Sunday, 12 July 2009

Good idea? You be the judge...

With the seventh season of Strictly Come Dancing heading to screens in the Autumn, the BBC has announced some big changes to its flagship show. Clearly inspired by American Idol and The X-Factor's attempts to shake up the talent show format, bosses have axed Arlene Phillips and replaced her with Alesha Dixon, the photogenic winner of the 2007 series. They've also revealed plans to bring in Darcey Bussell in the latter part of the series. But not everyone's happy about these changes.

According to the Daily Mail, which has a sixth sense for grumbles of discontent, the dancers on the show are incensed that they'll be judged by an 'amateur' with limited dancing experience. Clearly they've never seen Paula Abdul dispensing singing tips on Idol.

Fiona Phillips has also waded in to give her perspective on the decision. Writing in The Mirror, (probably with her face contorted into that characteristic sneer of hers) she criticised the choice, saying "Since when was Alesha Dixon a choreographer? And who, outside the chattering class pastures of the broadsheets and the Royal Ballet, cares about Darcey Bussell?". It's a stupid comment really, although hardly surprising if you ever endured one her painful interviews on GMTV, since no-one has said Alesha is a choreographer. Phillips herself admits that Arlene's caustic comments infuriated viewers, and maybe that's precisely why the ex-Mis-Teeq singer is such a good choice.

There's always a danger on any of these shows that the egos of the judges dominate proceedings and the contestants get sidelined into supporting roles. Every show needs a Simon Cowell - a plain-speaking, blunt-to-the-point-of-cruelty judge, but that needs to be countered with more empathetic personalities. Otherwise they might as well just replace the judging panel with a group of feces-hurling monkeys. Having gone through the show as a contestant (and wowed people with her natural dancing talent), Alesha is in a great position to give considered feedback on how the performers fared in the spotlight. She might not be able to critique their lines or timing, but that's what the other judges are there for.

As for those who've suggested that it's another case of the BBC's 'ageist' hiring and firing policy, I suggest they take a look at the show's host. Bruce Forsyth, a man whose earliest performances were on a zoetrope, actually considered legal action against newspapers that speculated he was leaving because of his advanced age. So who's really ageist here?

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