Every female in my house broke into a little impromptu Mexican wave in front of Saturday night’s Strictly Come Dancing, and not- as is all too common- at the sight of Artem baring his impeccably groomed yet manly chest. The cause of our jubilation was the ground- breaking sight of two 40-something women presenting the Beeb’s flagship entertainment show. As Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman took to the floor in all their glam and glittery glory, a monumental shift was taking place in the sands of Saturday night TV.
Morecambe and Wise, the Two Ronnies and Ant and Dec are all double acts synonymous with Saturday night prime time entertainment, but where are the female duos? On the This Morning couch, Holly needs Phil by her side, while Phil does just fine presenting The Cube and Mr and Mrs in front of primetime audiences all by himself. Over on ITV Caroline Flack has to put up with whatever (admittedly gorgeous) fella Simon Cowell decides to throw her way on the Xtra Factor, while Dermot takes all the glory in front of the X Factor’s 10 plus million viewers.
The problem is that back in the seventies TV found the perfect formula and stuck to it- think Bruce Forsyth and glamorous assistant Anthea Redfern: gorgeous woman to raise the viewing figures must be supported by older man to provide the talent. Fortunately this formula is now as dated as Brucie’s back catalogue of jokes, and it seems that TV executives are finally taking note.
Alongside Tess and Claudia, another female presenting duo is rising up the prime time pecking order- albeit for the second time. Mel and Sue, presenters of the Great British Bake Off, had their first stab at the big time presenting Light Lunch on Channel 4, and while they may have been relegated to the scheduling sidelines back in the late nineties by an audience not quite ready for the avant- garde presenting style of a female double act, it is now- quite rightly- their time to shine. While the duo are hardly setting the world of prime time telly alight, their chemistry and talent as a TV double act is utter perfection and should certainly have Ant and Dec trembling in their award- winning boots. They perfectly combine jokes and baking- related double entendres with genuinely caring about the contestants, while never stealing the limelight from either the bakers or the shows revered judges. What’s more, two BAFTAs and 7.2 million viewers pretty much speak for themselves.
So perhaps we are witnessing the dawning of a new age. Although Brucie and his dated but adorable jokes will be back this weekend, I’d like to think that the Claudia and Tess double act is a realistic prospect for the not- too -distant future. I wonder if it dawned on audiences as Tess and Claudia teetered cautiously down the stairs in their slightly- too- tight dresses and perilously high heels, that they weren’t merely witnessing the baby steps of two women, but a giant leap for womankind?