This week it’s a Saturday night special with two BBC shows returning plus a very odd new series for ITV2.
So what of the new Strictly? Well very different in a lot of respects. Firstly the Friday-Saturday concept which is happening for two weeks has a group of eight of the celebrity contestants compete twice on Friday was the ballroom and on Saturday was the Latin. This meant those of you waiting to see Tuffers, Ronnie Wood’s ex or Calvin from Hollyoaks would have to be satisfied by a mediocre group dance at the end of Friday’s show. Anyway apart from the changes in the shows there was another major change at that was in the judging panel. Of course by now most people will know that pretty but dull Alesha Dixon has replaced experienced 60-something choreographer and former dancer Arlene Phillips. This gave us cries of sexism and ageism but in my opinion if they were going to replace Arlene, replace her with someone with experience throughout her first two shows, Alesha looked unsure and was rumoured to be asking Bruno how to mark each couple. Judging panel changes have worked on The X-Factor but although some people to watch both shows, Strictly attracts an older fanbase who would rather watch experienced experts judging rather than pretty young things (this is what Nation’s Sweetheart Cheryl Cole gets away with on The X-Factor). Speaking about The X-Factor, the Beeb also alienated some of its viewers who enjoy watching both shows of a Saturday night (I include myself in that category) as The X-Factor started after Strictly had already commenced a lot of people switched over half way through. This clash needs to end soon and if Lord Cowell has anything to do with it he will be able to move something, for Gods sake he moved the news so a 10 year old girl could have another go at singing after breaking down in front of a large audience.
How did the randomly selected eight contestants perform? Well first off the bat was former Crimewatch copper Rav Wilding who performed a weird mobster like tango with his partner who was new to the show and has an unpronounceable name. Rav did not fare well. My favourite to fall out at this early stage was BBC Breakfast presenter Chris Hollins but he proved himself to be veyr technically sound on the dancefloor. Ricky ‘Gary from Eastenders‘ Groves was very unanimated in his ballroom but gave us much more of the Gary magic in his Latin and I think that’s what got him through to the next round. Sportswomen were also well represented by long jumper Jade Johnson who performed with Ian Waite who often gets the tallest contestants they were good enough to sail through to the next round while Aleesha’s ex-partner Matthew Cutler and tennis star Martina Hingis also performed well on Friday’s show. Oxo mum Lynda Bellingham then scared everyone silly with an awful look during her tango with Darren Bennett and then had more fun with her ballroom. The best and the last were saved for the final two, firstly Becca from Hollyoaks – Ali Bastian danced beautifully with baby-faced American Brian Fortuna who has been paired with a proper partner after teaming up with Heather Smalls last year and looking like he’d been forced to take his mum’s friend out. Meanwhile Bookie’s favourite Joe Calzaghe. who was paired with John Sergeant’s former partner Kristina, danced a rather rigid tango and not a particularly pretty latin. Suddenly he wasn’t bookie’s favourite.
But just like Kristina’s run with Sergeant last year, it was on public votes alone that saved the bottom couple from going home. Instead Rav, who was second from bottom, wasn’t saved by the public. I reckoned that Lynda Bellingham would join Rav in the bottom two but instead it was fourth placed Hingis. Rather unfairly Hingis was voted off after Len Goodman’s casting vote saved Rav. This is a shame for Matthew Cutler who has had a couple of good years. This is also shows another hole in the voting scheme. Why should Len get a casting vote? Maybe instead of replacing Arlene they should’ve just gone down to three judges. It works in America, just because they have four judges on X-Factor doesn’t mean Strictly has to have them too. And if the vote is split like it was on Saturday why not see who got the most public votes out of Martina and Rav, surely that would be fairer than saying that Len matters more than everyone else. I think in its changing of the judging panel and its short-sightedness in booking Strictly directly up against X-Factor plus a particularly weak line-up meant that it didn’t have the spark than it has in past year. The Friday show was a bit of mistake as Friday TV isn’t a place for event TV like Strictly. It belongs on Saturday and Saturday alone and after this week that’s where it will be.
Part of the reason for The X-Factor/Strictly clash was so Merlin could be on earlier. Last year Merlin was on after Strictly and allegedly there were complaints that kids couldn’t stay up to watch the family drama. The simple answer would be to bump everything up an hour early so the Merlin/Strictly time finished at 8 in time for X-Factor. Anyway it is now Merlin’s second season so you would think the show would have moved on from the ancient magic appearing in Camelot and Merlin secretly having to save the day formula? Well you would be wrong, in a if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it opener Mackenzie Crook appeared as a jewel thief who muscled his way into Merlin’s boots so he could steal a key from Arthur to get a precious jewel. However the jewel turned out to be some evil spirit which turned Crook slightly evil and gave him a slightly darker shade of hair and then tried to kill as much of Camelot as possible in order to try and get to the awful Uther played by Anthony Head. All in all an average episode we were given a glimpse of things to come in order to finally advance the story. There were some sexual tension between Arthur and Gwen, after a series of Gwen and Merlin skirting around each other it was about time. Meanwhile Morgana, who may turn evil this season, was having more magical nightmares and Richard Wilson ‘Could not Believe it’. I still have hopes for Merlin, after all with Robin Hood and Primeval gone it is the only non-Doc Who family drama around at the mo.
Finally in this week’s cavalcade of returns we have one new show, appearing on ITV2 this was Trinity. This was an odd show featuring an elitist college where the old boys were desperately trying to hang onto tradition in the wake of new rules and new students. The snobbish pack named the Dandelion club were headed up by Christian Cooke who’s career choices have so far included Echo Beach and Demons so fingers crossed for this show he is basically seen shagging his way through most of the episode that is if he’s not embarrassing stoners or yelling at Charles Dance for letting commoners in. The commoners are represented by Reggie Yates (trying to pass himself off as a college student even though he is blatantly about 35) and some Welsh bint. Although this had hints of a comedy about outdated institutions there was something more sinister about Trinity College. This was introduced through a Catholic girl whose father, a vicar, had attended the college and something had happened to him which meant he never wanted to return and the beginning of the first episode sees his death. The seeds of conspiracy are then sown by his ex-classmates who are conveniently now both working at the college and played by the guy with the slightly grey hair from Coupling and the mum from Outnumbered. This conspiracy element was built upon at the end of the episode by some science nerd and headmaster Charles Dance as they spoke about test subjects to someone woman on a computer screen. At the moment Trinity has too many strands and can’t decide what it wants to be. Flinching from college comedy to sinister thriller to class commentary I can’t really decide what to make of it. Most of the characters are painted with a pretty broad brush and apart from the acting from the adult members of the cast the performances leave a lot to be desired especially from Yates and Cooke’s upper class snobs. I may persist with this one though because although its cheesy it has enough of a hook to lure me back in to see if I was wrong or not on the quality of the show.
Next Time: Electric Dreams, School of Comedy and Benidorm