News Flash: Ray Quinn is the winner of the final DOI

  • Darren Gough Winner
  • Colin Jackson 2nd
  • Zoe Ball 3rd
  • James Martin 4th
  • Patsy Palmer 5th
  • Bill Turnbull 6th
  • Will Thorp 7th
  • Dennis Taylor 8th
  • Fiona Phillips 9th
  • Gloria Hunniford 10th
  • Jaye Jacobs 11th
  • Siobhan Hayes 12th


Strictly 3

Strictly 3

Talent shows attract 20m viewers

An estimated 20 million people watched the final of either BBC One's Strictly Come Dancing or ITV1's The X Factor.Five million viewers voted during the BBC talent show's live final, raising £1.5m for Children In Need, while 10.8 million X Factor votes were cast.

Cricketer Darren Gough beat TV presenter Zoe Ball and former athlete Colin Jackson to win Strictly Come Dancing. Shayne Ward won The X Factor.

Bookmakers said they expected about £3m to have been gambled on the outcomes.

Ward beat Andy Abraham and brothers Journey South in the X Factor final.

"I cannot believe it," said Ward, 21, from Manchester.

'Amazing journey'

Yorkshire sportsman Gough, who plays for Essex and England, won Strictly Come Dancing with dance partner Lilia Kopylova.

Gough, 35, said: "I thought I would be saying this 10 weeks ago but it has been an amazing journey for a guy who has never danced."

Referring to Kopylova, he said: "She has turned me into some sort of dancer. I cannot believe I had the confidence to do that tonight."

Before Saturday's final, bookmakers had tipped former Olympic hurdler Jackson to win the third series of the celebrity show.

Jackson, Gough and TV presenter Ball each performed a Viennese waltz, a ballroom and Latin dance.

Twelve celebrities had originally taken part in the series, including ex-EastEnders actress Patsy Palmer, snooker player Dennis Taylor and BBC journalist Bill Turnbull

Christmas single

The Strictly Come Dancing final coincided with the X Factor final on ITV1.

In the first part of the X Factor final, Ward sang Over the Rainbow, When a Child is Born and Daniel Bedingfield's hit If You're Not the One.

He dedicated his victory to his mother Philomena, saying: "This is for you mum, this is for you."

Ward has recorded a song entitled That's My Goal, which will be released as a single next week.

Retailers have already pre-ordered 750,000 copies of the single and predict it will become this year's Christmas number one.

The X Factor winner will also receive a £1m recording contract.

Ward said his success was "not about the money".

"It's about making my mum happy and making my family proud," he said.

He said hoped to emulate the career of singer Robbie Williams. "Robbie is all about entertaining people and that's what I want to do."

Last year's Strictly Come Dancing final attracted 10.6 million viewers, nearly one million more than The X Factor.

The BBC series won seven million viewers on its launch in October, when The X Factor drew an average of 7.5 million viewers.

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Strictly 3

20m watch TV's talent showdowns

Last night's battle between of ITV's The X Factor and BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing, billed with the sense of perspective for which television coverage is famed as 'the biggest showdown in TV history', drew at least 20 million viewers. On the BBC, there was a surprise victory for ex-England cricketer Darren Gough who beat Olympic silver medallist Colin Jackson, whom bookmakers had given odds of 5/2 to win. Over on ITV, Shane Ward secured a more expected victory on The X Factor, no doubt ingratiating himself further with his ever-increasing fan base by telling the watching viewers the win "was for his mum".

Bookmakers predicted they would be making six-figure payouts, after the announcements, which saw Mr Ward, who had been given odds of 1/2, beat dustman Andy Abraham to win a £1m recording contract. That will roll into action almost immediately, with his record company bosses no doubt determined to ensure a rush-release single will become the Christmas No 1.

For his part, Mr Abraham was magnanimous in defeat, despite having pleaded with viewers to vote for him in last week's episode, admitting that he did not want to return to his career as a dustman. After losing, he congratulated Mr Ward, telling the audience: "He is a star. He deserves to be Number One."

In Strictly Come Dancing, Mr Jackson, who had been given odds of 5/2 to win by bookmakers, smiled tensely as Gough and his dancing partner, Lilia Kopylova, gabbered excitedly to host Bruce Forsyth following their victory, who in turn was almost twitching with excitement as he admitted the winning team had "always been his favourite".

After hearing that five million people had placed telephone votes, making an estimated £1.5m for Children in Need, Gough praised Ms Kopylova's teaching and dancing skills, and mocking his lack of ability at the outset of the third series 10 weeks ago. He explained that was most probably what had attracted him to viewers. "That's what the public like," he said. " I started being nothing, and worked up to this".

Strictly Come Dancing has opened new doors for the winners of each of the previous two contests. Natasha Kaplinsky, who triumphed in the first series, has gone on to become a primetime presenter, as well as retaining her role on BBC Breakfast, while the series two champion, the former EastEnders actress Jill Halfpenny, landed a West End role in Chicago.

Winning The X Factor is not necessarily a clear-cut path to long-term success, however. Steve Brookstein, who won the previous series, found himself with an instant No 1 hit when he released "Against All Odds" at the start of this year, but within eight months of his win he had been dropped by his record label.

Mr Brookstein's efforts have been overshadowed by the success of last year's runners-up, the pop-opera quartet G4, who have been among this year's biggest selling acts.

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Strictly 3

'Stunned' by Jackson's dancing

As bookies tip Colin Jackson to become the first man to win Strictly Come Dancing, his sister has spoken of her shock at his dancing skills.Jackson will square up to DJ Zoe Ball and cricketer Darren Gough for the live final of the Saturday night TV show.

Jackson's sister Casualty actress Suzanne Packer said of his success so far: "It's been nearly 12 weeks and I'm still stunned."

Ladbrokes put Jackson at 8-11 with Zoe Ball at 5-2 and Darren Gough at 3-1.

Ms Packer - who plays dedicated nurse manager Tess Bateman in Casualty - will be among the audience for the live dance floor denouement between the celebrities.

Remarking on her brother's new-found talent, she told BBC Radio Wales: "It's a shock. I've always known that he's got good rhythm, but I would never have dreamt that he could retain dance sequences and then perform them as though he was a professional.

"I will certainly be rooting with my whole being for Colin to win."

She added: "I have to say, if it went on performance, strictly, then Colin should win. It's not that Darren hasn't been progressing brilliantly, but if I was to go and be incredibly objective, if I was talking about ability and skill factor, I definitely think Colin is ahead there."

The actress praised all the contestants for being willing to "come out of their comfort zone" by taking on the live television challenge. But, she said, her brother had to overcome another challenge - simply being a man.

"The man has to not only learn the steps and the routine but also has to learn to lead, so if you're an absolute beginner, you really will struggle to take the floor," she said.

'Extra demand'

"Whereas, a woman can be made to look good if they have a very good male partner who's leading.

"I know this from very personal experience. I'm not a dancer but I've done musicals where I've had to dance and I've been fortunate to have male partners who are dancers.

"And I've come out, and people have said to me 'I never knew you danced so well'. They (male partners) made me look good, whereas I think there's just an extra demand on Colin."

Described as Britain's finest ever sprint hurdler, Jackson has already done better in the dance competition than fellow Welshman Aled Jones, who made it to the semi-finals last year.

His Saturday night performances have also landed him a spot performing Singin' in the Rain during the BBC Sport Personality of the Year show last Sunday.

When he is not on the dance floor, Cardiff-born Jackson is a regular commentator on athletics for the BBC.

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The Final Result

Darren and Lilia named Strictly Come Dancing Champions.With two couples left, it was time for the Freestyle round.

COLIN and ERIN danced their Freestyle routine to You're Easy To Dance With. "It was good fun, but I was expecting a bit more of a performance," said Len. "I thought it belonged to an end of pier summer show," said Bruno. "I last saw this twenty years ago in Vegas," said a disappointed Arlene.

DARREN and LILIA danced their routine to A Night to Remember. It got a standing ovation, but what did the judges think? "Well like Bisto you saved the best for last," said Craig. "A proper Show Dance, that was what I was expecting," agreed Bruno.

Overall, the judges were divided - Len and Bruno wanted Darren and Lilia to win, Craig and Arlene wanted Colin and Erin.

But you had the deciding vote, and in the end Darren and Lilia were announced Strictly Come Dancing Champions.

Darren couldn't believe it. "She's turned me into some sort of a dancer... she's been absolutely amazing, taking the mickey out of me for ten weeks."

"He has been the most amazing person to work with," said Lilia. "I've enjoyed every second."

Another winner was Children in Need with 5 million votes on the night, raising £1.5 million.

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Third Place

Zoe and Ian left the competition in third place.The time was almost upon us - just which couple would be crowned the Strictly Come Dancing Champions?

After the group Viennese Waltz, it was announced who got the lowest score overall and who would leave the competition and not get the chance to go head-to-head in the Freestyle round.

Zoe and Ian were that unlucky pair.

"We knew, we had a feeling," said Zoe. "Do you know those two boys up there are so fantastic... They've improved so much."

"It's been a pleasure dancing every show with you," added Ian.

Zoe said she will continue dancing - she's already signed up for a Flamenco class!

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The Final

What did our judges think of our couples' final routines?The moment we've all been waiting for came at last - the final of Strictly Come Dancing.

Our dancers had to first dance their favourite Ballroom and Latin routines from the contest. They may have been a hit with the judges first time around, but what was the verdict this time?

First up in the Ballroom round were COLIN and ERIN, dancing a Quickstep to Nice Work If You Can Get It. "That was like a butterfly with four feet, it was so fast, it was so light... that was superb," said Len. "That had the glamour and the sparkle of a diamond display," said Bruno. "I think the words 'trip the light fantastic' were written for Colin," gushed Arlene.

Votes: Craig: 9, Arlene: 10, Len: 10, Bruno: 10 = 39

Next up were DARREN and LILIA, dancing a Foxtrot to Big Spender. "The musical phrasing was absolutely divine... but in the opening you still had what I call spatula hands," said Craig. Len was riled: "That was fabulous... you danced like a man... you led your partner... that was great dancing," he protested. "You have transformed yourself into the cheeky angel of the north," said Bruno.

Votes: Craig: 8, Arlene: 9, Len: 10, Bruno: 9 = 36

ZOE and IAN completed the Ballroom round with a Tango to Argentino. "You two are a dream team," said Arlene. "What they were doing out there was floorplay!" "It had drama, it had passion it had emotion.... but occasionally Zoe lost her posture," said Len. "That was a blockbuster - the Gone with the Wind of Tango!" disagreed Bruno. "It was absolutely savage," said Craig. "I loved every minute of it. It was the best Tango of all three series."

Votes: Craig: 9, Arlene: 10, Len: 9, Bruno: 10 = 38

COLIN and ERIN returned to the floor for the Latin round and danced a Rumba to You're Beautiful. The crowd were on their feet, but what did the judges think? "That was a smoulder, lava-flow of a Rumba," said Bruno. "It was very sensual, I believed the connection between you... You actually dance with your soul, which is fantastic to see," said Craig.

Votes: Craig: 9, Arlene: 9, Len: 9, Bruno: 9 = 36

DARREN and LILIA then danced a Paso Doble to Don't Let Me Be Understood. They also got a standing ovation. "Amazing! Your timing is exceptional... but it didn't flow," said Craig. "I thought you were great; one proud hunky Matador," said Arlene. "That was like watching a peacock in full regalia... even your arms were in the right place!" said Bruno.

Votes: Craig: 9, Arlene: 9, Len: 9, Bruno: 9 = 36

Finally, ZOE and IAN returned to Samba to Aquarius. "I wanted to get up and join in your carnival," said Arlene. "I thought it was absolutely sensational," agreed Craig. "Best Latin dance of the night," said Len.

Votes: Craig: 9, Arlene: 9, Len: 10, Bruno: 10 = 38

Zoe and Ian came top with the judges, but what did you think at home? Pick up the phone and vote for who you want to win.

The Numbers

0901 121 4001 - Darren and Lilia

0901 121 4003 - Colin and Erin

0901 121 4012 - Zoe and Ian

Calls cost 25p from a landline. Mobile rates vary. At least 12p per call goes to Children in Need.

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Strictly 3

The Final Dances

Which couple are dancing what this week.This week our couples will all be performing three dances.

Here's the details:

* Colin and Erin - The Quickstep/The Rumba/Freestyle

* Darren and Lilia - The Foxtrot/The Paso Doble/Freestyle

* Zoe and Ian - The Tango/The Samba/Freestyle

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Darren's Final

How are Darren and Lilia feeling about the final?Last night on It Takes Two, Darren and Lilia spoke to Claudia about their reaction to getting through on Saturday and their hopes and fears for the final.

"You can't explain the feeling you go through 'cos you train so hard, to be eighth in week one and now to be in the final, I just can't believe it," said Darren.

So, did they ever dream they'd get this far? "We're the only couple who haven't said we're going to get a ten," revealed Darren. "Each week we want to just get through. We've had so much fun."

"We took one week at a time and we were happy to get through each week," agreed Lilia. "Some weeks we knew we weren't so good... we really did enjoy it."

Claudia asked Darren if he was now in it to win it.

"I'd be daft to say it wouldn't be nice to win, but our final is actually getting to the final," pointed out the Dazzler.

"The first thing I said when we got through is 'I get to do Jingle Bells at Christmas'... I get to do the Christmas special!"

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Colin's Challenge

The BBC trace Colin and Erin's route to the final.They're through to the final but speaking on the It Takes Two show, Colin and Erin revealed it wasn't a forgone conclusion.

"For me it was horrific - Erin's been there before - but for me it was the most nervous, tense semi-final - and I've had a few semi-finals in my life!" said Colin.

"I was terrified," agreed Erin. "It's that point when somebody has to go home and nobody wants to go home and you don't want to see anybody go home. So that's why it all got so emotional out the back."

Colin added that his dislike of the Jive meant he couldn't be sure they'd get through. "It was a bit of a journey for me... a rough one, but we got through it. Love the Waltz, but the Jive I was never confident in."

"He knew it wasn't his best dance," agreed Erin, "but he still went out there and performed."

All our finalists will be dancing their favourite routines from the series. Colin and Erin will be performing the Quickstep and the Rumba, but why the Quickstep?

"We scored very highly - we got four '9's," explained Colin, "and it was only in the second week, so we felt we could dance it slightly better now."

As well as a better Quickstep, they also revealed they've added something to, what Claudia called, their 'filthy' Rumba routine.

Claudia then revealed the trophy to them, asking if Colin would love to get his hands on it.

"I'd love my name on there, actually. I haven't had my name on a cup for a couple of years."

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James' Last Words

We look back at James and Camilla's time on the show.Last night, James and Camilla joined Claudia on It Takes Two. Tension was high and the tears flowed on Saturday, but what was the atmosphere like for James?

"It was pretty unbelievable, as I never thought I'd even get to the semi-final," he said. "I didn't feel any pressure on me, as we were going to come bottom anyway. I felt I'd just go out there and really go for it with the Foxtrot, and I really enjoyed that."

Claudia asked if they were pleased to go out on a high - getting their top score (33) for the Foxtrot.

"It was so emotional," said Camilla. "It was very important for me for James to hear those words 'you can dance'."

But did Camilla think they'd get this far? "Yes," she said. "He said, 'It's all about mind over matter. I'm going to be the perfect student, I'm going to work hard.' And I thought if this man can't make it, no man can, because I've never met anyone so determined. So for me I immediately felt pressure; I must get this guy to the final."

So who does James back to win the competition? "I think Darren's going to win it. I love the other two, but I think the public like Darren."

Don't worry, you haven't seen the last of James and Camilla; they will join all the contestants for the final this Saturday, and will take part in the Christmas special on Christmas Eve.

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Dancers keen to vote for Jackson

A troupe of female salsa dancers from Shropshire are urging Strictly Come Dancing fans to “vote Colin” in tonight’s ballroom showdown after armies of hunky men flocked to their club because of the “Jackson factor”.Before the start of the latest series of the hit BBC show the dancefloor at the Joshua’s Bar salsa club in Wellington had been dominated by ladies.

However, with two of the three celebrities in tonight’s finale being men, club members have noticed a marked increase in the number of men on the dancefloor.

And after former former Olympic silver medallist Colin Jackson became the bookies’ favourite, twinkle-toed ladies from the club will tonight join millions of viewers voting for him.

“We want Colin to win,” said Sylvie Daw who attends the Thursday night salsa club. “More men are turning up and and that’s fantastic. We have had far more guys coming because of Colin Jackson in the programme.”

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Never danced before

'I honestly had never danced before, not even with my mates when we have been out drinking'MAN'S man Darren Gough is hoping his dazzling performances in top-rated Strictly Come Dancing will inspire butch blokes to cast their vote for him in tonight's all-important live final.

The 35-year-old fast bowler admits dance has taken over his life and that he and his Sheffield-based partner Lilia Kopylova are "raring to go" in tonight's showdown.

He said: "I think the show, and my part in it in particular, has made it okay for guys to dance and I would encourage anyone to try it. "Hopefully, I have shown that ballroom dancing is not for sissies but for ordinary blokes just like me. All my family and all my mates in Barnsley are backing me, and I think one reason so many people have supported us on the show is that I am like so many other blokes out there.

"Me and my family are down to earth and normal and I like to think people can associate with us. People like to see a trier and that's what I'm doing week after week.

"I'm learning something new, trying my best and loving every minute of it."

Twinkle-toed Dazzler and his professional Latin American champion partner Lilia, 26, have enjoyed a dizzying turnaround since finishing eighth in the first episode of the show.

Since then the couple's dancing has got better and better each week, and Darren has been repeatedly named by the fearsome panel of judges as the most improved dancer of the series.

Darren said today: "I'm not kidding, I honestly had never ever danced before, not even with my mates in town when we have been drinking. I just used to lean against the bar and watch people.

"I laughed when I was first asked to go on Strictly Come Dancing and only said yes after my mum, Christine, said I should give it a go. "She had done some ballet lessons when she was a girl – that's the nearest any of us came to having anything to do with dancing." Darren admits he is amused by the antics of his grandma, Connie Gough, who has become something of a mini TV celebrity on Strictly Come Dancing shows.

The plucky pensioner had even recorded personal television messages for her grandson, urging him in her broad Barnsley accent to "Give it yer best, cocker".

Darren said: "She's loving every minute of it! She makes me laugh, and people all over the country now know my gran.

"My kids Liam, aged 10, and Brennan, deven, have also caught the dancing bug and have already had a lesson from head judge Len Goodman! They love being in the audience on a Saturday night cheering us on. I've no idea what will happen tonight, but I would like to think those people that do vote for me and Lilia do so because they like what they see."

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X Factor versus Strictly Dancing

£5million betting frenzy 20 million to watch TV finals.MORE than 20 million people are expected to tune in to the finals of the X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing tonight.

Each show has routinely pulled in average audiences of nine million or more viewers, often peaking at more than 10 million.

There is also set to be a betting frenzy with record £5million expected to be wagered - with £4 million of that on the X Factor.

Last night Online firm Betfair said it has so far taken an amazing £991,000 in bets on X Factor.

Betfair punters have also so far placed a total of £105,000 on BBC reality show rival Strictly Come Dancing.

The record for a non-sports TV show was the 2002 final of talent show Pop Idol between Gareth Gates and Will Young, which attracted £3.5million worth of bets.

Advertisement Falk AdSolution David Williams, of Ladbrokes, said: "There is every chance that record will be beaten. All the heavy money has gone on the X Factor."

Another source said: "Amazing sums of money are being placed for today's big reality TV finals."

And with the frenzy of interest generated by the climax of both shows, insiders predict a close run in the ratings battle.

One said: "The BBC and ITV will be wanting to win the fight for viewers as much as the actual contestants in the shows.

"The X Factor has just about edged the battle so far with more wins than Strictly Come Dancing but it's all about the final.

"Simon Cowell in particular is determined to make X Factor the biggest and best show on television, he'll be desperate to win."

Both shows have helped restore the fortunes of Saturday night television after years of dwindling audiences.

Two weeks ago, ITV enjoyed its best Saturday performance for three and a half years with a 40.7 percent audience share. In a surprise development yesterday Bookies tipped Cowell's act Journey South to snatch victory on ITV.

Manchester heart-throb Shayne Ward had been tipped to win the ITV talent show at 7/4 favourite and walk away with the £1 million record contract.

But the 21-year-old heart-throb could be let down by a poor choice of songs for the final by his mentor Louis Walsh, according to bookies William Hill.

Spokesman Rupert Adams said: "We were gobsmacked when we saw which songs the finalists will sing.

"Louis has chosen a tired selection for Shayne whereas Journey South have three real classics."

Binman Andy Abraham is trailing well behind in third place.

Viewers will see each singer will perform three songs with the public voting for the winner. Shayne, 26, will sing Over the Rainbow, When A Child Is Born and If You're Not The One.

Andy Abraham, 41, from Enfield, north London, will do O Holy Night, When a Man Loves a Woman, and Me and Mrs Jones.

Duo Journey South - brothers Andy, 29, and Carl Pemberton, 24, - will sing Merry Xmas (War is Over), Don't Let The Sun Go Down on Me and Let It Be.

The Journey South brothers admitted they were desperate not to make any mistakes. Carl said: "We're feeling pretty positive. We'll just go out and enjoy ourselves""

Andy said earlier: "We're trying to cram in as much practice as we can. It's a massive night and everything has to be right. Practice makes perfect."

But Ladbrokes said Shayne appeared to have it in the bag.

Mr Williams insisted: "Shayne has attracted the attention from female fans both on stage and in the betting shops. We''ve been overwhelmed.

"He looks to have got the X Factor wrapped up.

"We'd be surprised if we get out of jail by avoiding another big payout on the sexy soloist."

Each of the contestants have already recorded the winner's single, That''s My Goal, which is released next Wednesday.

After the winner is crowned, viewers will see the presses start to roll to make the single. TV judge Simon Cowell's record company BMG signs up the winner.

Cowell said the song has "a few"" Christmas bells and is from the writer behind Atomic Kitten's Whole Again and Leave Right Now by Will Young.

Meanwhile, former athlete Colin Jackson is favourite to win Strictly Come Dancing in tonight's rival final.

Bookies estimate up to £1 million will be bet on Strictly Come Dancing.

Ladbrokes have reported a late flurry of bets on Darren Gough and fear he could cost them £250,000 alone, if he wins.

Spokesman Carl Williams said: "In the past seven days there have been a huge amount of bets put on by women, most of whom have opened up new telephone accounts with us for the first time.

"They are all placing small stakes - on average around £5 and it could end up costing us all a small fortune."

Third favourite Zoe Ball also told BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast she can''t wait to perform her speciality - the tango, adding: "It was definitely my favourite and I'm looking forward to that.

"But we're also doing the samba, which I'm not fantastic at, so I'm working hard at improving."

Gough's rise to become second favourite to win after Jackson has got bookies worried.

David Williams of Ladbrokes said: ""If Darren lands the Strictly Come Dancing prize, we'll be well and truly stuffed."

"The burly Yorkshireman was 25/1 back in October and we expected him to stumble into oblivion. But it's just not happened."

Gough has been cut to just 5/2 from 3/1 behind 8/13 odds-on favourite Jackson.

Zoe is now the 4/1 outsider but yesterday judge Arlene Philips predicted the DJ should win the reality TV show.

The Mirror this week exposed five-man gang that had made more than £100,000 by betting on the outcome of reality TV shows including the X Factor.

X FACTOR

6.40pm

Show begins. The three finalists each sing three songs. Rehearsals had Shayne, Andy then Journey South

8.10pm

X Factor ends

9.10pm

Results show begins

9.20pm

Third placed finalist voted off

9.30pm

Top two sing their favourite song

10pm

Winner is announced

STRICTLY 6.30pm

Show begins

6.40pm

Colin and Erin dance Quickstep

6.48pm

Darren and Lilia dance Foxtrot

6.57pm

Zoe and Ian dance Tango

7.07pm

Colin and Erin dance Rumba

7.15pm

Darren and Lilia dance Paso Doble

7.24pm

Zoe and Ian dance Samba

7.40pm

Knocked out contestants Bill Turnbull, Fiona Phillips, Patsy Palmer, James Martin, Gloria Hunniford, Dennis Taylor, Will Thorp, Siobhan Hayes and Jaye Jacobs dance

9.20pm

Results show begins

9.30pm

Finalists dance Viennese waltz as group

9.35pm

Third placed couple revealed

9.40pm

Third placed couple's last dance

9.45pm

First of two remaining couples dance

9.50pm

Second couple dance

10pm

Bruce Forsyth sings Let's Face the Music and Dance

10.03pm

Winner revealed

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Go Dancing

At 9.20 this evening, more than 20 million television addicts will face a dilemma. By then, the final of the X Factor will have been running for 10 minutes on ITV. But at 9.20 sharp, the final of Strictly Come Dancing is to begin on BBC1. This will be only the third time that these two titans of reality television have clashed. So should we switch over to BBC1, or stick with the X Factor?This is one of those questions that have divided the nation since the time of the Reformation: Papist or Prod? Cavalier or Roundhead? Boxers or briefs?

What the two programmes have in common is that they appeal to all our competitive instincts - and that, we wholeheartedly applaud. In both, the winners are lavished with glory, while the losers are mercilessly torn apart. In that same spirit of political incorrectness, we have no hesitation in backing one channel against the other. Go on, switch over. The Daily Telegraph is for Strictly Come Dancing.

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TV finals whip up Saturday night fever

Will it be Colin and Erin or Zoe and Ian? Can Shayne with-a-y sing more sweetly than Andy the dustman? Will Sharon Osbourne throw something a little more unpleasant than a glass of water over fellow judge Louis Walsh?Dramatic climaxes are rare enough on multi-channel television these days, simultaneous ones even more so.

However, the feverish excitement surrounding the grand finales tonight of the talent shows Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor has proved that the old goggle box still has the power to grip a large part of the public's attention.

Both series have attracted as many as 10 million viewers and, given that many of these only watch one of the shows, broadcasters predict that tonight's finals could be seen by more than 20 million people.

Bookmakers estimate that about £3 million will be bet on the outcome of the shows, whose success has put a spring back into the step of their proprietors, BBC1 and ITV, the stations that have been losing most from the growth of multi-channel television.

While neither are technically "reality" television - a dirty word nowadays with the BBC - both rely on the familiar device of public voting in a knockout competition presided over by judges of varying levels of rudeness.

ITV's The X Factor pits ordinary people against each other in three singing categories - under 25, over 25 and group - to win a £1 million recording contract.

About 75,000 people auditioned, of whom 200 made it into the first round and were subjected to the rather formulaic bullying of the judges - Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh and Sharon Osbourne.

The trio's desperate attempts to outdo each other in the "withering put-down" stakes provides a pantomime element which is arguably the show's main attraction. Walsh caused a short-lived stir when he temporarily walked out of the show after Mrs Osbourne threw three glasses of water over him.

The success of BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing, which has recently beaten The X Factor in the ratings, has been more surprising.

It's waspish judges may be merciless about a contestant's paso doble but the show is gently competitive and upbeat. There have been slips, however, such as the time when a judge called the former EastEnders actress Patsy Palmer "a scrubber in a Puffa jacket" and a "two-bit actress off a second rate soap".

Still, Richard Hopkins, the series producer, claimed this week that the celebrities are "usually uplifted rather than demeaned".

While The X Factor scores highly with viewers in their teens, 20s and 30s, the BBC1 series is a true family show.

Presented by Bruce Forsyth, the show pairs celebrities with professional dancers.

Despite such a seemingly unfashionable formula, it has repeatedly beaten more modish shows such as The X Factor and I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here in the ratings.

Tonight will see a dance-off between the television presenter Zoe Ball, cricketer Darren Gough and the former Olympic hurdler Colin Jackson.

The winner gets a glitter ball trophy and - of course - a glittering career boost.

Jackson was the 4/6 favourite yesterday, but Miss Ball may get the sympathy vote after it was revealed this week that her grandmother has just died.

Much the same convincing odds are enjoyed in The X Factor final by Shayne Ward, a 21-year-old shop assistant from Manchester.

He is up against a duo called Journey South and Andy Abraham, a 41-year-old Londoner who must be hoping his rubbish-collecting days are behind him whether he wins or not.

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Strictly 3

Jackson favourite to win dancing show

Colin Jackson has been installed as the bookmakers' favourite to win the current series of 'Strictly Come Dancing', despite Arlene Philips insisting that Zoe Ball should win the competition.Darren Gough is second favourite to poll the highest number of votes from the public in Saturday night's final.

However, Philips has said that she still believes Ball could win the competition: "Zoe is brilliant at Latin and ballroom and probably should win."

Fellow judge Len Goodman has said that he can't pick a winner. "I can't agree Zoe is a clear cut winner. I don't think any of them are," he said.

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Strictly 3

'Stunned' by Jackson's dancing

As bookies tip Colin Jackson to become the first man to win Strictly Come Dancing, his sister has spoken of her shock at his dancing skills.Jackson will square up to DJ Zoe Ball and cricketer Darren Gough for the live final of the Saturday night TV show.

Jackson's sister Casualty actress Suzanne Packer said of his success so far: "It's been nearly 12 weeks and I'm still stunned."

Ladbrokes put Jackson at 8-11 with Zoe Ball at 5-2 and Darren Gough at 3-1.

Ms Packer - who plays dedicated nurse manager Tess Bateman in Casualty - will be among the audience for the live dance floor denouement between the celebrities.

Remarking on her brother's new-found talent, she told BBC Radio Wales: "It's a shock. I've always known that he's got good rhythm, but I would never have dreamt that he could retain dance sequences and then perform them as though he was a professional.

"I will certainly be rooting with my whole being for Colin to win."

She added: "I have to say, if it went on performance, strictly, then Colin should win. It's not that Darren hasn't been progressing brilliantly, but if I was to go and be incredibly objective, if I was talking about ability and skill factor, I definitely think Colin is ahead there."

The actress praised all the contestants for being willing to "come out of their comfort zone" by taking on the live television challenge. But, she said, her brother had to overcome another challenge - simply being a man.

"The man has to not only learn the steps and the routine but also has to learn to lead, so if you're an absolute beginner, you really will struggle to take the floor," she said.

'Extra demand'

"Whereas, a woman can be made to look good if they have a very good male partner whose leading.

"I know this from very personal experience. I'm not a dancer but I've done musicals where I've had to dance and I've been fortunate to have male partners who are dancers.

"And I've come out, and people have said to me 'I never knew you danced so well'. They (male partners) made me look good, whereas I think there's just an extra demand on Colin."

Described as Britain's finest ever sprint hurdler, Jackson has already done better in the dance competition than fellow Welshman Aled Jones, who made it to the semi-finals last year.

His Saturday night performances have also landed him a spot performing Singin' in the Rain during the BBC Sport Personality of the Year show last Sunday.

When he is not on the dance floor, Cardiff-born Jackson is a regular commentator on athletics for the BBC.

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Strictly 3

Reality TV Bet Scams

Three of the men allegedly behind the £105,000 reality TV betting scam yesterday insisted their winnings were merely down to skill.One jobless suspect said he had made up to £1,000 a time cleverly placing wagers.

But the 30-year-old - whom for legal reasons the Daily Mirror is naming only as Suspect 2 - said: "I'm not part of any betting ring.

"I mostly bet on reality shows because it's often obvious who's going to get voted off.

"I'm unemployed, so I sit around all day doing nothing except watching television.

"I get to know the contestants really well and have a knack of guessing which will be voted off."

He made his biggest killing of £1,000 when Maria was surprisingly booted off the X Factor.

He added: "I got good odds on Maria but nobody gave me inside info. I was shocked and didn't know what they were on about."

Yesterday we told how five men were said to have raked in tens of thousands in the scam involving unsuspecting online firm Betfair.

It is believed a BT insider tipped them off about phone poll results on shows such as I'm A Celebrity, Strictly Come Dancing and Hell's Kitchen minutes before they were announced on air.

Suspect 2 admitted his dad worked for BT but denied getting insider knowledge from him.

Two other men tracked down by the Mirror also maintained their innocence yesterday.

One, whom we are calling Suspect 1, is a 30-year-old graduate allegedly at the head of the plot.

But speaking from his home in Colindale, North-West London, he said: "I'm not involved in any illegal activity. I used my skills watching the programme to make my bets. I just watch what's going on and then make bets from there.

"I look at internet websites and get information from there. I get no inside information."

Another member of the alleged ring - whom we are calling Suspect 3 - admitted gambling on shows such as the X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing but also denied wrongdoing.

The 32-year-old, speaking outside his home in Enfield, North London, said: "I've done nothing wrong.

"I bet on lots of different things, lots of the different reality TV shows, but there's nothing wrong with that.

"I look at all the voting polls on the websites to see what's happening before I bet. I don't know anything about a betting scam."

He added: "I've made lots of losing bets recently as well as winning ones. I go down as well as up."

X Factor judge Simon Cowell thanked the Mirror for its expose of the alleged fraud.

He said: "I'm glad it's come out before the final on Saturday rather than in three weeks' time."

The alleged fraudsters have walked away with over £60,000 in winnings. Another £45,000 has been frozen in accounts.

All three men admitted their Betfair accounts were now on hold. Suspect 2 said: "I asked Betfair why my account was suspended and they said they suspected there was some kind of insider knowledge. If I had insider knowledge, I wouldn't have lost money on bets.

"But I have got the wrong contestant on a number of occasions.

"I'm just a member of the public who likes a bet." Police, BT and Betfair are all investigating.

BT said: "We've launched an urgent investigation into the allegations in the Daily Mirror, but we cannot say more at this stage.

"However, we would like to make clear that this does not affect the integrity of the result.

And an X Factor spokesman added: "We'd like to be very clear that whether true or not, this alleged scam would not have affected the integrity of the results in any way."

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Strictly 3

The Great TV Sting

A betting scam that raked in a fortune from reality TV shows like the X Factor has been smashed.Investigators swooped after becoming suspicious of a string of huge wagers being put on winners minutes before they were announced live on television.

It is believed punters were tipped off by text from a BT worker with access to phone vote totals for the programmes.

A five-man gang scooped £105,000 in fraudulent wagers with unsuspecting online firm Betfair.

One friend of the mob said: "The guys knew they could not lose. It is corrupt. At first it was small amounts but they were caught out when they got greedier."

Betfair called police after busting the sting, which also involved shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and Hell's Kitchen. The gang made £30,000 on the X Factor alone with bets on contestants battling it out before judges Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne.

A Betfair spokesman said: "We have no hesitation contacting police when people may be betting fraudulently."

__________

BOGUS punters at the centre of a TV betting sting targeted a string of popular reality shows in a bid to become rich.

The gang of five placed big money wagers on favourites including the X Factor, I'm a Celebrity, Strictly Come Dancing, Big Brother and Celebrity Big Brother after a member on the inside leaked details of telephone vote winners.

They also raked in cash from Strictly Dance Fever, The Farm, Hit Me One More Time, Hell's Kitchen and Celebrity Fame Academy.

But their scam was busted after vigilant staff at online firm Betfair grew suspicious of the gang's method of putting bets on minutes before the winners were revealed on TV.

It is thought a BT employee who had access to the phone line results was one of the five who passed on the information by text to the others.

They immediately placed bets worth thousands of pounds.

After a probe, Betfair investigators suspended the men's accounts, froze £45,000 of the £105,000 they made and alerted police. The other £60,000 had already been withdrawn.

A friend of the gang said last night: "These guys have been doing this for ages.

"They got the telephone voting numbers before they were publicised on air. So they all weighed in and have made a fortune.

"At first it was small amounts but they got caught out when they started getting greedier.

"If they kept the bet amounts lower they would have remained under the radar. But they just couldn't resist filling their boots. Eventually they were betting thousands. But a pattern started to emerge.

"The bets were being made in a similar fashion at a similar time each week. These guys knew for a fact, 100 per cent, they could not lose.

"That is wrong and corrupt. It is unfair on all the other X Factor fans having a flutter."

The gang scooped £30,000 on the X Factor bets alone. Tens of thousands of pounds were also made from Strictly Come Dancing, I'm a Celebrity - starring Aussie actress Kimberly Davies - and Hell's Kitchen. The wagers were made from computers in the London area.

One of the gang was furious when Betfair suspended his account and insisted to friends he won the cash "fair and square".

A spokesman for the London-based firm said: "We take very seriously the integrity of betting on our markets and have no hesitation contacting police when people may be betting fraudulently."

The gang, all in their early 30s, are believed to be highly-educated. Two have degrees from Leicester's De Montfort University.

Betfair is at the centre of an explosion in the amount of cash gambled on reality TV shows. More than £30million has been wagered this year alone via the online site. By last night it had received almost £1million for the X Factor.

The shows phone lines are supplied by BT but operated by service provider Harvest Media.

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Strictly 3

Tears, tantrums and sour grapes

Tension is etched all over their faked-tanned faces as the four couples wait to hear who is about to leave Strictly Come Dancing.I'm sitting near the judges and with the evicted dance professionals, in a perfect position to soak up the tears and tantrums.

Brendan Cole, who danced with Fiona Phillips and who had a fling with Natasha Kaplinsky, casts doubt on the alleged affair between his ex, Camilla Dallerup, and TV chef James Martin.

He said: They weren't a couple, they put it on for the cameras." Darren Bennett may have a touch of sour grapes when he claims the judges have their own agenda. He snipes: "They're all desperate to keep Zoe in, especially Bruno."

But then he did win last year with Jill Halfpenny. Darren nods at his partner in this series, Gloria Hunniford, and says: "I was with the old dear but we were out in the first week."

Anton Du Beke (Patsy Palmer's partner) can't hide his delight when James is booted out.

He says: "It should have been me up there instead of him in the first place."

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