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Statistically Come Dancing: Predicting the Winner of Strictly - With Science

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For four years I provided punditry, commentary and statistical analysis for the original reality TV behemoth Big Brother (in the days when people actually watched) on its spin-off show Big Brother's Big Mouth. Using meticulously accumulated data from an abundance of carefully compiled sources, I was able to forecast the results of nominations, evictions and finale nights. Some of these predictions even proved to be correct.

But Big Brother is not an anomaly. It is my belief, based upon the hypothesis that history repeats itself, that the outcome of any reality TV phenomena can be predicted scientifically. Allow me to demonstrate my theory by using a methodology that studies past form, extrapolates historic Dancing data, and applies identified trends to this year's cast, in order to predict the winner of Strictly Come Dancing 2011.

Age

All Strictly champions thus far have fallen into a fairly narrow age range of 27 to 38, the average winner being 32 years 5 months. The profiles that best fit the bill this year are 34 year old Alex Jones, and Robbie Savage, whose 37 years on the clock make him the same age as fellow sportsman Mark Ramprakash when he claimed the title in 2006.

Older competitors seem particularly handicapped when we reach the business end of the competition, with no one over the age of 38 ever making it to the final two. This could spell eleventh hour trouble for the show's last remaining elder statesman, 43 year old Jason Donovan.

Advantage: Alex, Robbie
Disadvantage: Jason

Occupation

Actors are the clear winners in the occupation field, with thespians Jill Halfpenny, Tom Chambers and Kara Tointon all claiming victory in their years of competition. An actor has reached the final two in six out of eight series, favouring 2011's stars of stage and screen Chelsee Healey and Jason Donovan.

There was a time when sportsmen reigned supreme on Strictly, with cricketers Darren Gough and Mark Ramprakash hoisting the trophy in successive series. In recent years, however, they have fallen out of favour, with no sportsman reaching the final since 2006. Footballers especially seem destined for early exits, with Peter Shilton, John Barnes and Peter Schmeichel all failing to make a big impression in their respective series, worrying news for bad boy of the pitch, Robbie Savage.

Advantage: Chelsee, Jason
Disadvantage: Robbie

It's not where you start...

Significantly, no week one leader board topper has ever won their series of Strictly Come Dancing, with most early frontrunners, including Matt Baker, Ricky Whittle and Emma Bunton, falling at the last hurdle, and some, such as 2008's Cherie Lunghi, not even reaching the final. This cannot be a good omen for this year's week one favourite, Jason Donovan.

Disadvantage: Jason

Improvement

Indeed, the key to Strictly victory is improvement and peaking at the right time. Winners, on average, have shown an increase of 27% in their judges' scores by this point in the competition. From the class of 2011, this most closely correlates with Chelsee Healey and Harry Judd, who have both shown mark-ups of 30% since week one, the same as 2005 champion Jill Halfpenny and 2007 victor Alesha Dixon.

Jason, meanwhile, has only mustered a 9% uptick in his scores, mirroring third place finishers Emma Bunton and Zoe Ball, a stat unlikely to inspire confidence in a Donovan victory.

Advantage: Chelsee, Harry
Disadvantage: Jason

First dance

Superstition rather than science but a significant trend nonetheless, the first celebrity to take to the floor in the first episode that sees all competitors dancing together has never failed to reach the final of each Strictly series. This year the honour fell to Waterloo Road's Chelsee Healey, who, if history repeats itself, may follow in the footsteps of 2010's debut dancer, and eventual winner, Kara Tointon.

Advantage: Chelsee

Height

In six out of eight Strictly finals, the shortest contender has triumphed. David does usually beat Goliath, with diminutive Jill Halfpenny and Chris Hollins taking down their taller adversaries Denise Lewis and Ricky Whittle respectively.

At 6'0'', Jason Donovan is of similar stature to past champs Tom Chambers and Darren Gough, but no female over 5'6'' has ever lifted the glitter ball trophy. This will be music to the ears of pint-sized Chelsee Healey but may not bode well for this year's longer-limbed ladies Holly Valance and Alex Jones.

Advantage: Chelsee, Jason
Disadvantage: Holly, Alex

Birthplace

Contestants from the south-east reign supreme in this category, providing 5 out of 8 winners and over half of all finalists, giving Essex boy Harry Judd the edge. New Zealand-born Pamela Stephenson may have finished second runner-up in 2010 but no international contestant has managed to go further. This could present a problem for antipodeans Jason Donovan and Holly Valance.

Advantage: Harry
Disadvantage: Jason, Holly

He may have spent much of this series as a favourite but Jason Donovan simply has too much stacked against him to secure victory - the 43 year old could still make the final but his lack of momentum and Aussie roots will prevent him being first over the finish line. South-eastern Harry Judd has shown significant enough improvement to score runner-up status but falls into the dangerous middle-ground in too many areas to go the distance.

Having entered all available, measurable and observable data into a complex algorithm, I can confidently predict (with well-defined error bars) that the winner of this year's Strictly Come Dancing will be Chelsee Healey. Showing a marked improvement in judges' scores and gaining momentum at exactly the right time, the pint-sized actress ticks all the right boxes to be crowned the 2011 Dancing champion. Not my opinion, ladies and gentlemen - it's Strictly Scientific Fact.

Around the Web

BBC - Strictly Come Dancing 2011 - Official site with results, news ...

Strictly Come Dancing - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Strictly Come Dancing | Television & radio | The Guardian

Strictly Come Dancing (TV Series 2004– ) - IMDb

Strictly Come Dancing 2011 - Telegraph

Strictly Come Dancing Betting Odds | £25 Free SCD Bet from Betfair