Sunday, November 02, 2008

"I am the cockroach": Strictly Come Dancing, Week 7

And so Andrew Castle finally ran out of people to be more popular than. In the first week where each couple danced a different dance, Andrew had the bad luck to get handed the samba and then do his knee in training. This, however, still doesn't explain why he and his partner, Ola Jordan, felt the need to replicate the horrific shoulder-shimmying that very nearly did for Mark Foster a couple of weeks ago. It only served to make him look slightly pnuemonic, and once he'd started, there was no stopping - shaking and wobbling about like some kind of one-man Black Lace revival. Once he was in the dance-off, there was pretty much no way back.

As expected, Heather Small joined him, and barring a miracle she'll be gone next week. Her cha cha cha was far preferable to Castle's jiggling - and, unlike quite a few of the couples that remain, her and Brian Fortuna do seem to really love dancing with each other - but her legs were moving like inanimate carbon rods. It's possible that Heather just has trouble moving in heels, but her feet were so out of time that even I noticed it. Next week, her time will most likely be up, cos there's only one dancer worse than her left in the competition...

...and that's John Sergeant, who we were repeatedly reminded this week is Loved By All. Sometimes the presenters would remind us of this. Sometimes we'd have montages of the Great British Public reminding us of this. But best of all, sometimes John himself would remind us of this, ever so 'umbly pontificating that perhaps watching him dance was helping take people's minds off their credit crunch-induced depressions.

Seriously, this really has got to stop. Like... now. This week, John did the foxtrot. If you saw John do the waltz, this was the same. As was that time he did the tango. His was the last name to be announced as going through to the next round, presumably in order to try and make him sweat a bit, but it didn't work. Sergeant knows he's safe. Everyone knows he's bloody safe. Him ending up in the dance-off next week is Heather's only hope for staying in, but we all know it won't happen. If nothing else, Craig Revel Horwood's request that the public start agreeing with the judges a bit more effectively put the donk on it.

So, who joins her? Oddly enough, it might be Cherie Lunghi. Having made a bit of a mess of her paso doble last week, this week she found herself getting in a muddle with the salsa. An early missed step was again the cue for the house of cards to begin slowly tumbling, as her timing slowly but surely started to ebb away with her confidence. She wound up carding a 26 - in earlier weeks, a good score, but now it's a cause for fairly grave concern. A return to the ballroom dances next week cannot come too soon.

Christine Bleakley is also at risk - with every week, she seems to fade further and further into the scenery. Back in the first round, she seemed so promising, but the trouble is that she just hasn't progressed enough since then. She just isn't standing out from the rest of the field - or, rather, the rest of the field is standing out much more than she is. Rachel Stevens has a similar problem, but on this week's evidence she might be about to do something about it - Len Goodman's comment that if she couldn't dazzle on the jive, then he doubted she could dazzle on anything really seemed to touch a nerve with her. A fire may have been lit under an arse here, and the consequences might - might - be quite interesting.

We now appear to have four serious contenders for the title, though. Firstly, Jodie Kidd, who managed to survive getting necked by Ian Waite to put in a delightfully light-footed waltz for which she garnered 31 points - her highest score of the series thus far. Jodie's hook is that she is probably the contestant who's improved the most over the series. Following the minor calamity of her rumba in week 4, every week she seems to have got better and better. There's still plenty of dancers scoring higher than her, but she seems to just have that bit more momentum than they do.

That momentum shouldn't be underestimated, cos what I'd not realised when I started covering this programme is how long it would feel. I knew how many weeks it would go, and so on, but I'd no idea how much it'd drag on for. Jodie's arc at least feels like it's got some flux to it, like something will happen from week to week. Watching the judges swooning over Austin Healey every week, however... I mean, Jesus, we're barely halfway. Certainly dude has the quickest, nimblest feet in the competition. And yes, his quickstep was probably the best dance this week, though whether it was really worth the 10 it got from Len I'm not sure - the lad's face seems locked in an England's Stevie G squint-grimace hybrid, and even if he's hitting all the marks, it feels like that's all he's really doing. There's a good seven or eight weeks left of this, of watching Austin Healey and his perfect feet and pneumatic arms getting drooled over by all and sundry, and it's looking horribly like the feller's going to win.

Lisa "The Snowflake" Snowdon, however, might just run him very close. Her tango got her a second 35 of the competition, and was truly dizzying in the amount of spins she and Filthy Brendan Cole managed to pull off. Their speed, poise and synchronisation was more than a little breathtaking; more entertaining than even that, however, is the dynamic between the two. Having rid herself of her fear of low scores, Lisa is now all smiling, giggling and bubbly every week, thrilled with whatever feedback she gets from the judges and just generally over the moon all the time. Brendan, on the other hand, has the demeanour of a father trying to hide his disgust at his son's homosexuality. Every week he attempts not to explode with rage at not getting 10s off the judges; every week, his self-control wears thinner, and thinner, and thinner... thrills may well be forthcoming.

Which leaves us with Our Tom, who, for possibly the first time in the competition, was responsible for my favourite dance of the week. Having got shot of the side parting, Our Tom adopted a spikes 'n stubble combo in order to convey RAW LATIN SEX GRROWR for the Paso Doble. He also did the whole cape-wielding routine from the professional dancers' routine of a few weeks back, and dreadfully impressive it was too. He's not bad at the sexiness, Our Tom, and he's pretty handy with the drama too. As last week, he did make the odd mis-step, and the routine didn't entirely hang together; fortunately, the acting more than carried it through, and it was genuinely a thrilling watch. We knew Our Tom was driven, but we'd not seen him have to convey that in his dancing before - for a first go, it was excellent. Overhearing his reaction to going through to next week - "Oh no, we have to do the quick-step!" - was a bit less promising.

So at the moment, Strictly's on a bit of a knife-edge. We can be fairly certain Heather's going next week, but at least we're guaranteed a bit of a twist by finding out who joins her in the dance-off. The walls continue to close in for everyone (except John Sergeant), and hopefully the thinning of the field will bring about a bit more excitement than we've had these past couple of weeks. The programme could definitely use some.

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