His goals united a nation, but his groove divided it
An era came to a close last Friday, when Allan Simonsen, the most controversial contestant ever to move his feet on the TV2 dancing show ‘Vild med dans’, was eliminated from the contest.
His story is one of national media hysteria, a desperate rule change and a mysterious SMS breakdown that ultimately resulted in the end of the football player’s dancing career.
Started with a six … out of 40
To understand how it could go that far, we need to go back to September this year, when ‘Vild med dans’ (the Danish version of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’) launched its tenth season. Within seconds it was clear that the 60-year-old Simonsen, a former footballing legend who played for the national team and was the 1977 European Player of the Year, was an exceptionally bad dancer.
Yet despite constantly being awarded historically low points from the four judges, he and his dancing mentor Sofie Kruuse were saved by the votes of the viewers. Friday after Friday, Simonsen dressed up in a new spangled suit and tried to move his hips in a sensual fashion. Each time, he failed miserably, but yet the next week he was back to do it all over again, showing no signs of improvement.
The rules of the show state that it is not the judges’ points, but the votes from the viewers that ultimately decide who stays and who leaves the contest.
“Denmark has become your family,” judge Britt Bendixen told Simonsen after he performed a humiliating waltz. “And what families do is they protect the weakest – and you are the weakest dancer.”
Critics began complaining that the show had become a parody of itself, and that other contestants were being voted out because they hadn’t represented Denmark at a World Cup finals.
Fighting in Allan’s corner
The debate even reached the major newspapers, when MEP Jens Rohde’s (V) Facebook update was published in Politiken newspaper under the title ‘Stem på Allan’ (Vote for Allan).
“Repeat your masterpiece from 1977, Allan, and go all the way,” Rohde wrote. ‘Vild med dans’ has never been funnier.”
Ekstra Bladet tabloid took Simonsen’s side and created an ‘Allan-alarm’ text message service, reminding people when it was time to vote for Allan to go on to the next round.
The popular radio hosts of ‘Monte Carlo’ on P3 encouraged all of their one million weekly listeners to vote for Simonsen every Friday.
“We recommend that you take up your sister’s phone, the au pair’s phone, your own and your neighbour’s phone,” host Esben Bjerre said. “The only right winner of ‘Vild med dans’ is Europe’s best football player.”
A reality show with integrity
Simonsen really split the nation. Dancing instructor Silas Holst complained that the show had lost its “integrity”, revealing just how seriously some people were taking the issue.
Not interested in losing integrity, the producers behind ‘Vild med dans’ decided that something needed to be done. Ahead of the show on November 8, it asked the BBC, who owned the rights to the show, if it could change the voting rules. The
BBC agreed, giving permission to TV2 to change the SMS codes of the couples, which it kept secret until the voting started, while only allowing five votes per phone line.
But TV2 couldn’t stop him. Allan Simonsen did a slow foxtrot and came in last with the judges – even after one of the other dancers twisted an ankle and had to go to hospital, but the voters still carried him on to the next round.
Allegations of bullshit
Then during last Friday’s paso doble round it finally happened. Simonsen the Matador got the red card from both the judges and the audience and had to leave the dancefloor.
However, the shock exit (as the tabloids called it) coincided with a massive breakdown at the phone companies that meant that many mobile phone users didn’t get their vote through before the voting session ended.
The founders of the Facebook fanpage ‘Vild med Allan’ reported TV2 for fixing the results and demanded to see the votes.
The head of TV2’s entertainment department, Gitte Madsen, has denied all accusations of match-fixing.
“We wouldn’t dream of kicking Allan out,” she told BT tabloid. “That would be the stupidest thing we could ever do.”
Whether TV2 messed with the votes remains uncertain, but bookmaker Betsafe decided this week to pay back all bets placed on Allan Simonsen during his last round following the turmoil.
On Friday night, the final will see comedian Uffe Holm take on table tennis player Mie Skov. Whether Allan Simonsen will be watching in the studio or at home is unclear, but at least ‘Vild med dans’ has got back its integrity – whatever that was to begin with.