In the end, there is no magic spell to save B*Witched’s Sinéad O’Carroll, who becomes the latest celebrity hoofer banished from Dancing with the Stars.
She receives the heave-ho following a dance-off against Lottie Ryan. It’s slightly surreal to see two front-runners stomping for the privilege to dance another day. But if the stakes are high the tension is low. Ryan has blazed a trail and there is a sense of inevitably as the judges spare her over O’Carroll.
The real question, of course, is why the great Irish voting public would place these clearly accomplished competitors in the bottom two. By way of answer we would usually embark on a brief whinge about Fr Ray Kelly’s continued participation.
But the Co Meath priest has spoken out this week about a campaign of hate which led him to consider leaving DWTS. There was the usual Twitter idiocy obviously – what’s is Twitter for if not populist idiocy? But also abusive phonecalls and hate mail. So let’s not join the pile-on. This is a reality romp about dancing celebrities. It’s silly fun and not to be taken seriously.
The high drama comes at the end of Orchestra Week. Would it be mellow cello for the celebs or would someone make a right tubular bells of their big moment?
With the RTÉ Concert Orchestra providing lush accompaniment, our visit to tympani alley begins with frontrunner Ryan and Pasquale La Rocca. They’re performing an American Smooth to Shirley Bassey’s Hey Big Spender (the RTÉ expenses department as it’s known in Montrose).
“You didn’t just give us lifts tonight – you gave us leaps into the lifts as well. Amazing, amazing, amazing,” says Loraine Barry. “Full on, all out yet again,” says DWTS creative director Darren Bennett, stepping in for the unwell Julian Benson. “First out tonight, first class.” She scores 29.
For some reason, RTÉ is stacking the favourites up top. Next it’s O’Carroll and Ryan McShane. They blaze through Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics. That song was about a dystopian future in which humanity is reduced to mindless drones staring into the void. Or, as we know it today, Sunday night on RTÉ One.
“It was great to see you come back and attack it after the nightmare of being in the dance-off last week,” says Brian Redmond. “A really, really great tango.” “There’s a word I use in tango: it’s stealthy,” say Loraine Barry. “You’ve got to get your footprints on the floor a little bit more. [But] I had a sense of a bold-bodied tango. I liked it very much.” O’Carroll receives a solid 24.
Then it’s Fr Ray Kelly with Klyee Vincent. They deliver a salsa to Hot Hot Hot by The Merryman. Kelly wears Hawaiian shirt and is briefly joined by two men in wide-brimmed hats. “What will the bishop say about that number!” gasps Jennifer Zamparelli. It’s a good line. But if you’re playing Jennifer Zamparelli bingo it’s another full house, alas, as she says “oh my days” twice. Oh my days, Jennifer – stop it!
While Fr Kelly revealed he considered quitting DWTS after an avalanche of abuse, it’s clear he’s a wonky performer and no, he shouldn’t really still be in the contest. But how sad, and also slightly scary, that we live in a country where people get their kicks out of threatening a dancing priest. This is our new reality.
He reveals that he chose to speak out after Caroline Flack died by suicide. “I had received my own hate mail and social mail that was very negative towards me, being a priest, and being a priest on the show. I found it difficult the first couple of weeks. I had a chat with the [producers]. They were keen to help me through the whole situation.”
He doesn’t disgrace himself and is clearly improving. “You got all the salsa steps in there,” says Brian Redmond, trying to be kind (and what’s wrong with that?). “The section where you had the wavy arms going on made me feel seasick.”
“What is the biggest ingredient you need to be on this show?” begins Loraine Barry. “You have to entertain. And there it is: you have it!” He scores 14.
As we reach halfway it’s the turn of model Gráinne Gallanagh and Kai Widdrington. They have the perfect orchestra week treat: a Viennese waltz to the strains of Tchaikovsky.
“No tricks her, no frills... a masterclass,” says Loraine Barry. “It was like Cinderella goes to the ball,” says Darren Bennett. “ A very classy performance.” She scores a maximum for 30 – the first of the series.
Cool and collected is supplanted by sweaty and open-shirted as former Kilkenny hurler Aidan Fogarty, who wants you to know all about his abs, dances a paso doble with Emily Barker. The slightly unfortunate choice of song is Pompeii by Bastille, the band who want to be Coldplay when they’re old enough to shave.
Pompeii isn’t what you’d call subtle – but then neither is RTÉ on a Sunday night and the performance features an explosion of molten energy. No, they haven’t arranged for Brian Cody to give Fogarty a pep talk. The RTÉ special effects unit has arranged for the silhouette of a volcano to smoulder behind the orchestra. Obviously there’s no such thing as an RTÉ special effects unit and the volcano is about as convincing as you’d expect.
“The shapes and musical highlights were all there... but it just went a little bit stiff for me,” says Darren Bennett. “A little bit robotic.” “In these Latin dances, your posture still needs work,” says Brian Redmond. “It was a little bit hunched over.” He scores 21.
How to top that? Don’t ask Mary Kennedy who rejects volcanos and pop songs as she and John Nolan do a tango to Por Una Cabeza by Carlos Gardel.
“This music is from Scent of a Woman and there is definitely a scent of your continued improvement,” says Brian Redmond. “Subtle but very nice.” “You’ve up the stakes – you gave me more content,” says Loraine Barry. Kennedy receives 19.
The curtain is brought down by Fair City actor Ryan Andrews, dancing with Giulia Dotta. They’re giving it a bit of Bowie with Life On Mars soundtracking their classic ballroom.
“Absolutely extraordinary,” swoons Loraine Barry. “When you’re given a particular piece of music you have an expectations what that dance is going to look like,” says Darren Bennett. “Guys you far exceeded what I thought it would be.” He scores a perfect 30 –the second clean streak in one episode!
“I’m not an emotional person.”says Andrews. “But on this show it seems like I’m crying every week.”.
He isn’t the only one reduced to tears. O’Carroll turns understandably misty-eyed as she gets the boot. C’est La Vie, Sinead, as our favourite post-Spice Girls Riverdancing pop quartet once warbled.