Thursday, 23 December 2010

Taking care of business

So listen. I know no one can actually remember the Strictly Come Dancing final now, but I don't like to leave a job half done. You've been busy, I've been busy - principally catching trains and helping seven-year-olds break the world record for star jumps (awaiting official ratification), but let's rewind the last four days or so and pretend the red-hot sequin-and-fake-tan action has only just happened.

This series on Strictly, we've seen a whole lot more editorialising. That's what I'm calling it. You may call it gimmicky theming. That's your business. Personally, I like gimmicks. And I like theming. Things I don't like are polonecks and rumbas, which makes the next few hours' viewing a little trying in places

Under the producers' 'Hey team, let's get creative' brief, the show begins with a film on how Strictly fever has supposedly gripped the nation - which may constitute some kind of Christmas wish on the part of the BBC - before the studio fun kicks off with a boxing-themed pro-dance to Eye Of The Tiger and the contestants come on in dressing gowns. As the male dancers enter, shadow-boxing, I can't help but notice that a) little Vincent looks like one of the other blokes' younger brothers who's desperate to keep up with the big boys and b) 'doing sexy' isn't foremost in Anton's skill set. Waltzing yes. Ironing, hell yes. But unbridled, sneering passion? Erm...

So the first of the four dances each couple will perform tonight is their highest-scoring so far. So a repeat, basically. Swizz. The key points to note are:

* An extreme close-up of Matt's samba-ing arse, which prompts quite the discussion in my living room. I should point out there are other people in the room. I am not having a discussion with myself about Matt Baker's arse - although I'm not ruling it out.
* Tonight, the title is basically Matt's for Aliona to throw away. Were her choreography less bonkers, I firmly believe that his wholesome, blandly handsome, BBC-boy persona (voting turn-on - cf Hollins and Chambers) would prove more powerful than his naked ambition (voting turn-off - cf Healey and Logan, G).
* In Kara and Artem's training video, Kara is unable to talk about Artem without starting to cry. In a good way. Major vote-winner!
* Kara and Artem redancing a rumba is better than most people redancing a rumba.
* Artem is virtually crying at the end of the dance. Jesus, man up, you two. You've got the next two-and-a-half hours to get through.
*A discussion ensues on the sexiness - rightly or wrongly - of the crying man. Again, not just me.
* Pamela and James don't often get things wrong. But they don't often get me excited.

All this is just so many amuse bouches before we get to the main course of the final.

The Showdances! The Showdances are here! Hey, hey, it's the Showdances! Welcome To The Pleasuredome (of Showdances)!

First up, Matt and Aliona. Oh god, oh god, oh god. They've gone 'streetdance'.

I strongly suspect Aliona genuinely thinks that the judges who criticise them just don't 'get' her more out-there work - eg her 'modern' (her word) American Smooth. At this point, in her head, she's dragging the concept of the Strictly showdance into the present. In reality, she's dragging it into a Paula Abdul video from 1989.

They begin dancing on blocks covered in gold textured wrapping paper - although on consultation with The Internet, it seems they're supposed to be hay bales. Because Matt is on Countryfile and lives on a farm. It actually looks like he and Aliona are podium dancers in a provincial branch of Ritzy's. There's a lot of stunts and acrobatics and what have you, but hardly any, like, dancing. Also, almost unforgivably, Matt is wearing a flat cap. A glittery flat cap. Aliona looks totally triumphant at the end. The judges look baffled. Matt's mum (perhaps, or big sister - who am I to judge) blows her fringe off her forehead in a slightly anxious, flustered way. Craig has it right when he says the concept didn't quite come together. AND WHOSE FAULT IS THAT? I DON'T THINK IT'S MATT'S.

The crumb of comfort seized on in the Jones living room is that there could have been a lot more 'grinding'. We must take it where we can. The comfort, not necessarily the grinding.

Onwards. Artem is dressed as Freddie Mercury. Kara may also be dressed as Freddie Mercury, or is it Flash Gordon, or is it another member of Queen, or is it just a person wearing an unflattering white jumpsuit?

They perform a frantic jive to Don't Stop Me Now. Full marks for choice of music. Two out of 10 for playing to Kara's strengths. There's barely a second in which she can stretch out her limbs in that elegant way that persuades you she could make pulling her knickers out of her bum crack look classy. Unfortunately, in performing a backflip, Kara hurts her wrist and clearly can't give the rest of the routine her all, meaning she misses a lift and messes up the ending.

Pamela and James showdance to
I've Had The Time Of My Life from Dirty Dancing. It feels like an unambitious choice. I had thought P&J might go for the cheeky Hollywood charisma angle, a la Tom Chambers. Instead they seem to be channelling Ann Widdecombe, as the camera sees more of Pamela's gusset than can really be welcomed.

This may be the least inspiring group of showdances Strictly has ever seen.

Pamela and James top the leaderboard at half-time. Kara is absent at the summing up. I am imagining that somewhere backstage she is being filmed wincing under the hands of the show's doctors, and Artem is repeatedly smacking his head into a wall, full of self-loathing for making his beloved do that backflip. Artem is very emotional this evening. Perhaps it's because he is not wearing a trilby. It's a scientific fact that Russian professional dancers lose 80% of their emotions through their head.

Half time. We eat some cheese and vote for Kara.

At the start of the second show, it's time for one couple to leave. It's a surprise to hardly any of the viewing public that it's Pamela and James. It's more of a shock to Bruce, Tess and the judges. The BBC must have splashed some serious licence fee on soundproofing as it seems they genuinely could not hear 12 million people shouting '40? REALLY?' at their televisions in unison over the last couple of weeks.

The remaining two couples perform the dance they haven't yet done over the series. For Matt and Aliona, it's a Paso to
Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood, which, you've got to think, is a message from Aliona to the judges about her 'groundbreaking' choreography. It's not a classic. In fact, there's a strong whiff of Week 8 about it. Aliona is wearing a hideous red and black Ann Summers-style basque, with a skirt stapled on. A member of our group expresses the wish that Matt had gone bare-chested under his bolero jacket, instead of wearing a grim crimson poloneck that looks like it was made for sweating through. Matt looks wounded by the judges' tepid comments, until Craig says he likes it, and then he looks nervous but embarrassed.

Kara, WHO IS INJURED, and Artem do the waltz. Kara is wearing a plucky, painted-on smile. Artem is still struggling to keep it together. In Tess's enclosure afterwards, Kara says in a flat voice: 'I can't seem to straighten my arm at the moment,' which reminds you of some tearjerking war film: 'Are you alright, Private Tointon? You seem to be bleeding a little.' 'Yes sir, tickety-boo. Silly really... can't seem to feel my damned legs. You go on ahead without me, I'll catch up.'

Finally, they repeat their favourite dance. Matt and Aliona repeat their Viennese Waltz which means the return of THAT SODDING SWING. They seem to have adjusted something so they don't get tangled up in the ropes. Urgh, can we have some more fun, Matt and Aliona? This is tedious. And, by the way, shopping-centre breakdancing does not equal fun, no matter what a 13-year-old boy may tell you.

For her American Smooth, Kara is wearing the dress of the series. This is the dance that will clinch the title. It is gorgeous. You can tell Kara is in a lot of pain and at the end, Artem stands apart from her so she can take all the applause. Aww. He kisses the side of her head (he does that A LOT in this half) and holds her injured arm tenderly. The Jones jury starts to express some concern at this point that Artem has showered Kara with affection this evening, and she hasn't totally reciprocated. Don't break his heart, Tointon!

Alesha tells Kara she is a beautiful woman inside and out. I agree. However, the man sitting next to me in a cafe in Dulwich on Monday does not, telling his friend that Kara's body is nice, but her face isn't all that. To which I say, do you want to wear that cooked breakfast, monkey chops?

Backstage, Tess keeps grabbing Kara's bad arm and waving it around. NOT HELPING, TESS. They get 10s from everyone except Len. Katya and Felicity are crying in the background.

I want them to win so badly. I thought I wanted Matt to, but I was actually supporting the Matt who exists in an alternate reality where he was partnered with Katya or Flavia, and danced a tricksy, fun, elegant showdance.

In their final summing-up VT, Kara says of Artem: 'I've made a friend for life'. He says: 'When she laughs, I find it so adorable.' This is more fuel for the one-sided fire.

Results time! Kara and Artem are triumphant! Phew. Right and good sense has won out. Matt is extremely gracious in defeat, and doesn't start crying or go mental. Kara pays tribute to Matt's time-consuming day-job which, to his credit, he hasn't harped on about.
Unlike Scott.

She and Artem celebrate with that slightly awkward first-dance-at-a-wedding thing and - AND! - an ACTUAL KISS. Well. It's like a l-o-n-g peck. But on the lips. I think it is a sexy kiss. My guests think it is a fond-but-friends-only kiss. We rewind and watch again. I am right. You don't kiss your friends like that unless you're very drunk. I am assuming Kara and Artem are not very drunk, but I guess there's an outside chance Kara could be out of her tree on painkillers by now.

There's not much to say after that apart from, judging by the trailer, the Christmas special is going to be bloody brilliant. But blog-free - by me, at least.

Over and out.


Anonymous said...

God, I so hope you are right about K and A, Miss Jones. I will be scanning the new-year issues of Hello and OK etc for the photo story documenting their love. Maybe in matching cosy knits. But I confess, I remain fearful for poor Artem. N x

Mme Bernard said...

Ah, Miss Jones.

I was only introduced to your blog this year, but it is now just as much a part of Strictly as Claudia's shoes, Tess's shoulder blades and the shouts for Bruce to retire. Monday mornings have found me sitting looking at my RSS feed, waiting for confirmation that the blog has been updated. And the week that I didn't get to watch the weekend shows until the following Friday were a testament to willpower - hovering my mouse over the unread blog post and then dragging it away, reluctantly. Thank you so much for walking us through this series, saying the things that we were never allowed to say (Camilla and Lilia would never have been as rubbish as Natalie and Aliona have been in the choreography department this year) and generally being highly entertaining.

I found you for Strictly, I look forward to following your blog all year! Thank you

jrsullivan said...

I too found you through Strictly (from Digital Spy as it happens) and I'll be coming back for the other stuff.

Your Strictly reviews have been great and your writing style is as elegant as a pre-injury Kara arm extension.

Thanks for the entertainment.