Thursday, 30 September 2010

Billi hits the Blogosphere

If you do nothing else today, please point your bookmarking widgety things at this great new blog from my friend Billi.

Billi with an I, it's fair to say, has more than a passing admiration for Anton Du Beke. This  is something that I completely empathise with. The man is amazing. End of story.

Anyway Billi promises to keep us entertained on all sorts of subjects close to my heart -
fashion and shopping, TV, films and theatre, Strictly Come Dancing (and yes LOTS of Anton), places I've been, hotels, bars and restaurants I love, cricket,  hair and beauty products, books, men who catch my eye, a touch of politics and anything else that takes my fancy. 

and some that aren't:
WWE (yes, really)

I now can't get the image of Anton doing WWE out of my head!

Anyway, bookmark Billi - there will really never be a dull moment.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Paul and Ola training video

Have the producers got something against Paul Daniels? I would have thought that giving him the cha cha cha as his first dance was akin to cruel and unusual punishment and would be deemed constitutional in the US.

This is every bit as bad as you think it's going to be and there's zero humour to lighten it up.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Matt and Aliona - serious but not grumpy

After a two day gap, the next training video is here - it's Matt and Aliona.

Theirs is the most serious and industrious so far, but I'm impressed that on the first day, Matt's hands are getting  into the ballpark of where they should be. Aliona also seemed likeable this year. Last time she seemed to do nothing but sulk in the short time she was in the show.

Another partnership which has potential.....and very cool boots.

BBC insist Strictly pairings were done on the launch show

Some of us have been a bit sceptical about whether the celebrities genuinely were allocated their partners during the launch show when it was recorded last Wednesday, especially given that the couples ended up together at the end of the Group Dance.

The consensus has been that they must have known before.

Not so, says the BBC.. Apparently it was all in the choreography. The professionals apparently rehearsed seven different endings to get them to their celebrities.

 Just before the routine was performed, the choreographer was able to quickly remind the dancers which ending they had to dance - but as professionals they could adapt easily."
Hmmm. An awful lot of variables in there. Sounds very complicated even for fantastically skilled professionals. I still think they knew beforehand, even if the celebrities didn't.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Goldie, Kristina and the techno Cha Cha Cha

Today's training video features Goldie and Kristina rehearsing their Cha Cha Cha. Sorry, but I can't even write it without hearing Craig describe it as the Chaw Chaw Chaw.

Again they seem to get on well, and he seems to be able to move - if you're into robotic chic. Very 90s techno stuff.  There's going to be entertainment value in this partnership for sure.

A training session that ends with the words "You're a machine, stay away from me" and talks about the wheels falling off in the next one could give legitimate cause for concern. I think this was all a bit of harmless fun, though. This pair could mix things up.

Michelle and Brendan's first training session

The nice BBC Strictly people have promised to post a new video from the dancers' training every day. First up, Michelle and Brendan.

It's only just over a minute but we already have some very healthy body language, funny banter and an equality in the relationship that's going to entertain us. I wonder how many people will dream about her saying "give me a back basic". And then there's Brendan retaliating by telling her she looks like his dad dancing.

It's not a huge surprise that they're doing the cha cha cha but even on the first day, it looks like it'll be good. That girl has rhythm.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Couples chat backstage after launch show

Those nice people at the BBC have put up a video, which they've encouraged us to share with you, showing backstage interviews with the newly formed couples at the launch show.


3 days left to apply for Strictly Live Show tickets

I was surprised to find out this morning that it's still possible to apply for tickets to the Strictly live shows. On closer inspection, I discovered that the programme is again going to Blackpool on 20th November, with all the other shows being at TV Centre. Obviously, there are going to be many more applicants than there are tickets so   it's all done by means of a random draw.

A full list of all the dates, and all the details you will ever need can be found here. The deadline is 10pm on Thursday and you can apply for as many dates as you can manage, but, if you are lucky enough to get tickets, it will be for one show only.

Good luck!

Jimi and Flavia on BBC Breakfast

One good thing about this time of year is that you get Bill Turnbull talking to Strictly stars on BBC Breakfast on a  Monday morning.

The competition hasn't started yet, but Jimi Mistry and Flavia Cacace called in this morning to talk about Saturday night's show.

Flavia revealed that the wire she and Vincent made their dramatic entrance on on Saturday night was very painful, but it had been something they wanted to do for a while. She says dancers view the floor as their best friend, and when you suddenly don't have that any more, you feel like you have no stability.

She also said that the partnership everyone's talking about, of former Tory minister Ann Widdecombe, and Anton Du Beke, was going to be incredibly entertaining.

Despite the new professional dance troupe, the professionals who are mentoring celebrities will be doing at least one routine as there's more time available in the show now that the dreaded dance off has gone.

Jimi seemed to be looking forward to the experience, saying that he was looking forward to the challenge of learning to dance. 

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Season 8 Launch Show: the secrets revealed!

So we've had the first show of the 2010 series. I presume this is the BBC's attempt to give us a wee taster in order to re-ignite our enthusiasm for the show so that by the time the shows start proper on 1st October.

I'm still feeling a bit battered and bruised from the way the producers have ridden roughshod over so much of what, and who I like about the show, so it's going to take more than that.

Having taken away no less than 5 of my favourite dancers, they then insult my intelligence by trying to get me to believe that the celebrities had no idea who their partners were going to be before the show started. That'll be why they all ended up with their actual partners at the end of their group dance, then.

And then there were no opening titles. And the screen went totally blank at the start of the show, leading to my friend Elspeth and I madly texting each other, thinking our tellies were broken. But of course there were no titles - cos they have the couples' names, on, silly. Sometimes I wonder about myself! 

But lets not dwell to much on those sorts of things. There is a nice new set, and Tess's area is no longer the cosy, plush, secluded backstage place it used to be. She now has a glass tower which overlooks the dance floor. It's a bit like a fancy cocktail bar rather than the. Its positioning kind of ruins the idea of it being a secret place, away from the audience and the judges, where contestants spill out their private thoughts or cry when Craig's been mean to them. This new place is a wee bit too sophisticated for me.

The Judges were all there, Alesha looking as if she was wearing nothing other than newly straightened hair. I'm glad they're all back, but, for goodness sake, what was the point in asking them to comment on the newly formed partnerships without seeing them dance? And even after a year, I miss Arlene.

The show started with a group dance from the professionals. I'm not convinced it went as smoothly as it was supposed to be as there seemed to be a bit of faffing around at the top right of the screen.

Then the contestants made their entrance. A few of the girls, Tina O'Brien and Pamela Stephenson notably, came very gingerly down the stairs. Hard to think that if they stay in until the end, they'll be using them as part of their dance routines. It's always interesting how they are actually introduced. Screen siren was the term used for Patsy Kensit. I knew she was in Holby, but I thought she provided more than the ambulance noise.... And Miss Widdecombe got her full title, The Rt Hon Ann Widdecombe. It'll certainly play up the comedy value.

So it was down to the real business of the night - revealing the couples who will be entertaining us until Christmas.

The disappointing thing for me is that having mucked around with so many things that we fans were quite happy with, so many of the pairings were incredibly predictable. 

Erin got an aging sportsman, and this one's called Peter as well. Aliona was paired up with another TV presenter, Natalie was given another soap actor. James has the middle aged lady.  Mix it up a bit, for goodness sake. I am annoyed that Erin has yet again been given somebody who might last until mid season if we're lucky.

In full, here are the new couples:

MIchelle Williams and Brendan Cole - I loved Michelle's attitude - she seemed very enthusiastic and genuine. Brendan is clearly delighted. This partnership has the potential to captivate us.

Patsy Kensit and Robin Windsor - she didn't seem too comfortable with herself last night, very self conscious. Let's hope Robin can get her into the groove or she'll be going fairly quickly. She'll have to watch that she doesn't become one of those bland mid table people who don't attract votes and who go when people are trying to save the people at the bottom.

Tina O'Brien and Jared Murillo - they don't come much cuter than the sweet blonde actress and the ex High School Musical dancer. The candy floss couple!

Pamela Stephenson and James Jordan - this has the potential to be funny, fiery and fantastic. Let's hope they don't get the Samba (James' dance of doom) for a long time.

Kara Tointon and Artem Chigvintsev - they put her in an Argentine Tango style dress for the first show and she wore it well. I don't know enough about either of them to really predict what they'll be like. One to watch, though, given her previous experience.

Felicity Kendal and Vincent Simone - I think this pairing could be excellent as long as it goes beyond the usual Vincent sleaze. It has potential comedy value and if he can unleash her sensual, darker, side, they could really make an impact.

Ann Widdecombe and Anton Du Beke - he obviously knew. He doesn't normally bare his chest to that extent so early in the season. I'm clearly going to have to keep the launch show on my Sky + box because I'm probably not going to see much more of it. I'm just praying to the gods I don't think exist that they have the waltz rather then the cha cha for the opening show.  Personality wise, I think that they'll get on. She'll like his suits and his humour. He'll like the banter that will no doubt develop between them as she tells him what she thinks. She knows it's not all about the dancing - although she is going to have to put a bit of work in. I like her attitude - she has a refreshing amount of perspective about the whole thing. 

Now that she's bagged my favourite dancer, who, for all his many faults, rarely fails to make me laugh, she'll have my unqualified support for the duration.

Gavin Henson and Katya Virshilas - I love her, can't stand him. Let's see how this pans out. Andrew is quite taken with Mr Henson, so I'd better be nice in case he makes good his Twitter threat to fall out with me.

Peter Shilton and Erin Boag - well he kind of looked like he was made for the wrong side of that study on the BBC about the link between good dancing and male health. Having said that, the study is clearly nonsense given that the man's had a career in football which requires a certain amount of fitness.  Fingers crossed that they don't go too soon.

Goldie and Kristina Rihannof - this could be quite a gutsy, gritty partnership if he can dance. 

Jimi Mistry and Flavia Cacace - I hope he's got enough time to put the training hours in. Otherwise the dangers of the mid table await

Matt Baker and Aliona Vilani - Matt has a background in gymnastics, so should be co-ordinated and flexible enough. I wasn't impressed with Aliona's grumpiness and lack of bonding with Rav last year so we'll see if she's got any better this year.

Paul Daniels and Ola Jordan - poor, poor Ola. I guess she was due for someone who couldn't win, but this was going a bit too far. Enough said.

Scott Maslen and Natalie Lowe I reckon they could be quite a good couple. Natalie won a lot of friends last year when she partnered Ricky Whittle to the final.

The reveals were punctuated with another professionals dance - to Two Tribes, which had Vincent and Flavia flying in on a wire. Very good.

We also had the three new boys doing a swishy swashy paso doble type thing. 

And the professional dance troupe, with Ian and Darren in it. Darren without Lilia was just wrong. Strictly without Lilia is even wronger. Their routine was ok, but the same sort of standard as the professional dances we've always had. The whole project is a net loss, I'd say.

All the contestants did a brief group dance at the end which confirmed that Patsy needs to get rid of her inhibitions, Pamela thankfully doesn't seem to have found any since the 1980s and Felicity can really move very gracefully. I thought it was very good given that they haven't actually started their proper training yet. The choreography was simple, with the professionals doing most of the hard work, but it didn't look at all bad.

One of the things I'm most looking forward to is Billy Connolly being around. Can you just imagine Billy and Claudia on ITT?  

I shall keep you posted with any little morsels of gossip from the training rooms which come our way over the next few weeks. 


Saturday, 11 September 2010

Countdown to Strictly Season 8

It maybe says something about my cold fury about some of the changes made by the producers that it's only now, an hour before the launch show, that I'm commenting on the celebrity line up, announced at midnight on Wednesday.

On tonight's show, the celebrities will be introduced to their professional partners. I am fairly sure that these partnerships will have been blabbed somewhere on the internet in the same way that the results always were for the Sunday results show - which, unfortunately, returns this year. I haven't looked, though.

I am really unhappy that 3 of the most popular dancers, Brian Fortuna, part of Team Awesome with Ali Bastian, Matthew Cutler and Lilia Kopylova will not be part of the series. I'm not sure Strictly superfan, Irish author Marian Keyes, will survive the absence of Lilia.

I am also very fed up that Darren Bennett and Ian Waite have been sidelined into the professional dance troupe and will not have celebrity partners. They can work magic with their celebrity partners - look how well Letitia Dean did with Darren as her guide, and how Ian managed to find a dancing heart beating in athlete Jade Johnson last year.

Despite my unhappiness, I can't imagine not watching the show. I mean, I could never miss Claudia on It Takes Two, and it's great that if there has to be a Sunday results show that she's fronting it. She has such a delightfully crazy presenting style and she obviously loves the show in the same way Davina loves Big Brother.

I have to say I'm also being sucked in by the celebrity lineup. It's by far the best probably since series 3 in terms of the calibre of contestants - and I've heard of almost all of them. There's bags of personality and potential for fun there.

Without further ado, then, here they are:

The Girls

Felicity Kendal - feminine, funny, one of my favourite actresses since I was a child. I think she might have the grace to do very well and I can see her with James Jordan.

Ann Widdecombe - former Tory Home Office Minister, famous for failing to stop the practice of handcuffing women as they give birth. If they give her Anton as a professional partner, as I suspect they might, you will hear my screams for miles. I think she'd be better of with Vincent. He might not think so, but she'd take him down a peg or two. It's about time somebody did.

Kara Tointon - formerly Dawn in EastEnders. She's already had a bit of Strictly experience as she was in the sports relief version, with Mark Ramprakash, in 2008.

Tina O'Brien - another soap actress, formerly Sarah Louise Platt in Coronation Street. The only woman with a northern accent, I think, in this line up.

Michelle Williams - from Destiny's Child. She's also a Broadway star, having played Roxie Hart in Chicago among other things. She can clearly already dance, then, so perhaps not so much opportunity for a "journey". However, Nicole Scherzinger won Dancing with the Stars in the US having pretty much led from the start.

Pamela Stephenson - this is who I want to see with Anton. I remember her from Not the Nine O'Clock news in the 1980s. Now practising as a psychotherapist, she has the personality and the knowledge to forge a hilarious partnership with Strictly's star male dancer.

Patsy Kensit - presumably she's using Strictly as an extension strategy to keep her in the public eye when she leaves Holby City soon.

These seven dancers will be paired with professionals Anton Du Beke, James Jordan, Vincent Simone, Brendan Cole and new boys Robin Windsor, Artem Chigvintsev and Jared Murillo.

The Boys

Gavin Henson - Thoroughly charmless Welsh rugby player and ex of Charlotte Church. I guess a partnership with Kristina, who had a brief relationship with her last partner Joe Calzhage would get the tabloids talking.

Goldie - was the Blue Peter dog for several years in the 80s   is a musician and DJ and was in the Celebrity Big Brother that Mark Owen won and was first to be evicted. However, he went a bit upmarket in 2008 when he learned to conduct an orchestra in reality show Maestro and he finished second.

Jimi Mistry - has been in films like Blood Diamond and 2012 as well as a spell in EastEnders.

Matt Baker is your archetypal presenter type with previous on Blue Peter, various daytime shows and the One Show.

Scott Maslen - plays Jack, the character in EastEnders that all female characters under the age of 40 seem to sleep with.

Paul Daniels - a magician whom I took against many years ago because he said in an interview that he didn't date fat women.

Peter Shilton - ex England goalie. If they give him to Erin, I will not be happy. She deserves someone she can win with, not yet another sporty type.

The female professionals are Katya Virshilas, Erin Boag, Aliona Vilani, Flavia Cacace, Natalie Lowe, Kristina Rihannof and Ola Jordan.

It's good that the producers are doing the launch with a show this year rather than a press conference. It'll perhaps help me muster up some enthusiasm over the next 3 weeks until the first live show on 1st October.

We'll also see the professional dance troupe, consisting of longstanding professionals Darren Bennett and Ian  Ian Waite, who have now been joined by Shem Jacobs, Crystal Main, Aneta Piotrowska and Tanya Perera.

I hope we'll get to see all of these and get to know them a bit on It Takes Two.

I think the producers could have brought in changes without mucking about with the line up of the dancers. Dancing with the Stars in the US has shown that the format can be kept fresh with various twists and turns and new dancers. I think it would be good to have things like competitive team dances which have worked well in that format.

I hope they keep in the dances like the Charleston and the Lindyhop that they introduced last year, too.

Here's Chris and Ola's fabulous Charleston just to whet your appetite.