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Saturday, 26 January 2013

Why Got To Dance Is My Favourite Dance TV Show

....& 'So You Think You Can Dance ?' is not

Fox's So You Think You Can Dance got renewed for a tenth season in the U.S a month ago. Season 9's ratings for the show were up compared to Season 8's overall by the end of the grand final.

I was a regular viewer of this programme from seasons 1-4, but during seasons 7 and 8, I was one of those people who tuned into the auditions and when it came to the live shows, I stopped watching after the first 2 eps of it. I am just not feeling this show as much as I did when it first debuted over 10 years ago.

How many times do we have to sit through the same dance routines and choreography performed every week in each season of So You Think You Can Dance?

Yes, Nigel and the producers decided to ditch the results show last season, but the results show is the least of my concerns; it is that of the lack of dance styles and quality of the performances that makes me question So You Think You Can Dance? as a series. 

The performances of the dancers during the last 2 seasons did not make me go 'wow'; and too much time the show was concentrating on the  judges comments, moreso than the dancing. 

I don't know if this is the direction the choreographers wanted to opt for, or whether this is Nigel Lithgoe's doing. Sorry to burst people's bubble, but it seems that contemporary and hip hop is all that is being plugged on this show. Where is the variety? 

Well, the answer is the variety and styles of dance can be found in the British telly dance show 'Got To Dance'.

It's interesting that there was a U.S version of Got To Dance titled 'Live To Dance', which paled into comparison to its British counterpart, that flopped badly in the ratings. It was a shame it ended prematurely because had it had a better panel of judges, a better host and the atmosphere was more lively and the audience weren't silent most of the time, it would've stood a proper chance against 'So You Think You Can Dance?'.

Also, a similar thing happened with the U.K version of 'So You Think You Can Dance?'; it was a reversal of fortune for that series in Britain; a major hit in the U.S but British audiences didn't warm up to the show and its format. As a result, it struggled in the ratings, especially when it went up against Got To Dance and ITV1's Britain's Got Talent, and got trounced by it, and was later axed by BBC1, who later replaced 'So You Think You Can Dance?' with The Voice. 

People have cited one of the reasons for So You Think You Can Dance's cancellation in the U.K is that many of us Brits aren't interested in dance. That is not entirely true- there are people who want to watch dance and dance shows on TV. Take Got to Dance: people are tuning in, even though numbers aren't as big as they should be. 

The problem with U.K's So You Think You Can Dance, was the overall format that bored people. If you want to cater something like dance to the masses, you need to do it in a way that makes it easily accessible by EVERYONE. 

The judges on U.S's So You Think You Can Dance are all right;  Mary Murphy's not bad, though I can understand why people find her irritating, Nigel Lithgoe is okay as well. Famous choreographer Debbie Allen is a great mentor, and as a fan of hers, I feel she is better off on a dance show where she is a judge and can form an opinion on dancers of every age and of every style, rather than be a mentor and made to offer critique and feedback on dancers who are 20 -something or above with a professional or experienced dance background. As she owns a dance studio that has dancers as young as say 6 years old, her advice to the little boys and girls dancing on a show similar to say a dance equivalent to America's Got Talent, would be invaluable. I like -rather than love 'So You Think You Can Dance? ' when she is on, but not so much when she isn't.

As for the other judges, Mia Michaels is all right, but the rest I could care less for.

I look at So You Think You Can Dance and all these dancers taking part in the show and these dance routines; these dancers are well trained, well prepared, have good technique and so on. Yet are all made to dance in a particular style, - and sometimes that style just doesn't fit the performance. I can sort of understand the challenge of making dancers dance in that one style- mostly contemporary - but as a TV show, contemporary is not necessarily considered by many as 'exciting' as a spectacle. Got To Dance has contemporary dancers, but the performances are slightly more interesting to watch because they tend to spice up the style a little. But on 'So You Think You Can Dance?' that is rarely the case.

I love Got to Dance more than So You Think You Can Dance- in fact, I have enjoyed the former so much more, ever since it debuted on Sky than Fox's So You Think You Can Dance's previous 3 seasons. The variety and diversity of dance styles, the varying ages of dancers from say 6 years old to 60 something, the judges, the host Davina McCall (I like Cat Deeley as the host of SYTYCD, but personally speaking for me, Davina has the better presenting chops overall), the backdrop and setting of the show is so glamourous, the audiences enthusiasm towards looking forward to the performances is great.

And though it looks more glitzy than the (defunct) British 'So You Think You Can Dance?'; the dance performances are far better, breathtaking, mesmorising and at times jaw dropping than what the latter show has had.

Regarding the U.S version of  'So You Think You Can Dance?', I think it would be for the best to call it quits on this series after the 10th season.

All TV series run its course the longer it remains on air; the phrase 'the best is yet to come' does not apply to a show such as 'So You Think...'; it's well past its prime and I think viewers want something different.

Got to Dance, on the other hand, has a good future ahead of it; currently it is in its fourth series (season for those in the U.S), and I can see it go on, perhaps past series 10 - as long as it sticks to the current format and the performances are great, and that it still has Davina as host. I think if (and when) she decides to quit presenting Got to Dance, then I'll be worrying for the show's future slightly.

If there is one problem with Got To Dance, it is that it is on Sky One- not everyone has Sky One, and had it been on say ITV1 for example, the ratings will be much bigger and I for one, would be able to tune into the show much easily.

But regardless, it's Got To Dance that gets my vote as my favourite dance show over 'So You Think You Can Dance?'.... dance is not just for budding and experienced dancers attending dance school you know, but dance is for everyone. And that is one message Got to Dance is rightly promoting over say So You Think You Can Dance's main 'if - you- are- classically- trained - at- contemporary- dance, or- a awesome- hip- hop- dancer- mantra, then- you- are- considered- as- a - dancer-  in- our- books'. 

Which is not ideal really.

Sorry 'So You Think You Can Dance?', but I think your time is well and truly up. 


Saturday, 19 January 2013

Retro Review: Desmond's

Duration: 1989 - 1994
No of seasons: 6
Release date: (UK) 5 January 1989
DVD release by Channel 4
Produced by: Humphrey Barclay Productions
Distributed by Channel 4 Television Corporation
Cast: Norman Beaton, Carmen Munroe, Ram John Holder, Gyearbuor Asante, Kim Walker, Geff Francis, Robbie Gee, Justin Pickett, Dominic Keating, Mathilda Thorpe, Lisa Geoghan

One of the best Black sitcoms ever, period! 

Whilst the likes of The Cosby Show, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son broke new ground for Black sitcoms in the United States on major networks such as NBC and CBS, there has been a struggle in the U.K to have a successful Black British sitcom lasting for more than 1 series (or season for those in the U.S).

The show follows the everyday lives of its customers who come into the barbershop for more than a haircut, as well as the lives of the Ambrose family made up of Desmond, wife Shirley and their children, Sean and Gloria. 

Desmond's is not only arguably the best Black British sitcom that has aired on television, but it is also one of the best Black sitcoms, ever in my opinion.

I think what made it so cross-culturally appealing towards people of all cultures and races was the humourous -yet clever script and interactions between Desmond towards the customers, the staff, his family and to other people. This is also the same reason why Desmond's was so successful. The supporting characters who enter the barbershop are an interesting and varied bunch: from Desmond's childhood friend, Porkpie and the Gambian student, Matthew to assistant barbers Tony and Ricky- Tony's replacement. Both of whom are also White. There were also 2 White female characters in Gloria's friend, Louise and Michael's personal assistant, Mandy. Lee was your typical 'Londoner' who deals with used goods; he was like the Black version of Del Boy Trotter from another British sitcom, Only Fools and Horses. Interestingly, both Desmonds and Only Fools and Horses are set in Peckham, South London, respectively.

Desmond's epitomised Black British comedy at its finest and was co-written and created by Trix Worrell. Through the Ambrose family, it provided an interesting insight into Black family life in Britain and how it fares to say the Huxtables of the Cosby Show. Whereas the Huxtables were a middle-upper class African-American family with a Doctor in Cliff and in Clair working for a law firm, the Ambroses were a working-class Black-British Guyanese family in Desmond and Shirley, who own and run a barbershop.

An interesting thing about Desmonds also was that Trix Worrell wanted to emphasise the prejudice and cultural differences between, as well as within ethnic groups.

We all know racism exists with people of other races - White on Black, Black on White, but what about racism between people of the same race but from different Diaspora communities? In other words, Black Africans being made a butt of the jokes by Black Carribeans for instance. This is exemplified by Porkpie making fun of Matthew, and Matthew, who in turn pointed out African history's strength and the fact that Carribeans are descendants of Africans.

It's pretty interesting stuff when you think about it.

The humour in Desmond's is generated through the dialogue and script, moreso than the physical comedy aspect but it is well- written and very unique. Many of the writers also served as writers on the all-Black U.K sketch show, The Real McCoy, which is the U.K's answer to In Living Color - another U.S based comedy series. The performances from the cast are terrific- there isn't a particular actor or actress whose efforts stand out from the rest, but still, for me they are all as good as one another.

Overall, Desmond's is by far one of the very best Black sitcoms I've watched and it still to this day holds the record as Channel 4's longest- running sitcom. Its legacy and impact it has left on British sitcoms has been quite remarkable almost, 20 years since it ended.

And since it ended, there hasn't been a successful Black British sitcom that has come close to or rivaled Desmond's; that in itself shows how great this sitcom was, and still is.

I enjoy everything about it: the characters, the writing, the humour and jokes and there isn't an episode that I thoroughly disliked. Trix Worrell worked his magic on this series, and his efforts have paid off.

If you haven't seen Desmond's, then I recommend that you do.

*Final rating out of 10:  10!

Friday, 18 January 2013

TV Review: Come Dine With Me

Duration - 2005 - present (Channel 4)
No of seasons: 22 to date 
Produced by Granada Productions and Channel 4 Television Corporation 
Cast: Dave Lamb (presenter)

The Reality TV Cooking Series

A group of 4 or 5 people, most notably strangers, compete for the £1k cash prize and the title of ultimate dinner party host on 'Come Dine With Me'.

Debuting in 2005, the show has become such a hit in the U.K, its success and format has resulted in the series being exported to more than 10 other countries.

Come Dine With Me works by having each of the contestants taking turns in hosting their own dinner party efforts and the others rank those efforts out of 10.

The scores are then accumulated and the person with the highest score at the end of the week wins the prize money.

In the celebrity version, the rules from the original version still apply but this time round, the winning prize money is donated to the winner's charity of their own choice instead. I like the celebrity versions slightly more as I find them more entertaining and amusing.

One time however, there was a celebrity, make that reality TV star Jasmine Lennard, whose behaviour and attitude was so appalling, she threatened to 'glass' one of the other celebrities. Producers rightfully intervened though and removed her from the show. 

Anyhow, the dinner parties tend to be a very informal affair, although there are instances where a dress code is required, when say it is a themed evening and the guests are expected to turn up in the appropriate attire as stated on their invite.

Commentary on the show is provided by comedian Dave Lamb.

When One Stands The Heat

There tends to be one person within that group who is put in there by the creators, just to generate hostility and perhaps make the series more interesting to watch. Yet sometimes, their behaviour can irritate or anger both the group and audience watching them and thus, provoke a reaction out of them. Personalities can clash and on this programme; there are instances where this has happened on a number of episodes.

What sets Come Dine With Me apart from other cookery shows or programmes about food itself, is it is not so much about the dishes and the menu they put out themselves. Rather it's more about perceiving people's attitudes towards other people through their food, their mannerisms, how they convey themselves and their personality on TV. Therefore, it has that voyeuristic, fly-on-the-wall, reality aspect and feel to it that makes the series quite intriguing but also for others, this can make the show off-putting for them.

There is that criticism that Come Dine With Me is more to do with taking cheap shots at people and humiliating them than the preparation and cooking. You have people saying nice things about the host on their food or their hosting to their face. But when they are in a room by themselves in front of the camera crew, they say nasty, bad things about them.

I also find some of Dave Lamb's commentary regarding the contestants either sarcastic and a bit witty, - or downright rude and spiteful. It really depends on the types of characters on the series and whether the put-downs are deemed necessary and fully deserved as they ought to be.

But it does give it the entertainment factor the show needs.

I very much doubt that another broadcaster such as the BBC and ITV would commission and air a show like this. Yet Channel 4 have struck gold with Come Dine With Me.

Some have labelled it the 'Big Brother of fine dining'; my disliked episodes are the ones where the nasty person who criticises, nitpicks everyone's cooking and manages to make disparaging comments ends up winning the cash. Although thankfully, this doesn't happen very often.

Final thoughts:

Although Come Dine With Me is an entertaining and at times amusing effort, the behaviour and sneaky comments and remarks made by some of the contestants and the host of the show can get to people and rub them up the wrong way.

The scoring system is good; although (sadly) there is a tendency (and discrepancy) by some people to mark others down for non-tactical reasons, other than their cooking and conduct; i.e. because s/he doesn't like the other person when that person has done nothing wrong and/or said nothing bad to them.

If you love food and intend to see past all the back-biting, backstabbing and rude comments, Come Dine With Me is interesting viewing nonetheless.

Especially for a series that I wouldn't ever consider partaking in myself.

Out of ten (Overall): 7

Review: Debbie Allen's Special Look Album

*Originally posted on posterous last year

By Waiching Liu 

Debbie Allen is multi-talented for sure; she can dance, choreograph dance routines, act, direct, produce & write.

So when I discovered 2 years ago that she released an album back in 1989 titled 'Special Look', my reaction was, 'wow!'. I had no idea she was a recording artist back in the day.

Today, some people still don't know Debbie released an LP of original tracks. As for getting hold of the songs and listening to them, it was hard to track the full album down, until last month I stumbled upon melody, a website, which has the full playlist of 'Special Look' LP tracks.

I've seen reviews, scores for this album that range from 3 out of 5 to something like, 1, 2 stars. The latter of which is pretty harsh to say the least. People balked when Debbie decided to become a pop star. Yet as an entertainer, why not expand your horizons by branching out & try something different? & She did. Debbie has done a bit of singing during her time on Broadway in musicals, as well as on the Fame TV series and during the Fame U.K tour back in 1982 that accumulated in an album entitled 'The Kids From Fame' released the same year . But 'Special Look' is the first - and only occasion where she has gone down the full pop/R'n'B route.

Having listened to the album in full, and in spite of the lack of success this album and her single(s) had charted, I must say this is a really, good effort. 

She may not be the best singer, ever and yet, I find there is a unique tone to her vocals in this R'N'B LP. I don't quite get all the negativity Debbie got in regards to her singing- she can actually sing; and I'm not just saying this as a fan of hers, but as a fan of pop music in general.

Released in 1989, there are a total of 9 tracks, most of which are very up-tempo and is reminiscent of stuff like Pebbles, Paula Abdul, Jody Watley. The one ballad on Special Look is 'Holding Onto Love'; generally, I am not a sucker for ballads but this one was okay. The songs are slick and well-produced and musically and sound-wise, they are of the highest quality. The production is very Jam & Lewis/LaFace -esque: what surprised me about Debbie's singing was not only was it really, really good, it was light years different to Fame and singing 'Star Maker' and 'Body Language'. But Fame was more of a musical, it felt like a musical. This album, on the other hand, is very 80s pop R'n'B.

It was the era of New Jack Swing after all and it is very commercial and mainstream. The 80s was a great period for music and in particular, at the time, many actors, actresses from TV and movies did branch out and made the transition towards music. Examples include Kylie Minogue, Vanessa Williams to name. I guess, Debbie wanted to, well I wouldn't say jump on the actor-turned-singer bandwagon, but she wanted to try something different, after years being an actress and dancer. And music was the avenue she sought to take full advantage of.

Highlights for me are the title track, 'Special Look', which has a really kick-ass intro, 'He said, She Said' (Debbie's erm, rapping in the bridge part was pretty cool- I loved it!), 'More Than a Man', where the intro sounds incredibly like Janet Jackson's 'What have you Done For Me Lately?', 'Love Club' and 'Rock Me Steady' - my favourite joint from the whole LP, & a song I mistakenly thought was a cover version by The Whispers when it isn't (and as The Whispers track was titled 'Rock Steady'), as well as 'Love of All Time', which she co-wrote. The latter of which has me jammin' and singing!

Thankfully, there isn't a single cover version to be found throughout this album, and that is great because it's always good to have original songs over an album mostly consisting of cover versions. It is a shame the album didn't get a lot of airplay; alas, it went unnoticed by many and Debbie's attempts at cracking the pop market didn't take off as it should've done. The reason ''Special Look'' bombed for her wasn't because she didn't have the vocals for a pop singer cos' she does,- it just wasn't marketed and promoted well enough by her management team and record label. And the songs were well-written' any other female 'R'N'B singer at the time would've recorded and sung those as well as and besides Debbie herself. So yes, she too could've carved a successful & longer pop career similar to that of her friend and fellow actress/singer, Vanessa Williams.

But all was not lost- Debbie later ventured into directing, producing, choreographing and acting, and so it's not as if she has had an uneventful showbiz career.

Special Look will be remembered by some fans like myself as an under-rated, under-appreciated yet rare gem of an album that deserved better and more radio airplay. Had this album sold really well, maybe we could've got a follow-up LP after that, but alas, it was not to be.

If there is one minor gripe, it is that it could've done with 2, 3 more extra songs because I would've wanted to listen to more material from Debbie.

Other than that, Debbie, you did really good, 'honey'!

Scores (out of 10)
Tracks: 8.5
Sound production quality: 10 

Favourite tracks: Special Look, He Said She Said, Rock Me Steady, More Than A Man, Love Club, Keepin' It Under Cover, Love of All Time

*Rating out of 10: 8
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