When RadioTimes.com’s roving reporters were offered the chance to indulge in the fantasy of housewives up and down the country, we grabbed the opportunity with both hands. No, we’re not talking about an evening alone with Colin Firth, silly. Mr Darcy was the last thing on our minds as we made the trip to BBC’s soon-to-be-abandoned Television Centre – and the blinged up Studio One – for a spot of ballroom dancing.
Bubbling with excitement at the prospect of Brucie’s one-liners, Craig’s quiff and Artem’s rippled torso, we bounced our way past the cameras and eagerly settled down into our seats by the stage for an evening of Strictly Come Dancing.
But first the warm up act – and no we’re not talking some washed up comedian, hastily recruited to rouse the impatient masses. We got Brucie. Yup, 84-year-old Mr Forsyth proved what a consummate professional he truly is by taking to the floor to the delight of us and those around us. Admittedly his famed tap-dancing routine was done in a seated position (we decided, this one time, to cut him some slack), but his lyrical turn on the mic as he sang to the waiting crowd put paid to any questions of his on-screen capability. The man is as sharp as Craig’s cutting criticism.
After a few lessons in the etiquette of applause (and the promise that if it’s good enough, the recording will be sold on to The X Factor…), the judges – suited and booted in their black tie finery – made their way on-stage, and then it began…
On came the contestants with the obligatory effusion of sequins and sparkles, all set off by the gigantic glitterball suspended precariously above our heads. As the contestants stood anxiously waiting to perform their salsas and sambas, Artem’s six-pack was but an arm’s length away. Jealous yet?
One by one the nervous couples made their way to the dance floor to perform their routines: Louis and Flavia’s samba sizzled, Denise and Ian’s Viennese Waltz brought tears to our eyes and, thanks to some well-aimed booty shaking in the direction of one Len Goodman, we witnessed the return of nimble Kimble.
The judges were on typically good form – Bruno was leaping out of his seat at every given opportunity, Craig was (for once) rendered speechless by Artem’s bulging muscles – yes, we are mentioning them again – while Len dubbed Richard Arnold “The Plodfather” following his haphazard foxtrot. And Darcey Bussell pulled off the shock of the night by withdrawing her unrelenting support of gymnast Louis.
And before we knew it, the lines were opened and the live show came to a close. Brucie said his goodbyes, the judges were ushered off-stage, the contestants returned to their dressing rooms and the audience were entertained by a compere sporting a glittery tie (in case it isn’t obvious, glitter is the obligatory dress code at Strictly Come Dancing).
Ahead of the pre-recorded results show, the waiting audience were offered the opportunity of a lifetime – the chance to dance on the famed Strictly dance floor. The catch? Participants had to take dance advice from the intermission’s master of ceremonies – a man who by the sounds of it had honed his moves in the dark corners of a dingy Watford nightclub. We’re ashamed to admit that as respectable RadioTimes.com correspondents, we declined the opportunity to demonstrate “the sprinkler” in front of the 300-strong crowd. We left that gig to the enthusiastic mams and nans seated amongst us.
Our patience was soon rewarded by the return of Craig, Bruno, Len and Darcey – swiftly transformed into Sunday night judging mode and accompanied by a chirpy Claudia Winkleman hobbling across the stage in her six inch heels. The male pro dancers delighted the (largely) female audience with their hip-gyrating performance to Elvis Presley’s Satisfaction before boyband The Wanted delivered an energetic rendition of their latest single surrounded by a legion of scantily clad females.
And then the results… Richard “Plodfather” Arnold to dance off against “gentle giant” Colin Salmon – sadly the latter’s gravity-defying high kicks were not enough to save him and he and partner Kristina Rihanoff took to the floor for their farewell performance.
The credits ran, the cameras stopped rolling, the lights went up, and the contestants, presenters and judges rallied round the departing couple to offer their condolences.
What is so endearing about the Strictly experience is the obvious camaraderie between judges, crew and contestants. Every dancing couple are watched and congratulated by their competitors, good luck messages are swapped, hugs are exchanged, commiserations are offered. The easy entertainment of the dance contest is a direct translation of the lack of backstage dramatics – none of the forced X Factor fireworks found over on ITV. Audiences are encouraged rather than forced to applaud, the judges laugh amiably amongst themselves – Darcey even affectionately pats Craig’s hair-sprayed quiff.
But it couldn’t last forever, and at 10:30pm we reluctantly departed Studio One and Television Centre – sad to leave behind the camp bling after five hours of non-stop entertainment. Our evening of mahogany spray tans and feathered showgirls had come to an end…