Strictly at Wembley, November 19th, 2011

 On reflection, I think I underestimated exactly what 6,500 people look like. Answer – quite a lot, I discovered, En route to Wembley I had naively hoped this SCD special for Children in Need might even  reproduce the intimate feeling created when in the show’s normal home of TC1 in West London. I was slightly wide of the mark.

30 minutes later and practically on the roof of Wembley arena, 8 rows from the back to be precise, I positively envied the lady sat next to me who had thoughtfully brought binoculars.

All of this happy, if not slightly geriatric crew were seated by 5.30pm, at which point, infamous warm-up man, Stuart Holdham joked “the next 7 hours will be a lot of fun!” If only we had all known that 5 hours later this would not seem so funny. General observations and I noted that there was a lot of grey hair in attendance. I sincerely hoped my neighbours would not be consistently ssssh-ing me when I was in mid-Anita-Dobson-induced-frenzy. However, as it happened, this Countdown friendly crowd gave as good as they got. Firstly Il Divo were prerecorded for the results show (grey brigade rejoiced) and it was then we got our first glimpse of the judges and professional dancers as the opening Queen medley was pre-recorded. The crowd roared and you could feel the tension, electricity and all those other wonderful things as they clapped eyes on the embodiment of physical perfection that is the likes of Ola Jordan, Brendan Cole and Pasha Kovalev. The likes of James and Robin jump up and down on the spot like kids in a playground well and truly pumped by the atmosphere, engaging with the crowd as the introduction of We Will Rock You rang out and I couldn’t help but feel as if I was about to be part of something truly unique and incredibly spectacular.

The Queen number was filmed twice, not that the crowd had any objections. Having watched how this routine came across on-screen I was disappointed. There is far too much going on for a viewer to take it all in, whereas someone who was there in person could have a birdseye view of everything. The cheerleaders, silk artists, celebrities, dancers, animals, hungry African children, Big Issue sellers and other life forms… You clearly weren’t watching closely enough.

Half an hour of faffing and such later we are introduced to Tess and Bruce, Tess this week deciding to don a shiny, royal blue bed sheet and choosing to keep the audience entertained with inspired patter such as “How exciting is this, everyone?” “Are you excited about our biggest show ever?” “Wembley, are you excited?!” Oh, shut up, you useless woman. Yes, as you may have guessed I’m not a Tess fan and it is on occasions such as this you are reminded how much she gets paid for doing SO VERY LITTLE. Naturally, the rest of the audience aren’t as cynical as I and love her and her ditzy Northern charm. I never have. And I won’t until she learns how to pronounce Ola’s name correctly. Bruce shamelessly plugs his album and we are then subjected to a couple of the tracks at which point I double checked to see if any of the fire exits had been left open. (And before you ask, YES this is THE album. The ALBUM and he’s at the Royal Albert Hall next year, you know!) We then finally go live. That’s right, we still have the whole evening ahead of us. Joy.

Staircase observations: Catsuit. Ola. Wembley. Standard.  There is yet another sighting of Harry’s chest and Kristina looks like she’s auditioning for Dancing on Ice.

So firstly we have Robbie and Ola, of course preceded by one of those hideous “training” VTs which feature absolutely anything but training.  I’m pretty sure Robbie thinks he’s a rock star. Chest out, fists pumping with his catsuit-clad woman in tow.

Other highlights include Russell flying from his cannon. The Wembley audience had the joy of seeing him being rather awkwardly loaded into it in the first place which made his emergence seem a little bit pointless but a crowd pleaser none the less.

The audience’s favourite undoubtedly was Harry although don’t get my started on using “I’m Still Standing” for a Salsa routine. Len again threatened to throw his toys out of the pram on several occasions, any sense of humour he once had, clearly having been devoured by Alesha’s massive hair.

Recording over and the audience said goodbye to Bruce in the same way elderly relatives who are invited around on Christmas day are encouraged to leave after the Queen’s Speech. Cue much faux emotional schmutz for SIR Bru and he’s gone. BUT DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE ALBUM, NOW.

Brave Stuart, the warm-up guy, (he’s still going) then tries very hard to get the audience, 80% of which is made up of the 60+’s excited about the prospect of a Jessie J performance. Sensibly he soon gives up and offers up some signed annuals to pass the time.

The Beatles medley which opens the results show is recorded twice, the audience by now starting to wane slightly. Never was the arrival of Claudia Winkleman needed so much as it was now. Watching she and Tess work together was intriguing as Claudia negotiated the massive Wembley dancefloor in what must have been at least five-inch heels. She trots around Tess like a miniature show pony wanting approval, needing to take about three steps for every one that Tess makes. I could criticise Claudia (but of course I won’t because she is MAGNIFICENT) for her lack of interaction with the crowd but it was clear that sucking up to the 6,000 Strictly disciples was not something she needed to do. With one simple flick of her ridiculous fringe down the camera which was then shown on the two large screens around the arena the audience were in hysterics. Any awkwardness created by Robbie’s waterfall moment in the post-result announcement chat, when he confessed tearfully that the night had been “better than the Carling Cup final” was quickly dispersed the second the camera stopped rolling; “What IS the Carling Cup?” Claudia asked as she patted his knee  in faux sympathy. Not a clue, Claude, not a clue.

And so we wound down, and the inevitable departure of Russell and Flavia was announced the audience had become more than a little antsy in their limited-for-space plastic seating, “You’ve all been part of something very special!” Tess assures us. Yep, sure, luv. Try telling that to the 6,000 who are all going to attempt to get on the Jubilee line at the same time. Joking aside, it’s all been rather fun, the production team pulled out every trick in the book for this one off transmission and deserve to be rewarded in rating shaped glory. God bless you, Wembley, you have served the good ship Strictly well.



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