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.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Yuk

*WARNING: CONTAINS DISGUSTINGNESS*

I'm sorry that you have to see this. I'm about to share with you a particularly unattractive moment of procrastination in an attempt to shame myself into reforming my behaviour.

While attempting to rewrite the post below for Tall Tales – I wasn't even attempting to write something from scratch, not even a blank page to excuse my ickyness – I noticed these two holes at the front of my laptop.


Teeny-tiny holes just made for squinting into, if you are hell-bent on avoiding the task that is set out in front of you, and have seen all there is to see out of the window next to you, and you have deliberately removed yourself from the room with the telly in it. And then I noticed what was inside those two little holes. Fluff and crumbs and all manner of bits. They had become two electronic belly-buttons.

So did I turn my computer upside down and shake them out? No, that wouldn't have wasted half enough time. Instead I spent a good half-hour playing Operation with a pair of pointy, pointy tweezers…


Some of the extractions were quite tricky, and there is further surgery to be done, but this is what I excavated:


Sorry. Disgusting. Yes.

(It could have been worse. Over the last couple of years, I've protected you from the stage-by-stage photos of my finger recovering from surgery, as a new nail grew from tiny stubby chrysalis to ongular butterfly. Predictably I never did get round to making a flickerbook of those photos as I planned.)

I couldn't believe that pile of eww had come out of those two tiny holes. But that was only the start of it. Look what else I found in there:


Oh, and these:


I'm wondering what else I've dropped down there over the years. Maybe this is where I might at long last find my missing ability to get the f*** on with things.

The Night Swatch

Last weekend I was walking the elegant avenues of Blackheath on the way to visit my friends Mr and Mrs S-P when I saw this house:


How community-spirited of its residents to invite neighbours and passers-by into the discussion of what colour to paint the front door.

Exactly which tasteful period-perfect bullet-grey shade should replace the current tasteful period-perfect bullet-grey shade?

Decisions, decisions.

Friday, 26 November 2010

The joy of repetition

I know I repeat myself. Don't tell me I'm the only one. But this time I'm doing it quite deliberately, with my eyes open and my brain on. Somehow I still feel the compulsion to apologise.

Since the initial publication of the post below a few months ago, it has been revised a little, and yesterday I read out the new version at Tall Tales, an excellent night of stories and music hosted, curated, birthed by
Dr Robert Hudson.

Marbury – a constant spiritual and intellectual inspiration to me – suggested I post the updated version. It would be, he said, like the Director's Cut. So here it is:

Shopping Centre Soulmates or In Which I Realise That No Ideas Are Truly Original

In this country, with our general reticence and limited enthusiasm for strangers, we’re not renowned for our customer service. If I am served in a shop by someone who doesn’t so much as acknowledge me, so busy are they telling a colleague about an out-of-order ex or some aspect of the holiday-leave structure that’s an affront to their civil liberties, I am seething but unsurprised. Yet when someone does offer me true, Uncle Sam-style, teeth-and-talent-show salesmanship, it seems so contrived, so commission-chasing, that I have to beat a terrified retreat to the furthest corner of the shop, and hide from anyone who might ask me if I need any help at all.


But I have astonishing news: on a Saturday afternoon in the shops of Bromley – the Bromley just south of London, the Milan of northern Kent – I recently discovered you can experience delightful customer service from an unexpected corner of the population. The youth. The Saturday girls, the college-holiday boys, the McJobbers, the saving-to-go-travellers. Those who, biologically and culturally, should be the most surly and the least giving of any kind of a shit become, on a Bromley Saturday, sincere, sunny, flawlessly nice. The Pollyannas of sales, working in the Pleasantville of retail. Like robots who have developed genuine thoughts and feelings. Almost like....wait… yes, like humans.


No one could blame a 19-year-old Starbucks Saturday girl for having an attitude problem. A sunny disposition is hard to maintain when a hard eight hours’ milk-frothing has laid waste to your eyeliner and tireless table-scrubbing has chipped away at your black nail varnish. Also people treat Starbucks really badly. Customers! Why not just crumble your muffin directly onto the carpet. Why persist in the charade that you are actually trying to get it into your mouth. Plus, if you take away the risk of actually eating any of it, it is far less fattening.


But in the Bromley branch of Starbucks, the Saturday girl who served me recently was a willowy 5ft9inches of enthusiasm and best intentions – stoically reiterating a pink-cheeked apology that the dishwasher wasn't working so all the drinks would be served in paper cups and was that OK. Presumably she thought that someone who’d been pushed to the brink by the queuing system in nearby Argos could flip out at the prospect of being denied their coffee in a massive china bucket you need two hands to lift. Perhaps she feared they would run amok, smashing the heavy glass jars that adorn the counter, showering unsuspecting pensioners nursing tall hot chocolates with a shrapnel of hazelnut biscotti and suburban bitterness.


But even in that eventuality, I felt sure Miss Starbucks would have smiled on.


In Marks & Spencer nearby, later the same day, my friend and I spent quite some time with a friendly, funny boy-cashier, all frayed festival wristbands and a fringe made for sulking behind – except… he was not sulking at all. He was patient and good-humoured and actually claimed to be enjoying our lengthy investigation into whether the top my friend wanted to buy her mum had been mislabelled. You see, the label said it was a 12, but it looked more like a 14, but when we held it up against a 14 it was much shorter, but it was still wider than a normal 12, and there were no other 12s to compare. There was a 10 but the 10 looked like it would pinch a bit around the…


Anyway.


There is a slim chance, of course, that Mr Marks & Spencer’s eagerness to please was on account of the fact my friend looks like Cameron Diaz’s sister. The one who lives in Orpington. But I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.


It wasn’t just those two employees, though. There was the beaming young man cheerfully refunding rogue purchases in Gap. There was the girl with the highly diplomatic advice in the changing rooms of Uniqlo. I have seen them, my friends. I have seen the service-industry Salvation Army of Bromley.


As my friend and I wandered back to the train station at the end of the day, we reflected on the youth we had met and their uniform good character. We wondered whether they all hung out together after their shops closed, like a really well-mannered casting of Skins.


We wondered if Young Mr Marks & Spencer and Miss Starbucks knew each other. And then we talked about what an adorable, late-adolescent romantic couple they would make. What joy their kindness could bring to each other, as well as a lot of orphanages in less developed countries of the world when they inevitably went on a do-gooding gap-year excursion together after a year or so of dating.


But what if these two individuals were totally unaware of each other? Working away on their separate floors of the Glades shopping centre, Bromley, perhaps one directly over the other, a gilded thread of romantic potential running through the floor and the ceiling, connecting the pair of them in a way they could not yet understand but sometimes felt. A quivering sensation they merely put down to the building work happening in Debenhams next door.


Perhaps they already passed each other on the shopping-centre escalators every Saturday, one going up, one going down, him with his head hidden in Kerrang! magazine, hers buried in a copy of The Belljar or The Girl Who Played With The Hornet’s Tattoo.


Perhaps, of a lunchtime, he would walk into Pret while she had her back to him, picking up cutlery to go with her soup. She would spin round to leave just as he’d turn away towards the sandwiches, debating whether to have prawn and avocado or Posh Ploughman’s.


As I thought about this, I felt the sun come out a little bit in my wintery, single-and-30-something soul. If I could find a way to bring these two marvellous young people together, it could somehow thaw my icy heart and a spiritual summer would come. I may continue to be alone with my king-sized duvet and costume-drama boxsets, but I would live vicariously through this young couple, in a way that I hoped would be less weird than it sounds. I would bask in their youthful glow of contentment, at least until one of them decided they wanted to ‘do India’ alone for six months, sending the other into a cider-bingeing emotional breakdown soundtracked by emo ballads.


But how to light the spark between the two of them? I thought about it for the whole train journey home from Bromley.

Well, I don’t like to brag, but I do have a GCSE in drama. I felt sure I could fashion some kind of uniform and pose as the head of facilities at the shopping centre in which they both worked. I could enter their respective shops with the borrowed authority of a false moustache, requesting their presence at a vital health and safety briefing at which they would be the only two attendees. Then, under the pretence of showing them a fire escape, I would somehow trap them outside or on a roof space overnight, requiring them to cuddle up together for warmth, if not survival.


It would obviously tarnish the achievement somewhat if one of them died from hypothermia during my attempts at matchmaking.


Or, in a ruse that shows little concern for my own personal safety, I could initiate a compulsory fire-extinguisher training session for two in an outdoor car park. As I started a controlled fire in a metal waste-paper bin, the flames would ignite in other, clumsily metaphorical places.


Or perhaps, if I took on an accomplice, one of us could distract Mr Marks & Spencer with another mislabelled item of women’s clothing, while the other of us eased his mobile phone out of his pocket, or slipped his name tag off his shirt, and then abandoned it on a table in Starbucks, knowing that there was a sweet-natured girl working there whose devotion to duty would lead her to track down its rightful owner.


I was delighted with my plans. I would create love’s young dream. Then I would create an Oscar-winning screenplay based on the escapade. The Academy would love the shot of the lovers working one above the other, with the golden thread that ran between them.


The train was just pulling back into my home station when I realised I had essentially reinvented one of the subplots of the film Amelie.


What, I wondered, would be the market for Bromelie, a romantic comedy about a single women in a south London arrondissement who deflects attention from her own loneliness by doing good turns for strangers.


If you need me, I’ll be sitting over there in the corner, working on my pitch.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Last night I dreamt that I saw Ann Widdecombe's undergarments. Oh no. That wasn't a dream

In case the subtle theming and gossamer-light wordplay of the scriptwriters haven't given it away, tonight Strictly Come Dancing comes from Blackpool. BLACKPOOL! LIVE FROM BLACKPOOL! THE VEGAS OF THE NORTH. SEE HOW THE PROFESSIONAL DANCERS ARE DANCING TO VIVA LAS VEGAS. DO YOU SEE? IT IS BECAUSE WE ARE IN VEGAS BLACKPOOL!

Just so long as everyone's clear on that.

The graphics department have gone to town on a special
Strictly logo thing, which includes an Illuminations-style effigy of Bruce Forsyth that moves a clenched fist up and down. It is tempting to speculate on how much more animated it is than the real thing.

We begin with
Robin and Patsy. One of my viewing companions for the evening expresses some concern about Patsy's emotional stability. This hadn't really occurred to me. I'm usually transfixed by how much of her face can move – and the good news is: most of it. But on reflection, there may be something Patsy needs to work through, with her near-constant stream of: 'Well, I'll probably get everything WRONG. A contender? I don't THINK so. I'm wearing a leotard and NO ONE WANTS TO SEE THAT.' But this evening, her mood seems to have swung the other way because everything is BRILLIANT and AMAZING and I LOVE BLACKPOOL. Her samba is not quite worthy of the same superlatives - I'm going to say it's a bit skippy and her face says 'desperate concentration' rather than 'party time'. But she's still my favourite of the celebrities who are not quite the best ones.

Although you may think Patsy should stay single for a while, I'm wondering if a nice, down-to-earth man could provide a stabilising influence. But who? And where to find him? I am still pondering this five minutes later when we are reintroduced to Dave Arch and his band. Dave Arch! Dave Arch and Patsy! Aww, Dave looks so nice and cuddly. I bet he would like to put on a cosy jumper and a sensible coat and take you out for a lovely country walk and a pub lunch. And he's in the music business, which seems to be Patsy's main criteria for a partner.

Over in
Kara and Artem's corner, Artem has sustained an injury earlier in the day, while practising a tricky lift. There is high drama! There is ominous music! There is Artem wincing under the hands of a medic! Kara feels responsible and is crying, ruining her terrifying amount of make-up. But even wracked with pain, Artem says 'I'm still going to dance the American Smooth, like I promised her!' OK, maybe he actually says 'Like I promised to' but still. Don't tell me this just is a showmance. To be honest, I think Kara could probably do a bit better, but never mind.

When it gets to show time, you can tell Artem is feeling out of sorts because he can't even manage to put a trilby on. They are brilliant, as always, but Len is furious that their American Smooth wasn't a proper foxtrot, so how can he judge it? Erm, maybe as an American Smooth, Len. Not, like, as a foxtrot. You will remember, at this point, that I know nothing about dancing. Still, Len has quite the episode about this. At point one he stands up to address the crowd, and I hope he is going to launch into a brilliant loose-cannon speech about the state of ballroom dancing and television today, like Judd Hirsch in the first episode of
Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, only that is not about ballroom dancing. But he doesn't. He just sits down again. Maybe next week.

There is much discussion in the room about the fancyability of
Matt Baker. Verdict: pretty fanciable, especially after we witness his quite spectacular range of lower body movement during the samba. It's best not to dwell on his 'samba face'. Matt finally gets his first 10s, but they come from Alesha and Bruno, so I'm not sure that's any indication of quality. But if I ever meet Matt – and I am increasingly entertaining fantasies of this happening – I would tell him that the least Strictly-obsessed of our number is unsure whether he or Aliona is the professional dancer tonight.

Felicity and Vincent must be nervous this evening. They are dancing the American Smooth, which starts with a celebrity/paparazzi theme, and then goes into a lot of what I call strolling about, with Felicity looking slightly disorientated, as though Vincent is showing her around the gardens of a sheltered housing development. But then they move into a conventional hold and things pick up no end and it's elegant and sweet. Bruce says 'That's your kind of dance.' And by that, Bruce, do you basically mean an old one? The judges have mixed feelings. I'm transfixed by the marshmallow-pink, PVC-effect bodice of Felicity's dress.

Grab a cushion to hide behind, it's time for
Gavin and Katya. Katya is wearing a crazy hat, which makes me think of Kim Cattrall in Mannequin. I'm hoping for a full-on tribute to the film, danced to Starship's Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now, although it would be confusing as to which of them was impersonating the shop dummy. Ahahahahahaha. Sorry Gavin. When it becomes clear from their training VT that Gavin is going to attempt a death-defying, Kenny Logan-style one-armed lift, I wonder if Katya's hat is an elaborately disguised crash helmet, but no, she discards it early on in the routine.

Their dance starts with Gavin playing a rock star, miming along to the singers. You just know that what's running through his little orange head is : 'Yes! I'm Peter Andre!' When they attempt The Lift, it is very shaky, and you sense that Katya's life is flashing before her eyes, and she is wondering why she wasted so much of it trying to teach Gavin Henson to dance.

Now it's time for Scott and Nata... oh.

Oh God.

Oh no. Please no.

I think we all knew that this was going to happen tonight, but none of us wanted to face up to it.

Bruce starts dancing.

Some of the comments in the room where I am watching include:

'THAT'S NOT DANCING, THAT'S JUST SHUFFLING!'

'YOU CAN SEE THAT IN ANY OLD PEOPLE'S HOME UP AND DOWN THE COUNTRY.'

It is a mercifully short performance, though, and there is no singing.

Come on, everyone. It's over now. We're all OK. A little shaken up, but we've lived to tell the tale. This will only make us stronger.

And here are
Scott and Natalie, with their samba. Despite impressive chest-shimmying (technical term), Scott is just not as bendy as the Baker. Scott is not bendy enough to bend over and lace up Matt Baker's bendy boots. It is disappointing, but Alesha and Bruno still give them a 9. CHRIST.

Pamela and James dance a cheeky come-hither American Smooth to Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps. Will the people who regularly sing karaoke with me in small rooms in Soho remind me to try this next time? Thanks. It's great, but there's a bit of ungainly pre-lift action, so we're slightly surprised that they get a couple of 10s. Less surprised that they're from Alesha and Bruno, obviously. James is stoked, though, and it's hard to begrudge him and Pamela their scores. Obviously I'll have a good try though.

Ann and Anton close the show. Normally, you are only forced to turn away from the screen when they actually start dancing. But this week, well, their costumes are something else. Ann is wearing a shade of yellow I can only describe as furious. Anton is wearing gold trousers that I can only describe as gold. In their VT, as Ann's feistiness is highlighted, the backing music is Bigmouth Strikes Again by The Smiths. I'm distracted by the idea of Ann and Anton waltzing to the maudlin strains of Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me? Or, perhaps, a cha-cha-cha to Girlfriend In A Coma?

I can't really say much about Ann and Anton's samba, other than it ends with Ann sprawled on the floor, canary-yellow undercarriage centre-stage and camera-wards. I will merely report the words of the male faction of our party, spoken with the terrible eyes of a haunted man: 'I have seen up Ann Widdecombe's skirt.'

None of us, now, can ever go back.

So that is this week's Saturday night show. In other
Strictly news, though, let us pay tribute to Harry from McFly's Children In Need paso with Ola Jordan. Harry is my second favourite member of McFly after Tom. Tom is the brains of the outfit. I like brains.

Anyway.

Let us also rejoice in news of the
Strictly Christmas special – not so much in the line-up (still no Madeley, though booking June Brown is genius) but specifically the return of homoerotic overlord (see November 2nd's write-up) Matthew Cutler. Let joy be unconfined. And, like, ding-dong merrily on high.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Cashpoint cocktails

Welcome to South London. Would you care for a highball with your cash withdrawal?

Monday, 15 November 2010

'When you dance on the edge...'

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.

Anyway.

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!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Badly done, ballroom voters

We are halfway through the competition, according to my calculations, which must mean that we are due for a Shock! Departure! I can say this with the calm authority of someone who already knew the week's results when she started writing this. But still, make no mistake, even at the start of the show there is a whiff of Gaby Logan in the air. Eau D'Injustice is a bitter, bitter scent.

Still, let's pretend we don't know the sad thing that we know. Man up everyone, put on your best paso face and let's rewind to the beginning.

Kara and Artem are first up and – romance, showmance or nomance – things seem to be getting a little fraught in the training room, as Artem is learning to handle Kara's mood swings. OK, so you're putting up with them now, Artem, but will you be able to put up with them in 10 weeks' time on a luxury, all-expenses-paid-by-OK!-magazine holiday to the sun-kissed Seychelles where the two of you will be taking part in a photo shoot and 12-page interview about how you Found Love On The Dancefloor? Will you? Will you? Yes, I agree, you probably will. Kara and Artem dance a brilliant salsa. Or, more specifically, Kara's hair dances a brilliant salsa. She shakes it around A LOT. Kara is ever-so-slightly passion over precision, but I love her for it. She's the anti-Ali Bastian.

Pamela and James are dancing the foxtrot. James is tetchy in the training VT and Pamela says it's because he's cross about last week's disappointing performance but can't really talk about it, so he's taking it out elsewhere. At the end of their much, much better foxtrot, Pamela and James do the most cheesy look-back to camera ever, so I'm wondering if this incident will also manifest itself in the training room next week, perhaps by extreme nausea and feelings of deep shame. I don't know. I'm no psychologist.

Next up, Felicity and Vincent. After bringing out Vincent's adorable son last week, the VT makers are running out of options, so they take to the streets to interview Great Britain's men (most of whom are apparently played by Paul Whitehouse) about how hot Felicity is for her age. One of them is actually a taxi driver mouthing off out of his cab window. What they say can be condensed into: 'Felicity? 64? Phwoar! Wahey! Gertcha!' Let's not dwell. Felicity doesn't really throw herself into the paso doble enough. Maybe she's just guarding her joints carefully. She's 64, you know. Also, she is hampered by having to wear a revolting false plait, which is presumably representing the bull's tale. You really should get an extra mark off each judge for having to wear any kind of hair that is not your own. At the end of the dance, when Felicity the bull is slain, Vincent takes his jacket off and swishes it around, exposing his bare chest, before dragging Felicity away by the foot. But instead of thinking 'The cruel elegance of the matador! The terrible beauty of the kill!' you just think, 'Aww! Look at little Vincent with his top off!'

Jimi and Flavia pay a visit to Jimi's daughters school in their training film. Jimi's all: 'Yeah, my little princess thinks her old dad's kind of awesome.' His daughter is all: 'This is the worst day of my life, Dad! You're SO EMBARRASSING!' Her schoolmates, unburdened by the social niceties of adulthood, give their dance skills very short shrift indeed. Still, it's all come right by Saturday as Flavia and Jimi do an ace Jazz Age quickstep with a mini dance-off at the start. (I love a dance-off.) Jimi still has a strange expression on his face. This week, it's one of expectation, like he's waited too long for his food in a restaurant and is looking up hopefully at every dish that emerges from the kitchen.

Matt and Aliona have a bit of a tiff in training. I don't think it's the first. Matt says, 'It's not an issue.' It quite obviously is an issue, to the extent where at one point he seems to be gazing out of a window, wondering whether he can jump out. They begin their Viennese waltz dancing around a spectacularly twee swing, which was apparently bought by the props manager from a Las Vegas wedding chapel, who were selling it on account of it being a bit OTT for them. Matt and Aliona's arms keep getting caught up in the ropes of the swing which must be super-annoying. After catching a tantalising glimpse of Dark Matt in training, I would love it if the rope thing totally tipped him over the edge, and he went berserk, kicking the swing in until it collapsed in a sorry heap of cheap wood and fake flowers, while Aliona stands there crying. This doesn't happen. But there's still six weeks to go and, presumably, a whole lot more props in the warehouse. Instead, they complete their dance to Where The Wild Roses Grow by Nick Cave and Kylie. You've probably heard that Nick Cave likes nothing better than to put on a velour leisure suit and watch Strictly on a Saturday night with his wife and a posh pizza from M&S on a tray table. Kylie loves it too, but obviously has to pretend she prefers X Factor.

Next up, it's Ann and Anton. I think the hair, make-up and wardrobe departments have done very well with Ann's rigid list of costume dos and don'ts (she's practically J-Lo). However, this week, with her Charleston headband, it's all gone a bit a bit 'mad nan'. Ann says that there is no need for any dance to turn into 'mating antics', and her dress will not be rising any higher than her ankle. I think everyone's just fine with that, Ann. What follows is less a Charleston, and more something from The Generation Game. You've got to hand it to Anton, he is working HARD here, putting on a show with the raw material he has. But if I didn't know, I would find it almost impossible to guess which dance they were doing, as Ann's Charleston content is practically nil. But then, as we've established, I know nothing about dancing. Len gives them a 6. Len, as I've said before, is the real problem with the Strictly judges, even though he is a kindly, lovable old man with a sovereign ring and a twinkle in his eye and a shiny gold farthing for any urchin he sees begging on the street.

By managing to escape the cut yet again last week, Michelle and Brendan seem to be living out the lyrics to Michelle's Grammy award-winning hit Survivor – she literally is a Survivor, she's not gonna give up, she's not gonna stop, she's gonna work harder. Michelle, I want you to know that, for my part, I'm not going to diss you on the internet, cause my momma told me better than that. The dancing stuff does seem to be coming together a little more for Michelle – although as Craig points out, this may just be because the waltz allows Brendan to drag her around the floor. She's getting her sass back though. I love the bit in her training video when she assumes a deranged waltzing posture and says 'Lower! Prepare! DRIVE!' Brendan makes a feeble plea for voting benevolence by claiming they were waltzing to a foxtrot piece of music which is apparently INCREDIBLY HARD. Brendan, no one cares about that. Try adding some slapstick instead. People will love it.

Patsy, meanwhile, is now only able to speak in coverlines from Closer magazine. 'I've got my confidence back!' 'I've dropped two dress sizes!' 'I feel good about myself again!' She and Robin dance to All The Lovers by Kylie, which is an amazing choice of music, but perhaps not for this particular dance, which may or may not be the cha-cha-cha. I think they go quite badly wrong, but then I'm always thinking people get it wrong when they don't. Then, when they do, I never notice, I'm just thinking, 'This is BRILLIANT!' The judges have some issues with it, but they mostly seem to be Robin's fault, so that's OK.

It all goes wrong for Scott and Natalie this week. They are dancing the stupid rumba, so you can't really blame them. The first problem is that Scott doesn't actually have very much to do, apart from unfurling his arms a bit and holding onto Natalie while she does some Sexy (it says here) Writhing. Again, Len marks them ludicrously highly. As Alesha dishes out the criticism, Natalie smiles and nods, while clearly thinking, 'I'll get you, Dixon. I'LL GET YOU.' Craig gives them a 4. I love him for it.

The cha-cha-cha is the first dance of Gavin's that I have watched without hiding my eyes, or my whole head, or full-body flinching. Katya has a 'sexy rugby' outfit on, while Gavin is wielding a ball. They both seem to be participating in some rugby-themed soft-porn musical. They should totally make that film. They're sitting on a goldmine. It's Gavin's best dance by miles, although I can't help thinking he's doing all the same moves as he did last week for the paso.

And so to the matter of the results, where we see that Jimi's daughter and her chums were not the only ones who didn't enjoy his dancing. I hope she doesn't grow up feeling bad about this, watching her ageing dad sitting in his armchair in a threadbare sequinned shirt, playing and rewinding videos of the night he danced to Thriller in freaky contact lenses. It's genuinely upsetting how shocked Jimi and his on-show pals like Brendan are by the result. Now, of course, we are entering what's known as Sargeant Season, where people who foolishly think that Strictly is a fair and just dance competition get increasingly FURIOUS about Ann and say 'Well, I like a joke as much as the next person but it's gone too far now. She's keeping better dancers out of the competition.'

To them, I say that this has been happening since series 1, you fools. You think it is all sequins and skills and showmance, but it is HEARTBREAK and TRAGEDY and SHAKING YOUR FISTS AT THE HEAVENS. DEAL WITH IT!

Till next week.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Only when I barf

When I was little, I would occasionally watch a hospital-set sitcom called Only When I Laugh. It was on ITV, so I was probably feeling pretty bloody rebellious whenever I tuned in.

I remember Peter Bowles and James Bolam in dressing gowns and striped pyjamas. I probably remember Richard Wilson in a white coat.

And I think I remember this: as a kind of catchphrase, James Bolam's character would beckon someone to his bedside, lift up the sheets that covered him and say 'Do you want to see something
really horrible?'

Well, readers, that is what I'm saying to you today.

This is what someone, somewhere, is calling the Christmas pizza.


(Hand: model's own.)

The traditional pizza base is wearing a vest of gravy under its toppings. There are thick layers of turkey. There are diced roast potatoes. There is some kind of sausage meat/stuffing aspect. There is brie.

I will say that again. There is brie.

There is a large amount of
jam cranberry sauce.

Even though this is, on paper, a revolting proposition, you will notice from the picture above that half of the pizza has already been eaten. This is because in this sort of situation, the Infinite Grazing Thereom comes into practice, which says that if you leave any item of food, however unpleasant, in the environs of a group of office workers for long enough, eventually it will be eaten.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Tardy Come Catch-up

I'm a bit late with the Strictly catch-up this week. It's not like I have better things to do on a Sunday – I rarely do, and I'm OK with that, it's a day for private reflection and personal growth, after all. But this week I have been busy. ANYWAY.

It's Halloween on
Strictly, which can mean only one thing. More gimmicks. Halloweeny gimmicks. I love Halloweeny gimmicks in any area of life, but particularly in Marks & Spencer. There is no Marks & Spencer in Marbury's luxury penthouse flat, where I watch this week's show, but Strictly will do.

From the start, the boys are wearing eyeliner, which is pretty bloody edgy for Strictly. Tess is wearing a dress made of the chocolate-covered-toffee wrappers from Quality Street and a belt designed by the people responsible for the London 2012 Olympic logo. As Miss W, my other sofa companion, remarks, 'Dress, fine. Belt, fine. Dress and belt together? No.' She works on a fashion magazine, so she Knows. I work on a fashion magazine occasionally, and rarely Know. But this is one of the occasions when I also Know.

We start with a dance by the male professional dancers, which involves a lot of topless stutting about staring at each other. I'm not sure what's going on, but I'm finding it really hot. Also, Matthew Cutler seems to be the boss of them all, like a kind of sexily evil homoerotic overlord, which only makes it hotter.

First up are
Pamela and James. James is wearing one of Neil Diamond's red jumpsuits from the 70s with the sleeves cut off. Pamela is wearing a costume from an old Steps tour, when they covered Better The Devil You Know. You might have been wondering whether Pamela could carry on being effortlessly brilliant at everything, week after week, rumba after salsa. I think we all know the answer now, post-jive. It's no nightmare, but it's no 9 out of 10 either. Do people like Pamela? I do, but I worry she's too far from the nice-funny-young-man-trying-really-hard image that the big amorphous British Voting Public persist in clasping to their big amorphous bosom. (Alesha was an exception to this, obviously, but she was a ridiculous amount of better than anyone else.) I don't know. But I wouldn't be surprised if Pamela was a Shock Departure over the next few weeks, is what I'm saying.

Next,
Tina and Jared, with their Argentine Tango. Their attempts to get sexy together in training are so awkward, like teenagers rehearsing for a school play with kissing in it. They don't seem to have the same... well, I can't help it, I'm going to use the word 'vibe'… between them as the other couples. I hope Jared is alright. He's so young and far from home. The other new dancers on the show (Artem and Robin) are older and musclebound and can playfight and compare 'guns' with the rest of the Strictly boys and benchpress each other at lunchtime, while Jared eats his peanut butter and jelly sandwich and drinks his milk in a toilet cubicle on his own, like Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls, psyching himself up to make his regular upbeat phonecall home: 'Hi mom. No, everything's fine. [Voice cracks.] It's going great. What? I sound upset? Oh no, I'm just losing my voice. Too many parties with these crazy guys from the show. We just have so much fun.' Tina and Jared have gone for a kind of sexy-70s-disco-brooding-Halloween-Argentine-tango, which is exactly the theming pile-up it sounds. It's good enough, but I'm not sure it's going to be good enough, if you know what I mean.

Kara and Artem are doing the Paso Doble. In preparation, they go and see The Phantom Of The Opera, which has the desired effect, I think, by getting Kara 'all revved up'. This is one of the most excitable reactions to Phantom Of The Opera I've ever heard – more than 'What time does the coach pick us up?' or 'All those seats but only two toilets!' Kara and Artem are very good, although there's too much swishing for me. I know the swishing is, like, one of the points of the Paso. But I know what I like. So does Alesha. She gives it a 10.

Next are
Patsy and Robin. In training, she has to keep making excuses to go out of the training room so she can have a sit down. This is why I love Patsy. She looks like a man-eating sexbot but she's actually a normal person who likes sitting down, rather than sweating through her clothing and shouting 'Woooh! Yeah!' The judges like her jive, and so do I, although I'm not sure there's enough of that light bounce action the judges love to talk about. Robin is apparently all about a different kind of bounce action by doing the 'Brrrr' thing in Patsy's boob area during the dance. I sense that Robin may have been 'acting' when he did this, but still, eww.

It's
Felicity and Vincent! Vincent brings his son to rehearsal. Awwww x 100,000 to the power 75,000. There's really no good reason for Vincent to do this, apart from luring the voting readers into The Awwww Trap. And I fell right into it! God, I feel such a fool. I say no good reason, but I suppose childcare difficulties might be a good reason. You may be a high-flying professional dancer on the BBC's flagship Strictly Come Dancing programme, but that doesn't mean you're free of the financial noose of nursery fees. Anyway, F & V's dance starts with some weird Venetian masked dancing and Tales Of The Unexpected-style music. It's kind of cheesy, like the set-up of a glamorous period whodunnit on ITV in the 80s. They dance a bit on the top of the stairs – I think I may take to calling it the 'landing' – but then spend AGES getting down to the main floor, and taking their capes off, before carrying on. Urgh. We all know the Viennese waltz can be boring, but walking slowly down some steps in the middle does not constitute 'jazzing it up'.

In
Flavia and Jimi's VT, Jimi's mum says he may slip the moonwalk into their Paso (which they are dancing to Jacko's Thriller). DON'T ENCOURAGE HIM, MRS MISTRY. I really like Jimi, but I think he may have a very mild case of the Craig Kelly Affliction, which is that there is a gulf between what he thinks his face and body is doing, and what they actually are doing. It's very minor, and he's so lovely and puppyishly enthusiastic and very good really, but sometimes he looks a bit... funny. However, Jimi was the lucky person who got to wear the one pair of spooky contact lenses the budget could stretch to, and they are proper good. I bet James Jordan really wanted to wear them and had a massive sulk about it until Ola told him to pull himself together, at least he's still IN the competition. The judges like Jimi and Flavia's performance and Bruno says something about Jimi being the living dead. [Bruce Forsyth joke writes itself.]

Brendan and Michelle are back! Well, Brendan is. Michelle has never been away. Clearly the other dancers bagged the best costumes when Brendan was in New Zealand, as he has well and truly drawn the short straw. Neck up, he's doing the Riff-Raff-from-Rocky-Horror, Francis-Rossi-with-his-hair-down-but-the-hair-is-white look. Neck down, he's the bloke from ACDC who dresses in school uniform. Michelle really gives the jive some welly, in a totally bonkers way, resulting in her most successful dance to date. Alternatively, you could say she's moving so fast, it's just harder to see the ropey bits. Either way, it's closer to the Michelle we thought was going to be the most spunkily awesome kind of loose cannon when we first met her. During the judging, Brendan has a row with Len. Who says the show is deserting its core values?

This week's Training VT Gold from
Gavin & Katya shows The Henson saying that after last week's poor performance, 'I realised I am human'. It seems to have come as quite the revelation, like: 'I am not a shiny immortal god of grooming. I am nothing more than flesh and blood.' [Sheds mortal tear, drawing further attention to his own humanity.] Katya gets him an acting coach AS I PREDICTED LAST WEEK. Unfortunately, and with the greatest of respect, a chunky balding 60-year-old man in a beige suit calling Gavin 'a welsh twerp' was never likely to inspire genuine fire and aggression in him. Still, in preparation for the dance, Gavin says he's been thinking 'really bad thoughts' that have put him a dark place. What could they be? 'I'm really pale and my hair is all fluffy! HELP ME! I'm looking in a mirror and I can't see my own reflection. It's a NIGHTMARE.' But when the dance starts... oh Gavin. His capework looks like he's shaking out a tablecloth before he lays the table. Katya has clearly decided it's crisis time because Gavin is topless. There is nowhere they can go after this unless he also takes his trouser off and wears some kind of Chippendales-style pouch. It's probably his best dance, but Miss W and I still have to hide behind some cushions. They get a standing ovation all the same, but it's just possible this has nothing to do with the dancing.

Scott, of
Scott and Natalie fame, is ill He has a lot of mucus. Natalie says no sickness bug will get in the way of them having fun. Natalie's kind of intense – I'm not sure what would constitute fun for her. Maybe staring into each other's eyes and saying all the things you really like about each other. I think at the start of the routine, Scott is meant to be a statue who comes to life, but he's doing the Bruce Forsyth fist-to-forehead pose, which rather undermines the mood for me. Still it's darned impressive and they are only one Revel-Horwood point off full marks. Also, during the routine, Natalie has a cauldron. What? Nothing. I'm just saying that Natalie has a cauldron. No jokes to make here. Move along.

Ann and Anton are doing the Paso Doble. Let us start with the music. They are dancing to Wild Thing. I feel like if you were going out with Anton and he wanted to spice things up in the bedroom, he might do some kind of striptease to this song. During it, he would a) rip his satin shirt open, b) hold a rose between his teeth, and c) say 'Grrrrrr'. Please don't judge me for having imagined this scenario. This is not Ann's greatest dance. I say dance. She's really just wandering about. We are all waiting for the legendary 'being dragged around on the floor' section, as it translates into English, which in this case goes on for AGES. Both have their arms outstretched, which looks like Anton is a caretaker using one of those hardfloor cleaning machines that always make me think of a hovercraft. In other caretaker news, and also this week's 80s TV reference, Anton reminds me a bit of Mr Bennett, the caretaker off Take Hart. Craig only has three letters to describe the dance 'O...M...G'. Ann probably learned what this means from some delinquent youngsters she met on an estate, who she tried to rehabilitate by suggesting they join the Young Conservatives.

Matt and Aliona go last. Matt looks like he's in Good Charlotte. He's gone totally emo. They also have a vampire theme to their routine. They really are going all-out for the youth vote tonight. In that case, it's probably not a great idea to dance to Meatloaf. Matt also has a particularly shiny jacket on. It's clear that you can't start a fire (Dave Arch's band, incidentally, make Meatloaf sound like Bruce Springsteen) with the sparks from manmade fibres, or TV Centre would have burnt down one Saturday night years ago.

I don't often say much about the results show. That's because I've normally gone on long enough. But this week, I must salute the brilliant pro dance to
Ghostbusters. Erin as Sigourney Weaver! Everyone else as dancing ectoplasm! It's brilliant until Anton comes on and ruins it by being... you know... Anton-y. It's less the crumpled, world-weary charm of Bill Murray, and more the cheesy showbiz grin of Mr Light Entertainment.

It's not a huge surprise to discover that this week marks the end of the road for Tina and Jared. Jared must now find an ally within the BBC who can find tapes from last year's show and digitally superimpose his and Tina's heads on the bodies of Chris Hollins and Ola, so he can send them to his family in the US. They think he's going to win.