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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Strictly week 9: Not on the good foot

Photo from BBC
The pun in this post's headline doesn't really work, does it? I was trying to make reference to Robin's being out of the show this week due to foot injury but incongruously linking it to a James Brown song. It doesn't make sense. I suppose that's acceptable, however, considering so very little about "Strictly Come Dancing" actually makes any sort of sense. It's just a series of pictures and actions strung together by music and the ramblings of a British national treasure. Speaking of incongruence and Bruce Forsyth, have you ever seen the video of Brucie singing "Let There Be Love" with Miss Piggy? It's worth it just for the line: "Let there be love between Bruce and a pig." That sort of thing is what make the internets so wonderful.

But I'm digressing. This week saw the Strictly pack whittled down to six, with Anita booted from the show and not even her usual partner's shoulder to cry on. Her departure had felt nigh for a while but it still seems a bit cruel for that to have happened on the week Robin was out with injury. But, as I said in my unfinished post last week, the Strictly machine is bigger than all of us. A bit like the actions of the Lord and Google, ours is not to question. We must only accept that what happens on Strictly is for the greater good.

So, here's a look at all the good (and not so good) from this past weekend. You'll note that I've only recorded the scores for the couples' actual dances rather than factoring in their leader board standing after the swing competition.

Anita Dobson and Robin Windsor Brendan Cole ~ Cha Cha Cha ~ 30
Bringing in Brendan to cover for an injured dancer doesn't appear to be a winning strategy. Both the celebrities to have been saddled with the annoying Kiwi found themselves in the bottom two this week. And I'm placing blame for Anita's exit squarely on his shoulders. In the dance, Brendan did his usual jackass thing of out-performing his partner. With one exception, Robin had been very good about not showing up Anita. But Brendan can't stand that sort of thing. He can't suffer the idea the audience wouldn't know for just one moment that he's an awesome dancer.
You ruined it, Brendan Cole. It is all your fault. It has nothing to do with the fact the overall Strictly skill level surpassed Anita a week or two ago, it has nothing to do with her gangly stance, it has nothing to do with her awkward smile, it has nothing to do with the fact she and Robin never really developed a repartee the audience could see and warm to. Nope, it is all your fault, Brendan Cole. Other things that are your fault: the current economic crisis, and Dappy from N-Dubs. I'm not sure how you're to blame, but you are.

Robbie Savage and Ola Jordan ~ Samba ~ 25
Robbie is at risk of becoming the worst dancer on the show now. That's not because he's dancing poorly but simply that he's not really better than the others. He pretty much hit everything right on Saturday night; the steps were right, but the feeling wasn't. His yanking off his trousers was an iconic moment, however. I suppose if you can't make it into the final, you should focus on working yourself into Strictly lore.

Alex Jones and James Jordan ~ Charleston ~ 29
James Jordan needs to shut his whining cake hole. I have grown weary of his getting touchy over the judges' comments. This week, he was the height of ridiculousness -- lambasting Craig's scoring whilst angrily waving about a sparkly top hat. No one takes you seriously when you brandish a sparkly top hat, yo. It removes every ounce of gravitas. This is why no one has ever declared war whilst holding a sparkly top hat, or, if someone has done that, why no one took them seriously. James might as well dress as a cupcake for his bitching sessions.
Tediously, he doesn't stop once the camera goes off. I stopped following him on Twitter today because he was again crying woe to the sky over his and Alex's treatment at the hands of Craig.
Because of James Jordan, I want to see Alex out of the show. Because of James Jordan, I don't know whether this weekend's was a good performance. Though, I suspect it wasn't because James spent a fair amount of time carrying Alex around the floor. When you're not on your feet, you're not dancing.

Holly Valance and Artem Chigvinstev ~ Foxtrot ~ 34
I fear Holly is on the irreversible downward slide. The Strictly audience rarely seems to judge according to individual performance. A person will do well and still go out because their previous weeks were poor and the viewers don't feel that intangible connection that compels them to vote. Holly has been in the bottom two twice now, and that's pretty much a situation from which there is no return. In order to survive next week, Holly would have to do something crazy amazing. Remember when Matt Baker did a muthahuggin back flip off the judges' table? I'm pretty sure Holly would need to do something on that level.
She'd need to do something equally as fantastic the next week, as well. And she'd have to cry. And hook us with a deeply personal story. And possibly fight through a visible injury. 
So, what we're looking for is to have Holly awkwardly dislocate her knee after doing a flip over Artem from the stairs. The music has to stop but she refuses to be carried away. Strapping up her knee with a glittery sash, she begs to be allowed to finish the dance because her boyfriend has only a few weeks to live and seeing Holly dance brings him so much joy. So, they crank up the music again, and again she flips over Artem from the stairs, she lands the move and dances perfectly, tears streaming down her face from emotion and wild pain. On the final note, she simply collapses. Artem's crying. The judges are in an inconsolable state of woe, only just barely able to contain themselves enough to hold up four paddles, each displaying a 10.
If that happens, Holly will carry on.
On a side note, I really liked the music for this past weekend's dance. I had not heard that particular Jessie J song before. The singer on Strictly absolutely killed it. Having now listened to the Jessie J track, I think the Strictly singer performed it just a tiny little bit better, supporting my belief that Jessie J writes better songs than she sings.

Chelsee Healey and Pasha Kovalev ~ Argentine Tango ~ 35
Let me just stress that I still only understand about 60 percent of what Chelsee says and I feel that is 60 percent too much. I dislike her in so many ways. But she was undermarked in this dance. Though, I suppose I do agree with the general judges' feeling that the routine lacked a certain kind of passion. Because it's Chelsee, one could easily believe that she would have sex with Pasha (or just about anyone else) but you didn't really feel she wanted to. The element of desire wasn't there; passion may be too high a brain function for her.

Jason Donovan and Kristina Rihanoff ~ Charleston ~ 36
I like trains, but there always comes that point in a journey when I just want to get off the thing. I've walked up and down the cars, I've seen the buffet car still has nothing I want, I've grown weary of the blurry views of countryside, and all I can think is: "When does this stop?"
So I feel toward the J-Train. Something about him bores me just a little bit. Which is, admittedly, unfair. His Charleston kicked the living hell out of the one performed by Alex Jones and I think there's room to argue he was undermarked by a point or two. I think he's still on track to be in the final but just don't find myself looking forward to his performances.

Harry Judd and Aliona Vilani ~ Quickstep ~ 39
Should that have been given a perfect score? It was brilliant, perfectly in time and with absolutely no faffing about. It's the Strictly way to sit around on swings or twirling on poles or hovering on wires rather than actually dancing but in this performance there may be just 2 seconds in which Harry and Aliona could be said to not be dancing. I thoroughly dislike Harry for making me feel inadequate about my physique but there's no denying he and Aliona are kicking booty. Begrudgingly, he is my favourite.

Predictions
  • I'm guessing Holly Valance and Alex Jones will be in the bottom two next week. Surely I'm not the only one tired of James Jordan's pissing and moaning. But that won't be good enough to spare Holly; I'm predicting she'll be the one to go.
  • It still looks to be a final starring J-Train, Harry and Chelsee. Just to give myself extra incentive to watch, I have put a £5 bet on Harry to win.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Strictly week 8: Farewell, Mama Rose

This is my blog post from last week, which I never got a chance to complete and put online because I was so busy. Considering the fact it is now out of date I have decided to leave it incomplete. I had thought of simply skipping over this post but I like the idea of having a string of posts from every single week. And I had managed to write quite a bit, so some part of me laments the idea of simply abandoning all that "work" (if one can refer to writing blog posts about Strictly as "work").

~

That really came out of nowhere, didn't it? I mean, there's Mama Rose bespangled to the hilt and lifted into the sky. Then, suddenly, he's saying adios, mofo.

Always leave 'em wanting more, darling. That's what Mama Rose used to say when strutting off stage. In Paris, London, New York, San Francisco, Rio, and on and on. All the queens and dykes and hags and stags would be falling over themselves, in a state of rapturous ecstasy over Mama Rose's performance. They would be screaming, tearing at themselves in yearning, desperate, frantic need for more.

"Just one more number, Mama Rose. Please," the house manager would scream. "It's inhumane to leave them out there like that without an encore. They'll riot."

"Damn right they will," Mama Rose would say, martini already at hand -- a silver-thonged cabana boy rubbing oil into his feet.

So, perhaps Mama Rose knew all along this was coming. Perhaps he orchestrated this farewell. It's not hard to imagine. We've heard the rumours about the time Mama Rose "turned" King Abdullah. That, they say, is the true reason Saudi Arabia maintains such cozy relations with the West. It is not American money that keeps them sweet but knowledge that with a single click on Mama Rose's iPhone, a series of photographs could be released to the press that would completely destroy the Saudi royal family. And if those rumours are true, what hope has a lowly BBC production assistant against such charm? It is entirely plausible that Mama Rose knew the show's outcome before the first note was struck because he had planned, entirely plausible that Mama Rose wrote the leader board on a cocktail napkin, handed it to a production assistant and promised him "more" after the results show.

But Mama Rose will never give you more; he will always leave you wanting. This, poor Flavia didn't take into account. The glitter-ball trophy was nearing. The glitter-ball trophy. After all these years. Those awkward moments with Matt Di Angelo and Jimi Mistry, smiling stupidly whilst Jimmy Tarbuck relived his non-existant glory days. And Craig Kelly, for fuck's sake. All those years of being saddled with morons who just got lost in her looks and turned to mush on the dance floor. Now, with Unce Russell, with Mama Rose, she had a chance. The glitter ball trophy! Each week it got closer. Each week she could more feel it in her hands -- its texture, its weight. Each week the vision of her lifting it into the air felt more real.

But Mama Rose doesn't need a glitter ball. Not another one, at least. And though Mama Rose knows he doesn't need good scores from the judges, knows that big queen Craig is just judging harshly because he's still being bitchy about what happened in Milan in 1987, he didn't like the low scores. He didn't like always being at the bottom of the leader board. Because, honey, if there's one thing everyone knows about Mama Rose it's that he likes it on top. So he crawled into that cannon, just for one moment looked wistfully at Flavia -- dancing there, not knowing it was the end -- and fired himself into "Strictly Come Dancing" history.

But the Strictly machine is bigger than all of us. There are still seven in the game. Here's a look at this past weekend's action, starting with the exiting couple.

Russell Grant and Flavia Cacace ~ Jive ~ 24
The routine is 1 minute 35 seconds long. Russell spends 42 seconds hooked up to wires. Flavia looked gorgeous but, really, the most impressive part of the routine is the stage hand at 00:50 doing a brilliant bit of rugby grubbing for the helmet, which Jenn likes to believe was flung by Mama Rose like an empty martini glass.

Robbie Savage and Ola Jordan ~ Salsa ~ 26
That salsa had all the latin flavour of a bratwurst. I realise Robbie and Ola were hampered slightly by the theme of British pop anthems, Her Majesty's United Kingdom not really being renown for its salsa scene, but not hearing the announcement at the start I spent the whole dance baffled as to what, exactly, they were supposed to be doing. It was a high-energy performance, though. Well, apart from the first 23 seconds of it, which Robbie spent unsteadily jerking about on a pillar. Then he comes down, meets up with Ola -- who had apparently lost her dress in the bus ride to Wembley and chosen simply to wear a bit of spray paint -- and she pulls off a hurricanrana. Impressive, but not very salsa-like.
Going back to Ola's outfit, though: Thank you, God, for giving me eyes.

Anita Dobson and Robin Windsor ~ Samba ~ 27
Robin accidentally laid the smack down on Saturday. Usually he is very good about toning down his style to suit his partner, not doing the Brendan Cole thing of making them both look bad by performing too well. But I think the excitement of the occasion caused him to be "overblown," to use a Chelsee Healey expression, and he mistakenly was awesome. The result, then, was that Anita looked at times as if she wanted more to watch him dance rather than dance with him.
But, oh, how can you not love Anita? Her sadness at being in the bottom two last week caused Jenn to produce actual tears. What cruel, foul-hearted cad would ever want to make Anita upset ever again? Someone will have to eventually. She is not good enough to stay. But this week I was happy to not see her go.

Holly Valance and Artem Chigvinstev ~ Quickstep ~ 31
Artem was clearly on some quality Russian side-street medication for his back problems. There was that slide he did at the end of the show but also did you notice how happy he was. Artem? Happy? This is not the miserable Russian we've come to know and love. Besides, happy Artem doesn't seem to result in good-dancing Holly. She looked like she was surprised to see him out there.
And, to a certain extent, I suppose she was. Artem's back has been acting up almost a fortnight now and through the week Holly was practicing with both Artem and Brendan. According to Alesha's comments, it was uncertain until Saturday morning whether Artem would dance that evening. That can throw a person off. But now that Artem appears to be back, I would like to see the experience of being in the bottom two shock Holly into no longer being not as good as she could be.

Jason Donovan and Kristina Rihanoff ~ Jive ~ 34
Kristina looked like an 80s home video fitness instructor who had been thrown from a moving van. And Jason looked like a TV movie child predator. Not a real child predator, but a bad actor who is portraying one. Like when Dean Cain plays a bad guy; he might as well wear a shirt emblazoned with: "I'm the bad guy."
The J-Train looked a bit like that. But, regardless, he was en route to a kick-ass score when he completely goofed one of the sequences of the dance, reduced to sort of hopping and grinning whilst trying to figure out how to catch up with Kristina. There seems to be some tiny little something missing from the J-Train's performances and as my predicted bottom two found themselves safe in the results show I started finding it more and more believable that J-Train might not make it to the final.

Harry Judd and Aliona Vilani ~ Salsa ~ 34
One of the reasons I simultaneously lust after and fear Aliona Vilani is her penchant for pro-wrestling-style spot moves. That crazy thing of being flipped over Harry's back and then swinging over to do the splits beneath him was amazing. And when she just falls back and Harry catches her with his thigh, that was impressive, too. Plus there were fireworks. All in all it was an impressive routine, though I agree with the less-than-high score because the footwork wasn't much to write about. The salsa is supposed to be a male-arrogant dance, the mentality of it like that Old Spice ad: "Look at her. Now look at me. At her ass. Now back at me. Keep looking at me. This is what you want, ladies." 
Harry wasn't quite getting that. Or perhaps he was. Jenn was suppressing squeals over his bare chest.

Chelsee Healey and Pasha Kovalev ~ Samba ~ 35
I had consumed a beer and two large glasses of port by the time Jenn and I started watching the results show, but I don't suppose that's any excuse for my cheering Chelsee's getting through. Something's changed in my attitude toward Chelsee and I'm not sure I approve.

Alex Jones and James Jordan ~ Tango ~ 35
Comment here.

Elsewhere
  • The true highlights of the show, I think, were the antics of Craig and Bruno. Craig's prancing dance when heading to the stage was a thing of beauty. But that was blown out of the water by Bruno's fit of manic dance hysteria as the show was starting. Honestly. Click on that link. That was a moment of pure gold.
  • This past weekend's show was a really good advertisement for the Strictly Live tour, wasn't it? The tour plays larger venues like Wembley Arena, so I would expect those shows to have more of this feel. It kind of makes me want to get tickets for one of the seven (?!) nights they'll be in Cardiff in February.
  • James Morrison's still performing?
  • Brendan Cole is becoming the dance equivalent of a spare tire, as he is set to dance next week with Anita because Robin is out of commission. Robin is recovering from a severe infection in his foot. Interestingly, both Artem and Robin used to share a flat together. What kind of crazy masochistic training do those two get up to that they are injuring themselves?
Predictions
I completely missed it last week.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sympathy for the devil

One of the great challenges facing a Welsh nationalist is identifying ways in which the Welsh have been horribly treated by the English. This is an all-important feature of any movement to sever ties with the crown. We Americans did it; the Irish did it; any number of African nations did it; the Scottish are doing it now. For some reason, a people can't just simply walk away, they must walk away mad.

This element is especially important in Wales where there is, in fact, no good reason at all for separation. I've mentioned before that if Wales were to cut ties today, it would celebrate tonight and wake up tomorrow with a terrible hangover and the sick reality of being considerably worse off. Roughly 28 percent of Welsh jobs are in the public sector. Cut ties with the British government and it's inevitable that quite a few of those jobs would go. Unless business taxes were lowered (somewhat unlikely if we assume separation would be driven by the socialist Plaid Cymru), it's possible a number of private sector jobs would go as well. 

Wales' transportation infrastructure is stuck somewhere in the 1970s, with too few dilapidated trains running too few places and just a two-lane road serving as the only viable north-south route -- a road that, at one point, narrows to a single lane because it crosses a medieval bridge. Meanwhile Wales' digital infrastructure is laughable, with fewer people receiving broadband here than anywhere else in the United Kingdom.

Wales would find itself several decades behind the rest of the developed world with not enough resources, natural or intellectual, to give it a realistic chance of ever catching up within any of our lifetimes. The Welsh nationalist response, of course, is to blame England for the dismal state of things. But who do the disadvantaged peoples of England blame? Infrastructure is poor but it is not poor as a slight to the Welsh. In trying to find that vital "They Did This To Us" argument, pointing to lack of economic development isn't acceptable because they've done the same to themselves. If you and I are eating from the same bowl of cold, tasteless porridge you can accuse me of a number of things but malice toward you isn't honestly one of them.

Admittedly, any nationalist argument is inherently un-winnable, or un-loseable, depending on which side you're arguing. Because it is so emotionally driven. It is wrapped up in what the person feels more than what is. And as an ex-girlfriend once screamed at me in an argument: emotions are never wrong. Emotions are not tied to logic; they just are. An outside observer, or, indeed, a whole fleet of outside observers, may struggle to connect what they perceive to be reality to your emotional response to said reality, but that does not make your emotion wrong. There is no right and wrong with emotion. If you feel deeply hurt and betrayed by someone baking your favourite cake and giving it to you on a sunny day, it is not wrong for you to feel so. Confusing to the cake baker, perhaps, but not wrong.

So, if a Welsh nationalist wants to feel that Wales' lack of infrastructure and economic output can be blamed on English people actively detesting the Welsh, there may not be a great deal of evidence to support this line of thinking outside his or her own head, but he or she is not wrong in an emotional sense.

That said, emotion seeks vindication. When we feel something we want to feel it to be right. My friend Jim, who worked with me at television stations in both Reno and San Diego, used to say of the angry people who called to complain about our perceived bias one way or the other, that they did not want to discuss things, they simply wanted you to echo their opinion so they felt less crazy. Very few of us are happy to simply be right. We can't just accept that we see the sky to be blue, we need this confirmed and affirmed by other people.

So when the Welsh nationalist fails to win you over with arguments of being economically neglected by the English (who were economically neglecting themselves), he or she will try a different tact. In Wales there are a lack of atrocities like the Highland clearances or the myriad Bloody Sundays of 1887, 1920, 1921 and 1972, so it can be a little bit of a challenge for the Welsh "nat," but diligence is a long-standing Welsh virtue and eventually he or she will come up with something. If the nationalist is particularly well-versed he or she will sight acts of union in 1536 and 1543, which put Wales on equal legal footing with England but also prohibited a Welsh-only speaker, i.e. one that did not speak English, from holding public office (a).

Indeed, just about any They Did This To Us argument is going to hinge on the Welsh language. And, as such, it will almost certainly include Brad y Llyfrau Gleision ("Treachery of the Blue Books," a series of academic reports in the 1840s that, in part, blamed the Welsh language and religious nonconformism for Wales' inadequate schools) and the most iconic symbol of that line of thinking: the Welsh Not.

The Welsh Not was a small piece of wood with the words "Welsh Not" or, simply, "WN" inscribed that a child would have to wear around his or her neck if caught speaking Welsh in school. It was effectively a dunce cap for Welsh speakers. At the end of the day, the child would often receive a beating. It's worth noting that the authors of the much reviled Llyfrau Gleision didn't endorse the practice, feeling it was arbitrary and unnecessary, and, according to John Davies' History of Wales, it was not a particularly widespread practice.

The practice had disappeared by the early 1900s, but, yes, it did happen. The Welsh Not was brought up in one of my classes the other day by a man who had allowed himself to get quite angry and I've found myself thinking about it ever since. I wonder whether it's terribly fair to get so upset about the thing.

Victorian attitudes toward the discipline of children is notorious. I sometimes wonder just how accurate is such a portrayal but you simply can't have a story about a kid growing up in Victorian times without including at least one stick-wielding authority figure. I can believe it, though. Long after the Victorians were dead, their buildings crumbling, teachers in my childhood schools were still wielding paddles. As far as I'm aware, none of us kids in Texas in the 1980s ever got a spanking for speaking Welsh. That's probably just because none of us spoke Welsh.

The kids suffering a block of wood around the neck and an afternoon lashing more than a century earlier were, I think, suffering more because of the philosophy of the time than because of what they were actually doing. The cruelty of Victorian thinking was there as much for the English-only speaker as the speaker of Welsh. If a child wasn't being disciplined for speaking Welsh it might have been for getting maths tables wrong or speaking before being spoken to or nodding his head to the rhythm of a teacher's voice (I was once sent to detention for that last one). The disciplinary actions weren't inherently anti-Welsh but just overall unkind.

Within that, I think it's important to remember how different the past is to the present. It is possibly unfair, but at the very least misleading to apply modern thinking to situations of roughly 150 years ago. When the Victorian (primarily English) establishment looked at the Welsh they found a people who were, on the whole, disadvantaged. Additionally, the Victorian establishment felt their own ways of thinking and acting to be superior above all. To help the Welsh, then, one obviously needed to instruct them in the ways of the Victorian establishment. First and foremost, this meant speaking English.

We are very quick to attack this arrogance but I think it's firstly important to accept that it was a different time, they were operating by different rules. And secondly, it is good to ask whether this line of thinking is really so distant. Go back to the top of this blog post, where I lament Wales' inadequate access to technology. I am certain a number of Welsh nationalists would agree with me that computer literacy and access to technology is incredibly important. But what makes us right? We see it as right.

We would applaud initiatives to extend broadband to rural areas. All the politicians would wear out their arms patting each other on the back. We would put little ribbons on education centres and stand around having our picture taken cutting these ribbons. We would unveil plaques to show for all time how proud we are of ourselves. And I cannot think of how such a thing could be wrong. But what if, 150 years from now, they looked back at us in disgust? What right did we have destroying cultures and families and communities with internet access?

The example I used in my class was of the Arab Spring. In my heart of hearts I see nothing wrong with the spread of democracy in the Arab world. I applaud it. I get teary-eyed over it. I feel inspired by it. If I had any money, I would contribute to see it continue. But why do I think this way? Is it really good? Or do I simply say it is good because it is what I have and I feel I am superior? What will they say 150 years down the line? Will they look back in bitterness at those who drove democratic movements? When some American comes along to teach Berber in the Libya of the future will he find himself wondering whether the actions of the Benghazi establishment so many years before really were as awful as some of those around him claim?

I think it is fair to assume that in many cases the Victorian establishment felt they were doing the right thing by discouraging Welsh. I am sure some of them felt a great sense of altruism and righteousness. We can accuse them of being misguided, shortsighted and arrogant but I'm not sure it's fair to accuse them of malice, of being anti-Welsh. I'm not sure the Welsh can claim (overall) to have been horribly treated simply for being Welsh. I'm not sure the Welsh Not was as terrible a thing as a Welsh nationalist would have you believe.

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(a) The acts were finally repealed in the mid-1990s. I wonder, though, if a person would actually be hired today if he or she spoke Welsh but no English. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Strictly week 7: Immortal, darling

Each time I sit down to write a recap of the previous weekend's "Strictly Come Dancing" action I ask myself: "What was the one thing that stood out most? What sticks vividly in my memory?"

Usually, whatever comes to me, I take as the highlight of the weekend. If it lasts through the port-induced haze, it must be amazing, right? But this week the thing I recall most is Claudia Winkleman's hair in the results show. Honestly. I mean, I have always loved Claudia in part because she is so wonderfully un-TV. For a woman who shows up on myriad television programmes, she frequently has the look and demeanour of someone who's just been pulled from a dressing room at an Asda on a Sunday morning. Fuzzy-minded and questionably attired in ridiculous prints and oversized tops she muddles through in an endearing way. One can't help but like her. On Sunday, however, when the camera first came to her she looked as if she had just been rolled down a hill and forced to wrestle a zebra before being allowed to effuse about the quality of attempted fleckerls and sashays.

In terms of the actual show, though, the highlight came, of course, from Mama Rose. How can you not respect a 10-second costume change followed by a gold-plated queen leaping into the air? If that didn't make you happy, you don't know how to feel, my friend. This is the sort of thing that makes Britain great.

Here's a look at all the weekend's dancers, starting with the exiting couple:

Audley Harrison and Natalie Lowe ~ Cha Cha Cha ~ 20
I predicted this exit in last week's recap, though I was wrong about who would be there with him.
The phrases "cha cha cha" and "Audley Harrison" fit seamlessly with the words "no" and "stop;" it was never going to be a good dance. And with the list of any other forgettable or awful dancers now exhausted, Audley's departure was inevitable. This dance would have been acceptable in week 1, but so far down the line it had all the excitement of a park bench.

Russell Grant and Flavia Cacace ~ American Smooth ~ 26
Many moons ago, I was an extra in a Guthrie Theater production and had the strange distinction of being in every scene of the play, performing four different roles. At one point I had to exit down the vom then run full pelt beneath the stage and up again to enter stage right some 45 seconds later, in a different costume. I always took extreme pride in that. 
I would argue my costume change was far more complicated than that pulled by Mama Rose, but still 10 seconds is 10 seconds. Respect.
But here's the thing: that was effectively the meat of the performance. Mama Rose and Flavia moved around a bit, he changed into a shiny gold suit and then leapt about. I'm not saying I didn't like it, but, well, I don't know. 
Maybe I'm expecting too much from Mama Rose. I mean, on the results show he mentioned having a big entrance planned for the next week's dance, to be performed at Wembley. And in my mind I immediately imagined fireworks and tigers and the cast of 300 singing the Pet Shop Boys' "Go West." This is unlikely. Sadly. Perhaps what I want of Mama Rose is not realistic.

Robbie Savage and Ola Jordan ~ American Smooth ~ 31
Since I'm in the mood for praising the Strictly costuming department for their speed in Mama Rose's dance I will praise them, as well, for their thrift in making Ola's dress. With a bit of last Christmas' tinsel, a bed sheet stolen from grandma and a roll of cello tape they were able to fashion a lovely frock. Well done, BBC. It's good to see you are making the best use of every penny you get from our license fee.
Robbie was also involved in this dance, making a number of weird faces, but I wasn't really paying attention to him. I have decided I no longer hate him, and may even find him to be affable in some sort of way, but I still am not really a fan. Those ultra-white teeth disturb me.

Alex Jones and James Jordan ~ Jive ~ 31
Jenn and I disagreed on this dance. Jenn felt it was well done but I found it to be lacklustre and awkward. I didn't get the strange mix of dolls and high school themes in the dance. And, most upsettingly, Alex doesn't really look good in a cheerleader outfit. She looked too much like the cheerleaders at my high school, who weren't totally the stuff of teenage fantasy. Not that it stopped me from dating two of them, mind. And to that end, were I a single man I don't suppose I would bar the door if Alex were to show up dressed as a cheerleader. But the point is: like the dance, it just didn't work.
The whole thing felt uncomfortable. One could sort of see Alex thinking: "OK, now I do this. And then this. And the fist pump. And spin around. And this. And this. Then over here." It was procedural rather than feel-good.

Anita Dobson and Robin Windsor ~ Argentine Tango ~ 33
Poor wee Anita's face when she found herself in the bottom two. I hope you feel good about yourself, British public. You did that to her. And, well, perhaps Jenn and I did, too, because we never vote.
Len was distinctly wrong in suggesting this Argentine tango was in any way superior to Harry's but it definitely ticked all the boxes. 
I was mildly confused, however, by the first two moves Anita did in the routine: sitting in a chair, she seems to dramatically point to her legs, as if to say, "LOOK AT MY LEGS." Then she shifts, another dramatic bit of pointing, "LOOK AT MY LEGS," and Robin comes flying in from off camera.
I think a big part of success in Strictly, unfortunately, is connecting with the audience both within and outside the dance. I'm not sure how well Anita and Robin do that. They tend to just come out, perform and then clap cheerfully for all the other contestants. I fear that won't be enough as the final nears.

Holly Valance and Artem Chigvinstev Brendan Cole ~ Rumba ~ 34
As sexy as a bathmat, but it didn't really matter. What cold soul (of those who vote) wouldn't have voted for Holly this week? It's the phone-in version of a get-well-soon card to Artem. And one hopes he does get well soon because the Holly and Brendan mix wasn't great.
It started out with the two of them sitting on a bit of IKEA office furniture, which -- perhaps I'm weird here -- isn't the sort of thing that I really think of as sexy. It looked as if they were inappropriately dressed whilst waiting to register their new car. Soon enough, though, their ticket was called and they stepped forward to the Counter of Unsexy Manoeuvres, bending and turning with the grace of rugby players. Then Holly sits down, Brendan walks away, changes his mind and runs up to her, audibly says "OK, here we go" (Really. At 1:30 in the dance), heaves her to her feet as if she were a drunken pal rather than a lover, and then ends things with a bit of acting that Shaquille O'Neal would criticise.
I would assume the sympathy vote would hold for another week if Artem's not yet better by Saturday and then, of course, they will go through easily upon his triumphant return, but I feel at some point soon Holly is going to be in danger of leaving. She seems to be aware of this herself. In a recent interview she said: "I thought I'd probably be a bit better than this - to be honest I think I've been average."

Jason Donovan and Kristina Rihanoff ~ Viennese Waltz ~ 35
I've said time and again: the Viennese waltz is a boring dance. I'll admit to liking it in a romantic way because it is so much older than all the other dances but I don't like it in a sit-and-watch-it way. It's boring. The J-Train and Kristina avoided this issue by simply not dancing the Viennese waltz. Not much, anyway. I would guess they performed the absolute minimum of required content, the rest of the time spent flailing about.
I'm not sure how I feel about this. True, it's not a great dance but it's hardly better to avoid the dance.
Also, the J-Train didn't really look dapper in that tux; he looked like a waiter at a casino restaurant.

Chelsee Healey and Pasha Kovalev ~ Foxtrot ~ 36 
Jenn and I got lost in a discussion about Chelsee's hair during this dance and had to watch it twice. The overall gist of the conversation was that I think Chelsee's hair shorter makes her less aesthetically displeasing. Upon watching the dance a third time, I can't help but notice that her dress was rather flattering to her form. What I'm getting at is that I find her less and less annoying to watch. What I think this means, really, is that I am allowing myself to appreciate that she is a good dancer.
I still can't stand to hear her speak, and her vapidity makes her ugly to me, but when she is simply performing -- moving to the music and hitting the steps and making it seem natural -- I enjoy it.

Harry Judd and Aliona Vilani ~ Argentine Tango ~ 37
Len was on some really bad drugs. That can be the only explanation for his criticism of the dance. Sure, it's true Harry's not exactly the man of 1,000 facial expressions. He tends to wear the same look through every dance. But in this dance, it worked. Harry looked intense and arrogant. Len said there was nothing of the sort in the performance and was bitchy with both Craig and Claudia Winkleman over it, and he was wrong. Throughout the performance, Harry maintains unwavering eye contact with Aliona, his movements are sharp, his jaw is locked -- you can't be more intense without having it look like a pantomime villain.
Perhaps Len's wife, like my girlfriend, swoons wildly for Harry and he simply can't stand it, but he was way off the mark in his comments and scoring.

Elsewhere:

  • Is Wembley this year's Blackpool show? And how the hell did I not get tickets? There are supposed to be 6,000 people there. I applied on the BBC website to be put into the draw for tickets to each of the shows; I am heartbroken that I don't get to see the show live.
  • The band was really missing the mark this weekend, weren't they? In a number of songs the singers were off-key. The Guardian blog loves to criticise the band but normally I have no complaints. They are a live band who have to perform a song to exact timing. You're going to lose a bit of passion when you do that, but overall I think the songs still turn out pretty well. This weekend, however, was probably the worst they've ever been.

Predictions
  • I'm guessing Alex and Robbie will be in the bottom two next weekend, and Robbie will be the one to go.
  • I'm feeling less and less sure the J-Train will make it all the way to the final; he seems to have hit a plateau. But, for the moment -- unless Holly suddenly improves -- I'll still expect him to be there with Harry and Chelsee. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Strictly week 6: Hands that do dishes

Yes, I am fully aware of UN resolution 1515: "Nobody puts Baby in the corner." I understand its implications fully and am perfectly willing to accept the use of military to see the resolution properly enforced. But why did they have to put Baby in the seat of a "Strictly Come Dancing" judge? 

The presence of Jennifer Grey was, to me, one of the most difficult aspects of this past weekend of Strictly. The excuse was that Len (yes, that's him on the left -- back in his glory days) went on holiday, which almost certainly has to be false. Who schedules a holiday right in the middle of a show's run? Originally, I had guessed he had accidentally been double booked, since he is also a judge on "Dancing with the Stars" over in the United States. But Bruno Tonioli also judges both shows and was there on Saturday. Did "DWTS" end up with some forgotten British star as guest judge in exchange? I've not seen Dale Winton recently, perhaps he's been shipped over there. If not, where was Len? Why aren't British tabloids hacking phones to find out the truth behind that one? Why did I just use an outdated phone-hacking reference?

Actually, in my own extensive research (typing Len's name into the Google search box) I've learned that Len was treated for prostate cancer in 2009. So, it's quite probable that this absence was related to a routine check-up of some sort. Whatever the reason for his absence, it was one that showed how important is Len to the whole circus. Because J-Grey was a disappointment.

Due to some sort of production error she was only given the 7, 8 and 9 paddles and her input was roughly what one would expect from a person who had never watched the show. Or seen a person dance. Honestly, BBC, next time a judge has to go on a mysterious "holiday," run a quick competition offering fans a chance to be the fill-in judge. Or just call in Jodie Prenger. She'd be awesome.

That all said, it was still a pretty good weekend on Strictly. Fatigue is starting to set in, but the performances improved technically, Artem once again almost killed himself for the sake of dance, Mama Rose got his groove back and Lulu was given the boot.

Lulu and Brendan Cole ~ Tango ~ 27:
J-Grey made some sort of reference to porridge after this dance that I didn't get. But I'm guessing she didn't get it, either, because she was clearly reading the comment and Americans don't tend to say "porridge." Most of us simply call it oatmeal.
Though, there were elements of Lulu and Brendan's performance that had the look of dancing through porridge. Toward the end, Lulu was simply holding on to Brendan. The self-apointed bad boy of ballroom, meanwhile was giving it approximately 60 percent. Possibly he was distracted by having to talk to Lulu all the way through the dance, but he seemed a bit bored as well and appeared to be looking out at the audience to see if there's anyone he knows. On "It Takes Two" Monday the two spent a long time saying that, yes, they would often disagree with each other in rehearsal but they got along and never had any actual fights. Which, by the very nature of them denying it, means they totally hated each other.

Russell Grant and Flavia Cacace ~ Paso Doble ~ 24:
After a lacklustre performance the week previous, Mama Rose was back with a strange routine that involved sitting on a bull. One felt there was almost certainly some sexual allusion there but I'm not sure exactly what. In the Mama Rose alternate universe in my head it was a reference to the time Mama Rose's drag queen extravaganza was touring Spain and caused a national scandal in a notorious incident involving five naked picadores, one matador's cape, 54 prophylactics, an untold quantity of dramamine and 78 litres of chocolate syrup.
In our world, I didn't get it but at least he wasn't up there for long. Another thing I don't quite get is how Mama Rose ended up at the bottom of the leader board. His paso doble was undoubtedly sloppy but it was more technically sound that Lulu's bobble-head dance.

Audley Harrison and Natalie Lowe ~ Viennese Waltz ~ 27:
How many times can Audley survive the bottom two? What's the record for bottom-two survival? I would guess it to be the four appearances achieved by Heather Small in 2008. If that is the record, it means Audley is now set to at least tie with Heather. If he can somehow survive again, I would think it would make him the Strictly comeback king. Whether I want that, I'm not so sure.
I'm not so sure Natalie wants it, either. Have you noticed there's something in her manner that seems to have given up? I worry she has the Brendan Cole attitude of: "If I'm not winning I'm not caring."
Being Australian, perhaps she's just struggling with the British weather and lack of sun. I know the feeling. Obviously, she should come visit and I will console her...

Jason Donovan and Kristina Rihanoff ~ Rumba ~ 28:
Trains are not sexy. They get things done. The J-Train doesn't seduce, he makes babies. He gets things done.
Technically, his rumba Saturday was on the money. Jenn and I have a tiny television and in the wide shots, when Jason's face was unrecognisable, it was a very good routine. In the times one could see his facial expressions, however, or lack thereof, it felt a bit creepy. Like being loved up by one of those security blokes who just stare at you as you walk into Tesco.
Honestly, Tesco. Teach your fucking employees how to use the word "hello."
But I digress. The J-Train got all the steps right but somehow managed to get the dance wrong. He's had some less-than-great performances of late. I blame his enthusiasm for sporting dodgy moustaches in the introductory video pieces.

Robbie Savage and Ola Jordan ~ Waltz ~ 29:
Being disconnected from one's dance was a theme this past weekend and Robbie played his part by not twitching a facial muscle through the whole of his waltz. His response to criticism of his looking miserable, despite twirling around with a Polish sexpot squeezed into a dress that was probably originally intended for an 8-year-old, was that the song was about unrequited love. He wasn't supposed to be happy. And fair enough, that's true. But Robbie also didn't look sad. He looked embalmed.

Alex Jones and James Jordan ~ Quickstep ~ 31:
Alex has an old-school charm to her, doesn't she? At the end of this dance, when she and James fell over, I was reminded of some old video of Carol Burnett that I am now too lazy to make any attempt to find on YouTube, but you understand what I mean, right? Carol Burnett or Lucille Ball or the like would come out and do a hilarious/amazing routine and at the end of it, whilst the audience were going wild, they would slap their partner on the back or laugh in that big "We're the best of pals sharing a side-splitting in joke" sort of way. Like Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye at the end of the "Sisters" routine. Know what I mean? No? Well, I do, and somehow that results in this fact: she is back on my perving list.
Because Jenn reads this I feel unwilling to elaborate, however, beyond two words: custard wrestling.

Anita Dobson and Robin Windsor ~ Charleston ~ 31:
I have to admit I've never been a fan of the Charleston being on Strictly. Partially that is because I feel there is a failure to fully recognise the spirit of the dance. It is supposed to be a post-watershed affair, but people tend to lampoon the various social revolutions of the 1920s, picturing the whole thing to be a Bugsy Malone-style romp. We coulda been anything that we wanted to be, Robin Windsor. And for some reason you chose to be the gayest lumberjack in all the land.
The thing I want out of a Charleston is for it to be risque, a thinly-veiled excuse for a woman to flash her knickers. Instead, in the modern age, it tends to be hijinks. Which is fine, I suppose, if the hijinks don't feel forced. And that's where Strictly goes wrong. What you end up with is something that doesn't feel authentic, doesn't feel fun.
Within that, though, Anita did OKish. She was definitely wearing down toward the end and I'm not sure what it says about the dance that I felt the most impressive thing was the pouring of a martini without looking, but it wasn't bad.

Harry Judd and Aliona Vilani ~ Samba ~ 33:
In the same sense it is not dancing for Lulu to be hanging from the ceiling it is not really dancing for a fella to stand around with his shirt open. Fortunately for Harry, he can actually dance. He can't display any kind of emotion in his face, but he can dance. If this were pro wrestling I'd suggest putting him in a luchador mask. Actually, I suggest that here, too. I think his scores would improve.
Of course, none of this matters to any of the females watching, including Jenn, who usually just sort of whimpers through Harry's performances, rubbing her knees. No, she doesn't do that. She just wants to. I sometimes think I should just give her some time alone when Harry dances.

Holly Valance and Artem Chigvinstev ~ Jive ~ 34:
Similar to last year when he threw out his shoulder flinging Kara about, Artem this year caused himself serious injury just before Friday's show but managed to suck it up enough to perform a dance that I felt was undermarked. Holly's casual attitude played to her favour this week with her coming out and performing a tricky and high-energy dance wearing a face that said: "This? No problem. Pre-breakfast warm-up, mate. This kind of thing I do with a hangover."
That said, her actual movements were sharper than usual. Or perhaps Artem's were duller. Either way, it worked well.

Chelsee Healey and Pasha Kovalev ~ Charleston ~ 36:
I think it would have been funny to force J-Grey, who was reading everything she said, to attempt to have an actual conversation with Chelsee. And when I say "funny," what I mean, of course, is "terribly cruel."
It was the Charleston again and again the dance was neither risque nor carefree. At one point you can very much see Chelsee thinking through the routine, which is a dangerous thing because Chelsee's limited brain power means that any intense thinking might accidentally cause her brain to overheat and motor functions to cease. Like when my laptop is rendering videos and struggles to open new programmes at the same time. But, as Artem has shown, you've got to be willing to put yourself at risk in order to win. So, Chelsee made it through a laundry list of standard Charleston moves then did a little roll over Pasha's back and stood there for a movement whilst her brain restarted her kidneys.
Some part of me supports her, though. I definitely don't want her to win but I'm happy for her to do well.

Elsewhere
  • I edit a vlog every single day, so I realise that sometimes you get a little bit tired and just slap crap together, but did you catch how poorly the results show was cut? Claudia is talking to the judges up in the balcony, then throws to a performance by Brucie; he sings and then whilst he's milking applause we see the judges back down on the set floor giving him a standing ovation; then it's straight back to Claudia in the balcony where a number of the celebrities are sitting. Nonsense.
  • It turns out Artem suffered a spinal fracture. And still danced the muthahuggin' jive, y'all. He is the Kurt Angle of professional dancing.
  • Whether Artem will be good to perform this Saturday remains to be seen but in the meantime Holly will be dancing with Brendan Cole.
  • Have you noticed how Alesha is really coming into her own as a judge? I am starting to like her more and more. Although, it's still a given that she'll always be the one giving the first 10 of a series.
  • Sometimes I watch clips from "Dancing with the Stars" and get a bit jealous. The American version seems to be higher impact.

Predictions:
  • If Audley is in the bottom two, he will go. I'm going to predict that will indeed happen and Robbie Savage will be there with him.
  • More and more I feel a nagging doubt about the J-Train but I'm still going to place him in the final with Harry and Chelsee.

One of my favourite vlogs in a while


I sometimes allow depression to get the better of me and I lose sight of the fact I have a gorgeous, funny girlfriend and live a pretty good life in an often beautiful place. This video of how we spent our Sunday reminds me of that.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Strictly week 5: Strictly Come Haunting

I was right, yo. That's the most important thing to remember about this past weekend: I was right in predicting how it would turn out. Take a look back at the week 4 recap. Whom did I say would be in the bottom two? Nancy and Audley. And whom did I predict would be leaving? Nancy. I was right and I was right. Go Team Chris. I should be putting money on this.

No. No, I definitely should not.

Week 5 of the Strictly Come Dancing experience felt just a little low-energy for me. Perhaps the months of dancing is starting to wear on the celebrities. There is usually a bit of a lull from about week 5 to the Blackpool show. But there were still some highlights this week, including Harry and Aliona's eight-bar tango and the J-Train getting back on track. Here's a look back at the weekend, starting with the exiting couple, Nancy and Anton.

Nancy Dell'Olio and Anton Du Beke ~ Rumba ~ 14
Anton Du Beke. Rumba. Those two things rarely fit together perfectly. He's too much like a World War II RAF pilot to be sexy. He should be up in the air, blasting Jerrys, not routing about on the dance floor with some wobbly Italian. But that's where fate found Lt. Du Beke this weekend and, though he kept calm and carried on, it just didn't work. Admittedly, a fair share of the blame also falls on the strangely unsexy Nancy Dell'Olio. Her wide-legged gunslinger stance again brought to mind visions of a washed-up Lolita drunkenly staggering through town, muttering of sexual conquests of long ago.
Nancy was so bad she was drawing heat from Alesha, for the love of Pete. Alesha finds nice things to say about almost everyone. Yet, in this case she told Nancy: "You're a walking disaster."
It was so out of character for Alesha (and so true) no one thought to boo her in pantomime style, as they did when Craig said more or less the same thing.

Audley Harrison and Natalie Lowe ~ Jive ~ 20:
He's 100 feet tall and weighs roughly the same as the combined population of Saipan; what did you expect? A jive was never, ever going to be Audley Harrison's time to shine. Other potential disasters include the rumba, the Charleston and any other dance that involves moving with grace and/or speed. Of course, he didn't help himself by spending part of the week back in Los Angeles. Gotta be in it to win it, dude. Audley is incredibly likeable and brings good energy and enthusiasm to the dances but, uhm, well, I'm getting a little tired of him. In his dances he has a tendency to repeat the same action several times. Case in point: pretending to play the piano. Twice. Snooze. I suspect Natalie has given up.

Russell Grant and Flavia Cacace ~ Samba ~ 22:
Mama Rose has been suffering some knee pain as a result of all this dancing and it appeared this week that he was lost in a Vicodin-tinted world. Russell was uncharacteristically low key and reserved. In the alternate-universe narrative I maintain for Russell, he was once the biggest queen on the circuit. From Miami to Brighton to Sydney, the queers, dykes, fag hags and fag stags would fill the clubs every night almost breaking into riots to see the glorious Mama Rose perform. 
But after a time it became too much. 
The fame.
The boys.
The alcohol. 
Well, darling, one can never have too many boys. But, still it became such a strain on Mama Rose that he started dusting his margarita glasses with crushed painkillers rather than sugar or salt. Eventually, it all fell apart and Mama Rose slipped into anonymity and legend. 
Now, his estranged niece, daughter of his ridiculous heterosexual brother (honestly, how embarrassing!) has come to ask Mama Rose for help. Innocent little Flavia dreams of winning the glitter-ball trophy.
"Honey, you don't know what you're getting yourself into," says Mama Rose, signalling with a swizzle stick to one of his be-thonged cabana boys that another cocktail is desired.
"Please," begs Flavia. "I know I can win."
"You think it's that easy, do you?" snaps Mama Rose. "This is the glitter-ball trophy, sweetie. Do you even understand that? You think you can just show up with your little abs and white teeth and they'll just hand you the glitter-ball trophy?! Ha!! They. Will. Tear. You. Apart."
"Uncle Russell..."
"Uncle Russell, indeed. Don't play the family card on me, darling. I will never understand what went wrong with my brother that he ended up with a woman. Ugh. I feel ill thinking about it."
"Mama Rose, please. Please. I know I can win. I know we can win."
And so Mama Rose came back. And word spread. And again they cheered his name from the balconies.
But now, the old ghosts have come back, too. The old fears. And new pain. Mama Rose is not the vibrant queen he used to be. And this past weekend he was out of it. Tired and moody, removed. Maybe Mama Rose just doesn't have it in him anymore. Can Flavia pull him back? Can the greatest be great again? We'll have to see what happens next week.

Robbie Savage and Ola Jordan ~ Paso Doble ~ 26:
I was mildly confused that they looked a bit like zombie Cherokees, and then was overall disappointed in a routine that felt disjointed. I dislike Robbie considerably less these days, but this dance did little toward making me actually like him. It's the whole Michael Jackson thing, I think. The crotch-grabbing and such. It's just creepy.

Lulu and Brendan Cole ~ Paso Doble ~ 29:
Nothing says, "This woman can't dance for shit," like hooking her up to some wires and having her flown about the room. That's not dancing, it's holding on. Anyone can do that. Well, with the exception of Owen Hart, perhaps. Lulu spends the first 20 seconds simply being in a harness or being removed from the harness whilst the camera is conveniently pointed at something else. I did like Brendan, looking like a zombie Ed Norton, doing a no-look slide down the bannister but everything else in this performance was a waste of time. Lulu flaps about a bit of mosquito netting, they do an arm thing that almost puts the audience to sleep and then Brendan distracts the camera for another 20 seconds whilst Lulu gets hooked up to the wires again. She spent 40 seconds of a 90-second performance messing about with a prop. It's time for her to go.

Anita Dobson and Robin Windsor ~ Tango ~ 31:
Anita is the same age as Lulu but did she need to be strapped into wires? No. She comes jumping out from a tombstone and, bang, she and Robin actually dance a full routine. A few too many pantomime-villan scary faces for my liking, but all dancing. I'm confused, though, as to why the costuming department consistently puts her in unflattering frocks. This past weekend she reminded me of Liza Manelli performing as Lola in a Muppet Show version of Copa Cabana.

Alex Jones and James Jordan ~ Paso Doble ~ 31:
James looked incredibly un-scary as a Dracula. He far more resembled a cross between Jerry Lewis' nutty professor and J.D. off Scrubs. Meanwhile, Alex was about as sexy as a bra from Primark. That said, it was easily an improvement for Alex. I want so much for her to be better, though. I sometimes wonder if my issues with Alex stem from the fact I know she is a Welsh speaker from West Wales. And every other woman I've ever met who fits that description is, like Alex, affable but somehow lacking in the sexiness that exists away from pragmatism. I mean, one can imagine doing the naughty with Alex but not feeling very naughty about it. You know, really just doing it because you need a few kids to help out on the farm.

Chelsee Healey and Pasha Kovalev ~ Tango ~ 32:
Chelsee's notorious top end was too great a challenge for the fabrics known to the BBC costuming department, creating a wardrobe malfunction that threw her for a loop. I'm willing to bet any number of teenage boys have spent any number of hours attempting to spot the "gift," in Claudia Winkleman's words, of the wardrobe malfunction but without success. I think Chelsee simply felt that structural integrity was compromised, rather than there being an actual breach. The whole thing upset her to the point that she just stood there crying after the dance, which is still better than listening to her speak. All told, however, it wasn't a bad dance. But, in watching it back again, it also wasn't great. Even before the puppies tried to escape she was a little wobbly, looking at one point she was being thrown around by Pasha.

Harry Judd and Aliona Vilani ~ Tango ~ 34:
Harry only seems to have one facial expression. Fortunately, this was a dance in which a slightly catatonic stare was appropriate. Len complained there was not enough tango in this tango but it's not as if Harry was strapped to wires or faffing about pretending to play the piano, so I've no complaints. I find I really like Harry, even if he does make Jenn go all teenage-girly.
Drummers are an interesting part of a band. Vitally important to the actual musical product they are often the guy you forget about. Without looking it up, who's the drummer for the Rolling Stones? Who was the drummer for Guns N' Roses? My cousin tells a story of once managing to blag his way into the VIP section of a club by asserting he was the drummer for Seether, "because no one knows what the drummer for Seether looks like."
So, this is Harry's moment in the limelight and one senses he's enjoying it in a kind of likably uncomfortable way. I want him to do well. And this past weekend showed again that it's a good bet he'll be in the final.

Holly Valance and Artem Chigvinstev ~ American Smooth ~ 35:
There's still something missing, isn't there? I like Holly but keep waiting for that moment when I think: "Wow! She's hit it!"
That moment never comes. I feel kind of let down, though I don't really understand why. I think it's that she doesn't follow through with all the steps. She gets them all right, but doesn't add the bits of flair that make a dance enjoyable to watch. She's like a British Olympic gymnast. Holly Valance is the Beth Tweddle of celebrity dancing.

Jason Donovan and Kristina Rihanoff ~ Quickstep ~ 37:
Has anyone else noticed just a slight change in Kristina's style over the past few weeks? As much as one can when done up for ballroom dancing, she looks oh-so-slightly more like a real person. She no longer seems like a scary, burned-out Russian gymnast. This endears her to me. And that human-ness seemed to come out well in her dance this week with the J-Train. Now if only she could get Jason to be a bit more personable. Presently, I think this is their biggest stumbling block. There's something just a little too Sunday matinee about them. Never go see a Sunday matinee performance of a play or musical, friends, because the performers know they have another show to do that day. As a result, they will naturally be holding back. Sure, the show may be good, but it will almost never be great. That's where the J-Train is at the moment. Like his fellow Antipodean frontrunner, Holly, he is more often than not lacking something that would make you jump from the sofa and cheer.

Elsewhere:
  • Crikey. The Wanted are a creepy-looking group of fellas, aren't they?
  • Artem's nerdy guy impression in the results show professional dance was hilarious.
  • I think it would be interesting to know who choreographs the various professional dances. Does anyone know where I could find this out? Is my being so interested in Strictly a sign I need very serious help? 

Predictions:
  • I think time is fading for Audley Harrison. If he is in the bottom two next week, he will go. Sometimes, however, a person will avoid being in the bottom two on consecutive weeks because viewers feel sorry for him or her. If Audley isn't there I predict Lulu and Anita will be there. Lulu should go, but it will probably be Anita, giving us our first "Too Soon" casualty of this series.
  • I am still placing the J-Train and Harry in the final. In there with them will be Chelsee Healey, a name I've not suggested before as a contender, in part because I dislike her so much.