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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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Eastenders live: Edge of the seat stuff

Great big pats on the back to everyone involved with the live Eastenders episode last night. Apart from the occasional verbal fluff, and a couple of focusing issues with the cameras, it all went off absolutely smoothly, and the climax was a total shocker, as promised.

They hadn’t taken the easy route, either. As well as large ensemble scenes in the pub, there was a violent rampage by Phil Mitchell (does anyone cringe as effectively as Ian Beale?), rooftop stunt work, and some intense acting. I’d like to single out Samantha Womack for particular praise – her character Ronnie had to tell her sister that she’d been raped by their father. Not an easy scene to play in ordinary times, but with the added pressure of doing it live it must have been incredibly difficult, and she was excellent.

The final scenes, with Bradley falling from the roof and Stacey, Max and Jack desperately trying to get to him, must have been technically so hard to pull off, but it was all done seamlessly. And I don’t think many people had worked out that Stacey was the killer (my money was on Peggy).

In a neat touch, Ian and Dot watched a video that Ian had found in the time capsule he dug up, ensuring that Den and Ange, Kathy, Nasty Nick, Pete, Pauline, Arthur, Frank etc etc all made their appearance in this landmark episode.

Over on BBC3, the inept George Lamb was live on the set to present the “aftermath.” Charlie Clements was obviously emotional – it was his last episode, and what a way to bow out of a programme. There were lots of people in headphones high-fiving each other and hugging in the background, as well they might.

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Eastenders: Way to celebrate a jubilee

Last night’s hour-long Eastenders episode was brilliant stuff. Two weddings simultaneously (Ricky and Bianca in all their chav finery, and Bradley and Stacey quietly in a registry office with only a parent each in attendance) and there was a  constant thud of plot bombs being dropped every few minutes.

There was so much going on that it was hard to keep pace with it all. I loved Billy Mitchell frantically gesturing at the wedding car to take another turn around the block while everyone figured out what to do about the sudden presence of Bianca’s (severely estranged) mother, and Bianca refusing to wait. “I’m nervous! I want to go in!” she said, hutching up her wedding gown and stomping towards the church. Scenes between Lindsay Coulson and Patsy Palmer were always brilliant – there’s some actorly chemistry between the two that makes them totally believable as a mother and daughter – and they were just as good last night.

Elsewhere, Janine was released from police custody due to lack of serious evidence, and turned up in the Square like an avenging angel to disrupt the wedding celebrations and point accusing fingers at assorted Brannings and Mitchells.

Becca let slip to Ronnie that Archie had raped Stacey, who was now pregnant with his child, not Bradley’s. Except, Ronnie told her, Archie wasn’t able to have more children following chemotherapy several years ago. So whose baby is it?

Shirley, who really had made an effort to look fluffy and femine for the wedding (still all in black, but throw on a few sequins and a trilby and she could pass for female on a dark night), had almost forgiven Phil for the other day when she found Sonia in his bed, but when she saw him give Sonia a peck on the cheek as he popped her into a cab back to Martin Fowler, she was having none of his (genuine) protestations of innocence. She’s going to tell the police that the alibi she gave for Phil was all made up.

Ronnie finally flipped, rather understandably, at the sight of her late father staring in her front room window every time she opens the curtains, and went out and threw a can of red paint all over the offending image.

So the stage is set for an absolute cracker of a live episode tonight. I can’t wait.

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