Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Strictly Come Dancing
And now the other big news item of the past few days. Why yes it's got to be what the first ever black American president is up to as he appoints his first cabinet. Oh no, sorry, our political commentator seemes to have upped and skipped off towards to the glitzy and glamourous surroundings of Shepherd's Bush to debate a matter of great importance concerning the future of democracy and personal freedom and choice. Strictly Come Dancing.
I have to admit I was not a fan of the show when it first broadcast in 2004, and really had not much interest in it. My other half on the other hand was hooked from the start, and so I had to watch it too. Over the years I've slowly warmed to its sophisticatedly put-together charms until I've now reached the stage where I actually watch it virtually every week. OK maybe "watch" is too strong a word, because I have it on in the background whilst I'm doing other chores, but I find myself strangely needing to know the latest goings-on. And with the John Sergeant Scandal taking up headlines and shunting more important world events off the television news, you know we are witnessing something of a new TV phenomenon strutting at its peak.
What is it about Strictly that I personally find so interesting? Well, actually in a surreal way it's actually got not much to do with the dancing itself. The bits I do decide to skip are mainly the dancing, unless it's a bust-a-gust, go-for-it spectacular from an ultra-competitive finalist going for the kill, or an in-it-for-a-larf self mocking entertainer who's not taking themselves too seriously.
The bits I like to watch most are the comments from the judges and the reactions from the competitors, which tells you a lot about the people and their motivations. Some of the competitive ones really want to win because they are just competitive by nature. Others who are just as keen to win probably want to prove themselves to themselves because of the unstable and transitory nature of their fame and career. And then you've got those who don't really need the money, fame or self-promotion and just fancied a larf. Not forgetting the in-betweens who earn my greatest empathy because they are people of limited talent (dance-wise) who are genuinely putting themselves under pressure in order to learn a new skill and see how far they can go.
Apart from the people-watching then, what are the ingredients of this expertly crafted tv serving that makes me switch on the telly whenever it's on (note how I'm still denying I "watch" it in the true sense of the word)
Brucie. In an age where everything is becoming more and more analysed and put in its place here is a living example of something that defies categorisation. Imagine pitching this host to the Americans for their version of the show. We want a man in his 70s or 80s (but who looks his age) whose is a veteran of 1950s tv and who tells jokes with a sense of humour that is at least two decades old, preferable someone who previously had reached a career low of taking "The Price is Right" to Channel 5. Now imagine pitching the host to the British. Three words. It's Brucie Forsyth! Despite his terrible jokes that bomb more often than succeed (but I'll admit when he does succeed he can be funny, or am I just willing him on too much?) it seems that everyone including myself is in awe of the guy. But why? I don't know. Maybe it's the way that he shows now signs of slowing down in his 80th year still hosting a LIVE weekly peak-time tv programme. It's probably the effortless and obvious zest for life he still displays. But it's got to have something to do with how we hope we will all be as active, chirpy and on-the-ball when we reach that age. Surely the mantle of our Favourite Oldie vacated by the Queen Mother has now been taken by our singing, dancing and joke-cracking all-round entertainer?
The Judges. What a cocktail of personalities. Whilst it's debatable about how much of their in-fighting when they disagree is stage-managed and how much of it is genuine, you can't deny that when they start shouting at each other and getting ugly and rowdy in front of 10 million (or whatever) live viewers, it's hard to stop watching. Normally it takes our Brucie to step in, calm things down and smoothly link to the couple as they talk to Tess Daley. It certainly says something that when the Americans created their own version of the show they decided to take the two most interesting judges with them. (But not the 80-year old who looks his age!)
The contestants. This is a soap opera in itself. I only need to list a few names. John Sergeant. Jimmy Tarbuck. Natasha Kaplinski. Even the professional dancers themselves are becoming celebrities in their own right.
So there you go, a great way to pass your early Saturday evenings whilst you get the things that you didn't get around to doing earlier in the week done (and you don't get a greater endorsement from me than that!) The format is so successful it's been sold to countries all around the world and as such is the most successful television program in the world. It's even being made in China as a joint venture between Hong Kong's TVB and Hunan TV (though I don't know if it's broadcast in Mandarin or Cantonese or both in a strangely Eurovisionesque manner). It's called 舞動奇跡 and here are a few images I found on the web. I wonder what HK or Chinese touches they've added to it? Maybe a token English government official who doesn't underground Chinese sitting in the background painfully trying to look as politely interested as possible even though his bum must be aching by now, and how much longer can I sit here, and if I look at my watch will anyone notice?
Your mission, should you chose to accept it, is to make Strictly Come Dancing even more glitzy, camp and cheesy for the Chinese market. Surely it's a mission impossible? Maybe not....
Who would be the Chinese version of John Sergeant? Tung Chee Hwa? And when are they going to get Sammo Hung to take part? He'd be awesome! And the obligatory too-tall-to-be-a-decent-dancer? Mmm, can't think of a really famous really tall Chinese person who plays basketball............