Monday, December 21, 2009

Strictly Come Dancing: Chris Hollins beats Ricky Whittle

Strictly Come Dancing reached its climax last night as Chris Hollins beat favourite Ricky Whittle. The Telegraph's fashion director Hilary Alexander gives her verdict on the showdown.

It was billed as The Hunk v. The Hobbit, the David and Goliath ballroom battle which would decide the winner of the Strictly Come Dancing title for 2009.

In the end, the result was biblical.

The Glitter Ball trophy went to team "C-Ola", as the perky BBC presenter, Chris Hollins, and his partner Ola Jordan, have become known.

The couple won over the viewers with their combination of crowd-pleasing cheekiness, fun, enthusiasm and good old-fashioned entertainment.

In the first half of the show, Hollins had prophetically quipped: "We might be the underdogs, but every dog has its day."

He and Ola may not have had the sensual polish, the finesse and the fitness of close rivals, Ricky Whittle, the Hollyoaks star, and his partner, Natalie Lowe.

But by the rip-roaring, "sexy swimming" finale to their Charleston, Team C-Ola had the studio audience – and, obviously, the viewers at home – eating out of their hands.

The judges heaped adjective upon superlative to praise the four dances each couple performed. Bruno Tonioli called Chris and Ola's Charleston "a Strictly Come Dancing classic".

Len Goodman pronounced Ricky and Natalie's quickstep "Strictly history". Craig Revel Horwood coined the word "lift-tastic" to describe Ricky's spectacular series of one-arm and two-arm flying lifts in the couple's "show dance".

I had started off this series – 14 weeks, 654 hours of training per couple and 17 dances ago – hoping Ricky would win. But by last night's final, I discovered I really didn't mind who got to grasp the "Glitter Ball". Both couples were fantastic. It's we, the viewers, who are the real winners in this show.

But what a week! Losing 'Wake Up to Wogan' was bad enough. We now have to face up to nine months of Saturday nights without a 'Strictly' fix.

The only thing we, perhaps, have to look forward to, is Ricky's promise to wear a thong if he got into the final.

Could that happen in a Strictly Christmas special? Now that just might make Ola and Natalie's costumes look a little over-dressed.

Natalie White wins 'Survivor: Samoa,' beats Russell Hantz, Mick Trimming

Natalie White's strategy of riding Russell Hantz's coattails and not playing too aggressively paid off.

The 26-year-old pharmaceutical sales representative from Van Buren, AR claimed Survivor: Samoa's $1 million grand prize during the live portion of last night's finale broadcast from CBS Television Studio in Hollywood, CA.

"It's about having no regrets. You've got to take a big risk to get a big return," said Natalie after her victory was revealed.

"I had to quit my job to do it. So I gave up a wonderful job -- not just a wonderful job, but one that I loved so much... There was a lot at risk for me."

Natalie defeated Russell Hantz, a 36-year-old oil company owner from Dayton, TX, and Mick Trimming, a 33-year-old doctor from Boise, ID who currently resides in Los Angeles, CA, by receiving five of the first seven jury votes Survivor host Jeff Probst revealed. Russell received the other two jury votes that were disclosed. Jeff did not reveal the remaining eighth and ninth votes, which were presumably also for Natalie.

"Her key move in the game was aligning with me," said Russell after Natalie had previously stated her "key move" as orchestrating Erik Cardona's blindside after the merge.

"Okay, maybe I had two key moves then," replied Natalie.

Survivor: Samoa's finale broadcast began on Day 37 at the merged Aiga camp following the elimination of Shannon "Shambo" Waters -- who was ousted when Brett Clouser, a 23-year-old T-shirt designer from Salem, OR who currently resides in Los Angeles, CA, won Individual Immunity for the second consecutive time and staved off certain elimination.

Mick and Jaison Robinson, a 28-year-old law student from Chicago, IL, discussed the possibility of Brett winning Immunity again and immediately targeted Natalie if that were to happen.

"I think Russell will have a hard time voting her off," said Mick to Jaison.

"I think Russell will have an easier time doing a lot of things than you think," replied Jaison.

However they both agreed that Brett would be first, as Jaison was worried the only remaining Galu member could go on an "Immunity run." Russell was aware that Natalie's neck was on the line if Brett won Immunity again.

"You know what's going to happen if he wins the next one? I ain't going to be able to save you," Russell told Natalie.

"Why would I be next?" asked Natalie.

"Because the three guys stay to beat [Brett] in that last challenge," replied Russell.

"Well, that sucks," she said.

"Well we've just got to win," he said.

Natalie then asked point blank if she'd be going home if Brett won the next Immunity Challenge.

"Probably so," answered Russell.

In a confessional, Natalie said her strategy entering the competition was to "play the underdog," "be underestimated" and "just kind of slide through."

"Which I've done. And it's gotten me this far," she added.

The five castaways then arrived for the Immunity Challenge, and before Jeff explained the rules he asked Russell if it was the remaining four Foa Foa against Brett.

"Yes it is. That's what it is," answered Russell.

"It's an individual competition, so it's definitely a motivator," said Brett.

Each castaway would race across a series of obstacles and grab a bag of puzzle pieces before racing back. They then had to climb a steep wall to a platform and use the pieces to solve a puzzle. First person to get it right would win Immunity.

The challenge commenced, and while Russell was able to grab an early lead Brett's puzzle-solving skills helped him in the end and he won Immunity for the third consecutive time.

"To finally see a Foa Foa member go home will be relieving," said Brett in a confessional.

Natalie said she "definitely felt" like her head was on the chopping block. At camp, she talked to Russell

"I'm going to change it," he said.

"Promise me?" she asked.

"I promise you," he said.

Russell then revealed in a confessional why he wanted to keep Natalie around.

"I'm trying to keep Natalie because she's holding onto my coattails," he explained. "Who better to take to the Final 2 than her? There's no way she can beat me in votes."

Brett talked to Jaison about the impending vote.

"Do you guys know what you're doing, or is it up in the air?" Brett asked.

"You always think you know what you're doing but you never actually know what's going to happen," answered Jaison.

In a confessional, Russell called Jaison "the weakest link" and thought Natalie was stronger in helping to beat Brett in the next Immunity Challenge. He also weighed the pros and cons of keeping Jaison or Mick.

"The good thing about keeping Jaison is he can't beat me in the votes, the bad thing about keeping Jaison is he can't beat Brett in the challenge," explained Russell. "The good thing about keeping Mick is he could possibly beat Brett in the challenge, the bad thing about keeping Mick is he might beat me in jury votes."

He approached Jaison about getting rid of Mick, and Jaison agreed.

"I think Russell and I trust each other enough and we're comfortable. When I say this, I mean it. When he says this, he means it," explained Jaison.

However Russell also told Mick that Jaison would be next, and Mick agreed.

"I wish he could stay around. But Natalie's head is much more in the game than Jaison's," said Mick in a confessional. "He shows up, but he's just not really into it at all."

Russell knew that he and Natalie were in control over what transpired at Tribal.

"We're the ones making the decision," he said before approaching Natalie -- who weighed the options.

"They both have goods and bads," said Russell in a confessional. "So now I'm weighing what in the world I'm supposed to do."

Tribal Council then commenced, and the jury -- Erik, Kelly Sharbaugh, Laura Morett, John Fincher, David Ball, Monica Padilla, and Shambo -- entered.

Natalie explained that if they were unable to beat Brett in the next Immunity Challenge, he would certainly get all the jury votes -- so it was a tough decision about whether to keep someone strong to help beat Brett or keep someone that would be easy to beat at the final Tribal.

Jaison added it was especially difficult because there were a few players remaining who "could command a lot of jury votes."

"It makes sense to keep people that can beat him at this last Immunity," said Mick.

Jeff then asked Brett if he had been "sandbagging it" up until that point in the competition, when he seemed to turn on the burners.

"I think the past few challenges have just coincided with certain skills I have and having really nothing to lose is a different frame of mind that I have that the se people don't necessarily have," he added.

Jaison reiterated Brett needed to go as soon as possible to prevent him from getting to the final Tribal.

"If he got there, he'd definitely have an upper hand," said Jaison.

Brett said at this point, it didn't matter how many jury votes he had since he wasn't at the final Tribal yet.

"I've won three challenges in a row, but it doesn't mean anything if I don't win the next one," he said.

Brett, Russell, Natalie and Mick all voted for Jaison -- who became the sixteenth castaway eliminated and eighth member of the jury.

"I'm kind of pissed off at Russell for blindsiding me this way," said Jaison after his ouster.

"For a relationship that you've had since Day 2, you at least let the guy know that he's going home. So I don't think I'd be cheering for Russell this one. I'd root for Brett. Brett's the underdog. He is who we were. We came from nothing to be something and he did pretty much the same thing."

Back at camp, Brett described it as a "miracle" to still be there.

"This is something I didn't really imagine," he said, adding Immunity was his only hope. "My fate is in my own hands."

The next day on the beach, Russell asked Brett if he thought he could beat him if they both made the Final 3 jury vote.

"I don't know," answered Brett. "I think it would be pretty close."

Russell said he'd rather be next to someone who "deserves it more" and Brett agreed, stating he'd "rather go up against someone that's harder to beat and lose" than someone who is easier to beat and win. Russell saw an opening, and struck a deal with Brett.

"What I can promise you is me and you will be in the Top 3," he told him.

"Okay," said Brett.

"If you win it, then you're safe," explained Russell. "If I win it, I'll take you to the Top 3. If you win, you're in the Top 3. We have no doubts. I'm going to do it straight up with you. Deal?"

"Deal," said Brett as they shook hands.

In a confessional, Russell called the deal an "insurance policy" in case Brett were to win Immunity.

"It looks like I'm going to be in the Top 3 no matter what," boasted Russell in a confessional. "If I win this challenge today, I'm 100% positive that the game is mine. I won the $1 million."

They then retrieved some Tree Mail, which informed them they'd be remembering Survivor: Samoa's 16 previously booted castaways via the game's traditional "Fallen Comrades" journey. Once it was complete, the castaways met for the final Immunity Challenge, and Jeff explained the rules.

Each castaway would place a wooden statue on the end of a pole. At regular intervals, another section would be added to the pole -- making it more difficult to keep stable. The last person with his or her statue standing would win Immunity and an automatic bid to plead his or her case in front of the jury.

The challenge commenced. Mick was the first one out, followed by Natalie -- setting up a showdown between Russell and Brett, which was eventually won by Russell.

"This is worth $1 million right now. In my opinion, I just won the game," said Russell in a confessional.

Back at camp, Brett told Mick he was "proud" of himself for making it as far as he did and called Survivor an "awesome experience."

"I failed," he said in a confessional. "I'm pretty certain that I'll be going home tonight. The only thing I have to fall back on is Russell's deal that he made with me that if one of us were to win then we'd take the other person to the final."

The former Foa Foa members discussed their chances at the final Tribal -- as Natalie said she thought Russell would win, and Mick agreed Russell had a "great shot." Russell was also confident, thinking the fact that he beat Brett in the final Immunity Challenge was just what he needed to make his case with the jury.

"I made a promise to Brett," said Russell in a confessional. "But you see, I made a promise to Mick too. Either way I slice it, if I break my promise with somebody I'll be putting them on the jury and they're taking it personal -- they hate me. This is why the game gets tough."

Mick told Natalie he was "skeptic" Brett was going to go that easily and thought something might be up.

"Mick, you're fine," assured Natalie. "You're so paranoid... Do you honestly think any of us want to go against [Brett] on the jury?"

"I wouldn't think so, but Russell's got all these little strange plans and ploys," said Mick.

"No Mick, it's a done deal," assured Natalie again. "You're coming back here tonight, and so am I, and so is Russell."

Russell then approached Brett and explained he had a deal with both him and Mick.

"I wish I was like you when I was your age," gushed Russell.

"I appreciate that," replied Brett.

"The only option we have is Natalie is going to vote you and Mick is going to vote you . If I vote Mick and you vote Mick then it's a 2-2 tie," explained Russell. "Then it's a challenge -- it might be a fire challenge. Do you think you could beat Mick in a fire challenge?"

"Yeah," replied Brett.

In a confessional, Brett said it was "hard to take [Russell's] word 100%."

"All I can do is hope that he's a man of his word," said Brett.

Russell said in a confessional he was solely focused on "jury votes" when deciding between Mick and Brett.

"Mick's a real good guy, I like him a lot," added Russell. "Brett's a good guy too. But I'm playing the game. I'm still strongly considering keeping Brett. May the best man win. That might get me jury votes -- keeping the strongest here."

The penultimate Tribal Council then commenced and the jury entered. Russell said he "definitely" knew it would be him and Brett facing off at the end of the final Immunity Challenge.

"I knew he would be the one that would be there at the end," said Russell. "I put more effort into this challenge then I did into anything in this entire game."

Mick said he "absolutely" knew Brett would be next as soon as Russell won, and added it was a "huge relief." Natalie echoed Mick's statement and Russell said Brett played a great game.

"He deserves to be sitting up there with me," said Russell about Brett. "We're probably the two best up here and you want the best up here to talk in front of the jury. That's just how it should be."

Mick said Russell was making a good point, however he didn't necessarily agree with it because Brett in front of the jury met only one thing -- he would win the $1 million.

"Russell knows strategically it's not a good move to take Brett and put him in front of that jury," added Natalie.

Brett said Mick and Natalie had to be "a little worried" and Jeff asked if Russell would get "respect" from the jury for taking him.

"Oh yeah, most definitely," replied Brett. "By that action, you're showing a sense of confidence in yourself."

However Russell, Natalie and Mick all voted for Brett -- who became the seventeenth castaway eliminated and ninth and final jury member.

"Wow. They did it," said Erik as Brett had his torch snuffed.

"I knew a couple Tribals ago that it was my time to go," said Brett after his outer. "I'm the last Galu member, I'm so proud of that. To get to where I got -- 38 days, one of the Final 4 -- was definitely a testament to will, my hard work and I definitely feel like I went out on my own accord to some degree."

The next morning, Russell, Mick and Natalie toasted to making the Final 3.

"I said from Day 1 that I was going to get here, and here I am," said Russell. "Not only did I get here, I brought two people here that I wanted to be here with me."

Russell told Natalie and Mick that the jury would accuse them of riding his coattails and asked how they would defend themselves -- specifically claiming he was going to call them the "nice guy and nice girl."

"Russell has good points, but he needs to be reminded that he couldn't have done this without us," said Mick. "We just took totally different paths to do it. Some people may say I like your path a little better, here's your vote."

Natalie thought there was "strategy" in Russell boasting that he had the jury in the bag.

"I'm not going to give up," she added. "I'll just explain to the jury I do not work the same way as Russell. That would clearly not have worked for me. The girls that were aggressive, they got eliminated early."

In a confessional, Russell said it would be a "shame" if Natalie or Mick won.

"It wouldn't make any sense to me," he said. "I played this game strategically better than anybody -- maybe in history. I really think this jury is going to put my name down. I accomplished the impossible out here. All by myself and brought a couple of bums with me."

The final Tribal Council then commenced, and the nine jurors entered. Jeff explained that Mick, Russell and Natalie would each make an opening statement before the jury members would have as opportunity to either ask a question or make a statement of their own.

Mick said he came into the game realizing there would be a lot of pressure on him to have more of a "moral leeway" than he was "willing to give" -- and added that temptation only grew at the merge. However he said he still wasn't willing to go outside the parameters he set for himself.

"The fact that I was able to get this far doing that, that was kind of my goal in this and I feel like I accomplished it," he said.

Natalie said there were lots of doubters in her Survivor ability even before she left, and added she decided to go through with it because she wanted to gain confidence and go outside of her comfort zone -- which she felt she did despite it being the hardest thing she had ever done mentally, emotionally or physically.

Not surprisingly, Russell made it clear he was there to win, which he tried to do by making "huge strategic moves" throughout the game -- beginning at Foa Foa and continuing after the merge. He called Laura's ouster the "biggest move of the game" before he turned on John.

"It went like dominoes from there," said Russell, adding defeating Brett was the "most difficult" thing he had to do physically.

"If either one of these outwit me then give them the money. If either one of these outplayed me then give them the game," said Russell about Natalie and Mick. "But you know what? I don't think that they have."

Jaison went first and he gave the Final 3 an opportunity to share information about who they "really are."

Natalie said she's "technically unemployed" since she quit her job to join the show's cast. Russell explained he was a "businessman."

"I opened a business five years ago, struggle for three years and just became successful with the business for two years," added Russell. "This is the first business that I have succeeded with."

Mick said he's $320,000 in debt from medical school. Jaison said he believed all the answers, but pointed out Natalie neglected to reveal she "made a lot of money," Russell was the "wealthiest" in the Final 3, and Mick will get paid very well as a doctor.

"Whatever decision is made, no one is broke," said Jaison. "I think you guys should look for other criteria."

Shambo apologized to America for "dismantling" Galu and questioned that decision. She then called Mick's decision "feckless" and insulted him for not knowing what it meant and called Natalie Russell's "coattail" rider. Natalie disagreed and said it was "intuition" to not play "aggressive" and put a target on her back.

"No way in god's green earth you're getting my vote," said Shambo to Natalie.

Brett asked Mick how he would plan a man date for the two of them and explained it was a way to see how invested Mick was in him as a "human being." Kelly said she disagreed with Natalie being independent.

"It wasn't because I had no fight," argued Natalie. "But I did do things on my own and I'll tell you I got better throughout the game to believe in myself."

Kelly then asked Russell if he was the same in real life as in the game.

"I'm 100% different outside of this game," he answered. "The thing that bothers me is I don't want my kids to think this is how I really am."

Russell added he embraces "honor, integrity and loyalty" outside of game, which Kelly had a hard time believing.

Monica asked Mick why he deserved the win over Natalie and Russell. Mick said he was not really sure what Natalie did along the way except align with Russell, whom he felt was willing to lie and pit people against each other for his own gain. Mick added he felt Russell let his "giant ego" get out of hand and said that wasn't the kind of character that deserved the $1 million.

Russell defended himself by stating his character wasn't in question when Mick and Natalie were using it to get to the Final 3.

"They both didn't mind following the snake," he said.

Dave asked what each thought there current chances were -- as Mick said between 20 and 25%; Natalie between 30 and 40%; and Russell said he initially thought his odds were much higher but now pegged them around 55%.

"It might happen, it might not happen," he said.

Laura asked Russell what he learned about her through the game, and he said he knew she was Galu's "biggest threat" and was also "controlling."

"If it wouldn't have took place like it did, I don't have a doubt in my mind you'd be here right now," he added.

John then asked Mick to give his "hard sell," and Mick said he has a "solid character" and doesn't treat people "like pawns."

"I don't think you could give it to a more stand-up dude. I just don't," said Mick.

He then asked Natalie to defend herself, and she reiterated that she'd been flying under the radar and tried not to play too aggressively.

Erik went last and said Mick did nothing before stating Russell "admittedly played an unethical game."

"The crazy thing about it is you're sitting there and I'm standing here. Did you get to the right place by behaving the wrong way?" asked Erik.

"I've never been in a situation in my entire life where that was the case. But you sit there proud of it."

Erik said while Natalie may be "weak" and "undeserving," that shouldn't be any less admirable than "lying, cheating and stealing" your way to the Final 3.

"You are sitting there and that makes you just as dangerous as any one of those guys there. You would say that you were probably the least deserving of the title of Sole Survivor," said Erik.

"But maybe, just maybe, in an environment filled with arrogance, delusional entitlement, maybe the person who thinks that she's least deserving is probably the most. You've got my vote, I hope you get four more."

The nine jurors were then given a minute to think before casting their votes. The live portion of the broadcast then commenced and Natalie was revealed to be the winner.

During the live reunion show, Jeff pointed out that Russell looked "visibly upset."

"I feel like I played the best strategic game in history, and I'm not the only one who thinks that," replied Russell. "I can guarantee you millions of people probably think the same thing. Natalie, her best move was to jump on my back."

Jeff then quickly polled the jury about whether Russell would have won had he instead chosen to take Jaison and Shambo -- and according to the results, he would have.

"Natalie, all I want is the title of Sole Survivor. I will pay you $10,000 for the title. If Jeff says, 'Russell, you are the Sole Survivor,' and I get it in paper written down -- that I am the Sole Survivor. I want the title," he pleaded.

"Are you asking Natalie to tell you you're a better player?" asked Jeff.

"No, I'm asking Natalie to ask you to tell me that I'm the Sole Survivor," replied Russell.

"I'm going to decline Russell's offer," said Natalie later in the broadcast. "I'm not interested. In order to win the title of Sole Survivor..."

"$100,000," interrupted Russell, upping his offer.

"No," said Natalie.

Jeff later revealed that Russell had won the "Survivor of the Season" text message/ vote that allowed home viewers to award $100,000 to one of the season's castaways, with Brett and Shambo finishing in the Top 3 with him.

In addition, Jeff also formally confirmed that Survivor's upcoming twentieth season -- which was filmed back-to-back with Survivor: Samoa in Samoa this summer -- will be dubbed Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains and feature "20 of Survivor's greatest castaways."

Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains will premiere February 11, according to Probst.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Russell Ferguson injures leg, wins 'So You Think Yiou Can Dance' title

Russell Ferguson was crowned So You Think You Can Dance's sixth-season champion during last night's live finale broadcast of the Fox reality competition series.

The 20-year-old from Boston, MA claimed the $250,000 grand prize and became the first ever krumper to win the show's title.

"Yeah! Yeah!" yelled Fegruson as he leapt around the stage, took his shirt off, and eventually fell to his knees before standing back up.

"I just want to thank everybody so much. This means everything to me. I've been dreaming of this ever since I was born. I just thank the judges so much for their criticism -- you guys make me better as a person, as a dancer... I want to thank my parents, my mother, my father, my girlfriend's over there, my little brother. I love all y'all."

Ferguson's victory came after he injured himself during a routine earlier in the broadcast. As host Cat Deeley called out the Top 6 finalists to reveal the first elimination, Ferguson was visibly in pain.

"I messed my knee up... I mean my leg up," he said through tears.

"We'll get you some help okay? Have you seen the medic?" asked Deeley, as Ferguson nodded his head "yes."

"Okay. Hang in there one second for me and we'll get you off here as soon as possible," she replied. "It is time for some results."

Later in the broadcast when Ferguson was scheduled to perform a routine with previously eliminated finalist Noelle Marsh, Fox instead aired video footage of when the performance originally aired during the third week of the competition.

"Obviously, as you've seen earlier in the show, Russell has been injured here tonight. But luckily, we have a tape of the original performance," said Deeley.

In addition, video footage from one of Ferguson's Tuesday night routines with fellow Top 6 finalist Kathryn McCormick also aired in place of a live performance due to his injury.

Ferguson was subsequently seated on a stool onstage each time an elimination was revealed, except when Deeley called him out to reveal the winner -- when he walked out on stage with eventual runner-up Jakob Karr.

"When I first auditioned in New Orleans, I never even thought that I would be anywhere near this point," said Karr, a 19-year-old contemporary dancer from Windermere, FL who currently resides in New York, NY, in a video montage before the results were revealed.

"I wish that this could go on forever. I could stay right here in this second for the rest of my life and be so happy."

McCormick, a 19-year-old contemporary dancer from Augusta, GA who currently resides in Burbank, CA, finished third.

"This has been something that I will never forget<' she said after her elimination. "This has been like anything I've ever imagined for myself and I'm so blessed and so thankful that I was able to share it with every one of you."

Ellenore Scott, a 19-year-old contemporary/jazz dancer from Santa Cruz, CA who currently resides in Brooklyn, NY, finished in fourth.

"You can't explain what happens to you on this show unless you're in it," said Scott. "It builds each one of us in a really unique way and it bonds us all together in a way, it's more than amazing -- absolutely more than amazing... I'm so blessed and so happy."

Ashleigh Di Lello, a 26-year-old Latin ballroom dancer from Orem, UT, finished in fifth.

"This entire experience... I'm so grateful to God for giving me a second chance at life to dance, for this show -- the opportunity to get up on this stage and do what I love for all of these weeks. I am so grateful," said Di Lello after her ouster.

Her husband Ryan Di Lello, a 28-year-old ballroom dancer from Springville, UT who currently resides in Orem, UT, finished in sixth.

"To be able to share this with my sweetheart is like a dream come true," he said.

"What I'm going to take is the little things -- the friendships, the warm hearts, the people I'm going to really keep close to me forever. If I have motivated or inspired anybody, I could not ask for anything more. This has just been a dream come true. I'm just so thankful. I'm humble to be here."

In addition, the finale broadcast featured the Top 20 finalists performing different routines from the season, as well as performances by Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Lopez, British third-season The X Factor winner Leona Lewis and American Idol eighth-season runner-up Adam Lambert.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Joe McElderry wins X Factor crown

Eighteen-year-old Joe McElderry has beaten Olly Murs to win the sixth series of the ITV talent show X Factor.

The pair battled it out on primetime TV across the weekend to win a lucrative £1m recording contract.

More than 10 million viewers voted in the final show of the series, which has dominated TV screens this autumn.

It is the second consecutive year judge Cheryl Cole has mentored the winner. "I can't even speak," said McElderry. "Thank you so much everyone."

"I feel over the moon, I'm absolutely delighted," said Cole, who comes from the same area as McElderry.

"The right person won. I'm so proud of you. The North East are going to be going mad."

"I couldn't believe it," McElderry later told spin-off show ITV2's Xtra Factor. "I feel like I'm floating... I just feel like jelly."

"I've had the best experience of my life."

Runner up Olly Murs, 25, was gracious in defeat, calling his rival "phenomenal".

"I came out there fighting, did the best I could, and the best guy won. Joe deserves it."

Festive hit

Simon Cowell, the show's creator and Murs's mentor, told McElderry he was "gutted for Olly" but "thrilled for you because you're brilliant".

McElderry won almost two-thirds (61.3%) of the votes in the final, compared with just over a third (38.7%) for Murs, according to voting statistics released on The X Factor website.

The student, from South Shields on Tyneside, had been the bookmakers' favourite to win the series.

However, ahead of Sunday's final, judge Cowell insisted "there could be an upset".

After the announcement McElderry performed the Miley Cyrus track The Climb, which will be this year's X Factor single and is widely tipped to be the Christmas number one.

"Christmas chart success is virtually assured," said Ladbrokes' Nick Weinberg, who have cut McElderry's odds of a festive hit to 1/8.

Sunday's high-profile finale included performances from George Michael and Sir Paul McCartney, who was joined by Murs, McElderry and fellow contestants in a rendition of Drive My Car.

The show opened with this year's 12 finalists - including infamous twins John and Edward Grimes - singing Take That's Never Forget.

Also on stage during the two-hour extravaganza were the 2008 X Factor winner Alexandra Burke - who sang with last year's runners up, JLS - and Leona Lewis, who triumphed in the 2006 series and has become a huge star on both sides of the Atlantic.

The final instalment in the contest - which followed Stacey Soloman's departure on Saturday - began with Murs and McElderry performing their favourite song of the series.

Murs performed Twist And Shout, while McElderry - better known for his ballads - gave an upbeat rendition of Don't Stop Believing.

"Geordie Joe - you're got everything: the voice, the attitude, the charm," said judge Louis Walsh. "Small boy, big voice - and a great future."

"You would have a hit record with that song, it was that good," said Cowell.

Both contestants went on to sing their versions of The Climb, but despite admiration for Murs, Walsh maintained McElderry "had the edge", calling it "a note-perfect performance".

Cowell remarked that nerves had led to a shaky start from McElderry, but added he was "brilliant in the last half".

"I can't call this now, I really can't," he said.

Lucrative series

Ahead of the result, an emotional Cole, recalled her own break, in another TV talent show, Popstars: The Rivals.

"I've lived the dream - now I just want to see you live yours," she told McElderry.

This year's X Factor is expected to be extremely lucrative for ITV1.

The series has dominated peaktime viewing on both Saturday and Sunday throughout the autumn.

The 40 ITV1 shows are thought to have brought in more than £75m in advertising, plus revenue from the phone-votes.

One analyst claims the total benefit to ITV is almost £100m, including income from showings on its website and the ITV2 spin-off show.

But despite the hype that has surrounded this year's show, not all winners in the show's six series have gone on to enjoy global success.

Leon Jackson, who won the competition in 2007, was dropped after his debut album charted at number four in the UK, while Steve Brookstein - the winner of series one - was also dropped eight months into his contract, despite a number one single and album.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gibraltar wins Miss World 2009

Gibraltar's Kaiane Aldorino claimed the title of Miss World 2009 on Saturday, defeating 111 other hopefuls at a glittering ceremony in South Africa.

"Thank you South Africa, this is the most wonderful moment of my life," said a tearful Aldorino, whose website describes her as a 22-year-old human resources clerk who loves dancing and spending time with loved ones.

Confetti rained down the stage as Aldorino, representing a British territory at the western end of the Mediterranean Sea with a population of less than 30,000, accepted the crown.

Mexico's Perla Beltran came second, with South African entry Tatum Keshwar taking third place.

The African-themed gala event at a Johannesburg convention centre attracted a multi-national crowd, waving country flags and cheering wildly for their favourite contestants.

Miss India, Pooja Chopra, a hot favourite with the crowd, got eliminated in the top 16, after winning the "beauty with a purpose" title for her charity work.

"The build up to this event has been phenomenal, the girls have had a time of their lives in South Africa," said Chinese television presenter Angela Chow, who hosted the show.

Here is the outcome of Miss World 2009:

Miss World 2009:
GIBRALTAR, Kaiane Aldorino

1st Runner Up:
MEXICO, Perla Beltrán

2nd Runner Up:
SOUTH AFRICA, Tatum Keshwar


, Daniela Ramos
PANAMA, Nadege Herrera
FRANCE, Chloé Mortaud


JAPAN, Eruza Sasaki
SIERRA LEONE, Mariatu Kargbo
INDIA, Pooja Chopra
KOREA, Kim Joo-ri
MARTINIQUE, Ingrid Littré
POLAND, Anna Jamróz
BRAZIL, Luciana Bertolini
VIETNAM, Trần Thị Hương Giang
KAZAKHSTAN, Dina Nuraliyeva


-Japan (Sports Winner)
-Canada (Talent Winner)
-Sierra Leone (Talent Winner)
-Mexico (Top Model Winner)
-Gibraltar (Beach Beauty Winner)
-India (Beauty with a Purpose Winner)


Beauty Queen of Africa: Tatum Keshwar (South Africa)
Beauty Queen of Americas: Perla Beltrán (Mexico)
Beauty Queen of Asia & Oceania: Trần Thị Hương Giang (Vietnam)
Beauty Queen of Caribbean: Ingrid Littré (Martinique)
Beauty Queen of Europe: Kaiane Aldorino (Gibraltar)

This year’s board of judges are:

Julia Morley (Miss World Limited Chairman and Chairman of the Judges)
Priyanka Chopra (Miss World 2000 from India)
Zhang Zi Lin (Miss World 2006 from China)
Mike Dixon (Musical Director)
JJ Schoeman (Designer)
Lindiwe Mahlangu-Kwele (CEO Johannesburg Tourism Company)
Graham Cooke (MD World Travel Group)
Warren Batchelor (Executive Producer, Miss World 2009)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Michael Voltaggio wins 'Top Chef: Las Vegas' title, beats brother Bryan

Michael Voltaggio was crowned Top Chef: Las Vegas' winner during last night's finale broadcast of the Bravo culinary competition series.

"I'm really exhausted and surprised and happy and sad. I didn't know that you could actually feel every single emotion at the same time," Michael said after his victory.

"It's been a rough road -- it's been a pretty strange process -- but it was worth it. I would do it again because it definitely got me in touch with who I am as a person and who I am as a cook."

The 30-year-old from Frederick, MD who currently resides in Los Angeles, CA claimed Top Chef's sixth-season prize package of $100,000 in seed money to help open a restaurant, a feature in Food & Wine magazine, a showcase at the Annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen; and $100,000 worth of merchandise provided by Macy's.

Michael's brother Bryan Voltaggio, a 33-year-old from Frederick, MD who currently resides in Urbana, MD, finished as the runner-up.

"I'm more proud of the fact that Bryan and I made it all the way to the end than I am about winning the entire competition," said Michael. "It was probably one of the hardest moments of our lives. I wish both of us could win."

"I'm disappointed a little bit in myself," added Bryan. "I set out to win the whole thing, so coming in second place, that's tough. But I'm proud to see my little brother win. I'd rather him than anybody else."

Kevin Gillespie, a 26-year-old from Atlanta, GA, finished third.

"I had a bad day. It just sucks one day ruined it for me," Kevin lamented after his ouster.

"I'm proud of making it this far and I'm proud to lose to people as good as Bryan or Michael. I was the underdog from the very beginning that managed to rise up and show that if you fight really hard you can make it. It just didn't go all the way."

Top Chef: Las Vegas' finale broadcast began with the three remaining finalists traveling to a Napa Valley vineyard, where they were met by host Padma Lakshmi and lead judge Tom Colicchio.

Tom explained that for their final challenge, the finalists would each be cooking a three-course meal. For the first course, the finalists would be cooking with a set of identical mystery ingredients, while for their second course they could cook any dish they wanted with any ingredients found in the kitchen. For the third course, they were required to cook a dessert.

The finalists then each randomly selected two of the 14 previously-eliminated contestants to them for the final challenge -- one on the initial prep day and one on for the actual service day.

Kevin chose Preeti Mistry and Ash Fulk, Bryan picked Ashley Merriman and Jennifer Carroll, and Michael selected Jesse Sandlin and Eli Kirshtein.

"I'm a little jealous of my other two competitors," opined Kevin.

The chefs discovered what mystery ingredients they'd be working with for the first course before getting to work -- which would include three hours of preparation on the first day and three hours of cooking on the second day.

On the morning of the second day, the three finalists were surprised to be visited by their mothers. Tom then revealed that the finalists would also be cooking a fourth course that would be dedicated to their moms and inspired by their favorite childhood dish. The three finalists then started cooking.

Kevin's mom-inspired course was fried chicken skin, tomatoes, and a liquid squash casserole; his course with the mystery ingredients was rockfish in duck fat, roasted matsutake, and roasted crab broth; his chef's choice course was a slow cooked pork belly, roasted broccoli and brussel sprouts, and caramelized ham jus; and his dessert was roasted banana, chocolate bacon mousse, and peanut bacon brittle.

Michael's mom-inspired course was cream of dehydrated broccoli, spot prawn and fried broccoli; his course with the mystery ingredients was a butter poached rockfish, tomato-komba sauce and sweet and sour salad; his chef's choice course was a fennel-scented squab, cassoulet, and textures of mushrooms; and his dessert was a chocolate caramel coulant, and butternut squash ice cream.

Bryan's mom-inspired course was a tuna noodle casserole; his course with the mystery ingredients was a sous vide rockfish, diced matsutake, and meyer lemon jam; his chef's choice course was a venison saddle, brussel sprouts, sunchokes, and maple-glazed carrots; and his dessert was a sheep's milk and white chocolate "dulce de leche" cheesecake, dry caramel, fig sorbet, and poached pear.

The finalists presented their courses to a finale dinner panel which included regular judging panel members Padma, Tom, Food & Wine magazine editor Gail Simmons, and restaurant critic Toby Young as well as chef Douglas Keane, Terlato Wine Group president Bill Terlato, their moms, and restaurateurs Donatella Arpaia, Stephen Starr, Drew Nieporent, and Sam Nazarian.

adma, Gail, Toby and Tom then met the three finalists to critique the final dishes.

Bryan's fish was criticized by Toby for not being bold enough, while his venison was praised by Gail and Tom. Padma complimented Kevin's chicken-skin dish, however Toby and Tom thought the pork wasn't as good as it could have been. Toby thought Michael nailed the matsutake and pickled tomato, and Tom thought all of his dishes were successful. Michael also acknowledged the cake was overcooked and dry.

The judges then began their final deliberation.

Gail thought Kevin's mom-inspired course had the most flavor, while Toby liked Bryan's the best and Tom thought it was too bland and also wasn't a fan of Michael's.

Tom complimented Michael's use of the mystery ingredients was the best, while it was agreed upon Kevin messed up on the mushroom on his dish. Gail thought Bryan's dish had no texture.

Tom and Gail thought Bryan's third dish was flawless, and Toby agreed -- however he didn't think it was as memorable as Michael's, which Gail wasn't a fan of. None of them really cared for Kevin's third dish.

They all knew Michael didn't make his dessert the right way but Gail still liked it, and Toby summed up the day for Kevin.

"I thought Kevin's dish was again disappointing and -- don't get me wrong, I think he's on the fast-track to becoming a culinary superstar -- but he had a bad night," said Toby.

The three finalists were then called back and Michael was revealed as the winner.

Bravo renewed Top Chef for a seventh season in October and subsequently held casting calls in San Francisco, Miami, Chicago, Washington, New York, Dallas, and Los Angeles.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Meghan Rickey and Cheyne Whitney win 'The Amazing Race' 15th Season

Dating Couple" Meghan Rickey and Cheyne Whitney won The Amazing Race's fifteenth season during last night's finale broadcast of the CBS reality competition series.

"This is absolutely a dream come true," Meghan said after the couple's victory.

"I couldn't have imagined a better race. I've learned so much about Cheyne. He's just such a good friend and such a good person. I know that he's always going to be there for me throughout my entire life."

Meghan, a 23-year-old account executive from San Diego, CA, and Cheyne, a 23-year-old student also from San Diego, were the first team to cross the fifteenth-season's finish line in Las Vegas and claimed the $1 million grand prize.

"The whole experience in itself was life changing," said Cheyne. "And the money isn't even as important as what we got to do together."

"Brothers" Daniel and Samuel McMillen finished second.

"We're completely happy to be here," said Dan. "We wanted to share our story. We wanted to not let our family down just by being who we were, but we just wanted to come out and do this race and finish this race."

"We bicker, we pick at each other. But we know it's not going to matter," added Sam. "At the end of the day we're still brothers, we still love each other."

"Married Couple" Ericka Dunlap and Brian Kleinschmidt finished third.

"I think my family's going to see some things in Brian that they never had an opportunity to see before and I hope they fully accept him for who he is," said Ericka. "This was just a part of our journey. I'm just really grateful that I had him to do it with and I'm really glad that I have him in my life to learn from."

The Amazing Race's finale broadcast began at the previous Pit Stop at Strelecky Ostrov in Prague.

Since Meghan and Cheyne were the first team to arrive at the Pit Stop, they were the first team to depart at 11:10AM. They opened their next clue, which instructed them to fly nearly 6,000 miles to Las Vegas, their final destination on the race.

They found a travel agent and booked a British Airways flight leaving Prague for Vegas at 6:40PM.

"I'm sure we're all going to be on the same flight together," said Meghan, adding the flight would arrive stateside at 2PM the next day.

Meghan and Cheyne were followed by Sam and Dan (12:08PM) and Brian and Ericka (3:15PM) -- and Meghan's assumption was correct as all three teams had the same flight.

The three teams then arrived in Vegas and hailed taxis to take them to the Graceland Wedding Chapel.

Once there an Elvis impersonator handed them their next clue, which instructed them to travel to the Mandalay Bay casino. Brian and Ericka's cab driver took a shortcut and got them to Mandalay Bay first and they were met by a Roadblock.

In this Roadblock, one member from each team would have to rappel down the side of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Once they got to the bottom they would receive their next clue. Ericka decided to do the Roadblock, followed by Cheyne and Sam.

"Our taxi driver sucked," said Dan as he waited at the bottom of the building.

Ericka was the first one down. She and Brian opened their next clue, which told them to travel to The Mirage casino.

"I think the karma is finally going to pay off," said Brian as they hopped into their cab. "We're definitely feeling good, but we're not getting cocky. Anything can happen."

Cheyne then reached the bottom and left for The Mirage with Meghan, followed by Sam and Dan.

"Dang it, I hate being in third place right now," said Sam.

Brian and Ericka were the first to arrive at The Mirage, where they were met by a task in which they would have to join the cast of the Circque du Soleil show Love.

Using bungee cords, one team member had to launch their partner high enough in the air to retrieve a bouquet of flowers. Once they grabbed the entire bouquet, they would hand it over to the flower child -- who would hand them their next clue.

Ericka was attached to the bungee cords, followed by Meghan and Dan. Despite arriving in first, Brian and Ericka quickly lost their lead when she had a hard time getting high enough to retrieve the bouquet.

"It was frustrating because I knew she was trying her hardest," said Brian. "She was just an inch away."

Ericka thought she needed to switch with Brian since he's taller, and he finally seemed to understand once Meghan grabbed the bouquet.

"You want to switch or not?" he asked meekly.

"Yeah, I want to switch!" she replied. "Get me down I want to switch!"

Opening their next clue, Meghan and Cheyne learned they were looking for "the most famous casino in the country of Monaco" and needed to figure out they were looking for the Monte Carlo casino. Unfortunately, the cab driver they asked told them he believed the The Venetian casino was the clue answer.

Back at the Love show, Dan was the next to grab the bouquet -- causing Ericka and Brian to switch roles again and Ericka to launch into an extended meltdown.

Dan and Sam had their cab driver simply follow Meghan and Cheyne, meaning both were now en route to the wrong destination. However on the way to The Venetian, Sam and Dan called the Mandalay Bay to ask what "the most famous casino in the country of Monaco" was and learned the correct Monte Carlo answer.

"They're turning that way," Meghan noticed. "Let's ask Cheyne. I'm scared."

They asked some people on the street and still couldn't get the right answer. Meanwhile, Ericka finally grabbed the bouquet and they received their next clue. Brian thought he knew the Monte Carlo was the answer and Ericka assured him he was right.

Sam and Dan were the first to reach the Monte Carlo and learned that for their final task, they'd have to count $1 million worth of poker chips from a table containing 84,000 chips of different denominations. When they thought they were finished, a dealer would check their amount before handing them a special chip and their next clue. Sam and Dan took a strategy of collecting only red $1,000 chips.

Meghan and Cheyne finally learned they were looking for the Monte Carlo, however on their way there they got stuck in traffic.

"I think we just lost some time," said Meghan.

Brian and Ericka were the next to arrive at the Monte Carlo and also started with the $1,000 chips. Meghan and Cheyne eventually arrived and began with the $1,000 chips as well, putting them in stacks of 25.

Despite the different start times, all three teams appeared to finish counting their chips within moments of each other and their assigned dealers started checking their totals. Meghan and Cheyne learned they were correct with their first count attempt, however neither Sam and Dan or Brian and Ericka were as lucky.

Opening their next clue, Meghan and Cheyne learned they needed to travel to the "High Roller's Suite" at the MGM Grand Hotel, where singer Wayne Newton would tell them the finish line's location.

Meanwhile, Sam and Dan and Brian and Ericka both re-checked their counts, and while the brothers got it right Brian and Ericka still didn't.

"How does this happen every single time?" a depressed Ericka asked.

Meghan and Cheyne arrived at the suite and were met by Wayne, who sent them to the finish line -- which was at his house. Sam and Dan also met Wayne and he gave them the finish line's destination too -- even though they didn't know his name.

While Meghan and Cheyne were the first at Wayne's ranch, they had a hard time finding the entrance. However it didn't matter, as they were still the first across the finish line.

"This has been such a learning experience," said Meghan. "Every step of the way has been so neat."

"She was one of the strongest competitors in the whole race -- even compared to the guys," said Cheyne about Meghan. "She raced with the best of them."

The Amazing Race's fifteenth season covered eight countries and more than 25,000 miles in 21 days.