COUCH POTATO: Strictly avoids X Factor's tragic back stories

This time last year, if I was asked to tinker with the format at BBC's ballroom, my first change would have been removing Alesha Dixon's cackle, and by default Alesha Dixon, from the panel.

Call me crazy, but for the singer's replacement I'd have plumped ideally for a dance expert (it's madness, I know), possibly someone who had already appeared and shone as a guest judge.

I don't know, say, a retired prima ballerina, with the letters CBE after her name.

It would have taken neither a genius nor the studio's searchlights to locate that particular individual.

But, after all, this is the BBC we're talking about. They'd have had neither the bottle nor the nous to do it.

Obvious decisions, such as not axing the brilliant Shooting Stars and not giving the atrocious Citizen Khan a second series, rarely stare them in the face.

And yet, we've reached the climax of Strictly Come Dancing's best ever year, where Alesha has been replaced by Darcey Bussell.

On that front at least, Auntie cannot claim the credit, or even an assist.

The personnel change happened, as you'll no doubt recall, because Simon Cowell wanted to give the show a bloody nose for sneaking a ratings victory, so he poached its fourth best judge for the same role on Britain's Got Talent.

If he felt smug about that, boy is he regretting that now.

Because all it achieved was to position Strictly exactly where it wanted to be.

Darcey's introduction added some real class and, once she'd overcome her debut episode 'yars' Tourette's, she fitted right in.

All the panel then needed, I thought, to balance it out was for Len Goodman to move one seat further away from Craig Revel Horwood to put an end to the kind of childish squabbles between the judges that have made The X Factor unwatchable (one of many, many reasons, anyway).

And they only went and did that. Incredible. BBC in good decision shocker.

There are, however, several reasons why Strictly is still not the best reality/talent show, a title held by The Apprentice narrowly over I'm A Celebrity.

Johnny Ball was voted out before his partner Aliona Vilani could return from injury (I can't forgive Britain for that), Tess Daly's puns are beyond tiresome, and Bruce Forsyth's music hall routine needs mothballing.

But even Brucie's one-man battles with the audience were few and far between this year, there's fun oozing through the entire show (I won't be forgetting Michael Vaughan's jive in a hurry), and whereas X Factor would have exploited every celebrity in the audience like a North Sea oilfield, Strictly gives at most a polite mention of the likes of Cheryl Cole and Nicola Roberts supporting Nimble Kimble in the front row.

The line-up has been brilliant, in particular Lisa Riley who departed last weekend after a salsa in which she thudded into the dancefloor with greater impact than Channel 4 deliberately crash-landing a Boeing 727 in the Mexican desert.

Honestly, the sight of her in a hula dress and out of control for that floor spin was like a cross between Felix Baumgartner at 128,000ft, Rod HullÕs Emu, and a Vileda super mop.

What sets Strictly apart from X Factor most of all, however, is the absence of any exploitation of personal tragedy.

Denise Van Outen and Lisa Riley both lost nearest and dearest shortly before the series.

And yet, like Robbie Savage last year when his friend Gary Speed died, the show paid them the greatest respect possible by mentioning it the same number of times as I hope to see another series of The X Factor.

Zero.

Nice one, Strictly.

This week's Couch Potato Spudulike awards go to: Sports Personality of the Year breaking with tradition by celebrating a year of British sport that was, uniquely, actually worth celebrating; the right man, Bradley Wiggins, winning the award; and an UNBELIEVABLE appearance by Bert Le Clos who thanked Clare Balding for making him famous but added: '30 years and 40 kilos too late.'

Keith Lemon ruling the Take Me Out Celebrity Christmas Special.

Simon Cowell's ex Jasmine Lennard, the world's most selfish woman, making Monday and Tuesday's Come Dine With Me actually worth repeating.

And Jeremy Kyle, on that programme he does, asking Danniella Westbrook: 'You like this show, don't you?'

Westbrook: 'Yes, I watch it all the time.'

Kyle: 'Really? Get a job, love.'

This week's Couch Potato Spuduhate awards go to: ITV2 repeating The Xtra Factor 17 times this week.

Former Chelsea diver Didier Drogba, at Sports Personality of the Year, failing to run on stage, clatter into Gary Lineker, and roll around in agony for several minutes.

Paddy McGuinness lying about the 30 Take Me Out girls returning from previous series: 'Unbelievably, they're still single,' when I've never believed anything more.

National Geographic channel's apocalyptic End of the World week (I bet they feel pretty daft now that the world hasn't ended).

Girls Aloud: 10 Years At The Top mentioning Nadine's fear of heights, Kimberley's role as Princess Fiona in Shrek The Musical, and Nicola's campaign to ban sunbeds for teenagers, when oddly it didn't mention 'movie star' (really?!) Cheryl Cole's assault conviction or, even more embarrassing, Sarah Harding hosting Dating In The Dark.

And ITV2 sucking the very spirit out of Christmas with The Only Way Is Essexmas and A Celebrity Juicemas Carol.

So on that note, I'm taking a week's break so I can spend time on the true meaning of the festive period.

World's Strongest Man finals, Channel 5, Thursday, December 27, to New Year's Day.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, folks. See you in 2013.

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