After five weeks, Let It Shine has finally found its spark

Round two of the BBC1 talent show is endearing, funny and original. So where has it been for the past four weeks, asks Frances Taylor

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There’s ten topless men doing forward rolls and singing Bros hit When Will I Be Famous? Dannii Minogue is barking orders at them whilst wearing a big hat. Someone is unicycling around the stage for no reason.

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This isn’t the Let It Shine we’ve come to expect, and that’s not a bad thing at all.

Stomping around the stage to Take That hit Kidz, the remaining 40 hopefuls are thrust into some nightmarish vision in the opening number for this Saturday’s episode of the BBC1 programme.

They have Dannii shouting things like “DO YOU HAVE THE SKILL AND STAMINA TO BE IN THIS BAND?”, “GIVE ME EVERYTHING YOU’VE GOT” and “LOUDER” as the boys who want to make it are pushed about, forced to do press ups and mildly groped. And that’s all in the first five minutes.

I’m not sure what Gary Barlow was drinking when he came up with this opener (it even beats the intro for episode one), but we want some. The camp has been ramped up to 11 – and it’s bloody brilliant.

What is then so frustrating is that it feels like it’s five weeks too late. When the BBC1-show-come-Barlow-vehicle launched a month ago, I moaned that the opening episode was too dour, serious and lacked that How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?-esque daftness and joy that I had been expecting.

The viewing figures seemed to agree with me, too. Sadly, it’s taken too long to get going and find some momentum, which has been reflected in the overnight TV ratings each week. From 6.25 million tuning in to the opening episode, last weekend that number fell to 4.58 million.

And it’s such a shame because Let It Shine is about to air its strongest episode yet this weekend, but will anyone be tuning in? Even if Lulu is popping in for one week only.

The five groups of eight boys will be collaborating with Beverly Knight, Busted, Kaiser Chiefs, Melanie C or Olly Murs before three boys from each band are sent home. That’ll leave five groups of five who will go through to the live shows, which start next week when Ricki Lake is a guest judge (Seriously, that’s happening. But that’s a whole other article to be written).

So far the BBC have only released a half-hour version of the upcoming episode to preview, featuring one of the groups performing a montage of Murs hits, from Troublemaker to Unpredictable and Wrapped Up. There are cringey dance routines, trousers ripped off stripper-style and plenty of Olly Murs taking centre stage.

For the first time, I found myself watching Let It Shine with a genuine smile on my face.

Watching this fifth episode had me asking why couldn’t the show have started like this? Why did we have to sit through four weeks of borderline dull auditions that were often too good for their own good when we could’ve been having extra glitter, knock-off High School Musical ensembles and Busted?

I’d be willing to bet that many, many more viewers would’ve been hooked right from the start if this had been episode one, because up until now I’d been feeling ambivalent towards Let It Shine. Now I’m completely on board for the ride. Well, what’s left of it at least.

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Let It Shine airs Saturday February 4th at 6.40pm on BBC1