Reality television 2: They're the new generation games
'Strictly' is over and, as one season of contests closes, along come some unexpected innovations
Sunday 19 December 2010
Former EastEnder and early favourite Kara Tointon, 28, was named last night as the winner of this year's Strictly Come Dancing. Turning to her dance partner, Artem Chigvintsev, she said: "I want to thank this man – he's been wonderful." But she admitted she was "a bit embarrassed" to be handed the title as Chigvintsev reassured her: "You're amazing."
And so, this result, and tonight's selection by Lord Sugar of his latest apprentice, will bring to an end another year of reality television. Any fans suffering withdrawal symptoms, however, will not suffer cold turkey for long. There will be only a couple of weeks' respite before the next batch of prime-time reality TV programmes hits our screens.
The BBC is kickstarting 2011 with the launch of a new magic show, The Magicians, on New Year's Day, while another line-up of celebrities will start showing off their skating skills on ITV's Dancing on Ice the following weekend.
The Magicians will take over from Strictly (which also returns for a festive special on Christmas Day featuring contestants who include the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, and Torchwood actor John Barrowman) as Saturday-night family entertainment. The new show, hosted by Lenny Henry, will feature four magicians – American sleight-of-hand artist Chris Korn, illusionist Luis de Matos and vaudeville duo Barry and Stuart – who will perform tricks with a different celebrity partner each week.
Famous faces signed up to take part include the presenter of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Chris Tarrant, the artist Rolf Harris, hip-hop group N-Dubz and Ashley Banjo from the street dance troupe Diversity, which won Britain's Got Talent last year.
The magician Paul Daniels, who appeared as a contestant in this year's Strictly Come Dancing, did not know whether The Magicians would bring new people into magic but believed audiences were ready for a programme that was not essentially music-based. However, he added: "I know years ago they did celebrity magic on American TV and it virtually killed the magic off for a while in America, because people thought if [I Love Lucy sitcom star] Lucille Ball can saw someone in half, anyone can. They missed the whole point, that magic is a theatrical art and the tricks themselves can be very simple; it's all about the presentation."
ITV's Dancing on Ice returns for a sixth series on 9 January. In a shake-up of the format, viewers will choose which celebrities take part, picking 12 people from 16 hopefuls in the first two weeks before the competition proper starts in the third week. The line-up includes rapper Vanilla Ice, the former Neighbours actor Craig McLachlan, cricketer Dominic Cork, actress Nadia Sawalha, former I'm a Celebrity... winner Kerry Katona and Victoria Cross hero Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry.
Other reality shows scheduled for release early next year include A Farmer's Life for Me, on BBC 2, in which nine couples compete to win their own smallholding for a year, and BBC 3's fly-on-the-wall documentary Junior Doctor, which lets viewers follow the lives of newly qualified medical staff.
Last week, ITV announced that the comedian Michael McIntyre and the actor David Hasselhoff will join the actress Amanda Holden as judges on the new series of Britain's Got Talent, which begins in the spring.
Tonight, viewers of BBC 1's The Apprentice will see the investment banker Chris Bates, 23, and fellow contestant Stella English, 30, who works for a Japanese bank, compete to win a job with Lord Sugar. The final is the last in a string of reality shows to reach their climax in recent weeks.
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