A dat­ing show in which choos­ing part­ners is based on their dance movess is silly and hammy – and I love it

★★★ ☆☆

The Guardian - G2 - - Tv And Radio - Re­becca Ni­chol­son

Tele­vi­sion has spent years hon­ing the for­mat of how best to pair up two peo­ple seek­ing ro­mance: blind dates over din­ner in a restau­rant; blind dates over din­ner cooked at a per­son’s own house; game shows; re­al­ity shows; fake online iden­ti­ties; sunny hol­i­days with strangers; sunny hol­i­days with other peo­ple’s part­ners; even agree­ing to get mar­ried at the same time as meet­ing (spoiler: judg­ing by sub­se­quent tabloid re­ports, this has not proved to be a great idea). I have watched them all. Flirty Danc­ing is waltz­ing into a crowded mar­ket with an idea brazenly grafted on to a name that prob­a­bly ex­isted be­fore the con­cept did. It is aw­ful and I think I love it.

This is a fan­tas­ti­cally gaudy col­lage of other tele­vi­sion shows. Ash­ley Banjo, leader of the dance troupe Di­ver­sity, whose no­to­ri­ety was forged in Britain’s Got Talent, is ex­pand­ing his tal­ents to be­come a re­la­tion­ship guru, al­though he is stick­ing to what he knows best and giv­ing ad­vice largely through chore­og­ra­phy. So it is a bit like Din­ner Date, but in­stead of eat­ing, they have to per­form a dance rou­tine to­gether, Strictly-style. The twist is that the two vol­un­teers have never met and come to­gether only to dance, hav­ing learned their parts sep­a­rately. They are not al­lowed to speak. Only af­ter the rou­tine is com­pleted, some­where pub­lic and scenic – to make it look like La La Land, if La La Land had to con­tend with Bri­tish weather and a Chan­nel 4 bud­get – are they al­lowed to de­cide if they would like to see each other again.

Han­nah and James dance to Ella Eyre on the roof of an ob­ser­va­tory in Bris­tol, and Luke and Dan whizz around a London art gallery to Si­grid. There’s some ropey psy­chol­ogy about moves that sym­bol­ise push­ing them away from their old bad habits, but it is largely an ex­cuse to see if they fall over or fancy each other, or both, or nei­ther. The fact that it ex­ists is in­cred­i­ble.

Banjo is a kind and charm­ing men­tor who knows how to lis­ten, and he opens peo­ple up, al­though given that they have vol­un­teered to shimmy their way around a city on tele­vi­sion with some­one they have never met as a way of “try­ing some­thing new”, you do won­der how much open­ing up they ac­tu­ally need. This is be­ing pushed as a re­turn to a more in­no­cent time, at least in terms of look­ing for love. Tin­der, Bum­ble, Grindr and the rest may have turned dat­ing into a rapid-fire game of, to quote the great Ariana Grande, “thank u, next”, but in the olden days, we are told, courtship was con­ducted on the dance­floor. As if to em­pha­sise Flirty Danc­ing’s good, ol’ fash­ioned ro­man­tic heart, the whole thing is bathed in so much pil­lowy soft fo­cus that I be­gan to worry there might be none left for ITVBe.

And yet, as much as it tries to say it is about au­then­tic­ity and find­ing the real thing in an in­creas­ingly tor­rid dig­i­tal waste­land of fleet­ing en­coun­ters, it is just as mer­ci­less as the most mer­ci­less of match­mak­ing shows. When Naked At­trac­tion first ap­peared on the TV dat­ing scene, it seemed like the point at which all other ro­man­ti­cally in­clined pro­grammes should but­ton up their blouses and go home alone, with a mi­crowave meal and a mini-bot­tle of chardon­nay. Naked At­trac­tion gets a lot of stick for cut­ting to the chase – full-frontal nu­dity and then a date – but at least they are ac­tu­ally al­lowed to talk to each other first, once they have writ­ten off some peo­ple based on en­tirely fab­ri­cated rea­sons such as “skinny an­kles”. Flirty Danc­ing says that, by mak­ing peo­ple dance to­gether, it is all about chem­istry. Of course it is, but so is choos­ing some­one based on whether you like their skinny an­kles. They do not even get to hear each other’s voices here, only to form a snap judg­ment based on whether they can shimmy in time to an Ella Eyre bal­lad or not.

This is a very silly pro­gramme, based on a hammy and over­stretched premise that is tread­ing the same path as any num­ber of other shows in which mak­ers claim to have found a new way of po­ten­tially solv­ing the mys­ter­ies of love. I de­voured it, ob­vi­ously, and I look for­ward to watch­ing ev­ery sin­gle fu­ture in­stal­ment, prob­a­bly more than once.

The show is as mer­ci­less as the most mer­ci­less of match­mak­ing shows

Dan and Luke strut their stuff in Flirty Danc­ing; Han­nah and James (below)

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