Strictly Come Dancing – the Sunday deception

I posted  about this a while ago after Claudia Winkelman’s daughter had her horrendous accident on Halloween which led to convolutions on the show and in the press as they tried not to give the game away. Claudia was ‘still’ with her daughter on Sunday so couldn’t be in the so-called live show. As the seriousness of the incident propelled that news out of the entertainment columns and into the mainstream, journalists were apparently compelled (or felt themselves so) to start using phrases such as ‘Claudia had to miss both shows’ in order to get around the truth, which is – SPOILER – that the two are recorded on the same night.

Celebs and even judges slip up from time to time but they soldier on with the pretence even though hundreds (thousands?) of audience members know how it really works and, if you don’t want to wait for the results, there’s a site that will tell you by about 11 pm on the Saturday.

In the grand scheme of things, this is small beer. But I’m not a fan of such unnecessary deception – a con that involves many people and requires them to collude with a pretence that has no real value beyond attracting people to a show they may otherwise not watch. And recently, three things have given me a heightened sense of concern at the implications this has for participants.

The first was when Anastacia was injured and couldn’t take part in the dance-off. As a result, ‘Twitter erupted, branding the decision “unfair”‘, presumably unaware that, rather than 24 hours in which she might recover sufficiently to perform, she had less than an hour. That’s unfair, and that’s important.

The second was when Will Young left the show suddenly. He didn’t make public his reasons and so this is pure speculation. But let’s consider Will; a sociable and well known man, and one who strikes me as a refreshingly lovely innocent who just might not have grasped the full implications of the Sunday purdah he would need to maintain for the duration of his stay. If that’s the reason, he has my admiration.

The third incident has just happened. Gorka, one of the professional dancers, was assaulted on Saturday night after the Blackpool show – the actually live show –  two teeth being broken in the attack. Unfortunately, he was dancing in the opening of the ‘Sunday’ show which led to the convoluted assertion that `The dance had been filmed in advance on Saturday night for the BBC results show that airs on Sunday evening.’ Fair enough but if that’s the case, it does rather pick away at the content of that show to the point where it begins to look like a stump, a leftover.

But supposing we accept that – what were these dancers doing going off to a club ‘in the early hours of Sunday morning’ on school night? How likely is that to be acceptable, do we think? Not at all, I’d guess. It was permissible precisely because it was not a school night. Luckily for him, it appears to have been just (just?) his teeth and nothing more serious, and because he’s no longer in the competition, no one has had to find a way of explaining how he managed to look unblemished for his supposedly live appearance.

Surely it’s time to put a stop to this deception? One that makes liars of participants (and their friends and family) who have to stay out of the public eye every Sunday until they’re no longer in the show? That asks audiences to keep secret the fact they saw both shows on the same night, just shuffled their seats and wore a different top? That leads TV audiences to believe that the whole shebang – stage set, makeup, costumes, and in this case a public venue (Blackpool Tower ballroom) – is recreated the day after it’s all dismantled? That dancers have a good night’s sleep and recovery or rehearsal time between the two shows? And worse, that people drawn in by injury or ill-health, people who may not be anything to do with the show, become unwitting victims stuck with the burden of this ridiculous pretence?

Surely it’s time the show was reformatted before an event occurs that can’t be ignored, because if that happens, it will lose its veneer of early evening innocence and with it, much public sympathy.

Update 18.30: BBC News reports that Gorka’s dance during Rick Astley’s performance, another feature of the Sunday show, was also recorded on the Saturday, which leaves very little content that is supposedly live. In addition, there are questions as to why this assault wasn’t reported to the police. I will be interested in Strictly’s reply.

‘Strictly Come Dancing’ – time to end the pretence?

I was not sure where to put this because the content is entertainment but the central point is honesty and how far deception can be taken in order to preserve a conceit. In the end, after Facebook, I put it both here and there.

In the UK, ‘Strictly comprises two shows – the contest night when all the participants dance and the public vote is collected, and the results show at which the dance-off between the bottom two pairs takes place. The first show goes out on Saturday night and the second goes out on the Sunday when we are led to believe it is live.

But it is not live and we all know this. It is recorded on the Saturday with different frocks and a new selection of  celebs’ mums shuffled onto the front row. The dancers themselves often give it away, sometimes the judges let slip, and an increasing number of us knows someone who has actually been. I certainly do. They were asked not to tell and I found that a little bit uncomfortable, even though, in the grand scheme of things, it seems harmless. So what if we buy into this illusion and imagine that the entire set, make-up, costumes and audience are freshly put together less than 24 hours after dismantling or sending home the last lot?

Well, I think it matters first because it’s a deceit and an unnecessary one. But I think it really matters when children become a part of the lie through illness or, as is the case just now, traumatic injury. It would have been untenable enough had Claudia Winkelman’s daughter been afflicted by a tummy bug on the Saturday which everyone (including her, presumably), had to pretend was still the case on the Sunday when she might have been perfectly well. But she was injured and the cause has to do with Halloween and candles and so the matter has become a wider and more serious one. It has brought in national news journalists whose job it is to talk about many things other than a dance programme but who are – for now at least – going along with the pretence.

At first they persisted with the line that Claudia had to miss the Sunday show ‘as well’ and latterly they have begun to talk about ‘the weekend shows’, presumably as a way of skating over the fact that being unavailable on the Saturday inevitably means being absent on what is sold to us as the Sunday. Frankly, deception on that scale goes way beyond the tiny conceit that almost certainly drove the original intention. It’s time, I think, for them to come clean; I really don’t think anyone will mind.