Remember Miss World? Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting we bring it back, but at least we all knew where we stood when Eric Morley, the brilliantined, bow-tied, beauty-pageant impresario pulled himself up to his full five foot six and a half inches and declared: “As is traditional, I shall announce the results in reverse order…” The contestant keen on travelling would take third place and the girl intent on helping others less fortunate than herself would be second while the crown and the sash would go to the advocate of world peace soon to be snapped on a hotel bed made out of money alongside a famous footballer. Still, the 3-2-1 was one of life’s certainties.
But where was the 3-2-1 on Strictly Come Dancing? Who was second and third behind Ore Oduba? Why didn’t the BBC release the voting figures? Was the result a great, big fix? Is the sports presenter’s twinkle-toed triumph just the latest scandal to shake our faith in the state broadcaster? Could Oduba indeed become the new Socks?
Socks, you will recall, was the name chosen by Blue Peter viewers in 2007 for the show’s new cat. Except it wasn’t. Socks didn’t emerge out of the mouths of babes; Cookie did and the programme secretly rejected it. Blue Peter had been one of the foundation stones of the BBC, showing kids the world and teaching them stickyback-plastic resourcefulness. Yet there it was lying to them. If it had told its young audience that Father Christmas didn’t exist it couldn’t have been more cruel. And after such an astonishing display of high-mindedness I’ve often wondered what became of the Socks generation: did they grow up disillusioned with the democratic process to the extent they’ve vowed never to cast a vote in an election?
Oduba isn’t the new Socks yet and as far as the Beeb is concerned never will be. The conspiracy theories, according to the Corporation, are all in the minds of the show’s fans – a demented bunch especially since the usual wine o’clock rules don’t apply on Saturdays as everyone’s already half cut by the time the glitterball starts spinning.
But, mad or not, let’s hear their arguments, beginning with: “BBC man wins BBC show.” This sounds a bit suspicious, although Oduba isn’t the first to scoop the prize. Heck, he isn’t even the first Breakfast sports round-up man to become Strictly champ.
He wasn’t the best dancer. This is a subjective area, although everyone’s an expert in everything now, wants the world to know it and has the necessary platform. Certainly his victory was a surprise to many not least the man himself, but then he gives the impression he’s flabbergasted by most things: night following day, slightly-scorched bread emerging from a toaster, light-entertainment success leading to a gig on ITV.
My youngest daughter didn’t vote for him. “He’s a big cry-baby,” said Sadie – this from a melodramatic five-year-old.
Some believe that after the show was accused of racism in the wake of the early departures of the other black contestants, the BBC would have been very pleased to see Oduba win. Others reckon it would have been very pleased to see Oduba win because he was the only finalist not to have had dance training, therefore could properly claim to have been on a “journey”, the sine qua non of reality television. If the Beeb is worried about that then it should be changing the rules rather than risk being accused of bending them.
Do we still want Auntie holding our hands and telling us what to think? Maybe we needed this during the dark days of war when bombs couldn’t dent the reassuringly received pronunciation, but this is only a daft dance contest even though the Beeb think it terribly important, the social glue which has saved family life. If a time capsule was being planted in the ground right now, the Corporation would want a recording of Strictly included. Blue Peter, if you remember, used to be terribly keen on time capsules. But, post-Socks, how can we be sure there was no tampering with the contents?
Is Strictly rigged? Disgruntled former pro-dancers have claimed as much in previous years. Disgruntled viewers this time insisted they were thwarted in their efforts to vote for the other finalists. But those who didn’t get the happy ending they desired were probably still in a state of severe distress after the final episode of Planet Earth II which left newly-hatched hawksbill turtles on Barbados on a slow crawl to certain death.
Disoriented by lights on the beachfront, four out of five hatchlings head away from the sea and end up falling down drains or being crushed by cars. Now it’s emerged that at least the ones glimpsed in the show were saved by the crew. The turtle tragedy was described by Sir David Attenborough who is of course another of the BBC’s foundation stones. It’s his strict rule that you don’t interfere in nature but the cameramen obviously felt they’d seen enough loss of life and turned the hawksbills through 180 degrees so they were pointing the right way.
Interfering in the will of the people is a risky game. The people wanted Boaty McBoatface as the name for that new royal research ship but they were slapped down for being too silly and instead it was given the Attenborough moniker. Changing Brexit will prove a bit trickier. Meanwhile, the baby hawksbill turtle of Strictly Come Dancing – Ore Oduba – can probably see bright lights in the near-distance. They will be tempting and tantalising him. Let’s hope for his sake that he doesn’t slip down a drain.