Belfast Telegraph

'You know that you shouldn't, but you just can't help having a sneaky look' - Billy Weir

By Billy Weir

Strictly speaking, I shouldn't really be a fan of the phenomenon that is the shimmering crown jewel of the BBC's Saturday night schedule.

I hate dancing, for one. I have all the grace on the floor of a one-legged sloth that has really lost interest in life, and it isn't fair on Lycra to ask it to stretch around my Paso Doble.

I am a football fan, fond of a pint of real ale, no stranger to a bag of chips, I belch frequently and in short, I'm all man with a bit of beast thrown in for good measure.

And then Daniel O'Donnell entered my life.

As an award-avoiding humble TV columnist, I was asked by this tome to cast an acerbic eye over the week's proceedings in what was then, somewhat incredibly and prophetically for me, the 13th series of Strictly in its new guise.

Growing up, I remember its forefather, a somewhat stiff and rather posh affair of a late evening, usually from Blackpool and lots of swishing around like a horse's tail trying to remove some very determined bluebottles.

Its revamp and return was a bit of a car crash moment for me, you know you shouldn't but you just can't help yourself having a sneaky look, especially if there's talk of Natasha Kaplinsky at odd angles or Rachel Riley wearing next to nothing. A bit like Countdown really.

I have a strange relationship with the aforementioned Mr O'Donnell. He was the subject of the first story I ever wrote as a cub reporter many moons ago, when there was much gnashing of teeth and hair-pulling that tickets for his concert in Ballymena had disappeared quicker than Len Goodman's simply brutal Partners in Rhyme.

And while we're here, what's 60ft long and smells of Werther's Originals? Yep, the front row of a Daniel O'Donnell concert. Anyhow, moving on…

There's a tinge of irony that the former head judge Len, who called it a day last year, has had his new show moved to make way for the new series of Strictly. As the show itself might have said, it really wasn't dynamite, it was a load… off all our minds on a Saturday night.

So, tasked with following Daniel's exploits on the dance floor, I approached with trepidation, and tried to forget how much Claudia Winkleman really annoys me. Nothing against her, but her fringe tends to follow you around the room and makes you feel slightly uncomfortable.

This turned into something of an event. At the end of a manly day covering a football match I would race home, slip into something a little less comfortable and sequinned, and with my beloved and two of our friends, we would gather to pour scorn and coo admiringly when the notion took us.

Replacing Len has been no easy task, after all there aren't many people who can shout 'seven' as well as he can, and Shirley Ballas, the new head judge, has improved as things have progressed, but she'll never be Len.

I don't know much about her, other than she was quite the dancer herself, except she, as my mother might say, is a bit obvious looking, but then again she's hardly joining a panel of shrinking violets.

Darcey Bussell is so posh she probably has one of those wee dolls that hide the spare bog roll sitting on top of the cistern, Bruno Tonioli is, quite frankly, a dirty brute (and God bless him for it), and Craig Revel Horwood is the best villain to move furtively around Blackpool since Alan Bradley (one for the kids, there).

It's now semi-final time, we've had the hopeless and the hapless, dancing pop stars, the obligatory star of a soap who has never danced in their life (apart from four years at drama school) and no shortage of controversy.

Alexandra Burke seemingly couldn't be less popular with the public if her dance partner was Hare, and her murder on the dance floor has only been avoided by the judges repeatedly coming to her rescue.

Then again, that's what happens when you let the public vote on something. Maybe Bruno, Craig, Darcey and Shirley should be shipped off to Brussels to sort a few things out, although they have no shortage of Burkes there already, it would seem.

And so five celebrities remain, Burke joined by Gemma Atkinson, Mollie King and the lovely Debbie McGee, with Joe McFadden the lone male in a very feminine world. Who'll win? Probably Alexandra if the judges have their way, but it has to be McGee for me, that would be magic.

Belfast Telegraph

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