So the battle for the Glitterball has begun. Yet, if you think that a series of Strictly is a linear build up of momentum to the climatic bloodbath of the final, you're wrong. One series of Strictly can have as many plot twists and turns, as many storylines as George RR Martin could imagine. The Battle of the Ringers commences when the pop starlets strut their stuff - practically perfect, first week. A little dull, perhaps, but where would we be without it? The Battle of the Bonkers usually follows in a week two. Once the pairing pro realises their celeb partner has more chance of running of with Prince Harry to live in a windmill and breeding llamas than lifting the Glitterball, Project Exposure begins. Stay in as long as you can. To do that, be as bad as you can. And cover yourself in tinfoil. But on to this weekend's treats. The first week's episodes are a showcase. Flaunt your wares. Pick your battle. Let the games begin. Etc.
Scott did the 'HO!' in the opening titles, I got really quite over-excited! And Tess is wearing a massive jumpsuit, what's that all about?! Caroline and Pasha - Caroline falls just on the right side of DIRTY RINGUH (We Northern. We have our own vowels.) And this dance was just on the right side of unperfect for the first show. There's room for improvement. Much. But actually it was still quite good. She is also quite relatable, and Pasha is...well, lovely Pasha. Loved the Midas-touched mega-fringe. Definitely ones to watch. She's first out the stalls so that gets her Winning Formula points. I'm also digging the uber-fringe very much, it's hard to pull that off without looking like a lampshade but she managed it. Great cha cha routine and song too so we're off to a cracking start! And Len actually started the series with a good analogy - champagne indeed. There were mistakes, but I was watching her instead of Pasha (yes, some people manage that!). Mr Bargain Hunt and Natalie - Natalie is a fine teacher, and managed to get a relatively OK dance from this year's grandpa-fodder. They are never going to win. Their chance of longevity may rely solely on commencing the Battle of Bonkers. Yet I suspect Natalie could be too classy for that route, if she has a choice. And, if so, kudos to her for that. Not that the routine was without fun. There was just the right amount of gimmick to be within the realms of acceptable. Natalie feigning excitement about being on Bargain Hunt, I love that woman! She did look like she was escorting him around the dancefloor a fair few times, but it was a proper routine and not too gimmicky at all after the start. He's also already better than David Dickinson because he's not randomly gurned at the camera in the middle of a routine. Bring on the ballroom. Jake and Janette - I love the unexpected. And this was just that. I do believe I may have read that Jake is an unlikely Sylvia Young DIRTY RINGUH, (is that true?) but as I didn't know his background when I watched him dance, I'm going to relay my initial surprise. This was kind of Lisa Riley. And Janette: welcome at last to Strictly Come Dancing. Great choreography - even the faffing at the beginning was relevant and captivating. And he was leading. Actually leading. A jolly good tango, mes amies. Jake Wood has a really good top line! I never thought I'd write that. Dark horse clip-clopping all over the place there. Great routine from Janette too, there was a lot of footwork in there for a week one dance. I wonder how he'll cope with the more camp dances, but it looks like he has the raw skills and they're a great team. Judy and Anton - We haven't seen this level of discomfort since Victoria Pendleton flew into Wembley Arena on a pushbike. Poor Judy - she's so far out of her comfort zone, she's like a Made in Chelsea cast member lost in the toilets at McDonalds. However, I do get the impression from watching that she actually has the potential to do much better. If she wants to get the most out of this, then she needs to let go and enjoy it. Also: HUMAN PROP ALERT! Why not wheel out a bagpiper? Perhaps next week a runner will dash on dressed as a haggis. But Anton. Oh Anton. I never thought there would be anything more disturbing than Anton in slashed-to-the-naval lycra. But Anton in a kilt? MY EYES. MY EYES. I was halfway through the routine when I read Clover's human prop comment and collapsed in giggles. She is obviously super-duper pee-your-pants nervous and needs a good lesson in eyes and teeth. And why is it that when someone on SCD is nervous do they stare at the ceiling, what's up there? Leftover dancers? I can't see the cha cha going particularly well next week, who knows what Anton is going to bring to that dance... Scott and Joanne - Two words. Dear and Oh. Not that order. Whilst Scott is clearly not a natural at this, my issues were more with the choreography. Air punches reek of desperation. More time spent perfecting the basics and less time with gimmickry could have gone a long way. He is, however, now ripe for the Battle of the Bonkers. Will they roll with that and be this year's Christopher Parker/John Sergeant/Anne Widdecombe/Dave Myers? (delete as desired.) You have no idea how much I want to delete Ann Widdecombe...This was all over the shop and there were about five million air punches. I would be interested to see if Scott goes on ITT and says "yeah, I forgot half the routine" - it seemed like Joanne was just dancing around him a lot. Pixie and Trent - DING DONG DIRTY RINGUH. Now, of course, that's not necessarily a bad thing. One's ringer status can easily be overcome if one is likeable. Compare and contrast Denise V.O. and Natalie G. It will be interesting to see how Pixie fares on this matter over the course of the next few weeks. Of course this was great. Of course it was. It was effervescent. Like a champagne supernova in the wires and cameras hanging over the stage. Trent really is full of beans though, isn't he? Kind of reminded me of a cross between a Duracell bunny and Vampire Ken in this dance. But we had better get used to these guys. Whether they turn out to be popular or otherwise, they are with us for the long haul. These two are the Lannisters of this year's SCD, with all the power and the blonde locks. The jive is blummin' hard to do for your first dance and there was a little stumble, immediately replaced by Pixie high-kicking right over her head. Trent is our new over-excited puppy though and that should be great fun for zingy choreography like that.
The Wrong Mark and Karen - sorry guys, your name here is purely unfortunate but there will only ever be one Mark and Karen. But this dance was brimming with pep, like a cheerleader on Red Bull. Couple that with endearing vulnerability on interview? He's either genuinely delightful or he's an evil genius playing a very clever game. Perhaps they will end up being the Wright Mark and Karen. OH MY LORDY, GROAN. And speaking of, this had to be the most tenuous song link to name ever. Are they going to play on this all series? What's next? Wright Said Fred? The Wrighteous Brothers? Are the BBC not going to mention Towie at all, is it a copyright thing? It's going to be hilarious. And is Mark going to be dressed as a different member of the Village People every week? Can't wait for his Native American paso. I quite liked this, it was rather jaunty. He really does have potential and so, so much sparkle. Ali and Ali - I just loved this. It was brimming with vim and vigour and verve. I hope Alison can refine her unquestioned natural ability because I would love to see these guys go far. I think they might be my early favourites. I haven't seen two people look so ridiculously happy on a dancefloor since Chris and Ola's legendary Charleston where they could've just ended up rolling around on the floor giggling for three minutes. There was so much right with this dance; the choreography, the song choice, the musicality. They're also such a strong partnership, hopefully there will be plenty of time for them to work on everything. Steve and Ola - Ola has an excellent track record of teaching non-dancers to dance - at least competently. She holds the record for getting the Glitterball with the least obvious contestant in Strictly's history, so Steve's certainly in good hands. That's if he can overcome the Austin Healey Arm Problem. Perhaps he could try taping them straight with the duct tape from Ola's costume. No-one, but no-one, should do the tango in just a vest, even if they do have rather nice arms. Thought this was going to be horrendous at the start, but it ended up being halfway decent. I can see him doing a paso, obviously, but a quickstep? Or a samba? The mascara in his beard was also amusing. Jennifer and Michael Flatley's Biggest Fan - What was the dancing on the table? That is the strangest themed mime since Gary Rhodes frying invisible foodstuffs on Karen Hardy's back. They both seem jolly lovely, but I know little of either, what with Tristan being new, and my never having been able to sit through more than 15 seconds of Mrs Brown's Boys. He pushed her a little too hard, methinks, and it didn't work. But to be fair, jive is a toughie for week one, especially compared to cha cha and waltz. It was an excellent song choice, and could have been epic. But really only if someone else had been dancing to it. Look, I am still bemused by Jennifer, but you don't go and make her do a jive in week one! It also doesn't help when you've got Tristian bouncing around like a jack-rabbit on speed next to her. Saying that, she got through the routine pretty successfully and remembered all her steps. Hopefully she can have a nice ballroom next week. Thom and Iveta - Thom has Darren Gough Hand Problems. And Craig doesn't like his thumbs, which is a very specific dislike. It's like going up to someone and saying: "That right nostril of yours, just no." I think there was a lot of expectation weighing on Thom which almost inevitably was going to lead to disappointment. He looked a tad rabbit-in-headlights, and a little baffled by the whole spectacle. Or, if the rumours prove to be true, he's just drunk on lurve and can't concentrate. Anyhum, there is plenty of potential here and if we don't get to see it in the next few weeks, I'll be very much surprised. And rather disappointed. These two just look gorgeous together, Iveta particularly lucked out in the dress department this week. I can forgive her for using You Raise Me Up, the most vom-tastic song in the world, but it was a bit hesitant from Thom. Give him time and a few weeks under the Iveta school of bonkers-yet-brilliant ballroom dancing and I'm sure he'll come through. Sunetra and Brendan - Excuse me while I get this out my system. PIIIVOT. There. Oh but the horrendous theming Brendan looked most reluctant in his bizarre beating of the clipboard on the bed move. Kudos for getting that shiz over and done with in four bars. Gowns off and everything. Sunetra is the classic middle-of-the-road contestant, which is a simultaneously dangerous and exciting place to be. If she doesn't improve enough, she could be out before her time. But if she gets better each week, she could quite possibly start to nibble at the ringers' heels. (Ew.) Oh I'm sure scrubs and hospital beds were the dancers' idea...And what about Sunetra? Maybe a bit of a dark horse in there. Although not on the same scale as Jake Wood, maybe a dark pony. Brendan will fight for his partner all the way, so lets hope she's now over her week one nerves and bring it next week. Gregg and Aliona - This was so horrific it
doesn't deserve the accolade Dad Dancing - it's more the Drunk Uncle
Stomp. Aliona in pure form, keeping her distance, leaving him flailing
about on his own. If they embrace the bonkers, then they might have a
few weeks in them, but Aliona doesn't look as though she cares enough.
It's a shame, because he looks as though he's enjoying it. Though maybe
not as much as he enjoys a sticky toffee pud. Aliona's dress is a lovely prom-dress confection, the 'lycra dressing' Tess suggested sounded horrible. And as we all know, I just love a dance that involves sitting down for prolonged periods of time. At least he seems to be putting more effort into it than Tony Jacklin (not very hard) and like Clover says he does seem to be enjoying himself. Maybe comedy, but he's got Scott and Tim to compete with for that. The Wrong Frankie and Kevin Clifton aka Kevin from Grimsby aka THE KING OF THE NORTH - Frankie is DIRTY RINGUH 2. As I said about Pixie, her chance of winning is dependent on whether she can capture the audience with her personality. Regardless of that, she too is with us for the duration because that waltz was just lovely, especially given the slightly uncomfortable arrangement of the song. I very much liked the green dress. One of the other Saturdays seems to have come in Pat Butcher's dressing gown. Arm-wafting, plus prop, plus extended intro was not my favourite start to things. But then off they went doing some proper waltzing and it was all rather lovely. Even with Kevin's odd mustard-coloured shirt.
Simon and Kristina - the first pimp slot of the series: the producers must have high hopes for Mr Webbe. First of all, it's a relief and a novelty to see Kristina with a more height appropriate partner. These two look fantastic together and this routine was fun and funky and a pleasure to watch. Is he a DIRTY RINGUH? Not that I can gather. He must have had at least rudimentary dance coaching in Blue, but I haven't yet found any evidence of a lifetime of tap dancing or similar. He's undoubtedly a natural though and I am looking forward to seeing him progress. Crikey, you forget how good Kristina is at the jive! I quite liked this, it wasn't the best jive ever but it had an attitude and musicality that I wasn't expecting from Simon. He's the latest in a number of surprises we weren't expecting this week...
It's time for my annual stab-in-the-dark-plus-science, as I try to work out through the loosest of methodologies who is going to win SCD this year. Can you believe this is the 6th version of this?! It's also amazing how many of the variables still stand up....well, kinda...
Also, I considered adding a new variable this year, which was going to be 'dance with a new pro'. But that has only actually happened three times: Jill and Darren, Kara and Artem and Abbey and Aljaz. Sorry Brendan, but series one doesn't count cos you were all new!
So roll up your sleeves, get your fake geek glasses on and let's do some science!
1) Get the party started
Ah, the old favourite, if you dance first in the opening episodes you seem to be more likely to get to the final. Who knows why, maybe the BBC just doesn't want someone embarrassing to kick things off and sends out the popstars. And speaking of embarrassing, it didn't work out that way last year, with Ben and Ashley kicking things off - and to think I was expecting Ashley to get to the final. Mark my words, Pixie, Frankie or Thom is being flung out on that dancefloor first this year....
2) Quit your day job
Speaking of Ashley, maybe he would have made it to the final if he wasn't involved in some sort of performing arts sweatshop doing Hollyoaks AND Strictly last year. And there's a tiny chance you might have noticed he had a baby on the way, someone might have mentioned it. Also, it looked like Susanna was going to prove that BBC newsreader anomaly all over again, but she peaked too soon. Looking around, Frankie and/or Pixie look like the one most likely to suffer from this, aren't they both doing tour work? Not a good idea ladies! Could Scott Mills clinch it with the BBC connection? What about Jake Wood? Is Max Branning going to mysteriously vanish from our screens for a few weeks? DID HE MURDER LUCY BEALE?
3) Blondes don't have more fun
When Abbey won last year I was very happy, apart from the fact that she's ruined one of the delightfully random variables - she's the first blonde ever to win SCD! It only took 11 series! (I'm not listening to any of you snarky people saying she's not a natural blonde, who is anyway?). So whilst this factor is not 100% rock steady, a 9% success rate for blondes is hardly something to shout about. Watch out Pixie and Jennifer - you're the only two blondes this year! Caroline, you're half blonde, it's your thing, but it confuses me. Jake Wood - do it for the gingers!
4) Latin fever
It's still all about those latin pros, our ballroom specialists just always seem to be the bridesmaid and never the bride (or mysteriously disappear never to be seen again, but Erin's retired from all that now - or has she...?). Aljaz winning last year is also another win for the 10 Dance specialists, could the tide slowly be turning away from those latin experts? I'm still gutted poor Natalie isn't getting a sexy young thing to bring back the ballroom dances with this year!
5) Age is more than a number
Once again, a shiny young thing in their 20s won the show last year, no one over 40 is ever going to win SCD, so it seems. Susanna Reid, you followed in the same vein as Jason Donovan and Pamela Stephenson and oh-so-nearly broke the mould for the slightly-older contestant. Now, Tim, Gregg, Scott, Steve, Jennifer, Judy and Sunetra you've got a big job on your hands. Alison, on the other hand, isn't 40 until February next year, just sneaking in there!
6) Embrace the sparkle!
That's right, every year we have to stress that you just have to LIVE the whole Strictly experience. Alison is taking the right approach, as I write this she's probably rolling around in a pile of glitter and that's the way it should be. Thom Evans also seems rather keen on those spangly shirts and he's partnered with the most spangle-tastic of pros, Iveta. Embracing the sparkle isn't just literal though, it's a way of life, a state of being, and level of conscious that requires true devotion the spray tanning, shimmering and shimmying that makes up our lives until Christmas - buckle up pros, it's going to be a crazy ride!
Here we are then, it's time for me to roll out that winning formula equation...
Dance first - day job + brunette x latin pro > 40 years old + sparkle = WINNER!
This year to add yet more excitement to the proceedings, I'm going to update this post after the opening weekend to make that early prediction, using the formula, of who is going to win. Current favourites stand as...
Let's go round again...the launch show is back and we're ready for our hour of randomness bringing the sparkle back to see us through the winter. Get your blogging hats on!
Blog title a tribute to @Dilly4's classic #StrictlySnacks combo of Matchmakers and Prosecco.
Not going to lie, I actually cackled. Ok, Gregg might not be the token oldie disaster like last year but he's also not exactly a front-runner. Although he does seem to have already lost some weight and is taking it seriously enough, his super-concentration face in the group dance was great, good luck to him.
Quite liking this pairing, I quite liked Janette last year but we didn't see a lot of her. Hopefully Jake will pull his socks up and take to dancing - he looked pretty light on his feet with those jivey steps in the group dance and we do want a bit of ginger solidarity on this blog.
Now, he might not be a favourite, but this is the sort of guy Ola is good with. He looks like he keeps himself in very good shape and if he applies himself in training and isn't too self-conscious then it could work. Like Kenny Logan all over again. Ola even won with someone who you'd never have thought would have had a chance at the beginning of the series, so keep an eye on them.
I am so happy at this pairing, I actually cheered and fist-pumped in my living room. She's really paid her dues with Johnny Ball and shown her choreography muscles with Mark Benton, now she's been given the favourite-but-not-a-ringer! She's a real champion and also comes across as very smart. Bring it on Iveta, we're counting on your genius.
Major cheer number 2 for this pairing! She's the SCD fans' dark horse already and she seems totally likeable - and we didn't see nearly enough of Pasha last year and I'm glad he should get the chance to flex those choreography muscles like he did with Chelsee and Kimberly.
Jennifer and...Not Anton!
Jennifer is not with Anton, I repeat, not with Anton! She's with the new Tristan, Irish on Irish, who knows what's going to happen here. She does seem nervous, but very genuine and happy to be there and people will definitely warm to that. And don't forget a massive number of people watch Mrs Browns Boys!
Popstar and a young new male pro, it was always going to happen. As people have already remarked, they look scarily similar, and Trent also looks like a mini Iain Waite. Because she's with a new pro I have no idea how this is going to go - I've been watching 12 series of SCD and I don't like this unpredictability!
Kristina with someone a) decent and b) suitable for her height shocker! He's had a bit of training, he's in a boyband so he knows how to be on a stage, he's pretty good looking. This could be a good year for Kristina.
Not very happy about this, I was very much looking forward to having Natalie Lowe back kicking some serious Strictly bottom - and now she might have to take things a bit slower. Tim doesn't look like he's just there for the pay cheque though, seems like he loves the show and is very good humoured.
These two are so cute - I can see them having a cracking time together. Maybe even Kevin an Susanna Mark 2, with less specs and a gender reversal. OK, maybe I'm asking for too much there.
Well this is an interesting pairing, should be feisty. Like I've said, I think Mark has the potential to be a rough diamond/dark horse/metaphor on a journey this year and since he's got more potential than a hairy biker Karen is going to work him until he drops.
She is so, so excited and I don't blame her! She's got buckets of energy and on top of that she gets to dance with Aljaz so she'll be bursting through that training room door every morning. Lisa Riley is always going to be mentioned, but I hope she gets to go beyond that.
Well we kinda saw this happening, once Jennifer didn't go to Anton anyway. To be fair, Anton is lovely and will teach her a great set of ballroom dances - I just hope she wasn't expecting to learn any latin. She seems great and we know she knows how to work hard, I'm hoping her slightly wooden performance in the group dance was just nerves.
I do love Brendan, but I have no idea what to make of Sunetra - she's still a bit of an unknown quantity. Loved hearing about her Bollywood dancing past though, might have taught a few things she does even realise she's remembered. Her feet looked better than her arms in the group number, but Brendan is sure to work on that.
And it's the last two! This has been a whistle-stop evening! I think Kevin may have taken over from Darren and Vincent as the keeper of the tiny ladies (ok, that sounds a bit sinister). She should be a frontrunner due to being young and in a girl band and Kevin looked pretty happy. I'm also slightly dumbfounded that someone in my name is on Strictly, this is going to get confusing on Twitter!
So that's our pairings for 2014 - has this changed your mind about who is going to win? Don't forget to vote in our poll!
This year, Strictly decided to torture us, with a drip-drip of contestants announced everyday, we went from hating it, to loving it, to kinda exhausted with it kind of quickly. But finally, we have a full set of the Class of 2014! It's also a really quite odd line-up; yes, there's some of the obvious soap stars, popstrels and sporty types but no obvious star or massive celeb coup - looks like we're in for a bumpy ride this year!
So here are the contestants, in no particular order....well, actually, they are in alphabetical order....
Not going to lie, this is my most underwhelming contestant (haven't started on the most positive note here, sorry!). It seems like a classic we-must-get-coverage-on-ITV hiring and also a desire to repeat Lisa Riley somehow, and trying to clone contestants never works.
Alison Hammond was my break from A-Level revision. Well not her, personally, but Big Brother Three. THREE. That was 2002. That's how long ago it was. And to be fair, for someone who was evicted third on a show that long ago, Alison's carved a respectable career on television. That is in itself quite remarkable. I have given myself a stern talking to this year. I'm not going to moan and complain about the oh-so-subjective-anyway 'calibre' of contestants (previously I'd have gagged at the thought of an ex-reality TV star on the show - but we're 14 years past the-first-series-of-Big-Brother, the fact of the matter is, these are our TV personalities now.) So all the best luck to Alison, even though in my head she's still the woman who broke the garden table.
She has been stolen from the X Factor! What a tabloid coup! Scandal! Well, kind of anyway. Could be a bit of a dark horse this one, she seems like she's pretty gung-ho and up for the excitement of Strictly, so lets just hope she has some rhythm too. And maybe they can turn her trademark shorts into something sparkly...
Oh my lordy, they have done it. She's not quite Louis Walsh but she'll do. I almost guarantee she'll be paired with the youngest hottiest of hottie professionals in the hope for an inkling of lurve/tabloid fodder. I imagine she'll be pretty good and if so, stands a pretty good chance of doing well. But the main question is ...does that mean they have to mention the X-Factor on Strictly?
Genuine popstar alert! I don't much like the Saturdays, but they've had a clutch of top 10 singles in the last few years and that makes them a lot more bona fide than a lot of popstars we've had on the show before. I don't think of dancing when I think of them though, and she's always had a bit of a 'too cool for school' attitude about her. If she puts some gusto in she could stand a decent chance.
Mostly just probably going to confuse Frankie Frankie with this Frankie. Remember who's the original Frankie.
I don't watch Masterchef (to be honest I was hoping for Paul Hollywood), but what the hell, loads of people love the show and are happy to see him on it! I'm also wondering if he'll be able to dance in those trademark glasses? Looks like at least an 80% chance of dad dancing, but apparently he has been working hard to get his fitness up before the show, so best of luck to him.
Haha, joy. I expect he'll be a sport and enjoy it. He always looks a jolly old sort on TV. He's not a chef, so we shouldn't expect any weird frying-pan-mimes with a bent-over pro. I suppose he could mime weighing tomatoes.
It's Max Branning, the most unlikely ginger lothario on TV is going to be let loose on the Strictly dancefloor! I actually quite like Max's character and his unrelenting determination to cock up his own life, but I have to remind myself that this is Jake and not Max. And let us not forget that his TV brother Scott Maslen was really quite good a few years ago - although hopefully the BBC have learnt their lesson and won't make film a massive storyline at the same time.
Jake Wood: because we still couldn't get Ross Kemp. Having said that, he's still a worthy contestant in his own right. Eastenders actors are a given. Plus, we've never had a ginger winner.
I have never watched Mrs Browns Boys and don't plan on it any time soon, so I have no idea whether she can be considered famous enough. She does seem like a jolly good sport though, possibly destined for Anton.
I have always wondered what could rhyme with kidney.
Ah Judy, I cannot help but like you! Bring sportiness, determination and a cracking sense of humour to the dancefloor and you'll be away. She's also a MASSIVE Strictly fan, and as we know, we should welcome these people with open arms. It also means they have a vague idea of what the dances look like and genuinely want to do it, rather than being desperate to be on TV. Just bring along Andy so we can have a giggle at him sitting in the studio surrounded by glitter.
Token older lady. I had a bit of a barney about her really only being famous for being someone's mum...yes, yes, she is - I know she was a tennis player as well, and I know she coaches the national team...so would you be happy if the UK's Scrabble coach took part? Would you? But alas, as I said under Alison Hammond's post, I'm being, like, so zen about all this now. I'd love one of these token older contestants to win. Please don't give her Anton, so she has a fighting chance of actually learning something.
A Towie star was confirmed and the sky didn't fall, who would've thunk? Yes, you might dismiss the guy, but remember he is a confident young male and in good nick - we don't get all that many of those on SCD these days! If he throws himself into it and has a good relationship with his parter (oo-er missus) then mark my words, he could have a j-word.
Quite possibly a rough diamond. Is he this year's Abbey Clancy?
A SECOND young, recently successful popstar?! And to think we were slating this line-up. Pixie seems the most likely to be given the ringer tag this year (stage school, musical theatre work) but it doesn't seem clunkingly obvious like Denise van Outen. Could she possibly straddle that tricky potential-but-not-too-good-first-week conundrum?
There is no bleedingly obvious ringer/safety car this year, which is actually making it quite interesting. However, as Frankie says, if there is one, it could be Pixie. She was born in 1991. 1991. This means in my head, she should be about seven.
He's on the radio, but will now have a face, it's going to be a transitional journey for us all. Scott Mills always seems like a good sport, will quite happily throw himself into things and doesn't take it all too seriously - all good ingredients for a Strictly contestant. Now all we need is rhythm, posture, core strength and musicality, a walk in the park I'm sure!
As long as he doesn't mess up his tango head, he'll do better than Spoony. I imagine he'll be class clown.
Well Simon was made bankrupt earlier this year, so I think we all know why he's on the show....He did the Christmas Special a few years ago and was, well, OK. I can somehow see him being better at ballroom than latin, but now that I've said that I've probably cursed him. Please don't dress him in blue every week, wardrobe department...Unfortunately, he's the most boring one from Blue. Lee is bonkers, Duncan is hot and bi, and Anthony Costa is like a builder trapped in a boyband. But Simon...?
One of my colleagues has pictures of him stuck to her locker...?
I will confess, I had no idea who Steve was when he was announced - but Twitter seemed very enthusiastic right off the mark so I'm guessing he is actually famous. Being wildlife presenter I think that's a first for the show, too bad Bruce won't be able to get out the Big Book of Animal Puns. Not sure on this guy dance-wise, although I did read that he's got a black belt in judo and that sounds rather impressive.
On googling Steve Backshall, I discovered a video of him tackling an alligator. However, that is nothing - nothing - compared to tackling Craig R-H. I didn't know who he was. I find wildlife programmes weirdly emotionally distressing. However, he's a different type of contestant, but I fear he may also befall the curse of dad-dancing.
Everyone says Casualty, I say Brookside and No Angels, and she played great sparky characters in both. Casualty has a potted history on Strictly, from the Tom the winner, to awkward-but-plucky Will Thorpe to really quite odd Patrick last year. Sunetra's an unknown quantity, so only time will tell!
I didn't know the name but I do know her face. I haven't much to say on this one...only that we will have to see her dancing. And that's kind of a given. Jeez, how dull. I don't know why you're still reading.
Sexy sportsman a-hoy, there's one every year! He's a rugby player and they have a surprisingly good track record and I've just read on Wikipedia that he was in a hilarious sounding boyband called 'Twen2y4Se7en' (that spelling makes my head hurt) - so he can't be totally adverse to getting his groove on.
Didn't know who he was, but then, he's a sportsman, so do I ever? (no) There is also a Youtube video of him that shows he got rhythm. I think. I have my fingers and toes crossed for this one. Why is it spelled Thom though? I keep pronouncing it THom in my head. Like thumb. #Thombelina
Why Strictly, why? Do you not remember the Series 1 Bargain Hunt dance dis-aaaarster that was David Dickinson? Walking around the dancefloor randomly doing jazz hands and mugging the camera? Poor Camilia is probably breaking out in a cold sweat at the memory. Anyway, I'm sure he's a lovely man but there's no way he's going to win. Maybe Aliona will get him.
So that's it, the 2014 line up is ready for us to pour over until Christmas and it feels like for once it's totally wide open. Vote in our poll to decide who we think is going to win!
Strictly season is looming towards us once again like a huge glitterball on the horizon, as we stumble, blinking into the land of sparkle and clumsy metaphors...
For the newbies out there, Frankie writes in black, Clover in purple.
Mark Wright has been mentioned...can we go home now?
First up, Mark Wright. I have to mention Mark Wright first because he might sue me if not, he's managed to fill so many magazine pages about 'gossip' over whether he's on SCD on a daily basis. Despite the fact that his missus Michelle Keegan is way more famous than him and she's the one we're all excited about, no, it's all about Mark Wright! It also brings us into the argument of whether we can have a 'reality show celeb' on SCD, he'd be the first and some people would be apoplectic with rage at the BBC at the idea. I see you Mark Wright and raise you Jo Wood and Nancy Dell'Olio...
Who is this man? I am (pop) culturally inept. Seriously, you hit the big 3.0. and cease to know who anybody is. After Googling him, I discover he's that chap from TOWIE. Now if he takes part, this marks a fundamental shift in the celebdom of Strictly. Someone who's famous only for being on another reality show? That's a whole new low. Disclaimer: I have erased the memory of Nancy and Jo Who...? .
Now we might as well get the every-year-rumours out of the way. This year it sounds like Greg Wallace is IN and Paul Hollywood is OUT. I don't know what to make of this, I adore Bake-Off but I'm indifferent to Masterchef - and neither of them look like they'll be amazing dancers anyway! Although now Brucie is gone that's reams of rumba/rum-ba-ba jokes out the window. And there's no Richard Madely rumours, what is the world coming to?! I don't want Richard Madely on the show, but that rumour was always a comfortable bit of familiarity when the names of TOWIE stars are being thrown about.
I love Masterchef. Gregg Wallace is a totally acceptable and utterly plausible contestant. But the big question is this: this series, will John Torode appear from inside a lobster bisque mid pro-rumba? Stranger, well, similar, things have happened.
Then there's the lesser-spotted Young Man. They really are getting lesser-spotted, I was quite excited at Radio 1's Greg James being on the show and he's 28! Alas, he said no, honestly, 'young' people these days. Apparently they're getting Dave Berry of Capital FM to fill the 'random male DJ' slot - how is that a thing?!
A star from the wireless? That's positively medieval. Not counting Zoe Ball, the only DJ we have had before is Spoony, and all I can remember is him going out on a bad tango head.
Already embracing the sparkle !
On to the women, although there are hardly any women being rumoured this year - I guess after last year's female domination and the sociological revolution of TWO WOMEN now presenting a primetime show the powers-that-be think we can't handle any more oestrogen. Although, loving that the most steadfast rumour so far has been Judy Murray. Yeah, she might be 'just' the mum of someone famous but she's great at what she does and a Strictly superfan, and we all love those on the show.
But to be fair, if she didn't have a famous son, we wouldn't know who she was. How many tennis coaches do you know? Go on. Tell me. Go on. So she doesn't fit the code. Heck, I sound like Dexter. I objected to Abbey Clancy on the basis that no one would care if she hadn't married a footballer. However, I am willing as ever, to quit the moaning and give her a fair shot (boom boom) once the show starts. Before that it's fair game. (boom boom).
Elsewhere in the bargain-bin of female contestants we have Caroline Flack (oooh nicking someone from the X Factor, tabloid fodder a-hoy!) and Michelle Collins (soap star box...TICK!). And that seems to be...errr...it? You'd better have some tricks up your sleeve BBC, a Hollywood hottie? A disgraced footballer? William Hague?!
Has Michelle Collins not already been in it? She seems so obvious my brain has conjured false memories. She danced with Darren Bennett, I swear it.
I've saved something delightful for the end...just close your eyes and imagine if this one came true...there have been the strongest rumours ever this year that Torvill and Dean could be on the show! They aren't called Chris and Jayne by the way, I'm not having it. Everyone loves them, they'd work so hard, we'd get one last chance to bitch about how awful Dancing on Ice was - BBC, make it happen!
Ooh. Can't see it happening (I take that comment back if it happens.) But Strictly is all about the gimmick these days, and that's a biggie.
It's been a crazy few years for Strictly fans, there's been much fun and randomness along the way, but we've also seen beloved pros leaving, a sea of props, horrendous song choices....the DANCE TROUPE...and then all of a sudden, we actually get something we want - who would have thought?!
Claudia, Claudia, we'll have to re-name the Tesspit. Claudia's Cave?
I'm genuinely surprised and happy that they've picked Claudia. Yes, we know she's the best for the job, but this is the year Simon Cowell comes back to X Factor, the year SCD needs to compete in the ratings more than ever and you'd worry they would go for some sort of headline-grabbing, big-money replacement for Bruce. Or, y'know, someone old-school and horrendous like Ronnie Corbett again (otherwise known as the worst EVER episode of SCD that makes me want to claw at my face whenever I think of it).
I'm also delighted that it's the two ladies fronting the show, whilst we all hoped for Claudia, there was a general acceptance it would be a man, and hurrah for the BBC for not going down that road. My you be blessed with many outraged columns in the Daily Mail, that's when you know you've done something right.
And now the time has come to say goodbye to Bruce, as much as there is love for Claudia, I will miss him. No one else had a Bruce. There's something to be said about the specialness of Strictly that came with Bruce, someone who's a kagillion years old and has been dancing around having a whale of a time for longer than we've all been alive. Tap-dancing with woolly mammoths. And despite it being such hard work, he loved how Strictly is live, and thankfully we get Claudia - someone else who could go off in any direction and say anything without warning and chase McFly off stage waving their arms like a lunatic. Once again, hurrah!
Forget all the usual guff - this is totally the closest final ever! Four ladies set to battle it out with their bestest dances and their spangliest dresses, we have no idea how this one is going to end!
Now, as we've done in previous years, we're just going to whistlestop through the first dances, since we've blogged them before. Suffice to say, Susanna improved on her hoppy-tasic quickstep and Abbey reminded us why she's been impressing us since week one. And how could we regret seeing Natalie shake it with our favourite sexy Cossack again?! Sophie and Brendan also brought it with their classy VW once again, it's still anyone's to play for...
Now it is time to move on to the annual festival of randomness that is the showdances!
Susanna and Kevin
Gosh this was romance piled on top of Hollywood plus both of them holding back the tears the whole time. Gorgeous song choice and lovely to see a ballroom-based showdance, but I felt it got a bit totes emotes at times, like they were trying to convey the emoooootiiion of contemporary dance in it. Pretty impressive spinny lift though, I would have fallen down to be sick after all those revolutions, but unlike me Susanna is a classy bird.
Abbey and Aljaz
Wow, that was the kind of fierce showdance we were expecting! Just on the right side of barmy, loved it as a whole piece, including the Ballroom Rock of Ages Barbie and Ken outfits. I got totally excited when it was on and whooped at least twice, so even if it wasn't perfect, it's fulfilled the showdance requirements for me. It may fall into the hot mess category of Kimberly's showdance last year.
Natalie and Artem
To start with I'm loving Natalie's outfit, it's from the Strictly Superheroes genre of dresses and so it should be. This was a cracking routine from start to finish, so many sections and styles flowing into each other. Plus it was fun! No pining emotion or po-faced-ness there, just a right ol' fun bit of razzmatazz for a Saturday night, which is what this is all about.
Sophie and Brendan
Is there such a thing as a 'traditional' showdance? This was the disco-y, latin-y kind of showdance we totally expect from these things and it was pretty good. Sophie looks amazeballs and Brendan is having the time of his life - but I also expected him to play to her strengths a bit more.
And as we come to the results show we have to say goodbye to........Sophie! Not completely shocking, but gutted we did not get to see the epic Charleston of epic-ness again.
So now we turn to the final section in this marathon blog post, are you still with us, or have you collapsed from emotional exhaustion? Well you've still got it to come. Susanna brought the most paso-y of pasos back to us, along with Kevin's Father Dougal matador outfit, but to me it didn't have the same grrr as last time. Abbey closed most of her gapping with the most delightful quickstep of the series...but then we came to Natalie. While the other two didn't quite come up to the first time they did their dances she knocked it out of the park with bells on, and tears, the tears from everyone!
And then we had a million recaps, this blog post got even more rambling and everyone from the series came out a did a crazy mess of a dance that was actually such good fun that no one really cared. AND THEN the BBC felled us with the uber-montage of every winner ever just in case there was anyone who hadn't cried just yet. Until, finally, it was revealed the winner was....ABBEY!
She looked as shocked as us all, but totally deserved it after doing so well throughout the series. And what a series it's been; we've ranted and laughed and generally gone a bit crazy - thanks for joining us along the way!
Roll up, roll up! It's time for the explosion of drama that is the SCD semi-finals. Dreams will be made and shattered on that dancefloor, there will be grudges created that will be held in the blogosphere for years to come. I'm just excited about two dances and two dresses for everyone! Tess has even caged her cleavage in acknowledgement of such a dramatic show.
Natalie and Artem - Salsa
It's not a proper salsa song, but we've had worse *cough*GetLucky*cough*
and these two were always going to throw themselves into it anyway.
Plus there is an epic amount of fringing in that dress, more fringe than
the whole series combined! And the hair, the hair was close to escaping, I think I want it to explode in a showdance scenario. Great salsa, bits were a-shaking and Natalie was a-spinning, great start to the show.
Slightly haunted by could-have-beens. Can you imagine how good this would have been to an appropriate piece of music? However, this was, if you shut your ears, the most salsa of the salsas this year. Natalie's an absolute natural. Nicole Cutler-esque spins were a bonus. Also, a highlight: Natalie singing out loud 'You're a Vegetable.'
Patrick and Anya - Waltz
I really, really hate Unchained Melody, it's the most dreary song in the world for me. Even with the new arrangement this wasn't doing it for me. It was a passable waltz but not semi-final standard, it just seemed a bit stiff and stilted to me. Plus he had a weird look on his face, like something had gone wrong or he needed a wee. Tossing Anya on the floor halfway through was really quite odd too, yeah, you can do it in ballroom but it seemed out of step with the dance.
I was oh so ready to rant about this song choice but thankfully the track was suitably rearranged into the correct time signature and, actually, was a rather nice arrangement. I haven't anything else to say other than it was nice. And nice ain't getting you nowhere at this stage.
Sophie and Brendan - Paso
If there was ever a haughty dance it was this, I'm expecting good face from Sophie again, so excited about this dance. I loved it, the drama! The drama! Control but powerful. The faces! The dress! Oh I came over all of a quiver. Brendan you get top marks for choreography once again.
Liked the music but all the exclamations of 'Yay! Traditional Music!' on Twitter - please think. A composition for a Russian ballet is hardly traditional Spanish bullfighting music, is it? Only objecting to the use of the word traditional. This worked. It was marchy and dark. She is still a bit wibbly around the middle but if other dances were overmarked, this was defnitely undermarked. And also half expected Alan Sugar to pop out of a cake. Stranger things have happened.
Susanna and Kevin - Foxtrot
They're bringing out the big guns and harnessing the power of Kevin's magical specs, good plan. It's hard to jazz up a foxtrot, but with a genius song choice and their amazing partnership they pretty much managed it! Brilliantly executed, I even managed to stomach the bench. Also loving Susanna's perfect princess prom dress and their bouncy squeaky reactions to their 10s.
I do like to see the reaction to a wholly unexpected 10 and Susanna's utter delight at hers was a joy. However, nice this was, it was really only nice. It was not a trot of epic proportions. When was the last time you saw a trot that was?
Abbey and Aljaz - Samba
I really wanted to see if she could style out Lilia's samba turban, but alas, the dream was not there and we had to cope with some lovely feathers instead. It was never going to be her best, but it was better than I think even she thought it was going to be and it did show she's come on leaps and bounds from her salsa/cha cha days. Lots of content and great rhythm, now she's got that done she can wow us with her American Smooth...
Squidged full of content and lots of traditional samba moves. Alijaz gets a prize for choreography here. However, it didn't deserve 10s as her body movement was non-existent.
All change - let's go round again!
Natalie and Artem - Argentine Tango
This was always going to be good and it just oooozed Argentine tango from every step. Proper music and as ever, all about the jigsaw legs. Len's right, there was a burn, and not just from the uber-red outfits.
The lovely electronic tango track was goosebumpy. This was a great dance. May not have deserved a 40 in the context of all the series ever, but in the context of this year's competition, what the hell is going on to give this 9s?
Patrick and Anya - Paso
80s power-ballad paso klaxon! This was a paso-by-numbers to me, Patrick didn't seem to be doing much himself content-wise considering this was a semi-final dance. He did a wonderful smell-the-fart face for a lot of it though and Anya's dress was lovely and Lilia-eqsue but I don't think that alone can save them.
I don't even remember this dance.
Sophie and Brendan - American Smooth
Oh how I adore Brendan nonchalantly sliding down the stair rail on his bum. Lovely routine playing to all of Sophie's strengths. Wonderful lifts too, they seemed to be part of the dance and not just gymnastics for the sake of it. I can't say it was perfect, but dammit these two deserve to be in the final so much!
Sophie looked as though she were floating on a cloud, in a possibly drug-enduced haze. And I mean that in the best possible way. It was almost ephemeral. Bring on the final, E-B. And yeah, Brendan got cool.
Susanna and Kevin
I thought they were going to eyes and teeth their way through this, and they eyes, teethed and shimmy-faced it! This was NOT the best dance for them to be doing in the semi-final, it was all over the shop at times. Full of energy, maybe even a bit too much, but that was a properly hyper song choice. The messy samba was hilariously good fun, a messy semi-final salsa is worrying...
This was not salsa.
Abbey and Aljaz - American Smooth
This was the cutesy-est American Smooth ever and I still loved it. She's so good in hold and I was surprised at how perfect their side-by-side bits actually were. The lifts weren't spectacular but she handled them pretty well. She's got that great balance of technical skill and personality, along with being pretty consistent over most of the series.
I actually preferred Sophie's dance on the whole but you can't knock Abbey's top line. Well maybe you could with a large rock and a trebuchet but that would be cruel. Am I the only one who could see Abbey winning this? And I totally wouldn't mind.
We're running low on people, only six couples coming down the stairs really doesn't feel like enough now. Plus there's no Bruce, I'm all out of flunter. Tess and Claudia have also raided the dressing up box marked 80s Prom, so who knows what randomness we're in store for this evening...
Ashley and Ola
Will there actually be salsa? They had a go with the song, rather than doing a salsa to the Beatles or something equally random. This was fast and jam-packed full of steps, they'd obviously put a hell of a lot of work into it, but it was still a bit sloppy. The lifts got a bit crazy, wasn't sure if it was going right or if there was an impromptu death-defying stunt involving Ola's head, oo-er! As much as I don't like a prop, I kinda missed Julian Clary's maracas, you don't get them like that anymore!
Natalie and Artem
Oooh I've been waiting for her paso and I was so glad to see they got proper music and no daft theme. That is an epic paso dress too, with some seriously good skirt, loved the bit where Artem pulled her in by it! The flamenco elements were beautifully done, but could have done with a tad more grrrrr. I do like my pasos on the bonkers side and whilst it wasn't the jumping-up-and-down-bestest paso ever there was no need for Len to go on a rant like that!
Patrick and Anya
Ouch, a male rumba at this stage is never good...Patrick totally brought out his act-tor range for this, Anya brought the scary Carol Voderman faces. This was pretty good, could have done with a bit more hip action, it seemed a bit intermittent. If he hadn't been in the bottom two before I would have said he could have coasted through this. Saying that, Patrick seems to have loosened up a fair bit and I'm wondering if he and Darcey had some champers backstage when she got that 10 out!
Susanna and Kevin
I have never, ever wanted a dance to rise above the song choice more than this one. At first I thought they might just scrape through as an oddity, but the song was just bad. Even Bad might have been a better song, who knows? Susanna obviously had the skill to do a good AT though and she looked proper fierce, throwing herself into it as ever. Le sigh...
Abbey and Aljaz
The snot-green dress from the ITT previews has magically vanished and been replaced with the loveliest of the night, I suspect the green one had an accident and mysteriously fell into a shredder. This song choice was delightfully quirky...when Brendan and Kelly did it six years ago. But this was a delight on a rather frantic evening, so much natural grace and Abbey is having the time of her life. Might not have been perfect, but if Patrick is getting a 10 then Abbey has to have one!
Sophie and Brendan
The hair! The makeup! Brendan the yuppie! Shouldn't love it, but I do. There was theming, props and a random song choice, but I still really enjoyed this so it must have been good. Oddly, Sophie was more expressive than usual when she was supposed to be a mannequin, maybe she just knew she looked fabulous and had to give it some welly. There was a proper tango in there too, even when he's having a laugh Brendan knows what he's doing.
Argh, brace yourselves for running around and legs flying through the air in random lifts. Natalie and Artem totally deserved to win, loved seeing Artem doing the chicken walk and Natalie's jelly-legs cartwheel at the end. Oh if we had only seen their jive! Kevin and Susanna were voted off criminally early and Ola and Ashley could have done with a bit longer too. The problem is that with six couples on the floor it's pretty much impossible for people at home to see what's going on, I can't believe I'm saying this, but it needs to go on for twice as long! I do like a pro-strop when they're sent off though, even if it is staged, Brendan coming over all Johnny Castle is always a treat!
It's musical week, what we like to call the least-worst of the theme weeks! Because y'know, musicals actually have something to do with dancing. What a novel idea. But it also means more props and comedy outfits, it could go either way. Plus we get a decent old-school opening number with cute outfits and jazz hands galore.
Patrick and Anya
Well that just might be the biggest prop of them all, remember when we spoke of the ridiculousness of flying cars on DWTS Italy etc? You're now living it! Thankfully, they got out of the car and then proceeded to do a normal Charleston and didn't mess around with toot sweets or butterfly nets. There were Charleston faces that weren't gurning, which is becoming increasingly hard, there was swivel and cute outfits. Even though 10s was going a bit far we're doing better than last week already!
Let me just say that I think we were likely to love anything this week after the horrendous hoard of horse poo that was last week's show. And charlestons? Meh. But perhaps because I hadn't eaten since 11am, or perhaps because I was just so desperate to see something good, I did quite love this. Marvellous swivel. Superb timing and synchronisation. It was just a jolly delight.
Natalie and Artem
Natalie looks stunning, best outfit in weeks, thank goodness for that. Artem's suit on the other hand looks like it's had an accident at the craft table. This was your typical Artem American Smooth, which means he's just choreographed a random stunning dance rather than an actual AS. I normally get arsey about that, but I loved this anyway. Natalie's hair was so emotional it just had to escape!
I love Natalie's dancing and I think we are far beyond cries of ringer. Tom Chambers anyone. But as Frankie said, this was not an American Smooth (though let's be honest, no one really knows what that is these days...), this was an Artem Smooth. Incredibly beautiful. Balletic. Swooshy arms. Synchronised. But it in no way, shape or form, was it a ballroom dance. Artem, you lovely, delightful, sparkly blueberry. Put aside your artistic tendencies and don't risk Natalie's place in the competition.
Mark and Iveta
I love Iveta, she pulls off a spangly outfit from Cats and then brings us a delightful samba to the Lion King. How Mark managed to bounce with those knees I do not know, but he was better than plenty of able-bodied people in the samba this series!
Iveta. You are amazing. I don't even care about the frivolous nature of the themeage with this couple because it just works. It's so Mark's character. He even plays a straight dance with a dash of comedy. To do otherwise would just. be. wrong. I have been on the lookout for a new favourite female pro since Karen Hardy left, and I think Iveta may just have filled the gap. And Mark, I suspect your time is up this week, but we will miss you.
Sophie and Brendan
They are trying to turn Sophie into a scary Victorian doll, aren't they? Props-tastic opening but then again a choreography-full VW that was totally delightful. Forward turns and reverse turns, that's what it's supposed to be about. I don't blame her for looking dizzy at the end, I was expecting them to walk straight into the judges desk at the end!
Artem, take note. Do this. Brendan's choreography was beautiful and they were about the only couple to dance the dance they were supposed to. Even with gimmicks, on a theme week, Brendan was straight into hold and it was just delightful. He is the most experienced professional on the show (tied with Anton...but really??) and it is really showing this year. Sophie and Brendan got all my five votes this week and I'm not afraid to say it. So ner.
Abbey and Aljaz
This was the one dance I thought was going to suffer because of the theme. Abbey actually looks like Carrie in SATC series two and is totally pulling it off. I would say this was very good, one of her best latins, but even I know it wasn't salsa! Saying that, Abbey seems to just be able to do whatever choreography you give her and that is the sign of a great dancer. The human props can sod off, Abbey was doing the arms better than them. The lifts were a bit hairy though. The 40 was surprise, but whatcha gonna do....
Love Abbey but this was not salsa.
Ashley and Ola
Ola's outfit would actually be very nice if it wasn't for the wig, Ashley's outfit is not nice. This was a very good rumba actually, nice lines and fluidity, slightly spoiled by the fact they looked like they were on the way to a fancy dress party. Ashley is getting better, but somehow he's often under the radar. Maybe now Ben has gone he might just emerge...preferably not on a flying carpet.
Pretty fly for a guy. Fly. Geddit? He was on a flying carpet? Blokes usually pants at rumba? Speaking of pants, I think Ola ripped hers.
Susanna and Kevin
Delightful song choice for musicals week, it didn't need any gimmicks with a choice as perfect as that. I had high, high hopes for this and nearly had a little cry when she went wrong a couple of times. She recovered pretty well and the piece on the stairs was delightful. Bruno's whaaaaaaaaat at Craig's 7 was shared around the nation.
Oh Susanna! I did cry for you. This was supposed to be the pinnacle of the show. A fantastic song choice, and difficult choreography, but in the end, those little tootsies got in a pickle and you didn't quite keep up. Her 'eyes and teeth' recovery would have made Pamela Stephenson proud.