Sunday, November 01, 2009

Strictly halfway

We are now halfway through the latest series of "Strictly Come Dancing" (which for us dance fanatics is also running parallel with its U.S. version "Dancing With The Stars", now also being screened on the Watch satellite channel).

Before the first dance steps had even been taken in Series 7, the controversy was well under way. The BBC decided to replace one of the judges, legendary choreographer Arlene Phillips, with Series 5 winner Alesha Dixon. Accusations of "ageism" followed, which were heightened when the oldest professional female dancer, and series 4 winner, Karen Hardy was dropped from the show.

Controversy has continued to follow "Strictly" this year, recently a race row involving professional dancer Anton Du Beke who is alleged to have used a completely unacceptable racist term to describe his celebrity partner Laila Rouass after she had a spray-tan.

In its early weeks "Strictly" has been up against ITV's "X Factor" in virtually the same time slot, so dare I suggest that any publicity - even the most negative - is good publicity? Two weeks ago, the 'walk-off' by Brendan Cole following the judges' slaughter of his celebrity partner Jo Wood, seemed a little too fabricated for my liking - particularly as the same Mr Cole seemed just a bit too cheerful last week in spite of his partner, known to most people as being the dumped wife of Rolling Stones star Ronnie Wood, finally reaching the end of her "journey".

Aah, the "journey". That good old celebrity-reality-show cliche. It's not the taking part that counts, it's the journey. Thanks to this show, I've discovered myself/became a better person/became more confident/lost 3 stone in weight blah blah blah. And if you can't dance then that's even better.

I first came across the "Vote for the Worst" concept a few years ago whilst following American Idol. The idea was not to vote for the best or the most talented contestants, but for the worst, or the most entertaining for all the wrong reasons. Somewhere along the way, that idea caught on over here - it's viewer power taken to the extreme, sticking two fingers up at the judges which, although it's a good idea in theory, it means that good candidates are often sacrificed so that the truly rotten ones can remain, week after week, to entertain us. Remember the "Strictly Come Dancing" hall of shame...?

Series 1 - Christopher Parker

Series 2 - Julian Clary

Series 3 - Fiona Phillips

Series 4 - Peter Schmeichel

Series 5 - Kate Garraway

Series 6 - John Sergeant (the legend!)

Of course John Sergeant quit the contest at the stage last year when winning became a possibility: his is the standard by which all celebrity-reality-contestants are now measured.

The best thing about Mr Sergeant was his personality. This year's no-hoper is still in search of

So far, Martina Hingis, Richard Dunwoody, Rav Wilding, Lynda Bellingham, Joe Calzaghe and Jo Wood have been voted off the show. I can't comment about Martina Hingis as I didn't see that show, however I've seen the rest and they've all been varying stages of rubbish - although I'd have liked Lynda Bellingham to stay as she was good fun. Last night brought a shock result as Ali Bastian/Brian Fortuna and Zoe Lucker/James Jordan (pictured below) were in the bottom two, despite receiving good scores from the judges. It was a difficult decision for the judges who had to evict Zoe who had been one of their favourites in this series. Neither of these dancers should have been in the bottom two: but then it's not really a dancing contest any more, is it?

Whilst the standard of dancing by the celebrities this year is reasonably high and in some cases exceptional (yes I mean Ricky Whittle and Ali Bastian - if it was just based on dancing then these would be the two finalists), there is still the dead wood, (as opposed to the dead Wood, who was thankfully voted off last week).

Above: Ali Bastian & Brian Fortuna - they deserve better than the bottom two.

Above: Craig Kelly & Flavia Cacace - when will the nine lives run out?

Craig Kelly - better known to TV viewers as the guy off "Queer As Folk" who does a lot of voiceovers and then went into "Corrie" for a brief spell as factory owner Luke Strong - has become the darling of the "vote for the worst" brigade. You'd think he'd have used up his nine lives by now, but he lives to fight another day...especially as he so desperately, desperately, desperately wanted to make it to Blackpool.

For next week, "Strictly Come Dancing" will return to its spiritual home - the Tower Ballroom. Who could forget the brilliant Jill Halfpenny and Darren Bennett winning there in 2004? Hopefully the change of venue for one week only will bring some much-needed magic to this series.

This series is distinctly lacking in personalities, the judges often seem strained, Brucie's jokes are a ropey as ever, Tess Daly still has her foot stuck in her mouth and don't even start me on that band and those singers and the inappropriate matching of song choices to dance routines, and the past their sell-by date 'interval acts' (Jamie Cullum excepted)....yet in spite of all that I'm still enjoying "Strictly Come Dancing" - we need a bit of glamour in these dark times don't we?

Above: Natalie Cassidy & Vincent Simone: she's not that great, but she's having fun.

Above: Chris Hollins & Ola Jordan: no-one remembers his dancing because they're all watching the perennially underdressed Ola!

Above: Jade Johnson & Ian Waite: as Brucie would say, 'you're my favourites'. They deserve to do really well.
Above: Phil Tufnell & Katya Virshilas: he's the anti-Craig Kelly - he never stops grinning.

Above: Ricky Groves & Erin Boag: we like him, he's good fun. Those facial expressions in the beginning were hilarious.

Above: Ricky Whittle & Natalie Lowe: go to the top of the class. Rrrrrrrrrrrricky!!!

Above: Laila Rouass & Anton Du Beke: he can't dance Latin for toffee. She deserves better.
*All pictures above courtesy of*

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