For me, welcoming Autumn involves a few key ingredients, none of which are orangey-brown leaves attacking me from above.
Fleecey pyjamas, a round-the-clock reliance on space heaters and, of course, Strictly Come Dancing on TV every weekend. Ladies (and any interested Gentlemen), the time has come!
For the first few weeks - until the less-talented types are voted off - Strictly Come Dancing will be split over Friday and Saturday nights. This is OK because, as everyone (who happens to live in a city that spends its weekends populated by stag and hen parties) knows, going out at the weekend is for tourists. Or teenagers. Whichever, they’re both annoying.
For recap purposes I’ll be blending the episodes into one beautifully made-up, heavily-sequinned package. Unfortunately, I will also have to make the odd reference to Tess Daly’s dress sense and the (ahem) “legend” that is Bruce Forsyth.
It’s Strictly, which apparently still means Tess-in-a-vaguely-dodgy-dress. Anyone would think she doesn’t read the xoJane comments section. Friday’s was a black dress with a bell-shaped-skirt that someone had added a peplum to for no apparent reason.
Her usually enviable legs were reduced to the width of match sticks, which supports my theory that she dresses as poorly as possible on purpose to put Brucie off.
He has yet to do anything to make me like him. It’s been thirty years now so let’s not hold our collective breath. He even managed to work a joke about those topless pics of Kate Middleton into the first few minutes of Friday night’s show, the old “legend”.
On Saturday, Tess turned up in a white, mullet-hemmed dress and another one of those shiny belts that she enjoys so much. I liked her wavy hairdo, and remain impressed by ability to smile through the bits where Brucie grabs her for a faux-dance move. And that is the best I can possibly say about any of that.
Ladies first. I really like the fact that Darcy Bussell makes an effort to make all her criticism of the competitors constructive - offering a nervous Victoria Pendleton advice on the height of her shoes, for example, or telling Nicky Byrne the best way to improve his posture. In this way, she’s the anti-Craig Revel-Horwood.
Oh, Craig. Why - WHY- do you have to be so sour? I wouldn’t mind if all the criticisms you doled out were about the technical flaws in performances. It’s the overly nasty personal remarks that make me dislike you even if - as I suspect - you are quite a decent bloke in real life.
The other judges, Bruno Tonioli, and Head Judge Len Goodman never descend into that sort of bitchery. On the contrary, Bruno even managed to tell one competitor they’d “messed everything up really badly” on Friday without coming across as cruel.
You’ve upset me babe, you really have.
This week, everyone had to dance either a Waltz or a Cha cha cha, and however badly it went none of them were going home. Week one is just a way of introducing the competitors and dancers again after the three weeks they’ve spent rehearsing since the show’s premiere three weeks ago.
First up was a purple-clad Fern Britton and Russian pro-dancer Artem Chigvintsev dancing an OK-for-week-one Cha cha cha, before cuddling up during their interview with Tess.
In real life Artem dates his former Strictly dance partner Kara Tointon who, one suspects, is threatened by this flirtiness on absolutely no levels.
Less flirty but definitely looking good were Westlife’s Nicky Byrne and his rebellious Venezuelan dance partner Karen Hauer, who appeared in fancy dress as Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast for their Viennese Waltz.
Thanks to an illegal lift that resident miserable bastard Craig Revel-Horwood deemed to be not Strictly Ballroom (how awesome was that film?), these two have already earned themselves the title of this year’s rebel pairing, usurping Strictly’s usual bad boy Brendan Cole and his partner Snow White Victoria Pendleton.
My heart genuinely went out to the Pendleton during Friday’s show. Not only have Make-up decided to try and ruin her lovely face by shoveling piles of Craig R-H’s old drag queen slap all over it, someone also decided to dress her in a bright pink catsuit that even a Minogue would have dismissed as “a wee bit tacky.”
No wonder she felt like crying after her nerves got the better of her during the Cha cha cha.
Aussie dancer Natalie Lowe wheeled cricketer Michael Vaughan round the floor for a perfectly acceptable Waltz that was promptly overshadowed by Kristina Rihanoff’s appearance in a strappy, glittery piece of stripper-style sauciness. If anyone on this show knows how to work it, it’s the Rihanoff.
The fact that Wardrobe stuck her dance partner actor Colin Salmon in complementary leopard print to dance to James Brown’s I Feel Good was almost too perfect. Also, his ace - especially for such a tall guy - Cha cha cha was the “best of the night” according to head judge Len. I loved it.
Denise van Outen and James Jordan were the last couple to appear on Friday, and as predicted were definitely worth waiting for (I fucking love being right). Their Waltz was a surprisingly emotive offering for week one. Also, Den’s twenties-style bobbed hairdo - Yes.
Saturday’s show kicked off with the professional dancers performing a lively routine to Pixie Lott’s All About Tonight. The theme of the dance - other than showing even the most talented amateurs how much they’ve got to live up to – appeared to be partner-swapping, which I don’t enjoy particularly, but each to their own.
First of the amateurs to dance was Girls Aloud sex bomb Kimberley Walsh, who gets more and more Beyonce-like with every shimmy and sweep of honey-blonde hair.
Like the judges, the studio audience were understandably impressed with her Cha cha skills, which saw her and pro-dancer Pasha Kovalev storm to second place on the leader board. I still completely love Pasha btw, even if he hasn’t grown out that bloody hair.
Sid Owen and Ola Jordan - who marked the end of rehearsals for the first week’s shows by accidentally breaking her own husband’s nose with a high-kick – were up next. More interesting to me than watching Rickaaay from Eastenders render a surprisingly elegant and emotive Waltz, was Ola’s floaty blue costume, which successfully made the petite young pro look heavily pregnant.
Then (aw, he’s such a cutie!) it was Johnny Ball’s turn to, if not quite burn up the floor, certainly put on an enthusiastic show.
His original partner Aliona Vilani is currently ruled out due to a gruesome-sounding ankle injury so he’s been paired with her specially-made doppelganger Iveta Lukosiute.
Technically, it wasn’t exactly the best performance of the night but, in spite of Craig R-H’s rude observation that Johnny looked like he had “a disorder of the central nervous system”, I enjoyed watching Mr Ball put himself out there and really have fun with it. It was ace and Iveta is a lady. Go team!
Young BBC actress Dani Harmer appeared next, waltzing into the middle of the leader board with Vincent Simone, who is consistently hilarious.
I haven’t really warmed to la Harmer yet but that is most likely because by the time they got to dance, the rolling hangover I’d earned at my cousin’s wedding the day before had really kicked in and her ball-gown was super-bright.
Then - and they were so, so good! - Lisa Riley and Robin Windsor hit the floor for their Cha cha cha, more than proving Lisa’s previous statement that “Chubbers can move.”
It was a hugely energetic and uplifting performance that quite rightly propelled them to the top of the leader board. TV critic Richard Arnold and his lovely pro-partner Erin Boag, who waltzed across the screen straight after them, never really stood a chance.
Next, and largely rubbish, was my favourite competitor of the series, Jerry Hall, who repurposed the Cha cha cha into an opportunity to model her admittedly very sexy black dress.
You get the impression with Jerry - and this is why I like her – that far from being as arrogant a bitch as one might reasonably expect from a supermodel, she knows exactly what the public thinks she’ll be like, and has no problem playing up to it.
Closing this weekend’s festivities were Olympic gymnast Louis Smith, and pro Flavia Cacace, who both moved like a dream and incorporated a delightful amount of Louis’ gymnastic moves into the routine. They were great. Even the usually classy Darcy Bussell got hot and bothered when critiquing them.
Lisa Riley and Robin Windsor. To quote the great Buster Bloodvessel, “It’s not interesting to watch skinny people dance the Cha cha.” Damn right. It’s fucking brilliant to watch Lisa Riley, though.
Denise van Outen and James Jordan. Not just because they proved me right. Alright, fine. Exactly because they proved me right. I’m enjoying the moment.
Jerry Hall. Yes, she’s rubbish. She’s also hilarious. As you were.
Craig Revel-Horwood. If Friday’s hyper-nastiness had carried on I was going to send him a few books about mindfulness with a note, allegedly from my guru, which would have read, “Snap out of it, man!”
Also, I will not accept - on any level – that him being that rude to Johnny Ball is acceptable [rudeness to Johnny Ball is never acceptable! ].
Nor is his general attitude towards Brendan Cole. The two get on so badly that when Brendan’s partner, the lovely Victoria Pendleton, became upset during the judging, Bruce Forsyth had to sweep them upstairs before Craig could come out with the kind of tirade that would inevitably have left her curled up on the floor.
Quotes of the Week:
“Yeah?” Darcy Bussell, after virtually every comment. Can you imagine playing a drinking game where we did a shot of something strong every time she said it? Instant liver failure.
“Three words, darling: You. Can. Dance.” Craig R-H to Lisa Riley. This is as close as he will ever come to apologizing for sarcastically wishing Robin “Good Luck!” during the premiere.
“I had a Studio 54 flashback. I thought Anton was Rudolf Nureyev.” Jerry Hall, after a largely static Cha cha cha that in no way reflected either the decadent heyday of disco, or even dancing. I LOVE HER.
Who were your favourite couples from week one? Jerry Hall 2 Win? If you HAD spend a week on a desert island with either Brucie or Craig R-H, who would you pick? Answers on a postcard/below please!