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.

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