Damn. I have broken a promise to myself - yes, another one, less a habit and more of a way of life – which is to post at least one thing a week here that isn't Strictly related. Yet here we are again. Another Saturday night has come and gone, with nothing new here since the last one. I will do better.
It's entirely possible that people come here thinking it is only a blog about Strictly Come Dancing, and technically, at this very moment, they are correct. Now I know how Soulwax felt when they started doing mash-ups and everyone forgot they had been a journeyman indie band for years.
I am the Soulwax of blogging, and it is my own fault.
This week we see a curious quasi-phenomenon that Strictly has attempted to create all by itself - The Road To Blackpool. Next week, as at this stage of the competition last year, the programme will come live from the Tower Ballroom. Dancing at Blackpool, according to the makers of Strictly Come Dancing, is a physical and spiritual revelation akin to climbing to the top of Machu Picchu or something. For the professionals, this may be true. I'm sensing that the viewers can live without an extra 10 minutes of VT featuring James Jordan larking about on a minibus. Potentially, I suppose, there is the chance for some of our overseas Strictly friends – Michelle, Artem, etc – to discover the great British institution of the Travelodge.
Still, we must consider that if they removed the Strictly Goes To Blackpool element, we would be all spared the shame of Bruce Forsyth's exruciating northern accent.
A girl can dream.
Dancing first are Pamela and James, with a cha-cha-cha reflecting the economic downturn, as all good cha-cha-chas should. As James rips off Pamela's pin-striped trousers, we are reminded of the fall from grace of the bankers and… you're right, I don't really know where I'm going with this. It's a pretty good dance anyway, but Len says it was a bit careful. I'm not surprised. James must be suffering from chronic tartan blindness after his midweek visit to Pamela's stately homestead in Scotland. Pamela is probably accustomed to it by now, and just thinks that every surface comes in a chequered pattern, so damaged are her retinas.
If Michelle and Brendan do anything this week, they confirm Craig's suspicion that her improvement last week was due to Brendan holding her too tightly for her to mess up. It all goes a bit peculiar again this week though, and we are reminded that limb control is not high on Michelle's list of key skills. Being kooky, yes. Buying her own diamonds and buying her own rings/associated 'independent woman' characteristics, yes. Also, calling Len sir. She is excellent at that. It reminds me of Marcie on Peanuts saying it to Peppermint Patty. Michelle and Marcie both have the same gruff little voice. Also, Michelle is wearing a crazy white lace dress, inspired by those postcards of Spanish ladies, where the skirt is a bit of real lace stuck on to the card.
Patsy looks amazing this evening. She seems to be looking younger each week, which is an unexpected side effect of knocking Botox on the head. She has fabulous 60s make-up and is dancing to Anyonewhoever'adan'arrrrrt, as I like to write it – although not Cilla's version this time, but Dusty's. Her waltz gets a standing ovation, which gives Bruce the chance to break out his new catchphrase, 'LOOK AT THIS!' while gesturing wildly at the audience, like he's on a picnic with his lovely wife Wilnelia and he's swotting wasps away from his corned beef sandwich.
Now, perhaps you have been wondering what on earth Gavin and Katya could do next to mobilise the lady votes, following Gavin Topless and Gavin 'n' Katya Heavy Petting. Here is the answer. Gavin Snogging A Man. Well, I say snogging. It's a long peck. A long peck with Bruno. AND Gavin's kids visit him in the training room. Sexy? Tick! Sentimental? Tick! Votes? Tick! Tick! Their quickstep is a concept dance. The concept is that Katya is trying to teach Gavin to dance, but he is not very good and easily distracted. It is a colossal feat of creative imagination, clearly. For the first time, Gavin actually looks like he might be enjoying himself, rather than wishing he was anywhere else, eg having an intimate body wax. It's not a technical triumph, but Gavin (who has talked more in this week's allotted six minutes than I've heard him through the rest of the series put together) says that seeing his kids in the VT caused him to make some mistakes. "I miss em' a bit," he says. Oh, skillful laying on of sentiment, Gavin. You are not as dumb as you look. Unless that was actually genuine. Once again, Bruce brings out the 'LOOK AT THIS! ' Gavin and Katya get 9s from Alesha and Bruno, who conceivably are as dumb as they look.
Ann and Anton are doing the foxtrot to You Make Me Feel So Young. This is the song that Ann hears playing in her head whenever Anton's around and, increasingly, when he's not. She hears it as she awakes in the morning with renewed joie de vivre, as she sprays on a new and rather daring bottle of cologne, as bluebirds sing on her bedroom window sill while she combs her hair. She and Anton are back to ballroom this week, actually attempting the steps of the foxtrot and everything. And while Ann's feet may be doing something in the vicinity of dancing, I'm not sure you could say that for the rest of her. When they go over for the judges' comments, Ann is a bit fighty. The best form of defence is always attack, as New Order may or may not have sung on World In Motion, but still, I could do with a bit more shut up from Ann about now.
I feel it is important note that Gavin and Katya are leading at this point.
Next there is a film about Blackpool. After expressing my indifference to Strictly Goes Blackpool, I now find that I would quite genuinely like to go. I have never been. I don't care about the ballroom, I just want the slots and the sand and the fish and chips. Who wants to come with me? That is a genuine question.
Next up, Kara and Artem dancing the Argentine tango. In her VT, Kara is excited to meet the Chuckle Brothers. Kara, you need to start learning to dream big. You will be in Chicago in three months' time, where you may get to meet an ex-member of the Backstreet Boys, or even Claire Sweeney. Get used to it. Kara begins the routine wearing a trilby, which I believe to be one of the world's most ill-advised fashion items. Although if you were some kind of gangster, I would probably tell you it suited you to your face. They are brilliant and I feel they are undermarked when they get 2 9s and 2 10s. If they had switched the trilby for something more dramatic – a fez, say, or a fireman's helmet - who knows, we may have been seeing full marks. No regrets, though, Kara and Artem. Onwards and upwards. Keep working hard and one day you may achieve the same penetrating insight into costume and performance as me.
Felicity and Vincent are dancing the salsa. Vincent's shirt is brazenly untucked. This is enough to cause some of the more conservative members of the viewing public to take to their writing bureau and express their distaste. Felicity is wearing a poloneck, which seems a particularly un-salsa-y garment. Why not go the whole hog and slip a duffel on? The clothing is an appropriately bad omen, as the dance descends into a stumbly, bumpy tangle of arms and enthusiasm-turned-awkward. All they need is a trestle table to one side laden with half-eaten sausage rolls and screwed-up napkins to evoke that 1am wedding-reception feel. That is a prop Strictly Come Dancing should totally get.
Matt and Aliona seem to have gone off the boil in recent weeks. Or maybe they have stayed at a steady simmer. Perhaps Matt spunked his backflip too early (in week one, for Christ's sake. Powder dry, Matthew. Powder. Dry.). I cringe at the very idea of them doing a rumba, given how excruciating Scott's was last week, but I have to say, this is the most watchable rumba I've ever, like, watched – although the judges don't all agree. Again with the untucked shirt, though. There will be talk of hell. There will be talk of handcarts. I worry about Matt having to bury his face in Aliona's hair to such an extent. It must be pretty chemical in there. Luckily Matt's lungs are so full of wholesome fresh country air, he can withstand it. Matt needs a big week some time soon. Get him to an American Smooth asap, is what I say.
Never mind untucked shirts. Scott and Natalie's outfits do not match in any way at all. This is anarchy! There has been a lot of talk about weight-loss in tonight's show, but Scott is the most dramatic example of this. I don't think he looks very well. And his neck's gone a bit Deirdre Barlow. Lend him your poloneck, Felicity. Now, there's no other way to say it – Scott's jive is amazing. There is a story! There is a door! It is amazing! Scott is so compact and tidy and sharp and... muscular somehow. Also, Natalie is an excellent choreographer. Still, the mean part of me (I know you don't believe this actually exists, but I have difficult news for you) really hopes the door jams, Auntie's Bloomers-style, just to see Natalie's reaction. Would she stay eerily calm while her eyes turned totally black, would she lie down on the floor and start screaming like a two-year-old in a supermarket, or would she just go straight for full body combustion? Whatever, it doesn't happen and the crowd go crazy. Len says 'When you dance on the edge...' which sounds like a brilliant line for the trailer of Strictly Come Dancing... The Movie, but then he concludes the sentence with '...you can go wrong' which is hardly the same as the threat of violent death, and that's the kind of jeopardy we're all looking for at the cinema.
In the results show, Claudia betrays the fact that she an avid reader of this blog by more or less reiterating my point from last week that Michelle is living out the words to Destiny's Child's Survivor. But not any more. Sorry, Michelle.
Next week, roll up your trouser legs, knot your handkerchief and brush up your cliches. It's Blackpool, baby!
38. QUEEN ELIZABETH OLYMPIC PARK, LONDON
6 months ago