It’s a funny old world. One minute there are seasoned television presenters being replaced allegedly because they have become a little over ripe, the next there are three forty-something mums fronting one of the most popular shows on the BBC. It was something of a first when it was announced that resident Strictly sidekick Tess Daly would be replacing Bruce Forsyth when he retired from the programme this year. But it wasn’t until It Takes Two presenter Zoe Ball suddenly had to stand in for Claudia Winkleman on Saturday night that it occurred to me just how unique this team had become. I mean, can you imagine X Factor being overseen by an all female judging panel? Or I’m A Celebrity… being hosted by French and Saunders? Although actually, ooo, hang on a minute…
Tess Daly, 43, mother of two and married to fellow presenter Vernon Kay, is not my favourite person. I’ll put my cards on the table, she drives me absolutely bananas with all her gurning and head cocking and blokey swaying from hip to hip. She is such a beautiful woman who should give great dress and yet she constantly looks uncomfortable to me. And perhaps she is because she rarely wears a gown that flatters her enviable figure. More often than not, gorgeous designer pieces are either ill fitting or simply the wrong shape for her body type. Strapless, low-cut and/or slinky she can do with aplomb – high necked, peplumed and frilly she cannot, it simply adds inches and looks mumsy. Last week, even my boyfriend sent me a text saying “That dress makes Tess look three feet wide”. Week after week Tess has her boobs stuffed into something that looks like it’s throttling her. Maybe it is, maybe that’s the reason for all the wriggling and face pulling.
Before Brucey left (I thought this was the piece of news I’d been waiting to hear until I found out Tess was his replacement), Claudia Winkleman was rarely seen on the same screen as Tess Daly. But with Tess moving up one, Claudia moved into her place and that was when we all sat back and there was a nationwide “Hmm…”. Claudia is not only a breath of fresh air on a stodgy old Saturday night (you’d probably rather be out given the choice but since you’re not, who would you rather guide you through the show? She looks like she hasn’t really tried too hard and that she’s just being her and that is funny and charming. She doesn’t have the va va voom shape of Ms. Daly and the way she dresses her petite figure is in a more relaxed and understated way. Thick black eyeliner and a heavy fringe is a statement and yet on Claudia it’s just her. We kind of accept it as a security thing and after a while you don’t notice it. Until, that is, it wasn’t there anymore and then, well then we noticed alright. Word has it that the BBC insisted on a makeover once Ms. Winkleman was promoted to Primetime. Up went the fringe, off came the eyeliner and on went the shocking pink party dress. And ohh my lord what a mess, it was like Samson losing his long hair! Not since actress Jennifer Grey (Baby in Dirty Dancing) had a nose job leaving her completely unrecognisable has a signature look been so cruelly cut off in its prime. Poor Claudia looked almost as uncomfortable as Tess and she seemed to lose her sparkle. I am hoping that when the wonderful Ms. Winkleman returns to her post this weekend, her fringe will be two weeks longer and her witchy style of dress restored. Pink is NOT her colour, anyone can see that. But, note to the BBC: it would look great on Tess. Time to stop trying to look serious and grown up Tess and go for what shows off your colouring and shape. You’re hosting Strictly Come Dancing for gawd’s sake!
Then due to unforeseen circumstances, former ladette Zoe Ball was ushered centre stage to cover for Claudia. As a former Strictly contestant herself, Ball had already won a lot of fans with her sympathetic expressions, willingness to take to the floor and glittery rock chick appearance on BBC2’s It Takes Two. On the main show, in her skintight sequin number, I almost felt sorry for Tess who looked like her dress was being held together with elastoplast after she’d ripped it to shreds on finding out Ball had the better outfit.
If these three gorgeous women are picking their own ensembles every week then maybe it’s simply a case of personal style and if so then one of them needs to listen to someone else. If there are in fact stylists involved (and there surely is) then Tess, it’s sad to say, drew the short straw because there’s really no reason why she shouldn’t look stunning every week.
But for now, let’s rejoice in the groundbreaking fact that three mums in their forties are carrying Saturday night television single handedly. I find it fascinating to watch and wonder if Tess will now feel the pressure to get a fringe cut in. I’m looking forward to Claudia resuming her role soon but I’ll be sorry to see Zoe go. It was beginning to feel a little like a less sulky, sequin spattered Bananarama around here. Now there’s an image for you.