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Less Talent To Amuse

May 4, 2011

This time last year, I remember blogging every week about the TV search for a new Dorothy. An entertaining couple of hours every weekend, in which you really got to know and enjoy the talents of the auditionees – and it is small wonder many now work (like their predecessors on the other TV casting shows) in musical theatre.

To be fair, the dancers in 2010s “So You Think You Can Dance” – a BBC version of a US hit in its 8th season – did the same; with notable performances in “Flashdance” at the Shaftesbury later that same year from some.

So why, this year, season 2 of “So You Think You Can Dance” have I decided to not bother with it any longer, after sitting through the first 4 episodes? What has turned this talent-show fan so jaded that even a sprinkling of experienced West End dancers has not prevented him turning his television set off?

Dance in itself is an art form I admire. Though I have all the co-ordination of an overturned tortoise, several dancer friends are surprised at my instinct for knowing just how ‘good’ a dancer I am watching is. I don’t even use the system Mr P uses (he goes by the number of £10 notes in their garter). I’m talking about recognising line, form, rhythm etc for what it is – and just feeling instinctively when somebody is really amazing. Several of this season’s contestants pass that test… yet I’ve given up on it. Why?

I’m afraid it comes down to fading carbon copies. The format – and indeed lead judge Nigel – is “Popstars” 2001 (the  precursor to “X-Factor,” “Pop Idol” et al). The feedback all sounds the same (judge Sisco excepted when talking about his own particular specialism – more in a moment on that) and worse, so look almost all the dances.

Sisco was obviously brought in to give the show “edge” – and he does, with intelligent commentary… on his own field. That is “Hip Hop” and other “Street” dances – and they seem to have upped the number of such styles to allow him full reign. It got to the point where I felt they were even ‘making up’ styles to suit the large number of ‘street’ dancers they have picked, and keep the judge happy. 

Older judges Nigel and Arlene seem out of their depth commenting on them, while fourth judge Louise seems to know more but not always from a choreographer’s viewpoint.

There’s also too many contestants, and those eliminated get new partners the following week, making it impossible to really follow relationships or progress, as individuals seem more worried about staying afloat than growing as performers.

Worst of all, much of the actual choreography is pretty repetitive. With the already mentioned limiting of styles, the rest is down to charisma – and without long-term dance partners that doesn’t build. But…

For me, the biggest error of all is that the show simply misses the “I can do that” factor. “The Cube” (an ITV gameshow in which contestants stand in a plastic box to carry out carnival / party style games for cash) has me yelling at the screen. It’s ‘have a go’ TV, involving us all in the fun. Other examples include shouting out answers in “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” and “University Challenge” (well,  about twice per episode on that one…) of course,  but “The Cube” (yeah, you do it too, admit it) has me and 5 million other vieweres trying to walk a straight line with my eyes closed… not to mention painting pingpong balls red for various reasons (that’s pingpong, Mr P, so put the spray can down and do up your… oh well, too late, and I’m sure shower gel will shift it eventually).

If “Britain’s Got Talent” this year is suffering by having a judge who doesn’t understand the country, again at least you know that after several gallons – or half a shandy in Mr P’s case – you might get up there and take a go yourself. It remains watchable as it connects with the audience and still produces the odd random delight – Michael Collings so far this season – and keeps us involved. It really is asking “So you think you can dance?” rather than saying “you can dance, so you think you can do even better?” They always say the Brits prefer a struggle to a success, and for once I really do agree.

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