Bye bye Bruce Forsyth – TV’s definition of entertainer has changed

Bruce Forsyth as presenter of Strictly Come Dancing, which he is leaving after 10 years.
Matthew Hemley
Matt is news editor for The Stage, having started as the newspaper’s broadcast reporter. He covers all areas of the industry in his role, but has a particular interest in musical theatre. Matt studied acting at Bretton Hall and presents a monthly theatre news round up on BBC London Radio.
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When Strictly Come Dancing returns to our screens this autumn, it will be without the familiar face of Bruce Forsyth, who has announced he is stepping down from the show after 10 years.

I’ve said before that the series was better when he had time off and was replaced by Claudia Winkleman in the presenting role.

And that’s because I think Winkleman understands that her role is that of presenter. The entertainment is what happens on the dancefloor, between the professional dancers and their celebrity partners. Ultimately, that’s what viewers tune in for.

Brucie, for all his charms, very often pulled focus. And why wouldn’t he? He comes from an entertainment/variety background – he was a singer and a dancer from the age of 14. Little wonder, then, that he’s tried to continue this sense of being an all-round entertainer in his presenting roles.

[pullquote]Hosts should be entertaining, but they’re not entertainers[/pullquote]

But is that what audiences want from the people fronting the shows they watch? Probably not. Presenters should be entertaining, of course, but not to the point where they steal the focus from the show they’re actually hosting. The X Factor isn’t about Dermot O’Leary – it’s about the contestants. I’m a Celebrity isn’t about Ant and Dec (though of course they are a vital ingredient of the show) it’s about the celebrities taking part. Hosts should be entertaining, but they’re not entertainers – despite what a new ITV campaign called Where the Entertainers Live, which references presenters such as O’Leary and Holly Willoughby, would have us believe.

O’Leary, Willoughby and others like them are part of a show’s success, of course –  but if they are who TV brands “entertainers” today, then Brucie no longer fits into this category.

And so, as he moves on to begin a stage show that will feature comedy and dance, I can’t help thinking he will be much more at home.

In the meantime, bets are on as to who will replace him on Strictly. Personally I’d be happy with Claudia Winkleman. Entertaining, yes, But an entertainer? Let’s just stick with presenter.