I bow to no-one in my adoration of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, but this year’s line-up, packed tight with stage school babies, cheapens the programme and ignores its core audience. It’s not that these individuals are already accomplished ballroom/latin dancers – they’re not – it’s that they have all had dance training and man, does it show. Two years ago, Denise Van Outen got a lot of stick for this very thing (I *may* have mentioned something about it on Twitter, ahem) but this year there’s a whole line-up contestants who, just as she did, know what they’re doing on a dance floor. The net result is they’re boring.
Frankie from The Saturdays, for example, is an extraordinarily beautiful girl who danced her cha cha cha as though she’d first learned the steps in her cot. Caroline Flack, a woman famed for shagging a teen in a boy band (I refuse to believe there is not more to her than this) has already taken part in a ballroom competition and thus performed a quickstep so perfectly there seemed little point in doing anything other than handing her the trophy and sacking off the rest of the series. Pixie Lott performed a rhumba like a pro, the net result being the judges criticised her as if she were, so she burst into tears. Her face as she was awarded four “8”s was a study in barely concealed fury that she had not scored higher.
From Pixie to Scott Mills. According to Newton’s Third Law, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction but not even he could have imagined Scott, a man who dances as though he were introduced to his limbs for the first time less than 30 minutes earlier.
There are the usual no-hopers, Tim Wonnacott being booted out this week, the no-idea-won’t-win-anyways (some woman off Casualty) the now obligatory large woman who nonetheless has got the moves but won’t win because she can’t do the Jive and there’s no chance of any lifts in her American Smooth, and the good-looking sportsman, whose mantle this year is taken up by Thom Evans, the dancing equivalent of white bread. There is also Judy Murray, a woman who makes a coffin look animated and who can only be on the show in order to get a job presenting a tv show. Woodworking, perhaps.
Hopes rest on Mark Wright, who isn’t bad at dancing, is enormously likeable, up for anything and quite clearly on a “journey”, Jake Wood, a man whose hips have more swivel than the castors on a Waitrose shopping trolley, and Steve Backshall, a cheery bloke who strips off at every opportunity the better to reveal a torso that resembles a Tate Modern installation comprising 200 chicken fillets in a 10 denier stocking.
Tess Daley is on hand to make jokes almost as terrible as Brucie’s. Thank goodness for Claudia Winkleman, whose wit, beauty and sheer enjoyment of the programme and all its contestants reminds us all why we tune in every week.