Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"This is Week 10": Strictly Come Dancing, Week 10

So obviously this week's programme was overshadowed by John Sergeant deciding to depart the show on Wednesday, and the ensuing maelstrom that, er, ensued. Him and Kristina Rihanoff reprised their waltz from the first week at the end of Saturday's show. It was very touching, a reminder of how promising this whole series seemed to start with. There's never been any lack of chemistry between the two of them, and watching them knowing they were dancing together for the last time moved me ever so slightly.

I made the horrible mistake of going on iPlayer to watch episodes of It Takes Two, SCD's "behind the scenes" show that goes out weeknights on BBC2, to see what kind of debate was going on there. What I got was further bitchery from James Jordan, partner of last week's oustee, Cherie Lunghi, various judges chucking "coward" and "quitter" about like confetti, Claudia Winkelman being a seriously bodged devil's advocate... With the exception of The Snowflake, who said she was sad to see him go, and her partner Filthy Brendan, who said he thought there was a place for him in the competition after the dance-off last week, everyone that's still in the competition has basically kept schtum on the matter.

And now I've gone on Google News to look for stuff and sweet baby Jesus this is the worst shit ever, isn't it? Stories about it now number in the thousands. Various columnists are being all "IT WAS NEVER ABOUT DANCING THIS IS NOT REAL DANCING BOOOO", others are all "HE IS PLAYING US ALL FOR MUGS HE KNOWS EXACTLY WHAT HE'S DOING BOOOO", others still are "HOW COULD THEY FORCE OUT LOVABLE SIXTY-FAWA YEAR OLD MAYYYYN BOOOO"... In summary, then: BOOOO. The internet - the country - is drowning under the tides of bullshit being issued about this. There is, I guess, a wider issue about what we want our light entertainment to be. A year ago, no-one would have expected it to have involved John Sergeant, a man previously best known for his journalism and guest appearances on Have I Got News For You - then again, lest we forget, the entire reason for this programme's existence is because of Bruce Forsyth's performance on Have I Got News For You completely restoring his reputation as all-round entertainer par excellence. The reception that episode received resulted in several lightbulbs switching on around the BBC, and, well, here we are. No doubt the way in which this programme has made a star out of Sergeant - and whoever wins the thing now, he's almost certainly going to be the biggest name coming out of it (Rachel Stevens is the bridesmaid once more, eh?) - will be switching on those lightbulbs again. This is the most fuss that's been made over the programme since goodness knows when, and so one would assume that something will happen. No idea what, though.

Anyway - other stuff happened this week, too! Jodie Kidd's time was up after not really getting to grips with the jive; she and Snowflake wound up in the dance-off, and Lisa's quickstep pretty much trumped Jodie all ends up. Rachel Stevens carded the first perfect score of this year's competition with her foxtrot. I am not sure why. Phwoooarrr Austin Healey took on "It's Raining Men" with much gusto, then spent the rest of the programme repeatedly adjusting his buttonless shirt to avoid exposing his nips. And Our Tom did the tango, which meant he hadn't shaved, again. It wasn't quite as much fun as when he did the paso doble, and it didn't get him his blessed 10 that he's been banging on about getting ever since Austin managed it however many weeks ago that was now, but it's kept him in.

Aside from John's departure, though, two stories emerged from this week's episodes. The first was the fact that we may have a new John Sergeant to be dealing with, and it's Christine Bleakley. You may dimly recall this column tipping Christine to win the whole thing after week two, based on her gorgeous foxtrot, her incredible smile, and her being the contestant the BBC would probably be able to do the most with once the circus had rolled out of town for another year. Since then, she's not really done an awful lot - aside from carding a 34 for her waltz two weeks ago, she's been parked firmly in mid-table. This week saw her turn in her second-worst performance of the competition, a cha cha cha that seemed to involve her and Matthew Cutler not being entirely aware of what the other one was doing. They twisted for a bit. Then they twisted again for a bit. Then they twisted some more. The entire thing seemed to take space in an invisible three-metre square of the floor. He dipped her down to flash her cleavage at the camera. Then they twisted for a bit. Then they carried on twisting. Then they twisted some more. It was very, very boring. They scored 27, finished bottom of the leaderboard... and were saved from the dance-off by the public vote. This is the second time it's happened, following on from her somewhat dodgy paso doble in week 6, and it's perhaps worth noting that Christine's still never been in a dance-off. If she dodges it again this week coming... well, eyebrows might start getting raised a bit.

The second story was the judges having to react to "the media" deciding they iz alll bitchiz. Somewhat tellingly, the judge whose head emerged over the parapet on the Monday after John survived again was Arlene Phillips, co-creator of ITV's new Sunday night thingy, Britannia High. As such, she wound up copping much of the stick for Sergeant's departure, and became the figurehead of the press campaign to present the judges as mean ol' out-of-touch fuddy-duddies. Once John had gone, she back-pedalled somewhat and announced that she was disappointed to see him go, and claimed that the judges had in fact been quite nice to him (despite her imputations on It Takes Two that John spent most of his time in training reading the newspaper). Better still was Len Goodman's rather limp attempt to save face on the Saturday night programme by announcing that the judges "wish John the very best in whatever he decides to do next".

And then they decided to try and make up for the loss of audience interest after John's departure by all shouting at each other, with Positive Len yelling at Craig Revel Horwood because he "NEVAH BRINGS ANYFING POSITIVE" and was "REALLY GETTING ON MARR WICK!!!" You may remember this exchange from every single other episode of this series. With only six competitors left, the Sunday programme found itself horrifically over-stretched again, so there were more interviews with members of the audience in case we might give a shit what Felicity Kendal or Zara Phillips think about anything (though seeing Phillippa Forrester in the background while Brucie was talking to Kendal, clearly thinking that he should be talking to her instead, while Bradley from Eastenders fidgeted awkwardly - that was pretty entertaining). There was a group dance in which Arlene came off like a massively over-promoted drama teacher. John Barrowman did a version of that Andy Williams song that Heath Ledger did in 10 Things I Hate About You.

And so, to all intents and purposes, the show was exactly the same as it's been for the past few weeks now. The reason to miss Sergeant wasn't cos he was especially entertaining, or that his dances were better to watch than other people's, or that they were comically bad (this last one was hardly ever true, incidentally, and to say that he was the worst dancer in the competition when Gary Rhodes' rancid efforts linger in the memory...) - it's because he was a bit unexpected, a bit different, a bit of a break from the tired old claptrap of Everybody Hates Craig. Will the BBC realise that a change needs making? Might they possibly notice how thin the Sunday show is stretched, or how badly the show drags in its middle weeks? Or will they just hire, say, Ian McCaskill for the next series and hope lightning strikes twice?

(NEXT WEEK: every couple does two dances. This might make things more exciting. Fingers crossed)

1 comment:

Simon said...

The papers devoting space unbecoming of events to a story in which BBC employees are seen to be abusive and bitchy in mocking an older, wiser man? Who'd have thought.