Strictly Come Dancing: Stacey Dooley's 'journey' ends with ratings high
Stacey Dooley's Strictly Come Dancing journey climaxed on Saturday with her winning the glitterball trophy and the show getting its best ratings of 2018.
The grand final drew an average 11.7 million viewers - up on last year's average audience of 11.6 million.
Yet the show's peak audience of 12.7 million was down on the 13.1 million who watched last year's at its peak.
Documentary maker Dooley's win marked the first time her professional dance partner Kevin Clifton had triumphed.
Clifton, who appeared in four previous finals only to miss out on the trophy, was clearly emotional as he was lifted aloft by his fellow professional dancers.
Dooley's win - decided by a public vote - came despite her getting fewer marks from the judges than fellow finalists Joe Sugg, Faye Tozer and Ashley Roberts.
Speaking on Monday, though, head judge Shirley Ballas said Dooley was a worthy winner as she - unlike Steps singer Tozer and former Pussycat Doll Roberts - had no prior dancing experience.
"She had to learn from scratch where the other girls already had a good ear for music," she told BBC Breakfast.
Dooley, Ballas continued, "made a journey that was just absolutely brilliant for a beginner".
Her words were echoed by Strictly professional Anton Du Beke, who said her victory was "the epitome of the Strictly journey".
"It was a brilliant end to a brilliant season," he told Radio 2's Chris Evans on Monday, saying "the nation's favourite" had emerged triumphant.Image copyright PA Image caption Stacey and partner Kevin Clifton performed their "Paso Dooley" in the final
Speaking on ITV's Lorraine programme earlier, Tozer said she was "so happy" for Dooley and Clifton while making the point that Strictly has "always had a mix of abilities".
"What a ride," she said of her own experience on the show. "It's been the hardest thing I've ever done and probably the most rewarding."
Tozer also appeared to confirm that Joe Sugg and his dancing partner Dianne Buswell are in a relationship - something Sugg himself seemed to be suggesting in a teasing Instagram post.
"I may not have won the glitter ball, but I've won something a million times more special," the YouTube star wrote on Sunday.
There have also been repeated claims that Roberts is in a relationship with one of the professional dancers, Giovanni Pernice, despite her insisting last month they were "just friends".
Before Saturday's final, Strictly's biggest audience of 2018 - 10.6 million - came after comedian Seann Walsh and his married dance partner Katya Jones were seen kissing in public.
The Halloween Week special drew an average 9.8 million viewers, peaking at 10.8 million, while the Blackpool Week edition averaged at 10.2 million and peaked at 11.3 million.
The most watched programme of 2018 so far is ITV's broadcast of England's World Cup semi-final match against Croatia, which drew an average of audience of 24.3 million, peaking at 26.5 million.
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