This week on Strictly Come Dancing, contestants are doing the Tango or Charleston. This, for me, provokes ludicrous levels of excitement considering it is only Week 4. Normally I would be watching these kind of capers by light of the Christmas decorations. When you consider this in combination with the show's ludicrously profligate use of props so far, you wonder if the Strictly-makers are anticipating some kind of total funding withdrawal in the near future, and are spend-spend-spending while they still can. We will further consolidate this theory during the show.
First out of the traps are Jimi and Flavia. Jimi, in case you've forgotten, is a FILM STAR, so in his VT we get to see him at a FILM PREMIERE because he is a FILM STAR who acts in ACTUAL FILMS (honestly you'd think they'd blown the whole budget just on booking him). We are very lucky to have him on the show, even though his dancing is a bit weird sometimes. I imagine it's purely because Jimi is a FILM STAR that he and Flavia are allowed to have two lots of props – booths AND canes. I love their Charleston – I love all Charlestons, just so you know, so this is no indication of quality whatsoever – even though Jimi starts bloody well breakdancing. Seriously, Jimi, I have already seen enough of your breakdancing to last me forever, and you haven't even done the sodding caterpillar yet.
Next up is Scott who plays a major vote-winning card very early on (seriously, do they even think the show is going to get to week 5? should we just have some showdances tonight and be done with it?) by using his son in his training VT. His son is like a child actor from a sitcom who specialises in going 'Ohhhh, Daddddddddd!' while clapping his hands over his eyes in pre-teen humiliation. In fact I would genuinely be surprised if he wasn't already in My Family. Natalie is a very attractive girl, but with her hair pulled back tightly, and the usual trowelling on of make-up, she seems to be channelling KimnotAggie, out of KimandAggie. From the neck down, however, it's more Big Bird, which I'm not convinced creates optimum brooding sensuality. That's a shame as their tango is steely and great. They get a standing ovation and Bruce says 'Look at these people!' Yes, Bruce, they're the audience. Do you remember? Why don't you sit down and have a nice biscuit. Craig tells Scott and Natalie that their routine has chutzpah which is one of those words that I'm always slightly nervous to say out loud in company, like 'chagrin'.
Next up are Tina and Jared. If Jared's trousers were any higher, they would be a poloneck. Tina has recovered from chicken pox. Having to sit out last week's show made her so annoyed she 'almost threw a cushion at the TV'. Oof. Steady on, Tina, you mentalist! When Chris and Ola did the Charleston last year to Fat Sam's Grand Slam from Bugsy Malone, I thought, 'The only thing that could make this better would be if they were dancing to the Bugsy Malone Bad Guys song.' Guess what Tina and Jared are dancing to? It doesn't make it better, though. It is quite a lot worse. Even with my now-legendary Zero Dance ExpertiseTM I can see that Tina is out of time. I love Jared and I don't mind Tina, but together they leave me cold. They're like... oh, I can't think of a celebrity/famous fictional couple who are like this. Help me, can't you?
It's Felicity and Vincent time! In rehearsals we see that Felicity can't tell her left from her right because she is a sexy ditz who would probably forget that she has pencils in her hair. I bet she can't park a car either. Vincent puts an apple down one of her legwarmers and a banana down the other so he can yell 'apple' or 'banana' to tell her which leg she should be leading with. At this point, late-middle-aged male relatives in living rooms everywhere remark that they always thought Felicity was 'a bit fruity'. Vincent laments that she cannot use the fruit aids on the night. Ann and Anton probably would – they love a gimmick (FORESHADOWING ALERT). The routine starts with Felicity sitting alone with a cocktail at the Judges' Desk Wine Bar. This is a throwback to her single-girl post-Good Life sitcom Solo (probably – I can't really remember much about it, apart from the memory of it says 'wine bar' to me, in the same way as Just Good Friends. I love Just Good Friends). Their tango is pretty good, but Bruce seems scandalised that Felicity actually kisses Vincent at the end. Erm, Bruce? Maybe don't go into Kara and Artem's dressing rooms without knocking first.
Patsy has come as Catherine Zeta Jones in Chicago. It's true that her expression does look a bit like she's murdered someone by the end of the routine – emotionally and physically spent while trying desperately to pretend that everything is BRILLIANT. I don't blame her. I'd be so exhausted after about 20 seconds of Charlestoning, I'd have to lie on the floor and start crying while my professional partner (preferably Vincent, but I'd take Jared if they begged me) shouted at me to get up. After high praise from Len, Patsy kisses him. Bruce calls the police. When Tess suggests an audition for Chicago might be in the offing, Patsy claims to be tone deaf. Patsy! How can you undermine the musical legacy of Eighth Wonder?
Gavin Henson is hilarious. I would like him to have his own series of comic Marion & Geoff-style monologues filmed at the wheel of his doubtless ludicrous sports car, where he frequently checks his foundation and plucks his eyebrows in the rear-view mirror. In this new show, his blind optimism is constantly being popped like a balloon, leading to doleful reflection that encompasses not just the dancing, but also Marion/Charlotte's relationship with her new boyfriend, and his little smashers, Dexter and Ruby Church-Henson. This week he actually says that his biggest fear last week was being voted off in front of his idol Peter Andre. How can you not love this man? In training, he promises to nail it this week. He's going to stick it to Maslem and Baker. He's going to storm the leaderboard. Oh Gavin. Everyone, including Katya, knows this is not going to happen. Gavin's tango is poor, but luckily the singers' mauling of Britney Spears' Toxic is almost enough to detract from the dancing. Alesha tells him he needs to believe in himself. Prior to this series, I don't think many of us thought this would be a problem for Gavin. As Craig slates him, Gavin looks like he has just wet his pants in assembly and is being told off for it in front of the whole school. Since we are spunking all the usual series-long Strictly fun so early on, surely Katya will play the Acting Coach card soon in the hope of a dramatic (heh) turnaround.
Remember how I said I love all Charlestons? Peter and Erin's is excruciating. Alesha starts her comments with 'Peter, you are SO sweet' and gives him a 6. She and Tess have clearly had their regular dust-up over who gets to wear the Pants Of Patronising Power and this week it was a victory for Dixon. Peter says, 'At the end of the day...' and Tess says, 'It's a whole different ball game.' There is a very real fear in the studio that this may be the last week they can pull out their football cliches for Peter, so they're really going for broke.
Pamela and James perform a predictably feisty tango. What is less predictable is that Pamela reminds me of Letitia Dean when she is doing her out-of-hold tango stomping around. They dance to Love Is The Drug. What with this and other amazing songs like Toxic and Bad Guys and Cabaret, this is shaping up to be Awesome Music Night. (Maybe X Factor could try that as a theme one week. No, wait, what am I saying?) Pamela brings her husband Billy Connolly to rehearals. Again, contestants – pace yourself with your shameless v0te-winning tactics.
This week Matt Baker has been styled as some kind of Victorian strongman. Well, that or Freddie Mercury. They fail to dance to a Queen song, which if you ask me is an opportunity missed, but you can't really Charleston to It's A Kind Of Magic. At the start of the routine, Matt uses a unicycle. I'm not joking now, stop with the prop-cupboard clear-out. What next? Scott drives on in a tiny digger truck wearing a boiler suit and starts monkeying about with the big console thing from Chock-A-Block (I am showing my age here) before commencing a Pasa Doble. Ann and Anton don the Dobbin the horse costume from Rentaghost, just so the BBC gets a bit more wear out of it? Anyway. Matt is super. Of course he is.
Next it should be Brendan and Michelle, only Brendan has had to return to New Zealand following a family bereavement. This is horrible. Ian Waite takes his place and gets to perform the tango with Michelle that he never got to dance with Jade Johnson because of her injury. This is nice. The tango with Michelle is.... not so nice, even with the power of Waite, which is considerable. Next is Kara's Charleston with Artem. I like Kara a lot. I don't believe in women being threatened by other women and all that, but I do look at Kara's stomach and remember when mine used to be like that. I think I was about 10. They are adorable, but I think you can probably tell I'm losing interest in the later couples because we all know The Widdecome is On Her Way.
Now then. Hold on to your hats (unless you're Vincent or Artem, who both wear particularly nasty ones this week). It's the main attraction. Ann. In a harness. You'll believe that a 63-year-old spinster can fly! First, she is captured in rehearsal, saying 'Chocks away' in the most defiantly unexcited way you can imagine. Then, live in your living room (well, the telly part of it anyway), she comes floating across the studio like she's starring in her very own gender-switched version of Up. Where are the talking dogs with malfunctioning collars that made me nearly vomit with laughter in the cinema? Actually Ann's not doing a bad job of that (I mean the laughter/vomit, not the dog thing, I'm not going down that route). I don't think Ann's dancing is so bad. She's no worse than Sargeant, and she has the added handicap of being about a foot shorter than her partner. She does seem to have inherited Sargeant's lack of urgency though. When they are out of hold, and Anton is stalking around doing his serious Tango face, Ann looks like she's circling a patch of grass in a park wondering where exactly she should sit to eat her picnic.
Let's crash on to the results show because, let's face it, we all want to go to bed. My favourite part is when Tess asks Alesha about all the fantastic mature women on the show. Like Arlene? Oh no, sorry.
No one at all is surprised when Peter and Erin get the boot (look, I'm sorry, but you know this is a cliche clear-out and everything must go), or as Tess says, 'the red card'. They have their final dance to The Name Of The Game, which is not only one of the greatest ever Abba songs, but also mentions the word 'game' because football is a game and Peter used to be a footballer. DO YOU SEE? I wish the band could have reinterpreted Three Lions for him and sung 'Shilton's coming home'. Or really, any excuse to hear World In Motion. Arrivederci, it's one on one. That's really very apt for Strictly.
38. QUEEN ELIZABETH OLYMPIC PARK, LONDON
11 months ago