In which we like to boogie on a Saturday night

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OK, so Autumn has definitely arrived; not because of golden brown leaves or the throng of university students on the streets, but because the sequins have landed – Strictly Come Dancing is back!

Strictly is the only reality show that I love and watch religiously.  The “celebrities” (and I use that term loosely, especially when you see this year’s line up) actually have to put some effort in, rather than just posing in a bikini in the hope of attracting votes/M&S modelling deals (cf: I’m a Celebrity...), or slobbing around on a couch (cf: Big Brother).  It is up against the mighty X Factor, but that’s something I’ve never really been interested in, beyond the usually hilarious auditions.  I think it’s because I can’t take Dannii Minogue seriously as a judge, and Simon Cowell’s too-white teeth are just terrifying that early on in the evening.

So Friday and Saturday saw me poised for the opening hoop-la of the series.  Well, that’s a bit of a lie; Friday night actually saw me at the Bristol Festival watching some circus and stand-up, and Saturday was birthday drinks for a friend.  So amend: Friday and Saturday saw my DVR recorder poised for the opening hoop-la of the series.  Except it had a bit of a moment during Saturday’s show and when I tried to watch it back on Sunday, refused to play anything beyond the first ten minutes.  I think it took objection to Bruce’s jokes – but then again, who wouldn’t?  Luckily good old iPlayer came in handy, which also meant I could multi-task during the allocation of the marks and check emails.

(Although, BBC, what’s up with the Strictly coverage on iPlayer?  I attempted to access it through S’ iTouch, which meant I could hook it up to the television and enjoy the show in 30 inch screen glory.  It wasn’t there!  But it was on the iPlayer through our laptop.  Hmmm, is this a conspiracy against Apple?)

Tess announced it was going to be “the toughest Strictly ever”, which seems to be a euphemism for “the longest Strictly ever” – we have 16 contestants and twice-weekly shows for the first two outings.  I have to admit, 90 minute shows were a bit of an effort to get through – thank god for tabbed browsing.  And whilst I really like Alesha Dixon, I do feel the panel is worse off for ditching Arlene Phillips.  Alesha may well be there to be “the voice of the people”, but Arlene could offer a lifetime of dancing and choreography experience.  Winning the show in 2007 and being in a girl band doesn’t really equate to the same thing.

However, onward with the sequins!  The first two shows saw 8 of the celebrities battling it out, each doing two dances.  The main points I noted were:

– The men’s chest factor was high, with at least four lots of pecs on show and the usual slashed-to-the-navel shirt making its inaugural 2009 appearance.

– There was the good (Ali Bastian), the bad (Rav Wilding) and the downright awful (Joe Calzaghe).

– Craig has clearly been studying his adjectives during the break; his lexical highlight, for me, was describing someone’s hands described as “spatulistic”.

There was a lot of padding in both shows in the form of the professionals showing us how it’s done, although it’s always good to see how the dances are actually meant to look.   But even these can go wrong; there was one hairy moment where Brendan Cole got his face completely covered with his partner’s skirt during a lift and seemed to be in danger of dropping her on the floor as he attempted to free himself.  There was also the unintentionally hilarious moment where, rather than cutting to Bruce, the camera accidentally panned in on a sound guy standing casually on the steps.  His look of slowly dawning realisation that 9 million viewers were staring at him was priceless.

I was a bit surprised that Martina Hingis was the first to go; there were a lot more worthy candidates for the chop.  Were the wholesome viewers expressing their dislike at her participation on a family show whilst on a cocaine ban from professional tennis?  I felt sorrier for lovely Matthew Cutler, though:  from glory in 2007 with Alesha, through to quarter finals with Christine “One Show” Bleakley, to hopes dashed completely in the first week of 2009.

So that’s my weekends set for the rest of the year; I’ll be poised on the sofa come Saturday evenings, willing them not to trip up and watching as the tans get deeper, the tops get tighter and the necklines get lower – and that’s just the male celebrities.

* Brucey blunder of the night: it’s a close call between the cringe-making moment where he talked about Tess’ new baby and where it came from, and calling Erin Boag “an old banger”.  If I were Erin, I’d have decked him with my dance shoe.

* Best judge’s comment of the night: “That was a tango only a mother could love” (Len to Joe Calzaghe).

* Worst dance outfit of the night: Lynda Bellingham’s tango dress.  Why do the costume department insist on making the older and slightly larger ladies dress in frumpy sacks?  Surely it’s not beyond their capabilities to make something covering yet elegant?

* Tess’ dress score: 6 out of 10.  I predict one sleeved will be a theme for her outfits this year.

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