Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ageist BBC ousts Arlene

It's been a bit of a stressful week as you will have seen from previous posts, and it was only listening to BBC's Broadcasting House this morning that I caught up with something the rest of the world knew about on Thursday.

Alesha Dixon is to replace Arlene Phillips on Strictly Come Dancing. Now Alesha was a worthy winner of the show in 2007, but she does not have Arlene's training or knowledge of dance, or her sharp eye of what works visually on the dance floor.

Ballet star Darcy Bussell will also participate in the judging, and will help competitors with training in the later stages of the show. No problems there, she's a professional dancer and I will respect her opinion.

Arlene Phillips caused a lot of controversy in the last series when audience favourite John Sergeant went out, but the show enjoyed a lot of extra publicity as a result. She can be a very acid and picky judge, but the world of dance is incredibly competitive and very hard work and she is an extremely driven and demanding person.

There was a rumour as long ago as 18th June that Arlene might be due for the chop, and she hinted strongly about it on her Desert Island Discs appearance on July 3rd. (not available on Iplayer due to some rights agreements with the family of show originator Roy Plomley).

The BBC have been widely criticised for this change and the reasons for making it seem pretty weak. The show and the judges were perfect as they, were and there was no justification to change a successful format.

There is more than a sniff of ageism about this although BBC 1 Controller Jay Hunt has denied it saying that Arlene was the 'obvious one to change'.

Well Mr Hunt, it is not obvious to me, or to the show's millions of followers and I don't expect Alesha to have the skills or the presence to shine as a judge, good as she was as a competitor.

Len Goodman, regarded as the head judge of the Strictly Come Dancing panel has said that he is sorry to see Arlene go. We have not heard from her nemesis Craig Revel Horwood with whom Arlene has had some spectacular disagreements.

Arlene will, thankfully not be leaving our screens altogether - she will be joining former Strictly competitor Christine Bleakley on the One Show as a special presenter and commentator on this year's programme. I think we may find out more about how this change occurred which may not be totally flattering to the BBC's image.

It isn't goodnight Arlene just yet.