The romance has gone out of Strictly Come Dancing for me.
I was a fan. I admit it. Lowbrow my taste maybe but this show started off as entertainment at TV’s special best. It was an amazing ‘revival’ of ballroom dancing that Come Dancing had nearly doomed for ever. With every ingredient – competition, personality, beauty, effort, humour and relationship drama – added to make it work, it did and the cocktail was heady.
In fact, it was absolute magic. Up until 4 years ago the best dinner date would not drag from my TV on an early Saturday evening.
So I have lived vicariously through the various celebs desperate to dance. I’ve felt for their every attempt to master the foxtrot, tango and salsa at one and the same time. I’ve watched and wished as they got stronger and thinner. Remember the remarkable Pamela Stephenson transform herself at the age of 60 and her bravura performance in the 2010 finals?
I loved seeing the men dance: professionals and celebrity sportsmen alike. I loved seeing Anne Widdecombe blossom and become a star with the help, direction and utter, utter kindness and good humour of Anton du Beke, a shadow of his former self dancing seriously with Katie Derham in the current run. Who could ever forget Mark Ramprakash, Matt Dawson and Darren Gough turn into agile, strong and graceful dancers?
Ballroom was back with vengeance and so was Bruce Forsyth – that pioneer of TV variety shows – showing us all over again what entertainment on the small screen could be.
That was 2004 – 2010. Now the show, without him, is just Strictly Disappointing – a feminised travesty of its former self. Of the muscled male professionals, only Anton du Beke and Brendan Cole survive – both neutered. Brendan is a bad boy no more. I guess his contract does not allow him to defy the judges.
Their new male colleagues look more boy than man and couldn’t even call themselves pretty. The result is anodyne.
If Jeremy Vine was this season’s attempt to roll Anne Widdecombe and John Sergeant into one, it hasn’t worked. It’s been painful. He just got thinner and taller each week as his anxiety and determination to do well mounted. Thank God the audience and the judges took mercy and voted him off the show before his trial in Blackpool.
Despite his protestations and the usual exiting cliches of regret, he is well off out of it. Without Bruce, there’s been no fun. Just a set of uninteresting C grade celebrities and their professional partners toiling lifelessly at their job of getting them to dance and the now compulsory female presenter duo, trying to squeeze some life out of them in between grimacing at the camera . The BBC’s diversity and equality agenda has pretty much killed the show.
Just think what fun a Gary Lineker and Phil Tufnell presenter double act could have been? Now all that’s left worth watching is Darcy Bussell and her fellow judges. But a line-up of judges doesn’t make a show. That’s not entertainment.