In its twinkling heyday, Strictly Come Dancing was rightfully one of the biggest shows on television as it successfully struck a healthy balance of glamour, warmth and enough scandal to keep us hooked every Saturday night.
Previous series have welcomed some genuinely impressive household names to the dancefloor, got us invested in the hallowed Strictly journey and provided endless water-cooler moments in the office.
But for series 17, Strictly has somehow failed to live up to its usual glittering expectations. Like a faded sequin jumper you’ve stuck in the wash one too many times, Strictly has started to become worn and jaded. Instead of engaging in endless chatter about the show this year, I’ve seemingly adopted more of a Strictly shrug.
The general feeling of disappointment started to creep in for some die-hard Strictly fans after the full line-up was announced, with many wondering who on earth most of them were. Yes, Strictly is no longer purely about having the biggest stars failing to Samba in front of Craig Revel Horwood, but the line-up distinctly lacked a celeb you were desperate to see learn to dance, a la Ed Balls in 2016.
As we’ve had hammered home to us before, Strictly is now about the journey; watching our slightly lower rent celebrities blossom into bona fide dancers after tripping over their own two feet in week one. The problem is, the celebrities who should be having that journey have already been voted out.I admit Anneka Rice and James Cracknell were never going to set the ballroom alight, but Dev Griffin and Catherine Tyldesley had the potential to be really brilliant, and we’ve been denied the chance to see them grow.
It seems Strictly has stumbled in its once-confident footsteps by having too many too-good dancers in its line-up – resulting in the show peaking far too early. It’s not that Strictly can’t have any good dancers from week one, and with the rocky road to showbiz success often including some form of dance training, it’d be hard to find any total novices.
Buut when the judges are already dishing out 10s in week three, the show very quickly loses any real sense of excitement by the time the competition actually starts to heat up. Yes, Kelvin Fletcher may be able to hypnotise us with his undulating hip action, but after fast-tracking to the top of the leaderboard, there’s surely only one way for him, and the show, to go – down.
The distinct lack of even a sniff of a scandal on this year’s Strictly has aided general dance floor disinterest. Gone are the days of trying to figure out who’s taken to doing some off-screen horizontal moves. It may be known as the Strictly ‘curse’ among couples who watch their other half take part, but in all reality, it’s a blessing for ratings – which have slightly dipped since last year; perhaps in part due to the missing have-they-haven’t-they aspect.
While we’re longing for flirty dancing and sizzling chemistry, viewers are instead being served sickness and injuries, seeing the cast dropping like flies. Jamie Laing’s injury quite literally saw a particularly sickly Strictly start on the wrong foot; a vomiting bug reportedly swept the cast, Neil Jones was replaced by Kevin Clifton following an injury, and Will Bayley bowed out all together after doing his knee in.
The recent Halloween special was a chance for Strictly to show it was still at its best, but with the aforementioned injuries, and general lack of spooky songs, costumes, or even particularly standout dances, it’s little wonder it was dubbed the “weakest” Halloween special in recent years.
In increasingly grim, uncertain times, we need now more than ever to escape into Strictly’s fun and glittering world. But instead of providing a few hours of camp, silly fun every Saturday, this year’s accident-prone, bumbling and frankly boring series appears to reflect the general mood of the nation. It seems, this year, Strictly has well and truly lost its sparkle.
Strictly Come Dancing is on BBC One, Saturday at 7pm