ACTOR Greg Wise and his partner Karen Hauer paid a very sincere tribute to his late sister, Clare, via the so-called “couples’ choice” option, on Saturday night’s Strictly.
A disco-dancing number, appropriately enough, with high kicks, spins, a lot of moody pointing and “a legato section,” whatever the hell that might be.
Out of breath but elated, the pair then waited for the inevitable acclaim which poured forth from Anton du Beke and Shirley Ballas, before Tess Daly, with not a hint of trepidation in her voice, turned to the lefthand side of the panel and said: “Craig?”
“For me, it lacked any internal rhythm,” the judge replied abruptly, as Greg’s neck muscles and expression visibly tightened in astonishment.
“It was too placed and very cardboard cut-out, I’m afraid,” added Craig before giving it a bit of sugar-coating, and his score. “Three.”
“THREE?” shrieked both hosts, who were clearly aghast that Craig had trampled over one of TV’s great new conventions, done his job and judged Greg’s dance entirely on its merits rather than its back story.
He’s probably off Greg and Emma Thompson’s Christmas card list as a result but they should be patting him on the back at BBC HQ.
For Craig Revel Horwood’s honesty has never been more needed on Strictly Come Dancing, where viewing figures are on the slide and it’s not too hard to see why.
A show that should have a bit of urgency about it, with three unvaccinated dancers in its ranks, has taken nearly seven hours to eliminate just one of its 15 contestants, Nina Wadia.
They could’ve hurried things along by getting rid of some other deadbeat, week two, ditching the technically useless “friends and family” video link-ups and not getting quite so starstruck by the presence of Gordon Ramsay, who was making his first appearance in a BBC1 studio since he emptied the channel with his quiz show Bank Balance.
But it would still have left them with the problem of this year’s seriously underwhelming line-up, who are often a grind to watch and even a bit of a chore to host if you judge it by the number of times Tess and Claudia describe one of the contestants as “adorable”.
A word that sounds like a compliment but is television’s subtle way of saying: “You are so competently forgettable I’m struggling even to remember your name at this precise moment.”
“Adorable” is better, I suppose, than the word Shirley Ballas used to describe Katie McGlynn: “Infectious.”
Neither, though, adds up to the same thing as being genuinely entertaining/utterly terrifying, as Judi Love was when she performed her launderette hammer-thrower routine on Saturday, which had a taken-aback Craig admitting: “Your bottom should have its own show.” And already does, I think. It’s called Big Love.
The further problem here for Strictly, however, is that as bland, competent, slightly better than expected and “adorable” as most of the contestants are, there is already one dancer who is very clearly far better than everyone else.
A lot of people at the BBC, you sense, would love this to be John Whaite, partnered by Johannes Radebe, but the winner-in-waiting is actually AJ Odudu who, without any of the usual dance background, has turned out to be an absolute natural and a joy to watch every single week.
This doesn’t help the Beeb, obviously. They’ve got months still to fill and probably believe they could really do with four obliging judges hyping up the competition and telling everyone exactly what they want to hear.
Instead, they’ve got blunt-as-you-like Australian Craig Revel Horwood who, when not dropping truth bombs on the dancers, is throwing shade in the direction of Anton du Beke’s out-of-control ego: “You need to keep a watchful eye, darling.”
It won’t win him any friends on the show, of course, but he’s currently the only thing stopping Strictly turning into one of the most nauseatingly tedious spectacles of the year. And I am suitably grateful.
Alex a sound winner
WITHOUT James Cracknell giving her a heave up the rear, there’s every chance former X Factor champion Alexandra Burke could still be stuck halfway up a Scottish mountain yelling: “Help, help . . . HELP!”
Or dangling from an abseiling rope. Or flapping around in the Atlantic Ocean explaining her fear of cold water to SBS veteran Jason Fox.
Instead, the woman who once spent ten weeks singing live with the likes of Eoghan Quigg and Bad Lashes was declared joint winner of Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins 2021, along with paralympian Aled Davies and Wes Nelson off Love Island.
A decision that’s hardly likely to dampen down speculation Alexandra received favourable treatment from Ant Middleton, who was axed from the show shortly after filming ended due to his “personal conduct”.
Nor will it dispel the feeling that by jumping on every woke bandwagon “TV’s toughest show” is turning itself into a glorified school sports day in which everyone wins a prize and even the “hauled in for questioning” segments now feel more like therapy sessions.
It’s a road to ruin, obviously, as there isn’t the slightest gap in the television market for sob stories and oversharing.
But it shouldn’t stop any of us acknowledging that no one coped better with the final interrogation, where candidates were “subjected to distressing sounds aimed at breaking their spirits”, than Alexandra Burke.
Well, like I said, she once spent ten weeks singing live with Eoghan Quigg and Bad Lashes.
Unexpected morons in the bagging area
TIPPING Point, Ben Shephard: “Which UK political party shares its name with the collective noun for moles?”
Alice: “Liberal Democrats.”
Ben Shephard: “On Mary Berry’s website, the ingredients for the sponge in her Victoria sponge cake include which poultry product? Jack: “Butter.”
And Mastermind, Clive Myrie: “What feature of a house is described in Cockney rhyming slang as the ‘apples and pears’?”
Mohammad: “The toilet.”
(With thanks to talkSPORT genius Paul Hawksbee)
Random TV irritations
BREAKFAST TV host Naga Munchetty mistaking her rudeness for “holding politicians to account”. The BBC continuity announcer who says “pacifically” when he means specifically.
The once serviceable Silent Witness turning into the most ludicrously woke show on television.
And BBC1 driving a coach and horses through the delicate balance of a Blankety Blank panel, which should be arranged in strict boy/girl formation with a back row of faithful old showbiz retainers and the loose comedy cannon (Jimmy Carr) front and centre, flanked by anyone except Joe sodding Swash.
It’s basic stuff, Auntie.
Squid Game’s overhyped
HAVING poured derision on those poor panic-stricken fools who spent all day sitting in petrol queues last week, I then spent the best part of nine hours watching Netflix’s Squid Game because someone told someone else who told some t**t from the broadsheets it was “captivating”.
It’s not. Like a lot of Netflix series, Squid Game, which stars Lee Jung-jae as contestant Gi-hun, is a crude, soulless, overhyped, gratuitously violent show that leads nowhere except back to square one and another series.
So, if you have the choice between petrol and Netflix, sit tight outside your local Texaco garage then just buy a bunch of flowers and Pot Noodle when it’s your turn at the pump.
It’ll be every bit as rewarding as Squid Game.
OSTRICH sex on BBC1’s The Mating Game.
Joint series winner Aled Davies reflecting on his encounter with SAS: Who Dares Wins legend and potential saviour Dilksy at interrogation: “That bald bloke called me a fat c***.”
And the glorious finale of BBC2’s Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing, ending with nothing but the sounds of the River Severn weaving its way through Worcestershire. And away . . .
Lookalike of the week
Picture research: Amy Reading