Strictly Come Dancing 2011: First Impressions

This series of Strictly Come Dancing contains potentially the most entertaining line-up the show has seen. Unfortunately, whilst it’s a feast for viewers, it’s currently a famine for punters who have not yet committed themselves.

This is because bookmakers look to have it right in making Jason Donovan the 7/4 market leader ahead of Harry Judd at 3/1. I see Holly Valance as an easily opposable third favourite and I’m still waiting after the first dance to find a lively outsider, although some are of greater interest than others. I’m inclined to hold off at those prices and see if any of the underdogs start to build in confidence and technique on their first dance. This was the journey to eventual victory taken by Chris Hollins in 2009.

Jason Donovan has plenty going for him. First of all, he has a big fan base among the housewife demographic, which is vital on this show. They remember him fondly from his teen-heartthrob Neighbours days and onwards. Secondly, he has an excellent dance partner in Kristina, now given her chance to shine with a celebrity who has rhythm. There was genuine chemistry between the two during their cha-cha-cha – both seemed to enjoy themselves immensely. Last but not least, he showed good technique.

If there’s one doubt, it’s that there’s an over-competitive air to his approach. Viewers like their celebrities to take the show seriously, but not too seriously. Jason is a likeable contestant but there’s no doubt his eyes are on the prize, and that can come across a little too much in interviews. However, this could well be offset by the smiles he displayed on the dancefloor. With all that’s going for him, he’s a worthy favourite, but that’s reflected in his price.

Jason ousted McFly drummer Harry Judd from pole position in the market after the first round of dances. Harry looked a little more nervous on the dancefloor though still technically sound. He had been positioned as the pre-show favourite on the basis of the form he showed in last year’s Children In Need Strictly Special show. There’s no doubt he’s got the looks to win over large parts of the audience and having improvement to come is certainly no barrier to a successful run.

Unfortunately, Harry’s dance partner, Aliona is not the most popular of professionals among viewers (this also concerned me when she partnered my selection and ultimate runner-up Matt Baker last year). This is the main thing that puts me off tipping Harry at this stage. Aliona’s been criticised in the past for poor choreography, though there was nothing wrong with her first effort this year. Also, she tends to lack the rapport with her partners that viewers like to watch (and that Kristina and Jason displayed). We’ll have to see if it can develop between her and Harry.

It was the chemistry between Kara Tointon and Artem last year that helped those two secure the prize, as it became clear in the final weeks that their professional relationship had also become personal. This year, producers have shrewdly played up Artem’s sex appeal and the potential for tabloid rumour by pairing him with Aussie siren Holly Valance. The latter looked rather wooden and very nervous in her first dance, however.

There’s something of a no-win situation for this pairing. Artem seemed keen to put an emotional distance between himself and his new dance partner in VT footage, which is not going to endear viewers to them. But, even if Artem did relax a little more with Holly, it may not help for tongues to wag, as it would only undermine his now off-screen relationship with Kara, thus alienating the show’s loyal followers. This is a shame, as Holly came across very sympathetically, and there would otherwise be plenty of potential in the pairing.

It’s 12-1 bar, which brings in Anita Dobson, who after an elegant waltz with partner Robin Windsor, has been likened to Pamela Stephenson. The latter overcame the perceived barrier of being a middle-aged woman in the show by reaching the final last year. Much as I enjoyed Anita’s first dance, and her pairing with Robin, Pamela was also able to work the uptempo dances in an amazing way, and we’ve yet to see if Anita can do the same. I’m holding off here as a result.

Next up on bookmakers’ lists is Chelsee Healey who needed more technical polish though showed promise with her partner Pasha in their first dance. I find her an endearing presence, but I’m not sure the dropped consonants will be enough of a long-term hit with the middle England audience. As a newcomer to the show, her professional dance partner won’t help her win anyone round quickly either. Rough diamond Robbie Savage also faces an uphill battle based on an awkward-looking first dance, and the same can be said for a very nervous Alex Jones.

Meanwhile Russell Grant will clearly be this year’s cult figure, a successor to John Sergeant and Anne Widdicombe. I can see him staying in for some time as a result, but just as I commented last year, there comes a point when the joke takes second place to justice. Viewers prefer to see talent rewarded at the business end of the programme, even if they have kept the novelty act in for entertainment value for a large chunk of the series. He does however put in the shade other potential cult figures, Lulu, Nancy and Edwina, who all had poor first weeks, and don’t look likely to last long on the basis of what we have seen. 

This leaves us with three male outsiders who are worth keeping an eye on to see how they progress. Dan Lobb, Rory Bremner and even 150-1 rag Audley Harrison are all personable and potentially fit the profile for a Chris Hollins-style ‘journey’ throughout the series. Like Chris, all three are obvious novices who have the initial barrier of not looking totally comfortable on the dancefloor – unlike Harry and Jason, who have ‘form’ and plenty of moves to begin with. However, none of these underdogs were terrible for their first dance, just rather stiff. If things start to come together for any of them over the coming weeks, they would belie current long odds.

One reason why a watching brief is advised for at least another week is that all three performed a waltz first time around. This is never as revealing or as challenging for male contestants; the Latin dances are a different matter altogether. It was no coincidence that Harry and Jason, pretty accomplished already, were allowed to show they could handle a cha-cha-cha in the first week. Whilst there is potential for any of these three outsiders to grow, there is also a possibility that their Latin numbers could be a train wreck this coming weekend.

So my policy is to enjoy and monitor for now. What do you think? Are Harry and Jason deserving of their market domination, or did any longer-priced contestants catch your eye?

10 comments to Strictly Come Dancing 2011: First Impressions

  • Allan

    Happy with my bet on Donovan at an opening 8-1, just annoyed I didn’t put more on, although he is short enough now, and with the good lady’s tip of Bremner ew at 66s, surprised he is still available at that price to be honest after a very solid first effort, agree he could be primed for a Hollins-esque journey…

  • fiveleaves

    Nice bet on Donovan, Allan.

    I agree he looks a very worthy favourite and will take a lot of beating now we know he’s a very good dancer.

    I got him onside after Holly wasn’t as good as I thought she’d be and she’s a big red for me now.
    As Dan says, it’s going to be very hard for her to ever create any real chemistry with Artem because of his high profile relationship with Kara.

    Harry strikes me as rather wet and doesn’t appear to have much chemistry Aliona, so he’s one I’m happy to have as a small loser for now.

    The 2 I like at the prices are Anita and Chelsee.
    Anita and Robin have bucket fulls of chemistry and altho I don’t think she’ll be able to live with the younger dancers when it comes to the faster dances, her Salsa training looked pretty decent and she looks OK doing a jive type dance in the following video.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JkTtcm5SIE

    I could see her doing at least as well as Pamela and making the final….and who knows maybe be the 1st oldie to lift the glitterball.

    Chelsee is the other one I like the look of.
    Her image looks the obvious negative, but in someways could turn out to be a positive, given the contrast of how graceful and elegant she is on the dancefloor.
    I think she’ll also prove to be a better dancer than Holly as the series progresses and their prices should be much closer together. If not Chelsee even being in front of her in the betting.

    Like Anita, she looks a natural.
    The partnership looks a good one too.

  • Allan

    Having a think about first eviction before the second week’s dances might be foolhardy, but there are some interesting prices.

    Looking back at previous series, it’s rarely any of the truly crap ones who go in the first week,it’s normally someone middle of the road, who for whatever reason didn’t connect with the audience. I agree Dell Olio is a worthy favourite as don’t see who she will appeal to, but 7-4 is very short. I think it might be worth a bit of loose change on Alex Jones, who looked pretty rubbish, and very nervous as you pointed out, as she is 40-1 with a couple of books.

  • alexkerr49

    Sorry bit of a newbie question as to me this seems like a good bet.

    Laying Robbie Savage for 1st elimination on Betfair is 32. With a £2 bet, would I win £64 like it says on betfair? The reason I am confused is that on this site where it explains about laying, it sounds like I would’t win that amount but I would have a liability of £62.

    I don’t think there is any chance Robbie will go out. He is a complete idiot but he show potential and what I saw of him in practice he looked quite good for this week

    Am I missing something here?

    • Daniel

      Hi Alex, your liability would indeed be £62, your winnings £2. Laying at that price means having a bet at odds of 1-31.

      • alexkerr49

        Why does it say payout is 64.00? So on a £2 bet I would win £2

        Ah, is that I don’t actually bet the money, the better is putting in £2 which I would win if he stayed in the competition.

        So if I put £10, they match someone who bets £10 which I would win if he stayed in but would be liable to pay the winnings of £320 if he went out?

        • Andrew

          Indeed, the backer is risking £2 in the hope of winning £64. As the layer, you’re risking £64 in the hope of winning £2. (Or £10 and £320, as the case may be).

  • bob

    Any new thoughts on this? Been pointed out by a friend that Chelsee might be value at 3/1 and wondered if you had any thoughts.

 Leave a reply...