To See You - Nice!
So it’s back again. That show which cheekily took its name from the Strictly blog. With a new set, a new format, and a cull of several of the most popular pro dancers.
But some things never change: Brucie’s back – albeit only for the Saturday show – and Tess towers over him as ever, resplendent in aqua. The four judges -Bruno ‘Hyper’ Tonioli, Len ‘The Charm’ Goodman, Alesha ‘Extensions’ Dixon and Craig ‘Char-char-char, dahling’ Revel Horwood - are ready with sharp eyes, tongues and nails, poised to pounce on any mistakes (rather as the sadly-missed Arlene Phillips used to pounce on the hunky male dancers).
And where would the show be without its contestants? This year’s haul includes Pamela Stephenson (self-styled Hollywood sex psychotherapist and wife of Billy Connolly), the ubiquitous magician Paul ‘Not A Lot’ Daniels , the actor Felicity ‘Good Life’ Kendal, Peter ‘Hand of God’ Shilton and Patsy ‘Oasis’ Kensit.
And then there’s Ann Widdecombe.
Yes, the politician. The pocket rocket. Diminutive of stature, giant of mouth. Writer of four novels, participant in Celebrity Fit Club and changer of image extraordinaire. Who, you might ask, would be a worthy partner for Ann?
Enter Anton du Beke. Born Anthony Beke. Shares Brucie’s humour – and, unfortunately, his profile. Oldest dancer in the show. Dances the foxtrot like Fred Astaire, and the latin like, er, someone who hates latin dancing.
Already, Ann and Anton are generating more column inches than any of the other more glamorous couplings. Already, Ann’s refused to dance a particular move in the group dance, because she considers it improper. She has banned any clothing that might be considered 'immodest' and has refused the use of fake tan. Stately as a galleon, she will sail through the opening round of the competition purely on the basis of her wry wit and her X factor. Eccentricity factor, that is.
Not for me the size zero soapstar beauties with their chest-waxed, spray-tanned partners. For pure entertainment, give me the Ann Widdecombes, the John Sergeants, the Julian Clarys of this world. Which leads me to think about character, and odd couples in fiction. Eccentricity, for me, is the defining factor. I’d rather remember a character for her rapier wit, her difference from the crowd, than for her beauty and grace. Jo in Little Women was always more interesting to me than Amy or Beth, just as Katherine Hepburn was infinitely more entertaining than Marilyn Monroe.
And when you couple them up, you really start cooking on gas. Who cares about Romeo and Juliet when you can have Othello and Desdemona? Where’s the charm of Cinderella and her Prince, set against the darker enticement of Beauty and The Beast? Jane Eyre and Rochester beat Catherine and Heathcliff hands down, in my opinion, just as Homer and Marge Simpson tower above Fred and Wilma Flintstone and Bill and Ben fade into insignificance against Kermit and Miss Piggy. And Tom and Barbara Goode (sorry, Felicity) were pygmies compared with Basil and Sybil Fawlty.
The defining thing about eccentric couples seems to come down to conflict. Nicey-nice couples do not great literature make. Whilst in real life, being of one mind may be the stuff of golden wedding aniversaries, in fiction it’s the differences that make the reader read on – even if it’s just to see whether they’re ever resolved.
So dance your heart out, Ann and Anton, and ignore the barbs. Because one thing’s for sure: it’ll be you that the nation remembers, long after the spray tan’s faded and the glitterball’s twinkled its last.