Keeping his feet Strictly under the table at the Beeb: Why Auntie”s so desperate to keep Bruce Forsyth dancing…
Strictly Come Dancing will finish the most successful run in its eight-year history this weekend — and, unlike previous series, there’s no longer any whispering at the BBC about the future of host Sir Bruce Forsyth.
For although he turns 84 in February, executives have privately signalled they’re in no hurry to usher the iconic entertainer off the stage at White City.
The planning to replace Brucie, which went on for many years under the controversial reign of former BBC1 controller Jay Hunt, has been quietly shelved and the desire at the Corporation is for Brucie to stay.
I”m still standing: Theres no longer any whispering at the BBC about the future of host Sir Bruce Forsyth pictured here with co-host Tess Daly
As for the man himself, Brucie has made it clear he’ll retire when he’s ready, and doesn’t expect to be told otherwise.
But, if he were to decide to bow out before the next series, he’d go out on a high, with Strictly’s ratings peaking and expected to grow further during the Blackpool final tomorrow night.
The television superstar still gets a buzz out of live TV, and industry insiders have credited some of his performances this year as among the best of his time hosting Strictly.
Taking the decision to let Brucie sit it out during filming of the results show late on a Saturday night (broadcast on Sunday evening) has allowed him to get home at a reasonable hour.
‘Bruce is away before the filming of the second show begins. But he takes a full part in the dress rehearsals, so it’s a very long day all the same,’ my source on the show explains.
Irreplaceable: Brucie will stay on the show for another series after plans to get rid of him were shelved
There was a time three years ago when the issue of Brucie’s replacement was high on the Beeb’s agenda. In 2009, his good friend and Strictly professional dancer Anton Du Beke was being groomed as heir apparent.
But he is said to have been ‘seriously tainted’ after a scandal that year when it emerged he had called his celebrity dance partner Laila Rouass a ‘Paki’.
Graham Norton was then lined up, but he has moved away from Saturday night entertainment to focus on his chat show, now BBC1’s flagship since the defection of Jonathan Ross to ITV1.
There are some key Beeb insiders who’d like Vernon Kay to take over from Sir Bruce alongside Tess Daly, thus creating a new husband and wife presenting duo.
The couple previously fronted the BBC1 celebrity singing series Just The Two Of Us.
But, unless Brucie pulls a Cilla Black-style surprise this weekend (remember when she bowed out of Blind Date on live TV), all that talk will remain academic, for now at least.
Jury”s out on judge Len”s return
Meanwhile, after beating X Factor in some crucial ratings clashes this year, insiders tell me the BBC are also keen for all four judges — Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli, Alesha Dixon and Craig Revel Horwood — to return for series nine.
But Strictly producers are likely to have to work hard to retain the services of head judge Len Goodman.
End of Len Strictly judge Goodman could stick with Dancing With The Stars which is more lucrative
The 67-year-old has to make a gruelling transatlantic weekly commute throughout the series in order to appear on the BBC show and its American equivalent Dancing With The Stars.
And because his deal with U.S. network ABC is far more lucrative — he gets paid 90,000 for Strictly and 250,000 for Dancing With The Stars — it would be no surprise if that show takes priority.
This year, producers here allowed Goodman a week off to lessen the impact of all the travelling. A similar arrangement, perhaps allowing him more weeks off, is up for consideration.
But current BBC1 controller Danny Cohen knows even tinkering with Strictly can be perilous.
His controversial predecessor, Ms Hunt, faced a career crisis after making the decision to axe popular original judge Arlene Phillips and replace her with Alesha.
It would be unlikely he’d make the same mistake.
Kelly Rowland was in no mood to make friends during her final week judging The X Factor this year.
Not happy: Apparently Kelly Rowland was in no mood to make friends during her final week judging The X Factor this year
The former Destiny’s Child singer could barely contain her unhappiness about aspects of the show while backstage at Wembley Arena last weekend, according to senior X Factor sources.
Key to her unease was the fact her finalist, second runner-up Amelia Lily, had been her choice to vote off in the first week, and only returned in a surprise twist of fate following the departure of controversial Frankie Cocozza.
And she struggled with the praise heaped upon her arch-rival Tulisa after the N-Dubz singer won with talented girl group Little Mix.
As I reported two weeks ago, it is unlikely Kelly will return to the show, although Tulisa is guaranteed a second series should she want it — which I know she most definitely does.
Shutting up a chatty man
Channel 4 has had to make cuts to the festive special of Alan Carr’s Chatty Man show, due to be broadcast on Christmas Day.
During an apparently raucous interview with David Walliams, the comedian effectively ‘outed’ a fellow celebrity by claiming everyone knows he is gay.
Cut it out: Producers had to edit the Alan Carr show after he “outed” a fellow celebrity
However, the man in question has never spoken publicly about his sexuality and, at this point, I believe has no intention of doing so.
C4 executives decided it would be inappropriate to screen the footage, although the rest of the comic’s interview will still feature.
But Alan is in the unenviable position of being scheduled against EastEnders and Downton Abbey.
Our two biggest broadcasters are to engage in another holiday ratings battle on New Year’s Day — just a week after the epic EastEnders versus Downton Abbey clash.
At 7pm, ITV1 is showing the TV premiere of Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince, while BBC1 is scheduling against it a ‘momentous’ extended episode of EastEnders — followed by the return of the highly anticipated drama Sherlock at 8.10pm.
Sky1 is also joining the ratings battle by screening its big-budget two-hour Eddie Izzard pirate drama, Treasure Island, at 7pm.
For ITV it was a ratings winner over two decades and won its star, Helen Mirren, three consecutive Bafta awards for best actress.
But across the Atlantic, the American version of Prime Suspect, set within the NYPD, has become one of the biggest flops of the TV year.
Ratings have dropped to as low as four million viewers, despite generally positive reviews from the critics.
The adaptation of Lynda La Plante’s drama for NBC, starring Maria Bello as the Jane Tennison character Jane Timoney, is considered a near certainty to be axed after being pulled from the schedule before the conclusion of its 13-episode run.