We reach the end of a memorable season of Strictly. Whilst X Factor has looked increasingly frayed at the edges in 2011, the seamless entertainment of the BBC show has been deservedly winning the Saturday night ratings battle.
There are plenty of reasons why. Strictly contains some key ingredients that X Factor programme makers may like to note in producing a successful series: getting the casting right; a relatively even-handed and positive approach that doesn’t have to rely on controversy; and not letting the script dominate.
When I wrote a non-committal review of the celebrities’ chances after the first set of dances, I couldn’t see beyond the market favourites at the time, Jason Donovan and Harry Judd. Both are among the final three, but the apparent two-horse race is now between Harry and the series springer Chelsee Healey.
Jason topped the judges’ leaderboard in the first four shows and was the early frontrunner, but a concern I expressed at the start of the series became his Achilles heel – his competitiveness led to a sense of over-earnestness that the viewing public finds off-putting. Hence his appearance in the bottom two a few weeks ago.
His drive for perfection not only impacted on his relative popularity in the contest, but on his dance moves as well. He seemed to overthink what he was doing on a few occasions, notably fluffing a section of the jive in front of an audience of 10,000 at Wembley Arena. Coming down off the sympathy bounce that took him through the double elimination semi last week, I have him booked for third place and the market agrees.
This leaves us with Harry and Chelsee facing off. In the blue corner we have the handsome former McFly drummer, whose matinee idol looks and commanding presence on the dancefloor make him the natural frontrunner. In the red corner we have Chelsee, the incredibly endearing underdog.
My main concern that put me off tipping Harry at the start of the contest was the choice of Aliona as his professional dance partner. Having backed Matt Baker from the start last year and watched her create some rather unhelpful choreography for him, before being pipped by Kara and Artem in the final, I was wary of the same thing happening.
As it happens, Aliona has played it much straighter with her routines this series, allowing Harry’s muscular performances to shine. There’s no doubt that he has been the most consistent and assured celebrity in the last month on a dance-for-dance basis. That, and his ability to bring out the cougar in the housewives of Middle England, make him a deserving favourite.
However, Chelsee has proved throughout the series that it’s dangerous to underestimate her. At first she seemed too lacking in control and polish on and off the dancefloor, but she has had a genuine journey. Her story is one of growing refinement in a Pygmalion-style transformation when she dances. The show directly referenced this a few weeks ago with a ‘My Fair Lady’ skit in their VT.
Her professional partner Pasha was new to the show, but has proved a perfect, charming foil to her overexcitablity – one of her many likeable traits. Her squeals of delight on receiving a steadily improving points total from the judges each week, culminating in last week’s perfect 40 (the first of 2011) have been a highlight of the series.
In this sense she has a more interesting persona on the show than Harry. However, the McFly drummer has cemented his place in housewives’ hearts with his unfailing humility and graciousness. As such, he too is very hard to dislike. With neither having been in the bottom two and the winner decided by public vote alone this weekend, it’s a case of which of these very two different characters motivate those intending to vote.
I find myself agreeing with the entirety of our commenter Joe’s analysis of the final earlier this week. Do check it out. I’d also be interested to see what a few of our other commenters, notably Allan and fiveleaves, think, as they have already proved themsleves to be Strictly shrewdies in this forum.
Who do I think is most likely to win? Harry. But would I rather be on Harry at 1/3 or take a chance on Chelsee at 3/1? Chelsee, I reckon. Will I be backing her? Probably not. I have taken a sit back and enjoy approach to the whole series and that is unlikely to change for the final.
Do bear in mind, however, that the slightly moribund Betfair market on Strictly went into overdrive during last year’s final, with price fluctuations allowing you to make a guaranteed profit if you’d traded it astutely, so I’ll never say never.
Are you getting involved? Do let us know in the comments box below.