Sunday, December 19, 2010

Strictly: Best Final, Worst Show Dances

This is a lie but I believed it for a whole week: I would have been happy whoever won this year’s Strictly Come Dancing.


I mean, I would’ve been happy whichever one of these particular three won. Let’s not get carried away. Matt Baker, Pamela Stephenson, Kara Tointon, any one of them could’ve won and whichever one pulled it off, I was certain I would be happy.

Until the gap between the two shows. Twitter scuttlebutt had it that Pamela was doing well: people trying to phone vote for her seemed to be having more difficulty getting through than others. So much for Twitter, but I realised that in fact I would be very disappointed if she beat Kara.

Then we came back from the break and Pamela was out

And I was disappointed again.

But maybe you don’t want me to detail my minute-by-minute disappointments and satisfactions, you don’t want me to count my blessings or alphabetise my woes. Instead, let’s look at the big disappointment of the night.

The show dances.

I’ve looked forward to these all week and none of them worked. Pamela’s was the best by a considerable way but it wasn’t tremendous. Kara’s timing was worse than mine and Matt’s had great, great and three times great moments but an hour’s wait in between each one.

You didn’t hear this because you weren’t here but Angela said it first: the show was wrong to make them do four dances. If they’d given us three and padded out the time with more Take That or something, perhaps there would’ve been chance for the show dances to be polished.

Yet, despite the highlight of the night being weak, this really was the best final we’ve had in years. Now it’s perhaps easy to see and to say that Kara was certain to win but at 7pm on Saturday night, you did not know. More, there was no Christopher Parker, no Ann Widdecombe. There was no one who seemed to be incorrectly favoured: to this day I smart over Darren Gough snatching the trophy from Zoe Ball back in 2005.

Grief. Five years ago. I should probably get over that.

I do think Matt Baker was incorrectly marked or perhaps not incorrectly, more unjustly. His opening dance was a rousing, roaring start and it put him right back in the very top of the frame for me. I have no technical knowledge, no technical skill, I do this by what connects with me somehow and I thought he had it there.

Then Kara had that same thing tenfold so to give her marks that were close to the heavily criticised Matt seemed wrong. I don’t often disagree with Craig but saying she was better than last time and then giving her the same score had me looking at him. Yes, exactly like that.

I’ll let him off eventually: you know I’m not one to bear grudges. I can’t bear them at all.

And part of Strictly is its friendliness: writer Ken Armstrong commented on Twitter that: “If I had to say a difference, I would say that 'Strictly' is a good-natured show while the 'Other One' is not. There was camaraderie and delight from contestants in the friends they have made. It seemed real.”

He’s right: it’s one of those observations that seems obvious once it’s been made yet I’d not thought it before. Strictly is built on a spirit that seems to extend out to its audience and I’m going to miss that.

Because it’s Sunday night and there’s no results show. Tomorrow there won’t be an It Takes Two. You’ll be aware that next Saturday is December 25 when there’s some big quasi-religious event, Doctor Who or something, but there is also a special Strictly at 7pm.

John Barrowman and Ronni Ancona are among the new celebrity dancers. What did they feel when they were asked? It must be fantastic to get the call from Strictly but then to be effectively told it’s a one-off and you’ll never get the main series, how does that feel?

And while I’m asking you questions, what will Kara and Artem have to talk about now?

Myself, I’m going back to blogging about what we write and what we write with, when we can be bothered to write. Strictly is out, my own prattling is back in - starting shortly with my Doctor Who audio. But that’s another story.

Thanks for the comments and the tweets and the nattering. That’s why I did this on my own blog this year when, for production reasons, it couldn’t continue on

So, altogether now: keeeeeeeeep nattering.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Strictly: But first, the news...

Okay, I give in. The pink frock, the beauty of the dance... You were right, I was wrong: I do have a crush on Kara Tointon. Oh, stop looking so smug.

Obviously, then, I needed her to get into the final but actually this is the first year I’ve ever watched the semis with my fingers crossed. It was essential Kara got in, it was essential Gavin got out. I also wanted Pamela in so thereafter it was a numbers game: how much I would care if Scott was out, how bothered would I be if Matt left.

Not that much, really. But on the narrowest of balances, I did want Matt and we’ve got him.

Only, I may have changed my mind a little because of some news. But speaking of news...

Remember that odd moment last week with Len talking about the best-ever Viennese waltzs? Catherine explained the mystery in the blog comments here: “I think the best Viennese waltz comments were directed at Alesha then Kara, but the camera didn't allow us to see Len pointing to Alesha, only Kara so it came across as a bit confusing.”

Then the whole question of whether the swingathon was prerecorded or not. We have the answer. A friend of a friend was at that edition and reports that it was live. I don’t know the friend of the friend but I do the friend and if it’s Strictly, she knows.

But because she also knows other things, I’m going to pretend she doesn’t have a name. She is sans name.

Let’s call her Sans.

Sans also told me: “Bruce's duet and the pros' dance (for Sunday) were pre-recorded that night, however. Also, Matt was furious with his comments, with Scott and Natalie having to try and calm him down afterwards. Ironic how things turned out.”

It’s a disappointment but it’s not a surprise. Instead of the now slightly tedious two-shot of the couples coming out of the studio door and happening to find a camera crew there, this week we just saw Matt fly by pursued by a studio assistant.

It might even have been the very same studio assistant who had to get Gavin and Katya off the floor after they failed to notice they were ejected from the swingathon. Though the show probably has more than one, you’re right.

What to think, though. Kara was an obvious choice for the final for me - oh, get off my back, it's her dancing! - and Pamela was obviously right to get through for her dancing too. And part of me would like to see Pamela beat the Strictly casting, the way she was picked to fill the role of the older contestant who bows out early.

I’m just not sure now about Matt. We saw him give a quiet sob and I admit that did make me warm to him. The man’s caught up in the emotion, thats what it is.

So I’m pretty sure I still prefer him in the final than Scott and I do so because his dancing is better.

It’s a bit like the Dancing with the Stars final: I didn’t like Jennifer Grey as a person but her dancing was terrific.

Mind you, she was up against two total non-dancing no-hopers in her US final where the UK one could go any way, could really have any of those finalists lifting the trophy.

It’s been a very good year for the show in every sense. Next time you hear Tess Daly asking someone about the pressure of dancing on live TV, listen for the numbers she uses. At the start of this series she’d say “What’s it like dancing in front of 10 million people?” It’s steadily gone up until this week she asked Gavin about the pressure of “14 million people”.

I think she even had a little glee in her voice. And quite right too.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Strictly: Was It Recorded?

You think I fancy Kara Tointon and there is a tiny chance that the next thing I’m going to say is going to convince you.

She has tremendous legs.

Now, hang on just one sentence: she has fantastic arms, too.

I was thinking when we watched Pamela and James tonight that - well, first I was thinking that her dress was dreadful but then I was enjoying the dance. And then I went back to the dress. That frock’s job was to show off her legs and if I meant all this the way you’re thinking that I do, then yes, Pamela Stephenson has good legs.

But there is something wrong. There’s a kind of lag to her leg movements. It’s not that she has heavy or big legs but they look heavy, they don’t have this much-talked-of musicality in them.

Whereas Kara’s limbs are all preternaturally light and moving: she doesn’t seem, for instance, to be lifting her legs in a kick or flick, it feels that it’s the music lifting her.

This is why she’s described as a natural and I completely agree that she is, except that I completely disagree that she should be called it.

Maybe Kara is a natural but somehow saying that diminishes her work. I got ratty tonight at Len for nicely telling Gavin he was unlucky that his dance hadn’t suited him because he claimed that Kara’s had been right for her. I do believe that certain dances work for certain people but the implication was that Kara hadn’t had to work.

She did. You do not get to be that good, you cannot ever be good without work.

It’s great that Kara Tointon makes dancing look easy, but we’re not supposed to be stupid enough to ever think that it is.

Mind you, did you hear Gavin on one of the video packages? “Counting? You mean that 1, 2, 3 thing?” Did you understand Len’s thing about the two best Viennese waltzes being Kara’s one?

Then did you hear Bruce Forysth’s jokes? No, I wasn’t listening either, I was looking away.

Much like the judges must be during poor Matt’s dance. I don’t really doubt them, they are three professional judges and Alesha Dixon, but they did feel harsh tonight. So much so that Matt Baker was visibly crushed and so much so that I felt crushed alongside him.

Crushed. It’s a funny word: so similar to “rushed”, which Matt and Aliona then were.

I don’t know if tonight’s show was really done live: it felt so but if it was then Matt and Aliona had very little time to get changed for the swingathon. They could’ve done it, we’ve seen fast changes before, but while I don’t question that they could manage to get into the next costume that quickly, I do question the fairness.

Not just because the swingathon was all about stamina and every other couple had time to recover from their dances. But because if it were live, then Matt was on stage again just moments after the worst bruising he has ever had from the judges.

I found I wanted him to win the swingathon. If the phone lines had been open tonight, I might’ve voted for him.

I mean yes, Kara’s dance was everything I watch this show for, but I would say that, apparently I fancy her rotten, don’t I?


Sunday, December 05, 2010

Ann Widdecombe for President! Or something

Anything, really. King. Queen. National icon, I don’t care. I sat here saying this, repeating it like a mantra, with my eyes closed and my fingers crossed as we waited to hear whether she was out or not.

I do think the comments against her were scaldingly personal and I recognise what a sport she was for taking that. I’m also aware that I didn’t like her before the show so it was going to take an enormous amount to win me over.

Yet I’m now rather pro Pamela Stephenson: I still find the psychiatry schtick a pain, most especially because her Shrink Rap TV series threw away the opportunity to do a new Face to Face level interview and instead was a platform for her to talk. But fast forward ten weeks and I was a wee bit choked during her dance this time. I’m not going to hide that I felt a bit teary when she got that first 10 from Craig, too.

Thinks. Sudden need to remind you I’m a man.

I suspect that just did it: the feeble need to remind you was masculine enough. Though I’m also going to say that if you could possibly vote for the professional and not the celebrity, I’d have voted for Katya Virshilas.


Ann Widdecombe.

I offer that one reason people like her is that she doesn’t suffer fools - and that a reason I don’t is that she somehow expects fools to suffer her.

I think I’ve just called myself a fool.

Still, I don’t see you disagreeing. Let’s move on.

You could disagree a little bit, you know.

I’m not saying you have to mean it.


Ann Widdecombe.

If she’s been the only problem in the series for me this year, there have been odd niggles and they seemed to resurface this week. Claudia Winkleman got an unexpected send-off: you could really only infer that she isn’t doing the rest of the results shows, it wasn’t announced per se. We just had Tess with that Borg-protrosion heavy metal nail gun frock suddenly getting emotional over Claudia for anywhere up to a fifth of a second.

Then on Saturday night’s show both Tess and Bruce kept emphasising the wrong day: “We’re back Friday, Saturday and Sunday!” with heavy underlining of the word “and”. It was as if the Sunday show was the new and unexpected one, not the Friday.

Maybe it’s because the Friday/Saturday split makes sense to them and it’s news, to their mind, that Bruce is doing the Sunday again. Not quite news enough for them to tell us explicitly, though, it’s as if we are supposed to know these things. That’s what niggles me; it’s like the contortion over the results show, the way we have to pretend the results are called out in two batches when it looks reasonably certain that it’s one go edited.

We do know that everyone is to do three dances next week: two individual and one group one. We also know that if they did this in one go the show would overlap with The X Factor so perhaps we do understand why it has to begin on Friday.

There was a moment this weekend when it was asked whether Ann Widdecombe could manage to learn three dances for next week. Obviously now she doesn’t have to, obviously I just wondered why it was asked when she'd yet to learn any dances that I could see.

But it actually made me wonder about Scott.

Watching him fall asleep for half a second in training, falling asleep standing up, was a little scary. I’ve done it myself, I recognised the sensation, and I feel for the guy. But in a slip of the tongue, he said that he was jaded, not tired. The man was exhausted and you can’t expect him to be jolly while that wrecked, but still he’s right: there is a jaded feel to him and I think he’s lost it.

It’s for this reason that I thought he’d go this week. I think now that he will go next.

Not that he should, there’s little question that Gavin is the one who ought to be leaving next. But I’ve been voting for Katya, so.