Juliet Dunlop: Johnny no longer having a Ball on Strictly Come Dancing

Juliet Dunlop
Juliet Dunlop
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As any fan worth their salt will tell you, Strictly Come Dancing is all about “The Journey.”

It’s supposed to make dancers out of clowns and clowns out of dancers - that’s what’s so fascinating about the whole, gaudy process. It shines a baby-pink spotlight on a world of pivots and fleckles, heal leads and humiliation and, at the end of it all, lies a glitter ball trophy contestants would sell their granny to grab. Okay, there’s the Christmas special, spin-off exercise DVD and if they play their cards right, a turn in the West End, but it’s the winning that counts.

This weekend the competition began in earnest. Tess Daly spelled it out for us: “This week our cuupples are dancin’ for survival!” In other words, the phone lines are open - calls cost £29.99 from a BT landline, mobile phones may vary from expensive to exorbitant - and yes, you the viewer, must decide who stays and who goes. Now back to Tess: “No-one wants their ballroom bubble to burst but one cuupple musttt leave the competition!” Thank goodness judges Craig, Darcy, Len and Bruno were on hand.

The blonde one from Westlife was on first. The judges were harsh. His cha-cha-cha was a little too “zumba.” Actor Colin Salmon fared better, although his Viennese waltz was a bit “timid” for Len’s liking. Very Small Couple Dani and Vincent moved very fast but ended up in a red, Lycra knot. Fern Britton was told her waltz resembled light dusting but at least she wasn’t wearing Mary Berry’s Great British Bake Off floral bomber jacket - showbiz reporter Richard Arnold had borrowed it instead. As he gyrated to Love Shack, I was actually forced to stop drinking. Official Olympic Golden Girl Victoria Pendleton was given an easier ride “Queen Victoria is back!” declared Len but from then on it was downhill - cricketer Michael Vaughan was told his timing in the jive was so bad it was good – but at least Johnny Ball bounced back, sort of. Gymnast Louis Smith and Denise Van Outen were predictably impressive; Ricky from Eastenders wasn’t bad but singer Kimberley Walsh wasn’t as good as last week but that didn’t mean that she was bad. Anton du Beke, real name Tony Beak, pushed Jerry Hall around like a sparkling mop and actress Lisa Riley, who topped the leader board last week, led partner Robin beautifully.

Back now to Tess, who reminded Bruce to remind us, that the “dreaded dance-off” was back. Now this means that the bottom two couples must dance again to stay in the competition. It also means pretending that everyone sits around in the studio overnight until someone turns the lights back on at 6.50pm on Sunday. No couple wants to dance the dance of shame, but this week it fell to Johnny Ball and Richard Arnold. Remember they were “dancin’ for survival.” Cue the long dramatic pause: “Only the judges can save you now!” but Johnny’s number was up.