Sunday, 30 September 2018

Still Standing (Sort of)

The problem with Week 2 is that after the razzmatazz and excitement of Week 1, it always feels a little flat. Last night's show was no exception and even the dances that got others excited didn't really get me going ...

Stacey and Kevin  
I basically want to be Stacey when I grow up. She's so cool. My opinion of Kevin varies from series to series and is very much dependent on his partner so of course this year I love him. I want them to win. There I said it and it's only Week 2. I didn't hate this dance. It was way too faffy but I got it. I think.

Charles and Karen 

I missed most of this performance because I was too busy drawing a Charles Venn diagram that Twitter did not find anywhere near as amusing as I did. Charles did look as though he was taking charge and leading at some points but his timing was a wee off. Why it's OK for Faye not to do heel leads but Charles got pulled up for it is beyond me. Oh yeah. The judges are really consistent. Ummm.

Katie and Gorka 

Katie isn't a dancer. Katie pretty much walked through this routine. Another one this evening with quite significant timing issues and I could visibly see her watching out for cues from Gorka. I'd like to see him work with her on performance, confidence  and styling for next week. It's not all about the steps, it's how you sell them.

Graeme and Oti 

Oh Oti,  you are mortal after all. I didn't like the choreography. It did not gel. But I like Graeme and think he has Darren Gough levels of potential. Oti needs to work on his technique and give up on the gimmicks.

Kate and Aljaz

Finally! This was more like it. Wouldn't have been my first choice for  tango piece but the band did a great job and it worked. Aljaz kept it classic-with-a-twist and that also worked. It had attack and it had class. Ones to watch. Also, Aljaz's reactions are my new favourite thing.

Joe and Diane  
Strictly, I hate you for making me suffer this song. This was quite divisive and I thought it was OK. What was extraordinary however was Joe's natural musicality. I'm going to defend Shirley's standing ovation here because what I think we're seeing with Joe is raw, unpolished, natural ability and it's really quite refreshing. Lee, Faye and Ashlee are so stylised in their approach but Joe is a surprise. Hurrah.

Susannah and Anton  
I don't think Susannah has the character to play on Anton's Antonness this year. I'm not enjoying. They're a Kate Garraway sort of pairing. Really bad before John Sargeant taught everyone to ham it up. She did improve though. I'll give her that.

Lee and Nadiya  
This was a genuinely good Week 2 jive but there's something a little off kilter about Lee and I can't put my finger on it. I should imagine he's going to pull off some wonderful dances over the next few weeks but I just can't imagine myself caring one jot.

Danny and Amy  
Now this made me sit up and watch. The movements were in the most part a little awkward but there was a energy about the routine I just couldn't ignore. And boy, Amy worked him hard. You could see he was really trying to work that latin leg motion and I applaud that. Timing and musicality excellent. Oh I do like to see natural talent shine through ... Another rough diamond.

Vick and Graziano  
Beautiful. So much better than last week. But if that was a waltz, I am a pancake.

Dr Ranj and Janette  
Part of me is pleased they chose a song with latin flavour. The other part is screaming IT SUCKS AND IS TOTALLY WRONG FOR SALSA. This obviously was not salsa. It's never salsa. They're a jolly pair though. I'll get over it.

Faye from Steps and Giovanni  
This was good. But I didn't care. It was a long show... and heel leads? Yeah. You just pulled Charles up for that Craig. Piffle.

Lauren and AJ  
I did not see much Charleston in this Charleston. Just saying. I'm losing the will to live now.

Seann and Katja  
This was the worst thing I have ever seen.  He danced the whole thing off time and I'm sorry, to be that bad at THAT means he might as well go home. I don't care how hard he tries. Poor Katja. Her face at the end was a picture.

Ashlee and Pasha  
Yeah yeah, she's good and I enjoyed it despite my best efforts to remain meh about it. Let's blame it on the boogie (wonderland) which is an altogether infectious song. Pasha's face. Oh if you could bottle that joy.

And so endeth the blog post. Apologies it gets grumpy towards the end... I'll lighten up as the shows get shorter. Possibly. 

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Ready for Lift Off!

Gosh, Strictly opens with a swirling romantic number in Somerset House that hopefully sets the tone for the rest of the series - it's good to be back! Saddle up, because it's going to be a long one with plenty to discuss along the way...
Danny and Amy
Starting the series with a foxtrot sounds harsh, but Danny is the hot favourite according to our poll and he's doing the famous first dance, which basically guarantees him a place in the final. This was razzmatazzing all over the place at times, but thankfully Amy put in lots in hold, even though Danny obviously found it harder. Plenty of potential with the top line etc, and of course ALLLLL the outfits as the series goes on...

Kate and Aljaz
I have fallen for these two more and more as the training has gone on, Kate is already having the time of her life and I want to join her on the ride. A cha cha is where we all feel secure week 1, and this was the epitome of a week 1 cha cha. There was sass, basic steps, and jiggling and nervous giggles and the whole thing was great fun. Yes, there were some awkward bits and she didn't nail the technique, but I'm sure there's much more to come!

Lauren and AJ
I had no expectations going into this, especially after Lauren had to go to Australia, but this routine quite impressed me. There was a lot more content than I expected too, I imagined time off would lead to excessive faffing, but it was nearly all waltz. Lauren proved herself to be pretty capable too and wasn't distracted by AJ wearing her nan's curtains for a shirt - that shows she's made of strong stuff.

Seann and Katya
Another unknown quantity, but that's what this series was all about. I thought he was going to go for comedy, but despite the barely-contained excitement, he was committing to doing an actual tango. Katya continues to be a fierce goddess, and the band totally brought it with Sexy Back - I didn't think that was a good song choice when they announced it, but maybe it gave Seann the heavy beat he needed? Can't wait to see what they do next.

Vick and Graziano
Tonight Tess, I'm going to be....Alesha Dixon! The outfit and the dance matched, and it looks like we're going to great some great stuff from her this series. The kicks and flicks weren't 100% sharp, and I was waiting for it to explode at some point that never came, and as many people said, it was a bit too much on the Grazi. Jive is super-hard to start with though, and she clearly has potential, fingers crossed for next week.

Susannah and Anton
Well, we knew they were going for a comedy samba, the key question was whether it was actually going to be funny....and it wasn't. It was like a French revolution acid trip merged with the Honey Monster, with a couple of basic samba steps thrown in for posterity. I can't work out whether Susannah is properly bad, or if Anton just didn't even try - pray for some (normal) ballroom next week.

Charles and Karen
I totally expected them in the pimp slot, not halfway through, especially with that epic 90s throwback of a song. This turned out to be a cheeky little number, and I was surprised that it got called out on the lack of cha cha content, considering it's week 1 and some of the nonsense that has been let slide in recent years. It didn't blow my socks off like I was hoping, but Charles has shown he can certainly bring it. And in a particularly jaunty red outfit nonetheless.

Ashley and Pasha
Loving how they've put Queen of the Ringers in the most ballroom dance possible, and head them off with 'oh this is so different to what I'm used to', only for her to knock it out of the park two minutes later. But let us enjoy some good, classic ballroom in week one, in a nice frock with Pasha having a marvellous time.

Dr Ranj and Janette
Yes, the man has a doctorate, and I will be using it all series. This was a delightful cha cha, with the full on commitment to eyes-and-teeth that I demand from this dance. Janette was spangle-tastic but thankfully didn't overshadow him, and he managed to keep on track of the whole thing despite props and tables etc. The cha cha suits him down the ground, so I'm waiting on next week's (probably) ballroom number with some trepidation - but he's been the surprise of the night so far.

Katie and Gorka
A dramatic change of pace after Dr Ranj, but I think Katie got a bit overwhelmed by the emotion of the song and essentially the whole thing. Her and Gorka seem like a good team though, and he can hopefully guide her through it, because it all looked a bit tentative. But it is nice to have these moments when you remember doing Strictly is A Big Deal and you are Dancing On The Telly In Front Of Millions.

Graeme and Oti
Oti clearly hasn't got a frontrunner this year, but she continues to be the most fun and fabulous pro and her and Graeme clearly get on. This was so much fun, I really enjoyed it - Oti just grabbed what she could and made it into something resembling a samba. Yes there were props and flossing, but there were properly-attempted samba steps in there - and this is only week 1 with a cripplingly hard dance! Bring on next week!

Stacey and Kevin
Another unknown quantity we were all looking forward to seeing, but also slightly apprehensive that Kevin's pulled out a week 1 quickstep for a non-dancer. But wow, she took everything thrown at her and then some, great song choice and a sparkly frock and we were away! She's better out of hold than in at this point, but that will come in time, as will the core strength hopefully. She flew around the floor and was brimming with confidence, onwards and upwards...

Lee and Nadiya
I haven't been sure what to make of these two since the launch show, and I still don't. All I can say is that it didn't really feel waltzy enough for me and Lee seemed to be holding her at arm's length a lot of the time. Not a lot to say really, hopefully they bring some exciting latin next week.

Joe and Dianne
Joe came so late in this marathon opener I'd basically forgotten he was doing the show and that we had no idea how it was going to turn out. Amazingly, this wasn't a total car crash; he'd obviously worked at it despite being terrified. The bits of him jiving were easily better than the faffing! A whole series worth of cringe-worthy emoji symbols and sidebars would be more than grating, but nice to see he's throwing himself into it.

Faye from Steps and Giovanni
I know there have been approximately nine million dancers this evening, but I just didn't connect with this routine - it wasn't a bringing-down-the-house week 1 finale. Yes, it had cha cha content and was all smooth and clean, maybe just a little too smooth and clean? Considering we have dubbed this the 'Surprise Series' this was anything but. Knock my sparkly socks off next week please!

Monday, 17 September 2018

The Winning Formula - 10th anniversary edition

Since I have been trying to scientifically work out the Winning Formula for winning Strictly for 10 years now, I believe I deserve some sort of academically-recognised award. It's stood the test of time pretty well over the decade, but the present for a tenth wedding anniversary is apparently tin, and that doesn't feel glamorous enough. A teeny tiny glitterball trophy with my initials scratched on it maybe?

As we go into this, I would like to highlight that last year the Formula picked 2 out of four finalists correctly - Alexandra and Gemma (the other one was Aston, make of that what you will). My work is never done, let's get down to 2018...

1) Get the party started
I concede, we've stretched this definition a bit over the years, with contestants being split into two batches and giving us two opportunities for a 'first dance', but Gemma really came through last year by dancing first and making her way to the final. That tentative cha cha in an odd orange dress had me worried for a while, but the formula came thorough once again! It's one show for everyone's first dance this year once again, so I'll be biting my nails like a Kermit the frog GIF.

2) Quit your day job
It's clear that Strictly and doing another job rarely goes well; physically, mentally...spiritually? Unless you are the superhuman breed known as the BBC News presenter, so no pressure there Kate Silverton! Last year hilariously proved this, after Joe had not only left Holby City, but also didn't reveal the shock of his character being killed off! The drama! There are some difficult scenarios this year, with Charles staying on Casualty and commuting from Wales, but that pales in comparison to Lauren doing a competition literally on the other side of the world before week 1 - poor AJ didn't even get a trip to Oz out of this! Can you take a day off from being a YouTuber? Will Dianne have to surgically remove that phone from Joe's hand? Expect all the *crazy* jokes about the youth of today to not wear thin at all...

3) Blondes don't have more fun
The evidence is right before your eyes, we had a 50% blonde final last year, and it still don't come through and Abbey Clancy remains our sole blonde winner - what is that about? Debbie McGee is also about the blondest person in the world, if she couldn't do it, I can only assume the British public is inherently prejudiced. If this plays out, we're losing Ashley, Faye, Katie, and Susannah at the outset, while Stacey is holding it up for the redheads this year - will we ever have a ginger winner? The #JusticeForGingerNeil campaign continues apace. 

4) Latin fever
Once again, we had a latin specialist win Strictly last year, making Jo Clifton the ballroom pioneer of the ages for all of two years. As for this new batch of pros, Graziano is very much a latin specialist (whilst simultaneously having to take on the Strictly mantle of Most Italian Man Ever, I assume), so it looks like ballroom specialists are off the table for another year. Unless some Terpsichorean miracle occurs with Anton that is, along with dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria, etc. 

5) Age is more than a number
This is where we had our *shock* variation last year, with Joe winning despite reaching the grand old age of 42. Before you start throwing sparkly bedpans at me, up until that point, no one had won Strictly over the age of 40. It's a fairly young cast this year, with nine out of 15 under 40, and a couple of people sneaking in at 39 - keep your eyes on Graeme and Dr Ranj! I'm happy for this variable to be revised as time goes on, because age shouldn't really be a barrier on this show, maybe life can begin at 50?

6) Embrace the sparkle!
The least quantifiable, but most important of variables, you must throw yourself into the glitter pit, head first (and naked, apparently, if you're Jeremy Vine). Strictly requires losing all sense of reality and becoming one with the da-hance, dah-ling. Last year's finalists all had the benefit of being amazing teams together, and we can only hope we get the same this year. Stand-out contestants this year for embracing the sparkle seem to be Seann, with his out-of-the-comfort-zone hysteria, Kate with her mummy-sass, and Stacey and Kevin jumping around like five-year-olds after too much sherbet. Joe on the other hand looks like a rabbit in the headlights, hopefully the fake tan will work its magic.

On doing the calculations (I've definitely shown my working for extra marks), the Winning Formula this year predicts the following people will make it to the final...

Dance first - day job + brunette x latin pro > 40 years old + sparkle =


As ever, the first dancer on the opening show will be added to the list - in the meantime, throw your hat into the ring and vote in our poll!

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Ooh, What Lovely Pairs

Welcome back!

It's been ten years since we started this blog, guys. TEN YEARS. Feeling super old but luckily our fingers still work well enough to type Strictly-related ramblings. Aren't you lucky?

So after an uber-lengthy group number during which I recognised so few pro faces I think I may have early onset memory issues ... it's time to have a wee chat about the new couplings.

Kate and ... Aljaz!

Kate reminds me so much of Natasha Kaplinsky I was almost certain she'd already been on the show. She seems like a jolly good sport. And Aljaz is obvs all kinds of adorable. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 6 - her name and face were familiar

Vick and ... Graziano

She has amazing hair. Would have put money on this partnership. They look like fecking dynamite. I have a feeling they'll be finalists already. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 0 - sorry, I had no blinkin' idea. 

Susannah and ... Anton

Cue fun, frolics and a guaranteed pass to at least week 5. She didn't look the most rhythmic in that group number. But I'm sure Anton could just stick her in a wardrobe for at least 33% of each dance and it'll be fine.

Clover Awareness Rating: 8 - Didn't know her surname. In fact, thought her surname was Susannah and her first name was Trinniand. My mum used to have one of the books. 

Faye and ... Giovanni

Loving the La la land-esque yellow dress, despite it being a little skewiff. If there are no Steps moves included in her routines, it will be an absolute tragedy. I know some of them are really better best forgotten, but sometimes it's better the devil you know. I reckon these two will be pretty good, but the final is really the last thing on my mind right now. Ah anyway, as long as she doesn't just stomp...

I am oh so very sorry. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 10. I was a teenager in the 90s. 

Lee and ... Nadia

Of course they put him in a blue suit.

Clover Awareness Rating: 10. I was a teenager in the 90s.

Ranj and ... Janette

These guys seems like a ray of sunshine already. I'm feeling happy vibes. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 0. I neither watch CBBC nor daytime TV. 

Danny and ... Amy 

He is wearing a joyous hat. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 6. OK DON'T SHOOT ME. I didn't watch Red Dwarf. BUT I did watch Maid Marian. Fun fact: Author Mark Billingham was one of the guards. I met him at a work event. That obviously means Danny and I are practically related. 

Joe and ... Diane

Let's stop the Youtuber bashing. He's really quite famous. Just not to anyone over the age of 24. I think he is such an interesting signing. Poor mite looks terrified. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 6. Had genuinely heard of him. I am so down with the kids it hurts. 

Katie and ... Gorka 

So, the first signing to be announced and one so free of spoilerdom, it knocked everyone sideways. She is rather an inspirational lady and an unknown quantity with regards to dance ability. The perfect combination for a reaaaally long trip? Tour? Voyage? Expedition? Drive? J....?

Clover Awareness Rating: 10. Seen 'er on telly, innit.

Lauren and ... AJ

Competitive and fit. Doesn't it make you sick? These two could be a proper power couple. Apparently has a thing for salsa dancing. I will be keeping an eye on that. Please don't make her dance to Michael Jackson.

Clover Awareness Rating: 7, heard of her, but unfortunately sports people are rarely at the top of my radar.

Stacey and ... Kevin

I genuinely think Stacey is great! What a great reaction and a great partnership. Too many greats. Sorry. But she's potentially a great 'journey' (yes, I've already mentioned it twice...) contestant, having no performing arts background that we know of...

Clover Awareness Rating: 10. Love her docs. Shows, not boots. 

Ashley and ... Pasha

So... Pashley? Don't cha think she'll be amazing...and win? I think she could be the ringiest ringer of them all. Will she be open about it, or keep it hush hush? Will she ditch Pasha because she, ahem, doesn't need a man? Or cling to his torso wailing I'LL STICK WITU. I'm not sure the British public will be per-sway-ded to vote for her. Will she bite the dust early on?

I HATE myself right now. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 4. I have heard of The Pussycat Dolls. Just not the individual components. 

Seann and ... Katya

I'm all for anyone who talks a lot about cheese and can pull off a sparkly red suit. Katya has a good track record with ringers and comedy contestants alike. Good pair. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 3 - I've definitely seen him on 'telly. But I wouldn't have been able to tell you his name. 

Charles and ... Karen

Oti looked like she really wanted him. Not surprised. He was basically the stand out star of the group 
number. And more than a little dishy. 

Clover Awareness Rating: 0. The last time I watched casualty, Sam Colloby and Dr Richard McCaig were sharing a staffroom. 

Graeme and ... Oti

The only cricketers I have heard of are those who've been on Strictly. So Graeme, welcome to the very small and select group in my head. He was clapping in time in the group number. Let's hope he's more of a Gough than a Vaughan *has Vaughan jive flashback* *dies* 

Clover Awareness Rating: 0. See above.