Flu is zero fun for anyone, let alone when you're 82, so get well soon, B-Fo. But if there is something positive that can come out of this, then maybe Brucie will realise that it's not the worst thing in the world to be watching Strictly in the comfort of his own home with a tartan rug over his knees and two boiled eggs on a tray (insert your own 'that's no way to talk about Bruce's beautiful lady wife' joke here) – as opposed to presenting it.
Anyway, on with the show, and I am genuinely surprised to see Ronnie Corbett introduced as Tess's co-host for the evening. Let's be honest, we were all hoping for Winkles, but perhaps the idea of two women presenting a mainstream, early-evening show all on their own is a bit cutting edge for BBC1. Listen to me! I've gone Germaine!
Still, there is something groundbreaking about this early part of the show, and that is that Tess has broken her own world speed record for patronising – just 30 seconds in and already she's saying to Corbett, 'Come on, my darling,' and booming at him as though he's hard of hearing. However, one thing remains constant. She's no better at pretending to laugh at Ronnie's jokes than she is at Brucie's.
The contestants are introduced. Hair And Make-Up have managed to make Natalie look like Princess Margaret. Brian, meanwhile, has gone Milk Tray Man. Hang on… where are Jade and Ian? WHERE ARE JADE AND IAN? Jade has well and truly hurt her leg. We cut to Claudia Winkleman (yay!) in the red green room with Jade who is wearing her tango dress, her make-up, and the expression of someone who's suffered a very serious injury, but also been stood up on prom night. It is genuinely upsetting, and at the same time I start feeling a little bit sick as I remember that in the last couple of days I have had a discussion with one of my friends about the risk Jade is taking in doing Strictly. Most sportspeople who participate have already retired, or are certainly in the twilight of their competitive careers, but Jade is not, and therefore the notion of injury is much more dark and threatening, and NOW I HAVE MADE IT HAPPEN WITH THE POWER OF MY MIND. You know that Jade is not crying for the fading prospect of dancing the American Smooth in a couple of weeks, but for whether she'll actually be able to do the thing she has worked most of her adult life towards. Claudia is so incredibly nice to her, and so utterly sincere (again, rare on this kind of programme), that this alone makes you fill up. My shame and remorse have reduced me to echoing Brucie – you're my favourite, Jade. Also, sorry about making you get injured and that.
Anyway, it's on with the show. We are beginning with Phil and Katya. I am perhaps the only person in the country who is immune to the charms of Phil Tufnell and, as a result, find myself underwhelmed by their American Smooth, a dance which should normally be charm chimichanga. Katya wears a one-armed dress. The one arm is silver. If you were a cruel person, you might suggest that the other sleeve has been donated to make a full-length, spangly sheath-dress for Ronnie Corbett's other job as one third of the world's most bizarre Supremes tribute act. Corbett, by the way, has now retired to the audience, leaving Tess (b00) and Claudia (hurray) to Carry On Presenting. During the judging, Craig says P&K's dance is smooth but not bursting with character, which is what I thought, which is why Craig is the best judge. Bruno's face is really, really sweaty. At one point during tonight's show (I am writing this retrospectively), Alesha says to him, 'What are you on?' and seriously, Bruno, what? People are really starting to want answers on that one.
Red green room. During the chit-chat, Claudia says the phrase, 'I wouldn't allude to it,' which is the kind of elegant vocabulary that Tess is literally unable to dream of.
Ricky and Natalie are next, doing what is billed as 'one of the fastest jives we've ever seen on Strictly'. This is basically a gimmick, as they have clearly sacrificed truly great dancing for the sake of speed. Another gimmick is Natalie perching on the judges' desk at the start, which is the kind of attention-seeking nonsense you get on Dancing With The Stars. Afterwards, Len offers Ricky a bafflingly lengthy pep talk about how it's tough at the top, and Alesha offers the English language a new word, which is 'fun-ness'. Back with Claudia, Ricky gives a sweet tribute to Jade, and then is so excited by his scores that he puts his face right in Natalie's cleavage. Afterwards I notice that one of Natalie's boob pads is now showing, which makes me wonder if Ricky had started to pull it out with his teeth while he was down there, but then I rewind the faithful Sky+ and realise that style and polish weren't the only casualties of their Extreme Jiving.
Ricky and Erin are next, and Ricky has lost some of his confidence after being in the dance-off last week. Erin bucks him up by showing him a video of his entirely unbiased nan, who begins by saying, 'I'm sitting here being photographed, I think,' which brings back fond memories of one of my university lecturers, the awesome and by that point rather elderly Inga-Stina Ewbank, who would test her microphone in lectures by asking us in a reedy voice, 'Am I being magnified?' Ricky is dancing in glasses which is way cool. It is almost as cool as athletes who wear glasses. Tonight, Ricky is basically Dayron Robles. Perhaps he will break the world record for Viennese Waltz.
He does not.
It's Chris and Ola time! Yessss! Chris Hollins has now become what I call a second-tier crush. You have your first-tier crushes, obviously. For me, that's your Gyllenhaals, your Krasinskis, your O'Learys (Dermot, not David), your Ezra from Vampire Weekends. Then there is the second tier, which I would define as people whom, if you were to work alongside them, you would eventually end up fancying, even if they did not at first meeting make you feel a bit funny in your knees. You would make up excuses to send them emails and feel a bit depressed and empty inside when they were away on holiday, while at the same time saying to colleagues, 'Fancy him? God! No! God.' Chris is just so incredibly sweet, he may be my new favourite. Sorry, Jade, I really am that fickle. Get better soon!
In their training video, Chris and Ola are modelling yet more garments emblazoned with Ola's catchphrase, 'Yeah baby!' I think it would be nice if Ola could get herself a more up-to-date catchphrase – maybe something like 'Can I phone a friend?' or 'Yeah but no but…'
Chris is commendably fierce during his paso, and only wavers at the end, when he has to fling Ola to the floor. As he walks away, he twitches as though, with every fibre, he is fighting the urge to go back and say, 'Gosh, I'm so terribly sorry, are you alright? Let me help you up.' The judges carp a bit, and Chris, in what must be the most laughably innocuous threat ever uttered, says, 'I'm going to get you!'
Here come Laila and Anton! Anton is wearing mint green. Laila has sprained her ankle. They are dancing the rumba and there is much talk in the training VT of the need to express passion and desire, to exude sex and longing. This is instantly undermined when Laila emerges on the dancefloor wearing a heavy bandage that looks exactly like some kind of support stocking. They battle through an obviously painful (I mean literally painful) rumba. Eventually, Leila starts to cry and Anton heroically – yeah, you heard – scoops her up and spins her around in his arms until the music finishes. It is amazing and a gesture that will keep an awful lot of single, 53-year-old women warm at night for about the next five years.
Also, Christ, X Factor would kill for this kind of drama.
Maybe they should literally start killing their contestants.
Anyway, Laila and Anton are forced to go through the rigmarole of judging and Craig, with quite brilliant sang froid, scores them a 3. Let me say it again. Craig is the best judge.
Natalie and Vincent are next. In her hair, Natalie is wearing a bow that is made of actual hair, which makes me feel a bit sick. The dancing is cute, but it's all a bit low-key until the end, in which they are obviously both meant to blow a kiss, except Vincent does the Signature Simone Move where he licks two of his fingers and grooms his eyebrows with them. I have no more words to describe the genius of Vincent. In the red green room, Claudia echoes my words about the hair bow of hair. I am thrilled, yet unsurprised, that Claudia and I think entirely alike.
Ali and Brian perform a spectacularly anaemic cha-cha-cha.
Claudia reveals the final judges' scoreboard in brilliantly demented fashion, offering an air of spontaneity that does not simultaneously make you feel massively uncomfortable. Seriously, why is Claudia not on every Saturday? ANSWER ME, SOMEONE.
All the dancers are gathered in the red green room, discussing Laila's foot, which she thinks may be a little swollen. Claudia has a good look and then barks slightly too triumphantly, 'THAT IS SWOLLEN!' like a schoolboy celebrating the removal of one of the limbs/wings/antenna of one of God's tiny beautiful creatures.
Professional dance time! Brian and Kristina perform a romantic bolero to She's Like The Wind (*looks to the sky and remembers Patrick Swayze*). Maybe it's the studio lighting, but they would appear to be wearing brown. Brown, to me, is not the colour of romance. It is the colour of clearing out a warehouse. Also, Brian is wearing a white poloneck, AKA the world's least flattering man-garment. Urgh, I'm not really into these slow 'emotion' dances. For me, they always carry with them the excruciating whiff of GCSE drama.
Tess is chatting to Ronnie Corbett in the audience, who inexplicably goes into the Two Ronnies' weather forecast routine ('It will be dry in Rye... but if you live in Lissingdown, etc etc'). It is as if he is desperate to communicate that he hasn't always been nothing more than a stooge to Tess Daly. 'You know that funny little man that used to be on Sorry!? THAT WAS ME, YOU KNOW.'
There follows some on-location vox pops, where members of the public talk about who they want to win. They feature, among the usual barrow-boys and back-combed sixth-formers, a couple of characters who are so genuinely bizarre I feel as though they are being played by Fry and Laurie circa 1989. (I can't find the relevent YouTube clip, but please imagine Stephen Fry in make-up and a headscarf saying, 'Oh Christ, I've left the iron on.') They are the ones who also love Chris. I'm not sure what that says about me.
There is a professional dance to One Night Only from Dreamgirls, which is notable only for Lilia randomly recreating Usain Bolt's signature victory 'bolt' arm move. Then there is some awesome streetdancing to a song from Jersey Boys, and afterwards, Tess says, 'Streetdancing on Strictly? Bruce will be choking on his cocoa!' in a way that suggests she is slightly too excited about the genuine plausibility of this.
Another VT, this time interviewing the celebrities about how much they want to stay in. It's all fairly trite, until Ricky Groves starts crying, saying Strictly has been 'the most remarkable experience of his life'. If I was Hannah Waterman, I wouldn't be too thrilled to hear that.
Results. Safe are: Ricky and Natalie, Natalie and Vincent, Ali and Brian (who looks positively weak with relief, or perhaps the Restricting White Poloneck Of Evil temporarily deprived him of oxygen), Chris and Ola (when Ola turns to hug Chris, you can see that the back of her hair is totally Princess Anne. This is Royal Hair Week on Strictly) and, entirely predictably, Laila and Anton.
Phil and Katya mess up in the dance-off, which is their undoing as Ricky and Erin are saved. I honestly did not see that coming. But what I do see coming is the beginning of next week's show. If Brucie does not salute the work of Tess and Claudia tonight with the words, 'Didn't they do well?', I will eat my computer.