Monday, October 11, 2010

Strictly Recap Week 2: You haven't got a zero

In his book Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby says that one of the things he likes about being an avid Arsenal supporter is the fact that people associate him with the team; when they see Arsenal on television, or learn some random factoid, they think of him. The book being written well before the days of Facebook and Twitter, he took a certain pleasure in being omnipresent in people's lives without having to physically be there.

It appears the same thing is happening with me and "Strictly Come Dancing." I'm not sure how I feel about that. I would prefer people associate me with various manly activities, like one-handed alligator killing. Being single, I doubt very much it helps my cause to have ladies picturing me sitting alone in my armchair, a full glass of port by my side, clapping and cheering at a load of fake-tanned celebrities in sequins and Lycra. But, of course, that is what I do. And because of it, people get in touch when they hear of any sort of Strictly happening.

For example, Annie sent me an e-mail last week with a tidbit from a news story mentioning that celebrities this year are paid quid pro quo. In other words, they are payed by the dance rather than in a lump sum, as before. So, the longer a celebrity stays in the competition, the more he or she gets paid.

It looks like Goldie, then, will be looking for a new source of income (add your own Cash 4 Gold joke here). On Sunday he and Kristina became the first couple to leave the show.

Goldie & Kristina ~ Foxtrot ~ 26
I feel sorry for Kristina. She's been thrice unlucky with celebrities, forced to watch after them with motherly patience instead of being able to show off. Remember the professional dances she would do with Brian Fortuna? She can zip all around in shiny, twirly, fake-boobied magnificence like you've never seen. If she's around next year, I demand she be given someone who might actually stand a chance.
Now she's off the show, however, it means she has more time for getting to know her fans. I suggest she start with me. Specifically, she should get to know what it is like to sit on my lap. And what it is like to be in my shower, when I'm in it. She should get to know me in the biblical sense.
The absence of Kristina aside, however, I'm not sorry to see her and Goldie leave. I said last week I'd be happy to see him out before Ann Widdecombe. His foxtrot wasn't awful, but his constant seaside-pier grinning annoyed me. Wait, I've only suddenly realised what it is I don't like about Goldie: he dances like Mel Brooks.

Ann & Anton ~ Salsa ~ 12
BBC sport presenter Clare Balding dislikes being called a "dyke" but is quite happy to have you believe she's having sex with Ann Widdecombe. There's a mental image you don't want to linger on. Nonetheless, in honour of Clare, Ann shall henceforth be referred to as "Widdy."
Considering how celebrities are paid this season, I think we can say it's clear that Widdy doesn't care about money.
Or dancing.
Watching the show Saturday, I suddenly thought that perhaps Widdy is there as a kind of post-modern sabotage effort to prove the utter stupidity of Strictly. Whereas Clare Balding thinks Widdy would hate being on the programme too much longer, perhaps she would see it as a triumph. Each week Widdy is there underlines the pointlessness of the show. She is not dancing, she is not being sexy, and she is not taking part in "the journey." In a video package last week she took a swipe at a number of her fellow contestants when she said: "I do wish people would stop all this psycho-babble about what it means to them [to be part of the show]."
So perhaps Widdy is in that group of people who feel they are above the masses and that programmes like Strictly are an utter waste of license-fee payers' money and a detriment to the intellectual level of the nation. But instead of writing strongly worded letters to the Times, she's fighting against it by being a part of it -- making a mockery of the whole thing by twirling around aimlessly and still being voted back each week. Perhaps Widdy is an evil genius.
Perhaps not. Whatever "charm" Widdy possesses comes mainly from the fact there appears to be no kill switch to stop certain things thought from becoming things said. So she doesn't strike me as having the ability to think ahead far enough to plot out a grand joke on Strictly. She's just there. And in those rare moments I can get over disliking her, I can see that she at least enjoys being there. Perhaps, despite her best efforts to reject such nonsense, the transformative effect of Strictly is taking place for Widdy, too.
After her dance Saturday, standing before the judges, she said to Craig: "You haven't got a zero, so you might as well give us a one and have done with it."
The audience cheered and even Craig laughed, and amid it all she turned to Anton and said: "Oh, look. I've got him laughing."
And just for a second, I saw the little girl in Widdy. I saw innocent delight at having made everyone smile. And it occurred to me it has probably been quite some time in her public life since she has received positive feedback from large groups of people. Perhaps Strictly is the first time. She is a woman known for being disliked, but in that moment Saturday everyone was laughing with her rather than at her. Maybe, just maybe, Strictly could make Widdy a better person.
It needs to do so soon, however; her dance was awful. If you could call it a dance. Acknowledging that it wasn't really a salsa, Widdy described it as "a jolly hockey-stick stonk." I had to look up the word "stonk" on the internets. I found this. I'm not able to watch that video all the way through -- it makes me cringe. So, indeed, Widdy and Anton's salsa was a stonk; it, too, was hard to watch. However, I liked the bit when Anton ripped open his shirt and Widdy buttoned it back up.
It was obvious Anton had abandoned all hope of actually dancing, though. As any Strictly fan can tell you, lifts are illegal in most dances. But Anton made the executive decision that rules no longer matter. At the end of the routine, he simply picked Widdy up and twirled her around. Craig's scoring of the dance -- 1 -- was fair. Anton knows that Widdy's time on the show rests solely in the hands of those people calling in to vote for her.

Peter & Erin ~ Salsa ~ 17
I feel Widdy needs to go soon, but I'm quite content for two others to go before her. The first of those two is Peter, who used to play goalie for England. In case you had forgotten in the 1 minute and 40 seconds he was dancing and therefore not able to verbally tell you that he used to play soccer, there was a sparkly football sewn into the seat of his trousers. He then wiggled his bum around for everyone to see. A football. On his ass. Because he used to play goalie for England, remember?
It's appropriate that Robbie Williams was the results show's musical guest this week; the dancing from Peter, who used to play goalie for England, reminded me of a lyric of Robbie's: "And when I'm drunk I dance like me dad."
Sue Perkins, however, more accurately described Peter, who used to play goalie for England, as looking like he was "shitting in a rural French toilet."
However you look at it, what he wasn't doing was the salsa. At times I wondered whether Peter, who used to play goalie for England, could even hear the music. It clearly had no impact on his movement.
And the whole thing left me feeling terribly for poor Erin Boag. Unlike her her husband (Anton), Erin isn't quite able to give in to the idea of being a dancing clown. This was obvious from her body language and lack of verbal language. Dancing-wise, she trudged through her routine with Peter, who used to play goalie for England, the way I suppose Rebecca Adlington might approach a swimming race against me. She did all the things she had to -- kept her form -- but there's no way her heart was in it. And afterward she spoke not a word. Look at this picture of them in a backstage interview. That is the face of a stoic Victorian wife suffering her husband's repugnant lovemaking because one must perform one's duty without complaint. Peter, who used to play goalie for England, yammered on about how he thought he was improving, setting himself out as this year's Craig Kelly -- awful and unaware. But Erin just stood there. In front of the judges, in Tess' area, in the results show -- she said nothing. Somewhere in her head, a beleaguered little voice was probably asking: "Where did it all go wrong in my life?"
She and Peter, who used to play goalie for England, were in the bottom two with Goldie and Kristina. I'll bet Erin hates the people who voted to keep her in the competition.

Gavin & Katya ~ Salsa ~ 19
I know I'm all pro-Wales, yo, but Gavin and Katya were seriously under-marked in this dance. True, the rugby star is a be a bit more Kenny Logan than Austin Healey, but he wasn't as bad as his score suggests. The judges more or less gave away that the reason they marked him so low was because of the quality of his dance from the week before. That's understandable, but not fair. They're supposed to mark the dances as they are, not as the judge thought they could be.
Yes, I'm getting indignant about the scoring on a reality television programme.
A.A. Gill once wrote that "nothing in the world has skin as gossamer-fine as a Welshman with a grievance." Perhaps I truly am one of these people.
Anyway, I'm hoping Gavin will soon reach that point in the Strictly experience when suddenly everything starts to click. It's happened several times over the years: a celebrity walks through their first three or four dances and then suddenly starts to get it. I'm not wishing this for Gavin's sake, of course. I just want to see a lot of Katya.
One of the big changes to Strictly this year was moving Tess' "kiss and cry" area from backstage to a balcony in the studio. This means the celebrities are more or less in the crowd, which may or may not be a good thing; I'm undecided. What is good is the fact that after listening to judges' comments, the couples have to run up a set of steps to talk to Tess.
Scantily clad women running.
I could watch Katya take those stairs all day long.

Paul & Ola ~ Foxtrot ~ 21
I'm quite happy to watch Ola navigate the stairs, as well. But on her own. Paul is the second of the two people I'd be happy to see go before Widdy. I think perhaps that's unlikely, though, because Ola is so likeable. People are fond of the Polish super-hotty and feel a certain distorted sense of twee seeing her lead Paul around the dance floor as if he were a retarded child.
The writers of Brucie's jokes are perfectly welcome, by the way, to refer to Paul as a retarded child. In Brucie's segue before Paul and Ola's dance, he joked that Paul looked like Yoda -- an observation I made last week. To that end, if the BBC would like to give me a job writing Brucie's jokes, I wholeheartedly accept the position. If you let me share a room with Natalie Lowe I won't even ask that you pay me.
Side note: Isn't Paul supposed to be a magician? Why is it that he has absolutely no finesse?

Felecity & Vincent ~ Foxtrot ~ 25
Meh. Their dance was so boring that I had written the whole of this post before realising I had forgotten someone.

Michelle & Brendan ~ Foxtrot ~ 26
At these early stages, with so many dancers to get through, the routines are each 1 minute and 40 seconds long. That's not really so much time when you think about it. But it is apparently too much time for Michelle Williams to be dancing; she spent the first 25 seconds of her foxtrot sitting on a bench while Brendan flung himself about.
And all credit to the perpetually annoying Kiwi, he was really flinging himself about. First he slid down the banister, then he jumped down stairs, ran across the floor, jumped up some more stairs and hurdled a bench. While Michelle watched. Brendan has deployed this tactic before, trying to put enough flash into a routine that he carries the audience votes on his own. He is the Churchill of ballroom: convinced the war cannot be won without him playing a primary role. And I suppose it worked -- he and Michelle got through.
After the dance, Michelle did her usual thing of explaining away her bad performance. This is what Michelle does: she sits and makes excuses. She's a younger, more attractive, black, female version of me. If I had been in a pop group with Beyonce. And sold several hundreds of thousands of records. OK, she's probably not like at me at all. I'll bet she doesn't even notice when Katya runs up the stairs.

Tina & Jared ~ Foxtrot ~ 26
Jared is the fourth of seven children. He was born in Hawaii. He started training as a performer in Utah.
Let's see, here... Big family. Hawaii has a BYU campus. Utah is, well, Utah.
I smell a Mormon.
Yup, he's on the list. If Rachel were here she would be supporting these two by default. And I suppose I wouldn't blame her. The cute little couple are hard to dislike. They are also hard to remember, though. I remember almost nothing of the dance apart from the fact that Jared looked a little uncomfortable through the first bit, as if he were the one learning.
Of course, I was saying this sort of thing about Ali Bastian at this stage last year. She also started out as cute but forgettable. Then, around the fourth week or so, I decided I was in love with her. Ali, who is single again, apparently.
Call me.
Side note: I think you have to give Tina credit for actually taking interest in the whole of the show. After dances, there is usually a quick camera shot of the other celebrities up in Tess' area. Most are sitting on the sofa, perhaps having watched via a monitor, or perhaps not having watched at all. I've noticed, though, that she and Kara are usually stood at the balcony, having watched the dance with their own eyes.

Patsy & Robin ~ Salsa ~ 28
Our Patsy's just not mentally stable, is she? In the video package before her dance she was again having a good cry. Then, later, when she learned she was safe from the bottom two, she had a facial expression that was a mixture of all kinds of emotions one wouldn't necessarily expect for Strictly. It was effectively the same face I would make if I woke up naked next to Ronnie Van Zant.
You know, I'd be like: "OK, Ronnie, it's great to see you, because Lynyrd Skynyrd went to shit without you, but, dude: Firstly, what are you doing in my bed? 2) What are you doing in my house? and 3) I thought you died in 1977."
But when on the dance floor, Patsy didn't do too poorly. She got lost once or twice, and I agree with Craig that her throwing herself at the judges' desk was "slightly unnecessary, darling." But it was alright.
I think I also liked it because in wide shots Patsy looked a bit like Charo in the 1970s. Did I ever tell you about the time Charo pushed my head into her breasts? True story. I'll save it for another day.

Jimi & Flavia ~ Foxtrot ~ 30
I'm still having trouble not picturing Jimi's character in The Guru when he dances. He's doing alright, but I can't seem to get myself to stop feeling that he looks silly. Perhaps it would help if Jimi's facial expression hadn't changed 789 times in the dance. He couldn't seem to decide whether he was supposed to be intense or goofy. The mood of their foxtrot would frequently change from sexy to cheesy and back within a single bar of music.

Matt & Aliona ~ Foxtrot ~ 31
Last year I hated Aliona. But put her with a friendly bloke from Durham and my whole attitude has changed.
A number of the dancers travel out of London in order to train with their celebrities -- to suit the celebrity's schedule. So, for example, Jared spends much of his week up in Manchester because that's where Tina lives and works. Matt's work on "Countryfile," though, means he's constantly bouncing around the whole of Britain. And that means Aliona is bouncing along with him. It endears her to me. I still think she should be required to shove her arm up a cow's ass, but the footage of her in Wellies dancing the foxtrot in a pumpkin patch was admittedly cute. I'm finding that I like these two so much I am now watching "Countryfile" as a side effect. That show is great. Who knew rabbits were an invasive species to Britain? And there is at least one raccoon roaming wild in County Durham! Zounds! Also, I am in love with Julia Bradbury.
Meanwhile, I'm starting to think that unless Matt gets kicked by a horse or some such thing, he and Aliona are likely to find themselves in the final thanks to a combination of skill and likeability. That said, I didn't quite get why he dove on top of Aliona at the the end of their foxtrot. Perhaps he did it just because he could; I certainly wouldn't pass up that opportunity.

Pamela & James ~ Salsa ~32
One of the high points of Saturday's show had to be in Pamela and James' salsa, when she got up from a floor spin and almost toppled over backward. It was brilliant, firstly, because of the comedy "I've stepped on a roller-skate but am trying to look graceful" expression on her face, but also because of her immediate recovery. After the dance she said to Brucie: "I warned him. I said: 'James, you shouldn't throw granny on the floor.'"
My only complaint is that James has yet to bring out the whore in Pamela. On second thought, I'm not complaining.

Kara & Artem ~ Foxtrot ~32
Kara had to overcome tonsillitis to make Saturday's show. She's a warrior, that Dawn Swann. That's why crazy May couldn't kill her.
I wonder, though, if she'll have longevity in the Strictly world. EastEnders actors have a good history of lasting into midseason, but then struggle toward the final hurdle. Off the top of my head, I can't think of an EastEnders performer who's made it into the final four. Perhaps this is because as Strictly drags on to December, the EastEnders actors are busy doing pantomimes. This country's holiday light entertainment industry would go into a tailspin without EastEnders actors. I'm pretty sure that Britain's 68,000 celebrity gossip magazines would also suffer.
Kara and Artem's foxtrot was easily the best of the night. It was so well done that I can't think of any particularly witty sexual comment to make about her. Much to the satisfaction, of Mari, I'm sure, who suggested last week that I focus too much on sex.
I hereby predict that Kara will earn this season's first 10 score (probably from Alesha).

Scott & Natalie ~ Salsa ~ 32
Clare Balding thought Scott and Natalie were dressed as the Milky Bar kid. Sue Perkins said they looked like Ken and Barbie at a gay club. However, thanks to my extensive knowledge of movies filmed in Utah, I know they were emulating Footloose.
Side note: Did you know there is a remake of Footloose, to be released in 2011? Why? It is impossible to improve on anything Kevin Bacon has done; everyone knows that.
Scott and Natalie's salsa tribute to the film was pretty solid. When I first saw them up there on the mezzanine I thought they were going to do that Brendan Cole thing of using the set to distract from lack of dancing. But, no, they went straight into it. Having never seen Footloose, I can't be sure, but I think there is some sort of iconic water tower scene. Is this right? Perhaps Natalie was mimicking that in having her and Scott up there in checked shirts, twirling to "Let's Hear it for the Boy." See? Sexy and smart. I love her.
I'm not sure I loved the dance, though. It was good enough but lacked something. Perhaps the problem is that Natalie wasn't naked. And she wasn't in my living room. Yes, I would have been much happier with a naked, or perhaps chocolate-covered, Natalie -- forget all about Scott.

Elsewhere in the show:
- My favourite line from Gavin this week: "OK, I do love myself. I like being me. I like being Gavin Henson. I'm a happy camper."
- In a video package about Gavin and Katya's training, Gavin was confused as to where exactly to put his hands, to which she replied: "Touch me, you know, wherever." -- I would give all my worldly possessions to have her say that to me.
- For once I don't mean this in a particularly sexual way, but Tess Daly was gorgeous in the results show. I'll bet the dresses she wears could pay my rent for a year.
- Robbie Williams' performance was a bit of TV gold. Perfectly equal parts awesome and ridiculous.
- The results show featured too much "standing around for the sake of building tension" and not enough "Claudia Winkleman saying weird shit." I hope they fix this for next week's programme. Though, the Winkle did get in at least one odd moment. At the very end of the results show, Claudia held her arms up, as if to take Tess into hold for the "Keeeeeep dancing" sign-off. When Tess resisted, Claudia said: "Come on, let's go. It's why I've come here. It's why I've come, Daly."
- Why did they get rid of the dance off? Having the judges pick the lesser evil from the bottom two made sense. If this stupid new system results in Widdy making it as far as the Blackpool show, I'm going to start writing nasty letters to Ofcom.

Who's going to win:
This week I'm supporting Matt and Aliona to win, in a final with Scott and Natalie, and Gavin and Katya.


Wierdo said...

Next week I think I may watch strictly in order to know what your talking about. It's enjoyable anyway, but I'm sure it would be better if I understood what you're refering to...

Annie said...

^ I was thinking the same thing.