Don’t be fooled by the title. This is less dancing for charity, more the life and times of minor celebrities. It’s Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush, via Children in Need and This Is Your Life…with a little bit of Strictly at the start.
Five acts, individuals or inexplicable duos (Olly Murs and Scott Mills with special guest star The Hoff, anyone?) perform dance routines to various pop hits, each approximately four minutes in length. So around half an hour total, allowing time for a quick out of breath debrief. And yet the show is an astonishing 80 minutes long.
There’s a lot going on here, so concentrate. Before each celebrity performs, they have a pre-recorded skit, showcasing their talent (explaining which soap they used to be in) and starring some of their celebrity friends. After the dance there’s a celebrity judging panel (which changes every week), a further celebrity to read out the phone line terms and conditions and yet more celebrity pals in the audience.
It’s just your standard Saturday night at The Ivy, really.The evening is presided by Steve Jones (T4 and being sacked from presenting US X Factor fame) and Alex Jones (The One Show and not being related to Steve Jones despite also having a Welsh accent and the same last name).
Steve has morphed into mid-nineties Chris Evans. He’s got the whole pause for audience screaming thing down, and the words “When you call, you’ll be raising money for Sport Relief, which is why we’re all here” trip off the end of every sentence with ease.
Alex, not so much. “Vic Reeves, you’re highly respected in the dance world” she says, in the same monotonous tone she’d apply to a fly fishing discussion on The One Show. Was that before or after Big Night Out, Alex? Oh no, wait, that was sarcasm.
So the celebrities do their dance routines, which are generally on par with those dreamt up in secondary school kids’ bedrooms. They also feature silly costumes and endless backing dancers. You know the ones: spend the latter part of the year swaying in the background of the X factor finals, understandably a bit dead behind the eyes.
The Panel pass judgement without ever saying a bad word about their entertainment business peers. It’s The Code. These dancing fools are making idiots of themselves on national telly, all in the name of charity; the least you can do is say something nice about their bum. Also, many of the celebrity judges gave their own equally bad performances in previous series.
Dancing over (and with an hour still to kill before the winner is announced) we come to the section labelled very clearly as celebrity based filler. There’s a backstage pub, Shenanigans, which Steve Jones obviously sees as his TFI Friday. “IT’S LIVE TV, ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN!” he shrieks, after a woman from Shameless accidentally says the word brothel.
Then Alex wanders haplessly around the Friends and Family section of the audience, saying words at people like Rebecca Front and David Tennant, who looked mind-numbingly bored and scared for their lives in equal measure.
Despite the Jones duo saying the words approximately once every 23 seconds, there is very little in the way of explanation about what Sport Relief actually is. Luckily, JLS have been despatched to Uganda to encourage us all to donate.
After the serious stuff, it’s back to the studio for Pixie Lott to sing a song, and then some pre-recorded good luck messages from the four celebrities left on the planet who haven’t already featured. By the time the winner is announced it feels like roughly three weeks have passed.
That’s when it all gets a bit serious. This week, CBBC presenter Kirsten O’Brien performed to Jump by Van Halen. She pointed out quickly and frequently that she’d given birth just ten weeks ago. Everyone was impressed and supportive during the judging, but in reality she was rubbish and so the Great British public voted her out first. Instead some young, attractive, actually good at dancing TV actors won.
The fact that talent wins out over sob stories bodes relatively well for the enjoyment of those watching the upcoming final. Providing they also have an entire Saturday night to spare. For Sport Relief. Which is WHY WE’RE ALL HERE.
Let’s Dance For Sport Relief is on BBC1, Saturdays at 7pm. You can catch up on iPlayer here