Monday, October 14, 2013

Strictly Come Dancing week 3: Like being waxed

Vanessa looked like she didn't want to be there.
She got her wish.
Ah, poor Vanessa Feltz. That was a shock exit, yo. Sure, she wasn't likely to have made it to the Blackpool show, but I was still surprised. She wasn't terribly awful and I would have thought her to posses more fanbase to keep her away from The Dreaded Dance Off. But, such is the nature of the Strictly machine; you've got to earn that glitterball trophy, yo.

The theme this week was "love," which I thought for sure was going to produce some especially cringeworthy moments. But thankfully, things remained at their usual cringe level, something to which I've grown almost immune over the years. Here's a look at all this week's action, starting with the exiting couple:

Vanessa and James -- 20
As I say, I was surprised. Perhaps many people failed to warm to Vanessa as Jenn and I did. Or perhaps she was just terribly unlucky. Though, it has to be said that tango was less than amazing. Her rigid goose-step kicks were straight out of "Springtime for Hitler," lacking a fair bit of finesse, and the whole thing felt laboured.

Karen is valiant in the face of awfulness.
Dave and Karen - 16 
This was marked too highly by most of the judges. I had to look away when Dave was waving the cape about, like a 3-year-old pretending to fight a ghost. One does admire Dave's enthusiasm but he's awful on a level that surpasses even John Sergeant. Len's comment afterward was: "It was like being waxed: painful when it's happening but lovely when it's over" (a). Another way in which this paso doble was like being waxed was that both are things Dave has clearly never done. Kudos, though, to Karen for maintaining an air of awesomeness throughout that nonsense.

Julien and Janette -- 22
I love the Blues Brothers; it remains one of my all-time favourite films. So I can't fully express to you my sadness that references to it on Strictly are always done so poorly. Remember when Gavin Henson and Katya Virshilas did a Blue Brothers routine a few years ago? Substandard. Julien and Janette's homage to the film was even worse.
I'll admit flat out that I don't like Julien. Someone seems to have taught him to stop shouting AT THE END OF EVERY SENTENCE. But his weird enthusiasm for everything still suggests a high intake of drugs. His overly white teeth could redirect ships in the fog, and the rest of him looks like a beef jerky tribute to Judy Garland. So, imagine my pleasure upon seeing him again in the dance off this week. And imagine again my woe as I watched the dance off, where he suddenly pulled his head out and managed to get most of the steps right. It hurts me to admit he was better than Vanessa and therefore deserved to stay.

Mark and Iveta -- 26
Mark sells so well. Dance-wise, there wasn't a tremendous amount of content here, but as all the judges pointed out, Mark was brilliant at selling the moves he had. He told the little story of the dance and wee Iveta looked very pretty swirling all around him. It was the sort of thing to make you sit back and say: "Ah, that was so nice." But I feel Mark has yet to peak and that somewhere in his back pocket is a performance that will serve as one of the signature moments of the series.

Rachel and Pasha -- 27
Jenn summed up Rachel's performance with the observation that her movement suggests a thought process that is something like this: "I go here, two, three, four. And wave my hands and three and four and turn this way, two, three, four..."
The "Countdown" hostess doesn't seem to be responding to the music as much as she is a series of commands. Her cha cha cha was similar to James and Ola's tribute to bad wedding dancing at the start of the show (the two of them doing the robot, Gangnam Style and the funky chicken in the show's opening sequence). However, I've softened to her quite a bit on the knowledge that she loves Strictly enough to have had a Strictly-themed birthday party. I'm beginning to question my earlier prediction of her hitting her stride in Week 6, but I'm hopeful it will still happen.

Patrick and Anya.
Patrick and Anya -- 27
Everyone knows that the best version of "Let There Be Love" is by Sammy Davis Jr. I just want that to be known. Though the part of this performance I enjoyed the most was when Patrick squished up his face like Bill Cosby. Personally, I think dancing like The Cos should be a dance in and of itself. Scrap the rumba -- no one's particularly good at that one, anyway -- and introduce the Cosby Shuffle.
I'm going off on a tangent here because I don't actually have anything to say about Patrick and Anya's foxtrot. It was OK.

Deborah and Robin -- 28
I'm a fan of the quickstep, though I wasn't a great fan of this particular interpretation of it. Credit to Robin for being full of energy and cleverly placing the trickiest bits of the dance far away from the judges (they went off into a far corner to do a bit where they switched from foot to foot). It was good enough, though I still feel like there's something missing from the overall Deborah and Robin package.

Ben and Kristina -- 28
Kristina in that dress, y'all. Oh, my. Well, it wasn't actually a dress but rather an M&S bra and panty set that had been attacked by a BeDazzler and some bits of chiffon. But still. Oh, my. Jenn's observation was: "Can you imagine making love to her? It would be a terrifying experience. She'd be all over the place."
The very start of their dance was definitely post-watershed, with Kristina in heat as she stares into the mirror. Then Ben pulls off her robe. Oh, my. And she is quite the flexible young lass, isn't she? No doubt Jenn is right...
Beyond all that, Ben managed to perform the notoriously challenging-for-men rumba relatively well. As shown after the dance, he's starting to relax and be more playful, which is the sort of thing that will help him in terms of both dancing and winning audience vote. Also, did you notice how easily he picked up Kristina at the end of the dance? I can't wait for the two of them to get a dance that allows lifts.

Fiona and Anton -- 28
This was really Fiona's week in my opinion. First we got to see her dancing around with her daughter in an unflattering bathrobe and sans makeup, which is the sort of thing that can endear you to a person who is famous for being pretty. Then her waltz was not only solid but showed she is improving each week. Later, she showed more of her personality by standing behind an open-shirted Ashley Taylor Dawson and growling as he was talking to Tess. All of this is the sort of stuff that makes me like her more. Already one can see the field splitting into two types of celebrities: Those Who Might Win and Those Who Are Still There. With the latter group you hope very much that they will at least be entertaining/interesting/likable during their remaining time on the show. Whereas previously I had predicted I would hate Fiona, I find myself now happy to see her back each week.

Abbey and Aljaz -- 28
I am less and less interested in seeing Sexy Abbey®. I'm really starting to doubt that she will last too terribly long in the show. She was only passable last week and this week there were some real weak spots. Any time you spend several seconds of a dance sitting down it's a bad sign. I think Abbey's talking about her love of Liverpool was a blatant ploy to shore up a large and faithful voting bloc. Voting for Liverpudlians on reality shows is the No. 1 family activity in Liverpool.
Meanwhile, I forgot to put a Slovenian Fact in last week's recap, so here are two of them:
- Slovenian Fact #3: Slovenia has only one island; it is more than 500 metres above sea level, in an alpine lake.
- Slovenian Fact #4: Slovenia declared its independence from Yugoslavia on 25 June 1991; it was attacked by the Yugoslav Army two days later.

Ola arrives on the love swing...
Ashley and Ola -- 31
After a fair amount of hooting and growling at Ashley's exposed chest, Jenn's observation of his samba was this: "He does look like a pervy salsa instructor at La Tasca on a Tuesday night."

Sophie and Brendan -- 31
Did you hear that pop for Sophie and Brendan? "Pop" is a wrestling term, it refers to the sudden "pop" of applause and cheering when a wrestler comes out to the ring or in some other way draws a big response. Sophie and Brendan got a big pop just before their dance, which was surprising to me. She may be more popular than I had thought. Or that's residual love from her Charleston the week previous. The dance this week was good-ish but Sophie seemed to fade in and out of the character of the dance. Brendan, meanwhile, is just too creepy. He makes me want to punch things -- namely, his face.

Susanna and Kevin -- 34
Did anyone else ever own Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album? Remember that bit where they play the sound of John Denver being strangled? That is all I could think about while Susanna and Kevin were dancing to "Annie's Song." The nature of the Vienna waltz is such that their dance wasn't really enough to pull me from those thoughts. But apparently they did well because the judges scored them as such.
On a side note: If Susanna and Kevin fail to dance to "Mrs. Robinson," replete with The Graduate undertones, they are missing a trick.

Natalie and Artem -- 36
You thought a 10 was coming, didn't you? None of the judges had even the slightest bit of criticism, they kept their comments short and sweet, and you thought: "This is it. Somebody's 'bout to drop a 10 all up in this hizzouse." But no.
That rumba was the bomb-diggity, yo. Especially for a Week 3 performance. The only other good rumba I can think of, ever, was the one performed by Artem and Kara Tointon a few years ago. Apparently the scandal is that Natalie took dance classes when she was a little girl. I don't care; I played rugby for a number of years but that doesn't mean I could start for Saracens. I liked this dance. And I think if it had been performed a little later in the season it would have scored a 10 from at least one of the judges.

ELSEWHERE:
--- Does Andrea Bocelli come on Strictly every year?
--- James Blunt has a new album out; expect him to be on Strictly at some point singing that "Bonfire Heart" song. Expect it to be stuck in your head for a week afterward.
--- Jenn and I loved how happy Karen was for her fiancé, Kevin, when he and Susanna scored well. Just over his shoulder you could see Karen smiling and clapping.

WHO WILL BE IN NEXT WEEK'S DANCE OFF:
I've got to think Julien and Janette will find themselves in The Dreaded Dance Off again next week, though based on the audience's apparent love for Dave Myers I don't think he and Karen will be there with them -- even though they should be. I think Patrick and Anya are still struggling to show any sort of personality, so if they have a bad week, expect them to do battle against J and J.

WHO WILL BE IN THE FINAL FOUR:
As things stand, I'm predicting a final four consisting of Natalie and Artem, Ashley and Ola, Sophie and Brendan (ugh, like he needs the ego boost), and Ben and Kristina. That last choice is, admittedly, unlikely but I'd like him to be there. More likely is Abbey and Aljaz.

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(a) It turns out Len is reusing his best lines. He said the same thing to Bill Nye on the US version of Strictly, about a month ago.

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