It’s back! Yes, Strictly Come Dancing, the show I love to hate and hate to love, has returned for a new series.
Each year at this time I assume that whilst it’s been off our screens I might have finally rid myself of my sequin addiction. But the minute it’s back, each Saturday night I am drawn to the telly like a chocaholic who’s spotted a family size bar of Dairy Milk in the corner of the room.
My main problem with the programme is Brucie. (And I apologise to the millions of people out there, along with the BBC bosses, who clearly disagree with me.) Who on earth decided that this man who has graced our screens for what feels like centuries, still appeals to the masses who watch Saturday night prime time family entertainment in 2011? His stuttering autocue reading and appalling jokes make me squirm with embarrassment weekly. And I’m not the only one who thinks that. Most people I talk to find him excruciating, regardless of their age.
The other thing I can’t bear about the show is watching men and women of a certain age trying desperately to be sexy while dancing. Now, I’m not saying that middle aged people can’t be sexy (of course I’m not – I am one!), but when it’s while dancing with a much younger person and done with very little style and grace, it does feel rather like watching an ageing relative hitting on a teenager at a family party. As my 9 year old would say ‘yeuch’ !
So why am I drawn, kicking and screaming, to watch the show year in year out even if I feel this way? Well, of course firstly it’s the dancing. There is some absolutely stunning dancing to watch, and when it’s done properly I have the same feeling I do when I watch athletes at their peak - I wonder in amazement how these people’s bodies can be made up of the same molecules as mine. How can their bodies achieve such fabulous things, when the closest I’ve got to anything physically impressive was taking part in a 12 hour ‘Oops Upside Your Head’ marathon in 1979!!
Secondly, it’s the characters. It’s so wonderful when contestants we weren’t expecting to, surprise us with some really lovely performances. But it’s even better when someone who appears universally disliked due to their ego or past celebrity life, turns up on the dance floor with the elegance of an elderly rhino whose arthritis is really playing them up. Schadenfreude.
However, what we all really look forward to is the comedy performances. In time we’ll forget the great dancing: the energy of Alesha Dixon, the whimsy of Chris Hollins and the grace of Kara Tointon. But we will never forget John Sargeant dragging Kristina Rihanoff across the floor in the Paso Doble, or Ann Widdecombe’s flying entrance to her extraordinary Tango with Anton du Beke. And this year it looks like it’s Russell Grant who’s going to give us the comedy. (Although Nancy Dell’Olio being upstaged by a feather boa made me howl.) I knew I was going to love Russell Grant from the moment he emerged as Venus the Goddess of Love from an oversized shell. If it was at all possible, the campest show on telly had just become even camper and I loved every single Cha Cha Cha.
So I am clearly hooked already and will be tuning in each week to get my fix. I will try and find a way of putting up with Brucie’s inane, unfunny banter (the mute button?), and look forward to the tears and tantrums and the sequins and the sparkle. And if there’s any justice in the world, at some point during the next few months we will all get to enjoy Russell Grant perform the Jive. I, for one, await that moment with bated breath.
NOTE TO SELF: Make no plans on Saturday evening for the foreseeable future.