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More than 13 million viewers see Bill Bailey win Strictly Come Dancing

Bill Bailey and Oti Mabuse at the Strictly Come Dancing final (Guy Levy/PA)
Bill Bailey and Oti Mabuse at the Strictly Come Dancing final (Guy Levy/PA)

More than 13 million viewers watched Bill Bailey became the oldest celebrity to lift the glitterball trophy in the Strictly Come Dancing final on Saturday night.

A peak audience of 13.2 million saw the emotional comedian, 55, describe his win as “surreal”.

The BBC One final, in which Oti Mabuse became the first professional dance partner to win the series for a second consecutive year, was the most watched show across all channels, with a 53.3% audience share.

The feel-good programme aired shortly after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the tightening of Christmas plans for millions of people.

The final, which featured a video from the Duchess of Cornwall praising the series, attracted an average of 11.6 million viewers, the BBC said.

It beat last year’s equivalent, when an average of 11.3 million and a peak of 12.5 million saw Mabuse and actor Kelvin Fletcher win.

The 2018 show – won by documentary maker Stacey Dooley and her professional partner Kevin Clifton – had a smaller peak audience than this year, but a slightly larger average.

Kate Phillips, acting controller of BBC One, said: “Strictly has provided much needed sparkle to our weekends this autumn, and last night’s final brought pure joy to over 13 million viewers all over the UK as Bill and Oti lifted the glitterball.”

Bailey, who described his dance skills as “patchy” when he signed-up for the series, looked shocked when he was named winner and said it felt “surreal… extraordinary” and “wonderful”.

The comic, whose dance to Rapper’s Delight was one of the stand-out moments of the series, exclaimed “what, what?” after his win.

And he paid tribute to Mabuse, who he called “the most extraordinary teacher, the most extraordinary dancer”.

She “believed in me right from the beginning and she found something in me, turned me into this, into a dancer,” he said.

Singer and social media star HRVY, EastEnders actress Maisie Smith and reality TV star Jamie Laing were also in the final.

The nail-biting final began with reference to a “tough day”, after Christmas plans were scrapped for millions.

“If ever people needed cheering up, it’s now,” host Tess Daly said.

“After another tough day, we are going to try our very best to keep you entertained with an unforgettable night of dance.”

The Duchess of Cornwall praised Strictly for having “uplifted the nation” when she appeared in a pre-recorded video clip.

“You have given everybody so much pleasure and you’ve uplifted the nation,” she said.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden praised the BBC One series for bringing people together.

“Great reminder of the unique role TV and especially (the)  BBC can play in lifting the nation through difficult times,” he wrote on Twitter.

Co-host Claudia Winkleman fought back tears as she thanked the Strictly behind-the-scenes team who ensured the show returned this year, despite the pandemic, by filming it amid tight restrictions.

The presenters said the final had attracted an “extraordinary number of votes”.

Judge Motsi Mabuse, wept as her sister Oti’s name was read out for the second consecutive year.

Bailey takes the record as oldest winner from Joe McFadden, who triumphed in 2017, aged 42. Smith and HRVY would have been Strictly’s youngest winners if they had triumphed.

The comic previously told how he “didn’t do ballet and I haven’t been to stage school… I’m not really Lord of the Dance. I’m more caretaker of the dance.”

On the final, his professional dance partner Mabuse told him: “I think you are amazing, remarkable.

“You just put your heart into everything, you put your soul into everything. You’re in your world but I love your world…

“Thank you for being a friend, a father figure to me, a brother and for this,” she said of the glitterball.

The couples – HRVY and Janette Manrara, Laing and Karen Hauer, and Smith and Gorka Marquez – performed three dances, two of which they have already performed in the competition.

This year’s finale also saw the return of Nicola Adams and Katya Jones to the dancefloor.

The couple made history as the show’s first same-sex couple but had to withdraw early after Jones received a positive Covid-19 test result.

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