Strictly Come Dancing 2019: Part 1
There is obviously some sort of psychological comfort in being spoon fed the same content, again and again and again. Because that is what Strictly Come Dancing, the BBC’s flagship Autumn entertainment show, definitely does. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, because once again, I am one of the 8 million viewers avidly watching this seasonal ritual. But is must be said, that the show is incredibly formulaic and that the production team are expert at playing upon all the foibles of the format. Hence every September we get a wide spectrum of “celebrities” eager to learn how to dance. All of whom fall neatly into the various categories that have been established over the last 15 years. There are those who display an innate ability right from the start. Then there are the determined improvers. We also have wild cards whose content wildly changes in quality. Another favourite are the rhythmically challenged whose embarrassing failures are deemed “entertaining”. And let us not forget those who are just hopelessly out of their depth and you know are going to fall at the very first hurdle.
Which leads me very neatly onto this evening result show. After two episodes a clear hierarchy has been established and at present, everyone respective position on the leaderboard is justifiable. The top five have all shown a degree of talent and have worked diligently to do so well after just a few weeks. Those at the bottom may well have put in the hours but do not seem to have a comparable amount of talent. And therefore it was absolutely no surprise to find the bottom two celebrity contenders, David James and James Cracknell in the dance off. Furthermore, James was a dead cert to go out and has now done so. Now I admire anyone who has the courage to stand in front of a live TV audience and attempt to do something as deeply personal as dancing. It is a complex skill that is both physically and mentally demanding. It also requires a degree of bravado. So fare play to James for trying his best, especially in light of his recent recovery from a brain injury. But you have to question the wisdom of embarking upon such an enterprise, when you patently cannot clap in time or have any semblance of musicality. James was both physically and emotionally awkward and it was clear from the get-go that dancing in public simply wasn’t for him.
Another interesting facet of this year’s Strictly pantomime is the perceived “rewarding and punishing” of the various celebrity dancers. Kevin Clifton has always been a firm favourite with the core audience for a while but his personal life seems to have prejudice this perception. Since his popular win with celebrity Stacey Dooley last year, the UK tabloids have been filled with salacious gossip about their relationship and the collateral damage it has caused to others. Hence Kevin has been partnered with Anneka Rice, who although is a popular figure with the public, is not likely to progress too far into the competition. Conversely, Anton Du Beke, a pro dancer who has far too often been saddled with the most hopeless partners, has been blessed this year with actress Emma Barton. Emma has already demonstrated a degree of ability and now needs to find her dancing mojo. She’s definitely one to file under “wild card” and I expect her to have a textbook “Strictly journey”.
Finally, the BBC has decided to go all in with Strictly in its annual ratings battle with commercial broadcaster ITV. Apart from the weekly show on Saturday evening there’s Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two, an analytical companion show that runs from Monday to Friday. Hosted by Zoe Ball and now Rylan Clark-Neal, this behind the scenes and gossip program has been expanded from 30 minutes to 45 and has also been moved from BBC Two to BBC One. The Beeb have also ramped up the online components of the show. All dances can be revisited on YouTube and there is a Strictly presence on all social media platforms. This is also the second year where some of the celebrity dancers have been drawn from social media personalities and influencers. This is a direct attempt to widen the demographic appeal of the show and reach a younger audience. Last year it was Joe Sugg, this time round it’s Saffron Barker. Both have sizeable online followings. It should be noted that Saffron Barker has shown some talent and is currently one of the bookies favourites. However, things don’t always go to plan with Strictly. There’s always scope for upsets. As the expression goes, watch this space.