Source: Daily Mail
Flamboyant judge Craig Revel Horwood would call it ‘a dis-ast-aah, darling’ – the suits at the BBC are tinkering with Strictly Come Dancing again.
And as the show, once the jewel in the Corporation’s crown, limps towards its eighth series this autumn, it is in uproar yet again.
There has already been a flounceout by one professional dancer, with more threatening to walk.
There are disputes over pay, and disarray over both the judging panel and the prospective contestants.
Indeed, instead of glamour and gaiety, there is more angst and gloom than in a Pinter play.
No wonder people are suggesting this could be the sequins-and-hairspray extravaganza’s last tango.
Bruce Forsyth has not signed up, despite a meeting with the BBC in April. The 82-year-old host has been offered £660,000 to return. If he goes, it will be a disaster – yet he seems in no hurry to sign on the dotted line.
‘It’s up to Bruce as to whether he feels up to it. It is a long haul and gruelling for him,’ a source close to the negotiations said. He has a month to make up his mind.
Meanwhile there is the opposite problem with Alesha Dixon, who caused an outcry when she was introduced last year on a salary of £100,000 to replace 66-year- old Arlene Phillips.
Alesha, 31, will definitely return, but hasn’t exactly received a ringing endorsement from head judge Len Goodman. ‘Alesha is young and she’s got a singing career in front of her. I would understand (if she doesn’t come back),’ he said.
The irrepressible Bruno Tonioli is said to be so tired of it all – and so fed up with his relatively modest £60,000 salary – that he is thinking this year might just be his last.
He also sits on the panel of Dancing With The Stars in America, which is better paid and higher profile – you can’t blame him for feeling ready to move on.
Even Revel Horwood said last year that he was staying only out of loyalty to the show, having been asked to take a pay cut to £72,000.
And with new producer Moira Ross in charge, the purse strings will remain tightly pulled. Her mission is to get Strictly to take on the X Factor, and there is talk of ‘refreshing’ the brand. As such, there will be 14 celebrities instead of 16 – the aim is quality rather than quantity.
There will also be lots of spectacular dance numbers, which Miss Ross hopes will encourage millions of viewers to switch over from X Factor.
How audiences will respond to still more padding, after shows in excess of two hours last time, remains to be seen.
After being comfortably beaten by Simon Cowell’s ITV juggernaut (in the finals, X Factor drew 20million to Strictly’s 11million), you can’t help but feel Miss Ross is fighting a losing battle.
Brian Fortuna, the dancer with the Bambi eyelashes and Greek god body, is certainly not a fan of the changes. He quit this week after the BBC demoted him and four other professional dancers, replacing them with fresh stars.
Fortuna, Ian Waite, Matthew Cutler, Darren Bennett and Lilia Kopylova – among the best known and most popular dancers – have been told they will no longer be teamed with celebrities to compete.
Instead they have been asked to join a dance troupe to perform the ‘spectacular’ numbers.
The BBC said: ‘This series sees the addition of a professional dance group, dedicated to performing routines on a scale never before seen on Strictly. The group will comprise Strictly regulars and some new professional faces.’
Kopylova, who won with Darren Gough, is considering her position. As are the others. ‘They are having a think about this and letting us know,’ a Corporation source said.
Fortuna, who is appearing in live dance show Burn The Floor with his Strictly celebrity partner, the actress Ali Bastian, said: ‘There are changes planned for the next season so I’ve decided not to return to the show. Both Ali and I are looking forward to seeing all our fans at the Shaftesbury Theatre.’
The ousted five are being replaced by 28-year-old Artem Chigvintsev, a Latin champion, Jared Murillo, a 21-year-old High School Musical dancer and Robin Windsor, 30, who was in Burn The Floor on Broadway.
There have been suggestions that age is a factor and the BBC were apparently desperate to secure the services of Cheryl Cole’s young dancer friend Derek Hough, who won Dancing With The Stars in America this year, but simply could not afford him.
Two older dancers who will return however are Brendan Cole and Anton du Beke. Cole, who is openly critical of the direction of the show and does not take part in the Strictly tour, is considered abrasive and overbearing by some of the production team.
He is so popular with viewers, though, that he seems to be unsackable. The same holds good for du Beke who, despite becoming involved in a race row last year, is beloved of a large and vocal section of the audience.
One of the priorities for Miss Ross will be to find the right celebrities. The BBC has debated how to attract better names despite only having around £35,000 to offer each – half what they paid in earlier series.
They are still a long way from a line-up. They are rumoured to have gone back to Sarah Ferguson, who turned them down last year. She does, after all, need the money.
And they are also going for wild cards, such as former minister Peter Mandelson. Gary Lineker and Danielle Bux are in talks to join and there is renewed interest in Richard Madeley.
The only question is, what will the public think? The signs are not positive. Within hours of Fortuna announcing he was going, online protests had sprung up on Facebook and Twitter.
‘I can’t believe they have got rid of Ian Waite, Lilia and Darren, they were so nice,’ wrote one fan.
In the dog eat dog world of the quickstep and the paso doble, however, it seems nice simply isn’t enough.