I’m a tutter. Bad manners on the bus or people putting their feet on train seats bring out my inner Miss Priss. I never actually say anything out loud in case I’m thumped or, worse, suffer the acute social embarrassment of someone railing back at me with a typhoon of abuse. So I tut quietly, to myself, because I don’t like rudeness of any sort but I’m too scared to say so out loud.
But challenging rudeness on television is easy: it means endless eye-rolling and loud tutting at Craig Revel Horwood every week on Strictly Come Dancing are my Saturday-night routines. (I hope I’m safe in the assumption that he can’t hear me and won’t come to my house to beat me up.)
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I know he’s a pantomime villain and I’m sure in real life he’s absolutely charming, but there’s a real undercurrent of unkindness leaking to the surface now that threatens the good feeling of a family show.
I and my little weekly viewing group were outraged when Revel Horwood dismissed Jonnie Peacock’s week eight dance with “Dull, dull, dull”, prompting Tess Daly, quite rightly, to snap back with “How dare you?” Good for you, Tess.
Yes, yes, I know there are a lot more important things going on in the world than a spangly dancing contest and Strictly is just a TV talent show and the celebs know what they are getting into. But there’s no excuse for a lack of respect.
Jonnie Peacock has one leg and he’s a gifted, gold-medal-winning Paralympic athlete. He clearly wouldn’t expect or ask for special treatment of any kind, or any sentimentality, and that’s not what I’m asking for, either. If he and his partner Oti Mabuse dance a dull routine, then fine, say so, but don’t use one word to batter him.
It’s a dance show where the amateurs are supposed to be helped to improve. Isn’t that the point? And Peacock isn’t a comedy act like Ed Balls or John Sergeant; he clearly feels he has something to prove. He also has good manners and took the insult (and this was an insult, not criticism) like the gentleman he clearly is.
Head judge Shirley Ballas should have stepped in (I can’t help but feel that Len Goodman would have) to insist that Revel Horwood apologise. That’s surely part of her job, to make sure her fellow judges are at least fair, rather than just offensive.
What particularly upsets me about the increasing levels of unkindness on Strictly is that it all adds to the world’s general coarsening. Casual unpleasantness to others is all part of the daily grind – see my earlier comments about buses and trains. I’m still old-fashioned enough (or probably just “old”) to think that huge family television shows like Strictly should set an example.
I think the celebs do that every week because the show champions and celebrates hard work and striving for improvement. But if contestants are just going to be batted away with insults, then what’s the message? Hey kids, it’s fine to be mean to others! Go ahead and hurt their feelings! It’s a laugh.
No, it isn’t.
Strictly Come Dancing is on 6.50pm Saturday, BBC1