The Radio Times logo

How the BBC pulled off Strictly Come Dancing 2020 - and all the changes they should keep

There were many trials along the way, but the BBC managed to bring Strictly to life this year. Grace Henry takes a look back at the 2020 series to see what the show can take from this pandemic experience.

Strictly Come Dancing star HRVY
Published: Saturday, 19th December 2020 at 4:00 pm

With many shows being put on hold or postponed due to coronavirus, we worried Strictly Come Dancing wouldn't happen this year.


Even when the BBC confirmed the 18th series would be going ahead, rumours swirled that the show would be cancelled just before the launch date on October 24th.

Flash forward to the present day, following eight fantastic weeks of ballroom bliss, and it's safe to say the BBC pulled this one out of the bag!

From their highest ratings, to the most incredible Strictly Come Dancing line-up (who in some cases had to isolate from their family for the duration of the series), 2020 has been one of the strongest years for the BBC One dance show, even in the face of the pandemic.

Despite multiple Strictly Come Dancing COVID changes, which saw a smaller audience size, socially distanced judges and Bruno Tonioli even appearing virtually from the USA, Strictly this year has been truly and utterly amazing.

For every problem there has been a solution, with the team coming back fighting to ensure we made it to the Strictly Come Dancing final, which will see either Maisie Smith, HRVY, Jamie Laing or Bill Bailey lift the much coveted Glitterball trophy on December 19th.

Take the moment we all found out HRVY had tested positive for coronavirus. Just weeks before the show was due to air, the YouTube star revealed he had the virus, sending fans into a frenzy as they wondered whether he'd be able to take part in the series.

The show's executive producer Sarah James had previously said Strictly contestants who test positive for COVID-19 would be eliminated instantly, so of course many thought this could be the case for the 20-year-old.

Nevertheless, the show managed to work around it – HRVY isolated and returned in time for the launch show where he was partnered with Janette Manrara.

Strictly star HRVY
Strictly star HRVY and his professional dance partner Janette Manrara in Week One BBC

Although things temporarily went back to normal, Nicola Adams and Katya Jones had to leave Strictly after the pro dancer tested positive for coronavirus ahead of Week Four. After all her hard work, it was devastating to see Nicola go so early in the competition, and once again it felt like Strictly just couldn't catch a break in 2020.

Nevertheless, her departure was handled professionally and it was later revealed Nicola and Katya would reunite and dance in the Strictly Come Dancing final.

Strictly Come Dancing 2020 contestants Nicola Adams and Katya Jones
Strictly Come Dancing 2020 contestants Nicola Adams and Katya Jones BBC

However, there was no escaping a second national lockdown, which saw non-essential shops, pubs, bars, restaurants, theatres and many more closed from November 5th to December 2nd as coronavirus cases rose.

With people being advised to only go out for work where absolutely necessary, it posed the question: Will Strictly continue?

It did. The show went on.

The live audience was scrapped to avoid the spread of the virus and having already isolated in bubbles away from other people prior to the series, the celebs and their pro dancers were allowed to keep on dancing.

These are just a few of the examples, which proved just how committed the BBC was to giving us Strictly this year.

No matter what, the BBC had a solution, like with Anton Du Beke stepping in to cover Motsi Mabuse in November while she isolated following a trip back home.

Strictly Come Dancing Anton Du Beke
Strictly Come Dancing's Anton Du Beke BBC

The BBC were quick on their feet to make decisions, which only kept the show going and us tuning in.

The proof is in the numbers. A total of 8.6 million viewers tuned in for the launch show this year, which was an increase on last year's opening show which attracted 7.8 million viewers. And one million more viewers tuned in to Strictly for Week Two following Prime Minister Boris Johnson's coronavirus briefing.

While there's no denying this year was phenomenal, it was definitely different for obvious reasons – maybe there's something in that.

Could this year have been made better because of the changes? And if so, what should Strictly keep going forward?

For starters, I much preferred having the contestants meet their professional partners in their VTs rather than in the usual in-studio pairing episode.

Over the past 17 series, it has felt a little cheesy and just a bit predictable watching the contestants waiting to see who they're going to be put together with.

strictly come dancing
The contestants met their professional dance partners ahead of the launch show for series 18

What we got this year was truly refreshing, as each celebrity was introduced to their professional dance partner in different locations which allowed for more variety, and if you ask me, was more entertaining.

While there were some things we obviously missed from the years before - for instance the judges being able to sit together and there being four of them physically on the panel all at once - there was definitely something different in the air this year which we'd love to see going forward... positivity.

Strictly Come Dancing Priscilla routine
Strictly Come Dancing professionals Priscilla routine BBC

Strictly can sometimes be overshadowed by sensational stories, one of those being the infamous "Strictly curse", but this year we didn't have that.

This year, everyone, from the pro-dancers to the contestants and judges seemed very happy to be there. It was genuinely lovely to see.

So while they were many trials along the way, the BBC didn't let this stop Strictly. They worked their magic to bring us series 18, and it certainly paid off.


The Strictly Come Dancing final is on BBC One on Saturday December 19th at 6pm. To find out what else is on in the meantime, check out our TV Guide.


Sponsored content