Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Your Pixie-Positive Preview for Week 10

I know I was going to produce my exciting Magic Partners post for you midweek, you guys, but as soon as I started it I realised it was complicated stuff, and I need to do more work on it, so it will probably end up being next week instead. Sorry. But as a consolation, here: HAVE A PREVIEW.

(Round the World Week. What brain trust came up with this duffer of a concept?)

Caroline & Pasha – Charleston, to Istanbul by They Might be Giants (Turkey)
Because the song is called Istanbul, Caroline and Pasha are apparently Turkey in this turkey of a concept. I lived through bloody Jordan and DVO’s Egyptian-themed Charleston about eight million times, so I guess I can live with this too, though I cannot help assuming there will be some belly-dancing in it, which is upsetting me even four days ahead of time. DEAR CAROLINE PLEASE TRY AND HAVE FUN BECAUSE FUN IS WHAT YOU ARE MISSING.  I really hope they deliver, because there’s a vacant spot in the bottom two this week, and Caroline is absolutely a candidate for it.

Frankie & Kevin – Jive, to “Surfin’ USA by The Beach Boys (USA)
Jesus, this theme is literal. I anticipate rock ‘n’ roll theming AGAIN because apparently that is Kevin’s default setting. Frankie has an Alesha-like lazy foot, which will probably make this look a bit messier than it ought to be. Having said that, Alesha’s jive is one of my favourite Alesha dances, and favourite jives ever, so I don’t imagine this will hold them back. Kevin will probably be wearing red trousers. 

Jake & Janette – Argentine Tango, to Zorba the Greek (Greece)
Oh God.

Mark & Karen – Salsa, to Viva Las Vegas by Elvis (USA)
So, not so much Round the World Week as Round the World Wait Did Anyone Notice We Had USA Twice Can Anyone Think of a Seventh Country No OK Let's Just Go With It I'm Sure It Will Be Fine Week. Got it.  Karen will throw in some crazy stuff to make us think this is more exciting than it really is, Mark will dance it perfectly well and smile his little socks off throughout, and the dance will finish with me as profoundly unmoved as I have been by 95% of Mark’s dances so far. Oh Karen.

Pixie & Trent – Viennese Waltz, to Tulips from Amsterdam by Max Bygraves
Let’s just pretend the whole Max Bygraves thing isn’t happening because WHAT? I actually prefer Pixie’s ballroom to her Latin, on the whole, because there is less obvious opportunity for stage school PERFORMANCE bollocks, and it’s hard to make a VW really showy (easy to be cheesy, of course), so this might be a week in which I enjoy The Pixies. I KNOW! 

Simon & Kristina – Waltz, to Edelweiss from The Sound of Music
Speaking of cheese….  I did not like Simon’s Viennese Waltz all, which I am sure you remember from your encyclopaedic knowledge of this blog. He was under-rehearsed, unsure of himself and very skippy at all times. Simon is now so much better than he was that week that I have high hopes for this. What I would like is for Kristina to stage a lovely, quiet restrained Waltz in which Simon can be smooth and strong and elegant, like in his Argentine Tango. Whether this will happen, of course, is another matter.

Sunetra & Brendan – Rumba, to Girl from Ipanema by Michael Bolton (whut?)
Poor Sunetra. Bye Sunetra.

It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in the USA so, as I will be eating and drinking heavily for four days, just as the Puritan Pilgrim Fathers would have wanted, Miss Jones is on solo duty this weekend. Be kind to her. I’ll see you next week.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Week 9: All the Ringer Ladies, All the Ringer Ladies. (And Sunetra.)

It’s Week 9, you guys. Is it normal for there to be eight couples left at this stage? I’m sure we should have expected an injury, illness or dignified withdrawal by this point. But eight couples there are, and there is a nice, neat four chaps/four ladies divide. Miss Jones and I discussed, and concluded that I should report on the ladies, because I seem to have some issues to work through with regard to the Pixies, and this is the only way it’s going to get sorted. Basically, it’s like how you cure arachnophobia by putting a tarantula on your face.

(I don’t think this is off to the best start.)

Let’s talk about these issues, though. Is it that I have a problem with ringers? Here’s the thing: NO IT ISN’T. There have been years where I have been emphatically on Team Ringer (Alesha and Kara, most notably), so it’s not as though I reject the breed as a whole. It is just that I am looking for something else too. Chemistry, maybe? Personality? To try to pin this down, I’ve decided to do a Scientific Examination of my favourite couples over the years, wherein I will discuss the concept of the Magic Partner, so look for that midweek. Unless you couldn’t give a flying one about my thoughts and feelings, which is distinctly possible. I don’t know your life. 

In this week’s credits report, I can’t help noticing how normal Janette looks. It’s all a façade. 

Claudia is back! Hooray! So is Tess, but you can’t have everything. They are back to being helped on, this time by veterans Anton and Brendan. Maybe they were allowed to walk on alone in Blackpool because there weren’t any stairs. Do women generally have problems with stairs? Is that a thing?


Caroline and Pasha
It becomes clear during her intro that even Tess has a crush on Pasha because OBVIOUSLY. And then he is super-dishy in his VT to boot.  The music fires up, and I am immediately on board – Pasha is doing some whizzo moves on the stage, Caroline is kicking up a storm on the stairs, and she has FINALLY been given a dress that doesn’t make me want to put out my own eyes. But then, just to demonstrate that what Wardrobe gives with one hand they take away with the other, Caroline immediately has a dress mishap and nearly falls on her arse. I tried to screencap it. Here is what I managed.

Anyway, she tries jolly hard to style it out, but there’s no doubt the mishap bothers her throughout the dance – she is careful and tentative in a way she never is during her Latin. I must say that I still loved it though – it’s glamorous and dramatic, and has great lifts, and it is another choreographic triumph from Lovely Pasha. It gets 33, which I think was a bit undercooked – BLACKPOOL WEEK OVERSCORE BACKLASH.

Pixie and Trent
I am going to pretend the VT didn’t happen, because there’s putting a tarantula on your face, and then there’s watching the Robot VTs. I genuinely did enjoy quite a lot of this Charleston – Trent’s choreography is inventive and unusual, and this was a complete (and welcome) departure from most of the Charlestons we have had on the show. I will say, though, that Pixie’s exaggerated kneebends, along with the wide-footed stance of the Charleston, did make her look a little bit like a cowboy trying to dance. My sister more colourfully described her as “unable to stop a pig in a passage” and I can’t say I disagree. I’m still not on Team Pixies, but I might finally be boarding the Good Ship Trent, or I will be once he gets his Magic Partner. Just imagine Trent with Alesha for a moment. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Anyway, it’s 37 for these guys – I wouldn’t have given it a 10, but I’m surprised only one of the judges did. BACKLASH, SEE?

Frankie and Kevin
Prior to this dance, Tess manages to patronize Mary Berry. Mary does not rise to it, because she is better than Tess, you, me and everyone else. MARY FOR STRICTLY! My sister (who was full of REAL TALK observations this week) noted that Kevin styled his hair like the Jordan this week, and while I must chastise her for using the J word in public, she’s not wrong. Inevitably, as this is a Viennese Waltz, we get an OH NO NOT THE SPINNING VT, but unlike in most of these cases, Frankie genuinely looks like she is going to vomit for a good part of this dance. Other than that, this shows off all of Kevin’s cheeseball tendencies, as well as once again showing us (as though we were in doubt) that Frankie is The Best Skirt Swisher in Town, but I really liked it – I thought it was a really beautiful dance, and somehow Frankie’s personality manages to carry off the sentimentality without making want to punch Kevin in the face. Quite a skill. 38 from the judges, a score of which I approve, mainly because it ensured Jake’s insanely overscored samba did not stand alone at the top of the leaderboard. I think this was the best dance of the night (though Caroline’s would have beaten it if she had danced it better).

Sunetra and Brendan
The VT is full of a) cute kids and b) Brendan looking like he couldn’t give a rusty one. This is very pretty ballroom again from these two, but I thought it was a bit Waltz by Numbers – nothing we haven’t seen eight million times before, with a half-arsed bit of storylining to open and close it, so it looked like Brendan had made an effort. Sunetra makes mistakes again, and her confidence looks a bit shot at this point. Deservedly in the bottom two, but we knew that was coming this week. She’s for the chop next week, there ain’t no doubt. As for Brendan – is this his last series? Surely a possibility at this point. 

A quick word about the results show before I pop off – what on earth was that cops and robbers dance all about? I was utterly baffled. Good to see Darling Bobby back – I assume that means he will be back next year to nurture a Lady With A Confidence Problem through six or seven weeks, which will probably come as a blow to Tristan who was surely eyeing that role up for himself. There is also a lady pro who I don’t recognise – Ola’s replacement, perhaps? Claudia goes into the audience for interviews, talks about the starry front row, then interviews Mary Berry (again) and Dave Myers, while completely ignoring The Other One From Blue who is sitting on her other side, desperate for air time. Then Barry Manilow’s Spitting Image puppet does two songs, and Steve is inevitably shuffled off to the Great Wildlife Show in the Sky, never to receive a Christmas card from the Jordans. On the upside, if you would ever rather put a tarantula on your face than watch a dance by Pixie Lott, Steve is probably your man. 

Next week: Round The World Week. The mind boggles. And before we go, here is a bonus screencap which indicates in one picture everything I hated about Jake's samba. 

See you next week!

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Week 9: After Blackpool – The Boys

It's post-Blackpool week, Strictly watchers. The inevitable comedown. And how are you feeling? Listless? A general lack of purpose? All-encompassing fug of despair and futility?

You are not alone. It's natural to have these feelings. And in keeping with its status as a public-service broadcaster, the BBC has taken a look at its resources and come up with a plan to ease your suffering.


However low things are, let us remember that in this stinking world, there is still Aljaz. Famine and pestilence must all take a good hard look at themselves and resolve to give it a bit of a rest in the presence of his LOVELY DIMPLES.

There he is in the pre-credits VT winking at the camera. There he is in Claudia's area looking dashing in a suit. Being a sexy, strict policeman walking her on at the top of the results show. Dancing to Barry Manilow. Are they crocuses and daffodils I see on the grass outside? Has spring really come again? NO, IT'S JUST ALJAZ. 

Also, Claudia. Everyone is pleased to see Claudia, and she gets her very own standing ovation (which, for once in her life, Tess neglects to remark on). Don't make Claudia cry, audience. Oh, too late. And for me, also. 

I like how Anton looks as though he's giving her an extra-special hand-hold as he walks her down the stairs. Anton has clawed back some big nice-guy points this series.

There are now eight couples remaining, and a conveniently equal male-female split. Kate has some issues she needs to work through with one particular female celebrity, so I'm taking on the men.

And first of those is Steve. Steve is jiving. This was never going to be an easy alliance. The jive is an angry rhino and Steve is a helpless zookeeper and there was only ever going to be one winner and, that my friends, was not Steve. Before they start dancing, you can already hear Len saying, 'It's a difficult dance for a big lad' (what he actually says is 'It's a tough dance for big chaps,' but I'm claiming it). Craig is not happy AT ALL. In fact, this one minute-and-a-half seems to have totally taken the shine off his deliriously camp dance-on. Steve and Ola's jive is – in alphabetical order – awkward; comprised significantly of just running around; flat-footed; laboured; tentative; xylophone; yoyo; zebra. (These last ones among the little-known vocabulary of true dance aficionados.) Ola seems ecstatic at the end. She is either thinking, 'I am still alive! I did not get dropped on my face!' or 'Yes! this will definitely put us out of the competition and now I can be a late entrant into I'm A Celebrity. I have always wanted to meet Michael Buerk!' 

Mark and Karen are dancing the tango. I am apprehensive about how I will sit through Mark's range of faces (let's all have a period of reflection prompted by the word 'Superman'). But first, the show attempts to inject their training VT with a sense of jeopardy because – oh no! – Mark has to work in Tenerife. What on earth will he do? That's at least a two-hour flight away! Karen has to fly out to join him! Will they ever be ready? Somebody put out my eyes as I cannot bear to watch!

These are the challenges you face daily when you are a co-host of Take Me Out - The Gossip

When it gets to the Actual Dancing, the cameras do a good job of concealing Mark and Karen's footwork a lot of the time, which is unfortunate as I am prevented from making a lot of tremendously insightful and knowledgable comments about the technicalities of their dance. The choreography does not inspire me, and Mark has an unnerving habit of looking into the camera near the start. It's not a vintage Mark performance in any sense - emotionally, physically and familially (it's possible I've invented that word). Still, Bruno's Planet Of The Apes comparison more than makes up for it..

Jake is doing the samba. There is much talk of his 'legendary' hips. Pfffft. Let's book those hips in for three month at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, alongside Celine Dion and see who sells more tickets. Right, Celine? Still, were Celine Dion on Strictly Come Dancing, it's unlikely she could pull Danny Dyer AND Natalie Cassidy into a single training VT, so maybe I've been hasty there. What is fair to say is that Jake's samba is totally demented. Some of the choreography is brilliant; some is deeply weird. Jake is all chest shimmies and buttock wiggles and bump and grind. It is tight, and accurate, and muscular but.... where is the joy? Isn't the samba one of the party dances? If so, the party here is a country fayre in Somerset circa 1972 and Jake has entered the gurning competition. I've heard it said that if you spend long enough working on EastEnders, you lose the capacity to feel happiness and elation on any level, and I think Jake may just have hit that point. Still, 9s and 10s for the samba? Watch it and weep, Pixie and Frankie. And everyone else who's been on Strictly ever.

(As an aside, I have two favourite non-dancing parts of the show tonight. The first comes here, where Jeanette tries to high-five Jake, he leaves her hanging, and she has to nonchalantly turn it into a fond chest slap.)

You want joyful? Here's Simon and Kristina dancing the salsa. Man alive, I love this. I love the song, and let me talk about how much I love the sequence it soundtracks in Footloose, which is almost certainly what I referenced the last time someone danced to this on Strictly. Hey, show, you repeat yourself, I repeat myself. At least one of my friends has said to me in the last week that she is now Team Simon and who am I to argue? He's experiencing the kind of transformation we miss when a series is stuffed with Pixies and Frankies. Sorry if this makes me sound like a wanker but he seems to be inhabiting his dances now, rather than just going through the steps. Those steps are too big for a salsa, but Simon makes it look effortless and innate, where Jake made his samba look angry and inflamed.

(My second-favourite non-dance related part of the show is Kristina welcoming Claudia back and Claudia almost losing it completely. I can't deny I would LOVE it if Kristina won.)

And there go the boys. It's another fair elimination this week. Caroline (or more specifically Pasha's choreography) is back in the game for me, and she and Simon were my favourites. Neither will win. That's just showbiz, I guess.

Next week it's 'Round The World' week, which is absolutely nothing like every week on Strictly. Bring on the Welsh samba and the St Kitts And Nevis Smooth! See you then!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Hopes and Dreams for Week 9, you guys, in which the show is back in London so nobody feels special. It's sad.

I was meant to be in Atlanta this week, you guys, but in a moment of reckless abandon I cancelled the trip, which means two things: a) I am still in New York and it is BLOODY FREEZING and b) IT’S PREVIEW TIME.

We’re down to the final eight (yes, still eight) this weekend, and we are surely into the Likely Finalists, Outside Chances, and Only A Matter of Times.  We all have our own views of who fits into each, but for what it’s worth, here are my thoughts:

Likely Finalists: Caroline, Frankie, Jake and Pixie.
Outside Chances: Mark and Simon (though all it takes is the wrong bottom two and either one of them could swap in with Caroline, who is the riskiest of the above bets).
Only A Matter of Time: Steve and Sunetra (obviously).

So, hopes and fears for this week:

Caroline and Pasha – American Smooth to Mack the Knife (the website says “Robbie Williams’ version of Mack the Knife, but if you want me calm and not homicidal, we’ll just ignore that).
We’ve only really seen two shades of Caroline so far – concentrated attack (paso, jive, samba, tango, cha cha, quickstep) and dreamy emotional totes in love with Pasha (waltz, rumba) (we’ve all been there). I really, really hope that they do well this week - I continue to have faith in Pasha’s choreography, but it’s all going to depend on whether Caroline looks like she’s having fun, or looks like she’s marking out the dance with every step. The only week where she seemed to be dancing freely was Paso week – perhaps not a coincidence that that was the dance I have liked the most so far.

Frankie and Kevin – Viennese Waltz to What’s New, Pussycat?
Hmmmm. Not sure about this. I worry about Kevin’s tendency towards the twee, which we’ve already seen in their Foxtrot, and to some extent their Cha cha and even the beloved Wicked Tango. If Kevin reigns in the cheese, and Frankie keeps her frame, I will probably love it. They will do a fleckerl. Len will talk about this and heel leads, and probably score them lower than everyone else will, because that’s just how he rolls.

Jake and Janette – Samba to the Macarena
I am pretty sure you should do the Macarena to the Macarena, but what the hell do I know? Everyone was very excited on the results show that Jake is doing wiggly Latin again, but I do not particularly share this excitement, partly because his hip movement was the least exciting thing about their mental Salsa, and partly because even if you get the hips right in the Samba, there are still ONE MILLION more things you need to figure out, and you can’t rescue it with lifts like you can in the Salsa. I have been pretty tough on Jake recently, and this is largely down to Janette’s choreography, which I think is all show and little substance. I would love it if he had a good week this week, but I would be surprised.

Mark and Karen – Tango to Love Runs Out
Mark has had a very good run recently, even though Karen’s choreography continues to be a little pedestrian. I don’t think the Tango is going to suit him though – I imagine we will revisit his terrible Paso face, he will be commended for his attack and for how much progress he has made and OH MARK YOU WERE REALLY LEADING KAREN AROUND THE FLOOR, and I will have been terribly bored by the whole thing.

Pixie and Trent – Charleston to Sparkling Diamonds (whatever the hell that is)
OK, you guys, this is the week when I try to get on board with the Pixies. Trent has shown some willingness to be inventive with his choreography and his music choices, and my boredom at the blandness of their blondness is starting to depress even me. So, I predict great swivel, mad lifts, and JUST SO MUCH FUN. 

Simon and Kristina – Salsa to Let’s Hear it For the Boy
I don’t really like Kristina’s Salsas. Remember this egregious mess?  These two are terrifically good at lifts, though, so provided they keep it tight and don’t overdo it (what am I talking about, this is Simon in the Latin) it might even be good.  Boring choice of song, though – I wouldn’t dance to anything Natalie Lowe had already danced to, just on principle.

Steve and Ola – Jive to Little Bitty Pretty One
I am fairly sure that this is going to be a disaster. I read a lengthy interview with Steve in which there was much talk about his having had bones fused together in his ankle or something (I read it, I didn’t memorise it, yeah?) which I suspect can only be bad news for anything that requires top speed flicking and kicking. Poor Steve – luck of the draw, or are the production team just super-done with him and Ola?

Sunetra and Brendan - Waltz to Last Request
ARMS ARMS ARMS. I like Sunetra in the ballroom, and I loved her Viennese Waltz, so I bet this will be good, provided Brendan engages his brain.

So it really ought to be down to Steve or Sunetra for the boot this week, and with Steve in the Latin and Sunetra in the Ballroom, it is almost certainly going to be Steve. The Pixies will probably be top of the pops, and I am really hoping for Caroline and Pasha to shine. And that, you guys, is that. See you at the weekend. I might even go for a live watch if I can find the energy – I’ll be on Twitter (@katetf) if so…

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


Hello, and a warm welcome to the second part of Oh OK Then Maybe Blackpool Is Kind Of As Amazing As They Always Go On About Week. Like Adam Gemini to her Richard Kilty, I have taken the baton from Kate and am sprinting towards the finish at high speed with quite a lot of strain showing in my face (niche athletics reference).

It's been a crackerjack first half for KateTF. Amazing pre-pro-dance VT! Amazing pro-dance apart from the small child singing! Amazing Jake and Jeanette! Amazing Simon and Kristina! Really pretty good Frankie and Kevin!

My half starts with Anton and Judy. OK then. And um-diddle-diddle-diddle um-diddle-aye, they are channelling Mary Poppins. This isn't a big leap for me. Judy seems to be cut from just the same twinkly-eyed, firm-but-fair-but-mostly-firm cloth as La Poppins. It's not hard to imagine her pouring a dose of magic potion for the young Andy and Jamie in their stripey PJs ('People who hit tennis balls through greenhouse windows must learn to take their medicine!') before pouring some for herself ('RUM PUNCH!').

The first thing we learn from J&A's Viennese waltz is that kites are a lot easier to control than dalmatians, which is worth remembering if you have a medium-sized windfall and are wondering what to spend it on.

Relatively speaking, this a triumph. Judy manages something that can unequivocally be called dancing. There is a moderately successful period of twirling, even if the overall impression is that Anton has grabbed someone else's relative to dance with at a wedding and that relative is trying to pretend she is totally cool with it, despite her every physical inclination to the contrary.

I laugh out loud at Bruno's reference to 'Mary Sloppins'. I do. Sorry. The judges perform their tried-and-tested method of finally eliminating the weak but popular contestant by moderating their criticism, laying on the 'your best dance yet' sucky-up, and ludicrously overmarking to dissuade people from feeling the need to vote. Oh, judges, truly you have bamboozled the public again with your wily psychological mind-magic. Time to write a popular science book just in time for Christmas (A Tango For Our Time: The Public-Vote Paradox or Why We're All Dancing To The Wrong Rhythm).

It's been a jolly holiday with Judy, that is for sure, but the penguins have served their last beverage (if no one dances with live penguins in the Christmas special, I am going to KICK RIGHT OFF, penguins are so hot right now), and it's the right time for her exit. All future contestants who are rubbish but beloved would to do well to mark her sense of humour and self-knowledge.

Mad props to Mark Wright for producing a cousin who does magic to match the theme of his routine. In the Tower Ballroom, the backdrop is lit up with the words 'Magic Mark's Circus'. Roll up! Roll up! You will believe a man has 428 close family members who are available to pop into rehearsals at literally any time and perform any random physical speciality you can think of!

Now then. Regular readers will know that I am emphatically a Mark Wright sympathiser. However. This Charleston is kind of a bust for me, no matter how well Mark executes it. For starters, the Karen-in-a-box shenanigans go on far too long. Secondly, I do not like the choreography. Third, I hate the music. Fourth, it seems pedestrian. That's about the size of it. None of these have anything to do with Mark. Karen, you can stay right there in the box, as far as I'm concerned. Still, great swivel from Mark (one of Mark's seven grandfathers was a professional swiveller during the war). Mark kisses Craig, aka Strictly cliche #547.

It's almost like the BBC don't know what to do to make us fall in love with Pixie and Trent. (My friend Beth loves them, so I know it's not impossible, but I am really struggling.) This week the show's bosses use their training VT to demonstrate their love of animals. The British public loves animals so it can't fail, right? Pixie loves donkey rides. She loves them sooooo much! Please can she ride on a donkey? It's played out slightly like a John Lewis advert, which the British public also loves, but only proves that donkeys are cute, but not as much as penguins. I remain unmoved. Back in the ballroom, it's Paso Doble: Beyond The Thunderdome. Austin Healey wishes he had a fraction of this focus and aggression. It's utterly flawless to my untrained eye, but all a little prog for me and I watch it in a passive state, having whooped out loud for both Jake and Simon earlier in the evening.

There follows an excruciating rehearsed Spartacus gag. Oh Strictly.

Steve and Ola are dancing the American Smooth. Their Token Distracting Backing Dancers are wafting long bands of fabric across in the floor in the manner of a primary school play attempting to portray the sea. Blackpool is, of course, by the sea so this makes perfect sense and is definitely not weird and unnecessary at all. Their dance seems rather old-fashioned next to the narrative of Jake and Jeanette's, but lacks the finesse of Sunetra and Brendan's early old-fashioned glory days. Still it's classy and has MEGA LIFTS. Craig says the dance lacked flair, and I concur. Steve's not a natural dancer and has had some confidence knocks lately, and Ola's heart doesn't seem to be in it these days, and this is what you get. It can only be time for Ola to DEPLOY THE CATSUIT. Or for Steve to get his top off. That or he has to ask the advice of the coterie of woodland animals who live in his garden and are his closest friends and confidantes – specifically a female deer who is shy but kind, a garrulous woodpecker who talks too much but always has Steve's back, and a fox who, in contrast to the popular stereotype, is well-meaning but extremely stupid.

I feel quite strongly that Steve should be practising his dance-off face for next week.

At our Book Club this week, a friend of mine remarked mournfully that Pasha In His Silver Trousers was gifted to us far too early in the series, and we may never witness that kind of majesty again. Still, this week's soldier costume is kind of working for me. He and Caroline are dancing the jive, so please, god, grant us a tiny shred of magic and/or panache. It doesn't start too well with the 90s Geri Halliwell styling, and the 'Dude, where's my bearskin?' lolz. Also, Caroline looks unnervingly like Janine off EastEnders. But still, most boxes are ticked and more of this please, Caroline and Pasha.

Now, barring Shock Return Week (I wouldn't rule it out), we can say that Anton and Judy definitely won't win. But who will? For me, it's between Frankie, Jake and Mark. And Pixie. And Simon. And Caroline. Anything could happen! See you next week!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Blackpool Blackpool Blackpool (Part One)

Blackpool, Blackpool, Blackpool, you guys. In case it had somehow bypassed you in the run-up to this week, it certainly isn’t going to pass you by in the pre-credits sequence. Blackpool, Blackpool, Blackpool. The home of ballroom (but not Latin, AMIRITE ANTON?), Blackpool Blackpool Blackpool. It has come to my attention that I was a bit moody about it being Blackpool week, and I have realised that this was because I had literally confused Blackpool with Wembley. It’s Wembley Week that I hate, the only squabble I have with Blackpool is that people won’t shut up about it. Even me, it turns out. Blackpool Blackpool Blackpool. 

We finally get into the credits. This week’s credits report belongs to tHom and Iveta. He looks bland, she creeps towards the camera over his shoulder all sinister-like. If I was into blanket Eastern European stereotyping I would call it vampiresque. But I’m not, so I won’t. 

The Stockport Joke Murderer (SJM) and Zoe are not escorted on by chaps, so apparently Blackpool is quite the progressive town. Zoe commits fully to a dance-on, which is exactly what I would expect from someone who once did this on this show. 

Now we get a strange creepy little VT full of LIES, in which Small Anton is adorable, Small Brendan is Australian, and Small Joanne is not taking the competition out at the knees. Then a child pretends to be Iveta and then starts singing and OH GOD MAKE IT STOP. Sorry kid, but this is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen, and I sat through Ouija the Movie last week. Eventually she stops, everyone dances. It’s nice. Goes on a bit. Iveta hangs from wires. The end. 

The SJM is standing in front of Zoe again. It’s amazing. 

Darcy dances on again! She’s really getting into this. Len gets his moves wrong. Nobody is having more fun than Craig.

This week, I have the first half of the show, Hannah has the second. We did not know which order they were going to dance in, so this was the Strictly blogging form of Russian Roulette, in which if I got the Pixies I would have to choose which one of them I would shoot in the head. 

(I did not get the Pixies.)

Before we start, if you read my reports carefully, you might notice that I LOATHED the use of back-up dancers. That thread of hate is integral to all my feelings tonight.


Frankie and Kevin
We have NO RED TROUSERS.  What we do have is a top speed quickstep to the Clash and, look, if you’re going to do a dance routine to A Town Called Malice, you had better bring it, because this exists. Anyway, they gallop around jolly well, Frankie’s slightly Alesha-like lazy foot aside, but (BLOODY BACK-UP DANCERS) I liked the beginning and the end much more than I liked the middle. Imagine if the whole quickstep had had that rock and roll feel, rather than just topping and tailing it, it could have been insanely brilliant, and Frankie’s good enough to do it. As it was, they did enough to tantalise, but not quite enough to make me love it. If you’re interested, here’s a Blackpool quickstep I once loved (and yes, I have linked to it before, thanks for noticing). 

Jake and Janette
It’s a scripted COMEBACK week for Jake, and surprise surprise, that’s exactly what happens.  This is an American Smooth to Feelin’ Good, which to my amazement has not previously been done (there has been a Foxtrot, but nothing by Joe Calzaghe counts, let's be honest), and I am not that into it. They don’t dance together for much of it at all, because of all the faffing about and the BLOODY BACK-UP DANCERS. I mean, it’s fine if you like that sort of thing, but I prefer to see actual dancing, and not just Janette being thrown about and lots of posing by BLOODY BACK-UP DANCERS. A mere 30 seconds of dancing meant that this was not my cup of tea. The judges like it, though, so good for Jake, I guess. Craig scores it higher than Frankie, which: NO.

Sunetra and Brendan
Oh dear Lord. Let’s start by saying POOR SUNETRA – when you’re a reluctant Latin dancer, Blackpool Week is not the week to get the samba – there is just so much floor to cover, and she hasn’t got the confidence to really do it justice. (For a good Blackpool samba, take a look at this one - actual backflips were needed to make it a decent dance on this big old dancefloor.) The show goes on and on about this dance having a hen party theme, and this does Sunetra no favours, because once she gets going, all you can think is Maths Teacher on a Hen Do, and once you’ve thought it, it’s game over. She is giving it plenty of beans, but she does not know what she’s doing or where she’s going, and Brendan ends up shoving her round the floor like an angry groom whose wife forgot the steps of their cleverly choreographed first dance, and he is HAVING WORDS ABOUT IT LATER I DON’T CARE IF IT IS OUR WEDDING DAY YOU’VE LET ME DOWN HERE DARLING. She gets three 8s. WTF? I love you, Sunetra, and I love Sensible Brendan, but seriously: WTF? Between this and Jake, I am renaming this Overscore Week. Also, I hated the BLOODY BACK-UP DANCERS. But you knew that.

Simon and Kristina
My feelings on realising I had Simon’s Argentine Tango: OH NO I’VE GOT SIMON’S ARGENTINE TANGO.  My feelings about 10 seconds in: OH MY GOD SIMON IS REALLY GOOD AT THE ARGENTINE TANGO. Occasionally it’s a tiny bit careful, but basically I loved it. This is easily Simon’s best dance, there is no gurning, there are no bloody back up dancers, and there is an amazing atmosphere throughout. I could have done without Simon’s post-dance Humble Thank Yous, but I loved it and I have zero rude words to deliver. I know. 

That’s it from me, you guys. Over to Miss Jones for the Judy Report, and Flack dressed as Geri Halliwell (and presumably being kept away from McBusted by actual bodyguards). Oh, and the Pixies. SIGH. 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Week 7: Ballroom, ballroom, ballroom (and two more ballrooms)

Good evening everyone. Let's talk about ballroom! Which was the working title of Salt 'n' Pepa's 1991 hit until the record company said, 'Look, girls, you know I love you. But how's about we make this less about ballroom and more about... I don't know... sex, maybe?'

Like Kate, I much prefer Zoe's dress to Tess's. When we're eventually asked to host the show (I'm thinking early December, at the latest), this could potentially result in some awkward wardrobe-related arguments, but for now we are as one.

So… then there were 10.

I know.

There are still 10 (ten) – 10! – couples. No time to waste then... It's Pre-Blackpool Gratuitous Friends And Relations Week But Wait Isn't That Every Week Yes Pretty Much It Is!

Reporting first to the ballroom are Simon and Kristina and they're dancing the quickstep. Simon's look of Total Shock when he was saved from elimination last Sunday night was one of my highlights of the week. When you consider that last week also included Firework Night and the discovery of Hotel Chocolat's Super Milk innovation, this is a Massive Deal. In a bold and early attempt to win the highly competitive category of Best Relative, Simon introduces us to his mum who works in a community centre and is full of lovely mum advice. What is that thing thrown down there on the floor? It is like a glove, but slightly more old-fashioned. Anyway, mostly this week, my half of the programme feels like being rolled around in marshmallows and syrup and other sickly stuff that coincidentally comprises half the ingredients for rice krispie squares. By refreshing contrast, Simon and Kristina's dance is light and fresh and joyful. In addition, Simon gets to use some of the faces he learn for his triumphant Charleston. And some of the steps too. Recycling is such an instinctive part of our lives these days.

Afterwards, Tess immediately remarks on their standing ovation ('They're on their feet') and then calls Simon 'my love'. Did Bruce ever actually leave? I increasingly believe the real Tess is locked in a broom cupboard in the now-disused TV Centre and an animatronic model has been installed in her place, which Bruce is operating via remote control from the lounge of a very high-end golf club.

A 9 from both from Darcy and Len sees more Shocked And Amazed faces from Simon. This is emerging as a key skill for him, which he must be able to utilise post-Strictly. I don't know how. I can't breathe for you, Simon.

Let's move on. After last week's wig atrocity, Pasha restores his image by being all adorable with Caroline's nieces in their VT. This blog has a problem being stirred by Caroline and Pasha's routines, and a waltz to a cheesy old smoocher like Three Times A Lady needs to go some to change that. It doesn't. Although it's beautiful and softly romantic and marshmallows and melted butter and toffees and a lot of YEARNING faces. Oh, the YEARNING. It's a fist of pure emotion, if not two, or, in fact four, but the judges are pissy about the technicalities and the rise and fall is not so much. Oh Pasha, remember the personality of your quickstep with Chelseeeeee Healey? THE WORLD NEEDS IT NOW. What the world also needs now is love, sweet love, which you could have danced your waltz to, although someone has definitely done it before and Kate would be able to tell you who because she is the Strictly Rainman Megabrain. Unfortunately I am here instead.

Sunetra and Brendan are doing the foxtrot, and Sunetra has a lovely new fringe. Some of her friends from Casualty come and visit her in training, including losing series 3 finalist Colin Jackson's sister. You can quite clearly hear her say 'NO PUPPETS' in the background to Brendan at one point.  S&B seem to have been inspired by Caroline and Pasha's romantic, beautiful, technically flawed performance and decide to follow suit. Not even Sunetra's Arms Of Illusion can weave a spell to conceal the blunders. At points, you can actually see Brendan manhandling her into position. Remember what Colin Jackson's sister said, Brendan? NO PUPPETS. It's a missed opportunity to storm the leader board in a week when Caroline and Frankie are off-form. Still, many people are voting for these two. I just don't know any of them.

Mark and Karen also get the waltz, and for the kind of tenuous reasons that are Strictly's speciality, they go and visit Mark's brother who plays football for Leyton Orient. Back in the studio, Mark is wearing a truly hideous pale-grey cropped tail suit abhorration. Seriously, Mark, you are getting the shitty end of the costume stick. Gregg Wallace had better costumes than this. As Mark and Karen schmaltz their way around the floor, autumn leaves fall from the ceiling. I think they're leaves anyway. They might be the rice krispies you need to complete your Strictly Rice Krispie Cakes recipe. Sorry, that seemed like a good idea when I started it. Anyway, technically Mark is really getting it together, and, of course, he emotes all over the shop. A DVD will surely come out of this. Emote With Mark Wright. Mark Wright's Emotacise! Disarm friends and colleagues with your totally natural tears! Make every day feel like a dream!

Now then. The perpetually underwhelming (to me, at least) Pixie and Trent are foxtrotting to When I'm 64. I was thinking about this song earlier in the week, and remembering how various members of my family would play it on the piano when I was small. I make us sound like the Von Trapps - we are very much not, but if we were, I would be Brigitta. It was in a songbook with lots of much older standards, and I was thinking how it has moved beyond pop music, and feels like it's existed forever. It says home and family to me, and I think that's a big part of why I am crazy in love with Pixie and Trent's routine tonight.

I know, I can't believe it either.

Also, in their VT, they visit the Rivoli Ballroom, aka one of the best places ever, and people can carry on being snobby about South London forever if it means they stay away and leave it just for us.

Anyway, Pixie and Trent's domestic, old-fashioned foxtrot is witty and balletic and theatrical (are you watching, Pasha? or are you just trying on ugly wigs backstage?), but not in the freaky way of Jennifer's Mamma Mia! tribute. They nearly ruin it with one of the worst endings ever. One chucking a bucket of fabric and glitter over the other an uncomfortable amount of time after the music has ended is total self-sabotage, as far as I am concerned. What is this, Billy Smart's Strictly Circus? (And if that ever happens, I demand a cut.) Unlike last week, I love Pixie's hair and outfit and the styling and.. look, I loved it, OK?

I also love the bit post-scores when Zoe asks Pixie how old she is, and she has to think quite hard before answering.

Come results time, it's a tragedy for Alison and Aljaz to leave - not just for their contribution to VTs, but also because they staged a dance-off WITHIN THEIR OWN ROUTINE, and did one of the best ever leaving dances, and are also just flat-out adorable with each other. But, with the exception of Judy, and possibly Steve, everyone who's left in is a better dancer than Alison. The fun, though. Oh, the fun.

Meanwhile, Judy marches on to Blackpool. See you there. And by there, I mean at home in front of the TV with a bag of peanut M&Ms and the cringe threshold set to high.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Week 7, Part 1: In which the Blackpool drums begin and shoulders make me uncomfortable

OK you guys, let’s talk about Not Halloween and Not Blackpool So What The Hell, Man, Do I Even Have an Identity Week. Also known as Week 7. Miss Jones is on the ballroom this week, for reasons of keeping things fresh, but also because the Pixies have ballroom this week, and I need to stop reviewing them because of ALL THE RINGER VITRIOL. 

Some pre-credits humour for us this week – not sure I need a LOL JUDY’S RUBBISH VT, if I’m honest. Other than that, the VT is only there to serve notice that Bruno dropkicked us right into the 10 zone last week, and there’s very little chance that we’ll go another week without one CHEERS BRUNO YOU TRAITOR. 

This week’s credit report brings you Aliona and Gregg. Even then, Aliona looked like she couldn’t give two hoots and Gregg looked utterly resigned to his fate. Now I’m all sad about Gregg again. 

Aljaz and Sensible Brendan escort our two extremely tall, extremely blonde hosts to the stage. I do not like Tess’s dress, but I won’t deny she looks nice in it. I do like Zoe’s, and in my fantasy world in which I am a six foot tall Amazon with awesome legs, I would always wear this dress to a party. I tried on a party dress on Sunday. I liked the look of it in the mirror, but thought I would check how it looked if photographed.  The dress remains in the shop. 

I am amused throughout the evening’s show by Tess ensuring she is standing just slightly in front of Zoe at all times. It’s subtle, but it’s there. KNOW YOUR PLACE, BALL. 

Darcey does a little dance! Thanks, Darcey! And there are some utterly baffled-looking soldiers in the front row. I can only assume they drew the short straw.

Two things to note about the remainder of the intro: 1) Sunetra is wearing some gigantic arm scarves, so I worry about entanglements, and I worry about Miss Jones’s sanity as this can only mean further commentary on Sunetra’s Amazing Arms ™, and 2) the Blackpool klaxons begin immediately. Let me save you some time, celebs: you all want to go to Blackpool, you’ve all got some spurious reason why it’s more important to you than to anyone else, and no, I’m not interested in any of it, so take it down a notch, you needy whatnots. 


Jake and Janette
I actually volunteered for the Latin this week, having failed to notice I would have to cover this rumba. Male Celeb Rumba. Janette Rumba. Neither bodes well. He dances it fine, I guess, though his shoulders are up throughout. I found the whole thing oddly unsettling though – he’s all embarrassed, then into it, then embarrassed, then into it, dancing then walking, then dancing, then walking…. No, in conclusion I did not like it, and it made me feel uncomfortable, and Jake is slipping from contender to also-ran in a hurry. The judges once again crap on about how the rumba is a difficult dance for a man SHUT UP JUDGES ALL THEY HAVE TO DO IS GET THEIR HIPS MOVING AND THEIR ARMS MOVING, IT’S THE WOMEN WHO HAVE ALL THE SPINS AND POSES AND EVERYTHING. It’s only difficult for the men to do because they get self conscious about all the wiggling, and I have zero patience for that sort of thing. Zoe then tries to pretend that Jake is super-fun behind the scenes. Nice try, Ball, but I ain’t buying. Jake gets 27 – firmly in the mid to low table danger zone, and I am surprised he wasn’t bottom two this week. 

Judy and Anton
It’s Andy! They must seriously have thought it was Judy’s last week to have rolled out the Andy VT. God I love Judy. And Andy. Basically I just love the Murray family. Can you imagine Christmas charades with the Murrays? It would be EPICALLY CRUSHINGLY BAD AND AMAZING. Anyway, this paso is bananas. Anton chucks Judy around like a rag doll, except that she is entirely rigid at all times. So a plank doll, I guess? Did I just invent a new rubbish toy? Kind words from Darcey, who is obviously trying for the gentle boot, but the other judges aren’t playing ball, thereby virtually guaranteeing Votes For Judy and a Blackpool Week appearance. Banton kicks in. I hate Banton. 

(Zoe puns up a storm between dances, doing Claudia proud. Did Tess do this many puns when she was in this role? Or did they think (rightly) that we couldn’t take this level of Puntivity from the Stockport Joke Murderer?)

Alison and Aljaz
Fun fact: Tess cannot say “Alison and Aljaz”. She renames Alison Alice every time – too many syllables otherwise. Anyway, these two do a super-fun Charleston to Friend Like Me from Aladdin, a song which I love from a cartoon which I adore and I still get sad about Robin Williams sometimes so let’s move on. She starts well with great swivel, then it all ends up a bit flat-footed, but it still makes me smile all the way through, as Alison generally does. She gets the same score as Jake, so absolutely in the danger zone, but I am gutted she has gone out – she was the most fun contestant to watch on a series which is dangerously close to having zero personality, and I will miss her. Let’s give a quick valedictory mention to whoever did Alison’s make-up all series – she has looked gorgeous each and every week, and I have serious lipstick envy.

(Simon, by the way, mugs at the camera from the balcony at every available opportunity all night. High from his strong performance? Let’s say it’s that.)

Frankie and Kevin
Kevin from Grimsby is in red trousers again, so my first thought is that Miss Jones will not be pleased.  I am thinking of directing Kevin to this blog.  He is also wearing a short-sleeved Christmas jumper. Frankie looks nice, but I can’t take my eyes off the trousers. Anyway, this samba is really good fast fun, and Frankie gives us demonstration number two (after her paso) that she is the Best Skirt Swisher in Town. There are no tricks, there is only dancing, and the judges give it quite a lot of chat about loads of dance content, but I disagree – I thought Kevin gave it pace because they didn’t have time to rehearse more content, and for a Frankie/Kevin dance it lacked some imagination. It is a bit underscored, mainly because of Craig, but it is still third on the leaderboard because the judges are grumpy not insane.

(At this point I notice that the pointer on my computer screen is hovering right at mouth level during the close ups, which means all the celebs look as though they are missing a tooth. I do not do anything about it because I am too lazy and also it makes me laugh.)

(Let’s check in on the results show before the last couple. We get a pro swing dance and look, I love a bit of swing, but this is insanely under-rehearsed. Kristina actually misses some moves, Janette tries to steal focus constantly until she is finally in the front, and Anton’s hair looks more sprayed on than usual which, ok, isn’t actually a rehearsal issue but I just thought I would mention it. Katherine Jenkins FAST FORWARD.)

Steve and Ola
This is basically WWF Does Paso, and I am talking about the wrestlers, not the pandas. Steve’s paso face is full meathead. You can’t fault the commitment or the attack, but the Pre-Traumatic Stress I had in week one about his shoulders turns out to be warranted – he hunches forward throughout the dance, so he gets no arch in his back and cannot shape his arms, so it’s mostly just very uncomfortable. He and Ola hug at the end, because they have to be DEFIANT IN THE FACE OF THE TABZ RUMOURS, but I am not buying it for a second. When they are up with Tess, he has her neck in a death grip – he looks to be checking her pulse or giving her a warning of some kind. Neither thought is particularly appealing. I thought it might be curtains for Steve tonight, but he stays in. It’s the first week I haven’t liked Steve, so either I am finally moving away from Personality Voting, or the TABZ have managed to affect me. It’s probably the latter, let’s be honest.

So that was my half of Identity Crisis Week. Judy survives again, but surely Blackpool will finish her off, Caroline has her visit to the bottom two just about on schedule (Kimberley was week 6), Simon continues his renaissance and Jake is plummeting. Over to Miss Jones, and see you all in Blackpool (OH GOD).

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Week 6 Part 2: Ringer Rage (which sounds a bit rude, but is accurate)

OK you guys, time for my bit of the show, which is All of The Pasos All of the Time, plus some other stuff. 

Credits report: Sensible Brendan is even sensible in the credits. Life’s weird.

I appreciate the effort they make in the pro dance to be all spooky and whatnot, but it doesn’t really work, because it’s basically just a chirpy jive with costumes. The celebs join in, with varying degrees of success, but The Show knows that as long as Frankie is front and centre, it’s all going to be fine.  Because it is a Latin dance, the choreographer hangs Anton from some wires, knowing (as we all do) that this is by far the best place for him. 

Miss Jones says it all about Zoe. Poor Claudia and I hope everyone is ok. 

I ENJOYED THE DANCE-ON! I KNOW! All it takes to get me on board, it turns out, is Darcey joining in plus the Thriller dance. Actually, all it takes to get me on board with ANYTHING is the Thriller dance. 

Tess tells us that the contestants all want to “save their souls from the judges”. I will just say that  if that was the actual premise of Strictly Come Dancing, I would watch the shit out of the Show even more than I actually do. A hell full of Strictly ejectees. IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES. Bagsy I don’t sit next to Dominic Littlewood.


(But before we get to my lot, let me just say that I think there should be a new rule: Alison and Aljaz should do all VTs for every couple forevermore. Who knew I could be this on board with a former Big Brother contestant? I don’t even know who I am any more.)

Simon and Kristina
Of course he has Latin this week. Of course. They have a very upsetting VT – how come everyone else gets to dress up or caper in a park and Simon has to handle a tarantula? This Show is so odd. Anyway, it’s paso time for Simon, but I have to say this looked more like a tango to me – his posture was too upright, and the shaping wasn’t there in his arms. It all got super-messy halfway through but he saves everything with a crowd-pleasing back flip (clever Kristina). I sort of can’t believe it has taken this long for Kristina to in some way be a Femme Fatale Spider, though her costume was more Sexy Halloween Cat. I liked the sharpness of the movements, but once again it was all a little too frenetic for my taste – I used to think Kristina was one of the show’s best choreographers, but this series it has officially not been to my taste.

Len says, “You wanna talk about going out there and giving it some…” No, Len. You are literally the only person who ever wants to talk about going out there and giving it some. Please stop.

It is overscored, natch, because God forbid Simon should end up in the dance-off the week after Len erroneously saved him…

Pixie and Trent
Pixie has a floppy frame. Other than that, I suppose it’s good, but once again I find myself utterly unmoved by a Pixie routine., which takes some doing when there are all these gimmicks going on. I watch them, and all I am is bored. WHY IS THIS? I can only assume it’s the utter charisma bypass these two have had both individually and together. Maybe I need to get Miss Jones to do their reviews from now on, because clearly I am SUPER-DONE. Anyway, as far as I am concerned, the best bit of the routine is when they thought they would get 9s across the board and ended up having to pretend they were happy with 8s. They did not pretend well. 

Jake and Janette
Their VT is exactly as boring and as batshit as you would expect, and if you don’t know which of them was boring and which was batshit, you really haven’t been paying attention to this show.  The theme of their paso is apparently Sleepy Hollow, but I have to say the theme completely eludes me. Is Janette a horse? Other than that, I quite liked it – it’s very dramatic, and quite trad despite the Halloween nonsense, though some odd hand stuff is required from Jake, including drumming frantically on his knees – perhaps someone more familiar with the the Sleepy Hollow legend can advise whether this was actually a very clever piece of choreography because Ichabod Crane was FAMOUSLY A KNEE DRUMMER THANK YOU VERY MUCH. Also, Jake nearly falls over again. The judges are harsh, I think – while they’re right about his posture, this is much more precise than Simon’s paso – at least Jake didn’t get halfway through a move before realising he should already be doing the next one, which happened to Simon about one million times. I’m still not really on board with Jake, but I’m irritated that this scored the same as Simon’s because of Simon’s panic score, and I'm even more irritated the the judges were so sneery.

Scott and Joanne
They did not, as I predicted, get a rumba. Instead the Show decided to take its other obvious booting route – benign ballroom, followed by “your best dance yet”, so that the celeb can feel good about himself and the audience won’t be moved to pity-vote.  It works perfectly, so I guess... Bravo, Show? Anyway, Joanne dances around, Scott mugs for the camera, and it’s a perfectly pleasant foxtrot with which to wave Scott off into the distance.  Len would have saved Scott in the dance-off, it turns out. Len is an idiot. 

(I wrote some notes on Mark and Karen at this point because I apparently couldn’t remember who my celebs were this week. All I will say is that I am slightly freaked out that, having had a rock’n’roll themed jive from Kevin already this series, we now get one from Karen, because it made me think that maybe Karen and Kevin’s pillow talk is all about storyboarding 50s and 60s jives and probably they plan all the costumes out and have fun on iTunes picking the songs out and I didn’t need my brain to go there and neither did you.)

(A few thoughts about the results show while I’m asideing. Of course Kristina was the Evil Queen in the Snow White paso.  Of course. I kept hoping when the Queen shrugged off the hooded cloak it would be Beloved Ian underneath, but the Show let me down again.  Tess looks good in a witch’s hat. And she patronises Scott and Alison’s mums. If there’s one thing you can say about Tess’s patronising, it is that she is enormously consistent. She is an Omni-Patroniser.)

Frankie and Kevin
Frankie gets the prime performance slot because of course. This tango is unbelievably gimmicky, and I loved every single second of it. There are occasional frame issues, but the footwork is amazing. I watched it again, and their mirroring of each other’s positions is absolutely perfect throughout. It also has a tremendously romantic feel, and is completely in sync with the feel of the musical, and if you don’t think it’s a good thing to be completely in sync with the musical Wicked, this really isn’t the blog for you. (Bruno also comments on how true to the musical it is, but I want you to know that once again that thought is in my contemporaneous notes THANKS FOR NOTHING BRUNO.) It is easily the best dance of the night, and probably I am Team Frankie now. Amusingly they get a 10, and this is celebrated by the ACTUAL HOST OF THE SHOW as, “A real 10! Not a Donny 10!” I am glad that even the show is acknowledging that Donny Osmond was a terrible mistake and everything he said, did or grinned should be treated with the contempt it deserves.  

So Scott and Joanne face the final curtain, Simon dodges the dance-off for a week (he’ll be back there next week, I firmly believe), Judy continues to have the best time,  Mark stays in the top four (and deservedly so this week) though I could do without (as my sister Anna eloquently put it) Karen humping his leg like a dog in celebration of safety, I am FUMING that that amazing Alison and Aljaz dance landed in the bottom two., and nobody has mentioned Blackpool yet but I can only assume that will start next week now Halloween is out of the way. KateTF over and out. 

Week 6 Part 1: Anton's Hounds Of Love

Let the coloured contact lenses and plastic cobwebs be unconfined, it's Halloween Week! Halloween Week, you notice, not Actual Halloween because that is over and done with, but a) when did the show let accuracy get in the way of its fanatical devotion to theming, and b) in these straitened times, why not take the opportunity to buy all the costumes and props at a discounted price after the event.

I bet the Strictly producer buys her Christmas cards in the January sales.

To open up Halloween Week, which is now A Thing, whether you like it or not – and I actually do – there's a group dance to Bat Out Of Hell, the greatest tune Bruce Springsteen never wrote. This song later features on The X Factor too, which is the kind of exposure that keeps Meat Loaf in shiny motorcycles and plain black T-shirts, as well as the reason he can afford to keep taking bit parts in creatively challenging arthouse movies (e.g. Fight Club, Spice World).

I love it, and I love the judges' Thriller walk-on too. Anything with Thriller hands and I am all over it. Darcy, predictably, is not really living the spirit of the song. Do buck up, Darcy.

(As an aside, after the occasional glimpse of It Takes Two this series, I've been moved to wonder how Zoe Ball would work out on the main show. This is neither the way I wanted to find out, nor the precise line-up of personnel I had in mind. Still, well done, Zoe. You can stay.)

This week, Kate and I have divided up the dances in a more random and experimental way because we are nothing if not punk, and also, anything goes because it's Halloween, except it's not because it's NOVEMBER THE FIRST. I get jives and American smooths. Kate is your paso correspondent. We've split the rest.

First up for me, Sunetra and Brendan with a jive. Sunetra says she's pleased to get to Halloween Week. You see? A Thing. Halloween is the new Bloody Well Blackpool. As far as I can surmise, their routine is about the strains placed upon a young couple by the tribulations of modern life – specifically where to position the double bed in the tiny bedroom of your small rented property because you'll never be able to afford to buy. Under the window? But then it will block the radiator! Opposite the door? But this contravenes the principles of Feng Shui, which neither Sunetra or Brendan actually believe in but you can't be too careful, can you? Brendan begins the routine under the bed to demonstrate the abundance of storage space to be found there. I recommend Wilko's comprehensive range of plastic boxes. I really believe that the correct storage can save a relationship. I'm a fan of this routine, but their styles seem mismatched. Brendan's all big, bold jive arms. Sunetra's all floating, soft Sunetra arms. Possibly Brendan tried to pull her up on this and she was all like, 'Don't talk to me about arms, Brendan. Everyone loves my arms. I WIN ARMS.' This disconnect is another sign that their relationship is doomed. The where-to-put-the-bed debacle was just a symptom. Domestic strife and not enough sharpness adds up to mid-table vulnerability for Sunetra and Brendan.

Alison and Aljaz are dancing the American Smooth. Aljaz seems particularly giddy tonight. I think Jeanette has promised she'll take him trick or treating after the show as long as he goes straight up to bed with no story afterwards, and now all he can think about is the number of mini Halloween Haribo bags he's going to score. No one's broken the news that IT'S NOT ACTUALLY HALLOWEEN. They are dancing to Wuthering Heights and at this point, Kate Bush, watching at home, spits out vegetarian shepherds pie all over her TV screen because she signed off on the use of one song for Strictly and expressly requested it to be Hounds Of Love, featuring Anton Du Beke (Kate's favourite ever since Vincent left), Judy Murray and a pair of live dalmatians, and she can't believe they've gone over her head. If Kate Bush now retreats from the limelight for another ten years as a result of this artistic violation, the BBC have some big questions to answer.

Anyway Alison looks beautiful and it's soft and romantic and, judges, brace yourselves, because the world doesn't actually stop turning just because Alison's not doing a 'fun', 'bubbly', Latin dance. The world doesn't stop, but apparently the public stop voting. Ah. My main problem with it is that Alison's face isn't doing what she thinks it is. I believe she's aiming for intense, lovelorn, lyrical. What we get is beaming, cloying, vacant.

Steve and Ola are dancing the Charleston to Them Bones. I love everything about this, apart from the part when Steve forgets most of the routine. Poor Steve and his lift anxiety. I can relate to this. It used to make me nervous when I had to change the massive bottle in the water cooler at work. I would worry I wouldn't be able to lift up the new full one in front of everyone with my puny, untoned arms and would have to drop it halfway up, making a big CLUNGGGGGG noise and spraying everyone with water. I am a very anxious person. Anyway, the blame seems to lie with Ola and her ferocious expectations. Dear Ola, just because Steve can lift a rhino with one hand doesn't mean he has to every week. I am not comparing you to a rhino here. You are not the rhino. I'm just saying poor Steve and be gentle. Does Steve have a partner? I am thinking that post-Strictly he will have his pick of ladies to take to The Rainforest Cafe for some kind of wildlife-themed burger dinner. Anyway, with echoes of Matt D'Angelo, Steve is very generously marked for his brain freeze and sympathy will save him from elimination.

It's a good job that Kate Bush has now turned over to X Factor in a sulk, because they've stolen her dalmatians concept and slayed it. The good thing about being the worst dancer in the competition (it's OK, she said it herself) is that you get the pick of the props. For Anton and Judy, it's a flying car AND live dogs. Judy looks incredible, seems to be having a brilliant time, lands at least some steps roughly in the right place, within several beats of the right time, so I'd call that a decent day's work. As a tribute, I've spelt her name right, in contrast to the first week when I spelt it Judi throughout. I've realised my mistake and I apologise for it.

Despite the fake blood and phantom phantoms, Strictly does accomplish some genuine witchcraft this week. How else to explain the extraordinary feat of transforming dashing, poloneck-wearing Pasha into something totally sexless. I've seen his moodboard from the wardrobe department and it says 'ghost of Cleo Laine meets Glen from Nighty Night'.

Why are we, as a blog, so underwhelmed by Caroline and Pasha? Kate said it last week. I'm saying it now. It's a question that merits some kind of midweek discursive post all of its own, which I for one will definitely never get round to writing. Their samba is technically wonderful but... I have no interest in ever seeing it again, and that can't just be down to the wigs. Maybe if someone had let the dalmatians loose again and hidden some sausages behind the cardboard gravestones, there may have been more of a sense of jeopardy. I mean, dalmatians are expensive. You may as well get your money's worth. The BBC are all about the budgets.

Also, Pasha, if in doubt: Thriller hands. Just a tip.

Mark Wright is doing the jive and the judges totally lose their shit over it. I mean, it's great – I love Mark. I love his conviction, I love his lack of inhibition, I love his infinite number of nans. I never question the sincerity of his over-emoting. But still. For starters, he looks like he doesn't quite know what to do with his hands. When people say this, it's usually because they've recently given up smoking, so if you want my advice, Mark should try jiving with a fag in one hand and a pint in the other for the perfect relaxed yet structured upper-body execution. This could be a solution to the perpetual 'placement of the free arm' issue we always hear about on Strictly. Fill your free arms with fags and booze, is what I'm saying. I also feel as though Mark is constantly pausing to wait for Karen to finish what she's doing before carrying on together. Where is the fluidity? Where are the Thriller hands? Still, it's energetic and committed and I don't begrudge him a few 9s. Also, I was so distracted by Karen's ill-fitting double wig arrangement. What was with the ginger? Who can explain this to me? Was she halfway through an audition for Annie in another part of the BBC, and forced to rush back and forth between the two, Mrs Doubtfire style? We may never know.

That's my half of the draw. Mark or Frankie FTW. See you next week.