Strictly Come Dancing 2 – BBC Saturday 19th September
Is Strictly, strictly, ‘reality’ TV? I pose the question because it seems to me that those occasions like the first programme on Friday when it is easiest to write about, are precisely those where the ‘reality’ element is strong. On Friday pretty much everybody was on unfamiliar ground: all the new celebs, despite their success in their own fields had to deal with an experience at least comparable with us ordinary Joes and Janes, performing in public at all. There is something absorbing about seeing actors and actresses, sportsmen and women, and even people with a practiced ease in front of the camera in their normal role; all displaying that mixture of anxiety, lack of confidence, even sheer bloody terror, that we would performing on TV at all.
Part of my answer to my own question therefore is manifestly yes. Strictly is a great leveller: celebs become a bit more like us and if we like them we identify strongly with their game willingness to have a go. If we don’t like them much they give us a great excuse to laugh and take the micky – we ‘ordinarys’ can feel ok about relishing a bit of fairly uncharacteristic pleasure at the embarrassment of others: especially those who we may think overpaid, over-praised, or both. You can prove the truth of this hypothesis if you just think about who you’d really like to see on the show. My list: Jeremy Paxman, Peter Mandelson, Brian Sewell, George W Bush, Anne Robinson, Osama Bin Laden, Jonathan Ross (please God, please), Harriet Harman, Theresa May etc etc. wouldn’t you just love to see that lot make complete arses of themselves on the dance floor? If one or two surprised us that would have its appeal as well. I can’t help thinking Lib Dem Vince Cable who is apparently an accomplished ballroom dancer has missed a trick here – but the thought of Gordo being driven to a spot of Rumba or Jive is too grisly to contemplate – so perhaps no politicos is a good idea. I’m still receiving PTSD treatment for nightmares about ‘Gorgeous’ (he must have made that up himself: like giving oneself a nickname like ‘Rocky’) George Galloway and that bloody catsuit.
Both sides of our totally contradictory attitudes to celebrity therefore get stimulated by Strictly: we can take the piss out of those who are up themselves; feel somehow close to a celeb through their anxiety and lack of confidence; or have our hero-worship reinforced by seeing that in fact some of these people really are a bit special whether in talent or determination, or both.
When however, as on Saturday night, the ‘reality’ element is less evident, then the show slips back into the duller routine of the original Come Dancing where strangely obsessive people prance around a slippery floor in a manner that is a cross between synchronised swimming without the hats; and Chinese floor exercise gymnasts. To music. In this mode the celebs are just average to dreadful beginners in the dancing stakes. It’s the same with the X Factor, which is of course even more cynically manipulated: Simon Cowell’s ‘genius’ was to turn a routine talent contest like Opportunity Knocks into a ‘Fantasy Calls’. Both shows live off moments like the ‘Boyle’ bombshell or an international Rugby player cobbling together a passably macho Paso Doble: or even what Lenny G called a ‘half-hockey stick’ whatever the hell that may be.
The judges remain a source for unwitting humour through a unique relationship with the English language where metaphors if unpacked would rival anything Humphrey Lyttleton used to say about the sexually voracious, though totally fictitious Samantha on I’m Sorry I Haven’t Clue. Bruno remarking that Jade could crack walnuts between her thighs; that Lynda Bellingham’s dancing looked like “Carry On Strictly Matron. Len on a guy, thankfully I can’t remember who, being told something about getting on top and using her to the full.
Alesha Dixon is carving out a likeable niche as the voice of the public and the only one on the present panel who can actually dance. And of course we have the delicious Darcy to come. I’m no ballet fan but I’d watch the fragrant DB do a medley of the conga, the hokey cokey and a funeral march. As for that sexy voice: ah me, she may sound like a brush, but she’s not as daft as one. For the rest, nothing very striking about part two of the first week and first group: though having to learn a couple of dances was likened by all concerned from bitchy Bruno to Claudy ‘Winky’ Winkleman on the follow-up It Takes Two (yes I’m that far gone), to climbing Everest single-handed with no oxygen and a dodgy prostate.
Chris Hollins mysteriously couldn’t make his Rumba lusty or dirty enough until his Mum came to watch; which is an intriguing little side street I’m not going to explore. Len’s mind must be a strange place to live to call Joe Calzhage a “slow bloomer” while Craig is feeding my fantasy of getting a slap from the slow bloomer after describing his performance as ‘rigor mortis’. Hit him Joe: earn the love and respect of a grateful nation. With John Sargent last year and smokeless Joe this, no one’s gonna copy poor old Kristina’s lottery entry numbers. I still keep expecting Rav to turn yellow as the tension of the dance builds, a la Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk. And star of the week Ricky went absolute ape on a char char (Craig’s version) where all was frenetically impressive except what Craig called with felicitous accuracy “that gob” that remained half to fully open throughout making him look like a cross between Gordon Brown doing ‘sincerity’ and an orgasmic cod about to climax. I know – bitchy is as bitchy does.
It was great to see Camilla and Tom do their brilliant winning show dance from last year’s final.
And so to next week. Much to look forward to: Phil Tufnell already seems to have decided that to be a dancer it is necessary to mince tall; Richard Dunwoody – sorry but I can’t resist it….. dances like a wood dunny – Ok so I should have done. A couple of Footballers’ ‘Wives’, a resident of something apparently called ‘Corrie’, an Eastender, and a Hunk from Hollyoaks. What kind of chemistry Bad Boy Brendan Cole and feisty Jo Wood are going to create should be interesting – probably the unpredictable kind that unexpectedly blows up the school lab.
So dear reader, I must rest up, prepare for Friday and to pass the time perhaps contemplate the arcane mystery of why male professional dancers have prosaic everyday names like James, Craig, Matthew, Ian: while the girls sound like a massive anagram of pasta – Ravioli, Cannelloni, Fetuccini etc. “I’ll have an Aliona Arrabiata: my wife will have the Ola Caccache with the Flavia sauce please. Mercifully they ignored the Gnocchi – I dare not guess what Len would have done with ‘potato balls.’”