Strictly is back and arguably facing one of its toughest tests in recent times. Would ratings plummet without Bruce Forsyth? Is the celebrity cast star studded enough to impress? Early indications suggest the BBC juggernaut has weathered the storm relatively well as ratings show a narrow advantage on Cheryl, Simon and those attention seeking X Factor sob stories over on the other side.
Without Bruce, the show felt liberated and now operates as the slick and fast moving unit it was meant to. The swapping of roles so that the post dance interview is now conducted by Claudia (Winkleman) means that there is more genuine human warmth on display that there ever was in eleven series of Tess(Daly) in this role. Tess still tried to crack some jokes and to be honest it was so painful that after sticking pins in my eyes the first few times it sort of became so bad it was funny. I’m hugely excited to see how “comedy Tess” develops though.
What of the contestants? Here’s a few that caught my eye… Presenter Caroline Flack made a promising start with partner Pasha Kovalev. She opened Friday’s programme with a confident Cha Cha Cha displaying some natural aptitude which at the time scored an average seeming 27. I can’t help but feel she would have scored well into the 30s had she performed later. TV reporter Alison Hammond made an impression with her gutsy Cha Cha Cha to I’m Every Woman. Incidentally, in such vivacious company, her professional partner (last year’s champ) Aljaz Skorjanec has been transformed, adopting a totally new persona from last year. Let’s hope we’ll get more high camp, high energy displays from these two in the future. Rugby star Thom Evans and Iveta Lukosiutemake an aesthetically beautiful pairing as they performed a careful Waltz to You Raise Me Up. Thom seemed a little disappointed with a score of 23 but there is still a lot to work on in both posture and footwork. Although at present Iveta seems too floored by his chiselled features to do anything about it.
One of Saturday night’s surprises was the power and attack in wildlife presenterSteve Backshall’s Tango. Together with partner Ola Jordan he surged across the floor with an impressive amount of technique for week one. I fear a little for his Latin where he’ll have to be lighter on his feet.
Other Week One Highlights:
Professional Aliona Vilani’s personal hell in being partnership with Gregg Wallace, a man she appears to find so repellent she can only dance with via the medium of a napkin AND with gloves on. (I’m always loved Aliona for her subtlety.)
A pre-watershed glimpse of Anton Du Beke’s knees.
So at this early stage the field is wide open, The Saturdays’ star Frankie Bridge tops the leader board with Eastender’s actor, Jake Wood close behind. In early trouble there’s DJ Scott Mills, Tim Wonnacott and Mrs Brown’s Boys actress Jennifer Gibney, but I predict that after a particularly lacklustre Dad-at-a-wedding showing, Masterchef’s Gregg Wallace may be the first for the boot.
First published on LondonDance.com