Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Strictly recap week 4: Starship Widdecombe

Sense of decorum died in America some time ago. We are like Vietnamese people with lawn ornaments: we don't understand the concept of too much. There is almost never such a thing as "over the top" in the United States. As a general rule, if we can add more, we feel we should.

At some point in the last decade or so, that line of thinking found its way across the Atlantic Ocean and now Britain, too, has its own homegrown mind-fuck television. No longer do Britons have to wait until Eurovision to point at the TV and mumble, "What the?" before swearing off the drink. You can see this in things like "X Factor" (Wagner especially), as well as this week's episode of "Strictly Come Dancing."

Of course, there was that moment when Anne Widdecombe flew through the air. That was iconic. But the show was, in fact, filled with incidents that tore at the fabric of reality. And it was beautiful. Saturday was almost certainly the best episode of Strictly since last year's Blackpool show.

It was definitely the best episode of this series, if not simply because it meant saying goodbye to Peter, who used to play goalie for England, and Erin.

Peter & Erin ~ Charleston ~ 17
In the "let's take a look at their training" video package before the dance Gary Lineker, who sells crisps, popped in to the dance studio to visit his ol' stupid pal Peter, who used to play goalie for England. In the next shot there was Erin, Gary, and Peter, who used to play goalie for England, all jazz-handsy and doing one of the moves from Saturday's dance. Gary was doing it better.
It doesn't matter at what point in the training that footage was filmed because Peter, who used to play goalie for England, never improved. Bruno described him as looking like a penguin stuck in the mud, but he was obviously being kind. That dance was the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Gordon Lightfoot is writing a song about it as we speak.
The only redeeming quality of the thing was Erin's outfit and that strange sequence where we saw her ass for about 20 seconds. It didn't make a damn bit of sense in terms of choreography but it took the pain away.

Ann & Anton ~ Tango ~ 21
Widdy flying. Britain still doesn't have people like Alvin Greene and Jimmy McMillan, but strapping bespangled representatives into harnesses and having them flap their arms as they descend from the mezzanine is definitely a step in the right direction.
As I've said before, I'm happy for Widdy that she is having a good time and she is experiencing what it's like to not be universally disliked. Perhaps it will make her a better person. But, really, this has to stop now. There are no shitty people left in the competition. I don't care how much Anton plays the dancing clown, I don't care if you have Ann come out with flash pots strapped to her feet, if she stays next week at the expense of any other couple it is massively unfair. It would make a mockery of the show.
Oh, wait.

Gavin & Katya ~ Tango ~ 23
They weren't necessarily under-marked this week unless you view Gavin and Katya's score in light of Ann and Anton's. Even so, Gavin's walking about in a half haka, half constipated squat made for a less than stellar tango. The bit where they sort of faffed about on the stairs didn't make any sense, either. I'm starting to believe that Katya's not really identifying Gavin's strengths, i.e., his strength. He should be throwing her around a bit more.
Suggestions for improvement are probably for nought, though; Gavin has a new rugby club to play for and undoubtedly in light of that he will feel that being dropped from Strictly isn't all that bad a thing.
Best Gavin quote this week: "My biggest fear from last Saturday was being voted off in front of my idol: Peter Andre."

Michelle & Ian ~ Tango ~ 27
Where the hell is the strong black woman? I've been yelled at by a number of black women in my life and know they possess within them the power to crush a man with attitude. Michelle Williams is from Chicago, was in Destiny's Child and sings gospel; she should be able to walk out and own the studio just by looking at it. But instead she bobbles about like Diana Ross' portrayal of Dorothy in The Wiz. It annoys me.
That said, her dance Saturday was probably her best so far. Her being paired with Ian was probably to her advantage. Now, though, Brendan is back and the two will be performing the jive this coming Saturday.
Listen: hear that? It's a big ol' train, my friends, called the Michelle & Brendan Jive Performance Express. It's heading our way. And I'm willing to bet that when it gets here Saturday it's going to wreck like a muggafutha.

Jimi & Flavia ~ Chaleston ~ 27
This is the first year that props have really been allowed on Strictly beyond the capes used in paso doble. At least that's what they claim on "It Takes Two." Though I seem to have memory of Lynda Bellingham with a rose in her teeth doing the tango. I'm sure that's an image I should have put down the memory hole; as mentioned before, Strictly creates its own reality. A reality that is alterable according to need or desire. Strictly is like Karl Rove but far less damaging. So, yes, let's just say that never before have props been used.
With this new found freedom, Team Widd Du Beke (Erin's name for Widdy and Anton) is able to cover a total lack of skill with smoke and roses and top hats and canes and flying rigs and, it is rumoured for this week, a horse.
Jimi, meanwhile, can actually move about the floor a bit, but it seems Flavia would still prefer to tack on plenty of flair for their routines. So, this week they both had little houses they were standing in at the start of the dance. Imagine my disappointment when I realised that they were supposed to be houses and not representations of the TARDIS.
Then they were dancing with canes. Why? Because they could. Do not question the perfectly abbed girl from Naples.
Credit goes to her, though, for doing a Charleston to modern music. The dance is fun, but watching people constantly perform zany, mouth-wide-open, panto-style (mis)representations of the 1920s grows a bit dull. Were I a judge, Flavia's choreographing to Bassment Jaxx would have earned an automatic five points.

Patsy & Robin ~ Charleston ~ 28
Another hot mess from the mad woman and her big gay wingman. There was a tremendous amount of flailing about, very little of which matched the music, and Patsy was starting to run out of energy toward the end (as she explained to Craig: "I'm middle-aged, darling"). But I kind of don't care. There is something to watching Patsy dance that reminds me of when I was a boy and Corbett Meyer and I would ride our bikes down a steep wooded hill near the junior high school. The experience was jarring and chaotic, and each time I did it I was certain things were going to end terribly. But somehow I would survive. And as soon as the thrill-terror ebbed enough for me to unclench my teeth, I was pushing my bike back up the hill to have another go. Hooray the Karen and Jack of Strictly; hooray Patsy and Robin.

Felicity & Vincent ~ Tango ~ 29
Vincent is clearly going to try to work into every dance some part where Felicity bends at impossible angles. Since props are all the rage this year, perhaps he could have her work her way out of a large metal coil. Or she could emerge from a suitcase. Although perhaps that would be insensitive to Gareth Williams' family.
What I don't like is Vincenzo's constant sexing up of Felicity. I know that's his gimmick, but it creeps me out. More dignified lady; less old whore.

Tina & Jared ~ Charleston ~ 29
Wee Spotty O'Brien was rocking this dance. There were bits where she was kicking higher and showing more energy than Jared. Meanwhile, having displayed restraint for so many weeks, Jared managed to work in one of his trademark heel slides. (Freedom blades!) Add to that the little WonderWheel moment and it left me feeling that perhaps Tina and Jared were under marked.
Meanwhile, have you noticed that Jared doesn't talk much when in Tess' area? I think he doesn't understand her accent. Or, perhaps, being Mormon, he is focusing all his energy on repressing the monsoon of sexual thoughts that no doubt are a natural part of standing close to Tess.

Kara & Artem ~ Charleston ~ 32
Kara's outfit. Oh.
I mean. Oh.
My blog is blocked by a number of workplace filters, incorrectly labeled as pornographic. If I were to expound upon my thoughts of Kara Tointon in her outfit Saturday, the restrictions would be totally deserved.
Did I mention that I love her?
I think a strong case could be made for the argument that my future wife and the Russian chap actually performed the best Charleston of the night. Certainly it was the most authentic. Rather than being wacky-zany-krazee, my future life partner v2.0 performed with the kind of disaffected sass you would actually expect of women of the 1920s. She looked the part, as if something from a French jazz age poster. You could imagine her with a glass of absinthe and cigarette in long holder, breaking the hearts of all the tuxedoed fellows showering her in gifts.
The music helped, too. Using Squirrel Nut Zippers' "Put a Lid On It" made it feel authentic but contemporary.
Watch Kara & Artem's dance, yo. It was class.
Especially the bit where Artem flips Kara over and plays drums on her ass. Very classy.

Pamela & James ~ Tango~ 34
Stop it with your incessant pseudo psychoanalysis of every fucking dance, Pamela. And why aren't you being more of a whore? What happened to the James Jordan who had Zoë Lucker prowling the stage? Though, maybe I don't want to see that from Pamela -- Miss Piggy in the full throes of lust. But I'd like to see something more. Technically their dance was sound but it lacked anything to make me feel its score was well-deserved. Pamela and James are a bit like Felicity and Vincent in the sense that I often forget they are part of the competition.

Scott & Natalie ~ Tango ~ 35
This is the way it often happens in Strictly: most of the couples progress along at a reasonable pace, getting a little better week by week, while two couples get locked into a battle of who can be more awesome. Those two couples at the moment are Scott & Natalie and Matt & Aliona.
I'll clue you into an aspect of the sadness of my life. When I watch Strictly, I have at my side a glass of port and a bowl of popcorn... and a notepad.
Yeah, I take notes on this shit. That's how badly I have Strictly fever. Is it any wonder that I'm single?
Anyway, on my notes from Saturday I have just two things written under Scott and Natalie's names:
- Damn!
- "Scott, you tango beast!"
The second item, of course, is a quote from Bruno. The first item is my response to the dance. It was quality. To be honest, I don't understand why it didn't score higher, because it had no flaws and through almost all of it you could have easily taken Scott for a professional dancer. Perhaps they lost points for music choice, which made me think of those damned De Beers ads.
The highlight, however, came after the dance when Natalie and Scott ran up the stairs to Tess' area. Mmmm, Natalie running up stairs....

Matt & Aliona ~ Charleston ~ 35
Matt & Aliona are the Chuck Norris of Strictly; they can win a game of Connect Four in only three moves. Every week they come out and make the other couples look stupid by comparison.
Matt Baker is what's right with Britain. He did flips in week 1, yo. He did that diving-onto-Aliona thing in week 2 (who wouldn't, though?). He sped through a quickstep without even looking like he needed to take a breath in week 3. So, in week 4 what does he do? Slaps on a circus strongman moustache and rides a fucking unicycle, bitches!!
That's what I have written on my notes from Saturday: "Unicycle!!!!"
Below that I have written: "They kick so much ass!"
Watch their dance and you'll agree. It is filled with awesome: the unicycle, Matt's strongman pose, his managing to make a slip look like part of the dance, the wobbly legs thing, the hurricanrana move, her reeling him back, his flipping her up onto his shoulders and continuing to dance, the WonderWheel move, even playing with Aliona's dress at the end. And indeed, the skimpiness of Aliona's dress. All of it was pure awesome. Things like that are the reasons I am so addicted to Strictly.

- Brucie commented on Alesha's dress, saying it looked like she was wearing a snake. He failed to draw attention to the gigantic ring on her right hand, though. Which looked like a jelly donut.
- Have you noticed that there is always banter between Anton and Tess? I suppose they're just developing that presenter chemistry for when Brucie finally keels over.
- Crikey, Tess was gorgeous in the results show. As I've said before, I'm certain the cost of one of her dresses could cover my rent for a year, but she certainly gives value for money.
- John Barrowman has signed on to dance in some sort of Christmas special. Yes! Yes! Yes! The levels of camp on that particular episode of Strictly may cause some sort of power outage or open a rift in time and space. It will be a glitz version of the Large Hadron Collider. I can't wait.

Who's going to win:
This week, despite my undying love/lust of Kara and Natalie, my money's on Matt & Aliona to win, in a final with Kara & Artem and Scott & Natalie.

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