Sunday, 28 November 2010

Strictly: The Pretty Good Four (And The Other Three)

There are now just seven contestants left in this year's competition. Seven! So have the Strictly Come Dancing scriptwriters chosen a seven-related theme to flog to the verge of collapse? I think you know the answer to that. But are the competitors the Seven Wonders Of The Strictly World? Are they the Lucky Seven? (In the case of Ann, yes, obviously.) Are they Strictly Club 7? No, but if they were, Gavin would totally be Tina.

They're the Magnificent Seven! Of course they are. Or, more accurately, The Pretty Good Four, plus Patsy, Gavin and Ann.

Kara and Artem are on first. Artem is clearly feeling better because he has a hat on again. All is right with the world. Not the fashion world, obviously. But, you know, the Strictly world, which a remarkable number of people confuse with the real one.

Kara and Artem are dancing the jive. It doesn't go entirely according to plan. It's a bit unfocused and there seems to be something missing. Maybe what's missing is two days' training which they had to skip as a result of Artem's shocking Neck! Injury! But still, Kara is just great at dancing. I'm sure she could pick her nose and wipe it on the judges' desk in a way that looks elegant and well-placed.

In a week in which Alesha's judging plums new depths, she tells Kara and Artem that they are on a journey. Let's recap. They started off being really good. They're still really good. They got off with each other a bit and then Artem hurt his neck. That's hardly the Trans-Siberian railway, Alesha.

Next up are Ann and Anton. I don't remember them being this high up in the running order before – perhaps the Strictly bosses are hoping the voting public will have forgotten about them by the time the lines open (The X Factor seem to be trying a similar technique with Wagner tonight, who is also on early) but give that most of Ann's performances scar the retinas of all who watch them, this seems unlikely. Their training VT is painful to watch as Ann squawks and snaps at Anton. Jesus, I feel for him. He really has atoned for the misdemeanours of last series. He has been wearing that Widdecombe hairshirt for nine weeks now.

I picture him at home, getting ready for training – ironing his slacks with shoulders slumped; pulling on his smart V-neck and wondering if he can just hide there inside his jumper for the next four weeks; looking at himself in the mirror as he straightens his tie, pale and hollow-cheeked, questioning whether he can paint the smile on again for yet another day. But of course he can, because he is Anton Du Beke and that is What He Does.

I'm extrapolating slightly.

Admittedly, the first moments of his and Ann's rumba, when you realise they are essaying an interpretation of Titanic, is HILARIOUS. After that, not so much. Ann's 'feisty' (translation: rude) backchat to the judges afterwards? Even less so. The only other watchable part of their routine comes at the end, as Anton lowers a plank-like Ann towards the floor. I can't be alone in imagining he is lowering her beneath the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean and holding her there.

I don't know what to say about Patsy who is next. She dances the tango. It's OK. She gets OK marks. She will probably go out this week but she will be OK with it. It's all OK. (Also, OK is just one of the magazines she will be interviewed in over the coming weeks, as she talks about how Strictly has Turned Her Life Around).

Scott isn't having a good week. He's exhausted. He's doing two jobs. Man up, Maslen! At the start of their American Smooth, he looks uncomfortable. By the end, he's suffered a total D'Angelo and has forgotten his steps and is being dragged around by Natalie. In an attempt to make Scott feel better, or maybe because he simply didn't notice the meltdown, Bruce says, 'That was my kind of number and my kind of dance.' What, where someone is forgetful, makes loads of mistakes, and is led through the show by a younger colleague..?

I think Craig is being generous when he gives Scott and Natalie a 6. Bruno and Alesha give them 9s. Alesha, at exactly this time three years ago I thought you were amazing. Now, you have RUINED what we had between us and you will NEVER GET IT BACK. Bruno, you had less far to fall, but you are also marking like a dick.

Do the judges always score the
EastEnders stars so kindly? Perhaps Len is angling for a part as the next Frank Butcher/Archie Mitchell gentleman gangster - all twinkly eyes, sovereign ring and Costa Del Tan.

Next is a weird Magnificent Seven montage (there are seven of them, you see) where the contestants were obviously grabbed as they came off stage last week, had a sparkly hen-night stetson thrust on their heads and asked to pose as cowboys and speak in American accents. Tsk. If we really have to have this kind of filler element in the show, can't it at least be a selection of Bruce's hairpieces fashioned into marionettes, 'dancing' in a miniature puppet theatre?

After this diversion,
Katya and Gavin are doing the jive – a dance which is fast, athletic and doesn't require a huge amount of emotion. Right up Gavin's strasse, you might think.

Not so much as it turns out.

In training, Katya is trying to get Gavin to express his emotions because, according to Gavin, there's too many of them in his brain, and he needs to get them out so that the steps can go in. I'm fascinated by the 'one in, one out' door policy of the thoughts in Gavin's head. "Alright, my brain, I'll swap you a nervous embarrassment for a swinging Katya around my head."

Unfortunately, the emotions Gavin is expressing seem to be those of a 13-year-old. For example, 'The jive is a STUPID dance and I HATE IT.'

After they've floundered their way through the dance (I think it's fair to say that Gavin has plateaued), Len tells him we all have to do things we don't like. His mum used to dress him in an angora beret when he was little. I never knew that Len was secretly Our Rita,
Johnny Briggs' sister. (Thanks to Len for providing this week's 80s TV reference, so that I don't have to.)

Next up are Matt and Aliona, who are dancing the American Smooth. Now, let's imagine you're a professional dancer and your celebrity partner is graceful, muscular and gymnastic, with a twinkly old-fashioned appeal. You'd be channelling Gene Kelly for all you're worth, right?

Not if you're Aliona.

If you're Aliona, you choreograph an incredibly bizarre 'story' dance that - unforgivably – makes you think of the rumba when it's NOT EVEN A RUMBA. You will make Matt wear a terrible 'blousony' shirt that matches your hair, and have him pull excruciating 'I'm in love! I'm in pain! I'm in love!' faces throughout. Matt starts and finishes on the floor, which makes me think he's meant to be dead. I wonder if this is what he was wishing for when Aliona first showed him the steps. At the end, he bangs his fists on the ground in anger/pain/frustration/it's anyone's guess really. I'm not sure if that's actually in the choreography. Aliona says the dance is about 'a struggle in New York'. Aliona, finding a nice hotel room in Manhattan for under £100 is 'a struggle in New York'. This dance is not.

Matt looks deeply embarrassed during the judges' lukewarm comments, like he just wishes he was in a field in the dark in County Durham birthing a sheep, even if it is -10ยบ outside. Matt's lovely wife in the audience has a face that says 'You! Red! Why are you making my husband look like a TOTAL moron?'

Should they make the final, I can only imagine the interpretive car crash of their showdance.

Still, I should point out that despite the alarming 'concept', their dance is hugely accomplished technically - although Alesha and Bruno score them lower than Scott and Natalie.

Pamela and James dance the Charleston. It's fun but a little inelegant. Given the night that everyone else has had, though, it's still enough to get them some 10s and put them at the top of the leaderboard. They use the same prop door that Scott and Natalie did for their brilliant jive. I'm going to start calling it the lucky door. It's only a matter of time before Tess does.

A few notes from the results show:

1) I could have choreographed that pro dance at the start.
2) Claudia interviewing a mumbling Gavin and then admitting she didn't understand a word he said is one of my favourite things I have ever seen on Strictly Comes Dancing.
3) In a bizarre dress-up montage where the celebrities introduce next week's movie theme, Ann is truly chilling dressed up as Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz, walking a yellow brick road and shrilly calling 'Anton! Annnn-ton!' It's like a horror film. But this is Anton's future, once the series has ended Ann ringing his doorbell, bellowing his name through the letterbox, while he cowers inside, crouched below the living-room window, desperate not to be seen.
4) Patsy is eliminated, and is OK.

Next week is movie week! Theming craziness! After ending up in the bottom two this week, Gavin has to start being blatant again. Will he and Katya attempt some erotic-pottery tribute to Ghost? He's going to need something drastic. It's that or 9 1/2 Weeks.


Mme Bernard said...

Argh - hate to point out an error in your consistently *excellent* blog, but Craig would never ever ever in a gazillion years give Ann and Anton a 6. He looks pained having to give them a 1! He did, however, give Scott and Natalie a 6.

Alison Cross said...

I really enjoyed Pammy and James doing the Charleston - so it wasn't highly polished, but it looked like fun and my GOD the woman is going to be 61 this week 61!!! *I* would have snapped like a dried up stick if she'd tried any of those moves - and 61 is thankfully some way off for me!

They ALL hate the Jive, don't they? It's the most inelegant dance EVER. They should pull it and replace it with that French Cafe Dancing where they pretend to batter lumps out of each other. Can't remember the name of it...but at least it would allow Anton to FULLY express himself.

Getting a bit fed up of Ann and Anton (not Anton - he's done really well) but it's now getting to the stage where a good dancer will get sent home. Or Gavin.

Love the reports!

Ali x

Miss Jones said...

Merci beaucoup, Mme Bernard, it's fixed now. Perils of late-night posting...

Nicky said...

GO HOME ANN! That is all.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget, it was the best American Smooth Natalie has ever danced...suspect she's off Ricky Whittle's Christmas card list now then.

Alison said...

Miss Jones, your blog don't 'alf cheer me up, and no mistake (not sure why I've turned into an old time cockney..)

Gavin's trousers disturbed me this week. That's all I can think to say really. It was all a bit lacklustre, like the normally-amazing Scott. One thing I did love about the results show was seeing Dave Arch grooving away on the keyboards during the pro dance - that's how interested I was in the actual dancing. Good old Dave

I'm torn between desperately wanting Ann to go (you're right, she is RUDE!) but not wanting to see Anton go. I always miss him when he's eliminated. If only there was some way he could be on the show every single week for the entire series....

*wanders off to kill Brucie*

InvisibleWoman said...

Agree on every point except I thought Matt and Aliona were fantastic - best dance of the night. I was very fortunate and missed Ann and Anton as I was having my tea. If they win, Anton should get both glitter balls.

EJ said...

This blog was the best bit of last week's Strictly which was SO disappointing as I had spent a couple of days going on about how excited I was about the show (go easy on me, I had a family bereavement so light entertainment was perfect distraction). However being ludicrously indignant at stupid Alesha's stupid marking proved good distraction from grief it turns out! I'm thinking of starting the Karen Hardy to replace Alesha (or at the very least, Bruno) as judge campaign. Who's with me?

Miss Jones said...

EJ, sorry to hear about your bereavement. I totally agree with you about Karen Hardy. I would also be happy with a pro like Brendan or even James replacing Len or Bruno. Ooh! Or replacing Bruno with Vincent.