Strictly Come Dancing final review: Bill Bailey’s victory was a welcome surprise in a time of unwelcome shocks

Emma Bullimore
·3-min read

Watch: Bill Bailey bags back to back Strictly titles for Oti Mabuse

Strictly 2020 has been a glittering port in the harshest of storms; a much-needed tonic to tiers, lockdowns and relentless angst. And on the day Christmas was cancelled for much of Britain, the grand finale promised two hours and twenty minutes of sparkling distraction. Even Craig Revel Horwood made a pledge to be positive.

If we excluded dance-off veterans Jamie Laing and Maisie Smith, this memorable series boiled down to a two-horse race. Would the show crown its youngest ever winner in vowel-averse pop star HRVY or its oldest champ in surprise favourite Bill Bailey? HRVY was the best dancer, but Bill had captured the public’s imagination. Both could put on a show.

Every year, votes are won and lost on the all-important show dance. After eight years as Strictly’s eternal bridesmaid, pro dancer Janette Manrara finally had the chance to choreograph a no-rules routine for HRVY, and she didn’t squander the opportunity. Gifted with one of the best dancers in this year’s series, she threw her best moves at him in a disco extravaganza to Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Boogie Wonderland”. It was frenetic at times but action-packed, with an absolutely electrifying Charleston/street dance break that threatened to be a Glitterball-snatching moment.

<p>‘It served as an inspiring, welcome surprise at a time of unwelcome shocks’: Oti Mabuse and Bill Bailey celebrate their ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ triumph</p> (BBC/Guy Levy)

‘It served as an inspiring, welcome surprise at a time of unwelcome shocks’: Oti Mabuse and Bill Bailey celebrate their ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ triumph

(BBC/Guy Levy)

But ultimately, even a dazzling reprise of his Musicals Week American Smooth wasn’t enough for HRVY to upstage Bill. The nation fell in love with the offbeat comedian over the past few weeks, as he shook off any suggestion of being a joke act. Working his sequinned socks off for every dance, from a Metallica-themed tango to his epic “Rapper’s Delight” street dance, he proved it isn’t just whippersnappers who can waltz. When the showdance came, he channelled the theatrics of Freddie Mercury, dancing to the “The Show Must Go On”. “We Are the Champions” would have been more apt.

A smouldering Bailey pulled strong paso shapes, kicked out tango legs and threw himself at every accent of the music as the pyrotechnics flared. He grabbed a guitar, Oti threw in Greatest Showman vibes with an acrobatic hoop, and while they couldn’t match HRVY's technical precision, their commitment and power was persuasive – and the votes flooded in.

Props to Jamie. You’re unlikely to find a more effusive and willing contestant. Maisie also gave viewers some gorgeous routines to remember. Both presented three polished dances, but they were never really in contention.

When Bill and Oti were announced as champions, they were elated, surprised and tearful. Despite the hype, it still felt unexpected. A happy ending to 2020? Surely not. But, what could be more fitting than a 55-year-old comedian hot-footing it past a pop star to win a dancing show, in this, the strangest of years? It served as an inspiring, welcome surprise at a time of unwelcome shocks. Bailey’s victory was the icing on the cake for a show that successfully dulled our troubles in the toughest of times.

Even the judges were thrilled. Incidentally, this victory makes Oti Mabuse the first professional dancer in Strictly history to lift the Glitterball in two consecutive years, following her win with Emmerdale star Kelvin Fletcher in 2019. A superb conclusion to an impressive series.

Read More

Strictly Come Dancing 2020 has renewed the nation’s love of live TV