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Strictly Come Dancing – BBC Oct 25th: Sublime comic moment

John Sergeant

John Sergeant, Kristini Rihanoff

Strictly Come Dancing – BBC Oct 25th

A sublime TV moment: the funniest since Del Boy fell through the counter of the night club bar. Political Commentator turned nation’s favourite crap dancer, John Sergeant, set off on a determined, droll Paso Doble, marching across the stage dragging his partner behind him with all the studied indifference of Groucho Marx hauling Margaret Dumont along by the hair. Potato sacks get better treatment.

More was to come: steadfastly and impressively staying in time with the music, jovial John, the nation’s self-deprecating oh so English hero, launched into a couple of what are technically known as ‘twiddly-bits’ his flashing feet resembling Eric Morecombe doing a camp Ali shuffle. For the rest, Jonjo settled into a style of metronomic plodding movement more martinet than matador, that Judge Craig Revel Horwood said “raised marching to a whole new level.”

Don’t worry if you missed it, this clip will now become eternal, rolled out at all the we-can’t-afford-to-make-new-programmes rip-offs like ’50 funniest TV moments’. This classic piece of visual humour was beautifully set up. When we saw John’s incongruous glitz-camp blouse of many light sequins in the intro our hearts groaned with the delight of what we now knew was to come – yes he really was going to do the Paso Doble and not the other dance featured tonight, the sedate, perfect for him, Viennese waltz. The Producers know pure gold when they see it. So in training we saw John’s first essays at the Sergeant ‘dump and drag’ Paso Doble opening gambit.

When the moment came therefore it had all the comic momentum of anticipation to set it off. My wife, my daughter and I were all equally unable to speak for some while after as we watched disbelievingly as Jonjo waddled and twiddled his way through the dance only dancers like and understand, making it forever his. Truly post-Sergeant, the Paso Doble will never be the same again. ‘Doing a Sergeant’ is likely to enter the dancers’ curious lexicon of ‘fleckles’ and ‘heels and balls’ as the ultimate standard of naffness in dance performance.

Yet to the judges’ united, the only thing they agree on, chagrin the public keep rescuing Jonjo and his long-suffering partner Kristini Rihanoff. Why? Because this astute, witty, intelligent, media savvy guy is an instinctive English hero: self-deprecating, self-mocking, revealing to us the campy brittleness of hothouse-flower dancers and their see-through sequined world. Our ‘Sarge’ plays knowingly to the deep-rooted British conviction that any form of public performance is ‘showing-off’ to be deeply disparaged in direct proportion to how good the performer is.

By my count the Sarge probably has two more weeks to go. He is so much better entertainment value than pulsing pecs Foster. Mark’s magnificent mesomorphic triangular, oddly a-sexual swimmer’s body chases after the rhythm and timing of every tune as vainly as I would Michael Phelps in the 100 metres freestyle. To the disablement of ‘tone-deaf’ we must now add ‘rhythm-dumb’. Mark’s another game trier in the no-hoper group so confidently led by the Sarge. Early shower for Mark tomorrow though unless I miss my guess. Unless Andrew ‘beat-the-butt’ Castle pips him for the chop. Personally I’d volunteer for Andrew’s partner Ola Jordan’s method of preventing the Castle butt from sticking out. She cured him by tying him securely to her to achieve a smooth outer profile that must have been in stark contrast to the consequent pulsating thrill of the new location for his general pelvic area. I’m not surprised he was cured of sticking his butt out by this method – who wouldn’t be?

I’ll come back to the show as it unwinds: from the ageless elegance of Cheri Lunghi one the many FPD’s this week (Failed Paso Doble); to the delicious Lisa Snowdon whose legs, like the Indian Rope Trick appear to go on for ever upwards to disappear in an elegant mystery. Best this week for me was Rachel Stevens in a beautifully choreographed (partner Vincent Simone) magically romantic Viennese Waltz. The fiercely determined Amazonian Jodie Kidd also made one feel in a real bullfight your money wouldn’t be on the bull.

You will note I haven’t said much about the good guy dancers; newly-wed, tripping- Tom Chambers; or aptly named, sporty Austin Healey. Well another time. For this week belongs to Jovial John, our one and only ‘Sarge’ for a moment of wittily unwitting comic genius. Let’s hear it for the instinctive droll, Jack Benny of the dancing pump, always tripping, never light, but always fantastic – Mr John Sergeant.

Final score – Paso Doble 0 John Sergeant 1.

(October 2008)

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