“This old guard didn’t become famous overnight thanks to a TikTok, a reality show or a sex tape,” says branding and PR expert Mark Borkowski. “They rose through the ranks because they were bloody good at what they did and they were grateful and gracious when they found success because it didn’t come overnight. They were steeped in music-hall values – demonstrating real talent, being versatile and putting the hours in. They took nothing for granted, they loved what they did and that shone through to their audiences in theatres and homes.”
The new light entertainers are a very different breed. However likeable and confident they may be – Ant & Dec, Dermot O’Leary, Graham Norton – today’s presenters have none of the polish of, say, Bob Monkhouse. Michael McIntyre does a fine line in observational comedy but stylish and authoritative he is not; even on his big-budget Big Show, McIntyre can’t help but channel “baggy supply teacher” rather than bespoke Savile Row. They reflect an informal age. If theu lack the gravitas that comes with sharp tailoring, they also lack the the ability to ad lib without recourse to an autocue. Or swearing.
Where Len Goodman compared Anita Rani’s 2015 Cell Block Tango routine to “a cowpat on Countryfile: hot and steamy”, the place erupted. And when he once observed, “I’m a cup of tea in a world of skinny lattes,” a great many of us could empathise.
“Len had talent and style but bringing him, a virtual unknown aged 60, onto Strictly was was a high-risk strategy,” says Borkowski. “It paid off many times over, but it’s a different landscape now. He’d be deemed ‘too pale, male and stale’ and there’s a real disrespect for boomers.”