17. 2004, Series 1, won by newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky
We’ll be forever grateful to the first Strictly. It gave us the raw materials for what became one of our favourite shows, but series one was a very different beast. Nobody quite knew if it would work, and everyone was finding their feet as the show went along.
There was no Clauditorium, instead Tess Daly interviewed the contestants in a very rough and ready backstage area. We were still getting to know the judges and the dancing was nowhere near as good as it is today. There were only eight couples competing, most of whom were really quite bad!
Natasha Kaplinsky and Brendan Cole won with their Dirty Dancing-inspired showdance, but other than that, there wasn’t a lot to report. Oh, Anton Du Beke did come third with Lesley Garrett, which would be newsworthy these days!
16. 2009, Series 7, won by presenter Chris Hollins
This was a strange series. It was the first year that Strictly got dragged into the main news agenda, as the dancing got overshadowed by Alesha Dixon replacing Arlene Phillips on the judging panel. Some thought it was ageist, others believed Alesha didn’t have enough experience, but everyone had an opinion.
BBC Breakfast’s sport presenter Chris Hollins lifted the Glitterball, beating Hollyoaks star Ricky Whittle, who was arguably a much better dancer. Nonetheless, the best thing to come out of the 2009 series was Chris and Ola’s fun Charleston, which you can watch here.
15. 2004, Series 2, won by actress Jill Halfpenny
2004 was all about one dance. While the skill level in the early years generally wasn’t a patch on what we’d expect now, Jill Halfpenny and pro partner Darren Bennett produced a jive that is still talked about today. The highest accolade any jiving contestant can get is to be compared to Jill, even now. It was the first dance to ever receive four 10s from the judges, the choreography still makes you smile and it was a dance floor dream.
Other than that not a great amount happened, although It Takes Two was introduced and Julian Clary was great value as a contestant, especially when he got his maracas out…
14. 2005, Series 3, won by cricketer Darren Gough
This was the first year that the Strictly final felt close, and offered us real tension. Olympian Colin Jackson really should have won. He was the best dancer, the public loved him. But we all learned an important lesson in 2005: that the showdance really can make or break your chances of Strictly success. Erin Boag choreographed a risky number for Colin that involved tuxedos and life-sized puppets. That’s right, puppets. Darren and partner Lilia Kopylova played it safe with a fun, razzle dazzle number and victory was theirs.
This was also the year that would-be It Takes Two presenter Zoe Ball joined the Strictly family, finishing third with Ian Waite.
13. 2018, Series 16, won by presenter Stacey Dooley
After four previous appearances in the final, this was the year that Kevin Clifton finally lifted the Glitterball, so how can this series be so low on the list?! Well apart from Kevin’s triumph, 2018 was something of an annus horribilis for Strictly. For starters, there were suggestions the line-up wasn’t A-list enough (even though Faye from Steps was there, come on people!). Then those pictures of Seann Walsh and pro partner Katya Jones came out and suddenly nobody cared about what was happening on the dance floor.
Throw in an awkward argument between Danny John-Jules and his partner Amy Dowden, which saw him refusing to appear on It Takes Two, and criticism that Ashley Roberts had too much dance experience, and it was generally a difficult series.
12. 2013, Series 11, won by model Abbey Clancy
This was Aljaz and Janette’s first year on the show and they made such an impression that Aljaz won the series, lifting the Glitterball with Abbey Clancy. Their routines were dreamy but it was a fairly quiet year otherwise without many memorable dances or entertaining novelty acts. GMB presenter Susanna Reid and Corrie star Natalie Gumede were both runners up that year.
11. 2007, Series 5, won by singer Alesha Dixon
Alesha stunned everyone on Strictly 2007. Really, we were blown away.
Long before her controversial appointment as a judge, Alesha was a Mis-Teeq singer who most traditional Strictly viewers had never heard of. Suddenly she burst onto our screens with incredible performances and powerful routines, and Bruce was calling her Britain’s answer to Beyonce. Of course she won – nobody else came close.
This was also the first year we got a Sunday night results show, making Strictly a weekend-long event – we approved.
10. 2014, Series 12, won by presenter Caroline Flack
Glossing over the bit where Donny Osmond arrived and played guest judge for a week, this was a great year. It was tough to call the final – Caroline Flack, Blue’s Simon Webbe and Saturdays star Frankie Bridge had all put in brilliant performances over the series, including Caroline’s Charleston and Frankie’s amazing Defying Gravity tango.
Plus there was Judy Murray, trying her very best to dance and winning fans, but proving that her family is better at racket sports than Rumba. Anton Du Beke tried to make her sparkle and they had a great time, but Judy never had a chance at victory.
Oh and Scott Mills dressed up as a crab.
9. 2015, Series 13, won by The Wanted singer Jay McGuiness
The professionals are such an important, often under-valued part of Strictly, and this year gave us three of the very best: Giovanni Pernice, whose choreography was off the charts, especially the Chicago-themed routine he did with Georgia May Foote that year; Oti, who we all know is sensational; and Gleb Savchenko! The one year wonder didn’t stay long, but boy did he make an impact with his ‘Gleb specials’ (sexy moves he made up) and that Paso Doble he created for Anita Rani at Blackpool. With all of those brilliant choreographers out to impress, plus an epic Pulp Fiction Jive from Jay McGuiness and Aliona Vilani, and Jeremy Vine dressed as a cowboy, this was a very strong year.
The only thing that let this series down was the final – Jay was out-danced by soap stars Georgia and Kellie Bright but still won, making the very long episode feel like a bit of a waste of time.
8. 2006, Series 4, won by cricketer Mark Ramprakash
Series four had a top line-up. Firstly, can we mention that an actual Spice Girl took part (and didn’t win. We know. Actual outrage). Emma Bunton finished third with Darren Bennett. Meanwhile, three sporting legends learnt how to dance: Manchester United goalie Peter Schmeichel, who came seventh and rugby’s Matt Dawson, who just lost out to Mark ‘snake hips’ Ramprakash, winning with the brilliant Karen Hardy.
It was a fun, close series and should also be remembered for introducing four of the show’s most popular professional dancers. That was the first time Tango maestros Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace competed in the series, and also our first chance to watch James and Ola Jordan. The four of them really livened up the show for many years, with fresh new choreography, flair and chemistry. While James later became a Strictly bad boy, arguing with the judges whenever he could, Ola’s catsuits went down in the Strictly history books.
7. 2010, Series 8, won by actress Kara Tointon
We do love a romance. Rumours were swirling about Kara and her partner Artem Chigvintsev, and their chemistry was obvious when they danced together. The will-they-won’t-they kept us all interested, and after the couple lifted the Glitterball they did indeed get together properly, awww. And no ‘Strictly curse’ talk either – they were both single!
This was one of the most-watched series in the show’s history, partly because of Ann Widdecombe. Unlike John Sergeant who came before, Ann embraced how useless she was and played up the pantomime routines. She flew across the floor on a zip wire and was literally pulled along by Anton Du Beke on a regular basis. It was hysterical, even Craig Revel Horwood sniggered.
A special mention goes to EastEnders star Scott Maslen, who put in some brilliant dances, much to Bruno Tonioli’s delight. “Sccccccccccoooootttttt!” he would shout before he gave any feedback on his dances. Don’t ask why, it’s Bruno.
6. 2019, Series 17, won by ex-Emmerdale star Kelvin Fletcher
Last year’s series was pretty fantastic wasn’t it? Last-minute recruit Kelvin Fletcher stepped in for injured Jamie Laing and gave popular pro Oti her first chance to lift the Glitterball. Plus we were introduced to Oti’s fab-u-lous sister Motsi, who joined the judging panel after Darcey’s departure.
There were surprises, there were stand-out dances and most excitingly there was a star rising to the stratosphere in professional dancer Johannes Radebe. We loved it all.
5. 2017, Series 15, won by actor Joe McFadden
It’s a testament to the quality of this series that Reverend Richard Coles was the second person to be eliminated. He should have stayed much longer but there were so many people to vote for. Paralympian Johnny Peacock was inspirational, everybody loved Ruth Langsford, Susan Calman played Wonder Woman, Debbie McGee proved you didn’t have to be under 40 to reach the final and Gemma Atkinson fell in love with Gorka Marquez. Alexandra Burke was probably the best dancer, scoring more 10s than any contestant that had gone before, but Joe charmed the audience, and Katya’s imaginative choreography was finally rewarded. Oh and we met new Head Judge Shirley Ballas for the first time too!
4. 2008, Series 6, won by actor Tom Chambers
There’s two reasons this series features so highly on the list. Firstly, the fact that it was a close battle made everything much more interesting. Holby actor Tom Chambers was neck-and-neck with S Club 7 star Rachel Stevens throughout the series, and model Lisa Snowden could have easily won too. Rachel produced some sizzling Tangos with fellow pocket rocket Vincent, but Tom’s tap-dancing, musical theatre-inspired Showdance sealed the deal and he became a worthy winner with partner Camilla Dallerup.
The second reason is John Sergeant. It’s hilarious to think of now, but the nation got its knickers in a twist as rubbish dancer and once serious political journalist John dragged partner Kristina Rihanoff across the floor and through to week nine. We usually love a novelty act, but lots of viewers were furious that he was doing so well (even though many Strictly fans were clearly spending money voting for him). Eventually, embarrassed by the whole thing, John withdrew from the competition. Drama!
3. 2016, Series 14, won by presenter Ore Oduba
What a final! Hollyoaks star Danny Mac, possibly the most impressive contestant the show has ever seen, up against Ore Oduba, who had won praise from Gene Kelly’s widow no less, and Louise Redknapp, who also shone. It was too close to call, but Ore and Joanne Clifton’s belter of a Showdance won the series and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
It wasn’t all about the front-runners either. Judge Rinder was brilliantly entertaining too and who can forget Ed Balls? Gangnam style will never sound the same again…
This was Len Goodman’s final series as head judge, too, which made it extra special.
2. 2012, Series 10, won by Olympic gymnast Louis Smith
This was a superb Strictly year and only narrowly misses out on the top spot. The nation was on a high after the London 2012 Olympics, which had gone amazingly well, and two of our heroes, Victoria Pendleton and Louis Smith joined the line up. Louis had a proper Strictly ‘journey’, learning to loosen up and act his way through the dances. The Showdance was a display of everything he’d learned, combined with his strength from gymnastics. It was silver at the Games, but gold at Strictly.
It wasn’t all about Louis though. Lisa Riley was an unexpected signing but was genuinely excellent on the dance floor, proving a wonderful inspiration for all women. Also, Darcey Bussell replaced Alesha Dixon on the judging panel, bringing class, experience and belly laughs when she constantly referred to Len, Bruno and Craig as “the boys”.
1. 2011, Series 9, won by McFly drummer Harry Judd
Just pipping a glorious 2012 to the post, series nine gets our vote for the best Strictly of all time. There was so much excitement – Claudia Winkleman started hosting the results show, Zoe Ball took over It Takes Two, Russell Grant got fired out of a cannon – that’s A-grade entertainment!
It was a lovely mixture of contestants that made this such a special series. Harry Judd charmed the nation and was a truly worthy winner, but remember there was also the legendary Jason Donovan, Lulu, Robbie Savage, Holly Valance, Alex Jones and Anita Dobson. There was truly something for everyone, including Pasha Kovalev with a bald cap and green face paint, jiving as Shrek. What more could you want?!
Strictly Come Dancing is expected to return to BBC1 in the Autumn. To find out what’s on in the mean time, check out our TV Guide.