Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Strictly Come Dancing has become too long, insist star judges

The BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing is too long and should be whittled down — not the views of a strident TV critic, but two of the show’s judges.

As the dust settled on BBC sports reporter Chris Hollins’ surprise victory in the glitzy hoofing competition, crinkly Len Goodman and flamboyant Italian Bruno Tonioli said the channel had been wrong to increase the number of competing couples in the first stage of the show to 16.

They said the showy spectactular should be cut back so that readers did not have to endure two-and-a-half hours of twirling, lifts and cha-cha-cha.

Their remarks close a controversial series, from rancour over the BBC’s decision to schedule it in direct competition with ITV’s The X Factor, the arrest of a contestant, to the ditching of 66-year-old Arlene Phillips in favour of the younger Alesha Dixon, whose judging style was then harshly criticised.

The BBC said a peak audience of nearly 11.7m people tuned in to watch the Saturday night final, a 47% share of the audience, but down on the 12m who saw it last year. However, last Sunday night’s X Factor final was seen by an audience of nearly 20m, up 8m on 2008.

Len Goodman told The Mail on Sunday: “Bruno and I both agree that having 16 couples at the start was too much. At the beginning people had to sit through two-and-a-half hour shows.”

Underdog Hollins beat favourite Ricky Whittle and won the public vote. After being declared the winner with tearful partner Ola Jordan, Hollins (38) thanked family and friends before adding: “And I've got to say last, and definitely not least, little Ola-chops — thank you so much for believing in me all the way along.

“I did test you a little bit, the jive and the quickstep come to mind.

“Thank you so much, you lovely little girl.”

It was a surprise to many that Hollins made it to the final at all after an uninspiring start in the contest.

He was also told by the judges that he often had a “constipated” expression on his face while performing.

Tonioli congratulated Jordan for turning a “frog into a prince” after the couple danced the fox-trot.

Goodman praised Hollins' Charleston — which earned a perfect score from the panel — as “classic entertainment” and said the final was “the entertainer v the dancer”.

He finished his last dance, which featured a handstand and a one-handed lift, by jumping on to the judges' table.

Actor Whittle topped the judges' scoreboard last night but was less popular with viewers whose votes determined the winner.

He vowed to keep dancing and said: “I've had an absolutely amazing time — I've had the time of my life.”

Whittle's fancy footwork had helped him to remain bookies' favourite ahead of the final clash despite his November arrest for allegedly hitting a photographer with his car in Liverpool city centre.

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