Strictly 2017 Series 15 – Week 5

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Advertising works. Remember some of these?

‘Boom, boom, boom, boom, Esso blue!’

‘John Collier, John Collier, the Window to Watch!’

‘Naughty but Nice!’

‘The Pint that thinks it’s a Quart!’

‘Go to Work on an Egg!’

‘Because You’re Worth It.’

Words, images, sounds, colours, music and superstars are all used to sell the brand, to encourage the removal of disposable income from the households of the world that have it.

One way to increase sales is simply to put the brand at the forefront of peoples’ minds so that it is always there. Just in case. A mental positioning. And one of the easy ways to do this is to keep things fresh by constant but slightly different placements and formats of the brand.

Strictly is no different. We have had the Blind Date. The First Dance. Movie Week. The Dance Off Shock. To come we have the Halloween Special, Blackpool, Hollywood, Semi-Finals, The Grand Final, not merely the Final. In the middle of all this the tabloids do their bit picking up on any trivia however minute and It Takes Two romps through the week in its hazy bubble of perfection, delirium and cuddles, a fairy tale of a show, a dream world, our own Utopia.

So how do you add to such a brilliant communication strategy? In the past we’ve had a guest juddge, Donny ‘Everything’s a Ten’ Osmond and Jennifer ‘Baby’ Grey. The BBC have changed juddgies to refresh the interest, to keep the nation guessing. So when the news came that Bruno Tonioli would be missing his first show ever, he has been a constant since 2004, the popular press went bananas. No replacement, just the Three Musketeers. No d’Artagnan. The Beatles without Ringo.

So where was he? The BBC cited work commitments, that he’s very busy and in demand. Maybe they hadn’t planned this so well. Who would have thought that Strictly would be live on a Saturday night? From September to Christmas? Because that’s never happened before, has it? So where was he? If it was the West End what event would be bigger than the greatest show on telly? Maybe the Sultan of Brunei had offered him a seven figure sum to choreograph a pop video? Had he sneaked in to see Betty Ford? What about being arrested across the pond during the shooting of Dancing with the Stars for fighting? Or maybe detained as the USA enforces its anti-immigration laws? Perhaps he just missed the plane home from LAX? Could he be gaining leverage for a bigger contract from the BBC? Juddge Aggie, her finger forever on the popular pulse of the nation, heard that he may have been sectioned for mental health reasons. Only time will tell.

As a result, inevitably, the show wasn’t the same; it was empty, something was missing. Oh yeah, a juddge. A stand in would have been better or at least a cardboard cut-out. Craig tried his best to fill the gap, even falling from his seat gushing in Italian at the lovely Debbie McGee but it really was like a wedding without a groom.

For years Debbie spent her time getting sawn in half, chasing errant doves around a stage, liking something but not a lot, and cleaning rabbit poo from the bottom of a top hat. What an opportunity then to Rumba with a young Italian Gigolo instead. The nadir and the zenith of showbiz. And Rumba she did. I say Rumba, it was more like a porn show as she suddenly realised that her beau wasn’t going anywhere and that the BBC were footing the bill. She put her legs anywhere and everywhere and she caressed his body more than she did the floor. More Cougar than Rumba. The dance, the closest to ballet, was her finest hour.

Three pretenders also laid down markers; the run up to Christmas will be all the better for it.

Joe’s Cha last week was a bit bobbins, he needed to get back on the bike and so he shaved his chest, bathed in fake tan and dressed like a Catalan ready to fight the government from Madrid. He also took part in an assertiveness course – I applied but wasn’t allowed to go on it – and his bull fight nearly stole the night. Dame Shirley beamed that the phoenix had risen from the ashes and duly gave Joe his first ever, and possibly his only ever, ten of the series. I thought that was a pheasant not a phoenix? Ah, well, they both start with an ‘F’. The dubble turn to left to knee drop was the most impressive move from any celeb in the series so far.

Gemma, the Queen of the Bodice, danced a Waltz in glistening brown, a thousand diamonds preventing full body contact, the fear of spilling them all over the floor, though the gapping was never mentioned, hidden by romance, elegance and gentleness. I should say too that it was a Fox Trot, her partner’s favourite, I was joshing about the Waltz, but the feel was there, it could well have been.

What was definitely a Quick Step was Jonnie and Oti, fresh from the couch of The Last Leg, their second visit in four weeks.

This show began its life during London 2012’s Paralympics, C4’s irreverent comedy hour where people without legs do without legs jokes, where people with fewer than five fingers do leper gags, and where a bumpkin from Dartmoor takes the Mickey out of everyone without repercussion or lawsuit. Very refreshing. Jonnie joked about his own foot, Oti suggested they, Team JOti, could be called ‘Chocolate Blade’ for there on the host Adam Hills’ desk was an effigy, a glitter ball for a body, the legs, one normal and one blade. I should add that the blade was on the wrong foot.

Jonnie’s prosthetic, The Flashing Blade, was back out for the Quick Step, the tempo easy for the super-sprinter but testing for mere mortals, and there was content aplenty, scoop chassés, scatter chassés, pendulums and oodles of the natural joy that was missing in last week’s blue sky, green outfit effort. With finesse that effigy might become the real thing for Jonnie. Keep tall, lose the blatting, tuck the butt in, apply the steel of the sportsman. Sometimes Jonnie trains at Loughborough Uni. I spend a lot of time up there and I haven’t bumped into him yet. Maybe next week?

Another needing to stop stooping and to stand tall is Buster’s grandson, Aston, dressed to Rumba or to audition for Pirates of the Caribbean, just the sabre missing. Apparently it was a Waltz but surely this was his Mr Darcy moment, the hero ready to sweep the heroine off her feet? Nearly. There’s something missing in the Ballroom for Aston; the discomfort is written all over his body and in one sense it’s nice to see. He is a fantastic dancer, a world class performer, but during Ballroom dances it’s like two wires in the brain wave at each other as they pass on their neurological journey.

Alexandra can do either, sophisticat one day, lunging funk goddess the next. She danced a Samba, so too Ruthie, and on the score board there wasn’t a lot in it, 23/16. Alexandra looked like a vamp, a sex vamp. She danced like a vamp, a sex vamp. The judggies picked up on the finer details, her feet positions, her ankles, and at last her pigeon toes – first mentioned here – but once the power and energy had been extinguished it was time for a cold shower, me not her. ‘Bonkers’ was the cry when the scores came in. No one else on the show could have dunn this dance.

Ruthie jaunted back to the seventies, the land of glam rock, prawn cocktails, Black Forest gateaux and strikes, the glory days, her dance set in a plane, her being cabin crew, Anthony Smith of Bristol a passenger who just happened to be wearing a satin pink shirt with orange and pink ruff sleeves and matching pants under his suit. To be honest that is more believable than you’d think. After the Bucks Fizz style reveal where the suits were whipped off they danced to ‘Love is in the Air’. Of course they did, they were in a plane . . . if ever Alan Partridge danced a Samba this is how it would be.

There is talk of romance in the show, (‘very believable chemistry,’ said Dame Shirley) not the curse of the break up, Mollie and Anthony Judah, getting close, acting like love struck teenagers. That could explain why their Viennese Waltz didn’t have any steps, no more than four sets of eight throughout though there were adornments and hours and hours staring into each other’s eyes. Obviously they had no time to practice. There are many things that are addictive in this life. The leaf of the coca plant, the slow killer that is sugar and its adversary saccharine. Too much saccharine isn’t good either especially in a VW. And as for romance? Little chance really. She is 30; he’s just turned 14.

Along with Ruthie three of her conspirators, the true beginners, joined her at the bottom of the leader board, Susan, back to reality, Simon and Brian both praying for the gavel to come down. One place higher on the Leader Board, above the radar this week, was The Steam Team, Darverd playing a Brewster in a coffee shop, a job he does on alternate weekends, pin money in between shoots. I’m sure he meant to say barista. Perhaps it was the accent? In twenty years’ time Darverd will look back at this Jive and yearn for the days when his stamina matched the music, when he could jump over a counter – the walk round was a yard away – and when his blood pressure could cope with the excess caffeine and such a hot date.

Of all the props that Kevin from Grimsby favours his top two are the lamp post and the sofa and it was the latter that got its first outing of this series where he and Susan settled after a Cha of little distinction, a minute’s average, unchallenging action, the same said of the setting and the context. Note to self, count to thirty, very slowly and then watch the dance to see if they’ve started. They danced to a song by Little Mix, a four piece combo with an average height of 4 foot 10 and if ever there was to be a veterans’ version Susan would fit the bill perfectly.

Simon and Brian faced each other in the dance off and at this stage you could be forgiven for wishing for a change in the rules, that both could go, to put them out of their misery, but it was Simon who drew the short straw and survived another week. One wonders how? His Charleston, the whackiest of dances done at its best – think circus clowns, slapstick Laurel and Hardy – was like watching a prisoner in a torture chamber. Dressed in Rupert the Bear yellow checks, they both began playing violins, the tune ‘Fit as a Fiddle’. After a minute of fiddling the music approached a crescendo, the pace increased and Simon sighed in relief. He knew the ordeal was coming to an end.

In its day the sitcom ‘Hi-de-Hi’ achieved iconic status (check out the episode with the panto horse). Set in a holiday camp, Maplin’s, Ruth Madoc, the head Yellow Coat, played the glockenspiel to raise the campers from their slumber. Her broad Walian twang made Ruth a caricature of herself and a national star, this show a Perry & Croft masterpiece. (Dad’s Army, Are You Being Served, It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and Allo Allo.) Brian’s Jive would have gone well on the show.

Tom Jones blasted out ‘It’s Not Unusual’. Amy, his delightful partner, an instant hit, from Caerphilly, South Wales, paid homage to the show, daffodil yellow outfits edged with blue. And Brian time-travelled back to the eighties, dad dancing, wedding dancing, call it either, his energy high to low in ninety seconds, paramedics on standby. When he did his knee slide bets were offered to see if he could get up.

As the juddgies went for Simon you could see Brian’s brain saying, ‘you are joking, aren’t you?’

He got a call from his agent.

‘Bri, I’ve got some good news for you.’

‘Fire away.’

‘I’ve got you a gig doing panto . . .’

‘Fantastic!’

‘Bit of bad news though . . . ‘

‘Oh?’

‘It starts next week!’

Dave Schofield
Bristol
October 27th 2017