There's something about Strictly that makes it feel like all is well with the world, regardless of what else may be going on around you. I can almost feel myself relaxing and smiling with the merest hint of the theme tune and so it was with a sense of optimism that I dragged myself out of bed where I'd been languishing all day being ill to watch the first live show last night.
Bruce seemed sprightlier than ever when he did his little dance at the start. I'm constantly surprised by his fitness with every passing year. Tess looked great, in a fuschia off one shoulder satin dress with a thin black belt. I didn't look quite that good 3 months after giving birth!
It was fabulous to see the professional dancers produce a dramatic, tempo changing, complex, bright medley of all the dances they will be doing during the series.
There had been some musical chairs in the judges' panel. Alesha doesn't take Arlene's seat (which could be taken as a visual representation that she is simply not as good as the woman she's replacing) but cuddles up in between Len (who is now beside Craig) and Bruno. She was wearing some very scary green eye shadow and I think the make up people need to soften her look for tonight's show.
I like this new way of doing things - half the couples dancing a ballroom and then a Latin over two nights. It gives us a chance to see them in both disciplines to see if they take to one or the other. Although I was more than happy to see the back of the annoying Gary Rhodes last year, it did seem a bit unfair that he was given Latin dances, which he was clearly rubbish at, for his only two competitive shows.
While it may be fairer, it must be more stressful for the celebrities to have to learn two dances to performance standards which is why I really could have slapped Craig for being so mean to first up performer Rav Wilding.
Rav and Aliona kicked off with a Tango. They managed to capture something of the mood and drama of the dance, but Aliona really did all the work and Rav's posture and hold wasn't brilliant. To add insult to injury, they did an illegal lift which Aliona tried to make out was involuntary. Not big and not clever. Even so, he did a very good job but Craig was unduly mean, giving them only a 3, while the other judges gave them 5s and 6s. Rav is clearly throwing himself into the spirit of the show - and I laughed at a comment in his training footage where he shook his head and said "I can't even cross my legs."
The training footage for Erin and Ricky prompted me to tweet that her hair gets lighter every year, but it had gone very dark again by the time they took to the floor - as did her stare when Bruce referred to her as an old banger. I get the impression there might have been a few words said backstage after that one. Anyway, despite Ricky looking more petrified than a rabbit looking down the barrel of a gun, they executed a very nice looking waltz. He does have a dance background so may well be one to watch - although I'm not sure the Latin will work for him.
The Judges weren't so sweet to them, although Bruno's comment "I've seen more romance between David Cameron and Gordon Brown" was very funny.
Chris and Ola were up next with their Tango to Sharp Dressed Man - Ola certainly doesn't like conventional Tango music. I thought that they were technically very good, but there was just no great sense of drama and performance from Chris. Not surprising, seeing as he's a sports journalist, really.
Then in succession we had two elegant and graceful waltzes from the sportswomen in the field. First came Jade and Ian. Clearly they did very well, not perfect, as you wouldn't expect from a week one performance, but it looked fantastic, and it was to "Weekend in New England", which, and I don't care if it's a Barry Manilow song, I love. Jade's dress was so beautiful - creamy coloured, floaty and princess like. I think she needs to relax a bit more if she's going to get the public to take to her as competitive perfectionists don't tend to inspire votes in these shows. She was very self crtiical and clearly upset at the end of her performance.
You have to cut her a bit of slack, I think, because, unlike the likes of Tuffers and Martina Hingis, she's still part of that lonely, competitive athletic world and it'll be difficult for her to come out of that mindset. I think she needs to try though - and in fact, being able to be a bit more relaxed might actually help her on field performance, too.
Martina and Matthew were lovely, too. I think we were all waiting to see how Alesha would deal with her previous partner with whom she formed a close friendship. She told Martina to trust him because she was "in safe hands". I think the partnership has potential for the rest of the show.
They got some harsher comments from the judges than I think they deserved - I think in particular someone had hidden Craig's higher numbered paddles. No way was that only worth a 4.
Also in for some harsh criticism were Lynda and Darren. From the waist up, Lynda was fabulous - dramatic and tempestuous, but the footwork didn't really match up. She needed to be a lot faster and lighter on her feet but I certainly wouldn't write her off. Craig again was mean to her.
Then came the performance of the night - a fantastic, graceful, beautiful waltz from Ali and Brian. If she can do Latin, she's a clear frontrunner. To get 30 points on show 1 is quite something and it was well deserved. Here it is so you can judge for yourself.
Last up was a tango from Joe Calzaghe that disappointed. The guy's a boxer so I thought he'd be good with the aggression, but it was a bit of a limp lettuce to be honest. It was the only Tango of the night to be danced to proper Tango music, so they should be credited for that.
Then came the group dance of the non competing couples, a Mambo. In general it was a good effort, but it did look a bit like they were doing a Latin version of the Hokey Cokey at times and you could see the confusion in some of their faces. I have a horrible feeling that Natalie Cassidy is going to take a lot of flack in the press, but she looked fantastic and you could tell she was allowing herself to get swept up in the music.
Craig's comment at the end was unforgivable - saying "Good luck Brendan" in a very disparaging way. Jo Wood looked devastated and I felt that was outrageously cruel and unfair of Craig to be quite so horrid.
I wonder if he was deliberately upping the vinegar to counteract the sweetness and fluffiness from Alesha. I think the almost universal pleading from the Strictly Twitterverse was that we all desperately wanted to see Arlene back. Alesha's lovely, but I don't think she has the potential to even grow into Arlene's shoes. She can be very funny and I think she needs to relax and bring that side of herself out. Ricky Whittle seems to be the one to lust over this year, and I can imagine how Arlene would have played that. I think the BBC have put Alesha into a role she's just not suited to, which is a great shame.
One thing I think would have enhanced the experience of the first show would have been a pre-match ITT with a Friday Panel and Claudia. I hope they think about doing that next year.
It's exciting that rather than a week, we have only another few hours to wait until the next instalment of the new Adventures of Strictly.
See you tomorrow, I hope, for a round up of the Latin performances.