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.

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before