Pick of the week: Strictly Come Dancing
Tonight, BBC1, 7pm
Gowns and glitterballs
Back in the 1980s, if you stayed up late enough and had the telly on, a strange show would appear on the BBC. After a stiff introduction by the host, the camera would cut to a crowded ballroom dance floor, across which dozens of couples would waltz in terrifying close formation. The ladies wore voluminous crinoline dresses, the men tails and dickie bows with identifying numbers pinned on their backs. They sashayed, pranced and twirled, po-faced, absurdly upright, and were ignominiously called ashore when their efforts dipped below the required standard.
It was strange stuff, a cattle mart for dancers, and when Terry Wogan had an unlikely stint as commentator, he could rarely suppress his inner satirist. When Come Dancing died a death in 1998, it seemed high time that this anachronistic show be put out of its misery. Yet just six years later, it rose from the ashes brilliantly reinvented as a ratings-grabbing prime-time show. It was Big Brother producer Richard Hopkins who first had the idea of updating Come Dancing, and he developed the new format with Fenia Vardanis. But Strictly's success surely exceeded even their expectations.
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Pairing professional dancers with celebrity partners of varying ability gave Strictly comic undertones and mass appeal; public voting allowed the viewers a say; and the presence of Bruce Forsyth as host evoked the glory days of Saturday night television in the 1970s and 80s. Strictly quickly became required viewing for millions, a frothy slice of showbiz glitter that appealed to all ages and offered a cheery antidote to winter weather, and economic austerity.
Season 17 gets underway tonight, and among the celebrities donning the lycra and low-buttoned shirts will be soap actors Emma Barton, Kelvin Fletcher and Catherine Tyldesley, ex-footballers David James and Alex Scott, and TV presenter Anneka Rice. Darcey Bussell is replaced on the judging panel by Motsi Mabuse, and Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman present.
Live Rugby World Cup
Today, eir Sport 1, 7.45am
Too many of the pool games at the Rugby World Cup are hopeless mismatches offering little or no chance of an upset, but this morning in Pool C, France face a potential banana skin when they play seasoned southern hemisphere side Argentina who, as Ireland know to their cost, love to knock over big sides in this tournament. The game kicks off at the Tokyo Stadium at 8.15am.
Saturday GAA Live
Today, RTÉ 2, 4.45pm
Evanne Ní Chuilinn and guests introduce a live AIB GAA Club Championship double bill at Pairc Uí Rinn, with Newtownshandrum facing Glen Rovers in the first Cork Senior Hurling Championship quarter final at 5pm, followed by Imokilly versus Sarfields at 6.45pm.
Rugby World Cup Live
Tomorrow, RTÉ2, 8am
The talking is over, and after a warm-up campaign that began disastrously and ended with some cause for optimism, Joe Schmidt's Ireland open their World Cup campaign with a key game against Pool A rivals Scotland. Daire O'Brien is joined by Stephen Ferris, Jamie Heaslip and Eddie O'Sullivan for the build-up to the game, which kicks off in Yokohama at 8.45am. And if Ireland win this one, a quarter-final will be within touching distance.
Live Super Sunday
Tomorrow, Sky Sports Main Event, 1pm
A fascinating Premier League double bill begins at the London Stadium, where West Ham will hope to put a dent on Manchester United's tentatively positive start to the season. That game kicks off at 2pm, and is followed at 4.30pm by Chelsea v Liverpool at Stamford Bridge, where the London side should provide the Reds with their biggest challenge yet from Frank Lampard's rejuvenated side.
The Great Wall
Tonight, Channel 4, 9pm
Action-fantasy starring Matt Damon as an 11th-century European mercenary who comes face to face with an extraterrestrial enemy in China.
Sunday, TCM, 9pm
Alfred Hitchcock’s dark and disturbing thriller stars Janet Leigh as a woman on the run who stops for the night at a rundown motel. Bad idea.
Tuesday, Sky Premiere, 8pm Mercury Rising Oscar-winning account of the triumphs and tribulations experienced by Freddie Mercury and Queen. With Rami Malek and Allen Leech.