Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Sir Bruce hands over Strictly reins

Sir Bruce Forsyth is stepping down as presenter of the hit BBC1 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 liked 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."

BBC1 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.

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," Goodman added.

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. Daly'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"

Sir Bruce joked that he should be replaced as Strictly host by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Asked who he would like to step into his shoes, he told BBC Radio 4's PM programme: "This has been going on for seven or eight years - 'Who's going to replace Bruce?' I've been retiring or semi-retiring from this show ever since it started, and the name I keep coming up with is Boris Johnson."

He refused to offer a serious tip for the post: "There have been so many names put forward, but it's up to the BBC. Whatever the BBC think would be the right thing to do, I think they will make the right decision whatever happens. I think it's wrong for me anyway to start bandying names around, because I think that would be wrong."

Asked whether he would spend his Saturday evenings watching X Factor from now on, he said: "No, I certainly won't. The X Factor has never been my kind of show. I call the X Factor a firework display with a singer coming on every now and then. It's a very good show and the people love it and it will go on, probably, for many more years, but it's not my cup of tea."

Sir Bruce said it was "my decision" to leave the show, and added that he may "pop up" as a surprise guest in upcoming series.

He added: "I'm not retiring, I'm really not. But at the end of the last series I was feeling 'Is this the time to go now?' I've been away for my winter break of three months in the Caribbean, and I'm back and I've been thinking about it all the time and I've really made that final decision.

"I think it's the pressure of such a show. It's such a big show now and to keep it up you do feel the pressure. And I am 86 now, although I'm certainly not retiring.

"I've just come back from LA, doing a documentary on the life of Sammy Davis Jr, which I've got a bit more filming to do here and that goes out on May 25. I'm doing more of my one-man shows after Glastonbury - that was such a wonderful time - and I'm going to Southampton, Bristol and Nottingham in May and June.

"But the feeling of 'every week, every week' can really get you down a little bit. And I want to see more of my family on weekends as well, because on those Saturdays it was high concentration and you get to Sunday and you are so worn-out and so tired, it's Monday before you can even say 'Good morning' to everybody.

"So, it's a culmination of a lot of things, but I think I've made the right decision and it was nothing to do with me having a meeting with Charlotte Moore. We have spoken on the phone, but I was very pleased when the BBC said 'Would you like to do the Christmas show? Would you like to come back and do Children in Need?' I said 'Of course I'd love to do that'. And I may even pop up as a surprise item in the series, maybe even be a guest star - who knows?"

Strictly judge Bruno Tonioli, who has worked on the show with Sir Bruce since it began, said: "He'll be very missed, Bruce is a national treasure. He deserves that status as there's nobody else in the industry who's had that career span and versatility.

"He is the last of a generation of entertainers and they don't make them like him any more. He will be missed of course, but it's a decision we all respect - when you go, you go out at the top, and that's what he's doing."

Tonioli added: "I will miss our off-camera exchanges, because I'm the nearest to him at the judges area, we have many off camera exchanges that are very funny and he tells me off for being 'naughty Bruno'. I had a fantastic time working with him for 10 years, he's still going to be part of the family and we will see him again for the specials so that's wonderful."


From Belfast Telegraph