Friday, October 9, 2009

Are you crying, Rav? There's no crying in 'Strictly.' Well, actually, there is

The other night I had a dream that I met Len Goodman at the Mad Bishop & Bear, where he was waiting for a train to Heathrow to board a U.S.-bound flight and film for "Dancing With The Stars." This dream shows two things about me: 1) My subconscious has a strange habit of providing plausible scenarios, thus placing us at the correct London station to catch the express train to Heathrow; 2) I think about Strictly in my sleep.

Other men have sex with Beyonce in their dreams; whereas I ask Len how he deals with the jet-lag.

I felt a little vindicated in my obsession last week, though, when I spotted a poster at Ladbrokes listing the betting odds for this year's celebrities. For those of you playing along at home, Ladbrokes is a perhaps-appropriately -named (it's a place where lads go broke, you see) chain of betting shops in the UK and Ireland. Generally when you pass by one of their shops you will see the odds on upcoming football matches, horse races and the like, but Strictly is so important (or, at least, so important in Pontyclun, Wales) that it earns a spot in the front window.

I almost went in to place a bet on Zöe Lucker but decided against it because, uhm, I'm a man. And it's South Wales. Latent homophobia is one of the things that binds South Walian communities together. Just as racism and xenophobia help the people of North Wales to feel a certain commonality.

Also, the whole culture of betting is another one of those weird facets of British life in which you very much feel that if you aren't already a part of it, you probably shouldn't join in. Whether it be dog races, working-men's clubs, rugby clubs, Eisteddfod, attending football matches (a), playing bowls, drinking at a pub that isn't a chain, or going into Ladbrokes to place a bet on something, this island of rain is weighed down by institutions heavy with an air of disdain toward all those not already involved.

Maybe that's another reason I love Strictly Come Dancing. In as much as a television programme can be welcoming, that's what it is. You know that sort of feeling you get when you go to see a friend's band perform and some part of you wants to turn to the other people there and say: "I know these guys. I hang out with these people." Inexplicably, that's kind of what I feel when watching Strictly.

And by now you will have identified that I am a very sad and lonely person. At least I have Tess Daly. I love Tess, yo. She is my Jodie Foster; I would definitely shoot Ronald Reagan to prove my love for her (b).

One of my favourite things about Tess is that she is in constant model mode. Have you ever noticed that when she's not talking, she's holding three-second poses (c)? I love that. I wonder if she does it at home: she and Vernon are chatting about whatever it is that they chat about (how they're so fucking gorgeous, I would suspect) and as he's making a point she's just sitting there thinking: "One, two, three. Switch pose. One, two, three. Switch pose. One, two, three. Switch pose..."

She will not be posing for Rav "Strong Like Bull" Wilding anymore, because he and Aliona were voted out Saturday. That's fine with me, actually, because I wasn't a particularly big fan of Rav. OK, sure, I respect the whole being-in-the-Army-and-then-joining-a-police-force-to-chase-after-baddies thing. That's grand. What I didn't like was his silly I'm-one-of-the-blokes air. No, you're not Rav. I've met plenty of average blokes in my time and I don't think one of them waxed their chest.

Also, blokes don't cry when they have to leave celebrity dance shows, which is what Rav did after train-wrecking his quickstep in the dance off. The dance earned a 20, which I thought was respectable considering that Rav almost goes storming off stage at 0:52 in the video, and the music filled me with hot rage.

Joe Calzaghe and Kristina - Paso doble - 19
Joe and Kristina actually got a lower score than Rav and Aliona. But Joe has the whole of Wales supporting him, and Kristina has every heterosexual male supporting her. Or at least, wishing he could support her. Or perhaps balance her. On his lap. But that's out of the question now because apparently she and Joe are an item.
A sort of charming thing about Joe is that one of the main reasons he agreed to be on Strictly was for his mother. In all his years of fighting she couldn't stand to see her son get hurt and so never watched any of his fights. Now, finally, he is doing something for her. You will, note, meanwhile that Enzo is nowhere to be seen -- now Joe's dad is the one who can't stand to watch.
I wouldn't have blamed him last week. That glittery boxing belt thing made my soul weep. And remember what I said about people from South Wales? You can see that in the Fighting Pride of Newbridge. No matter how hard he tries, some deep-rooted part of Joe sits there and thinks: "Nah, this is just too gay. I have to not put too much into it so that everyone knows I'm joking." He doesn't appear able to allow himself to get properly into the dances.

Jo "Where Am I?" Wood and Brendan - Paso doble - 20
I hate you Brendan Cole. I hate your face and I hate your accent. I take joy in the fact that you've been paired with a woman who is only slightly more intelligent than a wet plank, because it means that you won't be around for long. Or, at least, it should mean that. Whoever is voting for her, please stop. When Jo dances it makes the baby Jesus cry.

Craig Kelly and Flavia - Quickstep - 21
I like our Craig. He seems like an alright chap, and something about him reminds me of Ewan McGregor's portrayal of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Unfortunately the Force wasn't with him this week and quite a lot went wrong. He ended up looking very much like a little boy making up his own dance moves, rather than someone who had spent a week training with a professional.

Chris Hollins and Ola - Quickstep - 23
Speaking of little-boy dancing, Chris went into a full-on ska-style skanking fit right at the end of his number, which I'm willing to bet wasn't in Ola's original choreography. He alluded to that immediately afterward and then shouted "Yes!" when he got a 5 from Craig, which pretty much sums it up. The dance wasn't particularly great and Chris knew it. At least he owned up to it. If he had been Brendan Cole he would have argued blindly that it had, in fact, been great.

Phil Tufnell and Katya - Quickstep - 24
I actually liked this dance. And the longer Katya stays on the show the longer she stays out of porn. Good for you girl; you're too good for felching.

Lynda Bellingham and Darren - Paso doble - 25
If I were a judge, you would automatically lose a point for dancing to Cliff Richard. And I totally agree with Craig Revel Horwood that Lynda looked like a "stunned mullet" throughout. She had this weird comedy-terrified look on her face that probably would have worked if she had been in a panto, or dancing with Santino Marella. That said, she did actually improve when she danced again in the dance-off, which made Rav's train wreck all the more painful. On a side note, please tell me I'm not alone in thinking that Darren looks like Jack McFarland.

Natalie Cassidy and Vincent - Paso doble - 28
One of the things that Karen Hardy has talked about in It Takes Two's "Choreography Corner" (Wow, this is what my life has become? Knowing dancers' names off the top of my head, watching shows about celebrity dancing shows, and using the phrase "Choreography Corner" without irony. Why couldn't I just be addicted to heroin or something?) is the importance of building dances that actually suit the celebrity's strengths. Equally, it would be a good idea not to build a dance that plays to your weakness. If you are a tiny little man, like, oh, say, Vincent Simone, it's probably not a good idea to try to throw around Natalie Cassidy, who is a woman with some curves on her -- because you aren't strong enough for that. The end result was that Natalie had to help Vincent out and she looked like she was taking a wrestling bump. As always, I wholeheartedly approve the merging of these two worlds, but it looked awkward.

Ricky Groves and Erin - Paso doble - 29
I've said before that if I were a judge, an automatic point would be awarded for shouting in a dance. You shout, you get a point -- it's that simple. So I loved Ricky's full-on scream right at the start of his Paso. That is exactly what I would do if I were a celebrity, going out there and sending the microphone levels into red. Genius. Also, Ricky gets a point for suggesting that the final phrase in Queen's "One Vision" should, in fact, be "Fried chicken!" Add to that the fact that Ricky looked a bit like Ming the Merciless and, quite frankly, he should have scored 10s straight across the board. Not to mention Erin's cleavage. I'd like to balance her on my lap.
Ricky and Erin are redefining dance, bitches.

Laila "Not a Paki" Rouass and Anton - Quickstep - 30
Our Anton got himself into a fair bit of trouble this week, which is too bad because I really like him. If past events are anything to go by, he will need to either be a member of the royal family or die of cancer in order to make amends. I always struggle when people here get upset over use of phrases like "Paki" because they are not racist terms that I grew up with. I grew up in the U.S. South, so there were plenty of racists, but "Paki" wasn't part of the lexicon. As such, I don't have the automatic, gut repulsion that I would toward some other word. Plus, as I say, I like Anton. I am sure that this week's show will contain an awkward and uncomfortable apology, but hopefully that'll be it. Oh, and Laila's dance was nice.

Jade "Dominatrix" Johnson and Ian - Quickstep - 31
Did you see that episode of It Takes Two last week when Jade was sitting there with her hand on Ian's thigh? And the way she looks at him as if he were a piece of meat? What's up with that, yo? You can see a bit of fear in poor Ian's eyes when he's near her. And with good reason; he can't handle that mountain. I imagine it would be like having sex with a charging bison. I assume. I don't actually know what that's like, obviously. The rangers at Custer State Park arrested me before I got a chance to find out.
As far as their dance is concerned, I dug the little bit where Jade and Ian lip-synched to the song. I'm hoping that they'll be in the show for quite a while, because I like them, but that may not be the case because Jade suffered some sort of horrific back injury early in the week. There's something amusing about an elite athlete suffering an injury whilst dancing. Like when Austin Healey threw out his back, or the time he dislocated a finger.

Zöe "The Cougar" Lucker and James - Paso doble - 31
I have decided that Zöe and James are my favourite couple. Of course, a lot of that has to do with how much I'd like to shag Zöe. In the words of Bruno: "From you I always expect a little more sex." Or perhaps, in my case, "want" is a better word to use than "expect." I want her to come to my house and make sweet, sweet love to me on a bed of Ola Jordan clones.
But I also just really like something about her -- her attitude, the way she dances, I'm not totally sure. But it's strong enough that I am able to overcome my usual dislike for James. I worry, though, that she has been lucky with slow dances that allow her to rely on her acting skill. I'm not sure she will be as impressive when she gets stuck performing a salsa or quickstep or the like.

Ali Bastian and Brian - Quickstep - 32
I'm not really one to read tabloids, so Len's making note of rumours to the effect of Brian and Ali being a couple came as quite a shock to me. Primarily it was a shock because I kind of reckoned that Brian didn't swing that way, if you catch my drift. His creepy wisp of a moustache always made me think that he was child predator. It's lovely that he is, in fact, focusing his attention on a lovely, albeit slightly dim Ali. Lovely. That is the word that comes to my mind when I think of Ali. The problem is that although she is lovely she is also utterly forgettable. I just finished watching her dance again but cannot at the moment picture her face. I remember that she is lovely, but nothing else.

Ricky Whittle and Natalie - Paso doble - 35
Whittle is fast setting himself out as That Bloke Who Can Actually Dance. There is always one in every series. Usually what happens is that bloke will either train wreck or somehow end up in a dance-off with someone who is equally as good but prettier, and he will leave the show sparking a mini mock scandal. Already I am looking forward to Craig Revel Horwood's lecturing drone as he sits on It Takes Two and backhandedly insults the viewing public for failing to vote according to the quality of the dancing, darling. I predict that he will do this on or around Guy Fawkes Day.

And that's last Saturday's show. It's a shame that Rachel has left the UK because she would have really loved seeing Andy Williams as the show's musical guest. She would be pretty much the only one to love that, though. Andy looks to have held up alright over the years, but his ability to carry a tune clearly hasn't. That hurt almost as much as watching Jo Wood dance.

This Saturday I'll be in Bath, watching the show with the Phins. Pity them.

(a) That is to say, attending the matches of any team not in the top 10 of the Premiership.

(b) Admittedly, it's a lot easier to shoot him now. But it's the thought that counts.

(c) On an unrelated side note, I wish Christian and Edge would reunite and bring back the five-second pose.


erin said...

It's probably semi ridiculous how much I enjoy reading your play by play of this dancing show. =) Seriously, it brightens my whole morning.

Jenny said...

Radio Times tells me this show is over two hours long. That can't be right ... can it?