Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Time to get your Strictly on

It's that time of year again: another season of "Strictly Come Dancing" is set to begin. Longtime followers of this blog may also know this period as "the only time Chris ever writes anything on his blog anymore." I have designs on breathing a bit more life into this old web space but, yes, I admit: over the past few years this site has fallen rather silent during those terrible spaces of time in which British television screens are sans Bruce Forsyth. I would apologise but obviously I'm not all that sorry because I keep doing it.

So, from now until Christmas -- usually on Wednesdays but I can't really promise anything because  procrastination seems to be the only thing I'm good at these days -- I'll be posting a recap of each Strictly weekend. Admittedly, these recaps will be read only by Ashleigh, Helen and, perhaps, my mother. Moms are like that: they support you in everything. My mother used to watch my vlog when it was Welsh-language.

The vlog is English-based now, however, so for those who complain that the Strictly recaps are just a load of unreadable wasted internet space you can head over there for a load of unwatchable wasted internet space, much of which will probably still be Strictly-related.

Because, as I explain every year, I have a madness for "Strictly Come Dancing." I don't fully understand it but I tend to not worry too much since I could be fascinated with far less acceptable things. Heroin, for example. Or alcohol abuse. If Amy Winehouse had been addicted to "Strictly Come Dancing" she'd still be here and probably producing a super-amazing concept album in which each track is in a musical style fitting the dances performed on the show.

Strictly possesses some element of "home" for me. It gives me the sense that somewhere in the world things are OK. I am a deeply cynical person, wracked with persistent feelings I am going to be killed in some terrible way and then shortly forgotten. There is a hell going on inside my head. When I watch Strictly, though, that hell disappears. I am just happy. Stupidly happy. Balls to you should you begrudge me that.

I love it all. It is so incredibly silly, and unapologetically so. I love the music, I love the dancing, I love Bruce and Tess, I am sad about the absence of Claudia Winkleman but willing to give Zoe Ball a try, I love the ridiculous outfits, I love women in skimpy clothing, I love Len and Bruno and Craig and Alesha, I love my traditions of watching the show with a bowl of popcorn and a huge glass of port, I love the emotional warmth of the show contrasted with the increasingly colder weather, and, yes, I even love the "emotional journey" taken by each of the celebrities.

The spangled circus of B-celebrity starts up again this Friday. I can hardly wait. So, with that in mind, here's a look at who will be competing in the show's ninth series:

Apparently Rory Bremner does comedy impressions. I did not know who Rory was because I hate impressionists. Many moons ago, I used to fly into Las Vegas quite frequently and find myself tormented by the visage Danny Gans, a now deceased entertainer who incorporated an impression of George Burns into his act. George Burns, for the love of Pete. He might as well have worked in a Will Rogers impression.

But, see, that's the thing about impressionists: they'll hold on to a character long after he or she is relevant because the impressionist has little to no creative talent of his own. My guess is that Rory Bremner doesn't do any George Burns impressions, which is a mark in his favour, but the fact he does an impression of Brucie makes me squirm in discomfort.

Rory is dancing with Celine Dion look-alike Erin Boag. In terms of partners poor Erin's been in a slump since her run with Austin Healey. I am pessimistic about her chances this year but perhaps an individual's ability to mimic a celebrity could translate to an ability to follow direction.

Apparently, Edwina Currie had sex with former prime minister John Major. Why anyone would want to admit to such a thing, I cannot guess. But Edwina does, with relish. In the quick little bio of her in the launch show she made sure to touch on that. Knowing nothing of her beyond the Strictly realm I can't say whether she is like this always, but she seems now keen to have you believe she is a saucy little minx. Who also happened to serve as a Conservative member of parliament. It's as if she is Ann Widdecombe's id.

Perhaps all female Conservative MPs are, in fact, the same woman: derivatives of Margret Thatcher created in some terrible and botched 1970s chemistry experiment.

On a side note, I can't help think Edwina looks a bit like John Major in drag.

The opportunities for incredibly awkward sexuality are abound with Edwina because she will be dancing with pocket-sized lothario Vincent Simone. I'd say their chances of lasting five weeks, however, are less than good.

Similar to Edwina, Nancy Dell'Olio's claim to fame seems to be that she had sex with a man more famous than her. In this case, the man was former England football manager Sven-Gorran Eriksson. But unlike Edwina, Nancy doesn't appear to have done anything else. Ever. That includes learning English. She just sort of mutters out a fit of semi-coherent words strung together in an order one might expect from throwing fridge magnet poetry into the air.

I think we're supposed to think of her as sultry. I find this difficult to do, however, considering that in close-up shots she has the skin of a man. I am perfectly willing to accept a 50-year-old woman can be sexy, but not when she has man skin. It's just not my thing. Unintelligible growling is also a turn-off, so Nancy's 0-2 in my book. And contrary to what her erstwhile bed partner might have you believe, that's not a record to be proud of.

(Ha! See what I did there? I made a joke about how crap England were under Eriksson. Blimey, I'm clever!)

Nancy is dancing with the beleaguered clown prince of Strictly, Anton du Beke. I'm trying to remember now whether Anton has ever been allocated a good dance partner. No, I don't believe he has. One thing I have learned because of this fact is that when Anton is annoyed he laughs really loudly, attempting to show he is not annoyed at all. Expect, then, for Anton's microphone to occasionally pop as he lets out ear-shattering guffaws when dancing with Nancy.

Is it fair for Jason Donovan to be in Strictly? He says he can't dance but has spent several years performing in West End musicals. To that end, you'd expect him to be a favourite to win. He seems to be aware of this and is already showing more feeling of strain than any of the other contestants. I fear our Jason wants too much to do well, which is often the kiss of death on Strictly. Much of Jason Donavan annoys me, but I find myself hoping (and kind of expecting) to see him do well. How could I not? He's made out with Kylie Mynogue.

I also want Jason to do well because he is dancing with the delightfully synthetic Kristina Rihanoff. From the look of her, it's rather likely Kristina's had a certain amount of work done, which is generally the sort of thing that puts me off. Especially when the person who's had work done is Russian. She reminds me too much of one of those scary, humourless former gymnasts. But via her Twitter and such, Kristina seems likeable and I've always had a soft spot for her. Besides, after being saddled in recent years with the likes of John Sargeant, Joe Calzaghe and Goldie, Kristina deserves a chance to make it past week four.

Anita Dobson: Who?

Whoever she is, she'll be dancing with everyone's favourite big gay monkey, Robin Windsor. I doubt very much Robin will ever surpass the television gold he produced with Patsy Kensit. They were incredible.

In truth I feel Russell Grant would have made a better dance partner for Robin, both being particularly camp individuals. Doing such a thing would likely have been seen as far too progressive a move for family viewing, but, honestly, would it actually have upset anyone other than Ann Widdecombe? As a matter of fact, if a Russell-Robin pairing would keep Ann from ever returning, I would lobby the BBC to make it happen.

As is, the astrology-touting old queen is being paired with a lady. When I first read about Russell being part of the show I felt a cringe building up from the well of my soul. How many times will we be subjected to Russell working astrology into his little interviews?

"Oh, Craig is a such-and-such sign, that's why he's cranky."
"Well, since I'm a such-and-such sign, I think I'll be really suited to this dance."

And on and on and on until you find yourself trying to knock yourself into blissful unconsciousness with sofa cushions. But on the launch show I decided I actually like him because he is ridiculous. I especially loved his interaction with Audley Harrison. Indeed, I feel those two should be kept on as a pair even after they are both eventually voted out.

Russell is dancing with Flavia Cacace, which is unfortunate because I feel she has no sense of humour. Flavia has abs. Incredible abs. And for these she has had to give up a lot of things, like ice cream and chocolate cake and having a personality. As I say, this is unfortunate. It's a pretty good bet Russell won't be able to shake his groove thing to the necessary standard but if the two were to sell themselves in that sort of "Up Pompeii" or A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum sort of way, it would be amazing.

Man mountain Audley Harrison probably isn't going to be turning out the most sprightly of Charlestons. But it's a good bet he will be a favourite of Len and Brucie and, possibly, me. I'm inclined to believe boxers don't have the right mindset for Strictly; they're not able to allow themselves to be as silly as they need to be to do well. But seeing Audley camp it up with Russell Grant in the launch show makes me think maybe, just maybe, Audley could do it. He won't win, of course, but I feel I have reason to hope his dances won't simply become two minutes of my looking away from the television.

Audley is dancing with fitness machine Natalie Lowe. I have a crush on Natalie, one based on equal parts fear and respect. She could break a man with those thighs. Audley is 6-foot-6 and has beaten dozens of men unconscious, but still I pity (and envy) him.

I have mentioned before my feeling that professional dancer Katya Virshilas has the look of a girl who would be forced to embarrassing pornography should her Strictly boat ever sink. "Waterloo Road" star Chelsee Healey, however, looks the sort who would choose such a career as a first option. I can't help feeling she turned to light drama only to fill time whilst producers of her next film run sexual history checks on the 143 men and women she will "entertain" in a movie called Midnight in Chelsee.

Her thick Mancunian accent, meanwhile, makes her insufferable to listen to. When she speaks it sounds as if she has participated in one too many throat gagging scenes. I dislike her in almost every way. I dislike her voice. I dislike her face. I dislike her hair. I dislike her strange munchkin frame. Even her enormous boobs annoy me slightly. Sure, I will enjoy watching her run up the stairs to Tess' area but the wantonness of Chelsee means the naughty thrill is gone. Chelsee would happily run up steps topless for a £5 note.

Chelsee is dancing with newcomer Pasha Kovalev, of whom I know absolutely nothing.

I think it's fair to say Alex Jones is the best thing to ever come out of Ammanford, Wales. Indeed, I think it's fair to say Alex Jones is the only good thing to ever come out of Ammanford, Wales. My friend, Chris, is from a village just north of Ammanford and when he goes back home for visits does so via a circuitous route designed to avoid Ammanford. On a recent trip that took me through the town I noticed there is, very strangely, an American-themed bar there. I was intrigued but later decided that any American who would call Ammanford home is likely not an American with whom I would choose to keep company.

But now, of course, Ammanford is my favourite place in the world. Because Alex Jones is from there. And Alex Jones recently responded to something I said on Twitter. Last year, Kara Tointon responded to me on Twitter and I decided I was in love with her. You'll note she then went on to win the show. My love is that powerful, bitches.

Whether I will back Alex to win is yet to be determined because I haven't really seen her dance yet, but she's certainly off to a good start. The "One Show" presenter began her career in Welsh-language television, where she presented all manner of less-than-good programmes, most of which I would watch solely for the purpose of thinking dirty thoughts about Alex. I watched "Tocyn" for the love of Pete. It was a show that statistically had zero viewers. Over the past two years or so, Welsh-language channel S4C has been in upheaval due to the fact it has been woefully mismanaged and is now losing a good deal of funding. When critics speak of S4C they almost always point to "Tocyn" as an example of the channel's failings. But I watched that show. Because Alex Jones was on it.

Alex is dancing with cougar bait James Jordan, which could be awesome. In past series, James has had his best moments when teamed with the more mature ladies. He has a certain power to get them to dig deep and find their inner harlot. Remember him and Cherie Lunghi? Naughty. Whether James can get the same from someone his own age (he is 33, Alex is 34) remains to be seen. For the sake of myself and all the rest of the male population in Wales, I really hope he does.

I have long found pop-rock boy band McFly difficult to dislike. Something in my core tells me I should hate them but then I end up singing along to their songs. And by "singing along" what I mean, of course, is "singing the first two words of a chorus and then saying 'dubba-doo-doo' in tune to the rest of it." The band's drummer, Harry Judd, is a big reason for my McFly tolerance. In the 2004 video for "5 Colours in Her Hair" he inexplicably wears a Minnesota Twins T-shirt. For that alone, I hope he makes it to the final three.

And there's reason to believe he will. Harry has already been through the Strictly experience on a minor level, having performed with Ola Jordan in a "Children in Need" special. Also, he is a member of a once wildly popular boy band. Many of those teenage girls who loved him half a decade ago will now vote him through even the most awkward of rumbas.

Harry is dancing with the unexpectedly likeable Aliona Vilani. At the start of last year's series I had only bad things to say about the flame-haired Russian. But watching her and Matt Baker changed my mind. If Brucie's writers don't come up with a gag combining Aliona's fondness for cartoonish hair dye and the fact McFly's first single was "5 Colours in Her Hair," I am going to feel very let down.

For some reason I keep confusing ITV presenter Dan Lobb with BBC presenter Dan Snow. The fact it is the former and not the latter dancing on Strictly is something I find disappointing. Dan Snow could dance and inform us about great Royal Navy battles or some such thing. Dan Lobb, however, will just sort of... well, I don't know what Dan Lobb does. According to his bio page, he went to university at the University of Tennessee, also known as "the school that totally stole its look from University of Texas."

Dan is also a presenter on ITV's "Daybreak," the show that has produced two of the memorably worst contestants in Strictly history.

Dan is dancing with taskmaster Katya Virshilas. When not weighing her pornstar options Katya has a tendency to experience mood swings with her partners, so if Dan is anything like his ITV colleagues he can expect to suffer a few tantrums.

Lulu is a diva. This is the way she is being sold by Strictly, at least. I had thought, however, that one of the prerequisites to being a diva is having people actually know who the hell you are. Her claim to fame is having sung an obnoxious version of that song from Animal House roughly five decades ago. She sang an even more obnoxious song in 1969 and won Eurovision. She's sung a handful of other obnoxious songs over the years and somehow picked up an American accent despite having been born in Glasgow.

Lulu is dancing with self-important Kiwi Brendan Cole, with whom I was recently embroiled in a Twitter battle. No, really. Brendan made a stupid remark about the Welsh language, I called him a name and Alex Jones got dragged into it. I explain the whole thing in my vlog post from that day.

Even before that whole brouhaha, however, I had long disliked Brendan. He is my least favourite of the professional dancers. I respect that he is very much responsible for one of the show's betters aspects -- the fact celebrities are pushed to actually try (when the series first started it was envisioned as a sort of jokey thing but Brendan was too hyper-competitive to simply go out and clown around) -- but that's not enough to make me like him. One of the things I enjoy most is seeing Brendan fail. One of the things I enjoy least is listening to him blame failure on anything and everything other than the simple reality he is an egotistical douchebag.

Speaking of egotistical douchebags, Robbie Savage is another Strictly celeb who has expressed his displeasure with me via Twitter. I have disliked Robbie for as long as I've known he exists, so when I learned of his being on Strictly a part of me died. This means putting up with him in regular doses. And worse yet, it means football cliche's from the judges and uncomfortable attempts at football banter from Brucie. I may choose Robbie's dances as an opportunity to go to the toilet.

The former Wales international footballer fancies himself a cheeky chappy, which is a British term for someone with a playful and impudent sense of humour. But people who think of themselves as a cheeky chappy rarely ever actually are. They are just annoying. That "Ooh, I'm a maverick, me" stuff wears thin almost instantly.

Robbie takes a certain pride in the fact he was frequently carded when playing football. What sort of thing is that to take pride in? "Hey, hey! I was crap at what I did and put my team at a disadvantage as a result! Ho, ho! Such a cheeky chappy!"

Fortunately, Strictly history shows footballers -- guys who made a living working with their feet -- aren't particularly good dancers. And the Welsh aren't really a big enough voting bloc to carry Robbie very far (especially when actually likeable Welsh-speaker Alex Jones is in the mix), so one can only hope he won't be around too long.

That is unfortunate only because Robbie is dancing with sex kitten Ola Jordan, who each year seems to be hellbent on wearing as little fabric as possible in her routines.

I know nothing of Holly Valance but I think I like her. Maybe. I can't decide. Is she a former sex symbol who decided that perhaps eating might be an OK thing and now takes the piss out of her status fall, or is she a former sex symbol who has yet to figure out she is a former sex symbol? I suspect, though, that if she performs anything along the lines of the raunchy routines that Artem put together last year for Kara Tointon, I will develop a crush on her and not really care either way.

As mentioned, Holly is dancing with inveterate bad speller Artem Chigvinstev. He won last year with Kara, so it feels a little unfair for him to be paired with yet another attractive girl who might be able to win. But, again, if he works raunch and crazy tricks into his routines, I won't really give a damn.

Having seen all the dancers basically do little more than step forward and step back in the launch show, it is difficult to guess who will make it to Blackpool, which is kind of when Strictly starts to really click. I'm guessing Robbie, Anita, Nancy, Edwina and Lulu won't be there. I suspect Jason Donovan may fall at an early hurdle and I have a suspicion Alex Jones' talent won't really surpass the Eisteddfod standard (Ooh, a catty slight at the low quality of Eisteddfod performances. That was totally unnecessary). Beyond that, however, it's hard to guess who will be in the final three, let alone raising the glitter-ball trophy in December.

Along the way there will be utter failures of the voting public, high-school-level scandals and Zoë Ball awkwardly attempting to console losing couples on the Monday edition of "It Takes Two." It will be camp, it will be ridiculous and it will be amazing. I can't wait.


Wierdo said...

I also read your strictly posts as I find them very entertaining. Just thought you'd like to know.

Chris Cope said...

Awesome! That's three people I'm writing to, then. That's about all I need to write a book.

No, I will not write a book about my love for Strictly. As much as I'd like to...

Elimare said...

dude you TOTALLY missed out on Jason Donovan pushing Nancy Delillioliolo out of the way during the launch.
From about 2.10 here:

Chris Cope said...

Eli - That is AMAZING stuff. My new nickname for Donovan is The J Train. Don't stand on the tracks when J Train's comin', baby! Woo! Woo!

Anonymous said...

Brucie AND mince pies both in the same season,simply too much for a person to bear!!

Look out for the Saturday coffee-mornings at the Paget Rooms(3 doors down from Foxy's deli). They always have home-made mince pies for sale around Christmas for various local charities.

Top,top tasting potential............