If the producers of Strictly Come Dancing are to be believed, ballroom is a continuation of war by other means. Harry Judd, Chelsee Healey and Jason Donovan, we were told at the start of this year's final, were not a boy-band drummer and couple of soap stars, respectively, but "gladiators".
And with a puff of dry ice, the professional dancers already eliminated from the show catwalked on dressed as Roman slaves, waving swords in agonised slow motion, and dragging the finalists behind them in gold lamé chariots. Then, after a neat little quickstep, Harry was implicitly compared by the judges to Nelson, Wellington and Caesar, and reassured that he'd come out "all guns blazing".
A sense of perspective is not exactly Strictly's strong point. It's ridiculous even when done well, so reviewing the efforts of three amiable, hard-working amateurs feels like being handed a mallet and a bag of kittens.
To be fair the rehearsal studios do resemble a boot camp. Each competitor had to prepare four dances for the final, making it almost as gruelling an ordeal for them as it was for the viewers. We had to sit through two separate programmes, with two rounds of voting by phone. Italy chooses governments with less palaver.
Jason followed Harry with a tango, the dance of sex, death and, apparently, pink ostrich-feather fans. His performing style is just as schizophrenic, with chorus-boy shoulders, a spank-me tush and facial expressions that look like he's trying to pick a fight at a football match.
Then we saw Chelsee, a bubbly personality in a body that combines short stature and a high centre of gravity, doing a quick and spirited jive where not enough of the bouncing was below the waist. The judges Bruno Tonioli, Alesha Dixon, Len Goodman and Craig Revel Horwood didn't care. Their brief was panto enthusiasm.
The British public has been obedient, bringing all the judges' favourites through and, at the beginning of last night's second programme, eliminating Jason as expected, even though his showdance had a lot more content than Chelsee's.
Bruce Forsyth – whose jokes had given all the contestant's an evening's practice at the death's head rictus – reassured Jason that everyone was a winner. So, not exactly like war then.
The ultimate heads-up was the right one, though. All these celebrity trials-by-ordeal are about the "journey" not the performance, and these two came furthest. Strictly's appeal didn't lie in the steps, so much as seeing their obvious delight at doing things they never thought they could. But we all knew Harry Judd was going to win, didn't we? Predictably, he did.Reuse content