Strictly Come Dancing: The Final

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Strictly Come Dancing: The Final (BBC1, 7.05pm)

In theory, 2022 has seen Strictly Come Dancing get back to business as usual.

During the previous two years, some changes had to be introduced due to Covid restrictions, but for this 20th series, the show once again had a full studio audience, and was also able to make a pilgrimage to Blackpool, the spiritual home of ballroom.

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That doesn’t mean that the current run, which concludes tonight, has been predictable. Not only have viewers had the added excitement of guessing what night it was going to be on as the quarter and semi-finals were moved around the schedules by the football, we’ve also had plenty of surprises thanks to the public vote.

The hotly tipped likes of Molly Rainford and Fleur East found themselves making regular visits to the bottom two, even in weeks when they had scored highly with the judges, while Tony Adams and Ellie Taylor both lasted considerably longer than their marks may have suggested.

There was also a new theme week this time around with an episode celebrating the BBC’s centenary – although seeing how hampered some of the couples were by the music they were given, quite a few fans will be hoping we don’t see that repeated in the future.

However, as Anton Du Beke, who has been with Strictly since the very beginning, would point out, the show has changed a lot since it first began, even if viewers haven’t always noticed.

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He says: “The show has evolved, there hasn’t been a revolution or a massive change. We started with eight couples and now we have 15. We didn’t have group numbers in the early days. The show has just sort of gently moved on and on.”

Even his role has evolved – he began as a professional dancer, and is now a judge, a changed that he has embraced. “I’m loving judging on Strictly Come Dancing, it’s incredible. I do watch some of the pros do the numbers and get a bit of dance envy, thinking I wish I could have been a part of that. But judging is so much easier on the knees.”

He’ll be offering his scores again tonight as the finalists take to the floor to perform a routine of their own choosing, one decided by the judges and a final show dance. There’s not quite so much pressure on him and his fellow experts Shirley Ballas, Craig Revel Horwood and Motsi Mabuse though, as tonight their marks are for guidance only – it’s the viewers who decide who lifts the glitterball trophy.

Last year, the public voted for Rose Ayling-Ellis in what was one of the most emotional finals the show has ever seen. As Anton says: “It’s difficult to think about last year’s series without thinking about Rose and her incredible journey. I think the dance her and Giovanni won the BAFTA for was extraordinary, and there were other extraordinary moments through her Strictly journey.”

Will we be in for any equally moving moments tonight as the couples battle it out?