Ratings-wise, Strictly has never been so popular. Last year it overtook the X Factor and topped the Saturday night TV ratings, and it's doing very well again this year. However, I feel that on its way to the top of the ratings, the programme has lost its way, its heart and its soul. Crap VTs, stupid theme-weeks, the Wembley shambles, and now this year 'stating the obvious' - Tony Jacklin's a golfer, oh let's dress him up in a glittery golfing outfit! Fiona Fullerton....hmm....Bond girl - let's have her dancing to a Bond theme! And so on, and so on. Has anyone noticed an increase in the use of props/furniture this year? This is now a constant and unnecessary irritation and takes the focus away from the actual dancing. And don't start me on the musical slaughter of modern-day songs by "our fabulous singers" - well that hasn't changed, has it???
There also appears to be a lack of content in many of the dance routines, which makes a bigger mockery of the judges' high praise (or as my mum calls it, "feeding their egos") and the over-marking by the judges at such an early stage of the competition. If you're awarding 7s, 8s and 9s to mediocre contestants at this stage, it doesn't leave much scope for later in the series, does it? The healthy and constructive criticism which used to be a part of the show has been watered down, and the praise is piled on. Got to keep the "celebrities" happy, eh?
I also have another problem with this year's Strictly: why do so many of the contestants look as if they'd rather be somewhere else? Where's the joy? Lighten up, people!
There is one positive thing to report this year - for one week only, the show returns to its spiritual home at Blackpool's Tower Ballroom on 16.11.13.
This year's front runner and "chosen one" appears to be Natalie Gumede a.k.a. Killer Kirsty from Corrie. She is a trained dancer from her childhood. As expected, a judges' favourite although as with previous years' 'favourites' she is maybe a little too focused on the prize and therefore lacking the likeability factor. She is paired with Artem "the chest" Chigvintsev so that's guaranteed a few extra votes.
Abbey Clancy is best known for being a WAG (married to tall robot-dancing bloke Peter Crouch) although apparently she's a model n' stuff like that. She is paired with new boy Aljaz from Slovenia. She also appears to be a bit of a spoiled little princess, happy when the praise is flowing, but watch out for the criticism-scowl....
Ashley Taylor-Dawson a.k.a. him off Hollyoaks. He's probably the best of the male contestants and is very likely to be the last man standing in a year where the non-professional male crop is very poor.
Another new arrival in the professionals is Kevin Clifton. a.k.a. Kevin from Grimsby. He seems quite likeable and doesn't seem to take himself seriously with his geek-glasses. A breakfast TV presenter is always a staple of Strictly and this year it's Susanna Reid's turn. She is good, although she is beginning to grate on me. I do not find her likeable at all, and I think she's becoming too full of her own importance.