Over the last few weeks, there has been a long dark shadow cast over Strictly Come Dancing. No, not the show's increasing infatuation with gimmicks, nor the toe-curling, someone-anyone–can't-somebody-stop-this VTs, but this:
This was the week that the rumba of rumbas finally came. My advice before the start of the show: make a cup of tea, check on the dinner for approximately a minute and a half, hide your face in your newly purchased Christmas Radio Times, do whatever you have to to save yourself.
So let's start. Oh, by the way, it's movie night, although barely anyone mentions it, so don't worry too much about that.
Some notes from the start of the show:
1) We kick off with a professional dance that salutes the magic of the cinema. Apparently. It features a segment with Anton and Erin in black and white. I see the BBC are now no longer attempting to maintain the facade that these two belong in the same century as the rest of the pro-dance gang. Also making an appearance, and apparently becoming as much of an immovable fixture on the show as Anton and Erin, is the Strictly door, which has been repainted so many times it's now three times its original width. Surely the Ubiquitous Strictly Lamppost will also be employed tonight.
2) The BBC have attempted to counter the prospect of Harry/Aliona rumba horror by providing Tess with an outfit that is, well, OK actually. I mean, when judged against her usual sartorial standards. It is a black jumpsuit and I don't mean to gush here, but it's kind of almost bordering on chic. Apart from the shoulders. And the necklace, which is strangely dagger-shaped – exactly the kind of thing one could use to wreak serious harm on one's co-host, if one were inclined, speaking purely hypothetically, of course. Apart from those things, it's really fine.
3) Pasha's fellow pro dancers have clearly invoked some made-up 'last into the show, first into the most ridiculous costume' rule to ensure it's the newbie who finds himself greening up to play Shrek and not any of them. Other unofficial 'rules of the show' that Pasha has been informed are totally obligatory by his colleagues are stealing one of Brucie's rugs from his dressing room and wearing it to studio rehearsals, and putting on an extremely strong Italian accent whenever one talks to Bruno.
Anyway. The dancing.
First up are Robbie and Ola. They are doing the quickstep to Little Green Bag and channelling Reservoir Dogs. I enjoy thinking about all the mummies and daddies at home explaining the ins and outs of the film to their little smashers. 'Well, it starts with Mr Orange who has a very bad tummy ache, and Mr White is looking after him...' It's not that different to the Mister Men, when you put it like that. Despite the 18-certificate inspiration, this is a marvellous concept, and a quickstep is always a force for good in my book. Robbie doesn't exactly nail it, though, and who can blame him? He looks close to tears that he hasn't done better, and we all know why.
Assume the brace position! It's Harry and Aliona. They are paying tribute to Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves and I know from catching It Takes Two on Friday that Harry is a big fan of Bryan Adams. I am too, as it happens, which means Harry and I could have one hell of a karaoke session together – culminating, bien sur, in our rendition of one of the greatest duets in popular music, When You're Gone. Anyway, let me be scrupulously fair about this and say that their rumba isn't actually that bad. I mean it is, but not necessarily any worse than anyone else's. It's all weird bendy pelvises and strange man-trousers, but I know this will never change. Alesha loves it, which is about as distinguishing a statement as saying that Bruce Forsyth likes an opportunity to show off his singing and dancing on primetime television. Afterwards Harry says how much he enjoyed it, which I find slightly unconvincing since he says this every week. Just for once, and preferably tonight, I wish he'd say 'Urgh, well, that was embarrassing. I totally had to lay my face on her jugs!'
Next, it's Alex and James. I love Alex for describing the American Smooth, which she is dancing, as 'like a foxtrot with lifty bits' but then hate her for saying she loves Pretty Woman (which, for me, is a truly regrettable entry in the romantic comedy canon). That's life in the public eye, Alex. One minute you're up... I find their dance forgettable but everyone else seems to like it. Alex goes wrong apparently, but I don't notice, possibly because I'm distracted by wishing that Dave Arch got to sing the 'Mercy!' part of the song all by himself, preferably in close-up while doing 'Grrr!' tiger paws.
Holly and Artem dance a paso on a Zorro theme. Everyone seems to be saying that this is the week Holly really knocks it out of the park, but I find it a bit boring. I am hard to please this week. I have a snivelling cold, which is causing a constant trickle of ennui to leech from me, as well as the more conventional snot. My 'more fun than watching the actual dance' activity for this pair is imagining that it's not Artem behind the mask, but some other stubbly lothario. Nick Knowles from DIY SOS? Toadfish from Neighbours? Or Anton, who lured Artem to a disused quarry on Friday night and pushed him over the edge in order to grasp a little more primetime dancing. He's had to draw on that stubble with eyeliner, of course. I'm a little surprised that Holy and 'Artem' get 2 10s, but not surprised that they come from Alesha and Bruno.
Jason is clearly feeling the pressure as he quite deliberately brings up the fact that he is the oldest remaining contestant in the competition. Desperate times, Donovan. He's obviously used this to pull rank in some way because he is gifted a peach of a track in Singing In The Rain, AND THE LAMPPOST. THE LAMPPOST IS BACK. Jason gets to dance on his own at the start, and he's good, but he's not Tom Chambers. It's terribly tasteful and nicely done, right until the end when Jason does a mad grinning monkey face. Always with the crazy faces, Jason. Can't you just smile nicely?
And finally there is Chelsee who is amazing tonight. Her kicking/flicking is so fast and fabulous that somewhere in Newcastle (presumably) Jill 'Jive' Halfpenny is clutching her glass of Bailey's so tightly it shatters in her jealous grip. Chelsee and Pasha are thrilled by their three 10s, but far more entertaining is Erin's extremely tight smile in the background, an expression that says, 'Me and Austin did a brilliant jive once and where exactly did it get us? BLOODY WELL NOWHERE.'
When results time rolls around, Jason is a shock bottom two placing. Would that make him bottom of the viewer vote? I don't know, I'm in the slow learners' group when it comes to Strictly maths. In any case, it's Robbie who's doing his final dance, which is sad, but just. He and Ola have their farewall smooch to Walk Away by Cast. If you watched Euro 96, maybe that song will mean as much to you as it does to me and my friend Stef, or maybe it won't.