DURING Saturday’s final, Strictly Come Dancing showed a video of fans lamenting the end of the series and declaring it the best ever.
It was typical hype from the programme, which insists on ever-more grandiose trailers – this year’s showed the contestants strutting down a street in their finery and drawing the residents out to dance – and appallingly unfunny skits based around their training. Yet it might be true: while slightly down on last year, overall the series comfortably beat rival The X Factor in both viewer figures and popular acclaim.
Perhaps Strictly’s relentless positivity seems more in touch with the country in a grim period when viewers want some light relief from their light entertainment. No-one takes supposedly harsh judge Craig Revel-Horwood’s critical comments at all seriously – his current panto residency is only an extension of his role – and the celebrities largely react to being voted off by shrugging ruefully and gushing about what a wonderful experience it has been, rather than with hysterical tears as Simon Cowell’s products often do (particularly distressing when they are young children wailing for their mothers, as in a recent The X Factor USA).
There’s always at least one comedy contestant every year, with John Sergeant and Ann Widdecombe followed this time by Russell Grant. But while the former were painful plodders dragged around the floor by professional dancers with gritted teeth, Grant turned out to have a modicum of rhythm. And while no-one could say his routines – including one where he was shot out of a cannon – were really good, at least they were roughly in time.
He also won the audience’s affection by clearly having an absolute ball every week – and, by coming back from obscurity and reported depression, providing the all-important journey.
A factor in the victory last night of Harry Judd from McFly must have been momentum from his fellow band member Dougie Poynter’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! win on ITV two weeks before. As Danny Jones had already been on Popstar To Operastar, remaining member Tom Fletcher is presumably now readying to strap on his skates for Dancing On Ice. For competitive reality shows are now a year-round fixture and as one ends, another begins.
• Andrea Mullaney is The Scotsman’s television critic