In one of the less surprising news stories of last week, we learned that everyone’s favourite grandpa of the cha-cha is stepping down from his weekly job on Strictly Come Dancing.
At 86, Bruce Forsyth has been a fixture on British screens for nearly three times longer than I’ve been alive. A consummate professional, still turning out the gags and admirably nimble (William Hill have 25-1 odds on the former hoofer returning as a contestant in the next series), his presence every week was a too-rare reminder of what’s possible past the showbiz pensioner cut-off.
Sometimes he doddered, yes, but that was good too – far better a doddering Bruce who’s still on TV than to sweep him away at 70 and pretend that people don’t age, minds don’t fade and we all stay taut and glossy forever.
Speaking of taut, glossy people, Tess now needs a new presenting partner. My immediate thought, like any person of sensible taste, was “Claudia! Claudia! LET WINKLEMAN HAVE IT”.
The panda-eyed presenter has been standing in for Forsyth on the Sunday shows since 2010, and she’s been delightful – a sort of eccentric antihero in a smock dress, the perfect counterbalance to immaculate Tess. You always imagine Tess would just keep smoothly presenting if the four horseman of the apocalypse thundered onto the set and made Brendan Cole do the Argentine tango with Death on a lake of fire. Claudia would do a pun, pull a funny face and run around with rumpled hair screaming “WHOAH! THIS IS MAAAD!”, which is what I’d want to see.
One bookie’s favourite is Anton du Beke, not least because he will almost certainly look exactly like Brucie in 30 years’ time. If we squint slightly, it’ll be as if nothing has changed. Another is Daly’s husband and telly’s resident margarine-monger, Vernon Kay.
This one makes sense for the BBC because they’ll only have to send one car and pay for one room at the Elstree Travelodge. But Vernon Kay saddens me. He started off so well, all trendy hair and T4 and northern charm, then somewhere along the way traded his personality in for fake tan, whitened teeth and shiny suits and watched his career path veer off to the point where he’s doing the gigs Steve Jones wasn’t available for. Maybe he is the portrait in Dermot O’Leary’s attic.
But despite all my admiration for Bruce’s long career, my main ask is that they don’t bring in another man of advanced years. Because how many times have we seen that combo? The naughty grandpa/glossy young straightwoman double act. Des and Mel. Terry Wogan and Fearne Cotton. Christine Bleakley and basically everyone she’s ever presented with. Yawn.
If the Beeb really want to turn heads, as one of my Twitter followers suggested, they should give the gig to Mary Berry and Joey Essex. Or Reggie Yates and Sandi Toksvig. Or Harry Styles and Dame Joan Bakewell.
Or, forget needing a man in the frame at all and just give it to Claudia. She’s already doing the job, guys, and everyone already loves her. If you don’t, I swear on the metaphorical ghost of Camilla Dallerup, I will be writing to Points of View.