Movies Week is often when Strictly is at its weirdest (who can forget Scott Mills’ samba dressed as a crab?) and the 2020 edition did not disappoint.
Last week, we went straight into Strictly Come Dancing off the back of spending way too long watching expert news anchors broadcast for longer than anyone could have expected. This week was technically exactly the same but the vibe could not have been more different. I had to tear myself away from CNN’s coverage of people dancing in the streets all across the USA, and tune into people dancing around an echoey studio in Hertfordshire.
For the first three shows this year, Strictly was a much-needed burst of light in a bleak time. Tonight it finally had some competition in the joy department and it took a while before the show got going. After an impressive but unsurprising James Bond-themed group dance (remember when we were supposed to get a James Bond movie this year?) Nicola and Katya were first on the dance floor with a jive to ‘Grease Lightning’. It was cute-ish, but certainly not one for the history books. With this pairing, it’s beginning to feel like the producers are wary of giving them anything too ‘coupley’: they were once again in matchy-matchy costumes, both playing T-Birds in their fun Grease-themed dance. Eventually they’ll run out of the more upbeat dances and will have to get romantic like the other couples have had the chance to already – if they last that long.
Next Maisie and Gorka danced an American Smooth to ‘Into The Unknown’ from Frozen 2 because they felt like the fabulous Strictly singers needed a workout. Maisie, a legal adult, said she loved Frozen when she was “a little girl” and I crumbled into dust. She dressed as Elsa while Gorka dressed as a generic nobody because, of course, Elsa does not have any men in the Frozens because, of course, Elsa is, like so gay, dude. This dance was nice enough but I was still waiting for a ‘moment’.
It might be Movies Week but two couples went for songs originally from musicals, which I am very here for. Caroline and Johannes performed a couples’ choice musical theatre dance to ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’ from Gypsy and Ranvir and Giovanni danced a Foxtrot to ‘Love You I Do’ from Dreamgirls. Dedicating their dance to her colleagues in theatre who are struggling at the moment, Caroline and Johannes’ performance was delightfully assured, if slightly lacking in oomph. Ranvir, with her background in broadcasting, started out as a potential underdog in this competition but she continues to impress: their Foxtrot was smooth, romantic and beautiful.
JJ, another contestant without a background in performance, danced the other Foxtrot of the night, to ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’ with his partner Amy. Like Ranvir and Giovanni’s, it was another gorgeous routine. Do I just like Foxtrots??
Tess noted early on that Week 3 is always a tough week: the show has kicked off for real, people have started going home, and the judges have seen what people can do. The biggest victims of this increased judging harshness were Luba and Jason, who got a criminally low score for an admittedly underwhelming Star Wars-themed paso doble. As Shirley noted, it lacked the character of a classic paso and Jason’s ever-present smile proved less of an asset this week in a dance where intensity is the order of the day. I enjoyed the notion that Luba could choreograph a whole dance based on a movie she has never seen, not a great start! By contrast, Clara and Aljaz danced to one of Clara’s favourite songs, ‘Lady Marmalade’ from Moulin Rouge. She looked amazing, with jewels in all sorts of places, and although the judges weren’t sold on the ‘disco-tango’ fusion, I thought it was another really strong performance from them.
Speaking of the Strictly fashion, I have to mention the wacky costumes that a Strictly theme week always brings out. We had a wildly entertaining Charleston (I think, my favourite ever Charleston? But I do have terrible taste) to the song ‘Zero To Hero’ from Hercules from Jamie and Karen that featured the full Greek hero outfit and orange wig, and HRVY and Janette gave us a joyful and well-executed Cha Cha to ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ dressed as… garden gnomes. You remember, the song that is famously in the famous film Gnomeo and Juliet? But none of the costumes – or the wackiness – came close to Max and Dianne dancing a couple’s choice to The Simpsons theme tune, dressed as Homer and Marge Simpson. It was one of the most wild things I’ve ever seen on Strictly and there really isn’t much more I can say about that. Well, I suppose I can add this: yes, they were painted yellow; yes, her hair really was that high, and there was a whole thing involving inflatable donuts.
The big Movies Week moment I was waiting for finally arrived in the last dance of the night, another paso doble, this time from Bill and Oti. They danced to the theme from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, which I’d had reservations about as a paso traditionalist. I should have known better than to doubt Oti’s iconic judgement: this was phenomenal. Before the series kicked off, Craig picked out Bill as the contestant who might struggle the most. Now he’s being lauded as a favourite to win. His paso doble was dramatic, skillful, entertaining and, crucially, distinctive. Bill Bailey is a rare Strictly contestant who not only has rhythm and can move well, but brings his own unique style to the performances. I couldn’t look away, and neither could the judges. Shirley stood up and screamed “you are extraordinarily fantastic!!”, channelling Bruno flawlessly. And he was!
This has been a strange, historic week for the world. Many of us spent days glued to news coverage telling us that nothing was happening. When it comes to ‘reasons to have a glimmer of hope for the future’, a fun episode of Strictly Come Dancing can’t really compete with the fact that Donald Trump won’t be the President next year, but it was nice to remember that silly TV shows are allowed to be low stakes sometimes. Even if Strictly isn’t the only thing we have, I’m still glad we have it.