'Sir Dancealot' returns – ancient puns to the fore

'Strictly' is back, so get ready for Saturday nights of sequins, smut – and insults

"Sir Lancelot?" quipped the host in reference to his own venerable age. He paused here, poised with a pun. "More like Sir Dancealot!"

When a programme sticks to its guns and manages to reach a ninth series, all previously irksome foibles somehow ascend into the realms of helpless charm. It rankled, certainly, throughout the first series – and, in truth, the second, the fourth, the sixth – that the pairing of a limelight-hogging septuagenarian and his comely female sidekick several decades his junior was the biggest mismatch this side of Italian TV. And it rankled, too, that the septuagenarian (now octogenarian) over-relied on those puns of his as if convinced light entertainment hadn't moved on a bit since 1976.

But these days Strictly Come Dancing is BBC1's Saturday-night highlight, and the nation has allowed it into its camp heart. When it started out seven years ago, Bruce Forsyth was a mere stripling of 76, and was still being stealthily ignored by the Queen. He is 83 now, and a Sir at last, while his co-host, Tess Daly, still blinks her Bambi lashes and attempts to get a word in edgeways.

Last night's launch show lasted an hour but felt like more, introducing 14 celebrities who had long since slipped from the A list. It wasn't entirely clear who Dan Lobb was, and it was difficult to care how Chelsee Healey made her name, when her name remains so irritatingly misspelled. But Rory Bremner was fair enough, Audley Harrison and Anita Dobson, too, and Jason Donovan, who once idolised James Dean, is a past master at TV cheese by now. When his professional dancing partner was announced, the svelte Kristina Rihanoff, she mounted him frontally and they all but simulated full-on sex.

This is a subtext so bluntly referenced on Strictly these days that there is little "sub" about it: that the celebs and their partners will gel, or, in ghastly judge Bruno Tonioli's words, "go all the way". Former Neighbours actress Holly Valance, happily married, made it clear she liked sweaty men, while ex-"bad boy" footballer Robbie Savage, all twit hair and teeth, happily boasted that his wife would seethe with jealousy over his clinches with partner Ola Jordan.

Though the dancing looks set to be of a high standard this year – the former pop stars, among them McFly's Harry Judd, should take to it easily, likewise The One Show's nimble Alex Jones – Strictly hasn't forgotten that what we ultimately tune in for is cruel comedy.        

If Ann Widdecombe was the kind of gift that comes but once in a lifetime, then Edwina Currie, who recently claimed "I've been a hot babe all my life", fulfilled the role of erstwhile MP with no reputation left to scotch, and Nancy Dell'Olio, a remarkable woman for all the wrong reasons, had the choicest pairing, with Anton du Beke, a man every bit as vainglorious as she. Lulu was landed with Brendan Cole, to her evident distress, and astrologer Russell ("I've lost 10 stone!") Grant stepped into John Sergeant's shoes as the tubby one, whose mere presence facilitated endless opportunity for insults that, this year, didn't even bother to come veiled. Bruce had a pop, judge Len Goodman chortled, and Tonioli suggested, "this could be a new dimension in dance – or dementia!"

Poor Russell. He kept grinning, though – what else could he do?

"It's almost like having a really weird dream," said Harry Judd at one point.

Only almost, Harry?

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

Ashdown Group: Web Developer - London - £40K plus benefits - Salary negotiable

£38000 - £40000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: A leading consu...

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£12 - £15 Hourly Rate: Sheridan Maine: Are you an experienced Accounts Assista...

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Payable Clerk

£21,000 - £24,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a new opportunit...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat