Saturday, 30 October 2010

Do you have the iPhone SCD App?

Just while we're waiting for Strictly to start this evening, I was wondering if those of you with iPhones had found this SCD app? It's not official, but it's a veritable hive of information. You can update it as often as you like to get up to the minute Strictly geekery. It has profiles of the contestants from all 8 series, scores for every dance ever, top 10s of dances, celebrities, professional dancers, all of the above split into Latin and ballroom, as well as selected videos. It's a Strictly addict's dream.

It also has the voting numbers, so if you happen to be out, you don't have to rely on people to text you the number like I did when we went to see Doctor Who Live the other week. And, being an iPhone, you just have to touch the number and it dials it for you. Bliss.

There's even a Showdown feature so you can see how two dancers performed comparatively. I've just run some James v Brendan stuff and they're very evenly matched.

It's probably the best £1.79 I've ever spent.

James Jordan and Brendan Cole - the Twitter Rematch

Remember a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how James Jordan and Brendan Cole had lit up Twitter one night with a bit of playful banter?

Well, last night those bad boys were at it again - and it got personal. By the end of the evening, I had giggled a lot.

I'm sure neither of them are doing this as a ploy to get votes for tonight, of course - although Brendan probably needs them more given that Michelle has been in the bottom two for the last two weeks.  

Anyway, in case you missed it, here it is.

James Jordan started it with:
Guys @ is getting a bit old now, so enjoy his dancing while you can. He's starting to struggle to keep up with us young ones.
He followed up with:
@ Oh yes, you did win Strictly once!! Was that before or after I was born. How many years ago. And 8 couples right.(easy)
and then
I think @ has admitted defeat! To scared to reply!!!!
 Brendan was quiet until he delivered the killer line:
 @... I'm not too scared to reply, I'm having dinner with your wife!
 James: You can have her!! If you can afford her shopping habits ! 
Brendan: @...if you like I can retire after this series so you have a chance? Am out to dinner can't tweet anymore. Ola says hi x
James: Brendan Cole announces retirement on Strictly after this series!!.... We will all miss you mate....
Brendan: Would just like to clarify I have no intention right now to retire from SCD! Was purely thinking about giving @ chance to win

In between times, Brendan's wife Zoe Hobbs Cole had tweeted James Jordan saying
@. Dinner? X  James:   I'm in room 432 babe!!!
This is actually where the fun got multidimensional, as Zoe teasingly later tweeted:
 Would anybody like my Husband? I'm a bit fed up with him! Any offers will be considered. Willing to swap for shoes or handbags.
She was quickly admonished by her husband:
OUCH! Harsh but fair I suppose! You'll still be punished!
But his dance partner, Michelle Williams loved it:
ha hahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!
She too faced being karmically retributed, to coin a phrase of this week;
I suppose you think the same as @? You'll pay too!
I won't bore you with the subsequent arm punch challenge, but you can see it for yourself on their Twitter feeds if you like. James is here and Brendan here.
For me, these exchanges show that Strictly, as well as X Factor, has a talented Mrs Cole and we'll give her the last word:
Actually I think I'd rather have dinner with @ than either of the boys!
Me too!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Aladdin to star in the Strictly Christmas special

Well, not the real Aladdin, obviously, but the scrumplicious John Barrowman, who's playing the pantomime character at the SECC in Glasgow between 11th December and 9th January.

I do hope that the Strictly producers are kind to us and give him a Latin dance to show him off at his best. It would be very unfair of them to hide his best attributes with ballroom bow tie and tails.

He's going to be a busy man - they normally film the Christmas special either the Monday before or the Monday after the final, so either way, he's going to have started his run in in panto. I wonder if he'll have to miss a performance to take part. Either way, his professional partner is going to have to come up to Glasgow to train. All I can say is that from 12th December, there is a new train line from Glasgow virtually to my back door. Either of them are welcome to pop round for a cup of tea.

Is anyone else thinking that John and Ola would be a smokin' hot combination which would have something for everyone and she deserves a treat after being partnered with Paul Daniels.

I can't wait!

In the meantime, here's a clip of him singing "Anything you can do, I can do better" with Ruthie Henshall which can be found on You Tube here.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Is Laila Rouass the luckiest woman on earth?

This time last year, Laila Rouass was in Strictly. And not only that, she got to dance with Anton. Ok, he may have put his usually nimble feet right in it a couple of times in a manner for which he rightly  had to humbly apologise, but they were still good together and they made it to the Quarter Final.

Here is their American Smooth:

I was thrilled that Anton actually had a partner who could dance and it was fabulous that he managed to get all the way to December.

Anyway, since then Laila has landed a role in Spooks and, more importantly, this week has seen her in the Sarah Jane Adventures as the Colonel in UNIT who comes to break the news of the Doctor's death.

I've watched both parts of Death of the Doctor on CBBC earlier in the week, but they're on BBC 1 today and tomorrow at 4.30 pm.The story is brilliant and it's fair to say that Ms Rouass looks mighty fetching in UNIT uniform.

In the last year, she's had two of my absolute dream jobs, covering two of my absolute favourite programmes. Not bad at all.

Ann Widdecombe appearing in Clacton on 29th November

If you'd told me a year ago that I'd be plugging an event involving Tory blogger Iain Dale and former Conservative Home Office Minister Ann Widdecombe, I'd have laughed in your face.

However, since then, Dale has revealed his soft underbelly as a charming and silver tongued radio host (on LBC every weeknight between 7 and 10, which even I try and listen to from Scotland) and Miss Widdecombe, as we all know, has been reborn as a national treasure because of the way she's making us all smile every Saturday night on Strictly.

Iain is hosting an Audience with Ann in Clacton on 29th November. Whilst he complains about perhaps having to widen the range of the show,
I have an awful feeling we're going to have to alter our tried and tested opening routine to include some sort of dancing. You probably didn't think there was a worse dancer in the country than Ann. But I can assure you there is....
he is not above using Strictly to entice people in and take their £8 of them. Oh, and I'm sure he must have been talking about Gavin Henson when he mentioned a worse dancer than Ann.....

I actually suspect that it will be worth going to if you are in the area. Iain may be a Tory, but his interviews with people both on the radio and in his Total Politics magazine are always interesting. I still feel quite uncomfortable about Ann - she did some thing I find hard to stomach in Government and she has some highly illiberal views but on the other hand, I love her spirit and attitude to the Strictly experience.  Until someone persuades Jo Swinson to go on Strictly (and she'd be good), this is as close as I'm going to get to seeing my passions for Strictly and politics combined.

I can't imagine that the Ann and Iain Show will be coming to Scotland any time soon, but I'd go if it did.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Tutus, unicycles, light boxes: the week Strictly went Eurovision. Series 8, Week 4

I have to say, last night's show was one of the best ever. You could see that it would have potential, with the promise of dramatic, sensual tangos, and cheeky, lively Charlestons - but it exceeded all expectations. I even laughed at some of Bruce's jokes.

Tess's dress was the sleekest and loveliest of the series so far, a black, one shouldered number. The only problem was that my eyes were drawn to its left armhole which seemed to be unnecessarily deep. That probably wasn't quite the point. Thankfully when she went up to her tower, that side was away from the camera.

Anyway, first up were Jimi Mistry and Flavia Cacace. I wondered if we'd landed in Eurovision land when their routine started off with them in light boxes. They gave a whole new meaning to having fun with the neighbours as they each exited their respective "houses" and danced an energetic and fun Charleston which included cartwheels (Craig was right, though to point out that Jimi needed to straighten his legs), leapfrogs and cane twirling. Flavia really goes for broke. If Jimi had missed those leapfrogs, I shudder to think what state her neck would be in.  I was shocked that it wasn't as well received by the judges as it should have been. Despite warm words about the storytelling, Craig only gave it a 6, which I thought was very mean.

Next was Scott and Natalie's Tango. Last year, while I liked Natalie, her choreography just didn't inspire me. I wasn't over keen on Ricky Whittle, so I thought that might have had something to do with it because I've been blown away with her dances with Scott so far. Last night, though, all the judges were full of praise, saying it was the best dance of the series, but I just didn't get it. It was good, but not spectacular. I felt that they hadn't quite maximised the drama and captured the staccato element of the Tango. I was not alone, as several friends on Twitter agreed with me. I felt hat Natalie's dress, in a hideous shade of yellow, didn't help. Having said all that, the way Bruno says Scott with his whole body,  is becoming a favourite moment of every week. What will he do by Christmas if, as I hope, they stay in? I felt the dance was overmarked at 35. I'd have given it an 8 rather than a 9, I think.

It was great to see Tina O'Brien back from her absence with Chicken Pox. I had that particular disease as an adult so I know how much it takes out of you. That she could come back within a week and dance a cute and utterly charming Charleston was incredible. It wasn't the best, and Craig was right about her footwork being a bit sloppy, but it was extremely enjoyable if a little overmarked at 29. Tess's joke about her knocking the spots of the competition was taken in good grace by Tina. I remember I used to get really annoyed about it.

Just as an aside, I found the image put into my head by tweeter @willjpatterson suggesting that Jared looked like David Miliband. Cruel. Too cruel.

Introducing Felicity and Vincent's tango, Bruce reminisced about her series The Good Life, talking about cars which ran on parsley. He said that he wanted to see a train that ran on thyme. Not a bad effort.  A bit like the Tango, which had all the atmosphere, passion and just the right amount of sleaziness. Her kicks didn't have as much oomph as they could have but they did a beautiful floor spin and the tango ended in a full on kiss. The training footage was hilarious - Felicity not knowing her left from her right so Vincent putting a banana in one boot and an apple in the other. Their score of 29 was pretty much on the money, I thought.

Patsy Kensit looked like a very frightened Velma Kelly from Chicago in her dark wig.  Their Charleston was competent but to be honest it didn't really grab me. In fact, in the middle it lost me completely. She does seem a lot more comfortable and confident out of hold. It was outrageous that Craig marked this the same as Jimi's because the latter was much better in my opinion and I'm not sure it deserved 28.

Then came Gavin and Katya. Gavin's training footage included an entirely unconvincing attempt to psych out Scott, Jimi and Matt. Their Tango may not have been toxic, but it was certainly slightly contaminated. Gavin's face looked like Katya had farted. His footwork wasn't positive enough and had none of the sharpness and staccato that the Tango needs. 23 was just about what it deserved.

Not even Gary Lineker turning up in training and Erin in an incredibly sexy short skirt, waistcoat and stockings outfit could save Peter Shilton's Charleston.  To describe it as dire would be possible if I were in a very charitable mood. Peter just didn't get the steps or the timing and the transitions to and from the lifts were awful. Nice guy, like him, love Erin, but the 17 they got was where it's at. Erin was on the ball, making a plea for votes as soon as the score was in.

The Pamela and James comedic power struggle continued. I wondered if James would repeat his actions on Friday's It Takes Two where he made Pamela get down and give him 20 press ups in the middle of the dance. It was great to see Billy Connolly visit them in training and suggest that he may have picked up a few hints and tips from James in how to handle Pamela. Good luck to him on that one. If he wants to delude himself of that, then we should probably just humour him.

The Tango itself was everything a Tango should be. Maybe (whisper) Pamela's kicks weren't quite as pointy toed and sharp as they could have been, but it had enough staccato for everyone. It was sharp and stealthy and passionate and dramatic. And undermarked at 34.Another sensational performance from Pamela.

Matt Baker had adorned himself with a really hideous handlebar moustache, white braces and a very cheeky grin. Aliona had adorned herself with a tutu. Before a note was played, it looked like this could be Strictly's quirkiest dance ever - and Matt's entrance on a unicycle confirmed that. I felt that their Charleston was almost too cleanly executed, but that really didn't detract from its overall brilliance. It had that bendy legged look down to perfection and was probably the most slapstick one since Chris and Ola's last year but had a much higher level of difficulty.  I would have had them on top of the leader board rather than Scott and Natalie, so I felt that they were slightly undermarked.

Sadly, Brendan Cole's dad passed away last Saturday. I totally admire the professionalism which got him through last week's rumba and I'm full of sympathy for him. His departure for New Zealand meant that Tango king Ian Waite took his place. This was his first competitive Tango since the spectacular dance he performed with Zoe Ball in series 3. I think this was Michelle's best dance yet, although she still doesn't have that certainty in her legs or footwork. Her arm movements were good, but again could have been done with greater flamboyance. The major mistake in the footwork was Ian's, which he was quick to own up to. Michelle's dress was a bit bizarre, with a flesh coloured bodice underneath big holes in the silver fabric. I just loved seeing Ian back. It would make the series perfect if he, Darren, Matthew and Lilia were given celebrities again.  Their 27 was about right.

It was a pity, or maybe not, that they'd run out of budget for a dress for Kara, sending her out in a silver fringed bikini. Her Charleston was lovely and performed with absolutely no gimmicks. It was quite serious until she had her bottom spanked during one of the lifts.

And then came the Ann and Anton Tango, heavily trailed in the press as Ann was to be the first celebrity to make an airborne entrance. Ann really is a game old bird, saying to Anton "I can flap if you want me to". She looked lovely - her hair had been tamed into a sleek style and she wore black sparkly trousers and flapped her arms as she was lowered to the floor. It seemed to take quite a while to get her out of the harness so we had to watch Anton prowling about on his own. Nowt wrong with that. The surprise of the routine is that Ann actually did some proper footwork and the end, where Anton presented her with a rose and she kicked him back was beautifully done.  They said that they were aiming for 19 points and they ended up with 21.

Ann gets the first word in with Craig every week - this week it was that the Ark Royal had been decommissioned so she was the Flying Fortress. Craig retorted that they were like dancing hippos. Len rightly observed that watching her descend was easily worth half the tv licence fee.

What was remarkable is that Ann said in Tess's tower that she was terrified of heights. You would never have thought it the way she just got on with it. And she pushed all the buttons of the Anton fans by saying that "if you had Anton waiting for you on the dance floor, wouldn't you fly in?" Oh yes. And then some.

How on earth this show is going to be bettered next week, I don't know.

I just hope they stay in. There are a few who should go before those two - Gavin, Peter and Michelle, that would be you I'm talking about.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Ann Widdecombe flies through the air with the greatest of ease

In just over an hour, Ann Widdecombe will make Strictly history by being the first celebrity (and the second dancer after Flavia Cacace) to "fly" into Anton's arms at the start of their Tango.

I can't wait to see it, but, to whet our appetites, those nice people behind the BBC's Strictly Twitter account have given us a photograph of Ann in the dress rehearsal.

She's a braver woman than I, that's all I'm saying. For that alone, she deserves to stay in this week.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Pamela, Claudia and that stumble

Two of the women I admire most in the world, mainly for their slightly off the wall sense of humour and total passion for whatever it is they're doing, are Pamela Stephenson and Claudia Winkleman. Having them both in the same room at the same time twice per week (on the results show and It Takes Two) has got to have some good effect on the Universe.

Claudia always makes her interviews sound a bit like an improvised chat and she is naturally very funny. Put her together with one of the greatest innovative comedy minds of her generation, and you're going to get laughter.

This is from last week's It Takes Two. I know it's a bit late to post it here, but it's good to be reminded of such comedy moments.  I defy you to watch Pamela and Claudia talking about Pamela's stumble in the Salsa and not end up crying with laughter.

How Edinburgh caught Strictly Fever

Last Saturday, Bob, Anna and I headed into Edinburgh for the Strictly Come Dancing Roadshow in the city's Festival Square. Anna and Bob had been at a Doctor Who event earlier in the year at the same venue.

When we arrived, Anna and I were sent to the gazebo, with a proper dance floor, where they were teaching people to do Karen Hardy's 20 step Cha Cha Cha.

It would have definitely helped if we had actually had time to learn Karen's dance, but it didn't really matter that we hadn't. If you want to go to events in Swansea or Plymouth this weekend, here it is:

We were put through our paces for a good 20 minutes by choreographer Susie Harvey, pictured here later with Anna:

She was very patient with us, particularly those of us who could manage the footwork reasonably well, but found co-ordinating it with the opposite arms, moving in opposite directions a bit, well, challenging.

Anna, however, was really good at it. She really managed to master the footwork and enjoyed it.

At the allotted hour, we were invited out to dance in the square itself in front of the big screen.

First of all, the Edinburgh Dance School showed us what dancing was really all about by performing an excellent American Smooth. I caught some of it on video - and somebody decided to pop up and say hello while I was filming.

Then it was our turn. We were supposed to dance the routine 4 times. Tess Daly had recorded a message for us and there was a bit of a trailer of the new series. Then there was a slightly extended version of Karen's video, and then we had to dance the routine 4 times, led by choreographer Marisa.

To say that I was shockingly bad, and that John Sergeant and Ann Widdecombe would have been like Fred and Ginger in comparison, is an understatement. They had told us that we were going to be filmed but somehow that didn't compute in my head to the idea that I, on my own, would be appearing on the Big Screen in front of me. When I looked up and saw that , there was a bit of a comedy moment when I said "Oh Yikes" and tried to hide. Having said that, I got some of it right, some of the time, felt like I'd had some exercise and felt very happy at the end. You can't do something like that and not feel happy. I've often thought that dance is a much healthier mood enhancer than virtually anything else.

Anna really enjoyed herself too. She wouldn't sit through a whole programme, but she liked actually dancing.

I think it would have been nicer if they'd had some freebies to hand out, or even some Strictly merchandise to sell, but I guess in these straitened times, etc....

Having said that, it was free to take part and a thoroughly enjoyable way of spending an hour on a Saturday afternoon. Here are details of this weekend's events If you like Strictly even a little bit, you'll love it, I promise.

And look who else was there?


Saturday, 16 October 2010

Sizzling Salsas and Filthy Foxtrots - a review of Strictly Season 8 Week 2

Yes, I know - a week on, this is a bit late  - and because I am off in a bit to the Strictly Roadshow in Edinburgh, it's going to be a bit short, but I wanted to at least get something down before this week's show. Unfortunately I won't be able to watch it live tonight as I'll be with my daughter at Doctor Who Live at the SECC. We had originally booked for Thursday night so as to avoid this sort of clash but the performance was cancelled so we had to rearrange.

Anyway, back to last week.Tess is back to the short dresses. This week it was greyish brown satin that was a bit like a bathrobe on back to front. If that doesn't sound very appealing, well, it wasn't. Sorry, Tess.

First to dance were Matt and Aliona with a wickedly filthy foxtrot that ended up with Aliona on top of Matt on the floor. It was very sexy, sultry and seductive, although the clash of Aliona's pink/red hair and her purple dress was a bit distracting. The bit at the end where Matt jumped on top of Aliona was really spectacular. On It Takes Two, it was pointed out that Aliona clearly trusted him because he was using his gymnastic skills to stop himself from hurting her. If that move had gone wrong, he would have landed on her with a hell of a force. Their 31 was well deserved.

Next up were Peter and Erin whose Salsa was as uncomfortable to watch as I expected it to be. Erin was doing a lot of the work with Peter looking clumsy and very laboured in places. I couldn't work out whether he was enjoying it or was embarrassed by what he was doing. He doesn't really seem to have found his hips, either. Craig was a bit mean by saying that it looked like he'd broken his ankle, but it couldn't really have been marked any higher than 17.

When Tina and Jared were shown just before their dance, Tina's fixed grin didn't fill me with confidence. She actually said to Tess later that she didn't know if it looked like a grimace or not - it had. However the dance was much more confident. The bits out of hold where they were shadowing each other were really pretty - and Len picked up on them so I must have been right. They ended up with 26.

One of the biggest surprise of the night was Patsy Kensit. Gone was the nervous, needy lady from last week and she rocked! Apparently she and Robin had had only a few hours' training because she was filming her final scenes in  Holby. It looked great superficially and I enjoyed her dance because she did, but despite the sultriness, beneath the surface thee wasn't that much in the way of Salsa content, her arm placement wasn't very good. The gimmicks and drop at the end were very eye catching, though. I felt that their 28 for it was a bit over generous, but I loved it.

Paul and Ola's foxtrot was much better than I thought it was going to be. Again, the 21 was a bit more than it should have got, but Paul did well for someone who really doesn't get rhythm and beat, which you really need in a Foxtrot. It was quite pleasant and it was very funny when he put in earplugs at the end so he couldn't hear the judges' comments. I creased up when Bruno asked him why he couldn't do it well all the way through and Paul replied "because I can't remember it".

From sweet ballroom to another cracking salsa from Scott and Natalie. They looked very hot in their checked shirts and Nat's glittery skin tight trousers. However, I'm not sure that Scott's vest was strictly necessary. I mean, it can't have been so cold in the studio that he needed a vest and a shirt open to his navel, surely? This was sexy, energetic and fun and I loved the start on the mezzanine. Those two have a fantastic connection and chemistry. I felt it lost momentum for a wee bit in the middle but it thoroughly deserved 32. As the song they danced to says, "Let's hear it for the boy....."

Michelle to be honest sat on her backside on the park bench they'd brought in for too long while Brendan did all the pizzazzy bits like sliding down the banister. They also danced to It has to be you which, and this is not their fault, was used by Anton and Patsy Palmer for their American Smooth the week they went out so it makes me cry. It was much better with their Cha Cha Cha once it got going though with some fast footwork.

Goldie & Kristina's foxtrot had a kind of sleazy smokiness to it, which wasn't a bad thing. Their hold wasn't fabulous, with loads of gapping and it was quite patchy with some bits being nailed and others not being so good. Craig loved the choreography and commended Goldie for trying to go off on his heels.

Pamela and James would any other night have been my absolute favourite dance of the night, but they have to share the top billing with Ann and Anton, but more of that later.Their pre dance training clip showed more very funny banter between them about who was in control. The routine started with James lying on the judges' desk and Pamela approaching in a doctor's coat - which she soon ripped off to reveal a fabulous full scarlet salsa dress split to the thigh which was incredibly well designed. Their dance was so good and they really conveyed the party spirit. I want to go to a carnival in Rio with that woman. She did some complicated stuff - floor slides, great hips, beautiful arm placement and spins. One move nearly ended in disaster. She'd spun round, on the floor and when she got up it looked like she was going to fall over. Undaunted, even though she was teetering and trying to regain her balance, she shimmied and smiled and managed stay upright. That will be one of the classic moments of this series and was much laughed about on Monday's ITT. All the people who thought that she was going to be a ballroom girl and her Latin would be rubbish were crying into their beer. I actually want to see her win this series with the promise and spirit she's shown so far. Their 32 propelled them into the overall lead for the two dances.

Felicity and Vincent's foxtrot wasn't as convincing as the Cha Cha Cha. It was a bit walky in places but still very cute. I just love them even though they only managed 25.

And now for the moment of all 8 series of Strictly and possibly the tv moment of the year if not the decade - Ann and Anton's Salsa. The clip of Anton saying to Ann "I'd like you to take out the heaving if you could" to Ann in training had me in fits of giggles before they even started dancing. Their song, Mambo Italiano, slowed down a bit seemed out of place with Ann in a long blue dress and shoes with a very low heel. I had been disappointed earlier that Anton's shirt was buttoned up to the neck as I thought he'd have gone for as much gratuitous chest flashing as possible. He did rip open his shirt and then Ann gave him a searing look of disapproval, wagged her finger, and did it up again. She did, however, get to touch it. That alone makes me jealous of her.

You could see them talking and laughing together all the way through. At times Ann looked a bit like a child, and Anton looked like he was encouraging her through. They seemed to lose what little momentum they had at the end, though, which we found out much later that they'd missed a great load out. The routine ended with Anton spinning Ann round several times - a risky manoeuvre given that they could hardly afford to lose the points.

The whole thing was hilarious and bless Anton for his talented choreography. That man knows how to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse. Ann came out fighting to the judges "Don't bother, you haven't got a zero, just give us 1 and be done with it" she said to Craig, who actually laughed. He replied that he couldn't find one single word in the English language which described what 10 million people had just seen.

Ann wanted to do a salsa that Queen Victoria would have watched without blushing - but I think she'd have needed smelling salts for a different reason. Their 12 was a fair mark for the dancing but it deserved a 40 for the entertainment value.

Following that, was a brilliant foxtrot from Kara and Artem. She made heel turns look easy and she and Artem have a gorgeous chemistry. They deserved their 32.

The less said about Gavin and Katya's salsa the better. His comment "I hate the salsa" in the training footage set the scene. His hips looked set in concrete and the whole thing was so lacklustre that not even Katya's barely there pink dress and flashing his abs could rescue it. I so want him to go. That is a minute and a half of my life I am not going to get back.

The show ended with Jimi and Flavia dancing to Fever. This was much hotter than Henson's and believably sexy. I wonder if Flavia is sexing things up to match Natalie and Aliona. If so, more power to her elbow. It looked great, lots of fast footwork, it matched the music well and was well acted, earning them 30.

It was a great show - and I am wondering if this could shape up to be the best series ever.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Ann and Anton's Salsa - TV Moment of the year, surely

I am acutely aware that I haven't published my review of Saturday's show yet - blame a combination of poorly child and Vince Cable. I'm hoping to do so later today but in the meantime, here's the absolute highlight of the show, if not the series.

It had to be the most anticipated dance in Strictly history for all the right reasons. I defy you not to laugh.....

Anton is a genius!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Bad Boys Brendan and James Banter on Twitter

You might have deduced in previous years that Strictly bad boys Brendan Cole and James Jordan had turned into sweet ickle fluffity bunnikins over the past few years. Last year Brendan was so sweet with Jo and the year before very encouraging with Lisa - no sign of his strops with Sarah Manning. James has not shown any sign of abrasiveness since his first year with Georgina Bouzova.

Their tempers may not have returned by their swaggering, edgy bad boy banter is making me cry with laughter on Twitter from time to time. Take, for example, this exchange from last Friday morning:

Brendan:  Need to find way to stop elbowing my wife in the face while sleeping! It's starting to upset her? Don't know why, I don't do it in purpose!
JamesJust tell her to sleep in the other room mate!
Brendan:  I like it! Wonder what she'll say?
James: I do understand her too. You do move a lot in your sleep!! Annoyed me!
Brendan: You are filth! People will start to believe you! Great rumour!
The moral of the story is never to believe anything James says on Twitter. Last night he was accepting congatulations on Ola's pregnancy - except she isn't pregnant. And by the end of the evening, both Vincent and Brendan were suggested as beimg responsible for this non pregnancy. I guess you had to be there at the time but it was very funny and one very good reason to follow these two on Twitter.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Learn Karen Hardy's Cha Cha Cha for Strictly Roadshow events

Those nice BBC people are running a series of roadshows around the UK to get us all dancing in the streets this month. The Edinburgh event is on Saturday 16th October between 10 and 4 in Festival Square outside the Sheraton Hotel.

Do any fellow Scottish Strictly fans fancy coming with me? All we have to do is learn this routine put together by former Strictly pro and ITT choreography commentator Karen Hardy. Simples.

I have to be honest and say that I expect to look like a Baby Elephant (sorry Millennium,darling) who has taken a small quantity of sedative or alcohol or both while I do this, but I'm willing to give it a go even if I end up making a prize arse of myself.

It should be fun. Earlier this year, there was a similar big screen event for the new series of Doctor Who. I didn't go but Bob and Anna did. She was chased by a cyberman and had a whale of a time.

I will probably want to go in the morning or very early afternoon as we have Doctor Who Live in the evening and I might need a rest, but who fancies coming along for a tweetup?

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Strictly Come Dancing Twitterati - updated with Anton and others

I thought it might be a good idea to try to list all the various Strictly related Twitter accounts so that you can follow them if you wish.  It seems that a lot of the professional dancers and celebs have woken up to the advantages of a good relationship with Twitter followers. I've split them up into various categories - official  Dancers, Celebs, and judges, fan groups, blogs and good fans to follow during the Saturday night shows.

All the pros are on except Anton and Vincent, which is a shame because they would both be good value.

There are bound to be some accounts I've missed out - if you want to be on the list,or you know of any I've missed, please put the details in the comments and I'll add to the main directory.

So, without further ado:

Official Twitter Feeds:


BBC Strictly

Claudia Winkleman


Craig Revel Horwood

Alesha Dixon

2010 Celebs

Paul Daniels

Tina O'Brien

Michelle Williams

Jimi Mistry

Matt Baker

Kara Tointon


Scott Maslen - not updated by him personally but an official site

Peter Shilton - not verified

2010 Professionals

Anton Du Beke - yes, really, absolutely - Yippee!

Aliona Vilani

Kristina Rihannof

Erin Boag

Ola Jordan

Katya Virshilas

Natalie Lowe

Flavia Cacace

Jared Murillo
murillonetwork - says it's official. Will give benefit of doubt for now.

Brendan Cole

James Jordan

Robin Windsor

Artem Chigvintsev

Dance Troupe

Ian Waite

Former Professionals (sob)

Matthew Cutler

Nicole Cutler

Lilya Kopylova

Camilla Dallerup

Karen Hardy Studios

Brian Fortuna

Former Judge

Arlene Phillips

Unofficial and Fan Feeds

Team Alesha

Team Ola Jordan

Team Robsy - for Patsy and Robin fans

Team Felicity

BrenMichSCD - forMichelle and Brendan

Team AliMatt
Team Aliona Angel

Team Tointon
Team Kartem

Team Virshilas
Team Gatya

Team Erin Boag

Team Murillo
Team Tina O'Brien

Team ScottSCD
Team Scottalie
Team Maslen

Team PamJam

Team Widdecombe

Team Flavistry

Strictly Series 8

SCD Fans

Layla Tango

Tweam SCD

Bloggers and Commentators

Matt Ball

Strictly Blog's Frankie and Clover

Strictly Come Blogging's Loulabelle

Strictly Goss


Jaye Nolan

Graeme Robertson

Antony Holeksa - Learn to Dance


Good people to watch Strictly with







Mags Haliday                                                                                                                                              

OMG, Anton Du Beke is on Twitter - really!

Billi can be a bit obsessive about Anton Du Beke, not at all in any way like me, of course, but that can be useful some times. She was kind enough to send me an invitation on Facebook to "like" Anton's new page.

Like? I think I can go a bit further than that. Our boy seems to have embraced the technical age as enthusiastically as he embraced the Widdy on Saturday night.

He's also taken up Twitter and seems to be updating both this and Facebook himself in his own inimitable and utterly charming style. My Strictly Come Dancing Twitterati has been duly updated.

Let's just have a reminder of his and Ann's training footage - it's absolutely hilarious. Full of humour, and typical Anton mini-rants, it's unmissable.

He and Ann were brilliant on It Takes Two last night. I'm sure Ann could have wanted no more than to spend her birthday in Anton's company.  The two of them do seem to genuinely get on and spark off each other which I suspected might be the case. They were on fine form, with Anton joking (at least I hope he was joking) that they had to change their routine on Saturday night to remove the gymnastics so people didn't think they were copying Matt.

Ann said she wasn't nervous at all because she had seen people so much better than her be torn to pieces by the Judges on Friday night that she was just resigned to her fate.

Their Salsa on Saturday night is going to be the most anticipated dance in Strictly history. Anton described it as "nonsense in a short frock" and Ann said they were so desperate that they were putting things in the Salsa that didn't belong in  it - Anton interjected "like the waltz". I actually think that that's the best way for Ann to do a Salsa and it's a blessing that she's with a partner who, bless him, really isn't that great at Latin.

I, for one, can't wait.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Cuteness, vampishness and Widdecombe (tho not all together) - Series 8 show 2

I'm having a bit of a guilt trip that Tess wore a long dress after reading what I wrote yesterday about her knees. It was a very fetching purple one shouldered number. Her hair looked like last night's style had fallen out.  I do get upset every single year about this - you would have think that by series 8 she would have learned to point her toes at the end of the wee dance with Bruce. Don't her daughters learn about good toes/bad toes at the dance classes they must go to?

Anyway, tonight it was Jimi and Flavia who were first up. Flavia, so the intro said, had cut her hair back to the 2007 style and her mission was to get back to the final like  she did then. Their routine was a bit gangly and there wasn't enough gratuitous chest flashing, but there were some fast moves in there. However, I really don't think it was worth the 2 marks more than Felicity's that Craig gave it even though he was much more scathing about it, saying he was like the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. Flavia's choreography was a joy to watch but he did seem to be walking through parts of it at times. A good, pacy opener to the show, though.

Next up were Erin and Peter. Their waltz was quite simply choreographed by ballroom expert Erin Boag, but Peter looked awkward and tight for most of it and although Alesha said he smiled through it, his facial expression looked more like a grimace to me.His arms were quite unpleasant to look at.  T Dropping Erin at the end was not a moment he'll want to remember. She is such a trooper. She fell down, went through his legs and got herself into a smiling, graceful finishing position.

The one we were all waiting for was Michelle and Brendan's Cha Cha Cha. She's been touted as the one to watch and we've seen some fun and feistiness in the training room, she has the longest legs I've ever seen, and she's obviously been in a girl group. It all fell a bit flat, though - a bit unsure and tentative and limp, not to put too fine a point on it. She and Brendan looked fantastic together but her wish to have nothing less than an 8 was never going to be fulfilled. The judges told her to work on strength through her legs to produce a better hip action. Craig was quite mean, saying it was a big disappointment and Len talked about bad technique.  I love Michelle as a character because she just took it and said she was going to work on her legs to get them like rugby player Gavin's.

Then we had Gavin and Katya. It looked like he was trying to get her into some sort of head lock at the start. I'm surprised that Len didn't have a go at them for taking ages to get into hold. However, he had good posture, lots of rise and fall and more precision in his footwork than I expected. He did look a bit grim and scary though and didn't have the tenderness that the dance required. The judges were much more positive about it than I felt it deserved - I thought it deserved to be around 3 marks less than Scott's, not a mere 1.

Gavin is a bit dour, so we needed a bit of cuteness - and we got it as candyfloss couple Tina and Jared hit the floor. Tina was in a quite demure pink dress with silver hotpants underneath, Jared in geeky checked trousers with a bright pink shirt and a mustard coloured bow tie. They totally played up to the High School Musical theme, with Jared starting the routine with his head in a book, albeit a sparkly one. The routine was pretty simple but incredibly cute to watch.  The judges don't often criticise the professionals, but Jared was told to challenge Tina a lot more with his choreography. They'll be around for a while though because they are just lovely.

The absolutely most anticipated and talked about couple, although not always in a good way, were up next. There was a small glimpse of Anton in cardigan and tie in training which made me almost lose consciousness. Anne's dress was a full bright pink affair that looked like it was made of PVC with a silvery spangly jacket. She actually looked good. I think a sigh of relief went round the entire nation like a Mexican wave as she said that she didn't want to pull off any dance moves that wouldn't be appropriate in front of the Pope. But on to the routine. Anton had his fixed grin on which is not usually a good sign, but, actually, it was better than I thought it was going to be. I never expected to use the words endearing and Ann Widdecombe in the same sentence but it was. It was enjoyable and nostalgic and Anton's clever choreography as usual showed his partner off as best as possible. I'm glad they weren't last, beating Paul Daniels by a point.  Next week they've got the Salsa which is bound to be hilarious.

Ann has exactly the right, realistic attitude to it. They seem to be doing nothing but laughing during their training. If only Strictly had been around in the 90s, we could have had her on every year and she wouldn't have been able to do some of the truly wicked things she did as a Home Office Minister. I have to say that I just love Anton more than ever now.

In complete contrast to the previous two acts, Kara Tointon vamped it up to a level only just acceptable on a family show broadcast at 6pm. She wore a flesh coloured leopard print, well there wasn't enough of it to say dress, but I can't think of another word. She had black lipstick, a black leather choker, hair scraped back into the most severe ponytail. You get the idea. Artem her partner in a black leather hooded waistcoat and nothing else on top.  We saw him flashing his nipples in training as well. The routine had heat and passion and technique. She fell quite early on but managed to recover her momentum. I'd like the Jury's opinion on whether both feet stayed on the floor during the last spin, though. She got 30 despite having a fall so this definitely bodes well for the future.

In general, though, apart from the final performance of by a very sexy looking Robbie Williams and a very dad like looking Gary Barlow, Friday night kicked last night's backside by some margin.  One whinge, though - what is the point of having a professional dance troupe if you don't use it? Having said that, if they had, we wouldn't have had the fun of reading Lilia's hilarious tweets as she and Darren spent the evening with Camilla Dallerup and her husband Kevin Sacre.

I can't wait until next week now - although I've just realised that I'm not actually going to be around for the next two shows. Next week is Scottish Liberal Democrat conference which doesn't finish until 7, and the week after, Anna and I are at Doctor Who Live. We had booked for the Thursday performance which was cancelled. Someone will need to please tweet me the voting numbers I'll need.

As I write, we are just over 24 hours from the first It Takes Two of the series with the eccentric and hilarious Claudia Winkleman. If you live in Scotland and you are recording it through the infernal wickedness of Sky Plus, don't forget to set it up on BBC London or at least not Scotland because remember we don't get it on a Thursday up here.

With ITT every weeknight and the results show being moved back to Sunday, this means that tonight is the last night there won't be any Strictly on the telly until 18th December. That thought alone makes me ridiculously happy.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Vests, nerves and wellies - Strictly Series 8 gets under way

Well all I can say, having finally watched the first show of the new season is "Darn you, BBC!" Well, actually, it's a bit more than darn, but this is a family blog.

Not only have they infuriated me by removing five of my favourite dancers, but they've also conspired to make the line up and show unmissable. I may forgive the second if not the first.

The new titles added a sleekness and a bit of backbone to the pink and glitter that there was before.

It looks like Tess has completely ditched the ballroom look this year. Her black dress actually looked more like a vest (and was about as long) and her hair looked like it was taking the natural look to its margins - I spent most of the show wondering if her style was going to completely unravel. I know this is mean, because I am no oil painting, but if I were her, I wouldn't be inclined to show off those knees too much.

First up for Strictly 2010 was Felicity in a sunshine yellow dress. Her cha cha cha with Vincent was totally playful, charming and engaging and the chemistry between them is clearly good. She looked like she was enjoying every minute. Her timing was spot on and I really liked watching the way she moved. She placed her feet in a precise way. Craig was unspeakably mean about it, but if you stripped back his comments he was right on some of the technical aspects. Len was right that she needed more hip action. I actually wonder if that particular aspect of her routine was the reason her dress had had the frills which looked like dusters attached to it. It deserved much higher than the 4 Craig gave it.

Next up was Scott Maslen looking mighty fine indeed  in a DJ as opposed to tails. He'd said in the trailer that he had demons to slay after fluffing his lines in the live EastEnders episode earlier this year and he wanted to get through a live performance without incident. You don't expect to see rumba-esque body strokes in the opening of a waltz but it worked, big time. Craig was right about some of  his hand positions, and I think his description of the dance as "dangerously romantic" was pretty much spot on. This was an inspired routine from Natalie. Presumably her aim was to make her mark on the competition early and she did that in spades.

Goldie looked like he was having fun at a disco. His routine was cheeky but managed to avoid being embarrassing. His hands were pretty dreadful and Craig was right to point out that Kristina couldn't hide that forever  by making him put them on his hips. There wasn't much in the way of technical difficulty in the routine but it was fun. He's going to have to stop mucking about in training and do some work, though. As an aside it was interesting to see in the intro that he went out of his way to mention having introduced his wife to Kristina and her boyfriend, last year's partner Joe Calzaghe because he "didn't want any of that nonsense."

Poor Patsy Kensit. From her intro she's doing the show for therapy following her break up with Jeremy Healy after only 10 months of marriage. She said she'd had lots of laughs and would recommend it to anyone as a pick me up - but she's been insulated for 3 weeks in a training room. Unfortunately, on the live show, nerves well and truly got the better of her. She was tight, awkward and gawky. She really needs just to let herself go and enjoy the experience. You could have had Nadal and Federer play a full grand slam final between her and Robin Windsor so she has to work on her hold. I think she could do it if she could overcome her nerves - you could see that from the training footage. She looked gorgeous in a floaty, scarlet dress.

If Scott Maslen had intended to snatch the first night sex bomb mantle, Matt Baker made sure he was disappointed. It didn't look good to start with. When he and Aliona came down the stairs at the beginning with her wearing next to nothing and him wearing a tartan waistcoat and a tie - for the cha cha cha, I almost despaired. In his VT when he spoke about comparing dancing moves to sport, it really did not bode well. Gimmicks in Strictly are usually there to hide bad dancing - but Aliona Vilani clearly hadn't read that rule. There she was standing behind a pair of sequinned wellies. He was on the stairs with binoculars, playing up to his Countryfile background. It could have been awful - but it was brilliant. The third staircase up to Tess's tower is actually a good addition to the stage. Matt came down it and did 2 cartwheels across the dance floor in a testament to his gymnastic routine. He even had a bit of a stumble as he arrived at Aliona but it didn't look like it had bothered him.

That boy really knows a) where his hips are and b) what to do with them. It is utterly wrong that a contestant could make me think of Darren Bennett on the first show. He danced confidently and cleanly, far away from Aliona. It was utterly stunning. Aliona had almost produced a biography in a dance routine and I think that'll be one of the things we remember about this series. I just hope that he can pull off similar when he only has one week to rehearse, not three. I think all the above can be summed up by a simple "Phwoar!"

I always thought the combination of Pamela Stephenson and James Jordan was going to be great. She plays the deferential woman, but she will give him what for - and it seems that they have developed a relationship that's spirited in the right way. She looked radiant and graceful last night. Dressed in a floaty aqua number, to mix my reality tv show cliches, she owned that stage. She did look like she completely belonged there. It was great to see her husband Billy Connolly in her training footage. He might whinge about her dancing with a man half her age, but he's clearly very proud of her.

Bruno raved about the grace and elegance of her arm placement, saying that it was the best he'd ever seen on a first show and I think he's right. It was fantastic. I hope this partnership goes a very long way.

The show was like one of those dreams you really don't want to wake up from - and then all of a sudden there was a huge crash to reality when Paul Daniels took to the floor with Ola. The gimmicks this time were back to their traditional use - Ola's aim was to waste as much time as possible centring people's attention on a
box. Paul is 72 and wearing less well than Brucie who's 10 years older so you have to admire him for giving it a go, but he really has no sense of rhythm and his cha cha cha to Could it be Magic (or Tragic as Bruno said) was about as dire as it gets. It would have been bad even without the added embarrassment of him singing along. Paul disarmingly said "Whatever Craig says, I agree with him".

When I got up this morning I saw that Twitter was full of references to Paul having said something homophobic to Craig. What he actually said was "Don't give up your day job tasting sausages." Well, Twitter is very smutty, but it's a good job I know what my Strictly judges are up to. Our Craig is the face of British Sausage Week and will spend the week after Hallowe'en promoting the British banger. I love sausages, and they've had a bit of a bad press this year, so I hope Craig helps to give them a bit of good publicity.

As far as scores are concerned, Matt and Aliona shared the top of the leaderboard with Pamela and James, both with an impressive 31,  Then came Scott and Natalie with 29, Felicity and Vincent with 23, Patsy and Robin with 22, Goldie and Kristina with 20 and Paul and Ola with 16.  Injustice of the night (there's always one), was Felicity getting only one mark higher than Patsy. In my view she should have been a couple of marks below Scott.

As season openers go, that was one of the best we've ever had. And there's more to come tonight, in less than two hours. And, on top of that, there's one of the sexiest and most talented men on earth, Robbie Williams. What more could you ever want from a TV show?

Friday, 1 October 2010

New Strictly Titles!

Well all the pink and sparkles and fancy writing have gone to be replaced with something much more sleek and modern.

I like it though  - what do you think?