The launch episode for the new series of Strictly had all the initial awkwardness of meeting a lot of new people at parties, rather than the familiar banter of old mates, writes Alex Homer.
It kicked off with a lot of soundbites from the latest crop of celebrities saying why they wanted to be involved. The introductions to so many different stars, all against the same backdrop, all pretending to cover themselves in hair spray with their most giant smile, was just a bit longwinded as the list wore on.
Strictly’s format is familiar to so many people now and, like the previous series, it’s better once it gets going. That said, for all the practice he’s had, I could not help but notice Sir Bruce not only reading his lines from cards, but even tracing each new word with his index finger. He’s a television institution but that made a show which charms us for its flashback to traditional Saturday television, seem slightly amateur for it.
There are some interesting personalities on the show to keep people entertained however. Hairy Biker Dave Myers showed viewers that he will be a good addition just by choosing the phrase ‘I’m chuffed as nuts’ when he found out his dance partner.
Vanessa Feltz is exactly how Tess Daly described her during her narration ‘inimitable’ – and that’s putting it delicately.
Viewers will also have been delighted to see housewives’ favourite Anton Du Beke paired with someone who may be able to dance in former Bond girl Fiona Fullerton. He’s had a bit of an unlucky, if not brilliantly memorable, run with partners including Ann Widdecombe, Nancy Dell’Olio and Jerry Hall – all ensuring he did not go far in the competition. With some luck though, the nimble-footed charmer can hopefully stay in the competition longer than he has been used to.
Despite a slow start, there’s plenty to be excited about – Corrie star Natalie Gumede looks like she can really move. She’s obviously the traditional ringer for the series as she was a decent dancer before an injury.
The established judges also seem to get better and better. Craig Revel Horwood looks to have embraced his panto villain persona; Bruno Tonioli is fantastically bonkers and Len Goodman has that seemingly permanent broad smile. There are more new professionals to keep the show fresh too, and the group routines in the first show alone were fantastic.
I’m slightly worried about how viewers are going to cope with the mind-boggling possibility Dragons Den stalwart Deborah Meaden may be a bit of a giggle.
I don’t think I’m bursting any bubbles by noting some of the celebrities may have been picked because they’re quite attractive too – Abbey Clancy, Ben Cohen, Rachel Riley and Ashley Taylor Dawson among them. In dancing terms though, many people – this reviewer included – would have preferred Clancy’s husband Peter Crouch to recreate the magic of his ‘robot’ celebration on the show.
Fingers crossed for a substitution.