It was a big life lesson for son Albie when the McFly star was booted off Strictly, says Polly Hudson
It was love at first sight. He’d dabbled in the past, gone through the motions, never truly committed.
But the second my seven year old set eyes on Tom Fletcher in Strictly Come Dancing, he knew he was the one.
Maybe it was the glasses they have in common, maybe it was Tom’s childlike enthusiasm, but something just clicked.
My boy was Team Fletcher, in a way he’d never backed any reality TV star before.
He voted. Tom’s book, The Christmasaurus, became his nightly bedtime story.
Each time Tom and his partner Amy Dowden made it through an elimination he celebrated more, and for longer, than Tom and his partner Amy Dowden.
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For the last nine weeks, he has been fully, avidly, intensely invested.
And then last Sunday, he had his little heart broken. As he sobbed in my arms in front of the results show, my husband asked who he was going to support now instead. Albie was outraged.
“TOO SOON!” he cried, not unfairly, as Tom and Amy hadn’t even done their last dance.
“How can this have happened? They both tried so hard, their footwork was never sloppy… I hate Reality TV!”
Unlike his callous father, I understood perfectly. Albie was taking Tom’s exit just as hard as I had when Will beat Gareth in Pop Idol. Days later my mum had to give me a talking to, and I was in my 20s.
I voted for lesbian nun Anna in the first Big Brother final after Craig had won, in the hope I might somehow undo the heinous miscarriage of justice.
I also remember eyeing all passers-by suspiciously in the days after Javine failed to make the band in Popstars: The Rivals, trying to work out whether they had played a part in the travesty.
You can’t watch these kind of shows – properly – without being won over by a participant, whether it be immediately like my son or more of a slow burn. It’s human nature to root for someone, especially when you see them putting time, energy and effort into being the best they can be. But when you root, you risk, as Albie was now finding out.
Utterly bereft and disillusioned, at breakfast on Monday he announced he would never love (a talent show contestant) again.
It was tempting to agree, but perhaps reality TV is a gentle way to introduce some hard truths that might be handy to become accustomed to now.
Talent show voting also forces us to face up to the unsettling fact that not everyone thinks the same way we do. Better his eyes are opened to this now rather than when it’s about, say, who governs the country, something that actually matters.
Because in the grand scheme of things – no offence to Tom Fletcher – Tom Fletcher leaving Strictly doesn’t matter. Albie will recover from the shock and disappointment, and move on. He’s got all his life to live and all his love to give, he will survive.
I mean, it’s not like it was Rose Ayling-Ellis or anything.