After a decade away from the fray, Eighties pop-Svengali Pete Waterman has finally joined the dash to satisfy legions of pre-teens. Steps are the fruit of his endeavour.
Monday night's show opened with a video screen conveying instructions to the expectant tots. As the word "Scream" appeared, a noise erupted that was comparable to a swarm of mosquitoes homing in on a piece of flesh. Parents looked aghast as their little treasures were overtaken by hormones, screaming themselves silly before their idols had even graced the stage.
Steps arrived looking so fresh-faced and uncontaminated they could have been ejected from Asda for being genetically modified.
But for all their outward equality, there appeared to be an imbalance in their roles. The three girls got to do nearly all the singing and when the handsome Lee was finally brought on alone, it was only to perform a sleazy dance routine. And you couldn't help feeling sorry for "H" the goofy-looking boy with the floppy fringe. His biggest entrance was when he was wheeled on dressed as a lion for a cover of The Lion King theme tune.
Musically, Steps are reconstituted Abba. Their formula involves plinky- plonky dance rhythms with saccharine melodies on a variety of themes: boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boys admits that he has behaved atrociously; boy wins back girl. In case we didn't get it, a pair of dancers acted out a scene of lovers' reconciliation throughout "This Heart Will Love Again". The girls at the front struggled to fight back the tears.
But Steps' showbiz background has served them well. Their stage-school voices were flawless, if a little dull, while their polished good humour was enough to rival the most kindly Blue Peter presenter.
And when it comes to choreography, Steps must be the first teen act since Take That not to be outshone by their own dancers. You can imagine that when their musical careers dwindle, an aerobics video won't be far behind.
If Pete Waterman hasn't already drawn up a blueprint for their "Step- By- Step" video, I'll forfeit my Steps pop-up book.