In a TV landscape packed with so many serious dramas & ruthless reality shows, it's a welcome break to enjoy people supporting each other & having a great time learning a new skill.
I've been a fan of Strictly Come Dancing for many years. From being the underdog to its ITV rival the X Factor, my faith in the British TV viewer was restored when they switched off from ITV & Strictly overtook it in the ratings. In a TV landscape packed with so many serious dramas & ruthless reality shows, it's a welcome break to enjoy people supporting each other & having a great time learning a new skill.
The camaraderie doesn't seem to be quite as close as in previous years - there have been many changeswith new professionals joining & many favourites leaving. That may just be my opinion as many of my favourite professionals have left. It wasn't quite the same last year without James Jordan. Many others that have gone have been my favourite choreographers & the biggest personalities - Artem Chigvintsev, Robin Windsor, Vinent Simone, Aliona Kavanagh (Vilani) & Flavia Cacace-Mistry have been huge losses. For me the biggest loss has been the Jordans, Ola & James had always been my favourites, their choreography & personalities made them hugely popular with many viewers.
For me the 2015 series was when it all changed. Some viewers were still warming to Claudia Winkleman, although for me she was the perfect replacement for Bruce Forsyth & instantly made the show better. Many familiar faces had started to leave & the British press couldn't help themselves in stirring up trouble. Strictly had been a show that the media has mostly left alone, concentrating more on endless stories about the X Factor. Presumably because there really were very few stories about SCD - everybody involved in the show got on & always seemed to support each other. Not just the dancers but everyone including the crew, hair & make-up appear to have a great relationship. Apart from the obligatory annual 'Strictly curse' relationship, no great secrets or scandals. If there were any the team most probably stuck together & rarely revealed anything for the sake of the show & their colleagues. By 2015 SCD was gaining even more momentum, viewing figures were trouncing the X Factor... then the stories started emerging. Reports of dancers not getting on, and rows between dancers & judges were becoming more prominent in the media. I have found the negativity surrounding it this year unfathomable.
The media have played their part, creating stories that just don't ring true. If you follow the show like I do & delve deeper into the making of it, most stories seem just that - totally fabricated stories. There have been a few new angles this series which the press have jumped on. Will Young quitting was a first, apart from John Sargeant people have only previously left due to injury or death of a loved one. This was opportunity for the press & keyboard warriors to do their worst. His dance partner Karen Clifton & judge Len Goodman bearing the brunt of the nasty Twitter brigade. We don't have to know the reason why he left, it's his decision & I never questioned why he would have done this. As 'celebrities', people feel they are entitled to know everything about them, we are not.
This series has also come under fire for the high marking & the number of celebs who are 'trained' dancers. Most actors & singers nowadays have been dance trained to varying degrees so it's inevitable there is a larger amount of contestants with a dance background. James Jordan's comments that a non trained dancer will never win SCD again is correct, this year the non-trained dancers are outnumbered and don't stand a chance.
Here is where my problem with the show starts.
For a few years the VT shown before each pairs dance we would see them 'in training', now we get a terrible rehearsed comedy sketch. I want to see people training, their struggles with each dance & see the relationship between each couple. This is the best way of judging each dance as some are much more difficult than others & seeing each contestants personality, let's face it SCD is a popularity show aswell as just judging them on their dance skills.
This year has seen manipulation by producers in what we get to see, some couples we actually see training & others not so much.
The judges scoring has also gone awry the last few years, it's obvious which couples are their favourites & it's now too easy to guess how each judge will score. An extra point for favourites & a point less for least favourites, this has a big impact on the leader board & therefore influencing the final tally after the public vote.
The fact they dance almost every dance each week rather than previously covering just 2 dances each week. This change also makes it harder for the TV viewer to compare & makes it easier for the format to be manipulated. Some dances are so much more difficult technically than others, to get the more difficult dances earlier in the series can put you at a real disadvantage.
Then of course there is Anastacia. One of the nicest people in the business & also one of the funniest. As soon as she was announced I couldn't wait for the series to get started and a perfect partnership with Brendan Cole. It all started so well...
In a pretty unrecognisable line-up, Anastacia was the big name signing. Her British-style sense of humour (her sketch with French & Saunders is one of my favourite all time comedy sketches). With an international following she had all the makings of being a star contestant who would light up the show.
Sadly after the saga of the first elimination I could already see what was coming. The press reported untruths about what happened & social media took over, the comments I read after the first elimination disgusted me. There was no way back for Anastacia & Brendan. The public believed the stories they were fed and were turned. The rules were followed & the correct precautions were taken, imagine the uproar if these precautions weren't taken? The following week, the elimination of Tameka Empson was also shaded by the media & the terrible comments on social media aimed at her were equally vile.
What has happened to people? Such a fun show has now been overshadowed by a section of people determined to ruin what I'm sure is a fantastic experience for contestants on a light-hearted family entertainment show.
I can only hope that despite the negativity surrounding this years show so far, the contestants will still see their experience as a good one knowing that most people can see past the nonsense.
For personal reasons, having lost my mum to breast cancer I was delighted that not only was Anastacia appearing on the show but since her partnership with Cancer Research UK she was giving her fee to the charity. Unfortunately for her, the lasting effects of such a horrible illness have been her downfall in a dancing competition - nothing compared to what her & other cancer survivors have had to face. However, I can only commend her for carrying on & riding the storm, probably the most irrelevant storm she has faced for some time. A strong, beautiful woman with a wicked sense of humour who has overcome cancer twice, and much more. To still be as humble as she seems with what life has dealt her is a credit to her & the people she surrounds herself with.
Women don't seem to celebrate other women & their achievements, this is more evident in comments on social media about a whole range of women in the public eye lately. I do celebrate women, we are great! My heroes are nearly all female and we could all learn a lot from each other if only we took the time to find out and support each other.
I will be enjoying the rest of the series without reading newspaper reports or looking at social media, let's just enjoy a group of people learning to dance, having fun & raising money for charity!
Here are just some of my favourite women. Sadly they are not all still with us. Let's celebrate the wonderful people we do have with us while they are here:
Anastacia, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Caroline Aherne, Vicky McClure, Neneh Cherry, Madonna, Lena Dunham, Janelle Monae, Pauline Black, Joan Collins, Grace Jones, Amy Winehouse, Lorraine Cheshire, Roseanne Barr, Skye Edwards, my mum