than I think they deserved - I think in particular someone had hidden Craig's higher numbered paddles. No way was that only worth a 4.

Also in for some harsh criticism were Lynda and Darren. From the waist up, Lynda was fabulous - dramatic and tempestuous, but the footwork didn't really match up. She needed to be a lot faster and lighter on her feet but I certainly wouldn't write her off. Craig again was mean to her.

Then came the performance of the night - a fantastic, graceful, beautiful waltz from Ali and Brian. If she can do Latin, she's a clear frontrunner. To get 30 points on show 1 is quite something and it was well deserved. Here it is so you can judge for yourself.

Last up was a tango from Joe Calzaghe that disappointed. The guy's a boxer so I thought he'd be good with the aggression, but it was a bit of a limp lettuce to be honest. It was the only Tango of the night to be danced to proper Tango music, so they should be credited for that.

Then came the group dance of the non competing couples, a Mambo. In general it was a good effort, but it did look a bit like they were doing a Latin version of the Hokey Cokey at times and you could see the confusion in some of their faces. I have a horrible feeling that Natalie Cassidy is going to take a lot of flack in the press, but she looked fantastic and you could tell she was allowing herself to get swept up in the music.

Craig's comment at the end was unforgivable - saying "Good luck Brendan" in a very disparaging way. Jo Wood looked devastated and I felt that was outrageously cruel and unfair of Craig to be quite so horrid.

I wonder if he was deliberately upping the vinegar to counteract the sweetness and fluffiness from Alesha. I think the almost universal pleading from the Strictly Twitterverse was that we all desperately wanted to see Arlene back. Alesha's lovely, but I don't think she has the potential to even grow into Arlene's shoes. She can be very funny and I think she needs to relax and bring that side of herself out. Ricky Whittle seems to be the one to lust over this year, and I can imagine how Arlene would have played that. I think the BBC have put Alesha into a role she's just not suited to, which is a great shame.

One thing I think would have enhanced the experience of the first show would have been a pre-match ITT with a Friday Panel and Claudia. I hope they think about doing that next year.

It's exciting that rather than a week, we have only another few hours to wait until the next instalment of the new Adventures of Strictly.

See you tomorrow, I hope, for a round up of the Latin performances.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The Draw for the first two weeks

Reigning champion professional dancer Camilla Dallerup, who has decided not to take part in Strictly this year is, I'm glad to see, keeping in touch with the show.

Here she is making the draw for the first two shows:

This has put up some interesting results.

In week one we have:

Lynda Bellingham and Darren Bennett

Ali Bastian and Brian Fortuna

Martina Hingis and Matthew Cutler

Jade Johnson and Ian Waite

Rav Wilding and Aliona Vilani

Joe Calzaghe and Kristina Rihanoff

Ricky Groves and Erin Boag

Chris Hollins and Ola Jordan

I know we haven't seen any of them dance, but I do have to say that it seems like couples with the most potential are in this draw. I fear probably for Ali Bastian and Rav Wilding. Ali is probably the least known and Rav's partner Aliona is new. I know that people do vote on the basis of their favourite professional, which might favour Ali's partner Brian who was immensely popular last year.

I'd hate to see Erin out so soon, but it was a soap actor in Brian Capron who was the first to go last year.

In week 2 we have:

Laila Rouss and Anton Du Beke

Natalie Cassidy and Vincent Simone

Zoe Lucker and James Jordan

Jo Wood and Brendan Cole

Ricky Whittle and Natalie Lowe

Craig Kelly and Flavia Cacace

Phil Tufnell and Katya Virshilas

Richard Dunwoody and Lilia Kopylova

In this one, there's a few vulnerabilities. Jo Wood might be begging for mercy from Brendan by that stage and may go - although I expect she will have the sympathy of many women, which might keep her in. I expect Phil Tufnell will sail through on personality alone. For the same reasons I expect Laila (cos she's with Anton) and Natalie to sail through too.

I would worry about both Ricky because I suspect he needs to light up the dance floor as he's relatively unknown and his partner is new.

If truth be known, out of 16 celebs, 3 are called variations of Richard. Surely they can't all survive the first fortnight?

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Sequins are Go - Couples for new series announced

Let's get that glitter ball dusted off and pull on our dancing shoes, cos it's that time of year again - the new season of Strictly Come Dancing is upon us!

I thought I'd revive this blog for this new series. I've tried the patience of my readers of Caron's Musings enough with copious postings about Formula 1, and I fear that I may lose some of them for good if I add too much Strictly to the mix, too.

Several of us across the Twitterverse have been awaiting the announcement of the participants for this year. And here they are.

The problem is that when you've had months of speculation about Fern Britton and Sharon Osbourne, a list that doesn't include them is bound to disappoint a little.

I'm pleased to say that I have actually heard of most of them. There's 5 sports people, and 5 soap stars to start with, so I'm fearing we're not quite going to have the diversity of previous years.

Anyway, let's have a look:

The Girls

Natalie Cassidy and Vincent Simone

The actress has the dubious honour of dancing with the occasionally sleazy Vincent Simone, who previously partnered her ex Eastenders colleague Louisa Lytton and last year got Rachel Stevens to the final. Since Natalie left EastEnders, she's done a fitness dvd which has led to her being stalked by the more pathetic elements of the press who think they have the right to take the mickey out of her weight at all times. There is comedy potential in this partnership and I suspect that Natalie will be able to dance having been co-ordinated enough for a fitness DVD and having been to stage school.

Lynda Bellingham and Darren Bennett

Lynda, of Oxo ad, All Creatures Great and Small (I'd forgotten she played Helen Herriot), Calendar Girls and Loose Women Fame. she should be around for quite a while even if she's not great at dancing on personality and support from her current tv audience. She also has a fantastic partner in Darren Bennett who will get the best out of her. Hopefully Darren will be around for much longer than he was last year with Jessie Wallace.

Zoe Lucker and James Jordan

Zoe's the first of the Footballers' Wives alumni to take to the floor in this series. She's interested in the Dalai Lama and his teachings. She might well need his calming influence given that she's been paired with fiery, grumpy James Jordan.

Martina Hingis and Matthew Cutler

Former tennis champion Martina follows in the footsteps of lucky women like Alesha Dixon, Carol Smillie and Christine Bleakley as Matthew's partner. I suspect that if she can dance, they'll go a long way.

Jade Johnson and Ian Waite

Another athlete for Ian Waite. Can he repeat his successful partnership with Denise Lewis of 5 years' ago with long jumper Jade?

Laila Rouss and Anton Du Beke

I'm quite excited that Anton hasn't been given the oldest contestant this time as he has for the past few years. This is a partnership with potential - let's hope Laila can dance.

Jo Wood and Brendan Cole

This partnership has disaster written all over it. Why take someone who's not used to being in the public eye in her own right, who's maybe not all that confident in her ability (as she said to 5 Live a few minutes ago) and give them to Brendan? Cruel and unusual punishment, surely? Surely Matthew, Brian or Darren would have made more sense? Brendan is not known for being kind to his partners - Clare King, Fiona Phillips and Sarah Manners all felt the sharp end of his tongue. He and Lisa Snowdon made the final last year, but unless he calms down a bit, their bid will be over before it really begins.

Ali Bastian and Brian Fortuna

I don't know much about Ali apart from the fact that she used to be in Hollyoaks and is now in The Bill. She's lucky to have Brian as a partner, though - he was very good at dealing with Heather Small's nerves last year and probably kept her in for about 2 weeks' longer than she should have been.

The Boys:

Joe Calzaghe and Kristina Rihanoff

John Sergeant stayed in last year for much longer than his dancing ability merited, partly due to his own entirely lovable personality but partly down to the fun dance routines created by Kristina. This year, she's been rewarded with a young sportsman - but will he have the grace and elegance for the dancefloor. He's also popular - he beat Lewis Hamilton to Sports Personality of the Year in 2007. One to watch, and he'll get the Welsh vote.

Rav Wilding and Aliona VilaniWell, Crimewatch presenter Rav has been in the Army, the Police and survived 3 months on a desert island for a tv show. I wonder how he'll cope with the finesse of the ballroom and will his service background inhibit him from really letting go in the Latin?

His partner is Strictly newcomer Aliona Vilani, one of 3 new girls brought in to replace the departing Karen Hardy, Hayley Holt, who apparently found out by e-mail that her services were no longer required and Camilla Dallerup, the highly popular series winner from last year who left on her own accord.

Phil Tufnell and Katya Virshilas

No pressure, either, for ex cricketer and King of the Jungle Phil Tufnell as he has to defend a strong cricketing record. Darren Gough took series 3 by storm. He found himself unexpectedly being bitten by the dancing bug and went from the guy who danced an ungainly cha cha cha in episode 1 to the gentleman who danced an amazing foxtrot to Big Spender. He also won subsequent Christmas specials. Then there was Mark Ramprakash whose sultry Argentine Tango and hot, hot, hot salsa with Karen Hardy propelled him to the 2006 title.

Ricky Groves and Erin Boag

The actor who plays EastEnders' Garry Hobbs teams up with former finalist Erin. Erin will be after a victory after being robbed in the quarter final last year. I wonder if his ballet training as a youngster will help. He could be our unexpected gem.

Chris Hollins and Ola Jordan

Will Ola Jordan be able to whip BBC Breakfast Sports correspondent into shape? The programme has a proud record, with Natasha Kaplinksy winning and Bill Turnbull being something of a legend. No pressure, then........

Richard Dunwoody and Lilia Kopylova

Champion jockey Richard Dunwoody has been teamed up with Lilia Kopylova, who's had successful partnerships with Aled Jones, Matt Dawson and Darren Gough. She has had a good record with her sportsmen. Richard Dunwoody may be 45, but he's recently completed a 1000 mile charity walk, so he's fit.

Craig Kelly and Flavia Cacace

Can Flavia do a Matt Di Angelo with actor Craig, who to be honest I'd never heard of, but if he was in the highly acclaimed Queer as Folk, I'm hoping he'll be interesting.

Ricky Whittle and Natalie Lowe

I have to say I know precious little about either of these, not ever having watched an episode of Hollyoaks in my life, so let's hope they are in long enough to get properly aquainted with them. Natalie is a veteran of five series of Dancing with the Stars in Australia which Craig judges, so she's no stranger to what it's all about.

There are a couple of changes - this year it's not going to be girls in first show, boys in second - we're going to have a mixture, and for the first two weeks, there will be two shows, one on Friday, one on Saturday. I presume the idea behind the Friday show is to hook you in so you decide you'd much rather watch Strictly than the X Factor on the Saturday. We'll see.

It all kicks off on 19th September. I can't wait. Bring it on!