Sunday, October 27, 2013

Has Strictly Come Dancing jumped the shark?

I never thought I'd hear myself say those words, but after the initial weeks of this year's contest I've already come to that conclusion, as I quickly realised it's not going to be a vintage year.  Just how much longer can Strictly "keeeeep dancing"?

Despite being the annual highlight of Saturday night telly viewing here at EuropeCrazy HQ from now till Christmas, the first few weeks have been more of a trial than a treat – 2-hour marathons of mediocrity, where I used to love this show there are too many ‘meh’ moments, too many z-listers, too many ‘what are they in? what are they famous for?’ faces.  

From series 1's original line-up of professionals, only Brendan Cole and Anton du Beke remain, and there's a new crop this year - Aljaz Skorjanec, Anya Garnis, Janette Manrara, Kevin Clifton (and Iveta Lukosiute stepping up to full-time after filling in last year); Aliona Vilani was axed but replaced the injured Natalie Lowe, only to be paired with someone who would be evicted very early in the competition (not suggesting any conspiracy theories or anything, like...!) Over recent years there has been less focus on the professional dancers, who seem to be more sidelined than before.

Ratings-wise, Strictly has never been so popular.  Last year it overtook the X Factor and topped the Saturday night TV ratings, and it's doing very well again this year.  However, I feel that on its way to the top of the ratings, the programme has lost its way, its heart and its soul. Crap VTs, stupid theme-weeks, the Wembley shambles, and now this year 'stating the obvious' - Tony Jacklin's a golfer, oh let's dress him up in a glittery golfing outfit! Fiona Fullerton....hmm....Bond girl - let's have her dancing to a Bond theme!  And so on, and so on.  Has anyone noticed an increase in the use of props/furniture this year?  This is now a constant and unnecessary irritation and takes the focus away from the actual dancing.  And don't start me on the musical slaughter of modern-day songs by "our fabulous singers" - well that hasn't changed, has it???

There also appears to be a lack of content in many of the dance routines, which makes a bigger mockery of the judges' high praise (or as my mum calls it, "feeding their egos") and the over-marking by the judges at such an early stage of the competition.  If you're awarding 7s, 8s and 9s to mediocre contestants at this stage, it doesn't leave much scope for later in the series, does it?  The healthy and constructive criticism which used to be a part of the show has been watered down, and the praise is piled on.  Got to keep the "celebrities" happy, eh?

I also have another problem with this year's Strictly:  why do so many of the contestants look as if they'd rather be somewhere else?  Where's the joy?  Lighten up, people!

There is one positive thing to report this year - for one week only, the show returns to its spiritual home at Blackpool's Tower Ballroom on 16.11.13.

This year's front runner and "chosen one" appears to be Natalie Gumede a.k.a. Killer Kirsty from Corrie.  She is a trained dancer from her childhood.  As expected, a judges' favourite although as with previous years' 'favourites' she is maybe a little too focused on the prize and therefore lacking the likeability factor.  She is paired with Artem "the chest" Chigvintsev so that's guaranteed a few extra votes.

Abbey Clancy is best known for being a WAG (married to tall robot-dancing bloke Peter Crouch) although apparently she's a model n' stuff like that.  She is paired with new boy Aljaz from Slovenia.  She also appears to be a bit of a spoiled little princess, happy when the praise is flowing, but watch out for the criticism-scowl....

Ashley Taylor-Dawson a.k.a. him off Hollyoaks.  He's probably the best of the male contestants and is very likely to be the last man standing in a year where the non-professional male crop is very poor. 

Ben Cohen is a rugby player.  But more importantly, he is rather hunkalicious and when he ripped off his shirt last week to reveal Ben-in-a-vest, we were holding up the 10's at EuropeCrazy HQ.  He is rather wooden in the dance stakes though, and we see little sign of improvement.  He's paired with Kristina Rihanoff.  Mum: "Oh well, at least he's nice to look at...." #shallow #shallow #shallow

Dave Myers is half of the incredibly likeable Hairy Bikers so I was delighted to see him in this year's show.  He is certainly a candidate for the John Sergeant/Ann Widdicombe crown this year, but at least he's playing it for laughs, and his partner Karen Hauer is in on the joke....

Robin Windsor always tries to make the most of the limited ability of the dancers he's paired with.  This year his partner is Deborah Meaden who's best known for Dragon's Den.  She has improved a little over recent weeks, although she lacks a fanbase therefore an early exit is inevitable.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Anton du Beke.  Who it has to be said has been paired with a selection of duffers over the years.  He seemed a bit happier with Fiona Fullerton who may look the part, but yet again she's another wooden example of the mediocre class of 2013.  She's probably only got this far because of the very popular Anton rather than her own dance talent.

Fashion designer Julien McDonald was taking up residence in the bottom two before finally being evicted last week, although it would appear that people seemed to object more to his over-the-top personality rather than his dancing.  This also meant an early exit for Janette Manrara, another of this year's new professionals.  Interestingly, all of the new dancers are all in relationships with other new dancers: Janette & Aljaz, Anya & Pasha, and Kevin & last year's newbie Karen Hauer.
To borrow a well-known reality show phrase, "the journey" can have a huge influence on how well a contestant does.  Mark Benton - "him off the telly" started off as another comedy contestant, however he seems to be showing signs of progress and I wouldn't be surprised if he has a longer stay on the show than we first thought. 
Patrick Robinson, another one of those "blokes off the telly", seems to be the second best male contestant after Ashley Taylor-Dawson, however he needs to bring more content into his performance as he clearly has the ability to go further.  This is an area which professional partner Anya Garnis needs to work on.
Before the series started, Rachel Riley ("her off Countdown and assorted other celebrity quiz shows") was one of the favourites.  However the numbers are not adding up and the vowels are definitely missing from her d nc ng. She's wooden, she looks uncomfortable and I'd say her days are numbered.  There is no chemistry between her and her partner Pasha Kovalev.
We expected lots of references to "Murder on the Dancefloor" when one of our favourite pop stars from the last decade, Sophie Ellis Bextor, signed up for Strictly.  And we got them of course.  But at long last, Brendan Cole can be happy that he has a dance partner who actually can dance.  However, like a couple of the other front-running females, Sophie needs to lighten up and look as if she's really enjoying this thing, otherwise the viewers might show her the exit door earlier than expected. 

Another new arrival in the professionals is Kevin Clifton. a.k.a. Kevin from Grimsby.  He seems quite likeable and doesn't seem to take himself seriously with his geek-glasses.  A breakfast TV presenter is always a staple of Strictly and this year it's Susanna Reid's turn.  She is good, although she is beginning to grate on me.  I do not find her likeable at all, and I think she's becoming too full of her own importance.

First evictee this series was golfer Tony Jacklin, and a convenient early exit for Aliona Vilani. No surprise that Tony was sent off to the 19th hole as he was one of those (traditionally male) contestants who thought the show was called Strictly Come Walking.
James Jordan is still in the show despite being tipped for the axe...oh wait, no, he's gone - along with Vanessa "is there any show she won't appear on?" Feltz.  I can't stand the woman at all, and she wasn't any better at dancing than she was tackling anything else on numerous celebrity shows.
I hadn't told my mum, who has also been a Strictly fan from the early days, that I had written this blog post.  This week, she said "I feel exhausted by the end of this programme.  I don't enjoy it any more.  It's too fake".  So she agrees with me.  We are tired of celebrity this and celebrity that.  It's not about the dancing any more, not that it ever really was, but the one celebrity show which we did enjoy, Strictly Come Dancing, has become Strictly Suck Up To Celebrities.  Perhaps it's time for the show's last dance...


Raquelita said...

Dad said this week: "those singers are pretty good aren't they?" I just stared blankly.

Considering Len complains every time they use props/do the silly acting bits at the start,I don't know why they still do them?

What are your thoughts on Brucey anyway?!

Laura (EuropeCrazy) said...

My ears are still bleeding from that massacre of the Bruno Mars song from a few weeks ago!

*puts on Len voice* "I can't be bothered with all that faffing about".

As for Brucey, well he was the king of the quiz shows in the Generation Game/Play Your Cards Right etc so have always been a fan. However I get a bit annoyed that he can't even remember who the contestants are without having to use an autocue, and his jokes are awful. Yet it would still be strange if he wasn't there - although can't imagine why anyone would still want to be working at that age!