Yesterday night brought us the Strictly Come Dancing Launch Show – and with that, the stark realisation that the Christmas countdown has begun! Long gone is the sensible, traditional Saturday night TV show that only appealed to the over 65s (sorry Grandad!). Saturday nights have now well and truly become ‘strictlified’ with modern, engaging content guaranteed to bring all members of the family together in front of their TV screens. Statistics themselves have proven the popularity of Strictly vs their previous rival, The X Factor. In the singing competition’s last programme which featured members of the public, viewing figures of the 2018 final dropped to a total of 5.5 million. In contrast, the concluding episode of last year’s Strictly Come Dancing reached a whopping total of 13.2 million viewers with Bill Bailey proudly scooping up the glitterball trophy. But what accelerated this revolutionizing of the Nation’s favourite Talent Show?
Not only do Strictly continue to spoil us with popular celebrities from a variety of backgrounds, in recent years, there has been a clear increase of children’s TV presenters, as well as YouTube ‘Vloggers’ taking part. In the 2018 series, vlogger Joe Sugg reached the final with his partner (and now girlfriend!) Dianne Buswell, engaging teenagers globally, desperate to see the Social Media star in action. Personally, though I was already a huge Strictly fan, seeing a childhood favourite participate encouraged me to tune in every week without fail, as well as keeping track of their progress on the popular spin-off show ‘It Takes Two’. It is clear that Sugg’s participation unarguably broadened the horizons of Strictly’s audience, as young teens voluntarily sat down on a Saturday night with their families to watch the show. Although at the time, many comments were raised such as ‘I thought they were meant to hire celebrities!’, with some members of the public unaware of Sugg’s fan base, his progression and success in the series proved what a fan favourite he came to be. Sugg’s achievements encouraged YouTuber Saffron Barker to also participate, as well as CBBC presenter Karim Zeroual the following year. This encouragement of appealing to younger audiences can only be a good thing, bringing families together who may not have previously had a programme each member can enjoy. I’m sure this year’s contestants, TikToker Tilly Ramsay and CBBC Presenter Rhys Stephenson, despite not being known by every generation, will not only excel in the competition but unite countless households.
As well as the appeal to younger audiences, Strictly has brought in a new aspect of the competition in order to be inclusive of the LGBTQI+ community. Last year saw Olympic Boxer Nicola Adams have a same-sex partnership with professional dancer Katya Jones for the first time in Strictly history. Unfortunately, Adams had to drop out of the competition due to testing positive for Covid-19 but her participation in the series brought an insightful element to the dancefloor. It was inspiring to see a member of the LGBTQI+ community not conforming to the traditional male/female partnership but proving that dance doesn’t need to be limited to this. The all-female dynamic allowed audiences to see dance styles completely differently as well as proving that the Talent Show can in fact adapt to be inclusive of all members of the public, regardless of their sexuality. This year, TV Chef and Bake Off winner John Whaite will become the first celebrity to have an all-male partnership – and I for one, can’t wait to see which of the brilliant male pro’s he’s paired with! The introduction of these partnerships is an extremely powerful statement as Strictly continues to push the boundaries of ‘traditional’ dance by becoming inclusive of all communities.
Finally, Strictly’s increasing popularity is demonstrated by the number of chart-topping acts featured in the Sunday Night Results Show. Tonight’s launch brings us Anne-Marie, currently promoting her new single ‘Kiss My (Uh Oh)’, featuring X Factor winners Little Mix. But this series isn’t the first time Strictly have snapped up A-list celebs to attract further audiences to the Results Show. Last series, despite being hindered by coronavirus restrictions, the show saw MNEK and Joel Corry, Sam Smith, The Vamps, as well as favourites Billy Ocean, Gary Barlow and Robbie Williams perform on the Strictly dance floor. The variety of musical performers confirms Strictly’s efforts to connect with greater audiences, as well as proving that they are a modern, refreshing show that top performers love to engage in. The musical acts, last year especially, made the series so special, with restrictions persisting as the series progressed. As an at-home viewer, it was certainly uplifting to see a variety of acts finally able to perform their new singles, despite there only being a virtual audience.
Personally, I find the developments Strictly Come Dancing has made to their series extremely inspiring. Whilst advancing to appeal to greater audiences, the TV show continues to demonstrate the beauty of traditional dance. Despite the changes, viewers are entertained by the different dance styles, hilarious presenting and controversial judges opinions (yes, you, Craig!). And what better way to recover from Fruity Friday curled up watching feel-good TV? Fab-u-lous darling!
Words by: Holly Harrison
Edited by: Harsheni Maniarasan