And then we came to the end. Not the world (sorry, Mayans!), though to loyal sequin superfans or anyone not seduced by Louis's "guns", it may feel that way. Still, we now have our Strictly champions after an action-packed night featuring three gosh-no-not-at-all-trained girls and one acrobat with his top off.
Last night's hotly-contested Sports Personality of the Year was a showcase not just of achievement (and facial hair), but of the qualities we look for in our heroes: grace under pressure, perseverance in the face of overwhelming obstacles, commitment, humility and passion in your pursuit – a passion shared with others.
Not to sound too Twenty Twelve, but this year has been all about legacy, inspiring a generation, and though that may seem a rather lofty ambition for a reality dance show, surely we can look for some of those qualities in our finalists?
The message of this week's Strictly is that we must beware the ballroom gods. Sometimes they are benevolent, and bestow sequinned favours upon us, but sometimes we invoke their wrath. And the wrath of the ballroom gods is a terrible thing to behold.
Thus it came to pass that Kimberley, with her array of knee and hip injuries, had to contend with the physically taxing jive; Denise, who showed a chink in the armour with cha cha, and James, openly professing hatred for non-standard dances, the salsa; ballroom boy Michael the samba; Latin girl Lisa the quickstep; youngster Dani the Viennese; distinctly unsexy Nicky the Argentine tango; and, most gloriously of all, Louis, he of the lost personality, the character-driven Charleston.
The only good thing about Strictly's disaaaahstrous Wembley Week is that the following show, bathed in the rosy light of Television Centre, automatically becomes one of the best of the series. We can hear human speech! The mob is not roaring outside the gates! No one feels the need to feign the gift of flight! LET US DO THE DANCE OF JOY!
Ah, Strictly’s Wembley Week – a party to which the TV viewers are not invited. “It’s a brilliant atmosphere here!” people howled at us with increasing levels of desperation (and from the bottom of a lake in 1964 if the sound was anything to go by).
In order to reassure us that this was indeed a BIG venue with plenty of EXCITEMENT, cameras swooped around randomly like hawks with ADHD (“Ooh, something shiny!”), rendering the ant-like dancers pretty much superfluous amidst a sea of psychedelic graphics, while the band fought against a baying crowd and occasional bouts of marvellously out-of-time clapping.
This week’s Strictly was a test run. We all know Brucie won’t be around forever, and can there be a show without him?I hate to wish a sudden career end on anyone, but the answer is a resounding YES. And why? Because of the quick-witted, adlibbing, gently caustic, genuinely warm presenting goddess that is Claudia Winkleman. Watching her switch from easy, natural banter with the dancers to sly riffs on the boring bits (“Don’t even make a phone shape with your hand!”) and off-the-cuff jokes that were almost thrown away rather than hammered home was like watching a jazz great let loose at a late-night club – brilliant, exciting, slick, adult, totally intoxicating.
Phew! After last week’s horror fest – in execution more than premise – Strictly got back on track with a theme-free weekend, bar the occasional grating fireworks gag (mainly bleated out by Tess during links. Has Bruce rubbed off on her, or can they not even trust him with the puns these days?). Plus the training footage returned! Let us do the dance of joy!
But for those worried a less-disaaaastrous show means fewer grumbles from me, fear not, gentle reader…