Monday, September 30, 2013

Strictly Come Dancing Week 1: Boom

Dave Myers provides the weekend's highlight.

The coffee table is stained with port, Jenn and I are doing contra checks in the kitchen, and there is popcorn all over the sofa; "Strictly Come Dancing" is finally under way, y'all. Boom! This weekend produced some 2.5 cumulative hours of Strictly joy, and I have to say I enjoyed almost all of it. With 15 couple to get through, I'll waste no more time and get straight to the recap:

Abbey and Aljaz - 32
Abbey Clancy and Aljaz Skorjanec
These two are just a little too beautiful for me. They are sickeningly gorgeous. Even in their training montage, these two insufferable Übermensh looked as if they were in a catalog for clothes I couldn't afford. It was a lovely waltz, but I'm not sure I can stand people who look so good. Meanwhile, in honour of Aljaz, here's Slovenian Fact no. 2: The Slovenian National Anthem was originally a drinking toast.

Natalie and Artem - 31
I spent the first half of the dance wondering whether Natalie's side-boob-showing dress was going to turn things post-watershed, then the second half wondering who in the great googly-moogly thought it was a good idea to dance to Boney M's "Rasputin." I don't think it was either Natalie or Artem's idea because they appeared to be staging a protest to the song by refusing to dance to its beat. Things got weirder afterward, with Brucie referring to the Hopak preesyadkee (a) as "cobbling" and then being genuinely confounded that no one but him had ever used/heard the term before.

Susanna and Kevin - 28
Kevin to me looks like the boy band member that gets dropped when his aspiring group auditions for "X Factor" and are told they have one too many singers. Additionally, as a new guy he has yet to learn the all-important Strictly pro-dancer trick of not making your partner look bad by dancing rings around them. Meanwhile, Susanna's dancing seemed to me a physical representation of the mental states of many of the girls I went to high school with (keeping in mind that I'm in my mid-30s) who now litter their Facebook pages with panegyrics to their younger selves.

Sophie and Brendan - 28
Bleh. I dislike Brendan so much he blinds me to the quality or otherwise of his partners. But if I remember correctly, Sophie looked gangly in this one. Also, I find the comedy heart tattoo on her bicep to be distracting.

Patrick and Anya - 28
I'm really against having jive as a first-week dance because it's challenging and high energy. It's the sort of thing that should be saved until at least Week 7, once couples have better connected and the celebrities are acclimated to Planet Strictly. A jive before that time is too much an exercise in jumping up and down with a smile-in-the-face-of-death grin plastered on your face. But, all that said, this routine felt a little less chaotic than the one performed by Susanna and Kevin, and Anya was clever enough not to outdance her partner.
Pasha Kovalev and Rachel Riley
Rachel and Pasha - 27
You know that thing of being in a dinner party and the evening has worn on enough that everyone's several drinks in, and the fella you are sitting next to decides he will discreetly pass gas but the smell is anything but discreet -- it is, in fact, so egregious a stench as to make you feel violated -- but you don't want to say anything because, really, that fella is a very nice chap and the sort of person who would be embarrassed and hurt if you were to publicly shame him for his flatulence, so you just sit there, suffering, desperately trying to make it seem as if you haven't noticed? That is the face Rachel wears all the time. But she wears it well. I would happily be locked in a trunk with her.

Ashley and Ola - 25
Room for improvement here. My feeling with both Ashley and the aforementioned Rachel is that they will click into gear before long and eventually surpass Sexy Abbey®, who will peak in Week 9.

Mark and Iveta - 24
Mark is these days performing as the mother in Hair Spray, a role that requires a fair bit of moving around. So, I was more optimistic at the start of the dance than the judges claimed to be. In terms of storytelling, this was probably the best performance of the weekend and the actual dancing was all that bad, either. That said, I wasn't too keen on Mark's slicked-back hair. It made him look like Francis Buxton from Pee Wee's Big Adventure.

Fionna and Anton - 24
If your own version of the Strictly Come Dancing Drinking Game included the rule "Drink every time someone mentions James Bond" you are no doubt reading this from a hospital bed. You probably didn't even manage to stay conscious long enough to see Fionna dance. What you missed was not terribly inspiring but far better than you would expect based on Anton's previous partners. However, based on Fionna's unrelenting 80s hair and Anton being, well, Anton, I am already cringing for their salsa, whenever that may be, so you may not want to rush your recovery.

Deborah and Robin - 24
I want to like Deborah, because I like Robin. I found myself watching their performance with a sort of pleading hopefulness: "Oh please be something I can like." And while I managed not to hate it, I didn't terribly enjoy it. For one thing, she was incredibly skippy, making the tango look like a slow foxtrot, and her arms were no good. I feel like she is capable of doing better but I'm not entirely sure I care. By and large, I find her a bit boring.

Julien Macdonald can't even vogue properly.
Julien and Janette - 20
Julien has a strange habit of finishing his sentences by INEXPLICABLY SHOUTING. I suspect this is because he DOES A LOT OF COCAINE. As much as I enjoyed his conversation with Bruno about being "bent" (I was especially amused by Bruno's observation: "Sometimes you have to play straight for the money"), on the whole I find Julien to be VERY ANNOYING. And there's also the fact that he's NOT AT ALL GOOD AT DANCING. Hopefully, he won't last BEYOND WEEK 3.

Ben and Kristina - 19
Crikey, that Ben is a big chap, isn't he? Under the right conditions, it probably wouldn't take too much convincing to get me to "turn" for the ol' fella. I like him. He seems like a genuinely nice guy, and I think we can all agree that if he can get a dance in which lifts are allowed that is going to be awesome. This performance, in fairness, was pretty stompy but I still feel he was undermarked. Jenn's feeling, meanwhile, is that he has yet to fully give himself over to the Tao of Strictly. Hopefully he will. Based on the way in which Jenn literally howls upon seeing him, I think one can assume she is keen to have him stay in the show for a while.

Vanessa and James - 19
Because Jenn and I have somewhat recently taken to waking up at an ungodly hour, we end up getting to hear a bit of Vanessa's show each morning. Which has resulted in a gradual softening of our views on the Radio 2 presenter. When Vanessa was first announced as a Strictly contestant, Jenn was not at all keen. But, with the aid of time, and a very large glass of port on the night, that had changed to eagerness by the time Vanessa took to the floor. The dance was good enough and her remark about being stuffed into a corset is the sort of sass that will carry her to at least Week 6.

Tony and Aliona - 16
Somewhere in a lost corner of Wales there must have been at least one old couple who got really excited because they thought they were about to see Welsh-language folk duo Tony ac Aloma. Instead they saw a golf bloke that only Brucie remembers and my favourite Russian lady. Overall, it wasn't as bad as the score suggests. Aliona was wisely conservative in her movements and Tony did a good job of holding form in bits where he was standing still. When he moved, however, he made a face as if doing so was causing him to rip stitches from a hernia operation. Jenn's pretty sure he'll be the first to go, which is sad because: A) I love Aliona; and B) Julien should be the first to go.

Dave and Karen - 16
Boom. Let's all just take a quiet moment or two to reflect upon the highlight of this week's Strictly: After a minute and a half of frantic running around in incongruous circles, as if participating in a Benny Hill version of "Supermarket Sweep," Dave throws up his hand and shouts: "Boom!"
It was brilliance.
Indeed, the whole thing was brilliant. Not brilliant in a Kara-and-Artem-in-the-final-making-you-weep-with-their-awesomeness sort of way, admittedly. More "brilliant" in a I've-been-drinking-all-day-and-have-just-found-half-a-Kit-Kat-on-a-bus-seat-and-will-now-eat-it-without-worrying-myself-with-questions-about-its-origins sort of way. It was great to see Dave having such a good time and great, as well, to see Karen genuinely enjoying herself. Indeed, this performance and her response to it improved my opinion of Karen threefold. 
I also loved Dave talking to Tess Daly after the scores were given: "Well, you can't go but up, Tessa."

-- From next week, you will be able to vote for your favourite couples online, for free, rather than having to phone in a vote a pay a fee. This, my friends, is why the BBC is better.
I love Tess Daly.
-- The Daily Mail bitched about Tess' yellow dress in an article so snide I won't link to it. But that affords me opportunity to assert my opinion that Tess Daly is one of the best female presenters on television. I used to work in television, producing live shows. In a live show, one of the host's primary responsibilities is to keep things moving. Think about how quickly Strictly would derail without her there holding it all together. And think, too, how expertly she does this without saying "We're running out of time" or "Have to cut you off" or something else rude and obvious. She is professional, warm and clever. Basically, I love Tess Daly; and criticism of her always annoys me. Especially when that criticism is bitch-cattiness about her being blonde or supposedly being fat. Tess Daly fat? Fuck you, Daily Mail. I will hunt you down and poop in your shoes!

Who's in the Final Four?
It's way too early to be guessing at winners yet, but I predict the last four standing will be: Ashley, Rachel, Natalie and Ben. Yes, I'm putting a lot of faith in Ben's ability to improve, but rugby players have a good track history in Strictly. Even Gavin Henson did relatively well and that man is so dumb he could be outwitted by a stationary train.


(a) The "Russian" -- actually Ukrainian -- kicking dance.

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