'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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Recruitment Genius: External Relations Executive

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An External Relations Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Project Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This established Digital Agency based in East ...

Guru Careers: Sales Director / Business Development Manager

£35 - 45K + COMMISSION (NEG): Guru Careers: A Sales Director / Business Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee