Is the BBC telling the truth about Strictly 2021 scores? The data says no

As you might have guessed, Craig is the meanest judge – or, put another way, the most rigorous. On average, the panel’s resident panto villain scores every dance one point fewer than his fellow judges. Craig gives just one in 25 dances a perfect 10. Compare that to excitable colleagues Motsi and Shirley, who give nearly one in five routines a maximum (and have been known to jokingly ask for higher-scoring paddles). Might BBC producers have a quiet word, asking them to calm down next year?

It’s also instructive that Craig is only slightly more stingy than dear old Arlene, who departed controversially in 2009. Proof, perhaps, that Strictly’s original judging line-up was the best. Or at least harder to wow.

What about the most recent addition to the panel, former Strictly professional Anton? The King of Ballroom is generous overall, scoring pretty much the same as Motsi, but it’s noticeable that he doesn’t dish out 10s as easily. Anton is half as likely to reach for his top paddle as Motsi and Shirley, partly because he’s such a stickler for footwork and frame. Besides, Tony Beak only notched a maximum himself 15 times across 18 series (all with 2019 partner Emma Barton), so he wants couples to truly earn them.

Despite what the BBC keeps proclaiming – publicity material says “2021 has been one of the highest-scoring series so far”, while presenter Tess Daly insists weekly that “the standard is so high!” – the current contest isn’t in the top five score-wise. Series five (Alesha Dixon’s year), six (won by Tom Chambers), 11 (Abbey Clancy), 14 (Ore Oduba) and 18 all had a higher average score at this stage of the competition.

Last year’s series, won by beardy ballroom wizard Bill Bailey, was the most lavishly marked ever, with routines averaging an all-time high of 7.83 points. A record 18 per cent of those were 10s. This can probably be put down to the fact that, in a Covid-shortened series after a tough year of lockdown, judges were more inclined to be positive.

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