Saturday, September 11, 2010

Strictly: Poor Anton

"It's never too early to start panicking on this show," said Len and with that we're instantly back into Strictly: lapping up the atmosphere, being aghast at the frocks, pitying Anton and automatically tuning out Alesha Dixon.

We've just never been away. Yet this does feel like a shaken up Strictly. "This is the best lineup ever," said Len, this time reading from his contract. Yet there is some truth in it: this is the first series in years where the celebrities are better known than the professional dancers. Then the new graphics are more nicely Hollywood than Shepherds Bush and the redesigned set is smart.

Plus of course, the whole idea of a launch show is new - to Strictly, at least. The format of the launch show is very familiar if you remember sports day at school or you've ever spent quality time at a meat market.

There wasn't the promised tension and excitement over who was paired with whom, not when you could guess most with one squint at their respective heights. But we did have the little frisson over who is genuinely pleased, who is truly appalled and who had comments that were well enough prepared to make you suspect a fix.

There was a fix. Strictly is always cast as carefully as a drama and there is no random shuffle on who got whom but Anton got the joke: forget that Ann Widdecombe has been hired as the new John Sergeant, just look at the sixteen feet height difference. "If you are a politician of course you're going to say what you think," said Widdecombe during an interview recorded before we watched her and Anton pretending to be pleased with each other. That was rather sweet, her demonstrating the same grasp of reality she applies to Catholicism.

"That was seriously quite good," said Bruce as the hour came quite quickly to an end. That was the best part - not that it ended but that it seemed to fly by. It's easy to criticise the show but it does still have atmosphere, its artifice is balanced by fun and just often enough there are dances that lift you.

Not tonight, unfortunately, but you know they're coming and you know you'll be watching. Waddya say, round my place for a Strictly party on Friday 1 October?

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Strictly Come Dancing: Um, about this launch show...

Last year, someone dropped out of Strictly Come Dancing with about a biscuit and a half to go before all the celebrities were due to be announced. Nobody's saying who it was, but it's because of them that we got to see the hips and the moves of Richard Dunwoody.

So that was a success all round.

The Mystery Celebrity tried it out, thought long and hard about how very much they prefer a game of soldiers and vanished with only the production team and the professional dancer knowing who that masked man was.

It's happened before, you could've bet that it would happen again but it can't now. The reveal of who this year's celebrities are to be was originally going to come out this Saturday night in the new launch show. Given that it's being recorded today at BBC Television Centre, someone had a Damascus moment and realised they weren't going to be able to keep it out of tomorrow's papers.

So instead, the celebrities were leaked and the officially announced late last night - and the new twist is that neither we nor the celebrities know who the professional dancers will be. If that's entirely true, the first time the celebrities meet their partner and have a good go is sometime this morning.

Maybe the people who got tickets to today's recording aren't as lucky as they thought.

But if there's no cooling off period for celebrities to change their mind and run away this year, that's really more a problem for them than for us. We'll get to see the ones who are truly suffering, and you are very cruel for thinking of that.

It's a questionable move and it'll be interesting to see if the launch show idea is repeated next year, but you do have the sense that things are being shaken up that needed to be shaken up. This year you've heard of at least most of the celebrities, for one thing. And Alesha Dixon is back judging.

So there's swings and roundabouts.

There's also some very, very odd photography. Last year the official Strictly photos were done under tight security and at the last minute but almost all of them were very strikingly well done shots. This year, all the official ones are truly dreadful: they look like they were taken on a phone and they've ramped up the cheesiness to a degree one can only hope the show does not follow.

Roll up, roll up: see for yourself Patsy Kensit trying to hold her stomach in, Peter Shilton looking like you've just ordered the wrong wine and Paul Daniels rather resembling Golum.

That's a link to the official BBC Strictly Come Dancing site. You can also get news of the show on Radio Times but note that unfortunately there won't be an RT Strictly blog this year.