Strictly 2020 – “BlackPool” Week, Main Show: The Succubus of Keswick

The next series of The Masked Singer UK had its budget slashed quite considerably.

It’s Faux Blackpool Week and everyone is trying their absolute best to seem as chipper and enthusiastic as possible except we’ve reached the mid-point of the competition and the burnout is really setting in.

We’re kicking off our pretend, custom Zoom background staycation to Blackpool with a special routine about Anton’s vacation to Blackpool in, I am guessing by the size of the unwieldly travel guide they’ve given him, the 60s?

There’s also the general sex-pesty vibes to go off, wherein so much as being a man in the 1960s kind of automatically made you a bit of a creepy creepy weirdo. Also I think It’s safe to say Anton has officially reached the age and certain look that makes seeing him dance with anyone in a bathing suit seem weird. The other clue was the state of the wig that was slowly overwhelming Nadiya’s entire being:

Someone give her a partner next year, she’s going through HELL.
Anton’s whistle-stop tour of Blackpool’s most iconic sites has to start with the famous Bikini Clad Women Generators at Pleasure Beach

And while we’re here, can you believe in the year of our Lord 2020, Dianne out titty-shook Katya whose entire USP is her ability to project her cleavage no matter the dance?

But true to form Katya plays the role of wayward strumpet guiding the grandfather of Strictly deeper into Blackpool’s sinful underbelly, including Bruno Tonioli’s Erotic Late Night Puppet Theatre

The grotesquely themed gloryholes of Blackpool Promenade

The Ghosts of Hen Parties Past who haunt every nook and cranny of the city

And a nightmarish dogging experience in Stanley Park

Which Graziano genuinely seems very upset about being turned down for:

I suppose being rejected by Anton du Beke is a little bit galling. But Shirley’s not about to let Anton have all the fun and she’s here to Wile E. Coyote them all to Kingdom Come

Oh and the lesser known 5th Horseman of the apocalyps, Obstination upon his tired old ass, is here

I would like to take the time to praise the show for seemingly finally getting rid of whichever poltergeist was haunting the studio and forcing them to use the hideous CGI overlays – and to think it was a week that almost seemed designed for them to be used.

And here to try and guide us through Fake Blackpool are our hosts:

Claudia going for a nice Lockdown Hen Party Pyjama Set and Tess not going entirely cold turkey on the leg front.

Melzar the Magnificent and His Glamorous Assistant
American Smooth / Under My Skin – Frank Sinatra

Continuing his pitch for a BBC4 series on the history of dance Bill and Oti have a very nice, very sedate conversation about Blackpool dances and how much they mean to professional dancers – the whole set up looking just about exactly the same as Andi Oliver’s book club on Sky Arts

I’ve been wanting Bill to do just a straightforward routine for a while now: we’ve had the comedy Latins, the overly themed ballrooms and the Couple’s Choice so this very classic, very elegant American Smooth was exactly what he needed to pull out, even if he does look a bit like a murderous magician from an Agatha Christie novel when he wears a top hat and tails.

I think that’s just Bill’s cross to bear though. Speaking of styling, at first I was very concerned about Oti’s gown because I was sure she was wearing a crop-top poncho:

But my Lord, when she spins in those demi-kimono sleeves, my heart melted, it was so beautiful and elegant – if I were her I would never take it off.
Bill gets a little bit caught out when he picks the cane up in the middle of his routine:

and it kind of snowballs into his footwork being a little off, but prior to that he was delightfully good, a little simple – no lifts or anything too out there but classy enough. Although Shirley, looming in the dark peripheries like an owl watching a shrew

was obviously willing to forgive the latter half of the dance.

Craig: 8
Shirley: 9
Anton: 8

Quite frankly reeling from the fact that Anton has now worked with Oti for 5 years and hasn’t bothered to learn how to pronounce her name properly.

Maisie Smith and Sexy Stone Age Man
Salsa / Better When I’m Dancing – Meghan Trainor

I have been looking forward to this routine ever since It Takes Two showed a montage of Maisie failing to do cartwheels and I could watch terrible cartwheels for HOURS

But with Maisie’s stage-school eagerness to please after being in the Bottom Two last week, she of course perfected it in time for the live show – there’s no Jamie Laing risk of injury here.
Hoping for a safety rebound, she has the Salsa, which interestingly marks the end of the Party Latins in Maisie’s schedule – she still has the Jive, Charleston and Couple’s Choice but she’s going to have to do a classic ballroom next and we know that’s not her strongest point. She’s also now concocting the classic Faye Tozer approach to Strictly and wondering how to discover The Real Maisie™ after spending so much of her life playing a character.

Quite what the theme of their dance is is up for debate given that Gorka is clearly dressed as Sexy Fred Flintstone and Maisie is just The Fabric Wall that Vicky Gill Discovered This Thick Iridescent Fringe on:

That fabric is the breakout star of the series.
This routine was not made for me – I have an unfortunate allergy to Meghan Trainor songs, and honestly all I could think about for most of this dance was Meghan on The One Show citing reggae as an influence on her music which quite frankly broke me on a multitude of personal, emotional and spiritual levels.
But Maisie really went for it and clearly had a lot of fun with her pre-teen girl at Majorca hair

She’s much better in the more stationary portions of the routine (which sounds like a read) but the moment she has to move across the floor for any significant distance there’s an awkward stiffness that takes over her because she’s concentrating harder on her footwork than Shirley Ballas is.
They pull off the flips and tricks mostly very smoothly, she skitters a little bit on the one where Gorka throws her over his shoulder like she’s the catch of the day

But that was entirely Gorka’s fault. And she, like most of the celebrities, starts flagging in the second half of such an energetic routine and her footwork, while still technically correct, becomes a little sluggish. But Shirley is amazed by Maisie’s use of “The Feminine Sensing Zones” which does sound a bit like Maisie was being guided around the dancefloor by some sort of Gwyneth Paltrow-esque new age-y vaginal healing power – truly blessed.

Craig: 9
Shirley: 9
Anton: 9

JJ Chalmers’s Skinny Little Chicken Legs and Amy Dowden
Quickstep / For Once In My Life – Stevie Wonder

I’m incredibly disappointed to reveal that no, JJ did not dress up as Winston Churchill for his Quickstep and no, there was no VT of him reading The Gruffalo to Prince George, instead the trajectory from Skyping with Prince Harry is for JJ to dance in a park in the middle of the night after fresh rainfall

The story of this Quickstep, if we’re going off the set design

is that it is about a fishmonger and a B&B owner setting aside their Shakespearean family feud and enjoying one night out together – presumably before a joint suicide by a rock candy shiv? It’s “Blackpool” after all, we’ve got to stay on theme.

If there is one thing that JJ has proven over the course of the series it’s that speed and footwork are not his forte, so the Quickstep was pretty much a doomed venture from the word go, and let’s just say doing A LOT of the heavy lifting in this routine is how good he manages to look in a mauve suit:

Also, Amy’s dress is an absolute delight. Less delightful is JJ just aggressively screaming the song into Amy’s face for the entirety of the routine – Amy at this point so beaten down by JJ thinking this is RuPaul’s Drag Race that she doesn’t even bother to tell him to stop it. And the dance is not great – the footwork is hesitant and sloppy – most of it being just bouncing up and down like a child pretending to be a bunny rabbit. Granted, he and Amy are perfectly in sync, he doesn’t kick her in the shins once which is great but it’s certainly not worth the 9s that Anton and Shirley gave him, and not even JJ believes that that was accurate scoring

Craig: 7
Shirley: 9
Anton: 9

Chef Clara Amfo and Aljaz, the Mouse in Her Hat
Samba / That’s the Way I Like It – KC and The Sunshine Band

It was a very brave decision to go with a cookery theme for Clara’s samba given that her previous experiences with a TV kitchen resulted in maybe the worst cheesecake to have ever been served on MasterChef

And I say that about a series that featured someone who made a Blue Cheese and Coriander Cheesecake. But over in Clara’s Café:

I will have the Jacket Potato Oup with a nondescript fizzy drink, please.
And like the letters on the menu board Clara’s feet have just entirely given up and dropped off the face of the earth – becoming particularly bad in the middle because she manages to stand on Aljaz’s foot

Which clearly throws her off even more. Not helping her one bit though is the outfit which I like in concept but is made of an extremely thick material and allows for very little movement – and the feathered trim (a health code violation in any kitchen) is hitting her at such a weird length that it only makes her mistakes seem that much obvious. While also making her look like a rubber glove that Kim Woodburn would wear

It’s a pretty big misstep but given that JJ got 9s for his dance AND that it’s Blackpool scores of 5 and 6 seem aggressively miserly. But her eye makeup is worth a solid 10

Craig: 5
Shirley: 6
Anton: 7

As it turns out, perhaps Clara should be kept out of kitchens, both real and fictitious.

Jamie Dodge Ems and Karen Hauer
Street / Gonna Make You Sweat – C&C Music Factor

They always pull out the touching family VTs for Couple’s Choice – mostly because it’s usually a very touching, thought-provoking Contemporary routine but the Pros seem to have finally clocked that this category is nonsense and going for something insane is more likely to garner votes which is why nearly everyone this year is opting for Street. But I did enjoy watching Jamie’s sister getting very choked up (in a fake Made in Chelsea kind of way), Jamie emotionally dedicating the dance to all his family and friends and then it just being him and Karen as two sugar-fuelled teenagers losing their minds in Coral Island Arcade

Also, the absolute rudeness of making Karen “Player 2” in this routine?

She should sue. And then at some point the dance goes into double time and Karen has to cling onto her silver satin baggy trousers for dear life

Because nothing says “street” like baggy satin trousers?

The absolute best part of the routine is the moment that Jamie and Karen both get on the floor to do what you believe is going to be some awesome breakdancing and it just turns out to be them rolling on the floor like they’re in a Lawyers4U advert:

The fact Karen couldn’t even do it and they kept it in is BAFFLING.
True to form though the show does everything it can to justify keeping Couple’s Choice in despite everyone’s protest, Shirley and Anton find reasons to score it 10.
Who at the beginning of this series would have predicted that Jamie “Brittle McVitie’s Bones” Laing would get not one but TWO 10s before Maisie, THE FILTHY RINGAH, would get 1? We have truly entered The Upside Down.

Craig: 9
Shirley: 10
Anton: 10

HRVY and Janette Manrara
Tango / Golden – Harry Styles

I’m always fascinated by what the various dancers choose to wear for training sessions and I can only image it was laundry at Casa de Janette:

HRVY dancing to a Harry Styles song does seem wonderfully pandering – quite why they chose to do it for a tango is rather odd, especially when your routine has the batshit melodrama of Janette swan diving at the floor like a heartbroken widow of an 18th century whaler succumbing to her grief and flinging herself off a cliff to join her lost husband in the ocean’s icy embrace

It’s very The Harpooned Heart by Marge Simpson.
They do try for a very fashionable Harry Styles-esque look:

It comes off a lot more like a low scoring Albania Eurovision entrant than it does Vogue’s Most Fashionable Man of 2020 – PUT HIM IN THE DRESS YOU COWARDS.

The dance itself is perfectly serviceable – certainly not his best and the tango never was going to be, it requires that maturity and bravado that HRVY just doesn’t have so most of their choreography comes across more as two people doing that awkward thing where you try and move out of each other’s way and it turns into a weird hot shoe shuffle – except it goes on for 90 seconds and both of them are dressed for a masquerade ball and glowering at each other like two neighbourhood cats

Craig: 8
Shirley: 9
Anton: 9

The Messiest Hen Party in Blackpool
Cha-Cha-Cha / Rescue Me – Fontella Base

There was only ever one way Caroline was going to play a party Latin – it was always going to be a joke, and she was always going to do it as a drunk aunt and in order to truly embody the drunk aunt energy of this insane routine, Caroline has decided to play it as Miriam Margolyes in that story she told on The Graham Norton Show about the lad she found fondling himself in a tree. While also somehow looking a bit like Liz Smith’s character from The Vicar of Dibley if it was ever made into a West End production:

The story is that Caroline, in an attempt to seduce a fireman, shoves her own cat into a tree (everyone very obviously wanting to say “pussy” but being told not to by the producers was a delight – well done on your restraint everyone) and Johannes, wearing what I fully believe to be a fireman costume from his own wardrobe,

Is the poor unfortunate soul that has to deal with this debacle. Although quite who was more in the wrong here is up for debate. Was it Caroline for actually licking him

or Johannes bumming Caroline up the ladder to go save her own cat?

It’s a sexual harassment minefield from beginning to end – you can’t even take in the choreography because these two are just assaulting you on a variety of levels, both visual and cerebral – it just gives off such sinister little village in Middle England energy. You could tell me Caroline was a succubus luring virile young men to their doom and I would believe you that that was what this routine was about. But of course Caroline got her, at this point, trademarked leg lift in there somehow:

Craig: 8
Shirley: 8
Anton: 8

PURE FILTH, ft. Giovanni’s Pernice’s Awful Hair
Argentina Tango / When Doves Cry – Prince

You can always tell how invested in a couple this show is based on the song’s they give them and the fact they shilled out for a Prince shows that Strictly is THRILLED by the salacious Ranvir/Giovanni headlines – although not thrilled enough to pay for Purple Rain – she’ll have to make the finals for that.
And just to feed into the tantric eroticism of this pairing we’re being treated to a little teacher / student roleplay

Which Ranvir clearly hates every passing second of:


The Argentine Tango is a huge fan favourite of the routines and I too love it, mostly because everyone always looks like a divine Bond villain while doing it

Ranvir suits the styling of these moody, smoky routines so well. And Moody, smoky sensuality do these two really go for – and let’s just say I found the next cover photo for Zoe Ball’s next smutty fanfic:

And who could blame her – the whole routine is very Secretary: The Most Scandalous Musical. But if we’re going to make that happen, Ranvir has to be a little less hesitant and sharp in her movements – her kicks weren’t quite there and her posing wasn’t as taut and angular as it should have been, but she does hit the beat spot on every single time.

Craig: 8
Shirley: 9
Anton: 10

And signing off, as well as giving me the greenlight to go and throw 3 votes at Clara Amfo, is Motsi Mabuse who is having the saddest hen party I’ve ever seen:

And I once saw a lone bride-to-be in York walking around in an inflatable T-rex outfit.

Our Slightly Cursed Leader Board:

  1. Arcade Fire Hazard
  2. Secretary: The Erotic Musical
    • THE REAL MAISIE SMITH and Sexy Stone Age Companion
  3. The Albanian Eurovision Entry
  4. This Isn’t a Lipsync For Your Life
    • Bill Bailey’s Stage Magic Extravaganza
  5. The Succubus of Keswick
  6. Clara’s Multiple Health Code Violations

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