This week, it's nudist week on Strictly Come Dancing. Oh sorry, that's my mistake. It's actually movie week. Never mind. I'm sure it will still be fun.
It starts well enough, as the opening sequence features one of my favourite moments of Strictly scripting ever (admittedly, the competition is not overwhelming). The celebrities are introduced in the style of the characters in The Breakfast Club, with Kara as 'The Princess', Matt as 'The Farm Boy' and Gavin as 'The Handsome Droid'. The Handsome Droid! He TOTALLY is The Handsome Droid.
The proper red-hot, primetime, lights-camera-action starts with a kind of pro-dance medley featuring iconic film moments. Amazingly, no one has thought to ask Kristina to reinterpret Meg Ryan's fake orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally through the medium of dance. Neither has anyone invited Anton to choreograph a cha-cha-cha that represents the harrowing 24-minute beach battle at the start of Saving Private Ryan. Let's call that an opportunity missed. Instead, we get James and Ola doing a sodding rumba to Take My Breath Away from Top Gun. God, those Jordans love a rumba. Stop rumbaing, Jordans! Just because you're professionals doesn't mean it's not embarrassing.
Also, you just know how excited James Jordan is to be dressed up as Tom Cruise. Imagine him whipping his aviators on and off repeatedly in front of the bathroom mirror while Ola's trying to pluck her eyebrows.
Then Erin and Anton perform a modern street dance to a selection of Daft Punk's music from Tron Legacy.
I'm joking. They go Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, of course.
With that over, Scott Smaslen, as Brucie calls him, is the first contender. He's channelling James Bond, with Natalie in an Ursula Andress-style white bikini, in a scenario that Natalie has absolutely, definitely NOT been fantasising about all series. At the climax of their paso doble, she rips his shirt open and trails a trembling hand down his hairy chest. She's quite obviously thinking 'Why did no one think to do Movie Week before now? I've wasted SO MUCH TIME.' With Natalie essentially wearing a bra and pants, and Scott's let's-call-them-swarthy good looks, it's a little like watching one of the lower-order Chippendales doing a work placement in Stringfellow's. Scott is back in business in terms of remembering the steps, and there's some great choreography, but I'm left slightly cold. And not just because it's, like, cold.
Ann and Anton are dancing an American Smooth which, by way of novelty, does contain some actual dancing. This week, Ann overwhelmingly reminds me of a miniature pony competing in some sort of dressage event - trotting along faithfully beside Anton, then standing stock still and counting beats while he goes and does the tricky stuff, until he comes back to her and it's time to set off trotting again. When it comes to the judging, Alesha, Bruno and Len are surprisingly damning. Ann is so taken aback, she's uncharacteristically slow to Come Out Fighting. Instead, she's stunned into temporary silence, which must feel like some kind of balm to Anton. I can understand her surprise, though, since the spectacular over-marking she's received from some of the judges in recent weeks could lead her to think she was kind of a big deal.
Poor Matt Baker. After last week's 'modern' (and by that I mean weird) American Smooth, he's now taking on the jive. The jive is great, Matt is great. There is no reason why they shouldn't be even greater in partnership, like rhubarb and custard. Except... maybe there is a reason, and maybe it has six letters and begins with A. (Clue: it's not Antonn.) The first thing to say is that Matt is wearing a hideous Austin Powers costume that looks like it's a) been hired from a grubby fancy dress shop, and b) been heavily sweated in over the years by its 'wacky' previous tenants as a result of the over-exuberant dance moves they've made their friends and colleagues deeply uncomfortable with at parties. Matt, however, is awesome, and performs brilliantly all the physical 'groovy baby' ticks that would normally make me bite my own hand off with 22ct-cringey mortification. Tragically for his scores, though, he does go out of time very noticeably at one point. Probably because he is encumbered by his STUPID BIG VELVET SUIT. Also, there doesn't seem to be a massive amount of actual jiving because he and Aliona keep stop-starting to do 'funny' bits. God, can't someone save Matt from all this? Surely Flavia or Ola could stage some kind of intervention. They've got time on their hands these days. I feel very strongly that if Matt Baker does not win Strictly Come Dancing, it will not be because of Matt Baker. After their dance, Bruce says 'You must have worked so hard on that.' HOW PATRONISING.
In accessories news, I do actually love Matt in those big geeky glasses. If his new job was as a T4 presenter, he would have to wear them permanently from now on, but since it's actually on The One Show, he can put them back in the fancy-dress cupboard.
In Pamela and James's training VT, they recreate the Ghost clay scene which, I'll be honest, makes me feel quite unwell. It's Pamela's 61st birthday. I like Pamela a lot, but I'm a little bit bored of her going on about her age all the time and calling herself grandma. When June Brown, aged 83, steps on to the set of the Strictly Christmas special in a couple of weeks, she'll be well and truly stubbing out her cigarette on Pamela's forehead in the battle of 'Look how old I am! And I'm dancing! It is a MIRACLE!' Anyway, in their waltz, Pamela plays bereaved Demi Moore (where Demi Moore is blond and sixty bloody one), while James is the ghost of her lover who comes back to dance with her for 1 minute 30 seconds before walking slowly back up a staircase. This routine proves conclusively that ghosts are real and not some wishful figment of the imagination, as I don't think any woman would choose for their beloved to reappear in those trousers. Billy Connolly is sitting in the audience. I know everyone's mad for Billy Connolly, but I find myself more distracted by the man sitting behind him who looks like the Demon Headmaster. Pamela and James dance a brilliant waltz, no doubt, but I'm still slightly surprised that they score 40. Feed that into your Strictly conspiracy generator and see what comes out, why don't you?
The Handsome Droid and Katya are dancing the foxtrot to Minnie The Moocher from The Blues Brothers. The Handsome Droid really does look much better with clothes on, but I guess there is the risk that they might cause his internal wiring to overheat and short-circuit. He makes a pretty good stab at the dancing, too. Two 9's worth of good, though? Hmm.
In this week's style-crime news, Artem has swapped a trilby for appalling George-Michael-tribute-act facial hair. Having seen Artem clean-shaven and dressed down in a normal checked shirt during training, I realise he is actually very attractive when he's not trussed up for the show in a stupid, entirely flammable costume and hefty trowelling of make-up. Long-time Strictly fans call this The Dallerup Effect. In their training VT, Artem actually speaks openly and directly about his nascent relationship with Kara. It represents an appalling puncture of romantic tension that I am still struggling to comprehend. Has no one explained to him how these things are supposed to work? Artem, you and Kara are meant to gaze longingly at each at the climax of every dance, locking eyes for slightly too long, making enigmatic statements about how amazing it's been to work with your partner, how they've become a best friend as well as a pupil/teacher/other. During your farewell dance, you should look as though you are the only two people in the room. Then, after you're eliminated, you declare your love via a photo shoot taken during an all-expenses-paid-holiday and splashed across the shiny pages of a celebrity magazine. You're not supposed to say you're going to ask her out once the show's over and maybe take her out for a bite to eat. Good God, man! What are they teaching you at Strictly Pro School? Apart from how to draw on a beard with eyeliner. Anyway, their tango is amazing. But apparently it's not as good as Pamela's waltz. You could have fooled me, but what do I know?
The results show starts with a very lengthy Mamma Mia! routine. I have to confess that my attention seriously wanders during this show dance, but that's probably because at this point I decide to open my recently purchased Christmas Radio Times for the first time, a moment which, for me, is pretty hard to compete with in terms of dramatic tension.
Katya and the Handsome Droid are the first couple revealed to be safe, and they're very moved to get straight through (we must assume that the Handsome Droid is probably faking his emotion, like Tiny Tears). Katya says something about it being a privilege to be there alongside such fantastic dancers. I love the thought of her growing up in Lithuania with posters of Erin Boag on her bedroom wall, falling asleep every night, thinking, "One day..."
Scott and Natalie are in the bottom two, and Bruno is outraged. I am outraged by Bruno's outrage. How can be cross with the public for supposedly voting erratically when he's been marking like a total moron all series. Also, any opportunity Bruno has to stand up behind the desk, he just has to take it. Have you ever considered shop work, Bruno? That way, you could stand up all the time, and then Vincent could take your place on the judging panel.
Perhaps the most bizarre moment of the results show is the performance by the Manic Street Preachers. I am disappointed that they have apparently snubbed the possibility of having professional dancers choreographing a routine to their song. Nicky Wire has been dabbling with a feather boa and glitter for years - I bet he was all for it, but JDB and Little Sean On Drums outvoted him. They should totally ask Nicky Wire to be a contestant next year. Although he is very tall. I'm not sure who could partner him.
Come results time, finally, finally, we say goodbye to Ann and Anton. She can't win. Strictly is saved. And so is Anton. Semi-finals next week!
38. QUEEN ELIZABETH OLYMPIC PARK, LONDON
11 months ago