I have endeavoured to curb my enthusiasm for BBC’s flagship reality/talent show, Strictly Come Dancing this year, because it is becoming increasingly contrived, staged and formulaic. However, despite all this at it’s heart is a program that documents fourteen”celebrities” progress as they learn a very mentally and physically demanding new skill. That in itself is very entertaining. However, it should never be forgotten for one second that this show is designed to be popular entertainment and not a bonafide talent contest. Although the judges may well vote using their professional acumen, the public vote purely with their hearts. Ability and merit are secondary. It simply comes down to popularity and which celebrity has the biggest fan base.
We were given a stark reminder of this on Sunday evening when Kimberly Walsh and her professional partner Pasha Kovalev, a couple that had scored the joint second highest score of the previous evening, found themselves in the Dance Off. Kimberly was noticeably shocked but was saved by the judges and Fern Britton and Artem Chigvintsev went out of the contest. Now Kimberly and Pasha have been consistently good over the last six weeks and are certainly looking like potential series winners based upon their ability. I’d would also point out that from my perspective, neither of the pair are objectionable and have not done anything obvious to alienate the public. No puppies have been killed with mallets. Yet it would appear that the public did not vote for them this week and were indifferent to their scores.
This is a shame because although Kimberly and Pasha were saved, it really did send a somewhat clear message. They are not that popular. Whether this has an impact on the couples performance next weekend remains to be seen but it must be very hard not to ignore such a public slap in the face. Yet this is the nature of these sorts of shows. If they were simply talent shows presided over by the judges with zero public involvement, then their TV ratings would be significantly lower. It is the opportunity for the public to participate that makes them so successful. It’s just that the public has a much different criteria and agenda when it comes to voting, than the judges and notions of a meritocracy are conspicuously absent. I shall continue to watch this season but Sundays events have been timely reminder to expect the unexpected.