So-so Strictly ends with a shocker and flawless Debbie McGee was robbed
Strictly Come Dancing 2017 was not a vintage series. I think aficionados would agree.
If you follow last year's winner Ore Oduba and runner-up Danny Mac on Instagram, as Strictophiles do, the lack of quality was evident on watching back their best bits, shared proudly in the run-up to Saturday night's final.
Mac's ludicrously accomplished samba, for example, was as close to professional standard as it is possible to get. If the BBC ever broadcast a "best of the best" competition, Oduba and Mac will undoubtedly feature, along with previous winners Caroline Flack, Jay McGuinness, Alesha Dixon et al. Perhaps only the evergreen Debbie McGee would make the cut from the class of 2017.
Nevertheless, the grand final was an entertaining, suitably schmaltzy affair. Former magician's assistant McGee, radio presenter Gemma Atkinson, singer Alexandra Burke and actor Joe McFadden were tasked with performing three dances, the first sourced from their respective back catalogues by judges Craig Revel Horwood, Darcey Bussell, Shirley Ballas and Bruno Tonioli, resplendent in evening gowns and tuxedos.
The final is, customarily, something of a love-in and Horwood predictably started the night off with a rare 10 for Burke 's marvellous Mary Poppins-themed Charleston. His smile rarely slipped thereafter as no one scored less than a seven, with Ballas close to tears on several occasions as she lavished praise on all concerned. Not that the judges' scores mattered. The winner is dictated by public vote.
I had hoped that Ballas would attempt to out-catchphrase her predecessor, Len Goodman, in her first year as head judge, but sadly it was not to be. Perhaps the producers might have a word - otherwise, Ballas has proved rather formal thus far. I would, ironically, rate her a seven - as delivered in Goodman's inimitable cockney style, of course.
The production was impeccable throughout - aside from one or two autocue stumbles from presenter Tess Daly, which regular viewers have come to expect.
The second dance of the evening, the show dance, combines everything that the finalists have loved and learned over the previous 12 weeks - no rules, no restrictions - and McGee's ballet-style dance was characteristically flawless, though Atkinson won that round for me.
Proceedings drew to an enjoyable close with each couple performing their favourite dance of the series. Previous dance experience or not, they had all come a long way and improved beyond doubt. Postures were better, arms straighter, hands and feet neater, scores higher.
Then the shock of the season: Joe McFadden won! It seems that Scotland gets what it votes for, membership of the European Union notwithstanding. Burke was never going to win - the public didn't take to her. Atkinson would not have made the final in any other season. Ditto for McFadden. Debbie McGee was robbed blind.