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Series / Strictly Come Dancing

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This article discusses the British version of Strictly, a show known under its U.S. version as Dancing with the Stars.note  There are several other versions, which can go into their own entries.

Now (2020) on its eighteenth series, it's a Celebrity Talent Show in which 15 celebrities are paired up with professional dancers, the latter of whom have to teach the former how to dance. They dance each week and one couple is voted off each week via a combination of judges' scores and public voting until the the final, which is decided by audience vote alone. The final is intended to have 4 couples (3 in earlier series) but sometines there are less if someone has dropped out.


In early 2000s, the BBC hit on the idea of bringing back Come Dancing, except with celebrities. The show was designed so that dancers would be judged partly by professional judges and partly by a public vote. The show debuted in 2004. Two series aired that year; since then it has always aired in the last months of the year with a final in mid-December.

Originally hosted by Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly until the 2014 series, Brucie's role has been taken overnote  by previous Sunday show host Claudia Winkleman, the first both-female presenting duo in a British Saturday evening show.note 


Each dance is marked out of ten by the four judges, who currently consist of:

  • Craig Revel Horwood - theatre choreographer and director; the nastiest and most brutally honest of the four judges. Strict about the rules, but likes anything innovative or unusual.
  • Motsi Mabuse - a South African professional dancer, and big sister of current pro Oti Mabuse. The newest judge, having taken over from Darcey Bussell in 2019. Was briefly replaced by long-serving pro dancer Anton du Beke in 2020, after she had to make an emergency trip to Germany and had to self-isolate on returning due to COVID-19 regulations; she appeared via video link but wasn’t allowed to give scores.
  • Shirley Ballas - former latin ballroom dancer and currently a judge within the dancesport competition circle, considered the "Queen of Latin"; also happens to be the mother of Dancing with the Stars pro dancer Mark Ballas. Replaced Len Goodman as head judgenote  in 2017.
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  • Bruno Tonioli - choreographer for TV and film; generally quite generous, flamboyant and Camp Gay (Craig is bisexual, but it's less obvious with him). Not present for most of the 2020 series due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as he also judges on Dancing with the Stars with the USA and travel restrictions made it impossible for him to do both.

Craig and Bruno have been judges in every series of the show, although Craig is the only one to have appeared in every episode to date. Arlene Phillips was a judge until 2009, but was replaced with 2007 champion Alesha Dixon, much to the disgust of news hacks. Dixon jumped ship for Britain's Got Talent after three series, whereupon former prima ballerina Darcey Bussell (previously a guest judge for the final stages of the 2009 series) took over. Len Goodman, one of the original four judges, departed after the 2016 series, with his role of head judge being taken over by Shirley Ballas. Bussell departed after the 2018 series, to be replaced by Motsi Mabuse.

Some recurring types of contestant appear:

  • Late-middle-aged male TV presenter who usually goes out in the first couple of rounds. Unless we're talking about John Sergeant, who survived nine rounds due to the public vote, despite low judge markings and active statements by them that he should go, before sensationally pulling out of the 2008 contest on 19 November.
  • "Lads' mag favourite" female who does quite well.
  • Medium-fame female singer.
  • Well-known, somewhat hunky, sportsman who is probably very competitive.
  • Older actress.
  • Slightly larger "novelty act".
  • Actor or Actresses from a soap opera (generally EastEnders or Coronation Street) who usually does very well. May overlap with any other categories.

The show also has an attributed 'curse of Strictly', with a string of widely-publicised breakups between celebrities and their established partners, sometimes in favour of the pro they were paired with for the show.

    The winners 
  • Series 1 (spring 2004): Natasha Kaplinsky, beating Christopher Parker
  • Series 2 (autumn 2004): Jill Halfpenny, beating Denise Lewis and Julian Clary
  • Series 3 (2005): Darren Gough, beating Colin Jackson and Zoe Ball
  • Series 4 (2006): Mark Ramprakash, beating Matt Dawson
  • Series 5 (2007): Alesha Dixon, beating Matt Di Angelo
  • Series 6 (2008): Tom Chambers, beating Rachel Stevens and Lisa Snowdon
  • Series 7 (2009): Chris Hollins, beating Ricky Whittle
  • Series 8 (2010): Kara Tointon, beating Matt Baker and Pamela Stephenson
  • Series 9 (2011): Harry Judd, beating Chelsee Healey and Jason Donovan
  • Series 10 (2012): Louis Smith, beating Denise van Outen and Kimberley Walsh
  • Series 11 (2013): Abbey Clancy, beating Natalie Gumede and Susanna Reid
  • Series 12 (2014): Caroline Flack, beating Frankie Bridge and Simon Webbe
  • Series 13 (2015): Jay McGuiness, beating Georgia May Foote and Kellie Bright
  • Series 14 (2016): Ore Oduba, beating Danny Mac and Louise Redknapp
  • Series 15 (2017): Joe McFadden, beating Gemma Atkinson, Alexandra Burke and Debbie McGee
  • Series 16 (2018): Stacey Dooley, beating Ashley Roberts, Faye Tozer and Joe Sugg
  • Series 17 (2019): Kelvin Fletcher, beating Emma Barton and Karim Zeroual
  • Series 18 (2020): Bill Bailey, beating HRVY, Jamie Laing and Maisie Smith

This show contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: If a routine can include a reference to what the celebrity is known for, it will. The presenters also love making puns and jokes related to the contestants profession.
    • Matt Baker's countryside-themed cha-cha-cha.
    • Jason Donovan's Priscilla, Queen of the Desert tango.
    • Victoria Pendleton dancing a paso doble to Queen's "Bicycle Race".
    • There are many dances that are set to songs which reference the contestants' names.
      • Mollie King dancing to "Good Golly, Miss Molly".
      • Jonnie Peacock dancing to "Johnny B. Goode".
      • Susan Calman dancing to "If You Knew Susie".
      • Joe Sugg actually had two instances of this during his year, dancing to "Cotton Eye Joe" in Week 2 and a medley of songs from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in Musicals Week.
      • Two instances of this in the 2020 season. Jamie Laing performed to the title song of "Everybody's Talking About Jamie", whilst Bill Bailey performed to "Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey?"
  • Always Second Best:
    • Professional dancer Kevin Clifton has finished as runner-up four years running (the only professional to be runner-up more than once without winning, let alone four years in a row), which is almost every year he's been on the show. He was jokingly referred as "always the bridesmaid, never the bride" until he finally lifted the glitterball in 2018 with Stacey Dooley.
    • Pro dancer AJ Pritchard has had it even worse, as he has finished as a semifinalist on all three of the years he's been on the show.
  • Ascended Extra: A lot of the professional dancers are now recognised as celebrities in their own right, and the show has capitalised on this by making a big deal of which celebrity gets which pro and pairing them up live in the studio.
    • Iveta Lukosiute first appeared as a reserve pro in Series 10, briefly covering for Aliona Vilani and Ola Jordan in a couple of weeks due to injury and family emergency. She then became a regular in Series 11.
    • During 'The Peoples Strictly', as Craig was unable to be a judge due to prior commitments, professional Anton du Beke, famous for his disagreements with the judges, took Craig's chair on the judging panel.
    • Neil Jones started out as an extra dancer and choreographer during the 2014 and 2015 series, before he and his wife Katya were officially ascended to pro status in 2016.
    • Downplayed with Luba Mushtuk, who was a recurring extra dancer since 2016 and was promoted to titular pro in 2018, but without getting a celebrity partner.
  • Beard of Evil: Craig has grown these in the 2014 and 2015 series for his Pantomime role as Captain Hook in Peter Pan.
  • Brutal Honesty: Craig can and will tell the contestants just how bad their dancing was in both his comments and markings. The other three use the paddles for less than 5 once or twice a series at best.
  • But Not Too White: Most of the contestants have to go for a spray tan before filming to avoid glowing white under the studio lights.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Sir Bruce Forsyth would often tell contestants that "you're my favourite".
    • Brucie's personal phrase, usually "Nice to see you".
    • Len Goodman has a particular way of pronouncing "Seven" (Seerrrvvvvveeeeen!)
    • A scoring catchphrase from Len: "It's a ten from Len", which has evolved into "From Len, the ten!"
    • Closing the show with "Keeeeep dancing!"
  • Christmas Episode: As the BBC's only really successful light-entertainment show from the New Tens, this rapidly became a staple of the Christmas schedules. Initially this took the format of inviting back past contestants alongside the top three from the most recent series in a standalone competition; in 2010 it was changed to feature new celebrities who didn't have time to do the full series, but in 2014 reverted to an 'All-Stars' format.
  • Crippling Overspecialization:
    • Most of the professional dancers have their own specialist field of dancing and can struggle when they have to choreograph, teach and perform in a style they're not used to. Anton Du Beke in particular is a superb ballroom dancer, but his Latin routines are notoriously poor.
    • In special cases, such as with the Salsas, Argentine Tangos, and Charlestons, the routines are choreographed by specialized choreographers. There are exceptions, though, such as Janette Manrara, who is originally a Salsa dancer, and Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace, who were originally brought in as Argentine Tango specialists before being promoted to competing pros.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • The fate of some of the professional dancers who weren't asked to partner celebrities in the 2010 series; those who agreed were put into a "professional dance troupe". The following year the dance troupe was removed, although Ian Waite is apparently too popular to lose altogether as he still regularly appears on It Takes Two and occasionally partners celebrities in special charity or Christmas editions.
    • Since their debut in 2016, neither Neil Jones nor Chloe Hewitt have partnered a celebrity on the main show. This has also been true of 2018 additions Luba Mushtuk and Johannes Radebe. Neil has only eventually got a partner in the 2019 season, three years later. Luba and Johannes, though, are very downplayed, as both only sit out 2018, getting partners in 2019 (though Luba and James Cracknell were first eliminated).
    • Bruno had to miss his spot on the judging panel in 2020 due to travel restrictions as a result of the ongoing pandemic. They simply reduced the number of judges to three, although Bruno did show up via videolink on occasion, including during the final.
  • Dramatic Pause: Taken to excess at times. The Reveal of who's out in each episode takes ages.
  • Elimination Catchphrase:
    • "It's the moment of truth."
    • "Join [x] and [y] for their last dance..."
  • Everyone Has Standards: Even Craig - who will be the first to point out when someone is rubbish and made errors - will admit if someone is good - if they are good, they may even earn a bow, as Debbie McGee did once.
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: Most of the outfits will have some sparkles on them... because they're so pretty and look so good on dance floor. Tess Daly noted to it during the 2020 series which was during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that "Even the hand sanitiser has been sparkled up!"
  • Fanservice: Outfits on the professional and even amateur ballroom and Latin circuits can be surprisingly racy, so viewers can see lots of skin and tight outfits. Contestants tend to up this as they go along; mainly as they've lost a lot of weight during all the training. For example, Ola once wears a Sexy Backless Outfit black animal print number with Absolute Cleavage. It looks like it had been sprayed on.
  • Filler: Brucie can do filler like nobody's business. The VT's played before each routine can count as this. While they are introduced as being about the contestant's training, they often feature the professional dancer meeting the contestant's friends and / or family, the professional visiting the contestant's work or the two hanging out somewhere.
  • Forgotten Theme Tune Lyrics: Most viewers are unaware of this, but there are actual lyrics to the Strictly theme song, as demonstrated in the pro number that opened the 2012 series.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Shirley Ballas seems to wear glasses purely for this effect. If her specs are on, her gloves are off.
  • Funny Background Event: One dance in the 2015 season saw a bucket of confetti being thrown over the judges. Shortly after this, Darcey could be seen trying to pick bits of confetti out from her cleavage. Likewise when she was giving her opinion, Craig was picking the confetti out of her hair.
  • Funny Foreigner:
    • Bruno Tonioli- he wouldn't be able to get away with half of what he says if he didn't have the 'Franc from Father of the Bride (1991)' persona, and thank god he does because he's funny.
    • The comedy training VTs sometimes play this up with the non-English professionals, as do some of Bruce's jokes.
  • Freudian Slip:
    • Arlene when scoring (not the happiest of phrases perhaps) Mark Ramprakash declared outright on live television 'I just want raw sex!'
    • In the 2018 final, following Stacey Dooley's Showdance, Bruno meant to refer to it as "Stacey's Greatest Hits", but a slip of the tongue resulted in the phrase coming out as "Stacey's Greatest Tits".
  • Halloween Episode: The 2010 series onwards introduced "theme nights", starting with this on the weekend closest to Halloween.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Claudia has a tendency to do lot of puns related to the contestants profession when reading out the numbers for voting.
  • Instant Humiliation: Just Add YouTube!: Discussed by Richard Arnold after a disastrous foxtrot where he forgot half the routine: "We're going to be on the Internet forever!"
  • Joke Character: There will inevitably be a few celebrities each series who actively can't dance. At least one of them will probably turn into a Lethal Joke Character if they get the public vote on side, surviving over several better dancers before going out once there's nobody left they can credibly stay in ahead of.
  • Latin Lover:
    • Played for laughs with Vincent Simone whose dark looks and thick Italian accent and positively obscenely overactive eyebrows are undercut by a lisp and rather diminutive stature- his partners tend to either be teenagers or much older women. If anything, the trope appears to be a lot more effective with Giovanni Pernice (who is also Italian, but much taller) as well as Spanish pro Gorka Marquez.
    • For the 2018 series, a 'second hunky Italian pro appears in one Graziano de Prima, who's a dead ringer for Jon Snow of Game of Thrones''.
  • Live but Delayed
    • Averted for the Saturday show, which has led to more than one embarrassing incident; Bruno used an expletive meaning "nonsense" live on air (the expression in question is usable before the watershed but strongly frowned upon in a show intended as wholesome family entertainment) and later compared a dance to dogs' testicles. The BBC even apologised in 2015 over his comparing of one of Jay McGuiness's dances to 'bull's bollocks'. In another incident, during an argument Len once called Craig a "silly sod".
    • The Sunday results show from 2007 onwards is pre-recorded on the Saturday night. This means that the elimination is leaked by members of the audience, and in the first year the non-liveness became pretty clear when one of the celebrities appeared thirty minutes after the show had gone out doing live rugby commentary. From France.
  • Long-Runner Cast Turnover: The professional lineup; in 2018, Anton is the only original pro dancer left, with the others having appeared in anything between one to eight series (out of sixteen).
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Matt Baker's romantic Viennese Waltz to a Murder Ballad "Where the Wild Roses Grow" though only the first verse and chorus were used so without knowing the whole song you could be excused for not seeing it as such.
  • Modesty Shorts: Worn by Lauren Steadman for her Jive during the 2018 series.
  • Mr. Fanservice: During his one series as a pro, Gleb Savchenko was definitely Mr Fanservice. Upon being paired with him on the launch show, Anita Rani joked that he was so handsome she couldn't look directly at his face, and throughout the series there was at least one instance of him taking his top off.
  • Non-Gameplay Elimination: Several contestants have had to pull out after suffering injury or bereavement. John Sergeant is the only competitor to leave of his own volition (as he feared he might end up winning the series).
    • The 2020 series' rules stipulated that either half of a couple testing positive for COVID-19 would automatically result in this trope; Nicola Adams ended up leaving the show after her professional partner Katya tested positive.
  • Not a Mask: Craig once referred to Anton wearing fake teeth for a dance where he was dressed as Austin Powers, only to discover he wasn't, sending the studio into hysterics for a good minute.
  • Older Than They Look:
    • Pro AJ Pritchard was 21 when he first joined the show in 2016 but looks much younger.
    • Pro Chloe Hewitt was 21 when she started in the show in 2016 and passes as someone younger.
  • Only Known by Initials: Pro dancer AJ Pritchard (full name Alex Joseph Pritchard) but he goes by AJ, at least within the show.
  • Rule of Cool: The 2010 series changed the rules to allow props, leading to a few cases of this:
    • Matt Baker started his Charleston on a unicycle
    • Magician Paul Daniels began a routine by making his partner "appear" from inside a box
    • The opening to Russell Grant's Jive in Wembley Arena: he was "fired" out of a cannon.
  • The Runner-Up Takes It All: Kara Tointon's acting career since winning series 8 has been far from poor, but runner-up Matt Baker received a bigger boost in his presenting career (his performance on the show resulted in him getting the job as host of The One Show, a role he had been passed over for before because of doubts as to how popular he was). It's a common occurrence for the more technically-impressive runner-ups to score musical theatre roles, as was the case with Danny Mac, Alexandra Burke, and most recently Faye Tozer. Since being on Strictly, Joe Sugg hosted the show's official podcast, was one of the titular presenters for the 2019 Comic Relief telethon, had a role of Ogie in the West End musical Waitress,recently guest edited The Beano and got a TV acting role in The Syndicate.
  • Running Gag:
    • Craig's pronounciation of certain words (like "disaaaaastaaaaar", "Ah! May! Zing!" and "Chaaa chaaaa chaaaa")
    • Anton Du Beke being Bruce's "love child".
    • Bruno and chairs
    • In season 8, Bruno's "Sccccccccott!"
    • Darcey Bussell ending sentences with "Yah".
    • "Seerrrvvvvveeeeen!"
    • Bruce's introduction of the judges, which would always end with him insulting Craig.
    • Season 10 started a joke about Len and pickled walnuts.
    • "Kevin from Grimsby"
    • Anton getting stuck with older female contestants that can't dance and the subsequent mockery of this; this said, he has got to the final twice, with Katie Derham (2015) and Emma Barton (2019).
  • Series Mascot: Anton du Beke, the only professional dancer to take part on all series up to date, who is the most recognizable of all pro dancers.
  • Shirtless Scene:
    • The Halloween pro dance which featured no less than five of the professional male dancers dancing topless.
    • Artem's "costume" for his paso doble with Fern Britton involved him wearing nothing from the waist up. The comments that this was an attempt to get votes may not have been entirely in jest. During the 2012 season, Artem made several requests to wear even less.
  • Show Stopper: A really entertaining performance will warrant a standing ovation from the audience.
  • The Smurfette Principle: There's typically been one female judge on the panel, versus three males. It was at first Arlene Philips, then Aleisha Dixon and currently Darcey Bussell. But as of the 2014 season both presenters are now female. In fact as noted above, Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman are the first female duo to have ever presented a Saturday evening show.
  • Team Dad: Len Goodman, head judge and on the whole one of the most generous judges. He's warm towards contestants, adding the human touch to technical criticisms.
  • Technician vs. Performer:
    • Quite a lot of dancers fit the trope, and the younger performers often provide a serious challenge for the technicians, as their skill increases over the course of the series, but the technicians never learn to really sell a dance. The case in point in 2009 is Chris Hollins, who started off poorly skilled but a good performer, and by the end was both skilled AND a good performer.
    • Among how the judges make their decisions, Craig tends to make more technical comments, while Bruno tends to focus on the 'feel'. The other judges tended to fall somewhere inbetween.
  • Too Qualified to Apply: The show is nominally about celebrities learning to dance, and viewers tend to not take to celebrities they perceive as having had prior experience. This has perhaps reached its apex with the 2018 series, which features at least two celebrities predominantly already known for dancing (Ashley Roberts and Danny John-Jules).
  • Vapor Wear: The support cups are attached to the dresses.


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