Three weeks in, and the new series of Strictly Come Dancing is starting to take shape, and I think it’s high time that I committed my thoughts to electronic paper. Obviously, my views come with the ever-present caveat that I can’t dance to save my life, and I therefore have nothing but admiration for anyone prepared not only to try, but also to display their varying skills to a live audience.
First and foremost, the show is so much better without Bruce Forsyth. I suppose his longevity in the industry is testament to his ability and popularity, but the viewer wants to cringe at the worst dancers, not a presenter long past his sell-by date.
Claudia Winkleman might divide opinion, but I think she’s fantastic. Naturally funny, often without even realising, her presenting style is perfect for the Saturday show – and how funny was the popcorn flying down Tess’s top! – and now that her fringe is once again nearing her eyes, she looks fantastic too.
What Claudia has also done is highlight how poor Tess Daly is. Maybe Tess benefited from being paired with “Brucie”, who stumbling stuttering performances overshadowed her own shortcomings? Just an opinion remember...
But what about the Class of 2014?
Even though it’s early in the competition, there is a clear divide between the “top four” and the majority of the remainder. In no particular order... Frankie, Caroline, Pixie and Jake are streets ahead of anybody else at the moment. The producers must have been slightly concerned at the female-dominated end to last year’s series, and if a repeat is to be avoided, much will depend on Jake.
His Samba was jaw-droppingly brilliant; as close to a genuine “10” as I’ve seen in a week two dance – and had the same dance been judged in a month’s time, it would surely have received three tens (and a nine from Craig!). Unfortunately, last night’s show was the victim of some bizarre scoring (mainly courtesy of the totally unnecessary guest judge Donny Osmond) and Frankie’s top marks for her Paso Doblé was just one of several examples of over-marking from Utah’s finest. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great dance, and I think the Frankie/Kevin from Grimsby pairing is excellent, but it wasn’t a ten.
Jake and Frankie are my personal favourites, but Caroline is undoubtedly a talented dancer and should go a long way in the competition. Likewise Pixie Lott is a strong contender, but the marks she’s been given seem to indicate she is being pushed by the judges. Maybe there’s a feeling that she might not be all that popular with the viewers; she seems a nice enough young woman, but maybe not as warm or endearing (whether individually or as part of a couple) as Frankie and Kevin, or even Jake and Janette.
I do think Sunetra and Thom are making real progress and should get a decent run in the show, but there’s not a great deal left after that and it’s perm two from half a dozen for tonight’s dance-off .
If I was to try and predict the second departure, I’d have to choose between contestants who maybe aren’t the worst dancers, but who maybe have less (perceived) public appeal.
Jennifer’s appearance in last week’s dance-off, coupled with a poor score last night would suggest she’s bang in the frame again. Judy and Scott are terrible, but seem to have some level of popularity (the former possibly as a result of being paired with Anton), and Tim probably has another week or two left before appearing in the bottom two. If it’s not Judy, I actually think there might be a surprise tonight with either Mark Wright or Simon Webbe featuring in the bottom two. If so, it wouldn’t look great for Jennifer, but if Judy is in the dance-off, she’ll definitely go.
Put me on the spot and I’ll say Judy will sneak through on the public vote, Jennifer will be paired with either Mark or Simon, and the Mrs Brown’s Boys actress will not be saved for a second week.
But I’m wrong far more often than I’m right!