Have recently started to write some pieces for the Huffington Post UK Comedy section. Really enjoyed putting this piece together about the return of Strictly Come Dancing, and it seemed to go down well. Hopefully I'll write some more soon.
Check out the full piece on HuffPost here. And as ever, feedback appreciated. UPDATE: The original piece is now after the jump...
Strictly Come Dancing 2014 - Why It's the Winter of My (TV) Discontent!
It can't be easy making a show like Strictly Come Dancing seem fresh each year. But they've solved that conundrum by never trying. It makes every winter seem like we're all imprisoned in a perpetual Dave TV schedule, where we are doomed to repeat every single moment over and over again. It's horrifying and upsetting, which would equally describe nine episodes of Top Gear in a row.
Oh, but wait. Bruce Forsyth has left the show. Normally when an older man doesn't return to work, you expect the worst. Or Anton Du Beke as he's generally known. Luckily, they replaced the walking chin with the bouncing fringe Claudia Winkleman. Producers did want to replace Forsyth with someone similar to him, but searching for "TV presenter... 80s" is now blocked on most computers at the BBC!
But I will miss Brucie! You never knew what he was going to say next. And because he couldn't always read the autocue, neither did he. Say what you like about him though, he always brought the family together in a way like no other. Every Saturday, mums, dads, toddlers, teenagers and grandparents would all crowd around the TV together and collectively think, "Christ! Just retire already!"
It's up to Claudia and Tess to fill Bruce's shoes. Well, they would do if he could remember where he'd left them. During Strictly's launch show, they said farewell to him in the same humane manner as that huntsmen did to Bambi's mum. I half expected him to walk off stage followed be a single gunshot, with Bruno Tonioli returning in a blooded tuxedo wiping his gun clean with Bruce's toupée.
So here we are, series four billion! This year's contestants looks like a veritable who's who, in the sense you'll be blankly saying "Who?" every time somebody walks onto the dance floor. There's also a few new dancers joining them. There's Generic Man #7, DanceBot 2000 - sent back from the future to remind actors who went to stage school how to dance - and Kevin from Grimsby's sister, because... Grimsby!
Leading the line-up is professional mother Judy Murray, who has managed to turn looking disapprovingly at her son's actions into a full-time job. She always comes across as the most miserable one in the Murray family, and that's an achievement that puts all of Andy's Grand Slams to shame. I'm sure the judges will give her a lot of love. Sadly in tennis, love means no points, so she's got no chance!
She's not the only person with loose sporting ties. There's Thom Evans. It seems the most interesting thing about Thom is the way he spells the name Tom. He says he's a model these days, although listening to him talk, it's presumably a model made out of dense wood. All the papers think he'll be the first one to lose his shirt, so costume designers have added straps to it like a pair of child's mittens!
Mark Wright is also on this year's show. It was rumoured he'd be joined by his fiancé, Michelle Keegan, but she opted to concentrate on her acting career instead. Mark had been keen to concentrate on his TV presenting career, but everyone who has ever seen him present a TV show begged to differ.
Mark was shocked by the fake tan on the show - he never realised you could use so little. Make-up artists have been working hard to tone down his colouring so viewers don't immediately adjust their sets. I'll pre-emptively adjust my set to Netflix on Saturday nights just in case. I'm expecting big things from Mark as he owns a big club in Essex. And if he smashes all the Strictly cameras with it, maybe they'll rerun Doctor Who instead!
MasterChef's Gregg Wallace is also dancing. He looked like a heartthrob in that first dance, in the sense his big puffy red face reminded me of a throbbing heart. Then there's Scott Mills, who resembles the kind of man whose dance moves would be perfect for radio. Sunetra Sarker is a hot favourite, and has been on Casualty for seven years, pretending to be a doctor for longer than it takes to become an actual doctor!
There's the recently married Frankie Bridge, or to use her maiden name, Frankie From The Saturdays. She's joined by Caroline Flack, who used to work for Simon Cowell on The Xtra Factor. Contractually, this act of betrayal allows Simon to peel off his human-shaped avatar and summon his nether-warriors to devour her first born. It was either that or going to a Sinitta gig, so it was the lesser of two evils.
We've got Jake Wood, whose head looks like it should be bursting out of John Hurt's chest, 'wildlife expert' Steve Backshall, a man with the pained expression of someone who has been holding in a fart for two decades, the one who isn't David Dickinson from Bargain Hunt, the one who isn't Lee Ryan in Blue, and Alison Hammond, who's answer phone message must just say, "I'll do it."
Pixie Lott has been tipped to win by bookies. And if there's anyone who knows ballroom dancing, it's the people who spend their lives sat behind glass in shops with blocked up windows watching horses run around in a circle. That just leaves Mrs Brown's Boys star Jennifer Gibney. I hope she wins - because that'll be 12 weeks she won't have time to film Mrs Brown's Boys!
Roll on Friday...