While I’m definitely not a fan of Strictly Come Dancing (!!)—though I did see a bit of the American version because 82-year-old firecracker Cloris Leachman was a contestant (and can kick her legs higher than I can and I’m half her age, plus she was tremendously entertaining)—and I’m sick to death of this format and wish the Beeb would employ some screenwriters for a change--I was amused by the enormous amount of coverage the John Sergeant controversy got even in respectable broadsheets. And now things have become even more insane, as John Sergeant will now be releasing a Christmas single. I suppose in these days of download, such a last minute thought has a chance.
More precisely, the single will be Let’s Not Fight This Christmas with BBC1’s The One Show presenters Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakely, a fellow former Strictly participant.
The song was written by Squeeze songsmith Chris Difford (apparently with Kevin Malpass), so whilst I have not yet heard it, that gives it a real chance. Plus novelty Christmas songs often do well, though I imagine this one will be more likely to appear in future in one of those shows a la Fifty Worst Ever Christmas Moments rather than highly sought-after Christmas compilations. After this odd hype has passed (though it kinda already has), people will wonder in future why a political correspondent and sports presenter bothered to release a single. But again, I’ve not yet heard it; maybe it's the new White Christmas.
I have the chance tonight at 7pm when the video will be launched on The One Show, and I will tune in in hopes of seeing the great Chris Difford and perhaps other fantastic collaborators of his recent past such as Boo Hewerdine, though I’m sure that’s too much to hope for.
And before I go, just a few comments about that whole dance competition business….I never before watched Strictly and certainly would not phone in to vote (why would anyone trust the BBC with their money now after all the scandals, and what kind of value for money is that kind of purchase anyway?). But, if you are going to have a show where the public’s vote counts for half the final score, then clearly it is not solely a dance competition but an entertainment show. The judges in the UK at least get a final word of sorts, with the dance off, which doesn't happen in the US version--the lowest scores are announced following the inclusion of the phone votes, and it's good-bye to that couple.
What disturbed me most, the more I read about it in the press, was how Sergeant, a perfectly amiable, intelligent and capable man, was getting slated when he had done nothing wrong. He was just turning up every week and presumably doing his best, which wasn’t enough for the judges, and they ended up being blatantly rude, viciously critical and effectively bullying him out. He wasn’t cheating or spouting evil or tripping the others or anything wrong. He was not campaigning for votes, to my knowledge. He had no control over the situation whatsoever, so why was he blamed and almost persecuted? When his life became a bit too surreal when the newsman became the news story and he had photographers on his doorstep, he chose to withdraw, which I suppose teaches the judges and others that bullying is an effective means of achieving what you want. It also kicked his Russian dance partner out of the competition when she was trying to make a name for herself here during her first UK programme, and it must have been awful for someone in a competitive field to just give up and drop out. (Does she get paid for the full series now or what?)
I suppose the Beeb loved the whole thing as a huge audience, which I’m sad to say included me as I’m an occasionally curious one, tuned in to watch his last dance. (And rugger star Austin Healy is quite the hoofer, surprisingly, but I still don’t see what the big deal is about the show; at least that ice skating show can cause serious injuries to the participating celebrities, to use the term as loosely as these shows do. Yet this is the most watched programme in the world, with its many local variants).
That edition of the show was particularly sickening owing to the ridiculous hypocrisy of the judges, the head one called Len saying he was “so sorry John had decided to leave the competition” when the judges had done their best to push him out, and they certainly weren’t sorry. The following week, I saw the American version, Dancing with the Stars, which features two of the same judges (Len and Bruno, whose carbon footprints—feetprints?—must be shocking, flying back and forth twice a week for the shows), and Len pronounced with great glee and a huge beam that a huge American football player who reached the semi-finals was not, perhaps, a great dancer, but he sure provided entertainment, and that’s what the show was about, so he awarded him relatively high marks. How curious; that doesn’t seem to be his impression of what the UK version of the show is about.
But now I’m scared because I’m talking about Strictly Come Dancing and must cease immediately. Other than to add that I saw the judge Bruno (the most endearing one) that weekend elsewhere, during one of VH1 Classic’s fun all-80s weekends when they showed Elton John’s I’m Still Standing from 1983, where everyone is bouncing around a beach. One of the bouncing beach bums in worryingly tight red trousers is Bruno as a youngster, well, 20 years younger, and then when people are dancing as though making love to the beat (thankfully behind shields of sorts), horribly out of sync as far as synchronised lovemaking-dancing goes, Bruno is the one closest to the camera. I believe you can view it on YouTube (http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=6lK-0wfHutk ) if it’s of interest…..
Anyway, I hope that the Sergeant/OneShow single proceeds go to charity, in which case I might just download a copy and would recommend you do the same. (I have just learned that the single is not only, understandably, download-only, but some proceeds do go to Children in Need, so I would advise getting a copy in any case. Plus it would be fun to see John Sergeant, and of course Chris Difford, on the revived Top of the Pops at Christmas!) Don't forget that Amazon.co.uk is finally selling MP3 downloads now, too, so perhaps you can get the single there.....go quickly for some amazing album deals as well (£3 each for some best sellers).
.....A QUICK UPDATE, having just watched the premiere of the video. The song is basically a Chris Difford song, that is, he's the one singing the verses, and it typically Diffordly touches on day-by-day matters in one's life, so it's absolutely worth the money, with a lovely message for the family. There is the inevitable choir of schoolchildren, with a bit of a sickly build-up to the chorus, but the several One Show presenters and John Sergeant are only really visible in the video; you wouldn't be too aware of their presence without the visual aid. And the John Sergeant mention was clearly just a sensible ploy to drum up press interest; he appears in the video for just as long as, say, the all-round wonderful Dan Snow--about 2 seconds--and I believe there was some arm movement, but no shuffling across a ballroom floor, which is never a bad thing.
But do buy it; it's apparently download only. I fear it's only available from iTunes, though, which rather limits access and so diminishes the possible buyers, and I tend to boycott anyone who sells DRM-ridden songs in favour of Play.com or now Amazon.co.uk and others (and principally stick with CDs!). But needs must, and I recommend it....it's festive, it's for charity, and it's Chris Difford. What's not to like?