Poll: Where do you stand on the great Strictly Come Dancing divide?

Strictly judges Len Goodman, Darcey Bussell, Craig Revel Horwood, Bruno Tonioli - (C) BBC - Photogra

Strictly judges Len Goodman, Darcey Bussell, Craig Revel Horwood, Bruno Tonioli - (C) BBC - Photographer: Ray Burmiston - Credit: BBC/Ray Burmiston

Strictly returns this weekend, to the delight of some and the horror of others.

Elliot Furniss

Elliot Furniss

EA Life reporter Liz Nice and TV critic Elliot Furniss debate whether Strictly should carry on for many more sequined seasons, or if it’s time for the show to waltz off into the sunset

Elliot: Why I love Strictly

At a time when its biggest rival has to almost reinvent itself and re-jiggle its judging panel in a desperate bid to remain relevant, Strictly Come Dancing sticks to the tried and tested, yet remains as fresh as ever.

There’s something about Strictly that just pulls me in every year.

It doesn’t change much (in the biggest shake-up in recent years we’ve lost dear old Brucie this time) and it can at times be a little formulaic, but Strictly has a formula and format that just works.

When you break it down, it shouldn’t be something that I’d set to series link on my Sky box.

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Tess Daly remains rather annoying. Most of the tracks to which the couples hit the floor sit rather a long way from my iPod’s “most played” list and the weekly guest slots by random pop stars I could live without.

Liz Nice

Liz Nice - Credit: Lucy Taylor

My biggest bugbear is the fact that the Sunday results show is actually recorded on the Saturday evening, after the live show, and the pretence that the hosts say “On Saturday night the judges said...” to the dancers during their little chats. We know it’s pre-recorded – don’t treat us like idiots.

So this is starting to sound like I’m arguing against Strictly – what is there to like? Well loads, it turns out.

The Strictly band are a slick unit that never miss a beat and are typical of the outstandingly high overall production values of the show.

The costumes are always impressive (in some cases there’s not much costume on show) and especially on the Halloween theme night, which is always a riot.

New Saturday permanent co-host (and previous co-anchor of the Sunday results show) Claudia Winkleman is a delight and brings a bit of quick wit and sarcasm to the proceedings.

Strictly also offers a platform for some (dare I say it) oldies to show that they’ve still got it. On shows like The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, all too often the older contestants are treated like a bit of a joke and are patronised.

But over the years the likes of Fiona Fullerton, Anita Dobson, Fern Britton, Lulu and Pamela Stephenson have all proved that being over 50 doesn’t mean you can’t compete with the youngsters (the less said about John Sargent and Ann Widdecombe the better) even though the oldest actual winner has been Chris Hollins, who was 38 at the time.

In fact, the roster of celebs never fails to hit the mark. Sometimes when the line-up is announced it can be rather underwhelming, but the producers, knowing what a coup it is for many famous faces to get themselves on the show, have a broad pool to pick from and always get it right.

Last year Hairy Biker Dave Myers and actor Mark Benton were unlikely heroes but each week I looked forward to their efforts – neither of them had piqued my interest at the start.

The line-up of professional dancers changes most years but there’s a strong consistent core that have been virtual ever-presents since the show began and are now celebrities in their own right.

And this year’s sparkling additions to the ranks just illustrates why Strictly is a cut above. Newby Joanne Clifton is World Show Dance champion and won the World Dancesport Games – not competitions I’m exactly up to speed with but it sounds mighty impressive to me.

And the views of the judges – who are long-established and award- winning stars of their field – are slightly more relevant and insightful than those of Mel B, Cheryl Cole and, before them, Tulisa, over on ITV’s rival “reality” show.

If you can’t stand the glitz and glamour and think it’s all a bit silly, then fair enough, but you can’t tell me that these guys don’t work extremely hard over several months, with some of the ballroom world’s finest dancers given relatively little time to train their partner, choreograph a complex and original routine – and do it week after week.

The duffers are let go over the first few weeks, which enables the stronger contestants the time to form a close – sometimes too close – relationship with their pro partner, and the results are often quite spectacular.

Anyone who tries to claim that the show is all sequins and dry ice has obviously never tried to a) actually dance or b) lift their partner over their head.

In these days of Saturday night TV dross, Strictly is a rare gem.

Liz: Why I hate Strictly

I have to declare an interest here. I come from a dancing family. My mother, my grandmother and my grandfather were all champion dancers and I’m an enthusiastic mover on the dance floor myself.

When I was five, however, my mother, who actually appeared on the original dancing programme Come Dancing in the ’60s, laid things clearly on the line.

“You will never be a dancer, dear.

You have two left feet.

Like your father.”

This is the world of dancing. Brutal. Cruel. Unforgiving. And no, my mother is not normally like this. In fact, she is actually a perfectly delightful person, as long as sequins are not involved.

Naturally, I rebelled against all her razzle dazzle from that moment on, although I did used to sneak into her wardrobe to look at her dresses, which were, I must admit, quite beautiful.

But when Strictly started on television, it was as though the entire nation now surveyed the world with Mum’s steely dance critic’s eyes, moaning Craig Revel Horwood-style that a perfectly charming romp around the room was “a dance disaster, darling!” and muttering in disgust about Julian Clary being “stiff as a board”.

What did it matter if he moved like a wardrobe? No- one had cared before, so why now?

But this is what dancing does to people. It turns the most kind and generous people into vicious critics who turn up their noses at all but the most fleet of foot, forgetting that they themselves (my mum excepted, obviously) generally owe more to dad- dancing than they do to the Paso Doble.

Over the years, although I have not watched the programme with any regularity, Strictly has continued to infuriate me from afar. There was Arlene-gate for starters. Why on earth would they get rid of a woman of her style, dignity and extraordinary experience and replace her with Alesha Dixon who, though a perfectly serviceable dancer, could hardly be regarded as a credible judge after just a few months learning to dance on the show?

Why they did it is obvious. The fact that they did it, unforgiveable, especially as the tiresome antiquated Brucie was retained. Ke-eep dancing? Keep breathing, more like.

Then there was the Sarge! John Sargent was wonderful, being dragged along the floor like a magic mop and making even me fall in love with the programme for a moment, only for him to be shamed into quitting because he apparently wasn’t good enough. I wonder if Len Goodman sidled up to him as my mum once did to me and whispered, “You have two left feet dear, like Fiona Phillips!” Either way, it didn’t seem right that such a renowned and admirable political journalist was reduced to such indignities.

I met him a few months later, when he chaired the national pub quiz championships in which my team was a finalist. As he stood next to me for the inevitable Facebook photograph, I felt sure I could sense his Strictly pain (though to be fair it may well have been my somewhat inebriated state bringing horror to his eyes!)

Russell Grant being blown out of a cannon, I will give you, Elliot. Rarely have I laughed more.

But the Starman was then voted off the next week, entertainment once again taking second place to the dance critic snobbery which makes us ashamed to like people being silly, while being forced to pretend that people like Denise Van Outen and Chelsee whatsername from Waterloo Road are beginners “just like us” who’ve never had a dancing lesson in their lives.

Pull the other Merengue.

But I shan’t be fretting too much this year as I don’t think we’ll be required to suffer the sequins for much longer. One glance at the list of “celebs” they’ve drafted in this year, only about two of whom I’d heard of, suggests that the programme may be into dodgy hip territory. And they’ve even got two women in charge now. Two ageing women. So it can’t be long before the show waltzes off into the sunset. Come on, BBC. Don’t try to deny it! I’ve got your Rumba!

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