Monday, 26 November 2012

StrictlyChat, Week 8, in which I agree with the judges for about 10 seconds and then start hating them so hard I have to check my eyes for burst blood vessels

So, it will come as no surprise to you that I've got some issues with Strictly this week, you guys. Unlike Bastard Wembley Week, they're not exactly issues with the entire fabric of the show, but they are issues with the hosting, the judging, the scoring... OK, they're with the ENTIRE FABRIC OF THE SHOW.

(I still love it though. I can't help it. It makes me so angry, but I love it still. I am very, very worried about what this says about me.)

Shall we press on?

Presenters and other stuff
I did not watch live, mercifully, so I have no idea whether Bruce had a good week or a bad week. There did seem to be one whole section which was interminable, even on uber-fast forward, so whether it was good or bad I'm guessing it was, you know, Bruce. In a shock twist, I did not mind Tess's dress, even if it was a bit bondage when you looked closely. Perhaps they had some leftover stuff in the wardrobe department after Kylie's lot had finished last week, though I find it hard to imagine there was any leather left IN THE WORLD after that ridiculously-costumed exercise in posery. Flawless were good. Didn't need the lady pros flailing around them, if I'm honest. And The Script can clear off. Oh - and why was Claudia wearing an overall? I don't get her sometimes, I really don't...

Dani and Vincent
YAY, Dani and Vincent! I knew I would love this, and I did. We seem to have entered some kind of bizarro-world here, though, where I actually agreed with the judges' comments. I KNOW. She does need to finish her lines more with her arms - they are very neat, but they are not very lovely, and even if you have very short arms (and she does, let's be honest, even relatively-speaking) but you can still shape and elongate, and she doesn't. Also, it was all a bit polite and clean and tidy, which after a while did get to me a little bit. But she is so brilliantly precise about everything, and they match their movements together so well - she is either a total natural at that or she watches him like a hawk during rehearsal, because it's not just him working to her movements (though I think he is a sympathetic partner, compared to some), it's definitely her too. Anyway, I loved it, and I have watched it again, and I can't say that about many dances in this series so far.

(Quick aside: I would have loved to have seen Alesha dance this routine. CAN YOU IMAGINE? Bruce would have done his nut. YOU'RE THE BRITISH BEYONCE! NO YOU ARE! NO! YOU! ARE!)

(Another quick aside: I thoroughly enjoyed watching Bruno mug a great big air kiss at Dani during the dance. Just as she turned her back. Perfect. Sit down, Bruno, you tart.)

Kimberley and Pasha

We've dealt with my issues about song repeat in my jaded Strictly preview, so let's just take that as read and move on, shall we? I thought this was fab. Kimbo gave it full attitude and they both looked unbelievably gorgeous (which obvs is basically their main weapon) and I thought the choreography was excellent, and Kimbo was doing some excellent exaggerated positioning that made it all look incredibly elegant. It looked a bit like it came out of a 90's pop video. Unbelievably, I mean that as a compliment. Again, though, I shockingly agreed with the judges - she has a floppy frame and I totally don't get where it came from, because she didn't have one during the VW (did she? am I getting that wrong?) so it must have been all about the Character of the Dance, but obviously that was a shame. Bit underscored though? Maybe? Not their week for a storyline, obviously (see below re Nicky and Karen).

Victoria and Brendan

Oh Pendletears. Obviously this was always going to be a disaster, and so it proved. Terrible outfit for her last week in the show (yeah, CHEERS FOR THAT, WARDROBE) and the dance was basically just one big shrug with a good lift or two. Having said which, I actually enjoyed it rather more than normal, probably because I was pretty sure by this point that her exit was a foregone conclusion, so I could actually unclench while watching her for a change. Bye, Pendletears. It wasn't quite the sobfest departure of your Olympics retirement, and for that I am grateful, but I won't be lining up to watch your next TV stint, sadly. And God knows, there'll be a few. I'll miss Brenda, though. I love watching him dance. Let's all watch this again to remind ourselves.

(Quick aside: can someone please stop Robbie Williams from writing lyrics? And by "writing lyrics" I think we all know I mean "writing down words that rhyme". Ring a ring of roses, whoever gets the closest, she comes and she goes, as the war of the roses. Yeah, ok. Thanks, Robbie.)

Louis and Flavia

Right, I'm officially over this now. Louis - PUT YOUR BLOODY BACK INTO IT. Flavia - DO BETTER CHOREOGRAPHY. These two should be streets ahead (by which I mean only just behind DVO) and it's just all so very blah. I honestly thought they might be bottom two this week - if it hadn't been for the obvious remaining cannon fodder, I think they might have had some trouble. He is better than this, and he's gone all petulant and moody and obviously wasn't entirely prepared for how much of his life it was going to take up and now it's all gone horribly wrong. I have a strong feeling that we ought to be building up to a breakthrough week here narratively, but apparently he's got the Charleston next week and that... does not bode well.  Let's also just acknowledge that this was the single worst vocal rendition ever of Dirty Diana - that pallid cracked little falsetto creeping about above the band in no way helped the atmosphere. Poor form, show. Poor form.

Lisa and Robin
OK, you guys. This is where I get angry. I hate the rumba. I have always hated the rumba. I even hated the sainted Rachel/Vincent rumba, or I certainly did after I had seen it 85 times on different episodes of the show. But this - THIS WASN'T A BAD RUMBA. I mean, she struggled a bit with her control because she obviously doesn't have the strength through the core that someone like DVO has got, so there were a few wobbles and all that, and I am not the biggest fan of Robin's choreography this series, but it had some drama and some flair, and for a couple between whom you have no hope of seeing any romantic chemistry they cooked up an excellent storyline. And then the BLOODY JUDGES just had to bust out their crass patronising bullshit - it's just not your dance, sweetheart, not every dance suits everybody, my darling, you're better suited to the party dances, my love, but good effort. Do you know what? BUGGER OFF. You pushed Lisa into the Russell Grant corner in week bloody one, gave her endless dancy Latins in a row, encouraged her to see herself as a Latin party girl, and then she works incredibly hard to do something different, and you tell her it's not her dance? If it's not her dance, it's because YOU MADE IT SO, SHOW. UGH. Judges - you suck.

Michael and Natalie
Oh dear. Natalie writhes while Michael stands still and occasionally lifts her up. Not good. Natalie has been doing an amazing job of hiding Michael's shortcomings behind some neat footwork and some razzle dazzle. Unfortunately, the only razzle dazzle available in an Argentine Tango is for the lady - you can see that even in a Flav/Vince routine. She did her best, I'll give her that, but she'd have done better to go more basic and let Michael do more, unfortunately. I seriously can't believe Vaughan has made it to week 9 though. Bravo. But he's got to be toast next week, right? He hasn't done a Viennese Waltz yet, mind, so if he gets that, he might be in with a chance of week 10 if Nicky or Lisa has a wobble...

Nicky and Karen

Pretty good fun, this, and he was actually doing some Charleston swivelling, which might actually be a first this series, and which I thought was pretty impressive, and he had some lovely timing too. It was a little bit too manic for my tastes, and reminded me more of this than anything else, but I think it genuinely was the best he's been. Which was lucky for the show, because this was clearly his storylined breakthrough week. The 36 was an embarrassing overscore, but it would have been even more embarrassing if he hadn't at least made a good effort. Bottom two last week, best ever score this week... I'd call you predictable, show, but WHAT WOULD BE THE POINT?

Denise and James
Didn't like it. Blah blah lift, blah blah blah lift etc etc. I slightly hate myself for this continued reaction to them, because she is elegant and beautiful to watch (though I thought perhaps slightly less finished this week than in previous weeks? Maybe?) but I cannot get behind them, and it is James' fault. Everything about the way he gurns at the audience when Denise gets praised and he doesn't makes me want to punch him in his smug face. We cannot stop them getting to the final - even if there's no dance-off in the semi, if she's top of the leaderboard she's going get to get through - but we must not let them win, Britain. We must not. We shall not.

So, a strange week, really. Status quo preserved for a few of them. Lower scores for many. A pre-determined (but ultimately earned) bottom two bounce for Nicky. And all leaving me slightly underwhelmed and ready for them to get to two dances each in a couple of weeks so shit can get real... See you next week!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Repeat repeat repeat repeat...

Possibly another LiveWatch for me this week, you guys. Let's see how suicidal I'm feeling tomorrow night. In the meantime, here's the line-up and my depressive thoughts:

Victoria and Brendan - Salsa to ‘Candy’
Oh goody, it's Pendletears' turn for the salsa. I can't wait for her total failure to look like she's having fun and for the judges to lecture her on how this is a PARTY DANCE and she has to look like she's enjoying it even though it's now week 8 and she hasn't looked like enjoying herself for even three seconds so far. She will also wobble in the turns. Brendan will pick her up a lot. And then hopefully she will go home.

Lisa and Robin - Rumba to ‘As If We Never Say Goodbye’
I haven't seen ITT at all this week - is this the Lloyd Webber song? If so, that will be amazing, and proof that Robin can even make a Romantic Rumba entirely camp. I actually think she will probably dance this well - she's quite an emotional dancer, it's just that the emotion is usually MAD EXCITEMENT, and the reduced pace might mean she gets the footwork right. I can but hope.

Kimberley and Pasha - Tango to ‘When Doves Cry’
Look, it's Pasha and Kimbo, ok, so I love it already. But you know how the title of this post is Repeat Repeat Repeat Repeat? This is what I'm talking about. Please, show. Please. DO BETTER.

Michael and Natalie - Argentine Tango to ‘Bust Your Windows’
Really looking forward to this. Love the song choice, lots of lifts again, which Vaughan is good at, and he's done stacks of training hours apparently, and I do love a work ethic. In others. I imagine the ganchos will be pretty ropey, but I also don't imagine that anyone will care.

Denise and James - American Smooth to ‘Imagine’
This is going to go exactly like we think it's all going to go. It'll be great technically but totally unemotional, despite the choice of song, and I will remain unmoved by any emotion save annoyance. I'm just praying that Craig holds out and prevents us from seeing a 40. I couldn't bear that.

Louis and Flavia - Paso Doble to ‘Dirty Diana’
This had better be as good as it ought to be. That's all I'm saying.

Dani and Vincent - Samba to ‘Single Ladies’
These two, who I love, doing a Samba to a Beyonce song, which is also a thing I love? I'm in.

Nicky and Karen - Charleston to ‘Doop’Hopefully Karen will have done some work on his footwork since last week, as if he's as heavyfooted as he was in the jive he's going to need the public vote. Is it me, or have there been craploads of Charlestons this year?

OK, kids, enjoy it. If I'm watching live I'll be all over Twitter and desperate for company. Join me, why don't you...

Monday, 19 November 2012

StrictlyChat, Week 7, in which I complain about Wembley so much that people send me texts to cheer me up (seriously, this actually happened)

One day I will write a blog post about something other than Strictly. This is not that day.

Let's keep it punchy, though, you guys, because a) I hate Wembley Week and b) I'm still a tiny bit hungover from Saturday night, and I feel that might make me even more hate-filled than usual. Nobody wants a blog post full of bile. OR DO THEY??

General thoughts
It was better than last year's, ok? I will give it that. Bloating the cast with various showgirls and boys (oh hi, Aliona, welcome back I SUPPOSE) made it messy but at least it didn't look completely deserted. But the constant cuts to the high cameras were out of control - what the hell did they think we were going to see from up there? Lisa's nifty footwork (ha ha like there was any of that but I'll come to that later ha ha)? It's one thing to use it for Kimbo's pointless massive skirt, but the rest of the time all it was showing us was two dots moving around on a vast stage. Woeful. Oh, and the group dances were an ungodly mess. Oh, and how horrid to see Tess back to having to madly overact the straight man. Oh, and the band were even worse than normal.

Lisa and Robin
So it was some more of what they do. Campy, party dances where Lisa forgets the moves occasionally and doesn't finish any of her steps or lines properly but sells it all with hectic energy. Those splits made me feel a bit ill. Same old same old, retrodden again, and I'm afraid it was rather overscored. But we're getting to that point in the series where even if people aren't improving their scores are going up so that we can all MARVEL AT THE IMPROVEMENT. Sigh.

Nicky and Karen
OK, so here's a weird thing. I quite like Nicky now, you guys. There was absolutely jack all technique on show here in the jive because he's not actually terribly good, but I still really enjoyed it because at least he was finally going for it. I liked the choreography too, and that's the first time I've been able to say that about NotNicoleScherzinger. I am very surprised they ended up in the bottom two - have the WestLoifers all stopped watching? I don't want Nicky in the final, or even in the semi-final, but I will admit that he is finally winning me over. Maybe. A bit.

Denise and James

Oh God, I just can't do it. Was it technically good? Of course. Can she sell a dance? Of course. Did I still want it all just to STOP basically as soon as it started? You betcha. They leave me absolutely cold. As cold as stone. As cold as James Jordan's cruel, stony heart. (Nice to see Lee Mead turning up, mind. Does he need a new job or something?)

Louis and Flavia

I did not like it. Lovely Louis with his lovely ballroom lines doing a trotty quickstep in place of a smooth that could have been amazing and then doing some pommel horsing for no reason other than that it's Wembley Week (yet another reason to can Wembley Week were another reason needed). Even the lifty bits were boring. NO, Flavia. NO. It's not quite as unforgivable as the terrible Fist Lift of Doom, but still. NO.

Richard and Erin
What is there to say about this? He wore the worst trousers in the world and did a slightly lacklustre salsa while the world went to camp around him and through him and all over him. And the singer absolutely murdered Club Tropicana. It really shouldn't even be possible to sing this song this badly and he did it twice. Unforgivable. And so Richard's number is finally up and we can all stop wondering when it will be over and turn our attention to the next worst, whoever you think that might be *cough* Pendletears *cough*.

Victoria and Brendan
I knew I was going to love every moment of this from the moment that Brendan hubristically announced, "The beginning of this routine is going to bring the house down." Said beginning turned out to be Pendletears being perched uncomfortably on a bike on wires for about 10 seconds for no reason at all, followed by 20 seconds of Brendan madly caping (including a brilliant bit where he got the cape caught on his face) while they got her out of her harness. Then we got about 15 seconds of it all looking not too bad, but then came Paso-us Face-us Maximus, with a total lack of balance and rhythm and style, and it all just went to pot. Please stop voting for her, Britain. I'm pretty sure even she wants to go home now. And don't get me started on the bloody heart sign she keeps making with her fingers towards her boyfriend. Don't. JUST DON'T, OK?

Dani and Vincent
Yay, Dani and Vincent! I think it could have done with a bit more drama, to be honest - it was all a bit Pretty in Pink (though that would be an excellent one for them to do in Movie Week next year - oh, but who would the male dancer be? Blaine? Ducky? Both? SO TRICKY) and a teeny bit prancy, but I do like her ever so much and I love her lovely neat feet.

Kimbo and Pasha

I'm not absolutely convinced it was a samba, but it was still a better samba than Lisa's samba. Oh, and Pasha undid his shirt. A leaf out of the Artem playbook. AND WHY NOT? Bottom two rebound week for Kimbo, which meant again some overscoring, but if it means lovely Pasha sticks around a couple more weeks, I'm all for it.

(Quick aside: can someone please punch Len in the head repeatedly until he forgets all his stupid "catchphrases"? "Pickle me walnuts" wasn't funny the first time, but continuing to repeat it as though it's in some way become a classic... In short: SHUT UP LEN.)

Vaughan and Natalie
Massive gaps whenever they were in hold. Nearly dropped her in the final lift. Arse sticks out a mile. LOVED IT ANYWAY. Ain't no way Vaughan is winning this show, but he and Crazy Natalie are giving it a right good go, and I love them for it. This was the only dance of the night that in any way looked and felt like it belonged in a big arena, and that's all down to Crazy Natalie, which probably means they'll fire her next year because that's what they do to everyone I love and no I'm still not letting this go.

So there we have it. Bravo Vaughan. Welcome to the Artem Party, Pasha. Bye Richard. And please let next week be our final week of Pendletears. It's time, people. It's time. See you next week!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Bloody Bastard Wembley Week

Yes, it's bloody Wembley week and I am WELL grumpy about it. Here is the list of dances[/running about]:

Victoria and Brendan - Paso Doble to ‘Bicycle Race’
Lisa and Robin - Samba to ‘Car Wash’
Kimberley & Pasha - Samba to ‘Livin La Vida Loca’
Michael and Natalie - American Smooth to ‘New York, New York’
Denise and James - Charleston to ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’
Louis and Flavia - American Smooth to ‘I Got a Woman’
Dani and Vincent - Quickstep to ‘You Can't Hurry Love’
Nicky and Karen - Jive to ‘Jailhouse Rock’
Richard and Erin - Salsa to 'Club Tropicana’

My immediate thoughts and fears:
  1. TWO SAMBAS? TWO BLOODY SAMBAS? And this is the second year in a row that Pasha has had to do a bloody samba at bloody Wembley. Love a bit of Ricky Martin, though.
  2. Shameless vote-getting song choice from Natalie. Bravo.
  3. I am hoping for a new ballroom dance-face from Louis this week. I went off that waltz haughty face after I'd watched it *ahem* five or six times.
  4. Only one quickstep! And it's the only dance that works on that giant dancefloor! Love the quickstep, love Dani and Vincent, love the song. Do I think I will love them all together? Not sure...
  5. Jailhouse Rock feels a bit stately for a really exciting jive. I predict quite a lot of posing. Again.
  6. VP's paso is going to be awful, I'm pretty sure. Brendan is hunting for votes with that song choice, but her stumbles and wobbles should render this a disaster. 
  7. I think it's Richard's week to go, though. Salsa. Wham. It's going to be crazy levels of camp, and not in a good way. Soz, Richard - I'd have liked to see Victoria go first, but your number's up. (Which, of course, probably means it isn't).
Deep breath, you guys. See you on the other side.

Monday, 12 November 2012

StrictlyChat, Week 6, in which we nearly lose Pasha and all of Surbiton therefore quakes at the prospect of my wrath

So we should just take my grief and rage as a given this week, right? Something we should also take as a given: I have not a leg to stand on because I didn’t vote. And now I’ll have to. Congratulations, BBC. You win. Something else we should take as a given: I will never predict the week’s bootee correctly. But that doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying. Let’s get to it, shall we?

The Presenters
Blatantly, we should just have Claudia doing Tess’s job every week, right? I mean, that’s not even a question. But I had a sort of dark vision of what it would be like with Claudia going slightly off the rails and Bruce being off his meds and I realised you can only have Claudia being Tess if Tess is Bruce, and then I got into a spiral of depression because I don’t want Tess or Bruce and then I ended up in a happy fantasy world where we had GRAHAM NORTON AND CLAUDIA and then I realised that would never happen and then I got sad. Still, bravo BBC for finally realising that Saturday evening TV presenting doesn’t have to be Old Bloke Plus Totty. Bet that’s the only “bravo” the BBC got this week (TOPICAL!).

Denise and James
Paso week for this pair, and having cruelly taunted us with the idea that James was injured and we’d get a week of the delightful Ian Waite (they tantalised us with that little glimpse of him with Claudia! So cruel!), instead we got another week of Jordan. Ugh. The way I am getting through these dances now is that I have decided that Denise hates James. Seriously: watch the VT from the results show when he crows about their score and she briefly looks like she wants him dead. It’s AMAZING.  So although I keep hating Jordan, I can now like Denise, which is definitely helping. Anyway, this was a whizzy, speedy paso along the lines of every Jordan paso, and if it felt a wee bit mechanical… Well, that’s Denise and James for you. No use complaining to me, I didn’t hire them.

(Quick aside: I genuinely still have not got over the fact that of the winners of the first six series, we only have one winning pro left. Brendan. I am all for new-brooming up the place from time to time, but that’s five series-winning pros kicked unceremoniously off the show, never mind my beloved Ian. And I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: three of them (Lilia, Matt, Karen) were some of the best choreographers the show had, and it really, really shows. I’ll bang on at length about choreography one day. Bet you can’t wait.)

Richard and Erin
Charleston. OK. What can you say about the Charleston, really? Did they look like they were having fun? Yes. Was it pretty fun to watch and quite charming? Yes. Does Richard have epic dance faces? Yes, though I don’t need to see them in slow-mo in bloody Len’s Lens, thanks very much: I will tell you one more time, show, he is NOT RUSSELL BLOODY GRANT. If they fire him out of a bloody cannon next week, or anything remotely similar, I am going to punch someone right in the head. Arse bongos though, Erin? Really? Playing any part of the human body as a musical instrument is an automatic two points off from me – it’s an act of desperation up there with Artem stripping off, but far less aesthetically pleasing (see Hardy/Rhodes, Rihanoff/Calzaghe). So, not bad as far as it went, but not up there with any of the Charlestons I’ve actually enjoyed (there aren’t many, and weirdly Aliona is in two of them, and I HATE her choreography for basically every other dance. Strange. Also, they've only been doing the Charleston since series 7 - I can't believe they're already reusing the same songs - DO BETTER, SHOW.)

Louis and Flavia
This was really good. Cheesy, and HATED the swing (YOU’RE BETTER THAN THAT, FLAVIA), but it was a really, really good waltz. With lots of lovely heel leads! So what the chuffing hell was up with the judges’ scrap? My inner conspiracy theorist suggests that Louis hasn’t been doing that well in the popular vote (I do think he’s struggling to put his personality across, to be honest. I mean, maybe he hasn’t got one, but I think he has, it’s just in hiding because that’s what you do when you’re a professional athlete, unless you’re Pendletears) and they needed to manufacture some drama to get people backing him. My other theory is that Craig was just being a dick. You decide.

(Quick aside: Louis has MASSIVE HANDS.)

Fern and Artem
I really liked this Salsa – major step up from last week and Fern basically finally looked like she was enjoying herself and was moving at a pace faster than a snail. Artem deployed the chest again. She wouldn’t have been my pick to go home, so obviously she went home. I can’t really bring myself to be sad about it, because she actually went home a week later than she should have, so really this is just another episode in the Strictly tradition of being saved by pity/lust one week only to be booted the following week when you’ve just got your best score (see Rihanoff/Salmon, Simone/Kendal, Jordan/Savage and many many more). I shall pine for Artem, though. I imagine we’ll get lots of lots of pro dances from him, though, which will help.

(Quick aside: Can we talk briefly about Brendan and Natalie dancing to Violin Dude? Firstly: why the hell was he playing The Rose? As I have said before, it’s one thing that Bette Midler refuses to sing anything other than this or Wind Beneath My Wings any more, but must the habit spread to illustrious Violin Dudes? Secondly, how WEIRD was the bit where Natalie suddenly went all pouty and winky at the camera? It’s meant to be romantic, Natalie, you odd-bod, not suddenly weirdly slutty. I did not like it one little bit.)

(And another quick aside: I love a Flav/Vince tango, don't get me wrong, but do you remember when this was the group dance in Remembrance Sunday week? I liked that better.)  

Victoria and Brendan
She looked vaguely competent this week doing the Quickstep, mainly because Brendan had her in a vice-like grip and wasn’t bloody letting go. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone so thoroughly carted around the floor since the dark days of Widdy.  VP – you are an amazing cyclist. You are beautiful to look at. But I feel quite strongly that you can’t dance and it’s time for you to go home. All indications are that the producers want to keep her around, however, even if the judges are barely concealing their snarls under their overly-kind comments these days. I bet she gets a waltz at Wembley. I BET.

(Quick aside: OH GOD WEMBLEY. Last year was an absolute travesty. Watching celebs and pros alike sprint around the floor and then do a tiny dance then sprint again and do a tiny dance again and then running half a mile to get to the judges where they were told nothing of value and all the bloody CANNONS and SAVAGE DOING THRUSTING, oh God, oh God. Thank God I’m out next weekend and can fast-forward through anything that looks too horrendous when I get back drunk at 2am.)

Dani and Vincent

Loved this Tango SO MUCH. I do still have some issues with Dani’s arms and top line, which I don’t think are strong enough, but this was so quick and intricate and fab, with amazing sharp head movements which almost no celeb can do, and also had loads of personality, which was the thing that was always entirely absent from his tangos with Rachel Stevens, however whippy the footwork was. It’s pretty clear Pasha and Kimberley aren’t now going to be contenders (SOB) so I might have to reassign myself to these two. I hope they don’t screw her over with a Wembley Samba. A nice floor-covering Quickstep, that’s what we want. She’ll do a lovely Quickstep.

Nicky and Karen

I’ve got a bit stuck into these two over the last couple of weeks (by which I mean all I have said is BORING and YAWN) and I completely stand by those two words. Improvement this week, though. It was a Foxtrot, but it looked more like an American Smooth without lifts to me. And I know that’s an obvious statement – I mean,  what is an American Smooth but a Foxtrot with lifts (don’t answer that, Artem, you loon); I suppose I mean that it had more pizzazz and dancing out of hold than your average Foxtrot, and it was all the better for it, because Nicky finally got the chance to show a bit of personality (and he busted out a Shane Filan appearance – nice timing, Nicky, good to see you playing the game, though I’d have saved him for Week 8). Nicky still needs to work on his dance faces – he only has one and it’s a sort of half-smile that makes him look vaguely amused but generally unengaged – and I will always always wish they had paired him with Kristina rather than with Karen, because a bit of Rihanoff glitter would have shown him in a much better light.

(Quick aside: here is how Nicky has placed week to week: Week 1 and 2 – joint last; Week 3 – 8th out of 13; Week 4 - joint 7th out of 12; Week 5 - 8th out of 11; Week 6 - joint 6th out of 10. He is improving week to week, but is still practically defining middle-of-the-road (I won't make the obvious Westlife joke) so he needs some kind of crazy breakthrough week if he’s ever to get out of the also-ran doldrums, and I don’t see that happening with Karen’s choreography. I’m quite sure he’s got the popular vote sewn up, but if he finds himself in the dance-off in the quarters, he doesn’t have the track record to stay in.)

Kimberley and Pasha
I don’t really like Viennese waltzes (I dare you to think of a memorable one. Go on, try it. OK, maybe Kara's. And Kelly Brook's) but I really loved this. I thought they had bags of chemistry and choreography that was pretty interesting as far as you can do that with the VW. Not in any way performed as well as Denise and James a week ago, but so much more charming. And then they landed in the bottom two. I am trying not to worry too much about this – we’re at the stage of the series where people are still trying to save the Hangers On With Personality (yes, Michael Vaughan, I am looking at you) and people think celebs like Kimberley are safe.  She had a right old meltdown after she was saved which surprised me, because I always thought she was tough as old boots. Good to show a bit of personality, Kimbo, because I think that’s what’s been missing so far. Even the presence of Cheryl Cole didn’t get her a vote bump, though that might have been because Chezza was more vocal in her support of Nicky Westlife than of her own bandmate. Not that I’m saying Girls Aloud all hate each other or anything.  No sir.

(Quick aside: What a BLAH song. Christina Perri can get lost, I reckon. The only other song I know of hers is Jar of Hearts which a) is crap and b) always reminds me of the bit in Coupling when Welsh Jeff is trying to chat up a lady and tells her that he doesn't have a bucket of ears but if he did, hers would be right at the top of the list to go in his ear bucket. In other words, I feel like it is the title of a song that a serial killer would write, if he or she were given to songwriting. And why wouldn’t he or she be? Everyone needs a hobby.)

Michael and Natalie
Look, this Salsa was total bollards, but he is so obviously trying so hard and has won over the public with all his effort and being charming and stuff, that it was good enough to get him enough a) supporter votes and b) pity votes to get him to next week.  Plus even though it was bollards it was still really enjoyable (sort of like the early days of Kenny Logan), and not just because of Natalie’s crazy skirt work. Good lifts too. He’ll be back in ballroom next week, and since he’s already done a waltz, a foxtrot and a quickstep, it’ll be tango or American Smooth. I’m betting Smooth – a chance to do more lifts at Wembley and keep him in for another week.

Lisa and Robin
Yeah. I quite liked it. It was nice and speedy, and she looked like she was having a ball, but against all expectation, I actually preferred Nicky’s Foxtrot, because this is all just getting a bit twee for me. Come on, Robin. Try something a bit different. I am still enjoying Lisa, though, and I hope she sticks around for a few weeks yet. I’m a bit worried about what dance she’ll get next week, though. It must surely be Latin because she’s had two ballrooms in a row, but as she’s already jived and cha cha’d, we’re facing down the possibility of a samba or (YE GODS) a rumba. More likely it will be a salsa, that’s my guess, but I am nervous, I won’t lie.

So there we have it. DVO top again. A shock drop for Kimbo to the bottom two. Fern out a week too late. And bloody Wembley next week. It could be the end for Richard, but I am crossing my fingers for Pendletears to finally reach the end of the track (see what I did there?)… See you next week!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Hopes and Dreams for Week 6

Here are the dances this week, you guys, along with my hopes, dreams and fears (quite a lot of fears):

Dani and Vincent – Tango to ‘Rumour Has It’ by Adele
If we have to have an Adele song, I can forgive this one. Should be another stellar week for Dani - very hard to bugger up a tango (that phrase just unsettled me) when Vincent is your partner. I shall be (Technical Comment Klaxon) keeping an eye on her top line - her footwork is always fab, but her shoulders make me feel uncomfortable.

Denise and James - Paso to ‘Seven Nation Army’ by The White Stripes
I know what I think. You know what I think. Let's leave it there.

Fern and Artem - Salsa to ‘You’ll Be Mine (Party Time)’ by Gloria Estefan
As long as they keep this pacy, rather than moving at the treacle pace of their Smooth and Paso, I reckon this won't be bad. I don't think it's Fern's week to go. There. I said it.

Kimberley and Pasha - Viennese Waltz to ‘A Thousand Years’ by Christina Perri
Pretty pretty Kimberley and Pasha doing a pretty Viennese waltz. It won't be showstopping but it will sure as hell be nice to look at.

Louis and Flavia - Waltz to ‘Moon River’ by Andy Williams
What a boring choice of song. Looking forward to seeing Louis doing some proper ballroom though. I bet it's terrific, with just a few uncomfortable showmance overtones...

Lisa and Robin - Foxtrot to ‘This Could Be (An Everlasting Love)’ by Natalie Cole
Great choice of song. Just enough oomph to keep things moving, but still classic enough to make Robin choreograph a proper foxtrot. Looking forward to this.

Michael and Natalie - Salsa to ‘I Want You Back’ by The Jackson 5
Oh dear. I think Michael's main hope here is that Richard is worse than him.

Nicky and Karen - Foxtrot to ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’ by Michael Buble
I wish they'd picked something a bit less predictable to dance to, because with Lisa doing a foxtrot as well, they risk being a bit pallid in comparison. Having said that, I think Nicky is better suited to ballroom than to Latin so, you know, let's see.

Richard and Erin - Charleston to ‘Pencil Full Of Lead’ by Paolo Nutini
It's a personality dance, which is the only thing that gives him a chance, but having been in the bottom two twice, I think this might be curtains. Cheerful, good fun curtains. But curtains.

Victoria and Brendan - Quickstep to ‘Luck Be A Lady’ by Frank Sinatra
I worry that this will be another week of her concentrating so hard on her footwork that she fails to perform, and then forgets her footwork anyway. Might be a bottom two for Victoria this week, as long as Michael escapes total meltdown. About time too, some would say. And by "some", I think you all know that I am talking about me.

So there we have it. I would like Victoria to go, but I feel it will be Richard. And that's all, she wrote.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

StrictlyChat, Week 5, in which Artem's boobs hypnotise a nation

Week five. Week five, people, and there is still SO MUCH CANNON FODDER.  And quite a lot of it escaped brutal death for another week while a more talented comrade fell. And now that I’ve kicked that metaphor into submission, let’s get into the detail.

Kimberley and Pasha
Quite a lot of posing and throwing the head around this week, but I still quite liked it, though this is possibly because I love Pasha enough to think everything he does is brilliant. What it did make me think, though, is this: where is this series’ really classic dance going to come from? You know, that one that makes you sit up a little bit straighter and say HANG ON THIS IS BRILLIANT and watch it back a lot and then get fed up by the time the Christmas Special is over because you’ve seen it, like, four times by now and actually now you come to think of it you never liked it that much in the first place.  It’s only Week Five, so I should probably relax a bit, but this could have been super-good, and it just made me think about Matt and Flavia and Ramps and Karen (fun fact  - Ramps and Karen’s salsa was week 5, so maybe it’s ok that I’m thinking about all this already) and then I felt a bit sad. But then I looked at Pasha again and I cheered right up.

Lisa and Robin
Good to see her do some ballroom, but I bloody said it would be the tango and I was totally right. Good effort, Lisa, good effort, but I wish Robin had gone a different route with this and slowed things right down for a hardcore dramatic tango, rather than this which was brightly coloured and had trumpets parping and still felt well camp. Surely a proper ballroom for Lisa next week – I hope it’s a nice gliding foxtrot or something, just to give us a week off from all this constant TA-DAHing. To be clear, I am not blaming Lisa for this. I still really like her. I just think it got one-note very quickly, and I think she’s as tired of it as I am – time for the judges to be able to talk about her dancing, not about her performing.

Richard and Erin
What’s to say, really? Major brain melt from Richard, but he just reacted in the absolute perfect way. He messed up, he knew it, he was funny about it but still looked like he cared, he didn’t cry and he didn’t beg, he just… dealt with it like a normal non-drama queen person (*cough* Matt di Angelo *cough*). If I were a voting woman (by which I mean before the final – I like to save it till it counts (as though it really ever counts)) I would have voted for him, and I have never busted out a pity vote in my life. He still wound up in the bottom two, which surprised me, but for some reason there are still enough people voting for Victoria, it turns out. Anyway, well done Richard Arnold, and I for one am glad you stayed. Something perky and cheerful for him next, I reckon, which should get him another week unless he buggers it up again. Even his charm can’t save him twice in a row.

Denise and James
It was good, there’s no doubt about that. It still managed to leave me cold, though, which I don’t really understand. I feel that, quite aside from my own personal dislike, they don’t seem to have really connected as a couple? Is that fair? Is that my imagination? Good scores, and pretty much deserved, but I still can’t get on board. By the way, did anyone watch ITT on Monday? Their behind-the-scenes stuff from the dress rehearsal had a lovely clip of James showing his true colours and snarling at Denise. It made me hate Jordan more and like Denise a bit, so IMAGINE MY JOY at the news that Jordan is injured this week and Ian Waite (HURRAH!) is taking over for the week. It will of course be doubly crushing when James comes back, but at least I can have a week off from my relentless hate. I want them to do a quickstep. I love an Ian Waite quickstep. Or a samba. I love an Ian Waite samba too. (I just love Ian Waite, let’s be honest.)

Victoria and Brendan
It was crap. It was crap AND she had a rehearsal woobie meltdown. Any normal year and she’d have been booted out unceremoniously and nobody would have missed her. She survived because we’re all still somehow hoping she’ll turn out to be good, despite all evidence to the contrary, and we’re all still a bit emosh about the Olympics, and nobody had ever heard of Colin Salmon, who never played James Bond. A pretty ballroom dance for her this week, surely. Waltz? Viennese? Or if the producers really want to bust out the big guns, an American Smooth. Otherwise, she could be toast.

Louis and Flavia
Enjoyable. And really, that’s pretty high praise for a samba on Strictly. It’s bloody hard to do, and if you don’t give it a good go, it’s deeply embarrassing both to perform and to watch (see above re Victoria). There are basically only three sambas ever on this show (that I can remember, anyway) which I have enjoyed: Ramps and Karen, Matt and Aliona, and Ian and Jade (loved her, by the way). I kind of wish Louis had got this dance later in the series, because by week 8 he would have been insanely good, instead of just enjoyable. Still the ones to beat though, no doubt about that. He is steely. Craig, incidentally, gave Louis the same score as he gave Victoria, which: WHAT?

Colin and Kristina
Oh well. They totally didn’t deserve to go home this week, but the man has no fan base, and they gave him the wrong partner, so there you have it. He sort of counts as a SHOCK EARLY BOOT, but he was kind of lucky to survive the last couple of weeks, so really he was just unlucky that he went out on a week where he actually danced quite well. The perils of the mid-table position… I very much enjoyed, by the way, him telling us all that he accepted his defeat “with grace”. As someone on Twitter rightly pointed out, if you tell people you’re doing something “with grace” you AUTOMATICALLY AREN’T. It’s like telling people you’re funny. If you have to tell them… (please take note, Van Outen). He was also profoundly pouty on BBC Breakfast this morning, falling into the “it’s just so hard when every comment is negative” trap, despite claiming on Sunday night that the judges were the experts. I would have missed you, Colin. Now I won’t.

(Couple of Kristina bonus moments this week, though. Did you know she and Pasha have known each other since they were kids? And in the behind-the-scenes stuff from Saturday, she cracked me up with a brilliant look to camera when she told Nicky Westlife everything about her was entirely real. I hope you get a good partner next year, Kristina. I kind of want you to win.)

Nicky and Karen

Fern and Artem and Artem’s chest
Shameless. Worked though, so who am I to criticise? Time for Fern to go home, though. A samba would probably do it, but the producers won’t go there yet.

Michael and Natalie
Good stuff, Vaughan. Perfectly nice foxtrot, nothing to get excited about, but that was more than enough to keep him safe this week. He’s got a salsa next week, apparently, which is going to be HORRIBLE, but I think there’s a distinct prospect that he’s built enough support through two weeks of TRIUMPH and BREAKTHROUGH, not to mention sheer hard work, which the British public loves, that he might just survive it, as long as he looks like he’s trying and is generally good-humoured about it. God, even as I’m typing this though, I’m not sure I’m right. Vaughan. Salsa. Natalie’s skirt-flinging misdirection is going to be insane, isn’t it?

Dani and Vincent
I slightly hate the producers for this massively obvious piece of scripting (Dani’s doing well, but not that well, she’s a tiny little person partnered with a tiny little person, we need to give her a breakthrough week so let’s give her the JIVE) but this really was fab. It felt really 1950s, with a bit of swing thrown in with the jive, which made it miles more interesting than most jives you see on the show. I don’t think it was quite up there with my favourites (Alesha (always overshadowed by her cha cha, but really good fun), Saint Jill obviously, Louisa) but it was the most enjoyable dance of the whole evening, and it made me happy.

(I am always haunted, by the way, by the Jive That Should Have Been, from Ramps and Karen. She, a jive world champion, went on and on all week about how jaw-dropping it was going to be. And then she made it really difficult and Ramps lost the beat, and it made me sad.)

Not much change in the main contenders and, let’s be honest, there really isn’t going to be, so let’s busy ourselves with considering who’s out next. I think it’s probably between Richard, Fern and Victoria, possibly with Vaughan in amongst it as well, and it will all depend on which dances they have. Floaty ballroom will save Victoria, Latin might sink Fern or Vaughan, and Richard needs a personality dance to get him through… See you next week!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Depressing predictability

Here's the list of dances this week on Strictly, everyone:

Colin & Kristina – Foxtrot to ‘Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive’ by Aretha Franklin
Dani & Vincent – Jive to ‘Dance With Me Tonight’ by Olly Murs
Denise & James - Viennese Waltz to ‘At Last’ by Etta James
Fern & Artem – Paso Doble to ‘Espana Cani’ by Ross Mitchell Orchestra
Kimberley & Pasha – Salsa to ‘Naughty Girl’ by Beyonce
Lisa & Robin – Tango to ‘Let’s Stick Together’ by Bryan Ferry
Louis & Flavia – Samba to ‘La Bomba’ by Ricky Martin
Michael & Natalie - Foxtrot to ‘(I Get the) Sweetest Feeling’ by Jackie Wilson
Nicky & Karen – Rumba to ‘I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing’ by Aerosmith
Richard & Erin – Foxtrot to ‘Big Spender’ by Shirley Bassey
Victoria & Brendan – Samba to ‘It’s Not Unusual’ by Tom Jones

Now, I don't want to say I told you so (this is a lie) but in Monday's StrictlyChat, I said a) Tango for Lisa and b) Foxtrot/Smooth for Colin. Oh, SHOW! WHY SO PREDICTABLE???

Other things on this list that were insanely predictable and that I therefore wish I had predicted just to prove it: more ballroom for Michael after last week's renaissance and a waltz for Denise to wipe away the memory of that horrible cha cha.

Two further thoughts:

 - I feel dirty already at the thought of Nicky and Karen's rumba. Might make a cup of tea at that point.

 - Fern and Artem for the chop. No way she survives the paso. NO WAY.

Monday, 29 October 2012

StrictlyChat, Week 4, in which I love Pasha again some more a lot but am mostly otherwise bored and cross

Shall we do some StrictlyChat, you guys? Weird experience this week. With the exception of about three dances, my overwhelming feeling was one of extreme boredom. Extreme. But then when they did the recap of the dances, I kept thinking, “Oh I liked that one. And that one. And that one.” So why was I so bored? It’s often a risk this early in the series – there’s too much rubbish still around and the judging is often painfully repetitive. But this was something more. I’ve always quite enjoyed Halloween week previously, despite the gimmicks, but we’ve only just had Hollywood week, so did we need another theme week? Couldn’t it just be Here is Some Dancing Week? I know they do this on Dancing with the Stars, but we are not Americans. We don’t need a theme every week. We will literally cope.

Anyway, here are my thoughts. A bit of change-around from last week, just so you know. (Not about everything. I still hate James Jordan. And in other news, the earth is still on its axis.)

Group Dance
You know the bit where they actually did Thriller and Pasha was at the front being awesome at it? They should have just done that.

Dani and Vincent
Quite liked this. I like them as a couple and the costumes were excellent and her feet move like the clappers. Her short arms freak me out a bit – is that wrong? But this is one of the dances this week that I should have loved and in fact just bored me. Possibly you just can’t make a cha cha interesting by year 10 of a show.  Can’t blame Vincent for that.

Richard and Erin
Erin busts out another mental paso. Nothing will ever match Austin Healey, and obvs Richard wasn’t trying to do so, but I love that even with someone with much less dance talent than Austin, Erin just goes bananas. I’m not saying it wasn’t a bit crap, but full marks for gusto. (I was still bored though.) I really like Richard, mind you. He has totally figured out how to get himself to the second half of the series – be likeable and humble and stuff, but STILL TRY TO DANCE and look like you give a shit. Hearts and minds, people. Hearts and minds.

(Quick aside, speaking of being bored, to say that I honestly never thought I would miss Alesha on the judging panel, but the truth is that Darcey is sucking the life out of things. Alesha talked rubbish and overscored everyone and never quite got it right, but at least she was a laugh. FIX IT, SHOW.)

Lisa and Robin
Hmmm. I enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong, but sloppy doesn’t even begin to cover it. I wonder if Robin didn’t overreach himself a bit on the choreography front this week – Lisa really couldn’t keep up. The real problem, though, is that it felt like we were seeing the same dance three weeks in a row and the judge and public backlash was almost tangible.  (My other problem here was that the styling just made me think: GROTBAGS. I’m not proud of it.) She’s going to have to have ballroom next week, surely, and she’s got some ground to make up. I don’t seriously think she’s in trouble yet, but next week will surely see at least one female celeb in the bottom two so she needs to do something a bit different to keep people interested. I think the producers want to keep her around for a bit, though, so if they have to give her ballroom I bet it’s a tango. Also, my worries that she is this year’s Russell Grant have not gone away – we know she can lift you, Robin, we know. Ha ha. Move on.

Sid and Ola
What’s to say here, really? Ola couldn’t train all week and turned up for the live show looking as though she couldn’t give less of a toss, and really, when your mum’s ill and Random Iveta choreographed your dance and your partner is Sid who always looks like he couldn’t give a toss until he gets criticised and then looks TOTES WOUNDED, looking like you couldn’t give less of a toss is basically inevitable. Anyway, they wore beige, danced beige, looked beige during the comments and were then eliminated. Beigely. Bye Sid. I won’t miss you.

(Random Iveta has now already killed two celebs this series. Anyone want to club together to get James Jordan a holiday and give Iveta to Denise for a week?)

(Strike that. It won’t work. She’ll get Ian Waite and then I’ll be forced to like her for a bit.)

Nicky and Karen

Fern and Artem

Christ, watching this whole section of the show again is bloody torture. Was this the most staid, tedious American Smooth in history? Artem can’t wait to be booted off, you can see it in his eyes. Whither your crazy Black Swan choreo now, Artem? It’s dead, along with your enthusiasm. Fern for the bottom two next week, you guys. Fern and Colin, unless he busts out some masterful ballroom. And Fern to go home. She has to be the first lady out this year, or there ain’t no justice in the world.

(Edited to add: This should have said the first lady other than Jerry. Oops. Was I foxed by her having a man's name? Or had I blocked out her very existence? You decide.)

Denise and James
I thought this was a horrid, trashy little cha cha that was unpleasant to watch. She is not managing to come across as likeable at all and I stand by last week’s view that the only way she is making it to the final rounds is through the judges saving her. I am looking forward to her being in the bottom two with Pendletears one week, just so I can imagine the producers’ heads exploding. Also (Technical Comment Klaxon) her heels were much too high and her balance was off the whole time. DULL.

Michael and Natalie
Hurrah hurrah HURRAH! This was so good and so fun and it made the whole evening worthwhile. Bravo Michael Vaughan. Now, I don’t want to take all the credit (spot the deliberate lie) but I do just want to remind you all that my advice to Michael last week was: Work hard, be humble, be nice to Natalie. Combine that with Natalie’s usual stellar choreography work (she seriously works the accents in the music like nobody else) and Michael being in hold and not having to fake hip action and having naturally good posture, and this is what you get. He probably only has a few more weeks in him, but we’ll always have Halloween week, Michael. Amazing stuff.

Victoria and Brendan
No Pendletears this week, and for this small mercy I am grateful, but I just didn’t care. Not one little tiny bit. If she’s not crying, she’s entirely blank. DULL

Colin and Kristina

What an unbelievable disappointment. He was absolutely crap and she was overdancing it like mad in desperate compensation, which just made him look even worse. In some ways he was unlucky it wasn’t Fern in the bottom two instead of him, but Fern has a fan base while Colin (because he WASN’T ACTUALLY JAMES BOND) does not. I’m assuming he’ll have an American Smooth or a Foxtrot or something next week. Or he will if the producers care about keeping him in and frankly, at this stage, I am not sure why they would.

Louis and Flavia

One or both of them is going to have to get knocked down by a bus to lose it at this point, I am beginning to think. This was another really, really good night for these two – I mean, obviously the dancing was excellent, but what I loved was that Louis actually did all the character stuff as well, which is what is lifting him from Finalist to Victor territory. We might still have some wobbles along the way – he’ll have a week when he’s tired and gets a  bit crotchety, and I suspect one or two of the Latin dances might not bring out the best in him – but Flavia’s choreography usually stands up against allcomers until she gets into showdance territory, so I know where my money’s going. Mind you, if they get into a Showmance, things could be different. The Great British Public has put up with it twice from Flavia – third time could be very unlucky…

Kimberly and Pasha
You guys, I love Kimberly and Pasha. She is definitely the best Girl Aloud (though I do just want to say: Kimberly, no need to show us your midriff every week, we know the Tabz gave you a hard time about being the fattest one in the group but a) the rest were all unattractive Skinny Minnies and you are not and b) you lost a crapload of weight and we all know about it, you don’t need to show us every week) and though technically she’s not as good as Louis yet, her placing and shaping in this paso was amazing. Pasha’s choreography is really good too – he’s like Natalie in that he finds every accent in the music, which automatically makes his celeb look a minimum of three times better than she actually is (not to mention making a routine easier to dance). Loved it. Even though (or maybe because) Pasha looked a bit Teen Wolf.

My views about the top four remain the same:
  • Louis and Flavia
  • Kimberley and Pasha
  • Dani and Vincent
  • Denise and James (ugh)
Beyond that, though, I am genuinely baffled as to who will make it to the late stages and to whether I even care. The truth is that only two couples didn’t lose ground with me this week (Louis and Flavia and Kimberley and Pasha) and only Michael and Natalie gained ground, and that’s just a postponement of the inevitable so it doesn’t really count. In short, Show, MUST DO BETTER. See you next week!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Let's talk about Strictly, yeah? Yes? OK?

This is not a recap, you guys. I can’t do those. They’re too difficult and I’d have to watch the bits with Bruce and Tess, and to be honest, why would you read my recaps when these guys and especially this guy do it so much better?

These are more like mutterings. Chunterings. Overthinkings. They’re going on the blog because I think I have exhausted even my most loyal other Strictly devotees with my theories and storylines and they’ve got to go somewhere. My brain needs to be cleared. My mind must be tidied.

So, my thoughts on the series so far with reference to specific couples and to specific dances where I can remember them, which basically means this week. Are we calling it Week 2? Week 3? I hate it when they don’t do an elimination in Week 1, it messes with my terminology, as well as letting cannon fodder needlessly off the hook. Let’s call it week 3, shall we?

Fern and Artem
Does anyone care? I don’t care. I don’t think the producers care either. They can’t give her an elegant older lady storyline because she’s not old enough and they had Jerry Hall for that, they can’t give her a weight loss storyline because she’s already done it in real life, they can’t give her a showmance even though it’s Artem, and they can’t give her the ITV morning presenter who can’t dance storyline because of Richard Arnold (though stand by for further thoughts on this) and also because she’s not that awful, though there was no Charleston in that Charleston, even from Artem. In conclusion, there will be no caring about Fern, and she’ll be out in a few weeks.

Victoria and Brendan
I was totally over Victoria way before the show even started, because the crying and the “I’m so competitive and it’s SO HARD not to be the best in the world at something” crap was always going to be too painful. Brendan looked so happy to get her as a partner and I just wanted to give him a hug and say, “Better luck next year, sunshine,” because I knew it was all going to go to utter crap. There were a number of ways this could go: Gabby Logan over-competitive and unpleasant; Tom Chambers have I mentioned that I’m in LOVE and there’s my FIANCE and isn’t it ROMANTIC; or Lisa Snowdon weepy insecure bullshit. Right now we’re headed for Snowdon with a sprinkling of Logan, with an added measure of overscoring because the producers are bricking it. I say a week 6 boot when the rest of the British public finally wakes up to the fact that an Olympic gold medal doesn’t automatically make you likeable or watchable.

(As a quick aside, is anyone else surprised Greg Rutherford isn’t doing this series? Possibly he is saving himself for Celebrity Great British Bake-Off. Do they do that yet?)

Michael and Natalie (can’t call her Nat, sorry. She could take my life with a glare. You don’t abbreviate someone like that)
I have strong feelings about Michael Vaughan, but most of them relate to his sports commentary rather than to his current Strictly stint. The problem with Vaughan is that he is trying so damned hard to be a Personality on Test Match Special and elsewhere that he is losing everything that in his early days of commentary made him so charming. Like being actually good at commentary, for example. And it’s all crossing over into Strictly as well, as he tries and tries to bust out funny anecdotes and one-liners and ignores his partner to do it, which makes him look crass and unlikeable. And his rubbish dancing means he only has a week or two of survival in him if he doesn’t try something else. Vaughan – you are not Tuffers. You are not Goughie. Natural, wacky charm is not in your wheelhouse. Work hard, be humble, be nice to Natalie and you might, MIGHT, make it to week 6.

Jerry and Anton
Jerry was always going to be toast in week 2 unless Anton could find a gimmick, because Jerry was always more Stephanie Beacham than Cherie Lunghi. Turns out even Anton has limits. Buh-bye, Jerry.

Sid and Ola
There is no greater pro dancer than Ola at making us vote for slightly ropey celebs. Chris Hollins won Strictly through the Power of the Pivot and his and Ola’s utter likeability throughout his series (well, that and the fact that it was probably the least talented and least recognisable Strictly cast ever). Hearts and Minds, that’s what Ola’s good at. She’s giving it a good go with Sid, I’ll give her that. Week 3 and she’s already busting out the lace catsuit, which gives significant insight into how rehearsals are going. Sadly he doesn’t have Hollins’ likeability or Savage’s bravado, so their only hope is to manufacture a Letitia Dean-style needy much-loved soap star turns from ugly duckling to swan situation. Ola’s fan-base might keep him in for a while, but I think the worm has turned on both Jordans, to be honest. Though it is possible that the worm is only me.

Pasha and Kimberly
I love Pasha. This is well-known. And most of all, I love a Pasha quickstep, so this was a good week for me. And obviously, and perhaps more importantly, for him and Kimberly. Kimberly ought to be a ringer, but she’s actually doing a very good job of not seeming like one. That doesn’t sound like a compliment, but I promise you it is. I think she’ll get to the final, provided Pasha can keep making her interesting, which she doesn’t do a particularly good job of on her own.

Denise and James
Dull. Dull dull dull. My hate for the male Jordan is well-documented – I don’t care how much the show tries to rehabilitate him with decent partners and comedy VTs, I think he’s unpleasant and a bit tacky and I hope he never wins. People are worried that he and Denise will win. They shouldn’t be. She is quite obviously the best, but the biggest ringer hasn’t won since series 2, because even though Saint Jill of Halfpenny was amazing, people only really let her win because it was only series 2 and we weren’t quite as alive to all the ringer-ness stuff back then. If it was nowadays it would be Denise Lewis all the way (except I’ve gone off her too, but that’s another story, and it’s only really because she was crap on the Olympics and I’ll like her again as soon as I watch this quickstep). The only other real ringer who has ever won was Tom Chambers, and that’s because there was a bigger ringer in the series (Rachel Stevens) so he was out-rung. Denise will be in the final because the dance-off will make it so, but she is going to have to bust out some serious storylines to get us voting for her because their “cheekiness” isn’t going to do it. Reality show love with Lee Mead? Being a mum and how hard it is to dance after that? Not very compelling, is it…

(Another aside: does anyone remember any of Strictly’s foxtrots? Any of them? I like to watch them, but they’re not terribly memorable. The only one leaping to mind is Tom and Camilla’s and that’s because they danced to one of my favourite Dolly Parton songs, so really it’s Dolly I’m remembering. Dolly, and Camilla’s rictus grin.)

Colin and Kristina


Other than that, I am totally a fan and I reckon he might be a quarter-finalist at least.

Richard and Erin
ITV daytime TV presenter. He’s not bad, so he can’t go full Andrew Castle. But I fear the show is trying to make him Russell Grant. To be clear, I did not buy into the Russell Grant comedy crap any more than I bought into the Widdy-LOLZ. Please, please do not go down this route with poor Richard Arnold as well, show. I can’t bear it.

Dani and Vincent
They are going to go to the semis at least, these two, that’s what I reckon. She’s more Louisa Lytton than she is Rachel Stevens, which is good news for likeability and for memorability. Vincent deserves a win. Right now, I am on Team Them.

Lisa and Robin
I was a bit worried when this partnership got announced because I was concerned that Robin was just becoming a repository for the female dancer most in need of a confidence boost in life as well as in dance and Robin is totally your Gay Best Friend who Gives The BEST Hugs. Turns out Lisa is well cool and can dance like I don’t know what. I feel this might get a bit Russell Grant as well if we’re not careful – the jive was even camper than their Cha Cha, and I didn’t think that was physically possible – but she’s better than Russell ever was and dances with all the joy that he had, so I think they’ll be sticking around for a while.

Nicky and Karen
What an anonymous pair. They’ve done the new girl a favour and given her what they must have thought would have been a good partner with a high profile, giving her a chance to build a fanbase (even though I STILL don’t know why we needed a new dancer – I miss Katya and can only assume she was a ruddy nightmare backstage because how can this be better). Unfortunately, he is the least interesting man in Westlife (let’s just think about that for a moment – the least interesting man in WESTLIFE) and her only distinguishing characteristics at the moment are being a bit overly sexual with every dance move and looking exactly like Nicole Scherzinger. Only chance of survival beyond the next few weeks is some major VT and studio appearances from the recognisable ones from Westlife and probably an American Smooth to Flying Without Wings (because they can do lifts in that one, see? So she’d be flying? Without wings? Yeah?)

Louis and Flavia
Long-time fan of Flavia. Long-time fan of Louis Smith. I was worried this might be an “I’m super-competitive” storyline, and there’s definitely a bit of this going on, but he’s unlikely to be punished for it because he’s a man and being super-competitive makes him More of a Man rather than making him an Ice Queen Bitch like that Gabby Logan that time. But actually I think he might be more Ramps. He’s not super-rowdy in his VTs, he’s a sportsman who can move his hips, and the Latin dances totally bring him out of his shell. Flavia is overdue a win as much as Vincent is, and provided Louis busts out some serious ballroom, keeps doing amazing lifts, doesn’t bang on about his gold medal too much and smiles nicely for the ladies at home, this could be her year.

So there we have it. My couples for the later rounds are:

 - Flavia and Louis
 - Dani and Vincent
 - Pasha and Kimberly
 - Denise and James (but not because I like them. In case I wasn’t clear.) (I was probably clear)
 - Colin and Kristina
 - Lisa and Robin

Major bet-hedging going on here, but I think the top four here are obvious (as they usually are) and the next couple of places are still up for grabs… See you next week!

Monday, 6 August 2012

GOLD RUSH (Sorry - so tabloid of me)

Super quick check in, you guys, because I am off to the Olympic Park again for another night at the athletics, at which I expect to see precisely no British people win medals. Well, maybe Holly Bleasdale. But ultimately, I think I'll cope. And I'll cope because I was in the stadium on Saturday night to see possibly the greatest night in British athletics history.

Jessica Ennis. Pretty much in the bag before we even got into the stadium,  but God love her, she finished in unbelievable style. She is amazing.

Greg Rutherford. Wait. Greg Rutherford? YEAH GREG RUTHERFORD! While all the excitement about Ennis was unfolding on the track, Greg had gone into the lead and then not just stayed there but extended it. He is amazing.

But this made us nervous. And by "us" I mean me, my Mum, and everyone else sitting around us with whom we had by this point formed a bond based on triumph and fear. We had two golds in the bag. Surely we couldn't win another. Surely. Which could only mean bad things for Mo.

Mo Farah. What a man. What a run. I thought last Wednesday that nothing would top the crowd noise at Eton Dorney. Then I went to the velodrome on Thursday. Surely nothing could top that. The sound produced on Saturday night by an emotional, incredulous crowd as Mo poured it on in that final lap was like nothing I've ever heard before nor will ever hear again. I looked around after he had won that magnificent gold and everyone around me was in a total state of shock and excitement and exhaustion. Amazing. Oh, and then we all had a big singalong. Apparently Paul McCartney was there and conducting us, but I didn't notice and I didn't need him and neither did anyone else.

I'll have more to say about the stadium itself another time (I've got a few more trips there this week, oh yes). For now, let's just bask in the glow of Jess, Greg and Mo.

Bonus occurrence: nothing to report from the athletics (other than me hauling my Mum into a surprise hug when Mo won, which made her laugh her head off), so let's backtrack to the rowing last week when I was sitting only about ten seats away from rugby hero Mick Skinner and DIDN'T ask him for a photo. I hate myself.

Bonus photos: Our golden girl and boys.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

The day Britain's cyclists almost made me faint

I went to the velodrome on Thursday. It is now Saturday and I have finally just about calmed down (though this morning's rowing didn't do my heartrate OR my tear ducts any favours - Joy! Joy! No Joy! Poor poor Purchase and Hunter) so I'll try to tell you what it was like.

Firstly, it was unbelievably warm. I know they tell you this on the TV, but when you're actually in there it seriously gets a bit much. I went for the test event, but I was there on the night they messed up the climate control and let it get a bit cold, so I wasn't quite ready for this.

Secondly, the velodrome (along with every other venue) has a sort of venue TV host (at Wimbledon it's Gethin Jones, which seems a bit of a come-down for him, although I realise Blue Peter and a Strictly stint isn't exactly rock and roll) who is there to keep events moving and fill in the gaps. I am totally behind the concept of this, but the problem is that I am not very good at being exhorted. If a venue puts the word "Applause" up on a big screen, my immediate reaction is to fold my arms grumpily. There is nothing I hate more than being told to make some noise. It turns out, though, that I am very, very amused by a slow motion Mexican wave.

Thirdly, there were a stackload of worthies in. Major and minor royals, plus current and former Prime Ministers. The extreme-o-zoom on my camera got a massive workout.

Fourthly, the acoustics were once again extremely poor. When the British women's sprint team result was being investigated, all we heard was a low-key mutter from the PA. This strikes me as something that would be pretty easy to resolve. They were trying to keep us informed (not always top of sports venues' priority list, I can tell you from the experience of being a) at the Oval when Pakistan refused to come out after tea and b) the Queens' club final fiasco this year) but the echoey acoustic ensured we remained baffled for a long, long time.

Fifthly, and most importantly, it is AMAZING IN THE VELODROME. The atmosphere left every other sporting experience ever in the dust, even the GB gold medal-winning at Eton Dorney. The men's team pursuit were astonishing and their World Record got the place back on its feet after the relegation in the women's spring. And then the men's team sprint... Well, all I can say about that is that I yelled so loudly to cheer them on and then with joy at the finish that I literally nearly passed out. Fortunately for Why Miss Jones (who is at least as Olympics-obsessed as me, and to whom I owe a massive debt of thanks for the fact that I have any tickets at all), I just about managed to keep it together, but frankly it would have been worth it. An incredible, incredible afternoon.

Stadium tonight. Ennis. Mo. When I have more time, I'll tell you why the combination of the movie Scream and an interview with Seb Coe make me super-nervous for Mo. I bet you can't wait.

Bonus occurrence: this one is actually from Wednesday. While the German Men's eight were getting their medals, the German women's quad sculls were on their victory lap. The anthem started playing, so they all stood up in their boat. It was excellent.

Bonus photos: I have tons of photos of delicious cyclists, but I'll save them for another time. Instead, here's one of a man I don't know who has the best beard ever, and one of some pensive princes prior to the sprint final.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The first few days

It's been a mixed bag in this first week of Olympic events (by which I mean Olympic events that I have seen, which obviously are the only ones that count). So far, I have had two trips to Eton Dorney for the rowing, two days at Wimbledon and an evening at the swimming. Overall, I have to say it has been a great experience - the venues are mostly well-organised, the volunteers are brilliantly cheerful and always keen to help and security, contrary to everyone's fears, has been both thorough and rapid.

Until yesterday, though, the atmosphere had left a little bit to be desired. I think part of the problem was that I had heightened expectations. I have been so excited about these Olympics that I thought the feeling in all these venues would be different from any other sporting event, but it didn't seem that way in the early days. It must be said though that my first event (rowing) was all heats and my second (swimming) saw a really disappointing night for the British and a Phelps-Lochte duel in the pool that in no way lived up to expectations because Lochte was totally untouchable. Plus the acoustics in the aquatic centre if you are in remote seats (we were in category C and they were proper nose-bleeds) are awful, so we didn't have much of a clue what was going on.

Then I had two days of tennis, which is sort of weird because it's a total individual rock star sport that doesn't quite seem to fit with the rest of the Games. I did see some fabulous performances, of course, including the longest Olympic tennis match in history, and as the sessions went on, the people around me in the stands who started off super-British and quiet finally responded to my relentless chatting and friendliness and became my pals for the day. One of them even bought me a coffee. That might have been to shut me up. I don't know.

But then yesterday happened. Oh, yesterday, you were brilliant. I was at Eton Dorney to see the first GB gold (amazing) and the GB bronze in the men's eight (amazing and heartbreaking) and I have never in my life been part of a crowd that was so fervent and so partisan and so generous and so happy. I cried actual tears. What a day. This is what I wanted and what I have been waiting for, and it was so very much worth the wait. Velodrome today. More excitement. Maybe more victories, and maybe more heartbreak, but I'm going to yell my head off and almost certainly cry some more.

Bonus occurrence - a proposal in the stands on Centre court at Wimbledon on Monday. It was very emotional, and almost certainly would have got a lot more attention if the chap hadn't got down on one knee seconds before the players came out for the first match.

Bonus photos - Ryan Lochte and Roger Federer looking delicious. You're welcome.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

The big day

Have I mentioned that I love the Olympics? Have I? I fell in love with the Olympics in 1984, the year that I bought a tiny Olympics workbook and carefully filled in the winner of every medal. I don't still have the book and I don't remember all the medallists, but I remember that it was the year of Carl Lewis, and of Evelyn Ashford, of Budd and Decker, of Seb Coe's winning grimace, of Daley Thompson's backflip. Obviously mainly I was obsessed with the athletics, I now realise.

And then on 6th July 2005, we won the right to host the Games, and I cried with joy. And then, on 7th July 2005, as I was sitting in my office in the City of London, four men blew up the tube, and I thought London would never be the same again. And now, seven years later, London is exactly the same as it ever was, except the Olympic Games are here, and it's brilliant.

I have thoughts, many thoughts, about the opening ceremony, but I'll save them for another time. For now, here's a picture of me and my best friend at Eton Dorney on the opening morning of the rowing. Here's to a brilliant fortnight.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

ATP: An update

The turmoil continues for those of us still affected by the non-arrival of our Dutch ATP tickets.

Some good news to start with: I have seen on Twitter today that a few people received their tickets this morning. I had a text from a friend to say hers arrived today as well. So some deliveries do still seem to be working their way through the system.

Now on to the less good news: what will happen if the tickets don't arrive. I have just had a long chat to ATP about my two orders.

Order 1 - this is not a disaster. The tickets I bought in Order 1 were part of ATP's official allocation and can therefore be reprinted to be collected from ATP's head office, which is near Waterloo station (conveniently enough the station I commute in and out of on a daily basis.) This might not be great for everyone, but it works for me.

Order 2 - this is not good. This order was filled from tickets that ATP acquired from another ticket reseller. This ticket reseller does not have a reprint capability so any tickets lost from this order are lost for good. ATP are attempting to provide tickets for the same sessions, but are only able to do so for one of the two events - for the other event, they are asking me to choose a different sport entirely as they cannot provide tickets for that event.

My feelings about this:
a) At least I will get some of my tickets.
b) At least ATP are trying to find a solution.
c) I am absolutely furious that something as simple as sending an envelope from the Netherlands to London has been so entirely buggered up.
d) I am hoping like mad the postman has turned up while I have been at work today.

If you have not yet heard from ATP regarding your order, send them an e-mail straight away with the reference number in the subject line. Alternatively, give them a call (the number is on their website). I might not necessarily like the answers I have been given today, but at least I have had a conversation about it.

The Torch relay and whether I thought it was cool

So, the Olympic torch rolled through my beloved hometown of Surbiton this morning. I went to see it. I mean, obviously I went to see it, I had to go and see it, it's the Olympics, I live two minutes from the route and if everything went to schedule it would only make me 10 minutes late for work, so obviously I went to see it.

Not a bad turn-out from the Big Surb. The crowds were two or three people deep along the high street, which generally only happens when there hasn't been a 71 bus along for half an hour or so. Seeing the torch itself was pretty cool (taking as read my basic issues with the torch's Nazi back story) and the young chap running with it looked both knackered and a bit overwhelmed, both of which seemed entirely plausible reactions to me. He was trying so hard to smile and not quite managing it that it made my heart hurt a bit with sympathy.

Also cool: the motorcycle outriders. They rode along super-close to the crowd but did not appear to mow anyone down or drive over any toes, and they high-fived all the kids in the front row as they went by. Neat work.

Not so cool, though: all the other stuff. The one guy doing tricks on his BMX was very good, but why was there only one guy? Why did Lloyds TSB have a branded bus and pack it full of people if they were all going to just sit there and look a bit sheepish? Why wasn't there an open top London bus? Or two? Or TEN? There should have been ten open top London buses. It's LONDON, people! Where are the London images in this torch relay for London 2012?

Finally, here is a rule that I believe the UK should live by: No Cheerleaders Ever. They're always a bit crap, and we are not a nation that responds well to being exhorted to cheer by dancers with pompoms who are always a bit cold and cross and embarrassed and mainly look like they want to be somewhere else.

The big blue bus of cheerleaders drove through Surbiton this morning, waving as enthusiastically as they could at the crowd while simultaneously making it quite clear that they were already bored rigid at 8.48am, while a man with a microphone yelled, "Come on Surbiton, make some noise!" We looked at him. He yelled again. We responded with a polite cheer and a smattering of applause. That is the suburban way. And lo, it was beautiful.

Monday, 23 July 2012

ATP and the saga of the Dutch Olympic tickets

For anyone who, like me, has been digging around for Olympic tickets on various European sites for the last however-many-months, the last month has been a nailbiting wait to see if these various Danish, Dutch, Deutsch and other websites could deliver. Top prizes to the Germans, who sent their tickets promptly in a lovely blue folder with complimentary lanyards.

Less good news for those of us waiting for the Dutch, however. As of this morning, I am still awaiting delivery. Rather than continuing to impotently send e-mails which only generate automated responses, I decided to call them up for a chat.

Firstly, don't call the London number. They haven't got a clue and will simply tell you to call the Dutch number.

I did call the Dutch number, and I spoke to an extremely polite chap with perfect English. He told me that Royal Mail actually opened a load of the envelopes as they were suspicious about the contents (they were sent insured, which means apparently that they travel in sealed crates) and then had to repack everything with new envelopes, new labels etc, which is why everything took so long. They cleared Customs last Thursday and were sent to the central sorting office. From there, they expect things to be delivered in between 2 to 4 days, so it could be as late as tomorrow or Wednesday. They are asking everyone what their absolute deadline for receipt is (factoring in getting tickets to friends, travel to London etc) and are considering various contingencies such as ticket reprint, collection at venue, collection at the London office (which is in Waterloo) etc.

If you still don't have your tickets, send them an e-mail with the reference number in the subject line, and they will send you a personal response by the end of the day once they have rounded up all the necessary information. I felt much reassured by the call, though I must say that I will not feel truly relaxed until I am holding my athletics tickets in my sweaty palm...

Yes, I do still exist

Let's not waste time on the reasons I haven't posted for 18 months. You will not read them, and I would be making them up. But I'm back. Why am I back? Because it's the OLYMPICS, BABY! I love them, I'll be blogging about them, so do check back in over the next few weeks if that sounds remotely interesting.