Len Goodman's Big Band Bonanza, BBC4 - TV review

The soundtrack to a youth spent in the dance halls and coffee bars of Welling, Kent

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The Independent Culture

We might be willing to buy Mozart in the Jungle's vision of sex, drugs and string sections, but Fifties British swing bands as "hot, sexy and so seductive"? That's pushing it. Especially if you saw Stevi Ritchie's Big Band Week performance on The X Factor. Still, this was the notion that everyone's favourite Strictly judge was floating in Len Goodman's Big Band Bonanza on BBC4.

Len's warm, chuckling delivery as a documentary presenter is already familiar from another BBC4 arts series, the enjoyable Dancing Cheek to Cheek, but this one-off programme drew more from his personal well of memories. This, he said, was the soundtrack to a youth spent in the dance halls and coffee bars of Welling, Kent.

The trouble is, Len's heroes – bandleaders like Glenn Miller, Joe Loss and Ted Heath – don't have the same timeless appeal as pop stars of the same era, though they may have had ten times the musical talent. More interesting were the detours into Big Band-related trivia, such as the Nazi's attempts to re-write popular swing hits as vicious anti-Allied propaganda and the story of Ivy Benson, leader of an all-female swing band.

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