Strictly switch-around for BBC1 autumn

Thursday, July 9, 2009 by

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:


8 Responses to “Strictly switch-around for BBC1 autumn”

  1. Adam on July 9th, 2009 3:03 pm

    I have to agree that Norton is pretty good on Totally Saturday, given what a total shambles the show is.

  2. Simon Tyers on July 9th, 2009 3:30 pm

    And that physical entertainment space has rarely been more completely colonised.

    Have there been many other occasions where a BBC1 controller (or an ITV one, come to that) has damned a big Saturday night show pretty much the second the first series has finished, rather than wait a year until someone asks about it?

  3. Jon Haw on July 10th, 2009 3:12 pm

    I do believe the BBC when they say that Arlene Phillip’s removal from Strictly is nothing to do with ageism – the real reason is that she’s just not very good! OK, she really knows her onions when it comes to dancing, but too often her comments are wrapped up in tortuous similies and puns which she clearly spends all week thinking up, but never, ever get a laugh and too often just leave the audience,and occasionally the other judges, completely flumoxed.

    The problem is that everone at the BBC is too professional and too polite to say this – which has left them open to these ridiculous ageism accusations.

  4. Chris Hughes on July 10th, 2009 4:10 pm

    I think you have half a point, she really isn’t very good (“You need more of that famous breakfast cereal – snap, crackle and sizzle!”).

    But for me, it’s no coincidence (to use one of Clive James’s least favourite phrases) that she’s being replaced by an attractive pop star rather than another experienced choreographer. I genuinely think the BBC are after a Cheryl Cole-style figure on the panel to appeal to a younger audience (and get the show in the papers a bit more).

  5. Wil on July 13th, 2009 10:20 am

    But if Alesha Dixon is behind the desk all the time she won’t be able to wear skimpy skirts and flash her pins. Surely a big part of her appeal (one for the Dads) during her run on the contest?

  6. Chris Hughes on July 13th, 2009 12:43 pm

    Well, you could say the same thing about Cheryl Cole, but it seemed to work for The X-Factor

  7. Chris Allen on July 17th, 2009 4:05 pm

    “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”.

    Hmmmm… I think it shows how irrelevant TV has become to me (after being pretty much square-eyed for the first 20 years of my life) that I didn’t even know what kind of show The One Show was. I assumed it was some kind of magazine format thingy?

    (Having used Google I see that “The One Show is a topical magazine programme broadcast weekdays at 7pm on BBC One”.)

  8. Glenn Aylett on July 19th, 2009 6:30 pm

    The only occasion I can think where a programme was damned as soon as it was finished, or possibly from day one, was Bruce’s Big Night in 1978 which the critics savaged, most of his big name guests pulled out of due to this and it was ironically hammered in the ratings by The Generation Game. ITV became extremely embarassed by it and you knew it was to die when its run ended. However, Brucie remained defiant saying the press were out to get him and re emerged very successfully two years later as a game show host.