With the quarter-finals imminent and that glitterball well and truly within reach, the Strictly Come Dancing contestants are at the top of their game. They are twirling faster than merry-go-rounds and grinning with alarming abandon. Most of them have been told they are better than their professional aides (which I’m sure doesn’t smart for them a bit.)
At this stage in the competition, everybody who has survived public vote has scored over 36. They are churning out impressive, near-perfect performances week after week after week. Isn’t it time the curmudgeonly judges just went and awarded someone the big 4-0?
Or at least, that was what I was thinking last Saturday night.
This year, the standard is super high, especially from the ladies. Len only really speaks in Cockney Rhyming slang these days while careful Darcey has started gushing praise and Bruno can barely keep his backside on his seat. Even Craig is struggling to find fault with their footwork.
“We have all come to expect good and great things from you and I’ve got to admit that did not disappoint,” he said to Pixie last week. “Absolutely fan-tastic. I can see you doing that in the final” he followed up, to Caroline, adding, “I really loved it. Fantastic,” to Frankie.
At 39 points, Caroline’s Turkish Charleston is the closest we’ve got. But it’s not clear what more can she do to get Craig to dust off his highest score…
It feels to me like in previous years the celebrities have been rolling around in 10s, bloated with the judges’ unreserved praise by this point in the competition.
And I’m not entirely wrong. By week 11, last year’s winner Abbey Clancy had already bagged her first 40 as had Kimberley Walsh the year before. Back in series seven, Ali Bastian had scored the quadruple 10 in week eight. WEEK EIGHT.
But if you look back at Strictly’s history, there aren’t as many top scores as you might think.
We boo and hiss when a judge dares to a critical, but, in truth, they are actually pretty nice these days. Back at the birth of Strictly Come Dancing, the scoring was a lot harsher.
Our first winner Natasha Kaplinsky never scored higher than a 37 while series three’s star Darren Gough didn’t even get that high. Fellow champions Jill Halfpenny and Mark Ramprakash didn’t achieve perfection until the final, while winners Tom Chambers, Alesha Dixon and Kara Tointon took home the glitter ball, without ever achieving 10s from across the board.
It might feel like this year’s contestants are hard done by but clearly, I’ve been looking at Strictly through rose-tinted, sequin-rimmed spectacles. Or else I’ve been blinded by the spangles and everyone’s brilliantly white teeth.
Strictly Come Dancing continues on Saturday at 7:00pm on BBC1