WEB EXCLUSIVE: Couch Potato on Strictly Come Dancing, crashing planes and Page 3 Girls

Strictly Come Dancing: (c/w from left) Michael Vaughan, Fern Britton, Richard Arnold, Lisa Riley, Johnny Ball, Denise Van Outen, Louis Smith, Jerry Hall, Dani Harmer, Colin Salmon, Victoria Pendleton, Sid Owen, Nicky Byrne, Kimberley Walsh - (C) BBC - Photographer: Ray Burmiston
Strictly Come Dancing: (c/w from left) Michael Vaughan, Fern Britton, Richard Arnold, Lisa Riley, Johnny Ball, Denise Van Outen, Louis Smith, Jerry Hall, Dani Harmer, Colin Salmon, Victoria Pendleton, Sid Owen, Nicky Byrne, Kimberley Walsh - (C) BBC - Photographer: Ray Burmiston
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Our Sunday web columnist takes a wry look at the week’s TV:

Poor old Lisa Riley, I thought. There she was, last Saturday night, bemoaning the fact she’s become typecast playing “mingers” (a mystery, for sure), only to end up at the BBC ballroom in what looked unmistakably like the Ann Widdecombe crippled-mule role.

All talk beforehand was about how she would become the first female contestant, all 18 stone of her, to lift their male partner, so there was no doubt this would be a watch-through-your-fingers, laugh-at-the-chubber affair.

Then Dave Arch and his wonderful, wonderful orchestra burst into Think, by Aretha Franklin, and she started shimmying around in a blue hula skirt, slapping her thigh and strutting her stuff like she’d invented the cha-cha-cha.

A brilliantly entertaining start to Strictly Come Dancing series 10, where Riley is by no means the only star turn.

Waltzing Sid Owen, looking like a lost concierge, on the wrong floor of The Ritz, was given a massive vote of confidence by Ola Jordan who said: “I’m really looking forward to starting training with Sid. I want to see how difficult it’s going to be to get to that final,” and yet the bloke who plays Ricky Butcher had prima ballerina Darcey Bussell declaring: “You have something very special.”

Lanky Colin Salmon, giving James Brown the cha-cha treatment in a leopard-print top, showed scientists what a species of giraffe could have become, given a different evolutionary path.

Johnny Ball was dancing in an invisible bear costume with a substitute partner who announced her arrival with what I heard to be: “My name is Iveta Lookashitta.”

Oh, don’t be too hard on yourself. I mean, you’re no Aliona Vilani but you’re not so bad. (By the way, please keep Johnny in until Aliona’s return, deal?).

And there were differing fortunes for two heroes of London 2012. A place in the final already beckons for hip-wiggling Louis Smith who Bruce Forsyth explained: “Specialises in pommel horse. That’s basically a wooden horse with handles.”

See also, Jerry Hall.

But the dam of tears is already bursting for emotional Victoria Pendleton who came as a John Steed sidekick from The New Avengers, all in pink, and ended week one propping up the leaderboard after the wheels fell off her routine with Brendan Cole.

Her footwork was that of a flamingo wresting one foot then the other out of fast-acting cement and her spins the result of an over-enthusiastic leap onto an airport travelator, ending in a bedraggled heap among the duty-free display.

Pendleton was given some generous words of comfort from new judge Darcey Bussell, yar, who has added some class, yes, to the panel, yar? She clearly knows her stuff, is a welcome antidote to the clownery of Bruno Tonioli, has already nailed the look of disdain to her right when Craig Revel Horwood reveals his paddle, so to speak, and demonstrates just how much of a favour Simon Cowell did Strictly in poaching Alesha Dixon.

Even the script seems to have improved this year, though some of the old flaws remain. Brucie’s still getting tongue-tied and milking jokes until they curdle, and Tess Daly’s puns often make no sense at all: “Victoria, you’ve got to get back on that dancing bike and show them.” Eh? Her dancing what?

But X Factor could learn so much from this show. Unlike ITV1’s novelty act Rylan Clark, Lisa Riley proves you can fulfil that role yet still be accomplished, not necessarily woeful.

There are sob stories on Strictly but every one of them is triumph over adversity, rather than adversity for adversity’s sake:

“My twin boys were born premature. They’re happy and healthy now.”

“I was a hyperactive child, Mum was a single parent. Nineteen years down the line I’m an Olympic medallist.”

And we haven’t heard a single mention of Riley’s recently deceased mum or Denise Van Outen having to miss her grandad’s funeral last week.

This week X Factor contestant Lucy Spraggan’s nan passed away, very sad news. As Strictly Come Dancing has shown, the greatest tribute the producers could make is not to mention it this weekend.

RIP, any hope of that happening.


Sky Living’s Show Me Your Wardrobe? No thanks, not interested. Not even if it’s got a lion, a witch, and the entire Chronicles of flippin’ Narnia in there.


This week’s Couch Potato Spudulike awards go to:

The El Clasico showdown between Messi’s Barcelona and Ronaldo’s Real Madrid, on Sky Sports.

Paddy McGuinness making Take Me Out my guilt-free pleasure.

The return of C4’s gripping Homeland, albeit with a slight concern that it’s back at all for a second series.

Fight Club: A History of Violence, on Yesterday channel, where the first rule of Fight Club: A History of Violence is to watch it.

Keith Lemon’s mask slipping to reveal Leigh Francis, who seems far more watchable, while winning £150,000 for charity with Patsy Kensit on Million Pound Drop Live.

And my reason for not being able to provide an in-depth review of All Star Mr and Mrs, with Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee, on Wednesday night (sorry about that), as I was at Al Murray’s live show where the Pub Landlord asked: “Is there anybody here from Scotland?”


“Whereabouts are you from?”


Television misses that man’s banter. Someone give him back his own series.


One week on from the car crash that was Hotel GB, Channel 4 gave us a Plane Crash. Literally.

A strangely compelling documentary that was four years in the planning, one month in the filming, and what felt like twice as long in the build-up to the impact, as a team of scientists and aviation experts deliberately ditched a Boeing 727 into the Mexican desert.

Why? For a laugh, I think, although the narrator had other ideas: “They hope to answer the fundamental questions we all ask ourselves when we board a plane...”

Should I risk the in-flight meal? Why can I never remember if we’re GMT or BST? Do airlines have any DVDs other than Friends?

“...Where should I sit to increase my chances of survival? How should I sit in the event of a crash? Will I be able to evacuate to safety?”

Oh, those too.

British air accident investigator Anne Evans designed the crash which, to garner the maximum data, had to be: “A bit heavier than a normal landing but not so severe that the aircraft is destroyed and we’ve lost everything.”

So kind of like the baby-bear porridge of aviation disasters.

There was drama, there were last-minute setbacks, there was the world’s best boy’s toy – the biggest remote-controlled aeroplane in history – the soundtrack was great, and the footage inside the ghost 727, nicknamed Big Flo, once the pilots had parachuted to safety was more haunting as it made its final, doomed descent even than the violence of the passenger jet ploughing into the ground and breaking apart.

And with three crash-test dummies each costing £100,000, collectively as much as the team paid for Big Flo itself, I’m amazed they risked putting them onboard in the first place.

The experiment did provide some lessons (wear a seatbelt, duh!), but why they didn’t take more notice of the three British air-accident survivors interviewed for the programme, as introduced by the narrator, I’ll never know:

“Susan Lord, Istanbul to Amsterdam, 2009, row 11. David Beardmore, Manchester to Corfu, 1985, row 13. Nick Stevenson, London to Belfast, 1989, row 1.”

Obvious, isn’t it? Whatever you do, don’t sit in even numbered rows.

I could have saved the researchers a fortune with that.


This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhate awards go to:

My professional duty to watch Sunday night’s X Factor, thereby missing the whole second half of El Clasico.

X Factor boyband GMD3 plumping for District 3 and rejecting “Undead Ferret” as their new name.

Louis Walsh bottling the chance to boot out X Factor irritant Rylan Clark.

The Thick Of It shunted for a BBC2 Arena documentary about a 1967 Beatles film.

And Channel 4 lowering the standards of the word “comedian” by having The Chuckle Brothers on Andy Parsons’ team on Comedy World Cup.

Really? Andy Parsons is a comedian?


An exclusive scoop by journalist Laura Bates, who’s campaigning to ban The Sun’s Page 3 because it’s “degrading and sexist” but hasn’t thought through the consequences that would mean for poor innocent Page 4, on Tuesday’s This Morning:

“It’s a huge problem. Page 3’s News In Briefs does mock the intelligence of the models. I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but the girls don’t actually say those things themselves.”

What?! This is an outrage! So you’re telling me that Poppy, 22, from Somerset, didn’t really say in that morning’s newspaper: “As the Roman poet Ovid said, ‘Happy are those who dare courageously to defend what they love’.”

I demand a refund.


Strictly Come Dancing host Bruce Forsyth: “Richard Arnold is a TV critic, which means he watches other people try their hardest and then criticises them. What a disgusting way to earn a living.”

It keeps the rain off the head, Brucie.