For one very special week only, Strictly Come Dancing has been transported to the hallowed environs of Wembley Arena, that well-known cathedral of ballroom dancing. If you weren't lucky enough to secure tickets for this prestigious one-off event, move your television to the farthest end of your garden until the dancers resemble tiny brightly coloured dots, and set fire to some money while you consume flat lager and sub-standard nachos. It will be EXACTLY like being there.
From the outset, the programme makers are really embracing the footballing theme, despite later admitting that Wembley Arena has nothing to do with our national sport. Actually I think our national sport is cricket, but that still has nothing to do with Wembley Arena. Anyway, Strictly was never likely to let factual accuracy get in the way of an opportunity for laborious wordplay, and I can't honestly say I disapprove on that score. Ha! I just made a football pun without even trying. I may as well be working for Strictly. Let's pretend I am. Daly and Vilani, my office, now.
Kicking off (I just did it again! I am AMAZING!) is a group dance to a Queen medley which involves a faux Brian May flying through the air playing the guitar. Wow. I think this might be the best Strictly ever. Although at the moment it seems less Strictly and more Gladiators, what with all the cacophonous cheering and running around in something like a giant disused warehouse on the outskirts of London.
The first couple to dance are Robbie and Ola. I'm not sure how worried Ola is about their future in the competition, but let's just say she has deployed the catsuit. When it comes to taming Robbie's ludicrously leonine hair, Ola seems to have embraced the maxim 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em' as her own hair is very much The Cowardly Lion from The Wizard Of Oz tonight. They are salsaing – apparently – to Let Me Entertain You. It's terribly loud. I think if I was in the audience, I would have begged for a lie-down in the St John's Ambulance bay by now. It's a bit of a shambles, with Robbie and Ola running from stage to plinth like they're doing a circuit-training class. Ola seems happy at the end, despite Robbie nearly knocking her head off with his flying groin, which is a fate I wouldn't even wish on Aliona.
Next up are Alex and James. Oh, but wait. An elderly man has given security the slip and shuffled into the main arena. Oh no, he's dancing. Oh god. Someone help him. This is just sad. Why is no one looking after him? These vulnerable older people will continue to slip through society's cracks unless we try harder to help them.
So it's the tango for Alex and James. Their music is Relax by Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Twenty-five years ago this would have been banned but now that nice Alex Jones can dance to it on BBC1's premier family entertainment show. That, my friends, is progress. Relax, of course, is pure filth, but their tango is not. Is is nice. It's less Frankie Goes To Hollywood and more Frankie by Sister Sledge. It lacks aggression and intensity and I find myself getting distracted by the Topshop website. The judges love it, however, and give her three 9s and an 8, so what do I know? I know that I like this. James does a slightly embarrassing speech about how privileged he is to be dancing with Alex. I think on James's '10 Ways To Becoming A Personality Like Anton And Brendan' list, he has reached No 7, 'Emote!' (If you're wondering, No 6 was 'Have A Tantrum In Defence Of The Contestants – Noble And Sexy'; No 8 is 'Get On Celebrity Weakest Link').
Artem's back! Is it bad that I feel slightly disappointed? I was enjoying Brendan and his new hair, and their unexpected comeback. He and Holly are doing a sort of lindy-hoppy quickstep. I think. Regular readers will know that my technical knowledge of dancing is unparalleled. Even if I didn't have a fanatical love of the quickstep, I would still be saying that this is a brilliant routine. And sometimes Holly is brilliant too, but sometimes she just seems to be trotting distractedly alongside Artem like a pony who is having a nice daydream about some sugar lumps. Artem picks up Holly at the end, which I think is rash for a man recovering from a serious back condition. Maybe Brendan could have run on just for the lifting, like when they have someone who just does the running in cricket. I have read much hating of Holly's outfit, but I love it. Who says nude sequins, emerald green and leopard-print don't go together? NOT ME.
Anita was devastated to be in the bottom two last week. She literally says the word devastated. But it's clear that during the week Brian May has been repeatedly playing The Show Must Go On around the house on one of his 30,895 guitars because Anita has her head back in the game. Come on, Anita! They are sambaing to Come On Eileen – a Latin American-Celtic culture clash that makes me a feel a little bit sick, like putting baked beans on a pizza. You can tell Anita is starting to be out of her depth because the judges are saying things like: 'You always give it 100%' and 'Full of personality' which is Patronising Judge-ese for If You Can't Say Anything Nice About The Actual Dancing, Don't Mention The Actual Dancing At All. This would never happen to me, because no one could ever accuse me of giving it 100%. I pride myself on being slightly half-arsed and under-prepared whatever the occasion.
Harry and Aliona are salsing to I'm Still Standing – which, in Strictlyland, is a song forever associated with Jill Halfpenny's Best Jive EverTM. This better be good. Oh. It's not that good. I mean it is, obviously, Harry is great at dancing. But when he is tossing the prostrate Aliona around near the start, it's like he's trying to wrestle a carpet into the back of a car. And the hips action? Not really present. Also, he seems to stop between a lot of the moves, like a robot. Never mind, Harry, you can't be good at everything. You are already good at drumming, looking nice and pretending to like Aliona, so give yourself a break. At this point, I would really like Bruno to stop with the lechery. If Harry was a girl, everyone would be up in arms about this. Still, with all the noise in Wembley Arena, I can't believe Bruno missed his opportunity to get Harry to sit on his lap so he could hear his critique properly, so let's be grateful for that narrow escape.
Russell and Flavia are doing the jive. I think it's safe to say that no one ever thought Russell would still be in the competition at this point. When Flavia was submitting her staging ideas for each dance before the series started, she put: 'Week 8: Jive – we fire Russell out of a cannon. LOL!' never believing it would happen. I think Russell's pre-dance waving might have been pre-recorded and he's actually been stage-ready in the cannon for several hours with only a bottle of gin for company because afterwards he's so full of love for everyone – I mean at least twice as much as usual – that I'm pretty sure he's absolutely plastered. My summary of the Actual Dancing is that Flavia does a lot more of the jiving than Russell does.
Chelsee and Pacha are dancing the samba, which is officially harder than rocket science. Chelsee starts brilliantly but fades a little, probably because she's knackered. It's an awfully big place to sexily samba-roll from one end to the other. Alesha says 'Great job' afterwards. I feel like '[Positive adjective] job' is a new compliment that Alesha has learnt for this week's show and boy is she going to use it. One of my friends has a theory that Chelsee is a bit in love with Pasha and I'm reminded of this when they get their scores and she tries to kiss him and sort of misses and he looks really embarrassed. We've all been there, Chelsee.
Yay! A jive! By Kristina and Jason! To Wake Me Up Before You Go Go! With his receding curtain hair and synthetic-look suit, Jason reminds me a lot of Ralph Cifaretto in The Sopranos tonight but I think that's where the similarity is likely to end. In their 'hilarious' VT, Kristina slags off Jason's bleached 80s wig. Let she who is without sin cast the first stone, Kristina, is what I say to that. It's not a good week for Kristina and Hair, because in the routine she has a weird frizz ponytail that is very reminiscent of My Little Pony – although it's good to see that the 80s theming doesn't just stop at the song and Jason's T-shirt. It's all kinds of fun until Jason gets in a tangle and has to stop and wait for the next first beat of the bar to pick it up. Don't worry, Jason, I'm sure this happened to George Michael too. The judges are acting as though this would have been the greatest dance of all time were it not for Jason's slip-up. To be honest, I found Kristina's hoofing white trainers far more off-putting
And that's the end of the main show. To close, all the couples are introduced back on to the floor, with the judges and presenters in a 'You have been watching...' style, and they all have a
big dance. They should totally do this every week, it's really nice. Alex improbably tops the leaderboard so she's safe this week unless everyone at home hates her, but I'm worried for Anita. Still, despite the fact that she is clearly in the firing line, I reckon it's about time we had a SHOCK DEPARTURE. Are Holly's days numbered?
That is an invitation for you to write NO in the comments thread as soon as the results show is over.
38. QUEEN ELIZABETH OLYMPIC PARK, LONDON
9 months ago