Last night marked something of a milestone for us females. As Strictly Come Dancing returned for a twelfth series, a change was wrought. With the news earlier this year that octogenarian Bruce Forsyth was to step down from his regular presenting duties, there was a new double act playing celebrity blind date during the contest’s annual launch show. And no, your eyes did not deceive you. There were two (yes, two!) women running the show.
Much has been made of Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman’s on-screen partnership, although this isn’t the first time they’ve fronted Strictly. Former It Takes Two host Claudia has joined Tess for Sunday’s pre-recorded results show for the previous three series, but last night saw Brucie officially hand over the reins to his two leading ladies. And indulge in a spot of tap dancing – just to prove he’s not quite past it yet.
However, there was quite the hoo-ha when Claudia first bagged the full-time gig. (No, I’m not referring to the endless discussions on fringe length – please, let’s banish those to a distant memory.) I mean the blooming bonkers fact that in 2014 – well into the 21st century – this is the first time telly bosses have opted for two women to front a high profile Saturday night entertainment format on terrestrial TV. Isn’t that mad? Yes, we’ve had Davina, Holly, Fearne and more all earning their chops for Cowell and co but never before have two women been hired as the main presenters on weekend prime time.
For me, Tess and Claud edged Strictly up a notch yesterday. Gone are the cringe-inducing jokes, replaced by smart, witty banter built on what is clearly a genuine friendship.
We should celebrate the fact that two ladies are lighting up our Saturday and Sunday nights with sequins and sparkles. Heck, Radio Times just devoted an entire issue to the most powerful women on telly. But let’s not overlook the fact that Tess and Claud aren’t just fulfilling some sort of gender quota. They’ve got bags of chemistry on screen, Claudia is already firmly ensconced within the Strictly family, and, as we saw at the weekend, she’s not afraid of reprimanding veteran troublemaker Brendan Cole.
“One couple has already floored me and it’s you two girls, you are fantastic,” bleated Bruno during Sunday’s show. And while I’m far less partial to the hyper hyperboles of Strictly’s flamboyant judge, I don’t disagree. Tess and Claud stole the show last night, proving their class with a partnership as sparkly as the Strictly glitterball. Yes, we should celebrate women at the forefront of TV but these ladies are also the best people for the job. Let’s not forget that.