View from the sofa: Of course it’s naff but strictly speaking dance show has its benefits

Strictly Come Dancing, BBC1

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The Independent Online

Criticising Strictly Come Dancing is akin to dismissing David Cameron’s Tory minions as a bunch of posh, party-hopping sexters. As easy targets go, it is blasting sturgeons in a firkin.

Yes, Strictly is naff. We all know that. The show itself knows that; why else would the opening credits be dominated by a fake disco ball? And yes, it is aimed squarely at the light entertainment loving, staying-in-on-a-Saturday night crowd. A case in point: Gregg Wallace, the middle-aged greengrocer (and, as we discovered, dancer with room for improvement) from MasterChef, name-checked his mum. Yep, that demographic.

But that is not to say it is a bad show. I’ll be honest and say it is not my cup of tea. But then again, many Strictly fans would point out the fact that the Ramones’ career was built on three or four buzzsaw chords gave the perfect reason not to listen to them. Each to their own.

For the BBC, a public service broadcaster which every television owner contributes to, Strictly is an ideal show. Because it provides a public service.

And, conveniently for this section, it can be considered a sporting contest – even if we leave aside the sportspeople involved this year, such as Thom Evans the former Scotland wing and Judy Murray, the British Fed Cup captain also known as Andy’s mum.

For a start, it is difficult. And competitive. It even has scoring. And it also passes my own, oft-repeated personal criteria for an activity being a sport; namely it is impossible to do at the highest level while smoking a cigarette. Take note, Ryder Cup.

And every competitor seems to take it seriously. Sunetra Sarker, an actress from Casualty, admitted her heart was pounding with nervousness, while Wallace has been updating his Twitter followers for weeks on how hard he has been training.

On Saturday there was no doubt many were being taken out of their comfort zone – Evans in particular, with his impression of a tree stump doing the waltz – and the pre-dance segments of the competitors sweating in training gear made it clear they have been working their collective behinds off.

Yes, the celebrities all have profiles they need to maintain (or reputations to restore) and strings they need to add to their respective bows, but what often gets overlooked with Strictly is that it involves a group of people of all shapes and sizes putting themselves through a strict training regime for our entertainment.

Importantly, the activities on Strictly are not as wilfully hard as, say the acrobatics in Tumble, or that inane diving show Splash. No doubt many will have watched, say, Wallace, doing whatever the dance version of free jazz is to a mid-80s power pop number and thought “I could do that”. And if they act on that thought, then Strictly will have achieved the holy grail for almost every sporting body: inspiring people to get moving.

A dance show on its own won’t solve the obesity crisis – after all, it takes two to tango (sorry). But if a few people make the move to haul their lardy bodies to a dance studio, then more power to Strictly. Their work is done.

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