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Celebrating familiarity in an abnormal year

Strictly Come Dancing 2020 final, live: Bill Bailey and Oti Mabuse are  crowned glitterball winners
Oti Mabuse and Bill Bailey won Strictly Come Dancing 2020 (Image: The Telegraph)

2020 has been a huge test for the world. All of us had to change how we lived in order to help combat Covid-19, an illness that is remains a mystery to this day. It's easy to say that 2020 was a nightmare, but the only way for us to fondly remember 2021 (this time next year) is to ensure we do our bit to relegate the virus to insignificance. I'll look forward to the day when I can have the vaccine, for example, as we hope it reduces the rate of infection to the point where we can start travelling without wearing a face covering, attending the theatre, cinema or sports arena and see our loved ones in homes and restaurants without fear.

Enough of me sounding like a government press release - every year, I award a 'Person of the Year', like TIME Magazine. This year, the magazine awarded its award to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, who from 20th January 2021 will be the new President and Vice-President of the United States, marking the end of Donald Trump's turbulent four years at the White House.

To me, this was a very American decision as while Biden and Harris's election victory was a big turning point of the year, it certainly wasn't the most significant. I was surprised to not see the healthcare workers or Black Lives Matter protesters be given the TIME honour ahead of the Democrat pair. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry also had a big year, making an unprecedented move to LA from the Royal Family before the pandemic was declared.

There were many others deserving of recognition, such as workers in the healthcare and retail industries, as well as takeaway workers, cleaners, postal workers, council workers - those who have kept countries moving while everyone else had to stay at home to protect potentially overwhelmed health services. And in the UK, we'll always remember 100-year-old Captain Sir Tom Moore for his incredible fundraising efforts for the NHS, which inspired so many.

But as a person who steps away from tradition, my 'Person of the Year' goes elsewhere; to an unsung industry - a group of people who've kept publics entertained as Covid-19 took hold. In previous years, we've taken certain TV shows for granted - those aired every year without fail and that we expect to see at the time of years they're on. They're the shows that, even if the formats are considered tired and repetitive, millions watch them without fail.

At the start of the pandemic, it was feared these shows were to be booted out of the TV guide and we'd be succumbed to watching endless repeats of programmes. Certainly, many shows had to be suspended, delayed or cancelled because of Covid-19. But 'the show must go on attitude' and sheer determination from producers and TV companies ensured that not only our favourite shows still went ahead, but they've been appreciated more than ever.

Of course, there had been compromise. Channel 4's Great British Bake Off saw contestants and presenters form a bubble along with the production team. BBC's Strictly Come Dancing had their celebrities and professional dancers form their exclusive bubbles, away from their families. And ITV's I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here moved its production from a jungle in Australia to a castle in North Wales. They didn't feel the same, yet, it felt right.

There was collective appreciation from audiences who turned out in their millions to watch these shows. We were given a hint of normality in a year that was far from normal. It's difficult to truly appreciate how challenging it can be to air live television without considering all the Covid-19 measures. There's an art and it's been fantastic to see these shows go ahead and with very few hitches.

Continuing these shows in 2020 was risky. Even if all the social distancing and cleanliness measures were in place, it wouldn't have stopped the personalities from falling ill and the producers being responsible and show executives facing expensive punishment or public humiliation. In fact, the only notable downer was that boxer Nicola Adams had to back out of Strictly after her dance partner Katya Jones tested positive for Covid-19.

Giving recurrent TV shows the 'Person of the Year' gong may sound odd, and that I'm living in a first world bubble. Yet, when the world seems to be constantly changing and is becoming increasingly divisive, one thing we now appreciated is a little bit of familiarity. And for those so-called 'non-essential workers', I want to thank you for keeping us entertained.

JSPrice Perception 'Person of the Year' - previous winners:


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