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I TALK Strictly Come Dancing (Series 14)

Last night, I was invited down to Elstree to be in the audience for Saturday night’s most-watched television programme, Strictly Come Dancing.

It might only be week 4 but already this year’s series has given us plenty to talk about. Especially when it comes to the dance-off.

Anastacia was unable to perform in the first dance-off of the series due to injury so the couple to go home was decided entirely by the public, meaning that it was time to say goodbye to Melvin Odoom as he received the lowest number of votes on the night.

And last week the dance-off drama continues as Tameka Empson became the second celebrity to leave the competition after finding herself in a shock dance-off with Laura Whitmore.

Neither Tameka nor Laura deserved to go home with plenty of couples scoring lower than them on the leaderboard.

But of course as we all know, they only make up 50% of the votes, so there must have been some sort of disconnect between them and the audience at home. Either that or people assumed they would be safe and therefore didn’t bother voting. I’m guessing it’s the latter as most people on Twitter were outraged at the result.

Away from the dance-off, we have to talk about Will Young. Following a rather heated discussion with Len on last week’s show, Will decided on Tuesday that “due to personal reasons” he will no longer be taking part in the competition. Whether the two are related or not, we don’t know.

The BBC are saying that it isn’t, but then they’re unlikely to say that it is, aren’t they? There are also rumours of a rift between him and Karen Clifton, his dancing partner on the show.

As if that wasn’t enough, in week two, when Bruno wanted to disagree with Craig, the only words he could find were “Bollocks, bollocks” forcing Tess to apologise for the somewhat fruity language.

Putting all that aside, or indeed taking it all into account, this year’s series of Strictly Come Dancing is probably the best yet. Ratings have continued to grow week on week. The first Saturday night show was watched by 8.6 million, week two by 9.2 million, last week by 9.6 million and last night ratings rose AGAIN to 9.8 million.

It’s the sort of numbers that shows like The X Factor and The Voice UK can only dream of. Not bad for a series that in its fourteenth series.

Before I launch into talking about my top 4, I have to talk about Ed Balls. Whilst not in my top four, he’s definitely number five. What I love about him is that he’s really throwing himself into the Strictly experience and seemingly loving every minute. He also seems like a genuinely nice guy, so you can’t help but wish him well.

Last night, together with his dance partner and Strictly newcomer Katya Jones, Ed danced the paso doble to Holding Out For A Hero by Bonnie Tyler. The judges scored him a rather low 16 points out of a possible 40 (one day Ed, one day) placing him bottom on the leaderboard. This is my third year coming down to the live shows and I don’t think I’ve ever smiled so much through a performance as I did through Ed’s paso doble.

Now onto my top four. Every year the standard gets higher and higher and whilst I normally have one or two winners at this stage, this year I have four; Daisy Lowe, Danny Mac, Louise Redknapp and Ore Oduba.

So how did they do this week? Well one of them did INCREDIBLY well, but more of that later.

Daisy Lowe and her partner Aljaž Skorjanec danced a beautiful rumba to Careless Whisper by George Michael.

Len loved the little things about her dance, Bruno admitted that he was “panting to the point of turning” but Craig thought it lacked a bit of chemistry, which Darcey disagreed with whole heartedly. These comments resulted in the couple scoring 31 from the judges placing them joint forth on the leaderboard.

Danny Mac and his partner Oti Mabuse danced the quickstep to I Won’t Dance by Fred Astaire. Darcey described it as “one of the best classic quicksteps” that she’d ever seen! High praise indeed.

Despite criticising their start, Len was impressed with the rest of the routine and Bruno said it was “up there with Fred Astaire”. Craig simply added "Danny Mac you are on fire darling”. The routine was awarded 36 points, meaning the couple finished second on the leaderboard.

Louise Redknapp and her partner Kevin Clifton danced the foxtrot to Tears Dry On Their Own by Amy Winehouse. Craig praised her “fantastic sense of rhythm and musicality”, Darcey described Louise as a “natural dancer” but called on Kevin to push her so that she can show off more and Len was impressed with her “excellent footwork”. Bruno went slight left-field describing it as a “delicious soap opera set to music”. Make of that what you will!

Those comments culminated in a score of 33, placing the couple joint third on the leaderboard alongside Laura and Giovanni.

And finally, the last of my top four and the last to dance on the night was Ore Oduba and his partner Joanne Clifton.

In my three years of coming down to watch Strictly, I have never felt such an incredible atmosphere as the one when Ore and Joanne finished their routine. The standing ovation lasted longer than anyone else’s, the whooping and the cheering much louder and the stomping of the feet was something I had never experienced before at Strictly.

It certainly was a case of leaving the best to last as their sensational jive to Runaway Baby by Bruno Mars scored a near perfect score of 39.

That’s right, just one point away for a perfect 40. Craig opted for a 9, whilst Darcey, Len and Bruno each thought that his routine was worthy of their first 10 of the series, and I couldn’t agree with them more. Of course with such high scores comes the inevitable, but rather endearing Ore tears.

Ever since the launch show I remember seeing serious potential in Ore and boy have I been proven right. Rather than a week four dance, his jive definitely felt like a performance from the final, and unless he pulls something sensational out of the bag, I think we can expect to see this jive again in this year's final because let’s be honest, there’s no way Ore isn’t going to be there.

Will he manage to go all the way and win? I really hope so, but of course it is only week four and as we know, and as we have seen first hand this year if people don’t vote (for whatever reason) you could find yourself in the bottom two and almost on your way out of the competition.

With only three places up for grabs now in the final instead of the usual four (due to Will Young’s departure), it’s really difficult to predict who those places will go to. If I was a betting man I’d be confident placing a bet on Ore and Danny reaching the final, but then I wouldn’t want to have to choose between Daisy and Louise.

Elsewhere on the leaderboard, joining Ed Balls at the bottom were Naga and Pasha with 24 points and Judge Rinder and Oksana with 27. I was rather pleased to see Lesley Joseph and Anton Du Beke scoring 31 points, the exact same mark as Daisy Lowe, making them joint fourth. Could this be a second year in a row for Anton in the final? We’ll have to wait and see.

In case you didn’t know, they record the Sunday night results show a short time after Saturday night’s main show. This is why the voting window is so short and why very often spoilers leak out, something  This is because of people who attend the record and can’t keep the result to themselves for just under 24 hours.

I of course was down at Elstree last night so I can reveal that the third person to leave Strictly Come Dancing this year was... Oh come on! You didn’t think I’d spoil it did you? There’s no fun in that.

What I can say though is that there’s a great performance by Madness of their new single Mr. Apples as well as one of the best group dances I’ve ever seen on Strictly which is a tribute to the late great James Brown.

Strictly Come Dancing continues Saturday and Sundays on BBC One


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