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BBC – Strictly Come Dancing 1 – Planet ‘Orange’ returns to earth

Bruce, Lovely Tess


BBC Strictly Come Dancing 1 – Picking Partners

Planet Orange re-enters our gravitational pull on its annual starry, sequinned visit to Earth. Fake Tan Futures buck the general bear market as industrial quantities of spray-on orange make the expanses of bare skin on the scantily-clad, impossibly fit professional dancers, look almost decent. Thankfully not quite. And that’s just the blokes.

The sequinned Starship BBC Enterprise is still captained by the newly promoted Sir Bruce ‘T’. Forsyth aided by the usual crew of Craig Revel ‘Spock’wood, Len ‘Bones’ Goodman, Bruno ‘Scotty’ Tonioli and the delicious Alesha ‘Uhura’ Dixon with Tess ‘Clingon’ Daly bringing up an extremely comely rear.

“’Dance’ the final frontier: these are the journeys of the c-list stars’ ship Enterprise; it’s four month mission – to explore strange new steps, to seek out new life in flagging careers, new liaisons; to bodily move in ways no man has moved before”.

The best job in TV must be the ‘Boob’ cameraman on Strictly: the guy who tracks all the dancers as they bobble up the steps out of breath for their breathless interview with Tess. There is some pretty blatant camerawork onStrictly every week but none more so than this delightful detour down the daring décolletage of what I guess for this first show was 14 variously endowed ladies proving that like humanity, boobs come in all shapes and sizes and are subject to a kind of quantum uncertainty: you can either see where they are, but not where they are going next; or you can see the direction they are taking but move about so fast you cannot really see them at rest. This gentle exploitation has become so much part of the show that one wonders why the panel don’t get out their paddles and mark out of ten. Mind you this week with the wonderful Dolly Parton singing her best song for years, the marks would have had to be out of 20. (But oh Dolly – why oh why the surgery? You really didn’t need the rectus grin of facelift. When we eventually got to your face – we liked it the way it was).

Picking partners week was a cross between the awful picking-teams rituals of playground memory and a World cup draw without the balls – so to speak. At least with the World Cup, mischievous pairings are the ironic outcomes of chance: with this set up show one felt the cold dead hand of Producer manipulation. Teaming the feistiest lady celeb (Lulu) with the most argumentative male Pro (Bad Brendan) may make Big Brother blow-ups look like afternoon tea at the vicarage. They’ll either win it or crash and burn in the chilly atmosphere Lulu gave off on being hoisted like a sack of potatoes by big Bren on the 1st show.

I can’t help feeling that not pairing Boxer Audley Harrison with Joe Calzaghe’s partner Kristina was an opportunity, or punch-up missed though linking Edwina Currie and Vincente certainly offers an ego-battle of truly cosmic proportions. It is perverse to partner the fiery passion of the Russian hell-cat with Jason (yawn) Donovan who has all the kinetic charisma of a house brick. Rory Bremner should win hands down if he can just perfect his Fred Astaire impersonation.

I don’t know any of the others: sorry but Chelsee Healey looks and acts like someone who, with the whole dictionary to choose from would choose to call herself ‘Chelsee’: or maybe her Dad was watching the match from Stamford Bridge on his I-phone during the christening. “Chelsee, Chelsee, Chelsee, Chelsee” is partnered by new boy Pro, Pasha. Anita Dobson May or May not do well but sounded a bit like a surprised groupie to be married to a rockstar. At least if the Enterprise gets lost in space somewhere over Blackpool, Anita can phone a knowledgeable friend for a bit of stellar navigation.

Dan Lobb appears to be this year’s ‘winker’ (jury’s out on an ‘i’ or an ‘a’): every year, and sadly it is always a bloke, there is one who thinks winking down the lens is a better bet for success than perfecting his double fleckle. We can only hope that the fiery Ola will not be blinded on the dance floor by the incandescence of Robbie Savage’s self-love.

Harry Judd looks shy; Alex Jones looks like Christine Bleakley as she is supposed to; Holly Valance is an unknown quantity to me though having a name like a pelmet doesn’t inspire confidence – we’ll soon find out if she’s just an ornamental piece of window dressing. Nanci Dell’Ollio will need to understand that it is the public vote that will keep her on the show and telling us all how glamorous she is, is hardly likely to endear her to a British public already partly blaming her for England’s failure in both European and World Cups.

And so to the star of our show: an unlikely one at that. This year’s comedy turn for us to laugh unmercifully at and then become the object of a uniquely grisly British sentimentality is Star-gazer Russell Grant. (“Grant to the bridge – Uranus is coming up on the screen – we need directions”). Cast as this year’s John Sergeant, 2011’s Anne Widdicombe, Grant looks surprisingly promising: a nice line in self-mockery, much loved of the British; impervious to insult and taunt, this little roly-poly guy looks as if he can actually move in time to music. Still chubbily rotund it is chilling to think what he must have looked like before he lost the 10 stone he has just shed: well like a shed I guess. Our annual dreams of romantic liaisons between newly formed partnerships may need to be put on hold in respect of roly Russell and his partner Flavia.

Technically they seem to have tried to do this week’s show with no steadicams and fewer cameras. The effect was a disappointing distancing from the dancers and the dancing. Mid to long shots may give us a sense of the shape and pattern of the dance but it leaves us uninvolved, detached. It is the sense of being amongst the dancers, seeing their expressions and movements close to, that generates the sense of intimacy and connection with the dancers pro and celeb, that lies at the heart of the success of this show.

“Captain to crew, Captain to crew: we are just leaving Earth’s gravitational pull; we will be away for 4 months before we have our feet on the ground again. Dave ‘the tie’ Arch will now play some soothing music through the ship’s sound system. Get some sleep – you’re gonna need it. Captain out.”

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