Monday, 21 December 2015

The Impossible Journey

This has been the strangest series of Strictly Come Dancing yet. The whole thing has felt very odd and bad feeling has been at a high. Allegiations - from the public, pros and celebs - that it's fixed, have left an odd feeling hanging over the entire show. Of course there has been a sense building over the past few years of 'over-production' that there has been an attempt to control every last detail - whether that includes the scoring or not, I don't plan to comment, but Strictly's charm, being live TV, was often its spontaneity (something Brucie was a pro at, I must say). Viewers do get a sense when they are being manipulated. They may not know the details, but it has certainly felt that something is amiss. And this year it came to a head. 

However, this series' problems may also boil down to one over-riding and quite simple fact: there were too many previously trained dancers in the competition. Now, I don't have a problem with a 'ringer' or two. In fact, I think they bring a lot to the competition. Firstly, they provide viewers with some excellent dancing in the early weeks of the competition when everyone else is getting to grips with the basics. Secondly, they set the pace and give the rest of the contestants something to aspire to. 

Two examples of this are Denise Van Outen and Natalie Gumede - both brilliant from week one, and did we mind? No. Did we enjoy their dances? Absolutely. Both made the final but were beaten to the Glitterball by celebrities who did not have the same level of dance background but - and this is crux of the matter - progressed more. I doubt either Denise or Natalie would complain about this - they had a great run - the full experience - and both appeared to enjoy it immensely. 

So why was this year different? In short, there were too many Denises. Georgia, Kellie, Helen, Jay and -arguably - Peter, all started the competition, week one, at a relatively high level.
It normalised that level of dance to the point that other celebrities' progress was lost somewhere in the middle. Jamelia (regardless of her level of popularity with the public) improved beyond measure. Anita, with no previous dance experience, did that absolutely wonderful Paso Doble, one of the best dances of the series. Now, yes, you could argue that the 'middling' contestants are the ones who usually get lost - but the problem is that Anita particularly shouldn't have been 'middling' at all - another year, she would have been right up near the top. 

Let's put scoring scandals to one side for a minute and assume that all the marks given to each couple this year were fair and square. Even in this instance, having four or five consistently getting 8s, 9s and 10s from the start effectively locks many others out of the final stages. From the very beginning. Anyone not already at that level was never really given a chance. We could have held the final at week three.

This is not a dig at any particular contestant. We do all have our favourites but they have all worked hard and all in the final were wonderful dancers. However, I think a terrible miscalculation when casting this series - amongst quite a few other issues - has caused many fans to question their loyality to the show. We may all mock the J... word but that's what Strictly's always been about. Only this year, a journey has been all but impossible. 


Nickie O'Hara said...

You are absolutely right and I believe there was no "fix" this year - the standard was just so HIGH with all the pre-trained stage/dance participants. If we compare week one of this series to week one of series one or two (and even Ewan & Orla to the best of the first and second series) the we are world apart.

I also think that the final was of sub-standard because the choreography was let down in the "showdances". When the term "freestyle" was used, the dance used to be an all out dance with no boundaries - since the term "showdance" was introduced (last two series?) then there seems to have been more traditional dance elements included and no real "show".

We can look at Erin's "puppet dance" with Colin and slate it but it was very DIFFERENT and we can look at Camilla and Tom and their tap element or even Karen and Mark's real freestyle with all the lifts, etc.... nothing in this series final hit that spot.

Ryan Emmett said...

Interesting blog. I think many people, including myself, would agree with you. Strictly is the only reality TV show I watch, and I've always thought it was different from the others - better, kinder and more honest.

But for a few years now, and this year in particular, I've been disappointed and a bit annoyed by various things about the show. I've watched Strictly from the very start but this year I didn't even watch the final. I hadn't been enjoying the series much and when Anita was voted out in the semis my last reason to watch was gone.

I don't think I'll be watching next year. I'll miss it in some ways, but it's become too contrived, predictable and unpleasant for me to tune in any more.

Anonymous said...

I've just started watching season 12 and realized that in that season Anita would've been one of the better dancers from the start. I wonder if the producers realize how much better the final would've been (both in terms of show value and in terms of what the show means to so many viewers) had Anita been there.