This weekend saw 15 dances split over Friday and Saturday night, with Claudia and Tess on presenting duty for the first time since Sir Bruce stepped down.
The series kicked off with presenter (and pal of Prince Harry) Caroline Flack, who bubbled like a glass of fizz in a golden flapper dress, exuding energy and fun. She was followed by antiques expert Tim Wonnacott – partnered by Natalie Lowe, back after being struck by an injury last year – who danced an auction room-themed chacha. If that sounds messy, it was actually rather a hoot – with Tim gamely strutting his stuff, gavel in hand! While it lacked polish, it was certainly heartfelt.
Third up was Eastenders’ Jake Wood who was able to put his acting skills to good use in a mean and moody tango with partner Janette playing the role of wronged wife. It was rich in passion – a rarity for week one – and had the audience on their feet. A respectable score of 28 was his reward, and now we can’t wait to see him shimmying through a Latin dance – will he have the range to cope?
Next in the judges’ firing line was a very nervous Judy Murray, who was stepping out from her role as son Andy’s mentor to take some of the limelight for herself. Her waltz was a 100 per cent Scottish affair (a risk so soon after the referendum?) with Anton showing off his legs in a kilt, and even a live bagpipe player. Mull of Kintyre seemed an ill-fitting song for the dance, but the pair got through it, albeit somewhat stiffly. We say bring on next week, when we hope to see Judy putting her incredible figure through its paces on a racy Latin number.
Poor Scott Mills (a Radio One DJ who never, ever dances) gave it his best shot with a lively chacha, but missed the mark by looking rather awkward. His partner, new girl Joanne (Kevin from Grimsby’s sister, fact fans) had done her best, but we suspect he’ll fare better in the ballroom. Let’s hope he can top his score of 16, which saw him planted firmly at the bottom of the leaderboard this week.
Finally, capping off a night of highs and lows came pop starlet Pixie Lott. With her drama school and performing background it was no surprise that she was wonderful, performing a high octane jive with new boy Trent.
Saturday night was started by Essex lad and presenter Mark Wright – a man not short of gleaming white teeth! His chacha was full of energy, and even a spot of breakdancing (which was unsurprisingly met with distain from traditionalist Len) that the audience lapped up. They might as well have stayed up on their feet for Alison Hammond, whose incredible chacha was the most confident debut the judges had ever seen - we're very excited to see what else this lady has up her sparkly sleeves.
And speaking of crowd pleasing, wildlife expert and presenter Steve Backshall made every red-blooded woman’s night by wearing a tight black vest, exposing some impressive arm muscles. Darcey warned that these could actually be a hindrance – they’re apparently overdeveloped, and he needs to stretch them more – but we think the voters will disagree! He’s done well too with his partner, the ever-popular Ola, and based on a decent tango we think this couple might do very well.
The all-Irish pairing of Jennifer Gibney and new dancer Tristan started the series with an exhausting jive – he hadn’t shirked on the choreography, and it all seemed a bit much for the Mrs Brown’s Boys star. Still, the jive is notoriously tricky to master, so we think Jennifer is over one of her most challenging weeks, and look forward to seeing her ladylike side next time.
Retired rugby player Thom Evans performed a rather careful waltz – you could practically see him counting the steps – so again, next week’s feisty Latin number should provide an interesting challenge.
Next was Casualty’s Sunetra Sarker with reformed ballroom bad-boy Brendan. Perhaps unsurprisingly their tango was set in an ER department – green gowns all round – but the bubbly actress struggled with her frame, so no doubt Brendan will be working her hard this week.
Gregg Wallace had expected a hard time from Craig after the judge had appeared on his own reality franchise Celebrity Masterchef (there was a long-lasting grudge over pink peppercorns which needed to be settled) but being described as ‘a wind-up toy’ was perhaps more harsh than predicted! There was something of the ‘dad at a wedding’ nature about his chacha, but no one could doubt his enthusiasm. We think his personality should carry him through the first few weeks without difficulty.
Second-to-last was pop star Frankie Bridge from The Saturdays, paired with our new favourite dancer (Anton aside, of course) Kevin. We expected big things from this pair, and we weren’t disappointed with a waltz which was both elegant and affecting. The judges were impressed too, giving Frankie a weighty score of 30 (including eights from Len and Bruno) and leaving her happily perched at the top of the leaderboard.
Finally former boyband member Simon Webbe brought the evening to a close with a top notch jive – loads of energy and some cheeky side-eyes to camera to boot – again, a strong contender.
So, who are your early predictions for the win? And will you be voting next week, when the first couple will be packing up their sequined shoes? Let us know in the comments.