It’s back! Here comes the first TV show to be reviewed on this site twice. Last year I wrote about The Movie Special, which I think was Episode 3 and complained that the series opener had “seemed to go on forever and was just a conveyor belt of people you either vaguely knew or hadn’t heard of.”
Well, it was a fairly miserable Saturday night weather-wise last night so I, probably alongside most of the rest of the UK settled down for how long was it – 140 minutes !!! of the BBC’s (glitterball) jewel in the crown.
If last year I thought the contestants were not well known this year they are even less recognisable to the average television viewer. There was almost a palpable despondency in the nation as contestants were named over consecutive days in a ploy to get our interest but which for many compounded their confusion. What has happened to the big name contestants of yesteryear? Or was that in fact just like long hot British summers of the past (not counting this year of course when we really had one) something that we all claim to remember but which never happened. Certainly if you look down the cast lists of the first couple of series there are names you will struggle to recall. Also, with the proliferation of easy-money celebrity reality shows perhaps on “Strictly” they have to work just too darn hard for their money.
The show began with the professionals competing with water spouts on a mash-up of what we know now as the Moulin Rouge version of Elton’s “Your Song” peppered with some operatic voices. This began outside at (I think) Somerset House and by “the magic of television” (and a Strictly Come Dancing staple) was transformed mid-way through into the studio.
With a long evening ahead of me (and a long week behind me which could have caused Saturday night fatigue- a posh way of saying falling asleep on the sofa) I decided to be my own judge and give scores to the celebrities and their first offerings. So here is my very own Strictly Score Card in ascending order.
Something you won’t see in Week 1
Susannah Constantine & Anton – Week one and Anton has decided once again to play up the comedy in this samba. The “visual trick” of appearing as if she was wearing a voluminous dress didn’t work as we could see instantly see she was just standing behind it. Anton camped it up to the hilt but couldn’t hide the fact Susannah was being dragged around. The weakest dance by some way but viewers vote for the pair at the bottom of the leaderboard and especially for Anton so we can expect more of this for some weeks to come. My score 2. Judges score 12
Seann Walsh & Katya – Seann is a comedian but I have not seen him before. Tangoed to Justin Timberlake’s “Sexyback” and was all the things Craig Revel-Horwood hates, stompy with splayed hands and overly aggressive. Head judge Shirley Ballas suggested he “tidy himself up a bit” which seemed a bit off. Two or three off the bottom of the judges’ leaderboard is always a dangerous place to be when they start factoring in viewers’ votes so Seann will need to up his game a little next time if he isn’t going to be first off. My score 4. Judges score 18
Katie Piper & Gorka – Waltzed to Adele’s “When We Were Young” and was a bit jiggly and stumbly. In the bottom two of the judges score but I think she will garner a lot of public votes (as will Gorka). My score 4. Judges score 17
Lee Ryan & Nadia – “Blue’s” Lee Ryan is always a little unpredictable on this kind of show. He’s done a lot of reality TV in the past and you’re never sure what you are going to get or if he will last the course. He’s taken a long time to do Strictly seeing as bandmate Simon Webbe did it quite a few years ago. He also tends to muck things up when they seem to be going well, which may win the audience over. I thought his waltz to the Eagles seemed quite safe and wasn’t that good but the judges were more enthusiastic. My score 4. Judges score 22
Kate Silverton & Aljaz– Certainly won’t be going anytime soon as this combination will be popular with the voting public. News and current affairs people always tend to last longer than their abilities suggest as viewers like seeing them let their hair down and Aljaz is one of the most popular of the professionals. This cha cha cha to “Kiss” took a little while to get going but there’s potential there. My score 5. Judges score 20
Vick Hope & Graziano – With this pairing of probably the least well known of the celebrities and a new male dancer they really had to come up with the goods to put them on the map. The choice of a potentially audience-pleasing jive might have been a little too much too soon but I actually thought she did quite well. My score was as high as Bruno’s, the others marked lower putting her very much in the danger zone. I would imagine that a slightly less demanding and frantic dance will lift her out of this next week, so perhaps lucky that we are not just voting on Week 1. My score 6. Judges score 18
Lauren Steadman & AJ – Winning a gold medal in Australia just before training will certainly endear her to the voting public. Their waltz had nice spins but otherwise felt safe. Judges liked it more than I did. Got the first mention of the Dame Darcy Bussell staple “a strong core”. What has AJ done to his hair? My score 6. Judges score 25
Ashley Roberts & Pasha – Judges put this Viennese Waltz jointly on the top of the leaderboard. Ashley will really have to prove herself to the British public with a dance background which led to a stint of judging on ITV’s “Dancing On Ice”. We have fallen in love with her once before on “I’m A Celebrity” but she is really going to have to ensure she is quite high up the leaderboard week after week. American competitors tend to go “before their time” on this show. Came up with the truism of the week when she said of her dance “It’s just steps but it’s so hard.” I like Ashley but I never totally rate the sheer twirliness of the Viennese Waltz so that might be why my score was lower than the judges. Got the first “Gorge-ous” from Craig. My score 6. Judges score 29
Graham Swann & Oti – Not being a cricket fan I’d never even seen this competitor before the launch show and he didn’t look like he would be up to much. There is the thing that cricketers do well on this show and have won twice and get good audience support but I was expecting “Dad dancing”. To pair him with Oti was genius as each season she proves herself to be a great teacher and choreographer and this once again showed in an enthusiastic samba to cricketing theme “Soul Limbo”. My score 6. Judges score 22
Stacey Dooley & Kevin – I wouldn’t have known who Stacey was had I not seen a clip of her “Armageddon” documentary on “Gogglebox” the night before. Did a crowd-pleasing quickstep with Kevin. My score 6. Judges score 24
Joe Sugg & Diane – Youtuber Joe looked absolutely petrified every time you saw him in the background behind Claudia so wasn’t expecting much yet he turned out a much better than anticipated jive with lots of good kicks. My Score 6. Judges score 27
Dr Raj Singh & Janette – A man who is going to be working long shifts in a real (not television) hospital during the week doing his day job and the odd spot on morning TV and fitting his training in around this. You might as well give him the glitterball now and let’s move on to having Christmas. The public will love him. His cha cha cha to Whitney’s “How Will I Know” was overly gimmicky which was unnecessary as he was dancing really quite well. Earned him the Dame Darcy Bussell difficult sentence of the week award (there’s always at least one) when she praised him on his smile; “Don’t wipe that ever off”. I think we knew what she meant. My Score-6. Judges score- 27
Danny John-Jules & Amy – I love the theme to “Top Cat” which they turned out a very proficient foxtrot to. Opened the show so deep in most viewers distant memories. He’s going to be a strong contender and an obvious all-rounder. Don’t know much about him, never watched “Red Dwarf” but surely there’s considerable dance background there. Seemed very balletic. My score 7. Judges Score 27
Faye Tozer & Giovanni – A predictably confident, long-legged cha cha which I really enjoyed but after over two hours of this I was decidedly wilted. Chosen to close the show so obviously had impressed in rehearsals and put jointly on top by the judges. My score 7. Judges score-29
Charles Venn & Karen – Don’t watch “Casualty” so had never seen this actor before the launch show. I think his cha cha cha to “Ain’t No Love (Ain’t No Use)” was decidedly undermarked as it was dripping in style- although was it the red suit that distracted me. Only Bruno marked it as high as I did and Shirley said it was too disco. Perhaps that’s why I thought it just edged ahead as my favourite of the night. Certainly one to watch. I was a big Ore Oduba fan from the start a couple of years ago. He had the same sort of easy style and he really grew into the show. I think Charles could do the same here. Don’t forget last year’s winner Joe McIntyre also came from the BBC hospital wards of “Holby City”. My Score 7. Judges score 25.
So no clear favourite after just one dance but as always I am going to be with this show for the duration. When the cast were announced I wondered if I might give it a miss this year. I did a one-man protest over the moving of Bake Off to Channel 4 last year and refused to watch and then wavered and had to watch the first four episodes one after another on Catch-up. I watched the launch show but it still hadn’t totally convinced me (too set-up even for a show that pretends it’s Sunday when it’s Saturday night). This first episode has brought me well back into the Strictly fold. There’s going to be a whole lot of dancing to watch this autumn.
(but will proabably go back up to 5 when it stops being so longgggg!)
Strictly Come Dancing is on Saturday evenings on BBC1. The first episode is available on the BBC I-Player catch up service.