Posted on October 12, 2015
Ah, Strictly theme weeks. Regular readers will know I look forward to these about as much as emergency root canal surgery with a rusty saw. We reached a nadir last year with the addition of Donnie (Baby!) Osmond during Movie Week. On the upside: no Donnie. On the downside: everything else. I’ve never longed so much for a mass elimination to put everyone – pros, celebs, judges, viewers – out of their misery. Let’s begin with whichever producer is convinced that the addition of dog tails, lightsabers and woeful puns equals three billion extra viewers. How about keeping the ones you’ve got?
And now for the latest addition in my To Catch A Ringer series. Can do perfectly spotted lightning-fast spins after four days’ training: ringer. Can almost imitate a penguin: non-ringer. So what? We’ve had a combination of the two from the beginning, and several ringer victors. And God knows we don’t want an entire cast of Widdecombes. But why not be upfront about everyone’s experience, rather than waiting for screaming tabloid splashes? If Helen’s ballet gets multiple mentions, so should Jay’s training (which seems to be mainly contemporary). Let’s make this the week we ditch his dark horse fiction and trust viewers to decide whether it matters.
Is there a gendered dimension to these selective narratives, amidst this year’s push for a male winner? Originally, the judges balanced out relative experience levels by giving the guys a chance – hence Len’s soft spot for sportsmen. That led to people like Darren Gough coming through in the later stages, completing a satisfying J word and encouraging blokes to take up dancing. Fantastic. But the bias now only seems to benefit the pop stars – Andre got a free pass this week, while our second sportsman went out. Solution? Show some actual training footage so we can see where people begin the week, how they progress, and – again – decide for ourselves whether that factors into our votes. If there’s one thing us Brits love more than moaning, it’s fair play.
Other hits and misses:
Best in Show
Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?
Tess thriftily repurposed a chunk of the red carpet, Claudia a slab of the glitterball. It’s Plastic Bag Chaos Week. We all have to economise.
Carol and Pasha – Wet weekend
I’ve never been so excited by the presence of a weather map green screen. Such is the genius of Carol and Pasha’s combined acting skills. “Click the button! CLICK THE BUTTON!” Less magical: the quickstep of a hungover sloth. Nothing to excite other than a brief glimmer of towel-ography (following last week’s umbrella-ography. Next week: Pasha trundles Carol round the floor in a wheelbarrow while she yells the forecast at bemused audience members.) Both square and wobbly in hold, zero heel leads, and the faster sections looked like she’d got her dress stuck in a train door and was trotting balefully alongside it. Also: a bathing theme, and Pasha is fully dressed? For shame.
Song: “Wash That Man” from South Pacific
Judges’ comments: Len noted an increase in content. Bruno pointed out problems in footwork and frame, and mistakes. Craig: “Limp, lame and very lacklustre.” Darcey suggested she remain glued to Pasha. She won’t have to be told twice.
Judges’ scores: 3, 5, 5, 4 – 17
Anthony and Oti – Knocked out
Anthony is a boxer. Still. And really that’s all we learned from the combined VT and paso. Admirable effort from Anthony, and another decent routine from Oti (which bodes well for future series), but the injury makes it a non-starter. In hold, there’s an awkwardness and lack of connection; out of hold, the dead arm just hangs there like a rejected glove puppet. Too much aggression in the face rather than forming strong shapes, major posture issues, and hit the beat by accident rather than design. A likeable couple who might have grown over the weeks, but coming into the competition already maimed was too problematic. We prefer our celebs injured BY dance, dramatically and preferably in a week when X Factor has Kylie on.
Song: “Eye Of The Tiger” from Rocky (COPYCAT KLAXON: Dennis Taylor and Izabella, Lisa Snowdon and Brendan)
Judges’ comments: Bruno wanted more artistry and musicality, less martial arts. Craig thought his hands were spatulistic and it lacked purpose. Darcey praised the attack and athleticism. Len agreed.
Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 5, 4 – 19
Katie and Anton – Pretty dull
Less believable: Anton is a high-powered executive, or Pretty Woman has nothing whatsoever to do with prostitution? Leave your votes in the comments section. Those who feared a talented female celeb would be wasted on Anton got plenty of ammunition from his stilted, dismissive, poorly choreographed cha cha, betraying both a lack of Latin experience and unfamiliarity with actual expectations. Yes, Katie looked stunning enough to walk straight into a vaguely risqué M&S commercial, but there was nothing else to recommend this number, which featured three New Yorks, fudged footwork and an alarming amount of stationary wiggling. We’re not angry, Anton, just disappointed.
Song: “Pretty Woman” from Pretty Woman (COPYCAT KLAXON: Alex Jones and James)
Judges’ comments: Craig said it was like bad internet connection: too much stopping and starting. No hip action and lacked content. Len criticised the standing around. Bruno called it “Strictly Come Posing”, and warned them not to squander her potential.
Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 5, 5 – 20
Kellie and Kevin – Feel the force
Is there such a thing as dance fanfiction? If so, Kevin embodied it, playing (ahem) with his lightsaber incessantly and enjoying their godawful laboured Star Wars VT just a bit too much. Somewhere under all the panting 10-year-old boy wish fulfilment was a Charleston. And also Kellie. Impressive crisp sync throughout the lengthy side by side work, but it got a tad repetitive. Would have been more effective if they’d prised the lightsaber out of Kevin’s hand much earlier and/or found a greater variety – and no, the moonwalk doesn’t count. Big, cheesy performance (which worked for this style), nice swivel action and neat footwork, but I’d love to see Kellie freed from the gimmickry – she’s too good for it.
Song: “Cantina Band” from Star Wars
Judges’ comments: Darcey praised the synchronisation. Len: “You put the ‘moves’ in ‘movies’.” Bruno loved the content and punctuation. Craig thought it was tight, precise and fantastic cane work.
Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32
Ainsley and Natalie – In a flap
All the points to Natalie for so firmly committing to her barmy VT script. “Yes, we’re going to the ZOO, which will HELP WITH OUR DANCING.” Did they make adorable groovy disco penguins? Yes. Did they also dance a convincing cha cha? No. A parade of errors from the usually self-possessed Ainsley, who also abandoned any semblance of technique – although that is probably how a disorientated penguin would dance Latin if under duress, so perhaps he went method? Charming entertainment value and a promising semi-tap break, but one in a long line of regrettable cha chas this weekend.
Song: “Boogie Wonderland” from Happy Feet
Judges’ comments: Len noted the errors. Bruno wanted more hip action and he needs to remember the routine. Craig called it a disaaaahster, but liked the disco. Darcey praised the percussive middle section, but too many mistakes.
Judges’ scores: 3, 6, 6, 5 – 20
Georgia and Giovanni – Strictly Come Posing Pt. 2
Kevin is Luke Skywalker, Giovanni is James Bond: Male Pro Fantasies R Us. Another Latin number relying on the female celeb looking gorgeous while keeping her feet firmly planted and gently undulating, like a tent caught in a stiff breeze. Epic smouldering, lovely back bend (though we didn’t really need two of them), impressive spins, and a nice team-building exercise trust fall – next week, the pair are guiding one another while blindfolded and constructing a tower out of paper. But too choppy for a rumba, hip action artificial, and I’m with (mercurially) grumpy Len on the lack of content. Again, she can handle much more.
Song: “Writing’s On The Wall” from Spectre
Judges’ comments: Bruno liked the vamp element, but lacked flow. Craig praised her clean spins and drama, but needed more hip action. Darcey loved the intensity, though wanted a languid quality. Len criticised the posturing and larking about.
Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 6, 7 – 27
Helen and Aljaž – Gentlemen prefer blondes
I’m guessing that of all the sets Aljaž dreamed of visiting, Call the Midwife didn’t even break the top 50. A better match: Helen going full manic Marilyn method, almost reaching Smash levels of over-identification. Glorious. Though really the VT should have been Helen adjusting her wig and scanning for Kennedys while Kristina loaded a dart gun and daubed “Single White Female” on the training room wall. Fantastic movement round the floor, decent footwork and frame (though could soften knees a bit more), and I’ll charitably allow her occasional drunken lolling moment to pass as “a character choice”. Bonus: Aljaž in uniform. Hello, sailor.
Song: “I Wanna Be Loved By You” from Some Like It Hot (COPYCAT KLAXON: John Sergeant and Kristina)
Judges’ comments: Craig thought it was absolutely gorgeous. Darcey told her to keep playing characters. Len praised her footwork and elegance. Bruno loved the classic Hollywood glamour.
Judges’ scores: 8, 8, 8, 8 – 32
Daniel and Kristina – Summer nightmares
I’m not going to lie – this whole Daniel as Danny Zuko situation is still freaking me out. There’s not enough therapy in the world. It began with the styling: Liberace waxwork meets Father Ted’s Three Ages of Elvis, with the bouffant clearly demonstrating the higher the hair, the closer to God. Kristina cast as ‘good’ Sandy I shall present without comment. And then we come to the…cha cha? Well, that’s what’s written here. Some decent content and timing, but stripped of technique and character (clompy heel leads, bent legs, odd skipping action). Threatening Jeremy’s dad dancing crown, but with alarming pelvic thrusts rather than goofy warmth. Points for senior moment in forgetting where he’d put his comb; points detracted for grocer’s apostrophe in “T Bird’s”.
Song: “Summer Nights” from Grease
Judges’ comments: Darcey thought it was too soft. Len mumbled something about Last of the Summer Wine. Bruno said he makes every dance look the same, and mistakes. Craig wanted more hip action, but he did remember the routine.
Judges’ scores: 4, 6, 6, 5 – 21
Kirsty and Brendan – Dog tired
Still firmly pushing the “Kirsty is very nice honestly please vote for her” agenda. This week: welling up over homeless puppies. Now, it’s entirely possible this pair are capable of producing a decent American smooth. Perhaps they even did. But who could honestly tell when faced with distractions like toddler face-painting, frizzy bunches to resemble dog ears and ACTUAL TAILS – one distractingly perky, the other a wardrobe malfunction extravaganza. From what I could fathom, less nervy though still not exactly comfortable, major lack of heel leads (skipping outside Brendan rather than driving through him) and a couple of errors, including the tail-sabotaged second lift. Another routine survived rather than performed.
Song: “He’s A Tramp” from Lady and the Tramp
Judges’ comments: Len thought it was more confident, but needs fluidity in arms. Craig wanted more grace, balance issues on transitions and lacked expression. Darcey praised her glamour, but lacked extension.
Judges’ scores: 5, 6, 6, 6 – 23
Peter and Janette – Shiver me timbers
We’ve had camper numbers, but Peter the paso pirate (picked a peck of pickled peppers) certainly laid claim to the top 10. However, his hyperactive intensity is becoming samey – both within and across the dances. Once again, better drama than movement quality, though I was puzzled by the pirate saving the girl from walking the plank. Perhaps he’s having a career crisis. Lacked shaping, too narrow a base and appels more like a cross granny tapping her slippered feet, but then the whole thing was muffled by styling – billowing blouse, giant boots creating a distracting Seventies flare, Claud’s patented panda eyes, and a Russian doll wig cycle of Russell Brand inside Johnny Depp inside It from the Addams Family. Entertaining, but plateauing.
Song: “He’s A Pirate” from Pirates of the Caribbean
Judges’ comments: Bruno said he lost the artistry. Craig praised the aggression, but posture issues. Darcey loved the drama, but stompy. Len called him “nutcase” (as an adjective, I think? Honestly it’s hard to tell these days), which seemed to be a good thing.
Judges’ scores: 7, 7, 7, 7 – 28
Jamelia and Tristan – Far from heaven
Tristan has finally found a way to deal with his partner: give her “missions” like a child. “We’re playing a GAME where you tidy your room and eat your carrots!” Speaking of food, I’m still recovering from that colour scheme of ketchup, mustard and radioactive banana, nor does a micro dressing gown seem particularly salsa. Highlights: Jamelia crouching on the floor and bouncing randomly; Tristan turning her via a hunk of her hair. Still horribly messy, never finishes lines, fudged footwork, lacked hip action, and took an age to get in and out of tricks. Weirdly overmarked, because apparently Tristan’s personal hell has been deemed good telly.
Song: “Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel” from Charlie’s Angels (COPYCAT KLAXON: Ann Widdecombe and Anton)
Judges’ comments: Craig found it rough, no figure eight in hips, ugly getting out of floor spin, neck drop laboured and needs to keep legs together on lifts. But it’s her dance! (The finest backhanded compliment of all time.) Len liked the energy, but lacked polish. Bruno wanted to her to let go, not anticipate.
Judges’ scores: 6, 7, 6, 6 – 25
Jeremy and Karen – Hats off
Brother Tim Vine popped in and actually moved fairly well. Can we swap? Solid Family prop points. Now, this is how much Movie Week broke me: I saw Jeremy doing a typically oddball semi-Charleston and for a moment thought “Well, he’s not dressed as a pirate. This is rather nice classic ballroom.” Less Astaire, more the adorably klutzy chef in Ratatouille operated, puppet-style, by a rat – not quite natural, but close enough to pass for human movement. Occasional swivel, adorably eager kicks and approximation of a nice line now and again. Massive improvement, and in a bonkers night, this was…less bonkers. And rather sweet.
Song: “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails” from Top Hat (COPYCAT KLAXON: Alesha Dixon and Matthew, Rory Bremner and Erin)
Judges’ comments: Darcey thought he’d got his long limbs under control, though still “unusual”. Apparently Fred Astaire would love it. (Darcey continuing her random dead dancer name-dropping.) Len openly laughed. Bruno compared him with John Cleese doing Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks. Craig: “It’s bizarre, dahling.”
Judges’ scores: 3, 7, 7, 7 – 24
Anita and Gleb – Dearly departed
Hey, this looks familiar: a Ghost “comedy” pottery lesson, just like Pamela Stephenson and James Jordan’s. That deserves a whole new copycat klaxon. Though this time we got Gleb’s “Magic hands, baby.” Which…happened. This was American smooth as full-on, fabulously barmy dancegasm, complete with smoke monster and the scuttling sex floor drag AKA ‘Gleb special’. Viennese needed more drive and flow, odd head position in hold occasionally, and needs to stretch feet and control arms (as evidenced by her whacking Gleb in his pretty pretty face), but good movement and soap opera series finale levels of histrionic emotion.
Song: “Unchained Melody” from Ghost (COPYCAT KLAXON: Claire Sweeney and John, Pamela Stephenson and James, Patrick Robinson and Anya)
Judges’ comments: Len said Gleb “flew across the floor like a rampant crab”. Good balance of dancing and theatricality. Bruno loved the commitment, but needs to sustain her port de bras. Craig wants more finesse and extended lines, but loved the contemporary feel and floor drag. Darcey advised not hitting lines too quickly, but very good.
Judges’ scores: 6, 8, 8, 7 – 29
Jay and Aliona – Twist and shout
Well, now he needs the long hair. Could we not have saved that riveting haircut VT for another week? This was an impressively contained and compact jive, with sharp, crisp movement, excellent free arm placement and slick transitions. Aliona used the medley well to build from Pulp Fiction-referencing laidback twist to dynamic kicks, flicks and spins. Definitely helps to give Jay a deliberately non-expressive character to play (next week: tango to “Poker Face”), but he did show a glimmer of enjoyment towards the end. If his performance level can grow to match his technical ability, he’ll be a dead cert for the final. Bring on the “acting” coach…
Song: Medley of “Misirlou/You Never Can Tell” from Pulp Fiction
Judges’ comments: Bruno said he out-danced everyone. He out-danced Travolta! BEST DANCE EVER BY ANY CREATURE IN ANY GALAXY! (Bruno: never knowingly understated.) Craig praised his level of technique. “A-maze-ing.” Darcey was wowed by the sex appeal. Len said it was the best dance so far this season. SERIES, Len. We’ve rescued you from the Americans.
Judges’ scores: 9, 9, 9, 10 – 37
Jay and Aliona – 37
Kellie and Kevin – 32
Helen and Aljaž – 32
Anita and Gleb – 29
Peter and Janette – 28
Georgia and Giovanni – 27
Jamelia and Tristan – 25
Jeremy and Karen – 24
Kirsty and Brendan – 23
Daniel and Kristina – 21
Katie and Anton – 20
Ainsley and Natalie – 20
Anthony and Oti – 19
Carol and Pasha – 17
Jay claims top spot with that first 10, Kellie, Jamelia, Jeremy and Kirsty improve, while Peter and Katie drop down.
So, Joanne is trapped in the Strictly Pro Afterlife and she’s enticed Tristan, Kevin and Karen to visit her and it’s a Clifton love fest and the two Ks escape but Tristan is stuck there FOREVER. It’s chilling. Also very, very cutesy. Skipping with picnic rugs cutesy. My teeth still ache.
Tess’s dress: impressed or depressed?
LBD not quite committing to flamenco frills (so British flamenco, essentially). Claud favoured a sparkly sack.
Andrea Bocelli sang “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” while Aljaž and Janette wafted. No one was dressed as an animal, for which we can all be grateful.
Len’s lens highlights:
In the dance-off: Ainsley and Natalie, and Anthony and Oti. A slight improvement from both, with Ainsley coming closer to referencing actual cha cha, and he was unanimously saved. Probably good Anthony went before his arm came right off, and let’s hope Oti gets a good healthy partner next year. They exited to the strains of “So Long, Farewell” from Sound of Music, which has to be one of the weirdest departing couple/song match-ups of all time.
What did you think of Movie Week? Do you like the themes? Did Jay deserve his 10? And were the right couples in the bottom? Leave your thoughts below or get in touch on Twitter: @mkmswain
We’re back to (relative) normal next week, thank Christ. See you then, and in the meantime…keep dancing!