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Strictly switch-around for BBC1 autumn

Posted By Graham Kibble-White On Thursday, July 9, 2009 @ 1:13 pm In upfront | Comments Disabled

Darcy Bussell and Alesha Dixon to 'refresh' Strictly

Darcy Bussell and Alesha Dixon to 'refresh' Strictly

Strictly ‘refreshed’, 16 celebs going around the world in 80 days, Take That headlining a Children in Need concert at The Albert Hall and Totally Saturday “not as good as it should be”: Today’s press launch for the autumn season on BBC1.

BBC1 Controller Jay Hunt was on confident, bullish form as she unveiled BBC1′s new season line-up (joshing the event was quite nerve-wracking for her “given what happened to my predecessor… I’ve looked at all the pictures you’re going to see today, and I didn’t see someone walking backwards when they should have been walking forwards… but I might have missed something”).

The headline story was Arlene Phillips’ departure from Strictly Come Dancing. She’s to be replaced by former Strictly champ Alesha Dixon, who will also be joined by Darcey Bussell for the last three weeks of the run. The show will also debut with a two-night special, running over Friday and Saturday. Details of the full line-up can be found on the BBC’s press site, so let’s cut to highlights from Hunt’s brief Q&A session with the press following the presentation.

On Arlene Phillips being forced out due to ageism: “Hand on heart it’s genuinely not. I mean, you’ve seen in the time that I’ve been here I’ve looked at an array of programmes in the BBC1 schedule and some of them needed a refresh. Whether it be Watchdog, where the decision was to take off a 30-year-old woman and replace her with a 60-year-old woman, or Country File. So, what’s happened with Strictly is really about refreshing that brand and making sure it remains as compelling for viewers as it always has been. As you can see, Arlene is leaving the show but I’m delighting she is joining The One Show – an incredibly important part of the BBC1 schedule, in fact the most prominent show on BBC1 after the News.”

On Graham Norton, who was barely represented in the season trails screened:
“To be honest, lots of things weren’t mentioned. Graham was in the Comedy and Light Entertainment show reel and I’m incredibly glad to have him on the channel. As you know, his [chat] show moves over to BBC1 in the autumn as well, and that will be a big moment. Hand on heart, I think when we talk about creative risk on BBC1, and I was very clear when I took this job that if we were going to be serious about reaching out to different audiences, we would take risks… When I arrived [at the channel] we had Strictly Come Dancing and the Andrew Lloyd Webber shows, and they were the only returning entertainment formats that we had. At the end of this year, we’ve got a break-out hit with Let’s Dance For Comic Relief which saw off Saturday Night Takeaway. We’ve got Total Wipeout and Hole In The Wall, completely colonising that physical entertainment space and we’ve managed to make stand-up comedy cut through on a Saturday night. Who would have thought that? So we’ve had a lot of success, along the way we’ve had a lot of disappointments. Totally Saturday isn’t as good as it should be, but the interesting thing about that show is the feedback from viewers about Graham has been consistently strong.”

On if there’s going to be an Doctor Who element in Children in Need this year:

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