Dancing with the Stars has hit Father Ted levels of farce
Fr Ray Kelly’s protective halo means frontrunner Sinéad O’Carroll is put through the wringer
Fr Ray Kelly with pro dancer Kylee Vincent. Photo Credit: Kyran O’Brien Photography
Sweaty palms, racing pulses, melting heats. Either it’s the first meeting of a new Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil coalition or we’ve reached Valentine’s Week on Dancing with the Stars (Sunday, RTÉ1, 6.30pm).
The palpitations soar to unbearable levels by the end as the show treats us to the year’s inaugural dance-off elimination. The spoils goes to Sinead O’Carroll and Ryan McShane. They see off Brian Dowling and Laura Nolan by unanimous verdict of the judges.
The real question, of course, is why frontrunner O’Carroll has been placed in this position to begin with. We’ve banged on about the protective halo around Fr Ray Kelly previously, so there’s no point repeating ourselves. Suffice to say that by letting Father R*y stay safe while the B*witched star has to perform twice, DWTS has approached Father Ted levels of farce.
It’s a weepy farewell, meanwhile, from the likeable Dowling, who created history a week earlier by participating in first same-sex dance on Irish reality TV (unless Room To Improve has changed radically since I last tuned in).
“It’s been the most vulnerable time of my life,” says former Big Brother winner Dowling, who signed up for DWTS after losing his mother. “I’ve laughed every day. I’ve made friends for life.”
This is a cruel exit. But all is fair in celebrity hoofing contestants, and Dowling’s samba to Prince’s When Doves Cry isn’t a patch on O’Carroll’s blistering twirl to Madge’s La Isla Bonita.
The evening begins with Gráinne Gallanagh and Kai Widdrington dancing against the backdrop of a sweetshop because nothing says “love” like high sucrose content and rotting gums. They do a quickstep to Paper Rings by Taylor Swift. But does their take on Tay Tay get a yay yay from the panel?
“What a start to the show my dear. A real Valentine’s feel good, quickstep,” enthuses Julian Benson.
“A great start – probably one of the best ballroom dances I’ve seen this season,” agrees Brian Redmond.
The loudest reception is for Gallanagh’s father. He’s finally free to make the trip down from Donegal now that the cows have been calved. You don’t get that on X Factor. She scores 25.
The gloop factor goes through the ceiling as hurler Aidan Fogarty and Emily Barker next perform a contemporary ballroom to Someone You Love by Lewis Capaldi. They gaze into one another’s eyes, presumably unaware Capaldi wrote the song for his nan when she was poorly.
“You’re melting my hearts,” says Benson. “This really showed off your athleticism … What was really impressive was the storytelling.”
“I felt it was a bit harsh,” says Redmond. “It was a bit quack, quack, quack.” A reasonable critique Brian. But why are you pretending to be Donald Duck?
Fogarty scores 23. The real surprise, however, is the huge Valentine’s card, signed by the entire team, with which he is presented. Okay!
It’s … different. The dance finishes with Kennedy pegging it across the studio floor and perching on a chair. What are you doing Mary?
“Good strong positive strides,” says Redmond, though he adds that the dance could have benefited from being “more willowy”.
“The energy of this music is a lilting swaying energy,” says Loraine Barry. “You need to let this sway.” Kennedy receives 16. It places her towards the bottom of the leaderboard. But she won’t be voted off, because everyone loves Mary Kennedy (is Nationwide really that popular?)
The doomed Brian Dowling follows with Laura Nolan. Can their glam-tastic tango to Prince leave the judges in a purple daze? Yes, I know that’s more of a Jimi Hendrix reference but it’s been a long weekend.
What’s most striking about the performance are the duo’s matching afros. Quite what Prince has to do with tall hair is not immediately clear – but they make it work.
“You look like and 1980s version of Jedward,” says Jennifer Zamperelli, not unreasonably. She later blots her copybook by saying “Oh my days” again. Stop it Jennifer. You aren’t Hugh Grant, this isn’t 1997 and we don’t all inside a Richard Curtis rom-com.
“The legs needed to be shifted forward,” says Loraine Barry to Dowling. “To me that’s noisy music. You need to bring that out – it’s very much on the inside.”
“We need more staccato action.. more attack,” says Julian Benson. “What I call ‘suck and tuck’.” Dowling receives 15.
Then it’s Ryan Andrews and Giulia Dotta. That are dancing against the backdrop of a “library” and playing the parts of “perfect nerds” (because … books?) The song is Perfect Strangers by Jonas Blue featuring JP Cooper.
“Never mind perfect stranger… that was a perfect cool salsa. The lifts – oh my god,” says Julian Benson. “Off the charts.”
“More flavours than a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates,” says Brian Redmond who looks pleased at having squeezed in a February 14th reference.
“You nearly came a cropper on that first lift – Giulia kicked you in the head. But you dealt with it.” Andrews romps away with 27 – and, yes, a kick in the head.
The centrepiece of the evening for the masochists among us is of course Fr Ray Kelly and Klyee Vincent. Will it be a bad romance on Valentine’s Weekend as they bop to Build Me Up Buttercup by the Foundations?
Actually it won’t. The Twin Peaks Black Lodge uncanniness of Early Father Ray has been replaced by a vague competence (though he should still have obviously got the heave-ho – are you listening entire population of Ireland?). He is no longer bad. Just disappointing.
“When you did get going it had a nice action to it,” says Brian Redmond. “If you’d done this three weeks ago it would have been a horror show.”
“The Valentine’s love potion must have worked,’ says Julian Benson. “It was great to see you up on your toes, father.”
He lurches away with 15.
Sinead O’Carroll, who topped the leaderboard last week, does her best to return us to normality as she and Ryan McShane dance a samba to Madonna. “Hands down that was a competitive samba,” says Loraine Barry. “You put in the slow motion double time of reverse rolls. It was a lot!”
“I wouldn’t say I totally loved it,’ says Brian Redmond. “[But] that was a really accomplished performance.”
She reverse-rolls away with a stonking 24. Not that it does much to impress the viewing public. Stop looking at your phones and pay attention!
If you thought the existential terror had ended now that Fr Ray has worked out out to put one foot in front of the other, how wrong you are. Lottie Ryan and Pasquale La Rocca are delivering a Viennese waltz to – eek! – the new Ronan Keating single. Obviously I hid behind the couch, occasionally peeking up to keep tabs on the dancing. The judges, by contrast, gushed about what they saw.
“You never cease to amaze me,” says Julian Benson. “You create magical pictures on the floor. Really, truly magical.”
“What you did fabulously tonight was you took a little bit of the energy off when you needed to,” says Brian Redmond. “Well worth waiting for.”
There’s even a video message from the Ronaninator himself, who reveals Mikey Graham was booted off Dancing on Ice when performing to When You Say Nothing At All.
There’s no Keating curse for Ryan, though, she she walks away with a glittering 28. She could win. Then again so could Father Ray. And then the world will probably end.