Author: David Archer
Published: 15:18 15/10/2012
Viewers of Strictly Come Dancing last weekend have been well rewarded with terrific entertainment ranging from the spectacularly good (Denise Van Outen, you were superb), to the not bad (Kimberly Walsh – you can do better), and descending to the pretty awful (Nicky Byrne – shame on you). The show averaged a whopping 9.9 million viewers, some 1.1 million more than ITV’s The X Factor which is lacking in oomph just now.
Week 2 of the show marks the start of real grind for the celebrity contestants who had only 5 days to prepare their dance routines, and who had to face the prospect of a dance-off if they performed poorly. The cumulative scores from week 1 and week 2 decided the relative positions of contestants, together with the public vote, and poor Johnny Ball suffered the ignominy of being the first to depart the Strictly Come Dancing dance floor this year. His dance-off with Richard Arnold went poorly with three of the four judges supporting Arnold and his partner Erin Boag. The pain of failure was etched on Johnny Ball’s face and he reflected that “I think for my age I did quite, quite well. I’m so disappointed I’m leaving, I really, really am”.
Richard Arnold remains in the danger zone though, along with Texan supermodel Jerry Hall, former cricketer Michael Vaughan, TV presenter Fern Britton and Westlife singer Nicky Byre. The bookmakers are offering identical odds of 11/4 that Jerry or Richard will be the next to go (Paddy Power), with longer odds of 9/2 that Michael will go (Boylesports), with similar odds of 6/1 for Fern to depart (BlueSq). Despite his poor performance on Saturday, Nicky is still pretty low down on the departure list, at odds of 14/1 (Boylesports) perhaps reflecting his strong support from the enormous Westlife fan base.
At the other end of the scale, Denise Van Outen continues to stir controversy. She is a top contender to win Strictly Come Dancing, of that there is no doubt, and at odds of 7/2 from bookmaker BetFred she is definitely worth a flutter, but should she even be in the show? Her professional career includes the lead role in musical Chicago, and she has a strong dance background which has prompted criticism from viewers on Twitter as they believe she has an unfair advantage over the other celebrities.
But where should the dividing line lie? After all Louis Smith is outright favourite to win at odds of 2/1 from many bookmakers including Paddy Power and Boyle Sports, but he is a hugely successful gymnast for whom the transition to dance must surely be so much easier than for actors such as Colin Salmon and Sid Owen, for example, who are struggling to make an impact. Kimberley Walsh also has a strong performance background similar to Denise’s, and although the Girls Aloud singer disappointed on Saturday she remains a favourite to win at odds of 4/1 from bookmaker Paddy Power.
As the show progresses in forthcoming weeks the viewers’ take on eligibility will really matter and if Denise is not popular for reasons of unfair advantage she will go. It’s tough at the top.
One other very popular celebrity with a real chance to win is former Emmerdale actress Lisa Riley. This lady is physically dissimilar to Denise and Kimberly but has real style and energy on the dance floor that has wowed the judges and the public alike. At 5ft 5” tall and a good size 20 in girth, Lisa was initially reckoned by bookmaker William Hill to have a 66/1 chance of winning. How times have changed. After a flawless cha-cha-cha in week 1 that earned the standing ovation of the audience and hard-won praise from judge Craig Revel Horwood who said “Three words, darling. You. Can. Dance”, Lisa is now fourth favourite to win and William Hill has had to shorten its odds dramatically to a pretty promising 14/1.
There is so much to enjoy about the show as it progresses through the next few weeks. Tension will mount, routines become more challenging, the judges’ expectations rise...but at the end of the day Strictly Come Dancing remains excellent family entertainment replete with fake tan and spangles. Who will win? If you have a view, you can vote for your favourites or stake your colours to the mast by having a wee flutter with the bookmakers.