Over the weeks, we’ve seen Strictly’s Shirley Ballas get herself in a few sticky situations whilst giving feedback to contestants and on Saturday’s live show, the head judge landed herself in it once again.
The divide on the leaderboard was fairly evident this week, with leading ladies Alexandra Burke and Debbie McGee scoring an impressive 39 out of a possible 40 and Davood Ghadami and Gemma Atkinson sharing the bottom spot with 29 points.
Shirley is getting on my nerves with being so biased towards Debbie and Alexandra. Also why r the judges so harsh towards Gemma?? #StrictlyComeDancing not enjoying this series at all ?
— Emilda Morgans (@EmiEaton) December 2, 2017
Whilst feedback from judges is usually given with constructive emphasis to improve future routines, Gemma was furious when Shirley commented on a much more personal matter.
She stated that the 33-year-old showed a real lack of acting skill during her performance – bearing in mind she is, in fact, a professional actress with a successful career. Ouch.
Gemma and her dance partner Aljaz Skorjanec performed the quickstep this week, inspired by the 1969 film Hello Dolly.
Providing her feedback on the routine, the 57-year-old judge told Gemma: “I think actually you did very well, it’s such an iconic piece of music… I mean, you came down those stairs and you started, I just felt it needed 20 percent more in the acting skills. But! But you had your swan-like posture, you had an immaculate frame…. it just needed that 20 percent more”.
If things couldn’t get even more awkward, host Tess Daly reminded Shirley of Gemma’s profession, while the audience erupted into large boos. Gemma didn’t respond to the comments, but the dagger stare aimed at Shirley said it all. The Hollyoaks actress was not happy and who can blame her, really.
Bruno Tonilio, on the other hand, was a little more kind when it came to his verdict, but Craig Revel Horwood seemed far from impressed (as usual) and gave the pair a less than satisfying score of 6.
Fans of the show didn’t seem to agree with the judging panel this time around and tweeted messages of support to Gemma after believing her scores and comments were ‘unfair’. Many also added that Shirley’s comments were ‘below the belt’.
“Gemma’s dance was outstanding, the judges always underscore her. Judges score manipulation yet again!!!” one user tweeted.
‘It must be so hard for Gemma, as an actress, being told her dancing is ok but her acting sucks!!’ another said.
‘Gemma makes a lovely Dolly! Bit rude of Shirley to criticise an actresses acting skills!’ another Tweeter remarked.
“Didn’t feel like fair score for Gemma.” [sic] another commented.
Gemma has yet to comment on Shirley’s feedback, but it will be interesting to hear what she has to say on the matter.
The show has since come under fire from viewers, who are convinced that there is a ‘fix’ on who is set to win the show, as well as some noticing that there is constant ‘overmarking’ of particular contestants.
Is Shirley mad? Gemma needs better in acting in her dance.. Love she's an actress that's like me saying to Shirley you need to be a better dancer or what ever she does #Strictly
— ? Mike ? (@mikepriestley13) December 2, 2017
Alexandra landed in the bottom two for the second time last night and viewers were gobsmacked that after two weeks of being in the dance-off, she still managed to achieve a near perfect score. Even Bruno Tonioli labelled her performance this weekend as “practically perfect in every way” after dancing a Mary Poppins themed routine.
The former X Factor star came up against Davood in the bottom two, but was thrilled to find out she had been saved by all four judges.
With no prior dance experience before participating in the show, many were angered that novice Davood should never have been up against West End star Alexandra, who is a professional in musical theatre.
On leaving the show last night, Davood told host, Tess: “There have been so many highlights I’ve had the best time and this is why I’m smiling because I never thought I’d get this far. We’re all mates, every comment good or bad I’ve appreciated. To dance in front of audiences like this has been a real gift. I’ve never done anything like this before. I’m going to spend the next two weeks dancing with my two beautiful girls at home.
Turning to dance partner Nadiya, Davood continued: “This is her first year on this show and I think she’s done incredibly well. She’s a brilliant partner and a great teacher and now she’s a really, really good friend.”
Debbie McGee who has also been victim to the dreaded bottom two in previous weeks, received a great deal of praise for her performance on this weekend’s show. But fans were quick to comment on the fact that the routine had to be made slightly easier due to suffering wear and tear to her muscles. Yet, Shirley couldn’t fault Debbie’s performance, commenting that it was “intimate, polished and hugely impressive”.
Mollie King and her partner AJ have also had to deny rumours that they are not romantically involved, despite many claiming that they are now a couple. The pair danced to ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’ from Grease this weekend, in which things lets say…got a little heated. AJ caused a great deal of speculation when he leant in to kiss Mollie, before hiding their faces away from the camera at the end of the routine.
Meanwhile, Shirley has also told newspapers that she may not be making a Strictly return in 2018, due to the pressures of being on live TV.
In a recent interview with The Sun, she said: “Let’s wait and get this season over with first. It’s been an experience. And at 57! It’s been wonderful.”
This is Shirley’s very first time on the series, after replacing veteran judge Len Goodman this year. However, after receiving a great deal of criticism from viewers week after week, she admitted that being in the public eye may not be right for her.
Commenting on the pressures of saving the best act in the bottom two, Shirley went on: “They put Alexandra in the bottom two and if I would have sent her home they would have blamed me, but they put her there”, before discussing her predictions on who may win the series this year.
“It’s an unpredictable season,” she said. ” You can’t call it. I think it’s going to go either way.”
Catch Strictly Come Dancing next Saturday on BBC 1.