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?


Anonymous said...

I really agree with you about this series - it is looking fresh and the standard seems higher somehow. Love Ann Widdicombe - endearing is the right term. Matt is definitley favourite for me - he is a modest down to earth sort of chap too so should do well!

mlh79 said...

Matt Baker. Phwoar, indeed! ;-)