THE BBC certainly seemed to have taken all the right precautions at Strictly’s big pairing-up ceremony, on Saturday night.
Dave Arch and his band were surrounded by Perspex. The audience was masked up like the Hole In The Wall Gang. Tess Daly’s eyes were the regulation two metres apart.
Then some maniac let Anton du Beke sing during the professionals’ group dance, without a thought for the public’s well-being or a possible follow-up to his From The Top album.
So it’s probably just as well I’m in the mood to cut Strictly Come Dancing some slack this year, on the grounds that it’s not one of those shows which can simply brush off social-distancing.
Indeed, the fact it’s on at all is a bit of a production miracle, but it still looked slightly bereft, at the weekend.
The audience is now threadbare, Tess and Claudia are hardly in the same postcode and Craig Revel Horwood’s stuck behind a squat little rotunda looking like a camp Davros.
“We are of course also missing Bruno Tonioli due to travel restrictions,” Claudia announced very solemnly, at the start. So it’s not all bad news.
If the hosts were expecting the bookers to dig them out of a hole, none of the early signs looked good, as Caroline Quentin, an American Football player, Ranvir Singh and Clara Amfo all came, went and told us their partner was: “The one I was hoping for blah blah blah.”
A nice enough bunch, clearly, but if Strictly is really to take personal hold, one of the things it needs is a chirpy young nuisance to get under my skin.
As luck would have it, then, the next contestant was christened Harvey Cantwell but developed irritable vowel syndrome at the age of 17 and renamed himself HRVY on the grounds that: “I needed to be a lot cooler so I thought, ‘Why not lose two vowels out of my name?’.”
Why? ’Cos it’ll make you look like a mssve dckhd, obviously.
Irritants like HRVY and Jamie Laing may be a help, but what any series of Strictly really needs to thrive is comedy input, and it’s here that bookers might just have unearthed a couple of gems.
The most obvious is Bill Bailey, who is that rarest of things for a modern comedian. He’s both funny and likeable.
He’s also pretty nimble on his feet and a fast learner, so I don’t think, after Saturday night’s experience, he will ever attempt to bounce jokes off the glass facade of Tess Daly again.
You would hope the BBC understands Bill’s comedy potential. I worry, though, that the only pairing it really cares about is Nicola Adams and Katya Jones, the show’s first same-sex couple.
Personally, I think it’s a minor tragedy Strictly didn’t do this back in 2009, with Joe Calzaghe and Anton du Beke, as Dancing On Ice has already stolen their thunder here and all it does now is unbalance the voting process and allow a lot of applause chasers the opportunity to try to bask in the show’s reflected PC “glory”.
The great thing about Strictly, though, is that it takes just one thing to sideline all its worthy intentions.
Sometimes it’s a scandal. On Saturday it was the group dance, where the real comedy genius of the piece revealed herself, flapping around like one of those megaflatables at the Cup Final, during the Phil Collins number.
It’s former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who can’t even point in tune, and at a stroke has mothballed partner Anton du Beke’s singing career and answered her own question: “Have I got any natural dance ability?”
No, you haven’t, Jacqui. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Unexpected morons in the bagging area
The Chase, Bradley Walsh: “‘Remember, all you can win is a brand new dustbin’ was a catchphrase on what game show?”
Abrar: “Only Fools And Horses.”
Tipping Point, Ben Shephard: “Which shipping forecast area in the North Sea shares its name with a Nordic invader?”
Tom: “Christopher Columbus.”
Bradley Walsh: “The term Public Service Announcement is often abbreviated to what three letters?”
Ben Shephard: “Papillon is the French word for which flying insect?”
All the grace of Roadkill
BBC1’S latest piece of left-wing propaganda dressed-up as drama is called Roadkill, and it’s about as subtle and balanced as hedgehog entrails on a set of Pirellis.
No surprise, really, as it’s written by champagne socialist David Hare, who’s thrown all the prejudice, anger and snobbery he’s got at this political “thriller” (A LOT), so there’s a surfeit of gormless proles asking for selfies from the word go.
Every single character adheres to the BBC’s strict gender/race guidelines as well, of course (all white men are evil).
But most of Hare’s public school condescension is reserved for a working-class version of Boris called Peter Laurence, who’s got a mistress, an illegitimate child, only the vaguest of Tory principles and a habit of telling people: “The voters think of me as a character.”
Which is just as well, really, as you’d never have guessed it from the rest of the script or Hugh Laurie’s performance.
The real void at the heart of this angry mess, though, is the plot.
Because the only crime Laurence seems to have committed is trying to “sell off the NHS to a right-wing American think tank”. An idea that I know will give luvvies a fit of the vapours and I’m surprised the BBC sound department didn’t add a clap of thunder every time it’s mentioned by one of the cast.
But come on, Pete. Next week I want you and your think tank: Abolishing the licence fee, reintroducing the death penalty, for everyone from murderers to noisy neighbours, deploying the SAS to deal with fly-tippers, raising the voting age to 47 and forcing the compulsory sterilisation of all Extinction Rebellion activists who, for the sake of the planet, can start putting their reproductive organs in the same place as their noisy, disruptive, pain-in-the-a*** principles.
Then, episode three, we start on the right-wing stuff, or I’m done with Roadkill.
What caption reason was used to justify the appearance of Love Island’s Olivia Bowen on Steph’s Packed Lunch earlier this month?
A) “Living with an underactive thyroid.”
B) “Living with an overactive publicist.”
Ghosted by, erm, a ghost
THAT poor woman who claimed she was engaged to a ghost called Ray was back on This Morning last week, with some bad news.
The worst possible, in fact.
“The wedding to my ghost lover is off,” read the caption.
This, of course, is the ongoing fantasy world of a woman called “Amethyst Realm”, who’s spared us no details in four previous visits to the ITV studio, where she’s told viewers, among other things, that her spirit partner asked her to marry him at Wookey Hole and they once had sex in an aeroplane toilet, on the way to Thailand, which is technically Spooky Hole.
You know how it is, though, girls.
“He got in with the wrong crowd,” Amethyst explained.
“He’d disappear for days and started bringing other spirits home, who’d stay for days.” Ollie Reed? Hurricane Higgins? Keith Moon . . . ?
We may never know.
Because, before she could get into the nitty-gritty, there was a ghostly crashing noise from the other side of the studio, which could’ve been Ray, or could’ve been Errol Flynn staking his claim, but turned out to be Alison Hammond, whose a*** had just dislodged an ornamental cactus, in the competition area.
By the time spiritual calm had been restored, Amethyst was telling viewers: “I’m happy, free and single” (form an orderly queue, fellas) and Phillip Schofield was begging her to: “Keep us updated.”
Which I hope she does.
In the meantime, though, This Morning’s presenters will never stop reminding us just how much they care about mental health.
Great Sporting Insights
Jamie Redknapp: “I’m not trying to stick up for the referee, but he was useless.”
Iain Dowie: “The striker was arm-stronged out of it.”
Bill Leslie: “The rivalry was built in the 70s with those FA Cup meetings in ’96 and ’97.”
THIS week’s winner is Whitey, the albino rat from Flushed Away, and GMB’s host Piers “Alligator Arms” Morgan.
Sent in by James McGuire. Picture research Amy Reading.
FOR all those who think they may have been missing out on Steph McGovern’s afternoon banter with her Packed Lunchmates, some examples.
“Liz, are you bothered by the Queen being out and about?” “No.”
“Rachel, have you fallen for a story you thought may be true but wasn’t?”
“Dean, would you buy Dolly Parton’s Playboy edition as a memento?”
Steph’s Packed Lunch. Just say “No.”
TV Gold: BBC4’s worth-the-effort documentary The Mole: Infiltrating North Korea.
John Bishop’s surprisingly joyful Great Whale Rescue, on ITV. Two incredibly po-faced giant vegetable growers, on This Morning, who recommended “bigpumpkins.com” without even blinking.
And EastEnders for thoughtfully attaching a BBC Action Line number for anyone who might have been left “emotionally distressed” by the episode where Gray was talked out of blowing up the entire Square and bringing the show to a halt for ever.
’Cos just for once, I was. Thanks.
Random TV irritations: The BBC’s utterly bizarre infatuation with Sara Pascoe
The unwritten Beeb rule which says it’s illegal for two men to host The One Show
Privately educated Have I Got News For You host Stephen Mangan mocking Laurence Fox for being privately educated.
Channel 4’s Steph McGovern failing to tie up hyperactive “comedian” Russell Kane in a sack and chuck him into the Leeds canal.
And Celebrity Karaoke Club contestant Courtney Act boasting: “I’ve met a disproportionately large number of famous people, Madonna, Kylie, Meryl Streep . . .”
Yeah and now you’re on ITV2 with the fat bloke off Ibiza Weekender. Proportion restored.
MODERN FAMILYI loved lockdown with my man, ex & his new fella, says Rebecca Adlington
TIER UPWest Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire & North East risk going into Tier 3, warns Hancock
MICH YOUMichelle Keegan returns to Corrie after 6 years away as cast film Xmas episodes
LOCKED UPIreland plunged into full lockdown & people must stay within 3 miles of home
PROUD MUMEmma Willis shares pic of son Ace, 8, as fans praise her 'breaking stereotypes'
'SHE WAS BRAVE'Jodie Marsh shares emotional speech after laying her 'fearless' mum to rest
INCIDENTALLY, how excited was One Show host Michael Ball by author John Grisham describing the art of thriller writing?
“The formula is very simple. You take a likeable hero or heroine in the lead role, you put them in some danger and you get them out.”
“I’ll knock one out tonight then.”
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