Strictly Come Dancing 2016 Final, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews
Strictly Come Dancing 2016 Final, BBC One
Strictly Come Dancing 2016 Final, BBC One
Ore Oduba's win is evidence that light entertainment isn't just white entertainment
What is light entertainment for? It won’t save the world or heal the sick or bring warring factions to the negotiating table. It’s teeth and smiles and bread and circuses on a Saturday night and it shouldn’t have to bear any greater weight. The Generation Game was never required to offer vital balm during the Three-Day Week. Barrymore didn’t nurse us all through Black Wednesday and Britain’s exit from the ERM. And yet there have been times this autumn when the last line of defence between civilisation and the abyss has been a fat failed politician called Balls making a glorious tit of himself on the dance floor.
Ed Balls’s rumba was eventually rumbled by the voters. But there’s always YouTube: his Charleston in chaps, his Gangnam salsa and his face-paint samba will live on long after most have forgotten the smoother moves of classier contestants in the 14th iteration of Strictly Come Dancing. (Pictured below: Balls with Tess Daly and Katya Jones.)
This year’s other talking point has been the voting patterns of the British electorate. The majority of viewers seemed to hope it’ll be all white on the night: the first three to be ejected were black, black, Asian. Tameka Empson of EastEnders in particular deserved a much longer run as a natural-born entertainer, but (was) tripped at the second hurdle. The findings of a Guardian investigation announced this week backed up the impression that black and minority ethnic contestants have the odds stacked against them. Strictly’s officially generated response is (a) Alesha Dixon, (b) Mark Ramprakash and, as of this year, (c) the 2016 winner Ore Oduba, whose parents flew in from Nigeria to watch him dance.
So the show is not, as a report commissioned by Andrew Lloyd Webber might have it, hideously white. But even if everyone doesn’t look alike, by the final episodes they were certainly starting to sound alike. Louise Redknapp (pictured right with her partner Kevin Clifton) was the pleasant essence of peaches and vanilla, and safe as a suburban semi. Danny Mac (pictured below with Oti Mabuse) was a lab-tested personality vacuum who just happens to have enjoyed three years’ dance training and the same again attending to his abs. Along the way Oduba seems to have schematically dialled down any hint of quirkiness, the sort that got Will Young into trouble and turned Judge Rinder into a sort of Victorian freakshow. Oduba's eye-popping odyssey from bit-part sports bloke to snake-hipped lothario has been a joy to behold, but when he opened his mouth (and his tear ducts) to pay tribute yet again to all and sundry, it was like watching a chameleon turn beige.
Your correspondent has been new to Strictly this year, drawn hither by Balls. I stuck with it after his ejection because, being in sequins stepped in so far that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er. So many of the competitors seem astonishingly competent – do all presenters, models and sportspersons now learn to dance on the quiet these days and await the Strictly summons? They were policed by judges adhering to archetypal roles straight out of commedia dell’arte: villain, temptress, codger, clown.
It has made for compulsive viewing, moreishly packaged with precision-tooled professionalism by the BBC, with only a quarter of any hour made up of flim-flam and wadding. The final generated as much televisual excitement as the FA Cup used to in the 1970s. (As for The X Factor, think Milk Cup). Tess Daly, who exudes an immaculate mix of ease and command, could make a decent fist of presenting a history of the telephone directory. The upsides of the final included a heartfelt tribute to the departing Len Goodman and a terrific team dance for all the non-finalists. The one downside was a tepid ovation to the widow of Gene Kelly. Can a rabbit be pulled out of the hat next year to match the breakout appeal of Balls? Even David Cameron who, Balls said in an interview after leaving the show, had never once had the courtesy to speak to him when he was shadow chancellor, tweeted his congratulations. “Thanks, appreciated,” replied Balls curtly.
If Balls is light entertainment's antidote to Brexit, Oduba is proof that an electorate in 2016 can spring a pleasant surprise after all.
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