Hit & Run: Scandal on line one
Tuesday 16 December 2008
As a fan, it was impossible to know which way to take Saturday night's unexpected announcement.
It was a great relief to hear that all three couples would go through to the Strictly Come Dancing final, since actor Tom Chambers and dance partner Camilla Dallerup (pictured) had been certain to lose the dance-off – and the public wouldn't want two female celebrities in the showdown. But questions immediately arose. Why had Tom and his Swedish bombshell been handed a get out of jail free card, just when they should have been taking a last tearful turn around the dancefloor?
Typical BBC muppetry is only half the story (the Strictly producers apparently hadn't accounted for a tie in the judges' vote). In fact, no one has yet devised a foolproof public voting system.
One thing's for sure: when the Suffragettes were valiantly battling for equal rights, not one among them could have imagined that the process they transformed from "one man, one vote" to "one person, one vote" would ever morph into "one person, as many votes as one can afford to cast in text messages, phone calls or mouse clicks". Yet these are the rules of democratic voting in the age of technology.
Take Tom, the Holby Hunk. He's the public favourite, right? Or is he just the favourite of every voter in his Derbyshire village who knows how to use their speed-dials and redials? Lisa Snowdon and Rachel Stevens no doubt must rely on more meagre pickings from their native metropolitan neighbourhoods.
In telly votes, tactics rule supreme, and niche interest groups have everything to play for in mainstream issues. Take the hobbit-like 16-year-old Eoghan Quigg, whose journey into the final three of The X Factor would have been unthinkable were it not for block voting from his countrymen in Northern Ireland. When it came to the last hurdle, though, they just couldn't cut it – there are fewer than two million people in Northern Ireland, after all, and there were a total of eight million calls made on Saturday night. Despite their passionate engagement with Quigg's cause, they simply couldn't cast enough votes.
Not so in the case of Chris Hoy, named BBC Sports Personality of the Year on Sunday, who was one of four cyclists nominated for the individual award after the sport's resounding successes at the Olympic Games.
How did he pull it off? With some nifty manoeuvring from the cycling community, and eager dialling from his Scottish compatriots. Cycling Weekly pointed out to fans that although this was the two-wheeled racers' year, the only hope they had of taking the trophy was to vote as one – for just one of the nominees. They settled on Hoy, and it worked.
YouGov, the independent online polling company employed to gauge the nation's sentiment on anything and everything, takes a far more sophisticated approach than the phone-in scrum favoured by television shows. It maintains a panel of 200,000 members across the UK, representing all demographics in the right proportions – perhaps this might be a fairer way of managing mass opinion on ballroom dancing, singing and sporting achievement.
Despite the torrent of complaints that followed Saturday's hiccup, perhaps we don't really care that much. Interestingly, YouGov recently carried out a survey which asked if the highly publicised phone voting scandals had put TV viewers off calling in. Over 80 per cent said not. Sophie Morris
Boy George's secret past
When the chips are down, your past always comes back to haunt you, thanks to the web. The latest victim is Boy George, who may welcome a chance to hide away, even if it is at Her Majesty's pleasure, after the latest YouTube clip doing the rounds. Opening shot: a half-man, half-monkey jerks his head to a pounding 1980s soundtrack. More man-animal hybrids appear, and it becomes clear that this is a Japanese TV ad for a fizzy drink, Takara Paradise. Then Boy George appears, with black false eyebrows. The weirdest thing in a very weird clip ( http://tinyurl.com/6rg4km ). Rob Sharp
Why Dubya ain't much of a catcher
Now we know why George W Bush never played baseball after high school. When small, hard, leather objects hurtle in his direction, his instinct is not to catch them, but to duck – which isn't much use if you're an aspiring baseman. While his father captained the Yale team, Dubya contented himself with briefly co-owning a major league team, the Texas Rangers. If his lightning fast self-preservation reflex in the face of a flying shoe is anything to go by, the boardroom was the best place for him. Maybe he should've tried dodgeball instead. It looks like he's a natural. Tim Walker
Plane Janes show us how to save the world in style
Forget Fathers 4 Justice in their baggy Batman suits and Swampy's tangled dreads and bumfluff beard – Beth, Tamsin and Kim of Plane Stupid protest in style. The climate change group that invaded Stansted airport last week have got winter all wrapped up – they were perfectly dressed to brave the chill of the barricades, and now have style magazines poring over every stitch.
Their cagoules and chunky knitted scarves were so wholesome that we can't help but wish them well on their crusade. The key to their look, should you wish to adopt it in solidarity, is in the layering. It will keep you warm, but is also vital for that slightly bedraggled-looking Forties Land Girls aesthetic: shirts over T-shirts, cardigans over cardigans, topped off with a presumably ironic pac-a-mac. This rather country-set style – Great British chic, if you will – was on many of the catwalks this season, from Burberry to Dolce & Gabbana and Peter Jensen, proving that these guys are anything but Plane Janes. Cute anoraks are all over the shops just now – pick up a sweet one at H&M, or something slightly less twee from American Apparel.
The rosy-cheeked Plane Stupid gang call to mind Enid Blyton's Famous Five, another spirited and carbon-neutral group of social reformers. The look is practical but chic, on-trend but not too obvious, and – most importantly – thrown together at the drop of a (beanie) hat. Harriet Walker
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