Sunday, June 12, 2011

Honking Box Review: So You Think You Can Dance

We weren’t too complimentary towards the first series of So You Think You Can Dance round these parts. Perhaps they were reluctant to open with an X Factor-sized bang; perhaps they just couldn’t measure up when kicking off in the same week as Sky1’s Got To Dance; perhaps they just needed to find their feet. So, having given the second series a fair chance, has our opinion changed? Well, yes. It’s worsened.

The second series came to a climax last night, with a worthy winner in Matt Flint, but what next for him? A performance on the vastly superior US version, then back to teaching tap to 14-year-old girls? You’d be hard pushed to pick Series 1 winner Charlie Bruce out of a line-up, whereas the winner of the first series of Got To Dance, Akai, has forged himself an impressive career and a decent profile despite his win only reaching a fraction of the audience that Charlie’s did.

It comes down to a question of quality. A show like So You Think You Can Dance needs to be grand, noisy and attention-grabbing, but BBC One’s take on the format is flat, modest and almost unwatchable thanks to the constant rhetorical questions from Cat Deeley, disingenuously asking the audience how amazing they are.

There’s no atmosphere, no sense of event, and some insanely boring judges: Louise Redknapp, while likeable, is a peculiar presence – Eternal were hardly known for their intensive dance routines. Arlene and Nigel double up on the role of wizened old fart yammering on in technical terms lost on a mainstream audience, while Sisco Gomez makes up for a sorry lack of character by coming dressed as an S&M pierrot each week.

But such details are almost irrelevant – it’s the overall tone and lack of effort that accounts for its failure. It all feels very apologetic. If the BBC don't want to do big, visual entertainment, then why acquire the format? As interesting as it would be to see a UK version of The Voice, it's worrying to consider how the BBC might downplay it in order to thwart Middle England writing to Points of View moaning about how their licence fee shouldn't be wasted on entertainment, instead wanting it to fund grey, pompous Andrew Marr documentaries. The Voice judges will be an uninspiring line-up of Jonathan Wilkes, Carrie & David Grant, and a Saturday, sat on four office chairs on wheels, spun around by tapping the assistant floor manager on the shoulder.

The question now doesn’t relate to what will happen to Matt Flint, nor what will happen to the British version of So You Think You Can Dance – reports of its axing have been doing the rounds for weeks now, and with reason. The matter at hand is whether the BBC are going to bow to the pressure of what they should be ‘seen’ to be doing, and defecate all over the idea of Saturday night television as a result. Sure, cuts need to be made, but do they really need to devalue their shows and their viewers in doing so?

Viewers would much rather see one great show than two or three series of rueful schedule-fillers such as this. If they’re setting out to make a quarter-arsed show that’ll die on its arse, then they might as well cut their losses and scratch big entertainment shows off their remit altogether. Another show of this quality, and frankly, Andrew Marr’s History of Spoons might actually be a more appealing prospect.

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