Posted on November 9, 2020
You know what I didn’t need during a week where I’ve barely slept, my body now programmed to wake up at 3am, lunge for my phone and frantically check the Pennsylvania count? The absolute, unadulterated nightmare fuel that was Strictly Movie Week. Truly there is no punishment great enough for whoever dreamed up that Simpsons horror, but if it involves sharing a tight cell with Trump, that might feel like justice. Anyway. Sorry to kill the mood. PRESIDENT BIDEN, EH?!
Frustratingly, the “You gotta get a gimmick!” theme felt unfair on everyone: on the dancers who were scored on elements outside of their control; on the pros trying to craft authentic paso doble onto fricking Star Wars; on the judges faced with the ballroom equivalent of a truly insane grocery delivery substitute. Ordered apples, got nail clippers? Er, 6?!
That led to a topsy-turvy leaderboard, with some penalised for their theme madness, others waaaaaaay overscored for it. Who cares about Charleston anyway – or has the faintest idea what Couple’s Choice is meant to be? Thank god it didn’t result in a tragic early elimination of someone promising. Yet that was very much despite the producers’ choices, not because of them.
Red gown with Angelina Jolie leg. Which I actually rather liked…? What is happening this year! Claud: a glamorous oil slick.
Nicola was unlucky in her show placement here, getting a tough but fair response from the judges – while later couples did less, badly, and were overrewarded through sheer theme fatigue. Anyhow. Jive-wise, good energy and timing, fab armography section and better presentation, but needed sharper retraction and pointed feet on the kicks, and basic steps were huge, which threw her off. Also a lot of challenging, side-by-side choreo again – not sure if this is Katya figuring out the same-sex dance element, but it’s a risky strategy, as tends to show up Nicola by comparison. Better to develop more partnering skills, which is a good area for them.
Song: “Greased Lightnin’”, John Travolta from Grease (COPYCAT KLAXON: Harry Judd and Aliona)
Judges’ comments: Shirley praised the light kicks and flicks, and the execution. Motsi thought Nicola got nervous partway, but otherwise she’s opening up. Craig noted the free arm lacking energy, but embodied the character.
Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 6 – 19
So, Maisie is now at the precarious juncture of all ringers: to keep wowing with her established skillset, or gamble on learning nitty-gritty ballroom technique? The latter might mean her performance level drops in the meantime, ditto perhaps scores and votes, but long term, I do think the audience appreciates it when the celeb goes out of their comfort zone – and the judges will reward proper footwork, frame, lines and so on. This American smooth was just OK: more focus on hanky-wafting, while the foxtrot was about as lumpy as her terrible thatched roof of a My First Disney Princess wig. Also: final lift completely eclipsed by the alarming CGI vomit spewing out of her stomach to form unimpressive ice castles.
Song: “Into the Unknown”, Idina Menzel from Frozen II
Judges’ comments: Motsi noted she was more powerful in the freestyle, but thought it worked well. Craig said she never closed her feet, but arms incredible. Shirley agreed the upper body was stronger – she needs to roll her feet.
Judges’ scores: 8, 7, 9 – 24
I am very much predisposed to adore anything that goes full-luvvie, stage-worshipping, Sondheim-is-my-God crazy (and I did tear up at the sight of an empty theatre), but even I have to admit that Caroline was, er, a bit much here. The trouble is that her fervour was only in the VT, not in the Couple’s Choice routine – despite Johannes providing straightforward but showy hats ’n’ canes content that was just crying out for her to go full “Ready or not, here comes Mama!”. Instead, it was poised, pretty and polite, as we’ve seen before: everything beautifully placed, impeccable timing, but too safe – especially for Mama Rose, who would give a kidney for the spotlight.
Song: “Everything’s Coming Up by Roses”, Ethel Merman from Gypsy
Judges’ comments: Craig said she set up the character really well, but the dancing was too balletic and didn’t cover the floor enough. Shirley saw improvement. Motsi agreed there was more power in her voice than in the dancing, and it lacked contrast.
Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 8 – 21
Luba’s complete and utter disdain for all things Star Wars? A delight. Also: entirely correct as far as this dance goes, because it killed the paso stone dead. John Williams’ sweeping score just didn’t suit at all; a pro pair would have struggled to find the right rhythm and style, let alone a newbie celeb. Luba did get some content in here (after – sigh – the lightsaber wafting), but Jason’s total lack of shaping, dynamics, footwork and intention made a nonsense of it. The schlubby boots didn’t help either. Best/worst moment: the hilarious knee slide that went absolutely nowhere.
Song: “Star Wars Theme”, John Williams from Star Wars
Judges’ comments: Shirley said it was flat-footed, lacked shaping and didn’t capture the understated (ha) but strong character of the dance. Motsi praised his motivation. Craig said it was dancing by numbers with no Spanish line.
Judges’ scores: 3, 4, 5 – 12
This was very much the “Anyone succeeding Trump would have inspired street parties!” moment of Movie Week. Was JJ’s foxtrot a life-changing experience? Not exactly. However, with Amy sidelining the theme as much as humanly possible, it was a blessed relief. I repeat my earlier discomfort about patronising JJ by giving him cutesy songs – he’s a strong, determined guy, not a rescue puppy. Yet his lightness and care were charming here, and he covered the floor well thanks to much-improved footwork. Fixes still needed, like the awkward head position, wandering frame (left shoulder creeps forward), and murky direction of travel.
Song: “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”, B.J. Thomas from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Judges’ comments: Motsi praised his gentleness and use of the floor. Craig noted timing issues, but understated and gorgeous. Shirley liked his good lowering and heel leads, and use of the standing foot.
Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8 – 24
…and back to the horror show. The tone really set by Janette taking posture tips from a cartoon gnome. Sadly, this does feel like a repeat of Aston: a cha cha made super-icky by mixing flirtatious hip action and toddler theming, and a ringer probably squandered by this pairing. Sigh. Would have loved to see HRVY doing cha cha without a nativity stick-on beard, and with proper technique drilled into him. Instead, we got a content-light number featuring good spins and partnering, but messy footwork (again, the giant boots didn’t help), and thrusting that looked frankly sinister in context.
Song: “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”, Elton John and Kiki Dee from Gnomeo and Juliet (COPYCAT KLAXON: Lynda Bellingham and Darren, Kellie Bright and Kevin)
Judges’ comments: Craig wanted to see more basics, and feet should be turned out on New Yorks, but fun story. Shirley liked the concept, but not enough cha cha content. Motsi said he needs to coordinate throughout the body.
Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 8 – 21
Ranvir, you absolute goddess! Yes, it helped that their theme matched the dance, instead of actively sabotaging it, and could basically be boiled down to “wig (1)”. But this foxtrot showed how hard they’ve worked on the fundamentals. All the wow factor came from their partner dancing, not the props or CGI, not freestyling or solo tricks. Gorgeous wide frame and head position, glued together the whole time, lovely musicality, and Ranvir used her back and supportive core beautifully to get that extra extension. Can now work on driving even more, building on this great foundation.
Song: “Love You I Do”, Jennifer Hudson from Dreamgirls
Judges’ comments: Shirley said she just loves quality: beautiful frame and connection. Motsi thought they complemented each other so well. “You become the dance!” Craig: “Fab-u-lous.”
Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9 – 27 (Best ever reaction to a 9? It’s definitely up there.)
From the sublime to the ridiculous. I know the show cares about quality Charleston about as much as our PM does starving children, but this was truly egregious judging. If the audience enjoys a number in an it’s-so-bad-it’s-entertaining way, then we can vote accordingly. The judges should be scoring the DANCING. As an eager biscuit boy having a stab at Hercules, losing his wig and nearly killing his partner in the process… you know, fine. As a Charleston, in a dance competition: timing issues, needed more swivel and to finish moves, kicks flat-footed (ugh BOOTS AGAIN) – and yet 8s? 8s???
Song: “Zero To Hero”, Tawatha Agee, Lillias White, LaChanze, Roz Ryan, Cheryl Freeman and Vanéese Y. Thomas from Hercules
Judges’ comments: Motsi found it funny. Craig said he needed to hit the lines, too tight and mini. Shirley saw improvement.
Judges’ scores: 7, 8, 8 – 23
So now we move on to an actual tango (though should have been a cha cha with this song), which winds up with three points fewer than Jamie flexing his “bicep”. Hmmmmm. I think – I hope – the judges are being tough on Clara because she has great potential, but at this rate, they’re dooming her to early elimination. Wasn’t wild about the freestyle/ballroom mix, especially as it was so evident that Clara felt more comfortable in the former. Sharp, sexy tango moments, but needed stronger footwork to power and control the dance, frame lacked shaping, and gapping.
Song: “Lady Marmalade”, Pink, Mya, Lil’ Kim and Christina Aguilera from Moulin Rouge (COPYCAT KLAXON: Christopher Parker and Hanna, Anastacia and Brendan)
Judges’ comments: Craig wanted more work on the frame, but liked the hybrid. Shirley didn’t – she wanted more finesse. Motsi said Clara needs to control and direct her energy.
Judges’ scores: 7, 6, 7 – 20
Is this the worst thing we’ve ever seen on the show? It’s definitely top three. Now, you all know I’d love to dropkick Couple’s Choice into a black hole, and possibly jump in after it just to erase the memories, but even by the standards of that lazily ill-defined, judge-baffling, emotion-mauling, competition-scuppering idiocy of a “genre”, this was… what was this?? Street commercial, HOW? It was more like the torture therapy from A Clockwork Orange – traumatising images seared into our brains alongside the bleating Simpsons theme. Jaundice-yellow Max flopping onto the floor like a dead fish, gyrating in an inflatable doughnut, or sucking Dianne’s foot while pawing her upside-down leg. TEAR OUT MY EYES, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.
Song: “The Simpsons Theme”, Danny Elfman from The Simpsons Movie
Judges’ comments: Shirley praised his timing and said he brought it to life. Motsi noted it was a difficult, fast routine. Craig called it “street Charleston”, just to further underline the ABSURDITY of this Couple’s Choice situation.
Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8 – 24
After which, a Spaghetti Western-themed paso doble seemed… almost sensible? Thankfully, Oti always gets a proper dance in there, and Bill continues to astonish – this time, despite the impediment of YET MORE BOOTS. Some excellent shaping, great flamenco, lovely mix of steps, impeccable timing, and the balance of subtle and powerful that others need to find. Didn’t need the guitar solo, and I was slightly perturbed by Bill’s mad staring eyes – at one point, it looked like he was trying to set fire to Craig’s desk with his mind – plus needs more finesse in some of the posture and lines, but another cracking number.
Song: “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” Ennio Morricone from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Judges’ comments: Motsi praised his arms, characterisation and focus. Craig: “If you keep going like this, I think we’ll be seeing you in the final.” Shirley loved the connection, drama and sensuality.
Judges’ scores: 8, 9, 9 – 26
Ranvir and Giovanni – 27
Bill and Oti – 26
Maisie and Gorka – 24
JJ and Amy – 24
Max and Dianne – 24
Jamie and Karen – 23
HRVY and Janette – 21
Caroline and Johannes – 21
Clara and Aljaž – 20
Nicola and Katya – 19
Jason and Luba – 12
All change this week, with Ranvir nabbing top spot, Jamie, JJ and Bill rising, Caroline, HRVY and Nicola falling.
The oil slick has migrated to Tess. Also: is it in her contract that she can only show one leg at a time? Claud in smart blouse and trousers.
As per the leaderboard, Jason and Luba versus Nicola and Katya, with Jason departing in an unanimous judges’ decision.
What did you think of Movie Week? Are you a fan of Couple’s Choice? And who’s looking good to make the final? Get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain
See you next week for relative sanity. In the meantime… keep dancing!
Photographs: Guy Levy courtesy of the BBC.