Strictly a parody, but we love it

Back for its 10th season, the BBC dance show has all the surprise of a Christmas panto, says Nick Duerden

Much like its ITV rival The X Factor, BBC1's big Saturday night draw Strictly Come Dancing is beginning to show its age.

Now into its 10th series, such is its back-of-the-hand familiarity that you watch it with a headachey groan of déjà vu throughout. Who couldn't? After all, the gene pool from which its latest celebrities have been hoisted is the same pool as last time, likewise the dance steps which echo those of former cloven-hoofed hopefuls. And the exaggerated campery whipped up by its judges remains as predictable and, whenever Bruno Tonioni opens his mouth, as clunkingly horrific as Christmas panto. In Wincanton.

Given his national treasure status – something that wasn't so much bestowed kindly upon him as demanded by the man himself over the years – it's simply not cricket to criticise presiding host Sir Bruce Forsyth. So, yes, he may revel in his myriad anachronisms with the entitlement that only comes with great age, but his links grow more painful with each passing year. Contestant Kimberley Walsh greeted his pun on her band Girls Aloud with his winking claim that, in his dressing room, there were girls allowed, with the kind of expression one adopts when the vet, glancing up from the ailing dog on the operating table, gravely shakes his head.

Though by now a heartless parody of itself, Strictly nevertheless continues to typify, if never exceed, what we have come to expect of Saturday night television. Last night's curtain raiser – carefully scheduled not to clash with The X Factor lest it red-facedly loses the ratings war – even managed a particularly 2012 kind of USP. In amid the predictable cast list of familiar TV types (Emmerdale's Lisa Riley), fading pop stars (Westlife's Nicky Byrne), and chat show lovelies (Fern Britton), were a couple of newly-minted, and bone fide, heroes: Olympians Louis Smith (he of the sculpted facial hair and pommel horse mastery) and cycling's Victoria Pendleton. "I do get emotional," Pendleton promised, receiving the biggest cheer of the night.

Its only other major adjustment comes in the judging panel. Out has gone Alesha Dixon – interesting how the women are expendable while the men are not – and in comes former the ballet star Darcey Bussell. Bussell always did seem a preternaturally delicate creature, so her claim that she will "crack the whip" if her exacting standards are not matched may take some proving.

The series opener spent its hour pairing up celebrity with dancer (Pendleton got Brendan Cole, Jerry Hall was saddled with Anton du Beke), while their first collective dance together revealed several things: that Denise van Outen perhaps has an unfair advantage over everybody else, having a) already danced professionally on the West End stage (in Chicago), and b) being rather good; and that 56-year-old Jerry Hall's pins – as impossibly tanned as they are impossibly long – might just have been made for workouts like this.

This, however, was not the occasion to ruminate over early favourites, but rather to enjoy the sight of Sid Owen, from EastEnders, wrapped tight as clingfilm in a silk shirt the colour of, one imagines, his sex-face, stumbling across the dancefloor as if in pursuit of a dropped 20p coin, and of Johnny Ball stealing every scene he managed to shoehorn himself into.

Ball, totemic kids TV legend and father of Zoe, has spent half a century on our television screens, and yet every time the 74-year-old sensed the camera upon him, he transformed himself into a human exclamation mark, waving and gurning with an excitement so genuine as to be genuinely touching.

He won't win, of course, but if anyone needs reasons to keep watching, Ball's tireless enthusiasm may just provide it.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Untwitterably yours: Singer Morrissey has said he doesn't have a twitter account
Music

A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album

Arts and Entertainment
Full throttle: Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro in God's Pocket
film
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie Minogue is expected to return to Neighbours for thirtieth anniversary special
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be Lonely Island's second Hollywood venture following their 2007 film Hot Rod
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Day-Lewis stars in the movie There Will Be Blood
music
Arts and Entertainment
Brush with greatness: the artist Norman Cornish in 1999
art
Life and Style
Stress less: relaxation techniques can help focus the mind and put problems in context
art
Arts and Entertainment

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

    It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
    Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

    Besiktas vs Arsenal

    Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

    The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment