TV review: Strictly Come Dancing

Russell Grant's star is in the ascendancy without him putting a foot right

There can be no finer Strictly Come Dancing (BBC1) entrance. Emerging from between two enormous, glittery lilac seashells and dressed in rhinestoned head-to-toe white satin, Russell Grant staked his claim to the Ann Widdecombe role in this year's competition. Except Grant, the former official royal astrologer – a position wrong on so many levels that I don't quite know where to begin – didn't just look like he was enjoying Strictly, he looked like he was born for it. And that despite rarely putting a foot right.

Not all Grant's competitors seemed as comfortable on the dancefloor. On the first night of the competition, it is traditional for some dances to look ropey. Lulu managed to perform a cha-cha-cha that consisted of walking and sass, the dance steps apparently awol. The judging panel had some advice. "You cannot go wrong – that's the golden rule," declared Len Goodman, unhelpfully.

There is a constant threat of an outbreak of pantomime when it comes to the scoring, with Craig Revel Horwood apparently glad to take the wicked stepmother role. "There was no dancing at all!" he told Robbie Savage, who was wearing an astonishing black leisure suit with unnecessary zip and "bad boy" emblazoned on the back. Truly, the Strictly costume department – never slouches when it comes to glitterbombing – had surpassed themselves. "You're the best footballer we've ever had on Strictly," Goodman argued back, glossing over the fact that previous contenders for that title have all been appalling.

Boxers haven't generally impressed, either – look at Joe Calzaghe in 2009. So hopes weren't high when it came to Audley Harrison, and mine faded even further when I saw his size 17 shoes and an introductory video that was effectively a note from his mum explaining why he hadn't done his homework. In fact, his waltz had grace. And quite a lot of standing about while his professional partner twizzled about him. But Harrison might stay longer than some have predicted.

The frontrunners were less surprising. Holly Valance, who appears to have built a career on Neighbours and one hit song with a saucy video, was one of the few who looked like she was actually enjoying herself, despite being clad in someone's discarded Christmas decorations. But her less obvious competition arrived in the form of Anita Dobson, who not only waltzed with elegance, but also gamely made the gag about husband Brian May's hair before anybody else could.

Saturday promises to be equally good value, as "the second most famous Italian after Sophia Loren" – Nancy Dell'Olio for those struggling to rank her – tries to outsequin Edwina Currie. Even they will struggle to top Russell Grant's lilac seashells.


Vicky Frost

The GuardianTramp

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