Another Saturday, another bunch of wide-eyed, dim witted teenagers queue up to fling their self-worth on the mercy of four pointless egomaniacs. This week it’s the BBC’s turn, with a second series of their ludicrously titled So You Think You Can Dance?
I don’t, as it happens. Whenever I take to the proverbial floor I look like a recently paraplegic kangaroo, learning to hop again. There are however those who do think they can dance, and they’ve been invited to pit jazz hand against bum waggle for the title of “Britain’s Favourite Dancer”. Yeah, not even a proper prize, plus it’s a real fuck you to Michael Flatley.
On the “judging panel” are thinking-man's-crumpet (if the crumpet was smeared with rohypnol) Arlene Phillips, pervy Nigel Lythgoe (Simon Cowell’s dancing doppelganger), Louise from Eternal and a curly haired young impresario named Sisco who looks at each hopeful like they’ve got a decomposing rat stapled to their face. It’s presented by Cat Deeley, constantly fighting off malnutrition induced heart failure.
The first episode sees contestants auditioning for a place in “choreography camp” - what fresh hell that is we’ll find out next week. For now, a steady stream of perky youngsters have arrived at BBC Television Centre to body-pop, chest-pump and smise* for the judges.
One tap dancing hunk visibly gives Arlene a potent wide-on. Sisco says things like, “I live for your potential because I think you’re ridiculous,” and Louise from Eternal only ever comes out with “Great personality!” because she clearly hasn’t got a fucking clue about dancing. Nigel is the big daddy, a stern-faced pervatron who curls his upper lip at each impeccably firm 17-year-old taking to the stage in her knickers. “I hope you’re good!” he snarls at a blushing American Apparel model. Before each song is played he goes, “cue music”, which is COMPLETELY POINTLESS.
As for the contestants there are a lot, I mean A LOT, of gross bare feet. There’s everything from cringey “expressive” dance, twinkly-fingered tap to hip hop, which appears to be the only kind of dancing you can do with four hoodies and a wooly hat on. Sisco loves hip hop dance, he thinks it’s “so swag”. There is a lack of hand-holding, whether it’s the salsa dancing Colombian couple the judges almost break up, by asking satin-trousered Andreas to go through without his aghast girlfriend, or the partially deaf dance teacher whose embarrassing OMG faces and 80s shoulder-bobbing are met with stony disapproval. That kind of disability will pretty much guarantee you a spot at Judges Houses on X Factor, but here all you get is “you’re vastly out of shape” sniping from Arlene. In the end they put her through, but not without a lot of yammering about ‘technique’ and ‘musicality’.
On the “judging panel” is thinking-man's-crumpet (if the crumpet was smeared with rohypnol) Arlene Phillips
The BBC isn’t completely above broadcasting the delusions of the mentally ill; a forty-year-old Eastern European comes on, reads Arlene a shitty “freestyled” poem that ends “Let’s go everyone – let’s dance!” before going into anaphalactic shock onstage while mouthing the words to Footloose.
Chanel, a carnival dancer who gyrates her arse to Alexandra Burke, is accompanied by her obese, dutty-wining mother. Her mum is a woman who cannot be serious. When the judges separate this dynamic duo and her daughter goes on without her, she’s astounded that she, a 60-year-old regular on the Balham club circuit, has been denied the chance to become Britain’s Favourite Dancer. She’s the best ‘character’ they can produce, without breaking some kind of BBC guideline.
Why is it the beeb can never really do talent shows? Remember Fame Academy, the crappy Pop Idol-alike? As a taxpayer funded operation, it just lacks the ruthless exploitation of the stupid, the mental or the misfortunate that ITV has made its raison d’etre. Louise is no teary Cheryl or brassy Amanda Holden. Nigel, for all his perving and “cue music” shittiness, is not really a Simon Cowell. We’re not even told of anyone’s recently deceased Granny or dance-threatening leg injury. Where’s all the bulimia and bitching I was promised by Black Swan? I never thought I’d miss it, but this show is so arse-achingly dull that I’m almost yearning for a bit of Dermot, a heart-wrenching backstory and a couple of Bedlam escapees doing a goggley-eyed Grease medley in full Travolta costume. For shame.
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* Smile with your eyes. Copyright Tyra Banks / the gay community