Strictly Come Dancing is back!
That might not have much to do with suspense, but I’m working on a murder committed during a TV reality show, so I’ve been watching more than a few. However, I’ve always watched Strictly. In the US, it’s Dancing With The Stars. I’ve seen both, and while DWTS is enjoyable, Strictly is my jam.
It has two of the same judges, who commute between continents when the program is on. Len and Bruno are common to both, which makes comparisons even more interesting.
Finally, I worked out why. Yesterday’s opening episode of Strictly started with a totally ridiculous and over-the-top video, then a pro dance. It’s much cleverer than it seems.
DWTS probably has a larger budget, and it’s as flashy as a program about ballroom dancing should be. Strictly must have a pretty lavish budget, too, but there is an edge of tackiness too, of make-do and throwing things together. They could easily get rid of that, but they’re clever not to.
Strictly Come Dancing, the title, is a combination of Come Dancing, the venerable ballroom dance competition that ran for decades, very staid and proper, and Strictly Ballroom, the deliciously irreverent comedy by Baz Luhrmann, which showed how ballroom dancing could change lives if it was a living entity instead of frozen in time.
Strictly Come Dancing is a good mixture of the two. The contestants and professionals take their dances seriously, but it’s something else that makes it such a great hit, something its American counterpart lacks.
While DWTS has fun, it is primarily a show about dancing and people striving for it. It takes itself seriously. Whereas, with the more tongue-in-cheek Strictly, there’s a huge dollop of irony.
From the video last night to the end of the show, it was even more prominent than it used to be in the days of Brucie. He had that corny humour, and that wink that gave you the show’s message.
The show is saying, “You know you’re better than this, but admit it, you love it. And we love it too. Let’s mutually let out our inner tackiness and admit that bad taste is fun.” It’s the kitsch show, but we all know it is, so that’s okay. Irony. Brucie (Bruce Forsyth) made a living out of live TV shows. He could handle anything, could Brucie, and he has exactly the right mixture of knowingness and don’t-care to push the show past the X-Factor and into National Treasure territory.
X-Factor takes itself seriously. It promises fame and fortune, and sometimes delivers. But the whole process is so damned dreary, and downright cruel. It’s okay if there’s nothing else on, but when Strictly starts, X-Factor loses, because Strictly is sheer Saturday night fun. There’s no pressure, no anxiety, except wondering if your favourite has survived another week. But even if they haven’t, they’ll be okay. That’s why they can hook celebrities.
And talking of celebrities, they are strictly not A list. A-listers don’t have 6 weeks or more to devote to one project, and Strictly demands constant practice until you’re voted out. It’s also why the can’t-dance candidates succeed for so long. It’s the boring ones that get eliminated first.
So what if that frothy, sequinned bundle of fun that is Strictly is disrupted by a murder?
It would burst the bubble, spoil the fun. It would have to be handled carefully, maybe treated with the same tongue-in-cheek as the program, or maybe the opposite, a black, horrible crime that tears the premise of the program wide open. A murder in the X-Factor would be more straightforward to write about. The jealousy and life-or-death stakes they promote would work for that. In the Big Brother house? A country house mystery brought up to date.
Can I get that across in a story? I don’t know, but I’m going to have fun trying!
What reality show would you pick?