I am not inconsiderably annoyed at Dancing On Ice. Oh yes. This is shaping up to be Strictly: The Revenge, with Coleen Nolan in the Sarge’s role.
Mind you, it’s hard to stay annoyed, because there are enough ridiculous things about DOI that would really annoy you if you took it seriously. Schofield’s decibel level, for one. Tony Gubba’s overwrought commentary, for another. An unfeasibly rowdy audience that boos any score below a 4.5 and on occasion has been known to actually shout the judges down. And Holly. Oh God, Holly. Normally you’re left wondering how she can wear so little while stood next to an ice rink, but at least advanced pregnancy has curtailed that. But we still get the “Jaaason, why only a three?” Which is a silly question – as he’s the low-scoring judge, if I were a contestant, he’s the one whose points I’d value the most.
Oh, and I still can’t figure out what Ruthie Henshall is doing there, except that she replaces that Russian woman with the thick accent. I understood what the Russian woman was saying, but Holly evidently didn’t, and the one thing you don’t want is for Holly to be just stood there grinning vacantly. At least any more than she does in the normal course of things.
All right, so last night our local standard-bearer Zoe Salmon got eliminated. I’m a little scundered about this, partly because she’s one of the very few people on TV who talks like me, but mainly because she was one of the really good performers. I stress here, I don’t blame the judges for their final decision, because Jessica gave the better performance in the skate-off, and our girl was very gracious in bowing out. The fault, if there is any, belongs to the Great British Public for putting two of the top three in the bottom two. With only five in the field, one of the top three in the skate-off was always likely, but two leaves you wondering what the electorate is playing at. But not wondering for long, as it basically boils down to women who fancy Donal McIntyre and women who identify with Coleen Nolan.
There have been a couple of things this year that have left me a little uneasy. One is that wee lad from X Factor who looks like Eddie Munster and who, with his ballet training and his rollerblading, has been so far ahead of the field from day one that it isn’t even funny. I’ll allow that the Eddie Munster kid has put on a good show, although I’ve not warmed to him, mainly because he gives the impression that he’d be happier leaving the partner behind and just skating solo. The other thing is that you’ve had Coleen appearing on Loose Women five days a week and essentially using it as a platform to appeal for votes. I don’t blame her for availing of the opportunity, I just note that it’s an advantage no other competitor has.
But, leaving aside the suspicion that the weakest contestant keeps getting put through at the expense of better performers because of her popularity on another show, there is something here redolent of the Sarge’s run on Strictly. One thing that was brought up then was that this scenario would be unimaginable on Dancing With The Stars in the States. Over there, if you put in a bad performance, you’re off. I think this has something to do with a cultural difference that you often see reflected in sports, which is that America doesn’t really have this identification with the plucky underdog. There is a very strong theme in American culture of celebrating excellence; there is a very strong theme in British culture of celebrating the endearingly crap, which sometimes goes as far as actually putting down achievement.
But then, I have this purist streak where I like to be entertained by good performances, and I find limited entertainment in a middle-aged woman struggling to stay upright when good performers are going out. She seems nice, and she’s trying hard, and you do feel the urge to give her a big hug for her efforts, but I still wouldn’t vote for her. But, although I think it’s a shame that these things are turned into personality contests, we have to face the fact that that’s what they are for the majority of voters.
To be honest, on that basis, I think Coleen should win the show outright. When you make the public the final arbiters, there’s a populist logic that kicks in – the same as those TV awards where the public used to vote David Jason the best actor every year, whether he’d done anything or not. The show’s producers are surely aware of this, and one assumes that Coleen was invited on in the first place because of her appeal to women of a certain age. If that’s where they are starting off, I’d like her to win just to see those guys can put her victory in their pipe and smoke it.
But I’m only saying that because I don’t take it seriously. If I did take it seriously, I really would be annoyed.