The Week In Radio: Vernon Kay is Strictly out of step with this dancing debacle


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The Independent Culture

"It’s saturday morning and it’s just gone 10 o’clock,” bellowed Vernon Kay. “and we are here! We are here! We are live!” Where, Vernon? I bellowed back from my kitchen.

Where are you? Admiring the sunrise from the top of mount Kilimanjaro? Hanging with the Rolling Stones at their mammoth 48-hour post-gig party? Hammering out a Middle East peace plan with ban Ki-moon?

“We have come to Strictly Come Dancing!” cried Vernon, breathlessly. “In person!” Oh. I see. It wasn’t just the presence of Kay, aka Mr Middle-of-the-road, on Radio 1 that set the weekend off badly.

Though, to be frank, every time I hear him on the radio my teeth start to itch, possibly a hangover from the time I strayed on to ITV’s All-Star Family Fortunes and saw him commiserating with Brian Dowling over the difficulties of naming a sport that involves throwing something.

No, what really caused my head to do a 360-degree spin was the concept of strictly Come Dancing, the show that brings together assorted soap stars and boy/girl band alumni as they dip themselves in glitter and embrace the cha-cha-cha, being peddled to the station’s audience of skinny-jeaned, dubstep-loving wannabe hipsters.

Radio 1 is not aimed at me, I know. When you can no longer suppress the urge to tut at teenagers wearing their trousers below their arse cheeks, it’s safe to say that your carefree radio 1 days are behind you. But I’m also pretty sure that the station’s target audience – who are, insists the BBC Trust, aged between 15 and 29 – are not the same people who gape devotedly at Strictly on a Saturday night, cooing at the quicksteps and silently wondering if they could pull off Denise Van Outen’s diamanté- encrusted, semi-nude-effect dress at the office party.

Indeed, at the point at which the first celebrity hit the dancefloor, I’m betting most of the nation’s 15-to-29- year-olds were necking their 12th sambuca in a city-centre chain pub, only stepping outside to flash their backsides at passing police cars.

But Vernon, who is soon to leave Radio 1 to make way for a younger model, wasn’t concerning himself with audience figures. His principal job – one that sadly eluded him – was to find something gripping to say while broadcasting from a near empty television studio and trying to build excitement for a show that wouldn’t get going for another seven hours.

In order to pass the time, he had wheeled in last year’s Strictly winner, harry Judd from McFly. Harry did his best impersonation of someone who, in hanging out with a soon-to-be ex-Radio 1 DJ, had reached the pinnacle of his career.

“Today does not feel like work,” he said unconvincingly. “ It’s one of those days where you think ‘ah, that’ll be fun”.

The wheels really came off when Vernon revealed that they would both be there until lunchtime. “Three hours,” harry whined. “Nobody told me that.”

Elsewhere, various contestants pitched up to tell us just how hard it is to dance in front of an audience of millions (“really, really hard”) while Strictly presenter and Kay’s missus Tess Daly popped by to moan about Vernon using all the hot water before he left the house.

So what did we – the bewildered, the morbidly fascinated and the terminally uninterested – learn from all this? That Girls aloud’s Kimberley Walsh knows how to make a cup of tea. That Friday is “tan night” for the Strictly dancers. That host bruce Forsyth doesn’t show up until lunchtime, when the threat of excitable DJs from Radio 1 marching up to him with a microphone has passed.

Most pointedly, we learned that a three-hour show based on a TV programme that your listeners don’t give a toss about does not good radio make.