Belfast Telegraph

Why guys can be seduced by the salsa and sequins of Strictly too

With its fake tan, glitter and drama, the BBC light entertainment show is required Saturday night viewing for millions of women. But our writers, Lee Henry and Billy Weir, say blokes like them love it too

By Lee Henry

It's funny how our tastes change with age. In a previous life (my teens), nothing excited me more than a new Metallica album, an Ulster Hall mosh pit, an amp turned up to 11. Nowadays, however, I'm giddy with glee at the sight of sequin, the suggestion of a salsa, the promise of an open promenade. Strictly Come Dancing rocks my world.

Had you asked my 16-year-old self to predict what his future incarnation would enjoy doing most on his Saturdays nights, the very last thing on my young mind would have been observing ballroom dancing. But so it is. My wild days are over.

At 36, I have retired my Rickenbacker in favour of a solid rumba. I am, without shame, a Saturday night Strictophile.

It wasn't always the case. The late, great Sir Bruce Forsyth and his co-host Tess Daly first descended the Strictly stairs in 2004, but I didn't start watching until a few years ago, when my wife Mairead was pregnant with our son Patrick. Nights out replaced with nights in, we gave it a try and were hooked. Pickle my walnuts and call me Barbara, Strictly became my favourite.

There is a reason why Strictly eventually trounced Simon Cowell's The X Factor in the ratings, why bigger and bigger celebrity names are keen to take part each year, why hundreds of networks around the world have followed the format.

Naysayers will refuse to watch "a programme about dancing", but Strictly is so much more than that. It is the mother of all variety shows.

Nostalgia plays a big part in our enduring affection for it. Just as we loved to watch The Two Ronnies sing silly songs at Christmas, Morecambe and Wise see out their sets with a chorus of costumed dancers downstage, or good old Brucie make a fool of himself either side of a classic catchphrase, so we tune in to BBC One during the autumn months these days for a bit of the same.

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Gemma Atkinson with Aljaz Skorjanec

That can be from 6.30pm, when Strictly normally airs live, or later in the evening, after we've put the kids to bed and chilled the booze.

In a time when our viewing habits have changed drastically, mainly as a result of the digital conversion, Strictly is that rarest of things: weekly water cooler television, consumed by millions at roughly the same time. It makes the workplace come Monday morning just that little bit more bearable.

Finally, then, after a wait that felt like an age, my Saturday nights were complete again with the commencement of season 15.

It has been a time of change: new professional dancers, a new cast to love or loathe, new head judge in former serial ballroom champion Shirley Ballas (who has established herself nicely after a shaky first week, during which she infamously called Holby City actress Chizzy Akudolu Lizzy) and, of course, a Brucie-sized hole in the Christmas special.

Nevertheless, I'm very much looking forward to the semi-finals and I don't care who knows it. Not that I want to learn new tricks. I couldn't dance to save my life, as my long-suffering wife will confirm. And there are, as it happens, many things that I can't abide about Strictly.

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Alexandra Burke with Gorka Marquez

I don't enjoy the odd performance by Dave Arch and his house band, for example - the lead singer's falsetto has cracked on more than one occasion.

I think Tess Daly is often dreadfully wooden and clunky in her role as lead presenter. And I wish they would do away with the 'meet your partner' hypisode at the end of August, when a new series begins.

But give me a dazzling show opener, a perfectly executed reverse fleckeryll, a 'least likely to succeed' celebrity dancing their way to glory, and I'll put up with all the Claudia Winkleman dad jokes in the book.

It's a 10 from Lee!

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