Saturday, October 04, 2008

"I didn't like the headbutty bit": Strictly Come Dancing, Week 3

As always, the entire programme is available to watch on iPlayer, and the individual dances are all up on YouTube.

Thank goodness for that. There was a vague attempt to suggest that, having been crap at the two Latin dances he'd done thus far, Gary Rhodes might have been a bit better at doing Ballroom dances, but thankfully we have been denied the opportunity to discover whether or not that was true.

Of course, it might have been. Getting tuxed up may well have sorted out Gary's permanently arched back, splayed arms, missed cues, unawareness of what his partner was doing, and just his general air of attempting to get from the start to the finish, but probably not. It also seems highly unlikely that it would have done anything about his horrific rictus grin. It was weird, though, how much more at home Gary looked during his farewell dance - perhaps it was the rigours of competition and fixed routines that did for him. Throughout, he seemed like a man stuck on rails, trying to remember what he was doing, visibly counting his steps, seeming quite terribly out of sync with his partner. Karen Hardy looked to have arranged their routine so Gary didn't have many major spots to perform other than holding her up every now and then, but unfortunately it showed. Gary was clearly the worst dancer in the competition, and it was obvious that, if he ended up in the bottom two, he was gone. He did; he was.

In a way, Mark Foster finding his way into the bottom two was something of a surprise; after all, he had finished fourth this week, on 24 points, two more than he scored last week. However, the big man clearly hasn't clicked with the public just yet; as he says, all he's done in his life is swim. He's trying to inject some personality into his performance, but it's clearly a struggle. The opening of his performance saw him stalking around his partner, Hayley Holt, in a manner clearly meant to suggest passion and tension; the effect, unfortunately, was rather spoiled by him having his arms stuck out by his sides as though he was miming carrying two bales of hay. He's also not the most facially expressive of chaps - he managed to work some scowling and disgust into his routine this week, but it's still looking like a fair old effort.

Of the two who finished in between Mark and Gary, Andrew Castle looks like the one who has the most to be worried about. Reasoning that the tango is a dance of passion, he and Ola Jordan appeared to have themed their routine around domestic violence: it began with them miming her kicking him in the face; later, they paused in front of the judges and mimed him repeatedly headbutting her. This strategy was not successful, it is fair to say. Castle's ANGRY face was plastered on throughout, but the trouble is that it's not an awful lot different from Castle's PETRIFIED face, and the rest of his body movements were very strongly suggesting petrification more than anything else. His post-match comments - "Well, y'know, so long as we've entertained people, that's the real point" - suggested a man struggling very badly indeed.

The public saved him this week, though - cos, y'know, he entertained them, so that's the real point - but, with Gary gone, Castle and Foster look like hot favourites for next week's bottom two, since this week's other low scorer, John Sergeant, is quite clearly having the time of his life out there. As Arlene Phillips pointed out, however, this isn't the most useful state of mind to be in when dancing the tango. John was meant to be conveying passion, anger and drama, but was totally incapable of wiping his mile-wide Cheshire Cat grin off his face. Bruno Tonioli thought it worked; Craig (BOO!) Revel (BOO!) Horwood (BOO!) didn't. The Sunday results show revealed that, during their backstage discussions, Craig had attempted to make the point that John wasn't really that good, to which Len countered "'E IS A SIXTY-FAWA YEAR OWALD MANNN!" Either way, John's got the crowd on his side like no-one else in this competition. Whether that can pull him through when the pace of his routines gets upped remains to be seen, but for the moment he's more than getting by on charm alone.

However, this is all academic, since the men's half of the draw looks to be a two-horse race - at least, that's according to Official Rocktimists Candidate Tom "Our Tom" Chambers. Where all the other contestants' rehearsal montages were about their struggles to try and get to grips with that week's routine, all of Our Tom's clips this week were centred around him attempting to beat Austin Healey. Rocktimists has clearly latched onto a man with a winning mentality; we may also have latched onto a man who is a bit of an arrogant berk. However, he's not a bad dancer at all - feller's established a certain spark with his partner, Camilla Dallerup, and he's a lively, confident mover. However, their desire for points also led to them chucking in rather more spots than necessary, the most notable being an horrendously tacked-on bit at the end where Tom took a run-up, dived face-first through Camilla's legs then slid into a reclining position and did the finger-guns at the camera. We're not quite at the point where we're going to be asking Our Mike to move to a village a bit further away from Our Tom, but any more of that gubbins and, well...

It wasn't quite enough to topple Austin, though, which was presumably what Arlene meant when she said "You wanna know the results of the Tom-Austin jive-off? Let the sparring commence!", all the while rubbing her hands Lady Macbeth-style. Tom scored 33; Austin got 34, the highest score of the series thus far. Weirdly, he looked less comfortable than last week, mainly due to his dancing in a sleeveless shirt, which exposed just how ridiculously huge his arms are. The top half of his body was attempting to be dainty and looking oh-so-slightly embarrassed about it; his feet, however, were marvels of nimbleness, floating and picking across the floor with the greatest of ease. Here, clearly, is where being a former professional sports person brings its advantages - knowing how to move on your feet, how to keep your balance, change direction in an instant. His arms... not quite so much.

However, this was all before the final dance, and the emergence of a mighty dark horse - DON WARRINGTON, AC-TORRR. In the first week, Don had said he didn't want to go out before the tango; this week, it became clear why. When it came to conveying menace, passion and drama, no-one came close to him. The hesitancy of his first-week cha-cha-cha was banished, replaced by confidence, poise and a staccato rhythm that punctuated the dance brilliantly. Where Austin espoused the virtues of the athlete, Don had the command of the actor - he didn't have to struggle to remember what he was doing, because he already knew. He had got inside the character he needed to portray on the dancefloor, and the story he needed to tell. He and Lilia Kopylova worked brilliantly together, and the understanding they've developed led to the most thrilling piece of the evening, enough to yield 30 points - an 11-point improvement on his score of a fortnight ago, and enough to put him third. Doubts still remain over his ability in the other routines, of course, but that only serves to make him the most compelling participant in the men's half of the competition.

Overall, we had a more entertaining couple of hours than last week, but the Sunday show desperately needs a trim. There is no need for it to be fifty, or even forty, minutes long. The main attraction is the closing dance-off, and the reveal as to who is going. Of that which comes before, the featured musical guest of the week seems a sensible segment, even if, this week, it meant sitting through Andrea Bocelli. The professionals demonstrating one of the competition dances for the following week is also a good thing, though why they use all of them to demonstrate just one dance rather than having half do one of next week's dances and the other half do the other one is a bit mystifying, given just how badly they're straining to fill time. Certainly, the repeat performance of Saturday's group dance seems rather extraneous, and as for Bruce's interviews... well, when was the last time you wanted to hear Will Greenwood's thoughts about anything, really?

Next week - the ladies do either the rumba or the quick-step. Apparently Vincent and Rachel have been indulging in some light-hearted banter. "Yay."

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