The world is in a rush; it doesn’t know patience anymore. Gone are the days of waiting for the pop charts on Sunday evening. Music is now available at the click of a mouse. No more dial-a-disc at the local phone box. In fact, no more phone box. The Beeb used to start their FA Cup coverage when the big clubs joined the minnows in the 3rd round in January. Now they show the qualifiers in October. And who saves for that special trip? Who saves for anything? Life really is about instantaneous gratification. Everything has to be now, now, now.
Rightly we have had to wait for Strictly. There is a lot to be said for seasonality and the satisfaction that comes with expectation and temporal intervention. If every night was Saturday night Saturday night wouldn’t be a lot of funn at all.
So, welcome back. How’ve you been?
We know that Strictly will be the same again – wonderful journeys, great props, the wrong music, artistic stalling, the occasional curse, Panto du Beke, and that fantastic band and singers – but there have been changes since our last outing.
The juddging panel at Elstree remains unaltered following media claims to the contrary, Dame Shirley Ballas of Wallasey still at the helm fresh from the Tracks of My Years on Radio 2 and discovering that her ancestors were slaves in South Africa on Who Do You Think You Are. Both programmes showed that she has a massive heart, great integrity, a natural familial warmth and a work ethic fired by desire and determination to be the best version of herself that she can be, a worthy cause if ever there was one.
There was talk that Shirley was sashaying back to America to work with her super-talented son, Mark, him not her, fresh from playing Frankie Valli on Broadway. It was rumoured, again, that Karen Hardy would be appointed following her omission last time out but Dame Shirley is here to stay.
Back in the spring of 2017, following the abdication of Lord Len Goodman (hope you and Sue are well), Karen was a shoe in, everyone knew. She’d done the job on the live shows and flew back especially from New Zealand for the interview for the big job. And wasn’t appointed. Ouch, the vagaries of the recruitment industry. Bit of a wasted trip that one.
The three musketeers to Dame Shirley’s d’Artagnan are the bouncy baby Tigger, Bruno Tonioli, the purring princess, Darcey Bussell, and the much misunderstood Craig Revel Horwood. Our hostesses remain Claude Winkleman BPE and Tess ‘Twice’ Daly who spent the summer at elocution classes at the KK School of Voices. You might find that the word juddgies has been replaced by jardgers. Watch out for that.
Domestically your juddgies are all raring to go – Lulu, KK, Lewis, Lola and Hilzi. But we have lost Juddge Aggie. No, she’s not dead! But she has been kidnapped by a cult. If you see her a rescue mission is the order of the day.
In the commercial world of the plc the autumn is a twitchy time for senior executives. Most MDs re-structure over the summer, dish the news in October and re-build for the New Year. Jobs and livelihoods are in jeopardy and it is not a comfortable time unless, of course, it is you in the big chair. Businesses evolve naturally all the time too and the shareholders (investing electorate) have to be satisfied and occasionally this process of draw and erase is constant, the psychopathic MDs searching the Harvard book of How to Run a Business with the aim of legacy and share options.
Transferring this mentality to the professional world of sport and performance and the brutality is the same. Rugby players and soccer teams know that they can be asked to move or are targeted at the end of the season depending on the club’s successes or failures. It’s an ephemeral world and ‘have boots, will travel’ is a strong mantra to have.
On the stage and the telly it is no different. If your face doesn’t fit, you’re out. If you upset a fragile ego, it’s, ‘tara’. If you haven’t greased the right palm. If you haven’t kissed the right cheek. Or the left. If you’re too short, too tall, too old, too young, too boring, too fat, too thin, the wrong colour, the wrong college. It’s best to look elsewhere. Egos are dented and destroyed on a daily basis. The commodity of the performer is a fact of life. One day the dog, one day the lamp post.
There are two absentees from this year’s professional cast, Chloe Hewitt and Brendan Cole, the Kiwi Gob, cast aside for the reasons mentioned above. In real life Chloe partners Angelo Jermaine Pritchard and having done two seasons with Strictly as a support dancer (main troop no partner) she has been sent back to Chester to think again. Whilst Chloe hasn’t been on the ‘A List’ she has been integral to It Takes Two, Children in Need, Christmas Specials and the Strictly Tour. All to no avail.
Brendan, after 15 series and too many petulant outbursts, has had his professional heart broken too. Oh, well.
So we have newcomers. It can be quite galling to think that Latin star Johannes Radebe, South Africa, son of ex Leeds United captain Lucas, Graziano di Prima from Bedford (Louis’ lad), tattoo of a bull on his left chest, and Luba Mushtuk, Russia’s finest, been behind the scenes a few years, out of the shadows towards the light now, are all better looking, younger, hotter and more marketable than you are. Luba is a girl btw just in case you were wondering, a veritable hottie. All three, a champion here, Burn the Floor there. Youth, looks, talent and charisma will impact. We wish them well.
There was nearly a disaster, darling, in the Clifton household. No, not Bristol.
The split has been public and acrimonious, it is well journaled, and for the sake of the kids (they have none), and the bank balance, they teamed up to tour together through gritted teeth in the spring. Cash pocketed they headed for the Strictly pairings, Karen awarded actor Charles Venn and Kevin from Grimsby (KFG) partnering hard-hitting TV documentary maker Stacey Dooley. Like a delirious child receiving a satsuma and a Brazil nut for Christmas for the first time KFG pranced around the floor with kaleidoscopic, hallucinogenic mania when he found out about Stacey. Probably just a reaction to not getting Karen . . .
This year’s celebrity cast have the following attributes. There is talent, youth, age, beauty, brains, history makers, bags of guts and courage, the likeable, the not so, the famous, the occasional stray dragged from the streets (you tell me what a Vlogger is!), the serious, the flippant, the ringers, the no hopers, the sacrificial lambs, the triers, the terrified, the beginners, the hopeful. Historically the statistics tell us that the winner won’t be over 50 years old and will have danced before. The rest, however, won’t stop. This is one of the great TV experiences of them all and ever so good for the bank balance and the career.
Que la fete commence.
Let the fun begin.
September 28th 2018
P.S. (Claudia Winkleman BPE – Best Paid Employee)