Tag Archives: Len Goodman

Strictly: the final furlong

Bruce-articleTwo weeks to go. Two dances per couple tonight. It strikes me, this year more than most for some reason, that, much as I love it, Strictly is almost identical year after year. Watching a clip of Brucie’s “jokes”, I’d defy anyone to guess which year we were in. Or decade, come to that. He and Len have missed the post-Savile memo about how cringingly inappropriate lecherous remarks  by old men to young women are (ditto casual homophobia, but at least in that regard Craig and Bruno can hold their own, as it were).

There’s a change in the celebrities obviously, and some of the professional dancers. The female member of the judging panel has varied (Arlene/Alesha/Darcey). But the male judges, Dave Arch and his orchestra, the set, dances, make-up, props and costumes remain reliably, comfortably the same.

The producers tried something new last week with the dance style mash-up, which was fine, by and large, but just as at the end of every episode of the Simpsons, all was back to normal afterwards.

The thing that makes me smile most of all are the slips-of-the-tongues over the “Sunday show” (that’s actually filmed straight after the Saturday one). Zoe Ball saying to Alfie Boe on Friday night It Takes Two “So we’ll see you performing on the results show tomorrow. Er, Sunday.” Far too expensive and time-consuming to dress and do full make-up on all the celebs and pro-dancers two nights in a row.

Obviously Tess and Darcey change their dresses between shows. But my hairdresser Helen pointed out that their hair styles change too (it’s put into an up-do if it was down or vice-versa). It must be a frantic half hour backstage for the stylists whilst the phone vote’s going on.

kw

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Strictly: A bit too Special

I like Strictly. It’s the comfort food of Saturday night telly. A glitzy, sequined, orange spray-tanned shepherds pie of a programme. Many people have put a huge amount of physical effort into training for it, but all you need to do as a viewer is watch. Slouching on your sofa, drink in hand, taking the piss. And bitching with other Twitter folk about how much the wardrobe department must hate Tess.

This year, we’re all keeping an eye on Darcey Bussell as the new judge. She’s undoubtedly knowledgeable on dance but her first appearance was marred by (presumably nerve-driven) repetitions of a horsey “Yah?” to every contestant, but that have fortunately stopped now. Perhaps because Craig is sticking pins into her leg under the table.

In the order of things, he and Len have been separated by the Bussell this year, which means Len is the person who gets slapped in the face by Bruno’s histrionic arm movements (which is actually pretty funny). Darcey can be as harsh a marker as Craig, and frankly I’ve got my eye on her after she marked the delightful Lisa Riley much lower than everyone else last week – I don’t trust ballet dancers to be well-balanced around bigger women, and in my (entirely ill-informed) opinion, Riley is top-notch in every respect.

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Strictly Come Dancing: Look at ‘em, they’re standing up

It’s the semi-finals and to mark the occasion Bruno is particularly  deliciously and delightfully bonkers, while tonight’s audience have decided to spend most of the hour and a half on their feet apparently… call me a curmudgeon but not every single one of those dances deserved a standing ovation.

So who will be going to BLACKPOOL next week? Well, if Harry and Aliona, and Chelsee and Pasha aren’t in the final there’s no justice in the spray-tanned, sequinned world of Strictly.

There were some great music choices this week (I can never hear too much Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine I’m afraid), but setting the Charleston to I’m Just Wild About Harry was a neat move on Aliona’s part. She also seems to have listened to all Len’s grumbles about her choreography in the past two series and Harry’s reaping the benefits. It helps that he is a great dancer. Artem’s choreography for the Charleston was bolder and more interesting, but Harry and Aliona looked well-matched in their dance, while Holly was shown up by her partner’s superior skills.

Harry and Aliona also turned in a beautiful and romantic Viennese waltz. It was, as Craig noted, rather more melancholy than most and all the better for it.

By comparison I found Alex’s waltz boring. Yes, it was graceful and well-executed, but if you find yourself pondering the professional dancer’s dodgy hair cut instead of the dancing something is wrong I’m afraid.

And not even Gloria Estefan could save Alex’s salsa. She has improved remarkably, but she’s just not in the same league as Harry or Chelsee. And that rather ugly starfish lift thing didn’t do her any favours either.

Chelsee outshone Alex in her American Smooth, which was graceful, brilliant and exquisite, and was mesmerising in the paso doble. It’s going to be a close run thing between her and Harry next week.

Whether it will be Alex, Holly or Jason who joins them on the coach up north is anybody’s guess.

Holly and Artem’s Argentine tango was a pleasure to watch, but the confidence she showed there was sadly lacking from the Charleston (which could have been a real showstopper).

Jason seems to annoy people, so despite a samba that, for once, I didn’t have to watch through my fingers and an amazing Argentine Tango, there’s no guarantee he’s getting within a mile of a VT heavy on Kiss Me Quick hats and rollercoasters next week.

The results show is actually going to be interesting this week – I’ll see you there!

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Strictly Come Dancing: “Live from a municipal swimming pool”

My father, a secondary school teacher, was a marvellous man in many ways, but he had some mysterious prejudices. Back in the 1984, when Frankie Go To Hollywood released ‘Relax’ and, thanks to DJ Mike  Read, it was banned from Radio 1 and Top of the Pops, dad announced how nonsensical a decision it was. “A harmless song,” he said. The song that he thought was filthy, explicit muck that would cause terrible damage to innocent young minds was ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ by WHAM.No, I have no idea what he was on about either. But both songs were featured in this week’s Strictly, live from Wembley Arena, and I don’t think any youthful minds were irredeemably corrupted by Dave Arch and his orchestra.

The best way to watch Strictly, other than knocking back a shot every time Brucie makes a crap pun or Tess gives a rictus grin, is to follow the witty comments on Twitter. Despite all the build-up, Wembley is a ghastly place for this week’s show. It all came across as very Saturday Night Special to me, especially the opening group dance number to a Queen medley. I thought the dance floor far too big, and the sound quality dreadful. Sue Perkins tweeted: “Judging by the sound, this week’s Strictly is coming live from a municipal swimming pool”.

But leaving that aside, what of our dancers? Robbie and Ola kicked off quite literally on rather odd podiums that looked like giant drums. Ola sported a big curly hair ‘do and a skintight, blue and silver catsuit which showed off her pierced bellybutton. In fact, other than whiskers and a tail, she looked like a character from Cats. It was certainly an outfit that drew the attention of all heterosexual males (“one for the dads” as a friend put it), although when Robbie ripped his shirt open, it was a pleasant distraction for some of the rest of us. Their routine included a scary leapfrog and some lifts that looked, from my perspective, like his face was buried in her crotch. But then again, I know nothing about dancing. I’ve come to quite like Robbie, but I expect him to be in the bottom two this week, and he might go (either him or Anita is my guess).

Alex and James performed an excellent tango to ‘Relax’ (and I’m sorry, but it’s a belter of a song, and needs a more throbbing bass than Dave Arch and his lovely orchestra can produce. It also needs the fine and filthy voice of Holly Johnson). But Alex and James’ tango was superb, and her confidence in their dance relationship has vastly improved. I liked the use of vast, white floor-to-ceiling ribbons in the routine, it broke up the vast echoey ‘sports hall’ feeling of the place. In terms of their dance, Craig said, it was “sharp, staccato, theatrical and intense” and it was. I like Alex and I want her to do well. Many are suggesting Jason and Harry as potential overall winners, but I’m hoping to see Alex or Chelsee up there myself. Continue reading

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Strictly Come Dancing: *Everything* needs to be leaner

I must confess to experiencing Strictly ennui this week. How much of this is the result of watching Singin’ in the Rain on BBC2 this afternoon I can not say. Though as I sat transfixed by the glorious Gene Kelly (not to mention the brilliant Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds) I knew I would be turning a more critical eye than ever on SCD.

But it’s not all Gene Kelly’s fault. I have to confess that I can no longer bear to watch the dull VTs of training and other loosely-related shenanigans or Bruce’s terrible and/or homophobic jokes. I am prepared to risk missing a nugget of TV gold if it means saving my brain from these horrors.

I am also beyond tired of the pantomime reaction from the audience to the judges’ (usually) constructive criticism. I’m surprised Len hasn’t snapped back at them before now to be honest.

And don’t get me started on Bruce perpetuating the myth that a straight man needs protecting from a gay man who finds him attractive. That’s a whole other blog post on its own.

These, then, are the things that I did enjoy this week:

  • Alex’s energy, though even I could see her kicks and flicks were not crisp enough *learned from the master face*
  • Twitterer @fionalaird’s comment on the lovely Audley, that he “basically stands around in time to the music”. I fear this will be his last week.
  • I’d pay to watch Harry make a microwave meal for two, so very happy with his Argentinian tango. I’m with Velocity Girl on predicting a place in the final for Harry.
  • Jason showing the audience why Craig’s on the panel – so that the celebrities can listen to constructive criticism and improve their performances.
  • Chelsee was lovely to watch, I’m hoping she makes it to the final as well.
  • Robin doing the Argentinian tango. What do you mean I’m supposed to be watching Anita Dobson? Robin’s mesmerising, and Anita’s not. No matter how good her legs look ‘for her age’.
  • The threesome in Holly’s training room. Brendan becomes infinitely less annoying when he’s dancing with Artem. (And yes, poor, brave Artem – the hottest man on the show, stuck on the sofa. Let us cross everything and hope he’s back on the dancefloor soon.)
  • Russell Grant looking like something out of Doctor Who this week in that sparkly yellow eyeshadow AND incorporating a costume change. Even if he did look like a giant Ferrero Rocher as Len phrased it.

I’m sorry to be such a grump, but truly Strictly could do worse than listen to the advice Craig would dish out to it: “Dahling, you went on too long, there’s too much padding. It needs to be crisper. And dump the doddery bigot who can’t read the teleprompter.”

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Strictly Come Dancing: Goodness, gracious, great balls of glitter

My crystal balls are in my pants

It’s bad news when someone mentions something daft and YOU CAN’T GET IT OUT OF YOUR HEAD. I’m looking at you Mrs Our Man In The South. You and your comments about Russell Grant’s highly visible testicles. It was fine before. It had never crossed my mind to look ‘down there’. And bless him, but Russell’s not a man whose physique your eye is normally drawn to. Not like Harry Judd. But once you know, you just can’t look anywhere else. I’m not sure if it’s the clingy fabric of the costume, or if he should be wearing rather more supportive underwear. A ‘cup’ of some sort? I dunno. I’m not an expert. I know a bit about the use of heavily engineered, built-in bras in the women’s costumes to keep their modesty intact (despite Chelsee’s anxieties last week, the engineering held, it all worked fine – nothing was seen). But frankly I’m at sea when it comes to keeping male genitalia in its proper place in dancewear.

Actually, the woman I blame first and foremost for the downhill slide into silliness in the testicular region is Sue Perkins. She was tweeting about the up-coming appearance of a squirrel with monumentally vast bollocks prior to the final show in the Great British Bake-off series. I now can’t even remember who won the bloody thing, nor anything they cooked in the show. All that hard work and you’re upstaged by a well-endowed rodent. Must be sickening.

Nut job

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Strictly Come Dancing: Scary stuff

Ooh, Miss Jones

It was Halloween Special on Strictly. I must confess I’m of an age when I’m not sure Halloween, as an event, merits a special of anything(apart from Psychoville). Far too much fuss made of it these days. When I was a kid, you might have a bit of enforced apple bobbing and a pumpkin in the window, but that was it. Now, we have a whole Saturday night’s light entertainment on both channels devoted to it.

In keeping with the theme, the show starts with a mildly embarrassing Addams family group dance, before a terrifying wizened member of the living dead appears – oh, hang on – it was Brucie, making the traditional weekly grab for Tess’s upper thigh.

Like Velocity Girl, in last week’s review, I must confess to getting a bit fed up with all the padding in Strictly at the moment. The show is plenty long enough without all the quirky videos. It’s fine to see a bit of training, but all this; “Alex was told by the judges last week that she needed to be sexier, so I decided to take her to a live sex show” is wearing a bit thin. We had Chelsee and Pasha visiting a school, Alex and James abseiling (yeah, yeah – it wasn’t really a sex show, but you get my drift), Harry and Aliona poncing about in the London Dungeon, and a horrific dream sequence for Jason featuring Ann Widdecombe of which the least said about, the better. In the words of Len, please stop all this messing about. A bit of training, and just do the bloody dance. For the last couple of weeks, we’ve recorded Strictly, which means you can whizz through all the extraneous nonsense and save a good half hour. I’d recommend it.   Continue reading

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Strictly Come Dancing: Dear Strictly

It’s more than 12 hours after my once-beloved SCD finished last night. I am still in shock. So much so that this blog is going to be a different kettle of fish to previous missives on the subject. You’ll have to forgive me, dear reader – it has, as they say, Been Emotional.

Dear Strictly,

We’ve had some wonderful times, you and me. When we first met, I hated Saturday Night Telly, with its mix of gaudy gameshows, Dad’s Army, dry documentaries about Cholera and Noel Bloody Edmonds. I knew nothing about dancing and you were much derided for being a throw-back to a dying era. People (hi Mum!) said we would never work.

You came, with your random mix of people off the telly, off the Olympics and quite often off their heads. Your sequins sparkled. Your judges were daring but fair, caring only about the dancing and not about themselves. You had a slightly-neglected old-school host whom everyone was delighted to see again, who was merely grateful to regain his rightful place on primetime telly. More than anything else, you were characterized by your good humour. Sure, people were called “contestants”, but they were participants rather than competitors. They were encouraged to do well and by and large did so, or at least had a ball. Who knew that woman who got bashed about by Phil Mitchell on Eastenders would be so good? That Julian Clary would be so bad? Who even knew who Kara Tointon was?

I loved you, Strictly. But more to the point, everybody loved you. Which meant everybody wanted a piece of you and everybody wanted to be like you. ITV looked longingly at your ratings success as you tore up Saturday Nights. They came up with this thing called X Factor. It was just a tired old rehash of its previous entries into the class that I like to handily term Pop Factory Crap. How could it ever trouble you, Strictly? You were a class apart, you didn’t need all that. You had series after series of Feelgood Glory, where it was simply about the Dancing rather than the ridiculous sideshows.

But tragically, people lapped up the Pop Factory Crap in their millions. And you got scared, Strictly, You thought that every person that watched that wouldn’t want you anymore and that THIS was the future.

So you changed, Strictly. Firstly, you ditched one of your original judges for being Too Old. She was in fact younger than the oldest judge who was a man, but somehow that didn’t seem to matter to you.

BLACKPOOL!

Despite this, we were ok for a while. You still had lots of good dancers and did laudable things like going to Blackpool (BLACKPOOL!). It wasn’t quite like the olden days, but it looked like you were going to get your spark back. 

Where It All Started Going Wrong

Then you got a gift, Strictly. Ann Widdecombe. She couldn’t dance and didn’t care. People were split in their Marmite-style camps. But it was impossible not to have an opinion, so everyone did. Everybody was talking about you, writing about you, watching you again. It felt GOOD.

But it went to your head, Strictly. And look at you now. Bloated and self-satisfied. 100 minutes long! Even my patience is exhausted by the end, so it’s no wonder even the participants have apparently well and truly had enough. Sitting through endless smug jokes by Sir Brucie, who continues to think people watch the show simply for his grandstanding, tired old nonsense. Through puerile VTs prior to each dance designed simply to fill time with stupid, children’s tv-style antics? Through look-at-me use of props that add nothing to the dancing (except for Artem and Holly’s number, which was clever and beautifully choreographed)? Continue reading

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Strictly Come Dancing – It’s time to meet the Muppets…

Look, Strictly started it with Craig and Len doing their Statler and Waldorf impersonations. If they don’t want to draw our attention to the performers who are all startled expressions, fluff and jerky performances they shouldn’t lampshade them.

I’ll admit my heart sank at the concept of Broadway night. For one thing every night is pantomime night on the Strictly dancefloor, especially when it comes to the judges. Unlike the hair-trigger audience who appear to have been stuffed full of ’70s orange squash and pre-health and safety Smarties, my favourite of the judges is resident ‘villain’ Craig. He seems to me to be the only one judging dancing as opposed to national treasure status. And the day he finally loses it and punches Bruce on the nose for one of his homophobic comments will be Fab-u-lous.

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Strictly Come Dancing: Brace Yourselves!

It’s back! The countdown to Christmas begins with the proper return of Strictly Come Dancing (I’m ignoring the pre show the other week when we saw which professional had been landed with which celeb). Even the announcer beforehand seemed to be camping it up for the start of the Strictly season.

Unlike X Factor’s drastic revamp, Strictly has kept things pretty much the same. Bruce’s ‘jokes’ remain as strained and awkward as ever, and his carer, Tess Daly, continues to wear the weirdest of outfits, prompting the weekly, “what has she got on?” from Mrs OMITS. I do like Bruce, though. There’s something comforting about having him still as a regular Saturday night feature on our screens (I know it’s Friday, but you know what I mean). My Mum doesn’t agree. She is visiting for the weekend, and watched it with us. At one point, Bruce quipped “I nearly went off there.” I distinctly heard “I wish you would”, emanating from the aged P.

The judges remain unchanged too, though Craig Revel Horwood has had a new hair cut foregoing the mullety look of last year. Len Goodman’s still a bit grumpy (‘You’re getting on my wick already”, he said to the audience after they booed a negative comment), Shy and retiring Bruno Tonioli needs to work on his confidence but I’m sure will come out of his shell as the series continues, and Alesha Dixon provides a generally supportive and matey flavour to the comments  from someone who’s been there and done it. I like Alesha, but I do hope she manages to sort out her tenses this year -“You was excellent” does tend  to grate a bit after week five.

For the first weekend (half on Friday, and half on Saturday) no one leaves the show, but their points do get carried forward to next week when someone will be kicked off. I know she hasn’t danced yet, but my money’s on Edwina Currie as the first to go. Not sure why, other than I find her irritating. Always have. Mind you not as irritating as Ann Widdecombe last year, and look what happened to her.

One of the strengths of Strictly is, I’ve always thought, Dave Arch and his Orchestra. That band can do anything. The vocalists are consistently amazing, often delivering performances that outshine the originals and add to the sensitivity of the dancing. Amazing stuff.

This year, we do get the option of live commentary from Karen Hardy and a celeb (tonight, Katy Brand) on the red button, but I instantly forgot that, and didn’t avail myself of their services.

Holly Valance (emphasis on the ance) and Artem kick things off with the cha cha cha, and for a first dance, put in a pretty solid performance. Holly said that her experience of cavorting around in pop videos doesn’t make her a dancer, but it obviously gave her a physical confidence that your present correspondent never developed during ‘music and movement’ at school.

Len said, ‘not the best first dance I’ve seen’ (booo), ‘but it was close’ (hurrah!)

Dan Lobb (from Daybreak – I know – I’ve never seen it either)) and Katya Virshilas do the waltz, and to my untrained eyes, seemed to do pretty well. Craig wasn’t pulling any punches though, even for a first night; ‘hideously rigid topline’ and ‘transformations were clunky’ or something.

Next came Lulu and Brendan Cole with a cha cha cha. Hopes had been high for Lulu, who looks in great shape, and is a proper showbiz legend, but who looked devastated to be given Brendan has a partner. Oh dear. It all went very wrong. Len succinctly summed it up; ‘lots of boombangabang, but nothing to shout about.’ Craig was even more focussed in his critique; ‘disaaaaaaaaster’! Alesha was more encouraging, but then she can’t criticise Lulu can she?

Audley Harrison and Natalie Lowe performed a waltz and he was surprisingly light on his feet for such a large chap. Len liked it, though Craig was back in the ‘disaaaaaaster’ zone, moaning about his hands or suchlike. I’d be careful laying into his hands too much, to be honest, in case he gives you a closer look, Craig.

Robbie Savage and Ola Jordan were next.  Hmmmm. I like Ola, and it turns out we share the same birthday, so she gets my vote. The Savage fella, I’m less sure about. To my mind, being known as the dirtiest player in the Premiership is nothing to boast about, especially when one looks like a preening fop, and this bad boy image is going to get rammed down our throats until he’s voted off. They danced to – ahem – ‘Bad Boys’. A bit of strutting and some dodgy pelvic thrusts, and Craig rightly pointed out that it was all about the look rather than the dance.

Anita Dobson & Robin Windsor turned in a very nice waltz. You can tell the performers – they have a distinct advantage over sportsmen and other celebs who don’t have that experience of expressing themselves on stage. The judges loved it.

It was the turn of Russell Grant and Flavia Cacace next. I must confess a bias here as Flavia is my favourite professional and looked stunning.  I wasn’t really looking at Russell Grant, though I hear he did quite well for a ‘comedy’ turn and will probably be very popular. Mrs OMITS queried whether you could see his testicles down the leg of his trouser, but, as I say, I wasn’t looking.

In the round up clips at the end of the show, Holly Valance looked even better than she had first time round. By then we’d realised what everyone else looked like, and she and Anita Dobson were in joint first place, with Lulu, rightly, and unfortunately, languishing at the bottom of the table.

Tonight, the remaining celebs get to Dance. Will the collision of Edwina Currie’s and Nancy Del Olio’s egos cause a rethink of the laws of physics? I can’t wait to find out.

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