Last Saturday saw the final of Series 6 of Strictly Come Dancing. I think it would be fair to say that I didn't really enjoy this series, for many reasons. Notably the favouritism shown by the increaingly powerful judging panel, towards Rachel "desperate ex-pop star in need of career relaunch" Stevens; and Lisa "Model and TV presenter" Snowdon.
This blatant favouritism managed to get these two to the final, via an embarrassing semi-final vote mix-up which meant that, despite Tom Chambers winning the viewers vote, he would not escape the 'dance-off'; a ludicrous idea introduced in Series 5 to ensure that the panel's favourites would progress as far as possible in the competition, with (IMHO) a complete disregard for the public vote.
So on 20.12.08 we ended up with the following three couples in the final:
Rachel Stevens and Vincent Simone;
Lisa Snowdon and Brendan Cole;
Tom Chambers and Camilla Dallerup.
It all went in a predictable fashion: Rachel was all posing and no dancing and the panel continued to fall for it; Lisa's desperation outweighed her efforts on the dancefloor, and Tom....well, he was back on form after the semi-final.
Tom had excelled since day one and had managed to crack the crucial, crowd-pleasing combination of showmanship and the sheer joy of dancing which ensured his progress all the way to the final.
Note to judging panel: Tom was never in the dance-off. Rachel and Lisa were. Make of that what you will.
Above: Rachel and Vincent's 'Rhumba': all style and no substance.
On the night, Lisa was first to go, leaving Tom and Rachel to go head-to-head in the show-dance. Tom and Camilla managed to reignite the Fred-and-Ginger magic of previous routines when it mattered....and won.
Above: Tom and Camilla celebrate their win.
I was very happy indeed with the result, as I hate the increasing manipulation of such shows by the judging panel. At least the whole John Sergeant saga this series proved that the more the panel hate you, the more the viewers save you...even this ended with a bad taste as Mr Sergeant felt the need to quit, quoting the risk that 'he might just win it....'.The eviction of Austin Healey in week 12 also left a bad taste: he and Tom were arguably the best dancers in the contest, and both should have been in the final.
The Strictly Christmas special, screened on BBC-1 on Christmas Day featured this year's three finalists and their professional partners, in competition with former winners Jill Halfpenny/Darren Bennett and Alesha Dixon/Matthew Cutler, and Kelly Brook got another chance as she had to quit the contest in 2007 following a family bereavement. She was previously partnered with Brendan Cole but as he was dancing with Lisa, Kelly's new partner was Brian Fortuna, who was one of this series' new dancers. We decided some weeks back that Brian is the best (and fastest) of all the male dancers!
It was an enjoyable show, made all the better by Jill, Kelly and Alesha, all of whom had dancing talent, likeability and personality- something which was noticeably missing in Rachel and Lisa IMHO.
In the end it was between Jill/Darren and Kelly/Brian: I thought Kelly and Brian were fabulous on the night and just had the edge, but the final result - a combination of judges vote/studio audience vote - meant that the title of Strictly Christmas Champions 2008 went to series 2 winners Jill and Darren, who still remain very popular with Strictly fans.