17 November 2008
Oooh, I sense an outcry on Strictly Come Dancing. Another passably talented celeb in Cherie Lunghi gets the bullet while John Sergeant, hapless but endearing, survives the public vote.
The judges are livid and, as specialists in their field, their chagrin is understandable. It's also funny. Len Goodman wants to spontaneously combust. Craig Revel Horwood seems to be on the point of quitting. It's not for the purists of movement to music, but Sergeant's continuing survival is gripping stuff nonetheless.
First and foremost, Sergeant is surviving because the public like him. It's a popularity contest as much as a dance contest. Were it not designed so, then 50% of the voting tally wouldn't have been handed over to people who know nothing about dance. Sergeant, unlike previous car crashers (hello, Fiona), has not sought to claim he is any good, not made excuses, smiled at the criticism (he got far worse from Margaret Thatcher in his time) and issued the odd belly-bending one-liner.
Cherie Lunghi was unfortunate, certainly. She's great at ballroom but clunky with Latin (apparently... I'm going by what the judges have said over the weeks) and ultimately her Latin let her down. Jodie Kidd isn't as good as her, but she's also getting through on the popularity stakes, being as she is easily the most likeable, down-to-earth of these model types who also claim to be television presenters. She survives because the public like her, end of. Lunghi isn't disliked, I suspect, though she won't get any girlie votes because of jealousy (the awful Jessie Wallace called her a snob, remember, just because she has a middle-class accent) and won't get the casual vote because she hasn't made jokes or challenged Bruno Tonioli to a fight.
As the other competitors emerged from backstage to console Lunghi and her partner (whose name escapes me, but he appealed to the public to start voting for the dancing - ie, spend your money on a phone call but make sure you do it how we want, please), you could tell they were stunned that an obvious big-hitter had gone while an obvious outsider remained. And more may yet fall by the wayside as Sergeant makes his progress. It's not his fault he keeps surviving, but the judges and professional dancers are wrong to claim it's the public's fault. Give a half of the vote to people who are notorious for looking at personality ahead of suitability and you're on a hiding to nothing. It makes me wonder whether Sergeant's charisma is strong enough to withstand a backbiting session from the other competitors, all of whom are now petrified of exiting while he remains.
Irrespective of where Sergeant finishes overall (I reckon he'll go in the next fortnight - eventually he'll be in the dance-off and it would take that Holby City bloke to suffer acute cramp in his groin before Sergeant survives one of those), watch the rules take a subtle alteration next year. They'll give the couple with the highest score from the judges an automatic place in the next round, and reduce the public vote to a quarter. Hopefully they'll reduce the cost of the phone call as a consequence.
Lisa Snowdon to win.