COUCH POTATO: Strictly ‘waltzed’ all over The X Factor

SOARING: Strictly has been a hit again
SOARING: Strictly has been a hit again

So it was written, in tablets of stone, around the time of Bruce Forsyth’s birth.

“Thou shalt not make a decent pro-celebrity dance show with a bloke from Hollyoaks.”

It’s a commandment that’s proved unbreakable, until 2013 when BBC1 smashed the TV bible, booked Ashley Taylor Dawson and, in spite of this, produced its best ever series.

And with it a miracle – I became a die-hard Strictly Come Dancing fan.

The fact it retained the loyalty of the majority of us even during the mid-season lull when the funny turns had been lost and the deadwood, like Fiona Fullerton and Ben Cohen, were being shed too slowly shows how woeful The X Factor was, which it has waltzed over.

It’s also testament to a series that’s been all but in hiatus since Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s “legendary” Charleston and the wrong the judges needed to right in the final by awarding the 10s they failed to give by deeming week two too early.

It was a moment that mirrored Strictly itself in running the risk of peaking before really getting going.

But the burgeoning ratings only grew, rich reward for a dramatic transformation that’s gone far beyond the change of venue.

The spark of genius was hiring not one but two comedy dancers, Dave Myers and Mark Benton, the best double act the BBC’s had since Morecambe & Wise, and pairing them with pros willing to unleash their inner ballroom beast.

Myers delivered two all-time great performances – wheeled in on a fruit trolley wielding maracas for a salsa, and his first dance, to Moves Like Jagger.

It set the series’ stall and was matched by the pure charm of Darcey Bussell who told him: “I want to cry with happiness. You’re slightly out of control but I’m strangely in love with you.”

She balances Craig Revel Horwood’s superbly judged baddie.

Bruno Tonioli alone on the panel doesn’t understand his role and has a goldfish memory, saying of Susanna Reid: “No one expected her to have that natural ability.”

At least no one who didn’t see her win the 2011 Children In Need BBC newsreaders Strictly special anyway.

Just as clueless is the BBC brains who keeps shoving Claudia Winkleman on set with a broom.

She and Tess Daly are equally replaceable, yet Brucie’s decrepit shouting-at-shadows method of presenting has been strangely in keeping with events on the dancefloor this year.

His gags and delivery are a national embarrassment, yet I missed the old codger whenever Daly filled in for his sick leave.

And I couldn’t call the final, a crucial factor the past two series have lacked with the Louis Smith and Harry Judd Olympics/McFly block vote.

I can, though, pinpoint when the tide turned and this show began fulfilling its potential.

It was week four when Mark Benton, looking like a fat Mark Lamarr in an incontinence suit, gave his cha-cha-cha the MC Hammer treatment and received this comment from the head judge: “Mark, do it again.”

The watershed moment Len Goodman finally got this show after only 11 years.

Strictly, do it again.


This week’s Spudulikes...

Wagner’s triumphant X Factor comeback.

Ex-Robben Island inmate Ahmed Kathrada’s gut-wrenching eulogy at Nelson Mandela’s funeral: “My life is in a void. And I don’t know who to turn to.”

Early Bafta shouts for Jim Broadbent and Paul Anderson in The Great Train Robbery. Though I’m not sure what the head of the Flying Squad was doing in bed with Cassandra from Only Fools and Horses.

And Matthew “Chandler Bing” Perry belittling bigot Peter Hitchens as a “Santa” and “Peter Pan” fantasist on Newsnight’s drugs debate.

Could Newsnight *BE* any funnier?


This week’s Spuduhates...

Carrie Grant ruining The One Show’s life-affirming “virtual choir” by pretending to conduct the 500 viewers’ Hark! The Herald Angels Sing while apparently recreating the Gangnam Style dance.

Limelight hogger Nicole Scherzinger capping the worst series of X Factor by attempting, and failing, to out-sing Sam Bailey.

Ricky Gervais disappearing up his own orifice discussing C4’s Derek on The One Show: “I think I left behind the veil of irony that haunted most of my work.”

And all TV chefs wasting everyone’s time demonstrating how to cook anything other than turkey or goose on Christmas Day.

Glazed gammon, my arse. Bah humbug.


Much to celebrate on BBC Sports Personality of the Year...

Andy Murray, the only possible winner, and coach of the year Warren Gatland humbly accepting their awards.

Sue Johnston’s beautifully delivered Hillsborough citation.

Eddie Butler’s perfect prose.

The short-skirted blonde in the front row who uncrossed her legs on noticing she was recreating the Sharon Stone, Basic Instinct police interrogation scene to millions of viewers.

And Wimbledon ladies’ champ Marion Bartoli’s appearance banishing memories of John Inverdale’s disgraceful comment about her “never going to be a looker”.

Because there’s nothing worse than sexism.

Especially as it turns out the old minger scrubs up really well.


Fresh from Nigella Lawson’s courtroom cocaine confessions came BBC2 repeat Nigellissima: An Italian Inspired Christmas.

An open-goal I’d no intention of squandering.

Preparing a salad she said: “I don’t make a dressing. I’ve got salt. Beautiful, bit of snow.”

Snow? You’ve mistaken the salt for your private stash, Nigella.

Back of the net.


Over at Let’s Do Christmas With Gino And Mel, chef D’Acampo had just broken the world record for opening the most champagne bottles in one minute.

Hubby walloper and police caution recipient Melanie Sykes: “Who wants a drink? I know I do.”

What’s your poison, Mel?



Text Santa.

Network error. Message failed to send.

Maybe next year, eh?


Last word on The X Factor which was a real “journey”, from the arena auditions at Wembley Arena all the way to Wembley Arena for Sunday’s mismatched live final.

Sam Bailey. Skyscraper.

Nicholas McDonald. Floor scraper.

X Factor. Barrel scraper.


Wednesday night and we have an awkward schedule clash for all you OCD fans out there.

C4, 8pm, Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners.

C5, 8pm, Excessive Compulsive Collectors.

End-of-term note to TV broadcasters. Must try harder in 2014.

Merry Christmas and happy new year to you all. See you on the other side.

But not if the other side is showing an OCD documentary, obviously.