Strictly Come Dancing 2017 launch show: not a dry eye in house after tribute to Sir Bruce Forsyth

09/09/2017 by

Autumn is upon us - and so are spray tans, support tights and sequins. Yes, the hit hoofing contest is back to monopolise our weekend viewing and trounce its arch rival The X Factor in the ratings.

Here are all the talking points from Saturday night's Strictly launch show...

Worthy tribute to Sir Brucey

The centrepiece of the hit hoofing contest's 15th series launch show was a touching tribute to beloved former host Bruce Forsyth, who passed away three weeks ago, aged 89.

From The Generation Game to Strictly, the all-round entertainer is affectionately known to generations simply as "Brucey" - and later "Sir Brucey" - was the ultimate Mr Saturday Night, so it was fitting to honour him in such fashion. 

First came a montage of Brucey's ballroom best bits, intercut with the Strictly team paying affectionate tribute and sharing their favourite big-chinned memories. Forsyth co-presented Strictly from its 2004 debut and continued for 11 series, before retiring in 2014. 

The band then struck up "Fly Me To The Moon" and the professional dance troupe twirled around the floor in pink chiffon, black tie and tails - precisely the sort of classic routine which Sir Bruce would adore. It was effortlessly stylish, perfectly synchronised and really rather fabulous.

The ensemble finished by striking Forsyth's signature Rodin-esque Thinker pose, then turning respectfully to face a neon silhouette of the man himself. Bravo.

Tess Daly, who hosted the first 11 series alongside the old stager, was left in tears. As her voice cracked with palpably heartfelt emotion, the presenter who many view as icily professional suddenly thawed and became endearingly human.

Long-serving pro Anton Du Beke, to whom Forsyth was a hero and mentor, was also visibly moved. There wasn’t a dry eye in the ballroom - or, I’ll wager, on millions of sofas nationwide.

It was perfectly pitched and well played. Good game, good game. Even the post-credits endplate - "Sir Bruce Forsyth, 1929-2017" - was nice to see (to see nice). And now, as consummate pro Brucey would have wanted, it's on with the show. RIP. You're our favourite.

New judge Shirley Ballas will take no prisoners

The other major talking point during this 100-minute curtain-raiser was the debut of new head judge Shirley Ballas, invariably described as “the Queen Of Latin”. 

After 12 years’ twinkly-eyed, rhyming slang-dispensing service, previous incumbent Len Goodman retired last year and left big dancing shoes to fill. On first sight, Ballas looks to be well up to the job.

Ballas sashayed across the floor at the top of the show, before immediately putting clear blue water between herself and Len, a stickler for ballroom tradition who loathed  "messin' abaht", by saying she appreciates an "outside the box" approach to routines.

Quietly confident, charismatic and promising to be tough but fair, Ballas added that she'd be hot on footwork and stricter than panto villain judge Craig Revel Horwood. She even managed to elegantly ignore Bruno Tonioli's flamboyant gesticulations by her side. All in all, a strong start.