Strictly Come Dancing: The Final

Saturday:Strictly Come Dancing: The Final; (BBC1, 7pm)

By Claire Cartmill
Friday, 17th December 2021, 5:00 pm

This is the 19th series of Strictly Come Dancing, which is a major achievement for any show, but what has made the pro-celebrity ballroom contest so enduring?

Perhaps this latest run offers a major clue – even after all these years, it’s still capable of surprising us.

After all, when it began all those weeks ago, few people would have guessed that BBC Breakfast host Dan Walker would make it quite so far through the competition. He even stayed in after a week 10 rumba, which, as the judges often tell us, is considered one of the most difficult dances for male celebrities.

AJ Odudu, Kai Widdrington, Johannes Radebe, John Whaite, Rose Ayling-Ellis and Giovanni Pernice

There’s also been the unpredictable nature of the leader board – Sara Davies of Dragon’s Den had the lowest score in the opening show, but was joint top the very next week, and made it to a respectable week eight. She’s not the only one to have bounced around the table, as television presenter AJ Odudu can also claim to have been top and bottom.

But for many people, the real revelation has been EastEnders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis, who became the show’s first deaf contestant. After getting off to a respectable if unspectacular start, she proved she was a real contender with her Halloween week tango, which scored the earliest perfect 40 in Strictly history.

Many viewers were surprised when she didn’t get the same score for her moving and uplifting Couples Choice routine, which included a section where the music dropped out and she and partner Giovanni Pernice danced in silence.

Judge Anton Du Beke, who has been with Strictly since it began in 2004, said it was the “greatest thing I’ve ever seen on the show.” However, even that wasn’t enough to make Craig Revel Horwood get his 10 paddle out, and the couple had to settle for 39 and the knowledge that they’d reduced a lot of viewers to tears.

Kai Widdrington and AJ Odudu

The series also gave us another first as former Great British Bake Off winner formed an all-male partnership with dancer Johannes Radebe, and created some spectacular routines, including a pirate paso and a steamy Argentine Tango.

But now we’ve reached the final, who is still in the running to lift the glitterball? And are we in for any more major surprises?

What we do know is that the couples will perform three routines – their own favourite, the judges’ choice and a no-holds-barred showdance.

As ever, Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman are hosting, and judges, Anton, Craig, Shirley Ballas and Motsi Mabuse will be offering their opinions, but their scores are just for guidance. It’s ultimately the viewers who will decide who succeeds Bill Bailey as champion.

And as it’s the final, there’s also a great musical guest in the form of Ed Sheeran.

If the end of the series leaves you feeling a little deflated, the good news is Jay Blades, Fred Sirieix, Mel Giedroyc, Moira Stuart, Anne-Marie and Adrian Chiles will all be taking to floor on Christmas Day for the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special.

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