Belfast Telegraph

Sir Bruce hands over Strictly reins

Sir Bruce Forsyth is stepping down as presenter of the hit BBC One series Strictly Come Dancing after a decade fronting the show.

He said it was the "right time to step down from the rigours" of hosting the live shows which have become Saturday night ratings winners.

However he will continue to work on pre-recorded Strictly shows for Christmas and Children In Need as well as one-off BBC specials, and said he will also be performing in theatres.

The future of Sir Bruce, 86, on the show had been a cause of speculation for some months. He had already scaled back some of his commitments, stepping down from the weekly results show and writing occasional rest weeks into his deal with show bosses.

The presenter - who has been in showbusiness since childhood - had also talked in interviews about how he would like to spend more time abroad to avoid the cold winters in the UK.

Sir Bruce said today: "After 10 wonderful years and 11 series, I believe it is now the right time to step down from the rigours of presenting the Strictly live shows.

"I am very proud of what the show has achieved and confident it will entertain the nation for many years to come. I am also delighted that by presenting the Christmas and Children In Need shows I will continue to have a strong association with Strictly.

"In addition, I am looking forward to the specials planned with the BBC as well as some live theatre shows, so before anyone asks, I am not retiring quite yet."

Sir Bruce's co-host Tess Daly said today: "It's been an absolute pleasure and a privilege working alongside Bruce for the last decade.

"He's a TV legend, a total gentleman and someone my family and I are honoured to call a true friend. We've spoken about it, and he knows how much I love him and how much he'll be missed - but he's not going to escape me that easily, as we'll be keeping him dancing when we're reunited for the Children in Need and Christmas specials."

Former contestant Anne Widdecombe told the BBC: "It's very difficult to imagine it without Brucie and his particular character and personality went a long way to making the show what it became."

And head judge Len Goodman said: "He is an icon of British television. He was a captain, he was a figurehead and he just brought a warmth and a quality. He was like a duvet - he was very warm, cuddly and made you feel comfortable.

Speaking to the BBC News channel, he went on: "He's done Strictly for ten years, I think he deserves to put his feet up for a bit, play a bit of golf. The rigours of being one of the hosts is incredible.

"We as judges have an easy time of it really. We just turn up and sit down and get on with what we do. But as one of the hosts you have to go in two or three days before and have run-throughs of what's going on, check the autocues and all that sort of thing.

"It's not just turn up on a Saturday night and while away a couple of hours doing the show. It's a very rigorous thing for the compere and I just wish him all good luck and I hope he has a lovely easy time of it."

"He's somebody that everyone has grown up with, virtually," Len added.

BBC One controller Charlotte Moore said: "Sir Bruce Forsyth is one of the great showbiz legends of our time and Strictly's success is due in vast amounts to him. I am so pleased he will continue to be part of the Strictly family and promise viewers that we haven't seen the last of him on BBC1."

Mark Linsey, the BBC's controller of entertainment commissioning, said: "One of the joys of my job is working with Sir Bruce Forsyth and long may that continue.

"He is the all-time master and commander when it comes to Great British entertainers and Strictly owes him such a great deal. This is not a farewell, but you can't blame him for wanting to take things a little bit easier."

Strictly Come Dancing will return in the autumn. In recent years it has trashed its Saturday night ITV rival The X Factor in the ratings, but the singing contest is hoping to revitalise its audience by bringing back Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole to the judging panel later this year.

Just last week Sir Bruce and other figures from Strictly collected an award for the programme when it was named best entertainment/comedy show at the Broadcasting Press Guild Awards.

And at the time the entertainer - who had returned from a spell in Puerto Rico - said no decision had been reached about his future on the show.

"When I calm down a bit I will then think about it and will see what's in the melting pot," he said.

The 2013 series - which was won by model Abbey Clancy and also featured TV presenter Susanna Reid and singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor - was the best yet, he said.

"I think last year was probably the best series because the dancing was so good. We had about six couples at the end and any one of them could have won it. Ten years we've been on - for a show to still be improving is wonderful."

Strictly was something of a comeback for Sir Bruce who had been a Saturday night fixture on the BBC in the 1970s with family show The Generation Game.

He went on to enjoy success on ITV with Play Your Cards Right but famously announced he was quitting the network in 2000, unhappy with the way he claimed he was being treated by then programme boss David Liddiment.

Sir Bruce is soon to return to ITV for the first time since then, presenting a programme about his late friend Sammy Davis Jr for the Perspectives arts documentary series.

Bookmaker William Hill installed Claudia Winkleman as favourite to replace the outgoing host. She has stood in for him and has been co-presenter of the results show.

Hill's puts her at 2/1, with professional dancer Anton du Beke at 3/1 to step up as his successor. Tess's husband Vernon Kay is a 4/1 shot.

Rupert Hill, spokesman for the firm, said: "Brucie is an iconic fixture in the history of Strictly but given his advancing years, the BBC were always going to have a replacement in mind. Claudia was a great stand in last year while Anton is a massive favourite with Strictly's legion of followers"


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