Friday, September 25, 2009
In Great Britain we have major political conferences at the moment, therefore I've been watching what matters: Strictly Come Dancing.
The candidates have been strutting their stuff before the judges - Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli, Craig Revel Horwood and Alesha Dixon.
There's been a bit of controversy about the choice of Ms Dixon replacing Arlene Philips as judge; I don't deny that the BBC is institutionally ageist - see the row that was ignited when newsreader Moira Stewart decided to jump before she was pushed.
The reason I mention this is that former judge Arlene Phillips (66) has been dropped from the show and replaced with the aforementioned Alesha, who won Strictly in 2007 and is now 30.
The thing is, there was a bit of a situation last year, with the candidature of veteran political reporter John Sergeant. Ms Philips turned up on the Steve Wright Show on BBC Radio 2 on Friday, 21 November 2008 and dragged John Sergeant's name through the mud, then turned up on Strictly the next evening and said that she had always supported him. I suspect that this is why Philips was replaced - she was untrustworthy.
And it's good to hear Dixon's comments on the dancers' progress, because she's a non-professional who's been through the mill of Strictly Come Dancing and as such speaks for those of us who don't know what it means to pull your hands in or pick your feet up. If Philips' removal were an excercise in ageism, why do we have the wonderful Linda Bellingham (top right), who at 61 years old moves with grace, beauty and dignity, as a contestant?
Everybody who watches Strictly has their favourite dancer, and mine's is John Sergeant's erstwhile partner - who now partners Welsh middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe - Kristina Rihanoff. The ice-haired Siberienne's narrative-filled choreography makes Strictly not only worth watching but essential viewing, and I hope she will be on our screens for many years hence.
At the end of the day, Strictly is entertainment, something that was lost when the judges were briefing against John Sergeant last year. It seems that head judge Len Goodman has had a talking to: last year he advised contestant Christine Bleakley to "whip off your knickers and swing them in the air", whereas now Bruce Forsyth opens the show pointedly with "Good evening ladies, gentlemen and children".
The coming months are going to be hard politically - at one point, Len Goodman compared the relationship between two contestants on their first dance to that between Gordon Brown and David Cameron. I hope we have programmes like Strictly Come Dancing and hosts like Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daley to remind us that, in the darkest days, it's not all quantitative easing and expenses scandals: there's nothing wrong with good, fun family viewing.