5 October 2010
As I head for work on a Saturday night, my Twitter feed is jammed solid with stuff about the X Factor, a programme I have never watched and never wish to. If you want to hear proper singers on a Saturday night who don't need all that egotistical guff around them, then Strictly Come Dancing is the place to be.
That said, asking someone who is obviously a classically trained vocalist to do a version of Ke$ha's Tik Tok is going a bit far.
Strictly... is back and this year's nonsense has made a cracking start. We have the early contenders, the personality competitors, at least one arrogant sod whose expectation outweighed their talent and a couple of dark horses.
Matt Baker is a guy I've always liked, and he is the early front runner after the first weekend. The gymnastic background will help him, as will his cheery persona when something goes awry. He has a sporting background but, unlike most of those with such a heritage, isn't seeking perfection from the beginning. That should help Peter Shilton too, whose personality has always been akin to that of a bucket of water but who has quickly acknowledged he needs to be taught and is prepared to listen.
This, however, isn't true of Goldie. I don't mind him, and I know the montage of training footage isn't indicative of the whole week of work, but that guy is going to be out on his backside quickly if he doesn't start listening to his teacher.
Scott Maslen was surprisingly good, Kara Tointon wasn't as amazing as her scores suggested. I've never liked Tina O'Brien, for reasons I genuinely can't fathom, and so my main hope for an early exit is there. And what a shame that a chap as gifted and as experienced in showbiz as Paul Daniels remains not only charmless and arrogant in his old age, but also now a confirmed homophobe too.
Michelle Williams was absolutely compelling, because she adopted the lairy Yank attitude and seemed to think she was a shoo-in because of her choreographed past with Destiny's Child (point of order, 'Chelle my love: Maybe the reason you're on this programme while Beyonce and Kelly have successful solo careers is because you weren't the talented one after all). Anyway, she was tremendously rotten and looked aghast that the judges didn't think she was instantly fantastic. And having Brendan as a partner will make for great telly as a result. I hope she stays in for a few weeks without ever getting better.
And then there was Ann Widdecombe. She is the Cameron Stout of the show, in that there seems to be genuinely no fathomable reason why she has decided to do it. Not only can she not dance, but she has no showbiz credentials, no performing experience and no real understanding or interest in the peak-time, frivolous brand of television she is making. And yet, it's because of all these things that she'll stick around for a few weeks and, like John Sergeant, a few better dancers will suffer for the car crash entertainment she supplies. It's clear she won't improve as a dancer but she'll keep the viewing figures up while she's there.
The others were a bit of a muchness by comparison, though Jimi "Dr Fonseca" Mistry might be worth an outside bet, assuming he realises that an EastEnders history will hold more sway with the viewing public than a Hollywood career. Gavin Henson has potential but is otherwise a thunking, monosyllabic Welshman who the public won't warm to. Patsy Kensit will see this as a good test of her public image after all the marital strife, especially if she learns to control her nerves. Pamela Stephenson, meanwhile, looks absolutely bloody amazing and, it appears, can dance a bit too.
Elsewhere, there really was no need for the hosts to harp on about the new studio. Who the hell else would know, notice or care? Still, the execution of the show is helped by that new staircase at the other end. No change with the judges - hypercritical, hypergenerous, hypercretinous and hyperbolic from left to right.
For all the girlish appeal of Ola and Katya and Natalie, the show still isn't the same without Karen Hardy. She deserves so much more than a trouser-suited critique spot with Claudia during the week.
And, while he has probably now outstayed his welcome by at least two years, I'll give Bruce a break, just because that Miliband gag was one of which Armando Ianucci would have been proud.
So then, Matt Baker to win. Michelle Williams to leave in tears. Ann Widdecombe to be offered a role in Chicago and Pamela Stephenson to get an American Express ad for real.