That may be the jetlag talking. Jetlag is such a ridiculously lavish word, all sunglasses over bloodshot eyes and matching luggage. I'm just a bit over-tired.
Anyway, as a result of the above, I have had to resort to YouTube for the first set of dances, but managed to see the whole of the second week's shows. So here are my beginning-of-term reports on this year's contestants. I am not feeling the need to dress in any kind of Miss Jones school teacher outfit for this exercise, although it's true that a lot of people come to this blog looking for exactly that kind of 'action'.
Firstly, let me say that I am aware Strictly is not the go-to, first-choice Saturday-night viewing for the hip young social-networking gunslinger. I don't care. I am, like the band on the Titanic, playing on regardless, scraping away at my insert-hugely-clumsy-blog-slash-violin-metaphor-here and refusing to acknowledge that Strictly may be in any way sinking.
So let's crack on. In order of how I watched their first dances on YouTube:
Matt Baker and Aliona For his first dance, the cha-cha-cha, Matt has brazenly refused to read the manual for BBC TV Presenters Starting Out On Their Strictly Journey by appearing fluid, limber, relaxed and physically at ease. In addition, the wardrobe department has cleverly played up to his fans' Countryfile-coloured sexual fantasies – he and Aliona start off dressed as wholesome Enid Blyton-esque chums enjoying a chaste day out in the country before passionately abandoning their binoculars and map and getting right down to it in a cornfield. Dance-wise, I mean. However, for their second dance, Matt's initial brio has ebbed away slightly, and he has reverted to the more conventional starting position of Hollins, Gethin and the like, where his expression is part nervous concentration and part impending unpleasant bowel episode.
Jimi Mistry and Flavia Jimi is not quite as good as Matt, I would say, but he achieves the distinction of being the first male celebrity to break out some slightly embarrassing school-disco/Saturday-afternoon-at-the-shopping-precinct breakdance moves – in the FIRST SECONDS of his FIRST PERFORMANCE, no less. This is some kind of record. I still fancy him. I understand this information is not actually dance-related.
Ann Widdecombe and Anton You may say I'm dangerously sentimentalising Ann Widdecombe. But I'm not the only one. (These are the words John Lennon would have written to Imagine 2010, had he lived.) And now I'm just going to say it: I found her waltz with Anton strangely moving. I'm not sure exactly what we want Ann's story to be. It's maybe not that we want her to become a beguilingly brilliant dancer, or discover an untapped well of sexual energy or shimmering femininity. I think we want her to become a real person, not some cartoon dowager of doom. Already there have been a handful of moments when she has been genuinely overcome with something near delight (even glee, if not Glee), in spite of herself. And I love those bits. Furthermore, unless my ears were deceiving me, I actually heard her say, 'Can't you guys understand fun?' Although my hearing may be ravaged by transatlantic flight, and what she actually said was 'Why are you making me dance to Satan's music like a whore from the slums?' Either way, through Ann we are starting to see the rehabilitation of not-racist-just-old-fashioned-honestly-that's-all-no-offence-meant-Mary-Poppins-step-in-time Anton. He dances with her so sweetly, like she's a child at a wedding reception, looming over her with his over-animated, encouraging face, mouthing the steps to her. Aww.
Gavin Henson and Katya Sweet, shiny-faced, bodyhair-barren Gavin, shielding his shyness with the kind of excessive male grooming I always find strangely sexless. As a result, his waltz with Katya has an unexpectedly charming innocence about it that reminds me of Anne Of Green Gables. He is Gilbert Henson. The salsa is a different kettle of rubbish, however. To anyone with a default biological interest in the Henson body, do you prefer him and his ice-rink-smooth chest with his clothes on or without? I am emphatically Team With.
Scott Maslen and Natalie I don't have a lot to say about Scott. But never mind, watch me eke out a hefty paragraph of waffle regardless. OK, let me say this: He looks about 10 years younger doing the salsa than he does dancing the waltz. How does this work? He dances to Let's Hear It For The Boy, and I love x100,000 the scene in Footloose that it soundtracks, where Kevin Bacon teaches Christopher Penn how to dance. Watching this post-Strictly, I am imagining Chris Penn's character played by Gavin Henson, and James Jordan as Kevin Bacon. Natalie has yet to show the frothing mania for competition we saw last year, but I sense it is there under the surface, waiting to burst out of her like something from Alien. For now, she seems to be channelling that energy into her hair foils and curling equipment.
Felicity Kendal and Vincent Every new episode of Strictly brings a new reason to love Vincent Simone. This year, he seems to have cast himself as some kind of Inigo Montoya figure, opening his introductory VT with the words 'Hello, my name is Vincent Simone and, oh my God, I am the best dancer on the planet.' I love Kendal. She's no Keith, but still. After their less than triumphant second dance, Vincent tells her not to worry, he has lots of friends who will vote for them. She says she doesn't have any left, they've all died. Felicity's funny.
Kara Tointon and Artem The costume department have clearly decided that since Ola has been paired with Paul Daniels this year, she probably won't be involved for much longer, so they've made her and Kara share a wardrobe. Who else could they sew into Kara's kinky leopard-print wrestler's leotard? The tabloids poking around in Strictly's ashes with their blunt sticks are trying to spark up talk of a relationship between Kara and Artem. And Tess is doing her clumsy best to fan the flames, on her hands and knees, blowing hard. OK, this analogy has gone all sorts of wrong.
Tina O'Brien and Jared I think Tina has a will of iron, but she looks so nervous, I can't keep my eyes on the screen. I find Ann a more compelling dancer. Jared is adorable, even when he wears his hair forward in a weird point, like Woody Woodpecker. I don't like it when they're mean to him. If you're going to patronise anyone, Tess and Bruce, and let's face it, you definitely will, can't you make it him?
Patsy Kensit and Robin Patsy! She's already saying Strictly has changed her life and it's only week two! Atta girl. Her first dance was awful, but her second was unbridled, skirt-hitched-up, Tina-Turner-tribute-act terrific. Also, my friend interviewed her a few weeks ago and didn't have a bad word to say about her. And trust me, we really pushed her on that. Patsy looks beautiful too. What do we think about her and Felicity and the notion of 'work done'? Whatever, I have a girl crush on both of them.
Pamela Stephenson and James It may only be week 2 but I feel confident that James Jordan will not be making Pamela Stephenson cry, as he has done with previous partners. If anything, it's going to be the other way round. It is awesome the way she's throwing herself into things, in the same way as Patsy, only with marginally more control and less the air of predatory divorcée at a 40th birthday party. I may be about to overstate things somewhat, but it is a little bit exciting to see a collection of sparky women with something to say for themselves on a show like this. Even this year's obvious eye candy seems to be either a) gutsy or b) a right laugh, as opposed to doe-eyed and anaemic of opinion. I'm not sure where Pamela ripping off her lab coat and glasses and getting all sexy fits into the Strong Women Of Strictly conceit that I'm flailing towards but still. All this, and Claudia promoted to BBC on a Sunday night. I love it.
Michelle Williams and Brendan Poor Michelle. Even though her first dance is all over the shop, the judges are being unnecessarily harsh to her. They seem intent on taking her down a peg or two, with her fancy Grammy-winning, saying-sidewalk-not-pavement airs and graces. Also, according to the brilliantly indiscreet Tina Knowles (Beyonce's mum) in her book about Destiny's Child, which I reviewed years ago for a popular weekly celebrity magazine, Michelle has a little hair problem on her upper lip. I'm practically quoting directly here. Well, apart from the fact that she might actually have been talking about Kelly. Anyway, way to be supportive, Mrs Knowles! The upshot here is that Michelle needs our love, not our condemnation.
Goldie and Kristina This is going to be a great series. I know this because despite Goldie's Big PersonalityTM, I can barely remember anything about his performance. Sorry, Goldie, but that's showbiz. The greater good of Strictly is at stake here, and you were this week's sacrifice.
Peter Shilton and Erin Peter Shilton reminds me of someone. I don't know who it is. It might be Duncan Preston in Dinner Ladies. There is something deliberate and concerted about him, about his every flex, every fist pump. Perhaps it was always thus. 'Right, I'll just clear this ball out of the goal. Job done! Next, massive clearance upfield. Actioned! ' While I find his dancing almost impossible to watch, he is hard to dislike. He's Peter bloody Shilton! of course he is!
Paul Daniels and Ola Paul is actually not the out-and-out Sergeant you might think. He is surprisingly fleet of foot, if somewhat directionless. He reminds me of when you bump into someone in the street, and then you both drift one way, then both drift the other, then back the first way. He basically does that for a minute and a half, with magic-related gimmicks, while Ola is busy being awesome.
Props and accessories seem to be the theme of this series. This is a direct borrow from Dancing With The Stars where they're mad for a desk or a bunch of fake flowers, but that's no bad thing, as direct borrowing brought us the runaway success of last year's Charleston and Rock 'n' Roll week. X Factor are no strangers to the US influence, of course. They've been busy apeing American Idol for a couple of years. This year's new favourite, Aiden Grimshaw, is being moulded as the new Adam Lambert. They'll be breaking the eyeliner out on him in no time, mark me.
Anyway, first-week summary? Turn up the hideous Here Come The Girls-style motivational lady-music.
Although Scott, Matt and Jimi are ace too.