True, Saturday’s show wasn’t as good as Friday’s but this is already a better series than last year’s. Enough so that you can relax into it and immediately enjoy those familiar Strictly staples.
Such as the contractually-negotiated introductions. Jimi Mistry is “movie star Jimi Mistry” when he walks down the stairs, much as Jo Wood was an “entrepreneur” last time. Then “Patsy Kensit has done a lot of things in her career,” began Brucie as lawyers fretted about her CV and BBC producers fretted over how Bruce’s jokes would dent the ratings.
Those producers have made more visible changes than any before them and generally they’re very good changes. It is hard not to miss the old spangly purple title sequence but the new one has style and flair and it is impossible to miss the new Enormous Lettering for the celebrities’ names.
We’ve got a new set that keeps the action in one place with Tess’s backstage area now only elevated so it feels inclusive, it feels like it’s part of the action. It does also feel a little cruel to make the dancers have to dart up those stairs before they’ve caught their breath. And – tell me you didn’t think this – the new arrangement and the new camera angels on the dancers bouncing up those stairs are, um, intended to keep a certain half of the viewing audience interested.
We’ve not had a dance that really carries you away yet but the way the new set was lit in fairytale blue for Pamela Stephenson’s dance came close. It is quite an amazing set: that blue for Stephenson, then a sea of twinkly lights for Robbie Williams and Gary Barlow.
It’s not really the Strictly set, though, it’s the Earth Defense Directorate from Buck Rogers. Or at least it was when Michelle Williams and Brendan Cole danced.
Bruce maintained that Michelle Williams was the finest singer with the surname Williams, only as a gag against Robbie but unthinkingly also forgetting both Andy and Dar.
But then Bruce also inadvertently set up the most tellingly ambiguous comment of the weekend. After his spiel about the judges being average, Len told Jimi Mistry that “there was nothing average” about his dance. Breath was held, but he meant it as a good thing.
Which is nice. Even nicer is how we can already disagree with the judges. How they are already seeing different dances than we are. If you watched with someone else, how often did you turn to look at each other and say “Eh?” A clue: it would be exactly the same number of times we saw standing ovations.
Nobody warranted a standing ovation, few were very good, some were terrible. You knew Paul Daniels was in trouble from the start when his wee little magic trick would’ve had three-year-olds shrugging.
He wasn’t bad enough to stop your mind wandering during his dance. And he’s not good enough to get your mind wondering if he’s going to win. Ola Jordan will be available for bar and bat mitzvahs from about week 2. She’ll provide her own costume, but you may not be able to spot it.
It is startling how often the costumes in Strictly cause problems. Kara Tointon must have true precision dancing skills the way the poor woman managed to catch a heel in material as thin as superstring. And that after having her entire personality erased by the makeup and hair styling department.
Erin Boag, Felicity Kendal and Katya Virshilas got the best out of the costume department while Flavia Cacace did best by the hair stylers with gorgeous vivid red streaks in her dark hair.
I’m not a man at all, am I?
I did spot that thing with the camera angles.
A couple of things to tell you. There’s no Strictly blog on RadioTimes.com this year, that’s why I’m waving at you from here, but there is a lot of very good Strictly material on that site. I’ve just cut a series of videos for there showing the celebrities and their professional partners posing for the Radio Times covershoot. You can see that, plus the photos and considerably more at radiotimes.com/strictly.
Whereas I just went to bbc.co.uk/strictly to check the spelling of Katya Virshilas’s name and the spangly new site has remarkably off-putting photographs. Someone at the BBC has discovered Photoshop’s Sketch and Stylise filters. They must be stopped.
Is that harsh? Am I obsessing too much with the new set and Flavia’s hair? As soon as I can figure out how to do it, I’m switching off the thing that means you have to register to shout comments at me here. This does mean we can expect a lot of offers for sex aids and financial windfalls, some written in Chinese. But if we just ignore them, they’ll go play somewhere else.