Bruno’s already after head judge: CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews Strictly

Bruno’s already trying to seize Shirley Ballas’ head judge role taking every opportunity to barge the unpopular queen: CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews Strictly

Strictly Come Dancing 

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The revolution is afoot. Judge Bruno Tonioli staged a blatant coup as Strictly Come Dancing returned on Saturday night, seizing every opportunity to barge the unpopular queen of the panel Shirley Ballas aside.

Whenever the camera lighted on him, Bruno leapt to his feet and waved his arms like an octopus in freefall. ‘Wow!’ he shouted. ‘Arr-maze-zing! Huw where wonn-dare-fool!’

Once, one of his flailing hands appeared to clout Shirley. ‘Not intended,’ he shrugged.

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Craig Revel Horwood, Dame Darcey Bussell, Shirley Ballas, and Bruno Tonioli were back on TV judging the star’s routines this weekend – but Bruno is after the top judge spot, says Christopher Stevens

Bruno’s (right) extra drama was needed to help the ‘uninspired line-up’ that this year doesn’t feature any former politicians or big names

He has even stolen former Strictly king Len Goodman’s trick of awarding a bold seven points to popular dancers. And at the end of the show, it was Bruno who stood to thank the audience. Make no mistake, he wants the top job.

No one would complain if Bruno did oust Shirley as head adjudicator. Her pinched, nasal voice was already tiresome after 20 minutes, when there were still two hours of this epic opener to go.

But his showboating and ad-libbing were so ebullient that at one moment he tried to talk over fellow judge Dame Darcey Bussell.

The Dame retaliated with a basilisk glance. Signor Tonioli may be able to outshine Shirley, but La Bussell is a different proposition.


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We needed this splash of extra drama, because Strictly was starting with an uninspired line-up — no former politicians, no big names and a clutch of celebs whose own families would struggle to recognise them.

When Danny John-Jules, the bloke who plays the lazy policeman on Death In Paradise, is the most famous face in the pack, you know it’s a low-key year.

There are three former pop stars from manufactured bands who’d done a fair bit of dancing in their time: Ashley Roberts of the Pussycat Dolls, Lee Ryan from Blue, and Faye Tozer of Steps. It’s no surprise that at the end of the first round, Ashley and Faye were in the lead.

Most memorable dance of the evening was newsreader Kate Silverton’s cha-cha-cha, which started at a studio desk and got steamy quickly

Their routine to Tom Jones’s Kiss ending with a smacker on the lips for her partner, Slovenian dancer Aljaz Skorjanec and certainly seemed to surprise husband Mike in the audience

The producers seemed to know the line-up lacked appeal, because they tried to steal all the thunder of Sunday night’s thriller Bodyguard. First the professional dancers performed a routine in Whitehall, pirouetting over the flagstones outside the civil service buildings.

Somehow they managed this without being cut short by sniper fire or exploding briefcases. It must have been filmed on a quiet day.

Then comedian Seann Walsh, in suit and tie, performed a tango with Katya Jones, who strutted with a ministerial red box like Bodyguard’s Keeley Hawes. It was full of trademark poses, with one hand pressed to an earpiece, and the legs-akimbo stance of real-life Home Secretary Sajid Javid.

Presenter Claudia Winkleman was certainly impressed, declaring that Seann did a better job than Bodyguard leading man Richard Madeley. She meant Richard Madden, of course, though I’d definitely watch a remake with Richard and Judy… as long as they cut the raunchy scenes.

Speaking of which, it was awkward to watch Claudia after yesterday’s revelation that she and her husband hardly ever wear clothes indoors. What do they do when a delivery driver rings the doorbell?


Dances by Paralympian Lauren Steadman (left) and presenter Katie Piper (right) also bought a lump to the throat as they showed what the competition is all about – tears and triumph

Most memorable dance of the evening was newsreader Kate Silverton’s cha-cha-cha, which started at a studio desk and got steamy quickly… ending with a smacker on the lips for her partner, Slovenian dancer Aljaz Skorjanec.

‘I had no idea you could be such a saucy minx,’ gasped Bruno. Kate’s husband, former Royal Marine Mike, looked like he was thinking the same thing.

But the real high points of the night were a pair of dances by genuine novices, Paralympian Lauren Steadman and presenter Katie Piper, who has endured 40 operations to rebuild her face after an acid attack ten years ago.

Both women were shaking with nerves, and both overcame their fears with sheer bravery. Their families looked on with pride glowing in their eyes.

It brought a lump to the throat. This is what Strictly is really about… tears and triumph. It’s going to be fabulous again.

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