THE COUCH POTATO: Plenty of glitz, but (hurray) no schmaltz

UPLIFTING: Lisa Riley cast in the ‘Ann Widdecombe crippled-mule’ role yet still accomplished

UPLIFTING: Lisa Riley cast in the ‘Ann Widdecombe crippled-mule’ role yet still accomplished

First published in News

POOR old Lisa Riley, I thought. There she was, last Saturday night, bemoaning the fact she’s become typecast playing “mingers” (a mystery, for sure), only to end up at the BBC ballroom in what looked unmistakably like the Ann Widdecombe crippled mule role.

All talk beforehand was about how she would become the first female contestant, all 18 stone of her, to lift their male partner, so there was no doubt this would be a watch-through-your-fingers, laugh-at-the-chubber affair.

Then Dave Arch and his wonderful, wonderful orchestra burst into Think, by Aretha Franklin, and she started shimmying around that floor in a blue hula skirt, slapping her thigh and strutting her stuff like she’d invented the chacha-cha.

A brilliantly entertaining start to Strictly Come Dancing series 10, where Riley is by no means the only star turn.

Waltzing Sid Owen was given a massive vote of confidence by Ola Jordan, who said: “I’m really looking forward to starting training with Sid. I want to see how difficult it’s going to be to get to that final.”

He looked like a lost concierge, on the wrong floor of The Ritz, yet the bloke who plays Ricky Butcher had prima ballerina Darcey Bussell declaring: “You have something very special.”

Lanky Colin Salmon, giving James Brown the cha-cha treatment in a leopard-print top, showed scientists what a species of giraffe could have become, given a different evolutionary path.

Johnny Ball was dancing in an invisible bear costume with a substitute partner who announced her arrival with what I heard to be: “My name is Iveta Lookashitta.”

Oh, don’t be too hard on yourself.

I mean, you’re no Aliona Vilani, but you’re not so bad. (By the way, please keep Johnny in until Aliona’s return – deal?).

And there were differing fortunes for two heroes of London 2012. A place in the final already beckons for hip-wiggling Louis Smith who, Bruce Forsyth explained: “Specialises in pommel horse. That’s basically a wooden horse with handles.”

See also, Jerry Hall.

But the dam of tears is already bursting for emotional Victoria Pendleton, who ended week one propping up the leaderboard after the wheels fell off her routine with Brendan Cole.

Dressed like a John Steed sidekick from The New Avengers, all in pink, her footwork was like a flamingo wresting one foot then the other out of fast-acting cement and her spins the result of an overenthusiastic leap on to an airport travelator, ending in a bedraggled heap among the duty-free display..

Darcey Bussell, yar, has added some class, yes, to the judging panel, yar? She clearly knows her stuff, is a welcome antidote to the clownery of Bruno Tonioli, has already nailed the look of disdain to her right when Craig Revel Horwood reveals his paddle, so to speak, and demonstrates just how much of a favour Simon Cowell did Strictly in poaching Alesha Dixon.

Even the script seems to have improved this year, though some of the old flaws remain, like Brucie getting tongue-tied and milking jokes until they curdle, and Tess Daly’s puns which often make no sense at all: “Victoria, you’ve got to get back on that dancing bike and show them.” Eh?

But X Factor could learn so much from this show. Unlike ITV1’s novelty act Rylan Clark, Lisa Riley proves you can fulfil that role yet still be accomplished, not necessarily woeful.

There are sob stories on Strictly, but every one of them ends in triumph over adversity, rather than adversity for adversity’s sake, and we haven’t heard a single mention of Riley’s recently deceased mum or Denise Van Outen having to miss her grandad’s funeral last week.

This week, X Factor’s Lucy Spraggan’s nan passed away: very sad news. If that show has picked up anything from its superior BBC1 rival, it will pay her the greatest tribute possible by not mentioning it this weekend.

No, I can’t see that happening either.

Spudulike awards

● The El Clasico showdown between Messi’s Barcelona and Ronaldo’s Real Madrid, on Sky Sports.

● Paddy McGuinness making Take Me Out my guilt-free pleasure.

● The return of C4’s gripping Homeland, albeit with a slight concern that it’s back at all for a second series.

● Keith Lemon’s mask slipping to reveal Leigh Francis, who seems far more watchable, while winning £150,000 for charity with Patsy Kensit on Million Pound Drop Live.

● C4’s The Plane Crash, which was a heck of an improvement on last week’s Hotel GB car crash.

● And my reason for not being able to provide an in-depth review of All Star Mr and Mrs, with Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee, on Wednesday night, as I was watching Al Murray’s live show at Newport’s Riverfront theatre where he said: “I’ve been to Cardiff before, but never knew that Newport was as...close to the M4.” Someone give back that man his own TV series.

Spuduhate awards

● My professional duty to watch Sunday night’s X Factor meaning I missed the whole second half of El Clasico.

● X Factor boyband GMD3 rejecting “Undead Ferret” as their new name.

● Louis Walsh bottling the chance to boot out X Factor irritant Rylan Clark.

● The Thick Of It shunted for a BBC2 Arena documentary about a 1967 Beatles film.

● And Channel 4 lowering the standards of the word “comedian” by having The Chuckle Brothers on Andy Parsons’ team on Comedy World Cup. Really? Andy Parsons is a comedian?

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