2017 Christmas special
Broadcast 25 December
Hello, and Merry Christmas! Last year, we reached the no dear (this was meant to be nadir but either works, let's face it) of the Strictly Christmas specials and poor old Steve had to suffer his way through recapping that, so this year it’s my turn and at least we are not going to be in the situation where the first boot from the current cast is voted through because all their mates in the audience-although that’s not to say this thing can’t still be won by, say, Robbie Savage if he bribed them all beforehand. Still, we have mulled wine, mince pies and the promise of a Katie Derham and Brendan Cole partnership to look forward to, so let’s raise our glasses and watch a bunch of former contestants attempt to dance once more!
Cue the festive credits-this year featuring robins unwrapping a glitter ball and skating on CGI ice, leading us into our opening routine. Normally these have a whimsical storyline of some sort, but this year has a very distinct feel of 'will this do' about it? The whole story is that Karen Clifton is running to a big mansion house because she is late and the other pros welcome her in to watch a bunch of choirboys sinisterly singing tick-tock tick-tock tick-tock over and over again whilst the pros waltz around. How sinister. It soon turns into 'Carol of the Bells', the most serial killer-esque of the Christmas songs. Then we see which celebrities will be the victims of our sadistic professionals/judges. Kimberley Walsh is first, getting a solo caption, then Jeremy Vine and Robbie Savage have to share one. The choir’s song turns to 'We Wish you a Merry Christmas' as Katie gets her own solo caption. Judy Murray and Colin Jackson have to share one-so a working theory I had that only finalists got a solo caption has already been blown out of the water.
As to this casting then - Robbie Savage would not be my preferred choice of celebrity to revisit, and if we must have comedy contestants I guess Judy and Jeremy are fine, but the other three I’m quite looking forward to revisiting, so overall I'm not mad at this mix. Also: obligatory #poorchloe mention for not getting even a Christmas celeb.
Tess and Claudia enter on the arms of Giovanni and Aljaž for a festive change. Daly dress watch: Bright blue with silver trim-not especially festive, but quite nice. What Winkleman’s wearing: a sparkly red dress. They both look pretty good so well done wardrobe (spoiler alert: the couples fare less well).
Time to welcome the judges and see how much festive sherry Shirley has imbibed and whether or not she can make her mark. Darcey enters in white, Bruno in glittery red like a Christmas bauble, Craig in green velour, and Shirley in a huge red dress that looks like she’s ready for festive paso. She does, you’ll be relieved to hear, just about make her mark and then brings Darcey in for an embrace.
The celebrities and pros enter and by God what turn assortment of outfits we have on display. We'll come to them in more detail as we get to each pair, but Vicky Gill’s minions have clearly been working overtime at exacting their revenge for backstage crimes presumably committed by several of these people that I would very much like to hear about. They are described thus: 'football-something I can’t make out and I’ve rewound it several times. I'd assume 'pundit' but it doesn’t quite sound like that?' - Robbie Savage and his partner Dianne Buswell; 'tennis coach' Judy Murray with Neil Jones; 'Olympian and broadcaster' Colin Jackson with Amy Dowden; 'journalist and broadcaster' Jeremy Vine with Karen Clifton; 'BBC Proms and Radio Three presenter' Katie Derham with Brendan Cole and finally 'entertainer and popstar' Kimberley Walsh with Pasha Kovalev.
Robbie and Dianne are first. Apparently their routine is set in the 1940s, which is quite a leap from what they’re wearing, which looks like they’ve had a runaround in Helena Bonham Carter’s offcut box. They're in dark greys and blacks accented with plums, reds and violets - but it’s less the colour combination and more the fact that they’re wearing a mismatch of fabrics and patterns. I guess the 40s were a time of austerity so perhaps this is a bizarre homage to that (like I’m looking for logic in Strictly Christmas special, this is not going to end well for me, is it?)
Their VT reminds us that he somehow made to the quarter-finals in series 9 despite not being very good. They have also given him the most deeply unflattering shade of fake tan that makes his skin appear a light tangerine shade reminiscent of Trump, which is surely not the best way to go about making him seem endearing towards the viewing public. Apparently the storyline for their dance will be Dianne waiting at home for her husband (presumably who has gone to war but this is not stated) and he comes home and it’s a Christmas miracle. So, basically the Doctor Who Christmas special from a few years ago but without Matt Smith or Claire Skinner trying to at least put some likeability into all the schmaltz so really what is the point?
They are dancing what is ostensibly an American smooth to 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)' and Dianne’s onstage home is rather elaborate for austerity 1940s Britain-with a humongous Christmas tree festooned with lights and decorations and a giant enormous patterned rug (albeit one projected by the lights). Clearly this is the 1% we're talking about, not your ordinary family. Robbie turns up, looking very un-soldier -like, and the concept breaks apart even further when he chooses to channel John Travolta in Saturday night Fever so much of the dance-seriously, when he is in standing position, he is totally pulling disco frame. In hold, it’s a little less awkward-and his face is giving it all 'dad who’s had a few too many sherries', which is at least the normal vibe of the Christmas special, I guess. As you might expect, Dianne is doing much of the work here-it’s full of lifts and kicks and it’s about as smooth as his stubble, but I guess kind of better than I was expecting? Ish? Beats treadmills in honour of our war dead anyway.
In the audience we see several of this year’s celebrities whilst this year’s pros have been allowed up to the Clauditorium, yes, even #poorchloe. We welcome the singers-the classic combination of Hayley, Lance, Andrea and Tommy. Tess says six years ago the American smooth was Robbie’s highest scoring dance and asks if he still has it.
Shirley says it was a glorious way to open the show and it’s very difficult to do lifts and she was extremely impressed, plus he is 'dashingly handsome'. Bruno says it was like a great big Christmas turkey-what like those rancid ones they served in Tesco, nice year for that analogy. Oh no, wait, because 'it was full of meat and crunchy bits'. Pretty sure you're not meant to eat the bones, Bruno, but I salute your commitment to the war on waste. Craig says he is still as stiff as he was six years ago (fnar) and that his hands were doing really odd things but he is pleasant on the eye and he loved all the lifts although 'there should only be three, not 23'. He’s decided to overlook this one though, because it’s not Debbie McGee and because Christmas isn't canon. (Newly Damed, congrats etc) Darcey says there was so much in there to love. She’s also wearing a really glittery star-shaped fake tattoo, such a rebel this year.
The studio audience are going crazy, but it’s full of this year’s cast who are presumably tanked up, so we probably don’t need to read too much into that.
In the Clauditorium, we learn that Robbie was nervous and that one year he was supposed to cut the Christmas turkey and forgot to turn the oven on. Ho ho ho. Scores: seven, eight, eight, eight for a total of 31.
It’s now time for Claudia’s comedy corner to make a Christmas detour via the medium of a sack of fake letters she gets Robbie to read out including one asking for a 'choo choo train' from Bruno. That has been so clearly sanitised for the daytime audience, hasn’t it?
We cut to Tess and our ghosts of Christmas specials future a.k.a. this year’s cast, and she has a meagre amount of Judy's famous shortbread to share between them, which Brian is all over. Karen Clifton, however, is out of reach, how mean.
Judy Murray now, who is partnered with Neil and she says 'he’s been part of "the Strictly family" for some time now so that’s great' and don't tell me that isn't shade happening right there. Anyway, she had a charleston last time and it went terribly wrong and now she has a Charleston again so she’s just going to take the paycheque and the complimentary drinks and enjoy herself. I mean, sorry, 'it’s going to be a Christmas cracker'. Apparently they’re going to be playing toys in their dance which suggests that Neil has just stolen his wife’s Charleston routine from the series proper. They manage to get a swivel in, but the rest of their training footage looks poor so they stuck it off and go to the Glasgow Children’s Hospital to give out presents to the kids. The presents look underwhelming even by BBC budget standards (a 'big hug mug', an anonymous brand stationery/toy combo that looks like the kind of thing you get from The Works) and the best bit is when one of the sassy teenagers laughs 'good luck Neil and Judy' as she watches them dance.
If you thought Robbie and Dianne had fairly unattractive costumes, they're are about to be made to look like haute couture. Judy is dressed in what looks to be an old school shirt shredded a bit on the last day of term, with a skirt made from cutup tissue paper and make up that likes her look like a pantomime dame/witch/lunatic. She winds up a jack-in-the-box, and Neil jumps out, in a white shirt, with red trousers and braces and clown make-up - and I feel like they got the wrong memo about theme weeks - Halloween was in October, you guys. They are dancing to 'Let’s misbehave' (festive) and it’s every bit as uncomfortable as you would expect. Neil is hamming it up to the heavens but Judy takes a while to look like she's into it -indeed, the part where she only really seems at home is a move where she Neil on the arse, which is very telling, poor Andy and Jamie. It’s kind of fun, I guess, but very slow and laboured and half the time Judy forgets to do the actual steps - so, much like the majority of her time on the series last time out. There’s even a tribute to Gemma's Samba where she appears to fall asleep halfway through and then Neil somersaults over her. The end. We cut to Aston Merrygold wondering how Judy lasted longer than the competition than he did.
Bruno says what actually happened to Judy Murray? She can almost dance! And 'she took those balls and flung them in the air'. Never change Bruno, you minx, never change. Craig says he can officially announce that she swivelled. (Well, about once). He says there was a fun story and it was probably the best she ever danced. Darcey says she loves the cheeky Judy and it was bouncy and springy in her feet did what they were supposed to. Some of the time. Shirley says she loves Christmas Charlestons and Judy is made from sugar and spice and all things nice, she liked that there weren't many mistakes and she thinks Judy and Neil have nice chemistry. #pooranton
In the Clauditorium, Claudia notes that the judges, aren't being mean like they used to be. Oh, the magic of Christmas. In the background, Katya is wearing a scarf made of tinsel and trying to pull focus as much as possible. Scores: seven, eight, eight, eight for a total of 31. Claudia says her highest score on the show was 24 - but 31 and Christmas is worth about 22 in real money so don't enjoy that too much, Jude… Claudia offers Judy a present-what appears to be a wrapped-up tennis racket. What's the betting they asked Judy to bring one in just for the purposes of that gag rather than wasting a fiver popping down to Decathlon?
Colin and Amy now and Colin has the honour of being the only contestant not Christmasified. He’s wearing your standard bloke Latin outfit and doesn’t even have sparkly make up. He says he’s been away from dancing longer than anyone else and he's slightly anxious. He, also has skin that looks uncomfortably orange so maybe it’s the lighting rather than just the fake tan and make up? Their VT reminds us that they are the first fully Welsh team and Amy saying she’s watched the show every single Christmas that she was a little girl. Strictly started when I was in my mid-20s so let's just gloss over that little announcement, shall we? They go out to Cardiff's Christmas market and look at some lights. I’m wondering if Robbie Savage is the only one who hasn’t got to do something Christmassy his VT and I’m feeling marginally sorry for him. Colin and Amy turn on the Christmas lights... on a Ferris wheel and then go and sit on there by themselves and look fucking freezing.
To the dancefloor! They are dancing the rumba to 'Run' and there is a vague nod to Christmas by adding some sleigh bells into the arrangement and having some stars in the background. It’s bloke rumba by numbers - and it's camp as tits, and I say this knowing he was previously partnered with Erin so that's going some - I’m guessing he's really enjoying his newly found out status, so fair play to him. In places you can still see some of the technique he had that got him to the final all those years ago, but it’s definitely rusty, with lots of elements of awkwardness and some stumbling around in there as well. Still, it gets the full firework curtain treatment as if it were the pimp slot performance. It gets a standing ovation and Katya Jones blowing one of those party hooters at him.
Craig says it was 'absolutely brilliant' with some fantastic, lovely hip action and he loves the weirdness of Collins hands as all the judges demonstrate. Darcey says he has wonderful phrasing, sweet accents and she loved his physicality and how he pushes through the floor with his legs, with his expressive arms finishing every line. Tess tells us that Shirley has the rumba as her favourite dance, such a random goddess, and Shirley says if she could wrap any rumba to put under her Christmas tree it would be this one. Shirley wraps her own presents? Guys I think we all need to club together to buy her something next year, because that makes me sad. That, or pass-agg tweet Mark Ballas to tell him to treat his mama better. She says she loved his good cucarachas, sliding doors, lifts and sidesteps-it had so many goodies in it and he wrapped it perfectly. In the audience, we cut to Jonnie Peacock and Gemma spotting opportunities for future high scores in Christmas-specials-to-come by doing just what they did on the main series albeit slightly worse. Bruno says it was hotter than Christmas in the tropics and he loved it.
In the Clauditorium, we are reminded it was 12 years ago since Colin did the show, Aljaž plays with Kimberley’s antlers, and Oti is wearing some truly terrible make up, but I guess Lisa "has things on her mind" at the moment, so.... Scores: nine, nine, nine, nine for a total of 36. My favourite part is Colin saying 'I’ll take a nine from Craig', then getting a nine from Darcy and saying again, 'I’ll take a nine from Craig'.
Coming up: Jeremy Vine says quickstep is often just people running around the room and it’s made for people who can’t dance.
He is dressed in a golden/amber outfit with horrible glitter all the way around his hairline. I haven’t got the faintest clue what he’s supposed to be other than a creature from our nightmares.
Yet another Claudia comedy moment now-something to do with her putting all the Christmas lights into the mains, pulling a switch and sending the studio into darkness.
Jeremy’s VT says he went out on the quickstep before, so he’s up for doing it again-those watching the VT faces - yet another orange one. Their rehearsal footage is camp as all hell, with both he and Karen pulling goofy faces. Their Christmas moment? Him taking Karen home so that she and his daughter can do his Christmas decorations for him #everydaysexism. Karen eats all the chocolate Christmas decorations because KAREN LOVE FOOD and, for some reason, Jeremy Vine’s Christmas tree apparently lives right in the middle of the floor of his living room which I’m sure is where he puts it all year round and not just for VT purposes. There is a cute spot of a dancing shoe ornament and a star that's had '10' marker penned onto it though, so points for that, VT monkeys.
The dance opens with him sitting on a star suspended in the air above the tree, it looks very very flimsy, even by the standards of floating props on this show. And I realise his gold is meant to represent him being the star... which would have worked better if the star prop wasn't silver. They are dancing to 'All I Want for Christmas is You', only the music has been turned into one of those Puppini sisterr type jazzy interpretations which is so twee it's making my teeth itch. As for the dancing, his posture is completely awful-but he’s almost trying to play that up for comedy purposes. His footwork is quite stumpy and static, although Karen’s doing her level best to pull focus where possible. The music is so fucking grating and the singing really high-pitched and twee and I’m sorry I just can’t. *Presses mute*.
Jeremy tells Tess that he never got to fly when he was on the show and he did now. His voice suggests that he perhaps regrets all that moaning he did about having gone out before doing that entrance before. Darcey says he did well not to get his long legs tangled around each other and she really liked the first lift he did. Shirley says he's what Christmas is about- and he's like a caramel treat in that suit and then she tarts laughing uncontrollably. Bruno says there were some stumbles but it doesn’t matter because it’s Christmas. Craig says all he wants for Christmas is to never see that dance again and it did look like he'd been on the mulled wine but he did his best.
In the Clauditorium, Jeremy points out he also has gold shoes on and we don’t cut to such shoes. Those camera people aren’t deviating from their standard cue list for anyone, Vine. Jeremy praises Karen’s patience and she says she has quite a lot of it. She really sounds like she means that as well. Scores: two, at which Darcey pushes Craig and tells him he can’t say that at Christmas, so he reaches under the desk and pulls out the seven. I genuinely laughed really loudly at that part. Then he gets three eights for a total of 31. The Clauditorium go wild at the score of 31 and Claudia can’t control her laughing. There's another comedy moment in which Jeremy retrieves a burnt turkey from the oven. Nadiya looks incredibly invested in this as if it were her real turkey. As ever, the brief insights we get into Nadiya’s childhood are fascinating and I demand a lifetime movie be made of them some day please.
Katie and Brendan now, and whilst they’re dressed in fairly classic ballroom attire, their faces are covered in crazy amounts of snow make-up and glitter and their hair all sprayed grey - I guess to be a kind of Jack Frost and his wife kind of thing? Unless it's just to remind us that they ARE OLD? Katie’s VT says one of her favourite things about Christmas is 'when we actually get a white Christmas' - so once every 15 years or so? Katie must have some really tough Christmases in her past. Their VT involves Brendan taking her to a room full of artificial snow. And I thought they'd treated Robbie badly.
They are dancing a Viennese waltz to a jazzy version of 'White Christmas' and it opens with them as the figures in a snow globe, which is quite cute. They then descend into more dry ice than you can imagine, and start dancing. The music arrangement is even more irritating than Jeremy's - there’s A LOT of scatting going on with has absolutely no place in this song and it just sounds fucking rubbish. Which is a shame, because the dancing is actually really nice-romantic, smooth and, best of all, Katie has her drunk face on the whole time and is laughing throughout rather than bothering with getting into character (other than the character of Drunk Durham) what a goddess. We cut to Aljaž
and Janette realising they're on camera and pulling of cracker and blowing a party horn.
Tess reminds us the last time Katie did a Viennese waltz, she topped the leaderboard. It's still weird to ever think of Anton Du Beke and the phrase 'top of the leaderboard' isn't it? Shirley says Katie is really easy on the eye and has a real regal look about her and it was beautiful. Katie points out her make up. Bruno says she’s the queen of the Christmas dream, waltzing about like a snowflake in a winter wonderland and it was extremely classy, so beautiful and very very elegant. In the auditorium, we cut to Debbie McGee judging harshly. Craig says she still has some trouble with her spotting, but it was elegant and he loved the amount of rotation and it was gorgeous. Darcey says she has the most glittering topline and it was beautiful all the way through and she says that Katie gives 'really sparkling lines'. I’m not quite sure how a line can sparkle but that’s Christmas metaphor for you.
So we only have one couple left and somehow we still have nearly half an hour to go-I can’t wait to see all the filler coming up. In the Clauditorium, Katie loves the Viennese waltz and Brendan loves the intensity between them. Scores: nine, nine, 10, nine for a total of 37. My favourite bits of her reaction? Going 'I never got a nine ever from Craig' and then looking marginally disappointed when Shirley's ten is only followed by a Bruno nine.
The final couple of the evening are Pasha and Kimberley- cued in by Tess and five of the audience wearing some flashing red noses to be Rudolf because that’s who Kimberley and Pasha are playing-reindeer. Kimberley’s VT features Bruno looking remarkably young considering she wasn’t on the show that many years ago and Kimberley not being sure about the theme of their dance being jiving reindeer. Although she calls them 'reindeers'. She brings her eldest child, Bobby, to the dance studio so he can run around chasing her and Pasha. Pasha then takes her and the children to meet Mrs Claus and two reindeer - Prancer and Dancer, see what they did there - and Bobby feeds the reindeer in order to suck up some of the ovary vote. Kimberley says all she’s asked Santa for this year is one ten from the judges-surely he can manage that. Given it's a Strictly Christmas special and you're on last, I’d say there was a pretty good chance, yes.
Their dance opens with a comedy Santa saying 'time to load the sleigh, five minutes to takeoff'. They're both wearing red noses, so no idea who is meant to be Rudolph. Pasha is wearing a cuddly reindeer suit and Kimberley a standard jive dress with reindeer make-up and antlers. The jive is to 'Run Run Rudolph', and, as with Colin, you can see here that she has got some natural ability, but is clearly suffering from a lack of practice. The dancing is rhythmic but fairly leaden in places, although she is hamming up the comedy and the performance pretty well. It’s also somewhat slow in execution even given the fairly fast background music. There’s a nice ending where she cartwheels across his back and then they stand and look cute in front of the sleigh, which is fun. We cut to the other pros, Kevin Clifton looks mightily disapproving and like he is so ready to smash the Christmas special this time next year with let’s face any of his partners probably.
Bruno calls it 'a real Christmas cracker of a jive' and says she was more like a gazelle than a reindeer-always on the right spot at the right time. What did reindeer do to Bruno can we have that story please. Craig calls it clean and precise and says he loved it. Tess says you know it’s Christmas when he uses the L Word. What, liquor? Lube? Darcey says it was a real celebration of the jive and she liked the compact, clean lifts and Father Christmas would make her his favourite reindeer, at which Pasha woobie faces. Shirley says they had enough reindeer dust to deliver. If you could just deposit it by Bruno's desk and he'll slip you the cash when Tess is talking, thanks.
In the Clauditorium, we're reminded that Kimberley wasn’t very excited about getting the jive after having five years off and two kids, but did you see who you got cast against Kimberley, of course you were going to get a fast one. Claudia says Pasha looks brilliant and he says 'that's the right thing, right?' Pasha humour remains as always a special beast. Scores: nine, 10, 10, 10 for a total of 39. And I appreciate we're within the realms of bullshit Christmas scoring, but no way was that better than Katie’s unless they were taking points off that one for the singing.
In the background, AJ and Oti apparently being friends who knew.
Christmas leaderboard time?
Kimberley and Pasha 39
Katie and Brendan 37
Colin and Amy 36
Robbie and Dianne 31
Judy and Neil 31
Jeremy and Karen 31
Bottom of the leaderboard pile-up! Father Christmas then comes on, all sub-Brian Blessed booming, and gets mauled by the cast, who shout all over Claudia’s links, He reminds us of the dances in the campest voice possible-bear in mind this is a show that has featured Colin Jackson and Bruno Tonioli. The recap takes almost as long as the show we’ve just seen so far. *Fast-forwards*.
Time now for a special guest performance from the Kaiser Chiefs a.k.a. yes they are still going who knew The Voice could reignite a career given how little it did for its contestants. They are, however, performing 'Merry Christmas Everyone', rather than one of their own. Ricky Wilson’s voice is not sounding at its best tonight unless Shakey is something that requires a surprisingly difficult range? Still, the drummer has a Christmas pudding frontage over his bass drum so that’s nice-I appreciate it. For some bizarre reason, we don’t get any pro dancing in front of this for ages. Eventually Oti and Anton (okay, sure) come out running around like crazy things in a kind of quickstep. Oti looks like she’s wearing a sweet wrapper and Anton is wearing a black sparkly jacket and the amount of sequin and glitz on the pair of them is quite blindingly distracting especially when they’re dancing so fast you can barely see what they’re doing. I’d love to know whether that was any good or not but it was kind of hard to tell. At least now I realise why the dancing didn’t happen until most of the way through the song. They come back on for a little floor spin then run away again to catch their breath they then reappeared to do some charlestoning around and fight with the fake snow falling from the roof, before going back into the quickstep and streamers fly everywhere as it finishes.
Time for our next bit of filler-some of the Strictly team are invited to a tea dance at Buckingham Palace, part of a campaign on behalf of the osteoporosis Society to get older people moving and Camilla, who is patron of the charity, tells Craig how important it is the people to move. Jeremy Vne engages in some conversation with a woman who says she loves the foxtrot and he tries to mime doing it 'is this what it looks like' and she says 'no'. Such an education the man has had on this show. My favourite guest? A woman who looks like Shirley’s mum - all decked out in flamenco-esque gear. Get her on the show more please. We also see the pros doing a dance where poor old Chloe is the only one without a partner so she has to run around watching everybody else dancing in hold. #poorchloe
Results time now. The winners? Katie and Brendan-and there’s something hilariously tragic about one of Anton’s former partners winning this in a rare year where he’s gone too far in the competition to be involved in the Christmas special-not least as he lost out to Brendan. Katie says she's stunned and Brendan doesn’t get to say anything, which is a weird change.
We then get another group routine, to 'Step into Christmas'-featuring Pasha as a glamorous wardrobe assistant and Kimberley trying out a sequinned jumpsuit; Robbie wearing tight red trousers with a tight blue top and black sparkly jacket, no hun, Jeremy in velour, Colin wearing black with a sparkly red jacket, Katie wearing a 60s style multicoloured sequin dress, and Judy getting the best frock of the lot in plum velvet, before cutting to the judges or pretending to play instruments: Bruno on the drums, Craig on the bass, Shirley on keys and Darcey on guitar. Nobody gets to be the lead singer how very PC. Everyone then does a combination of the jive and the conga and weirdly, the conga comes across worse. It then morphs into some sub-Hairspray dancing and just descends into the annual car crash that these usually turn into and wouldn't you be disappointed if they didn’t?
So a former finalist wins the Christmas special, order is kind of restored and that was a fairly entertaining Christmas special at least compared to last year so well done people.
Thank you all for reading with us this year, we hope you have a great Christmas season and a happy New Year and we will see you all sometime in the summer for series 16!