Kicking off ITV’s glitzy, much-publicised Saturday night line-up was this brand new talent show hosted by Davina McCall.
Stepping Out sees six real-life celebrity couples – none of whom are particularly known for their footwork – take to the dance floor, having had just a week to learn a routine, and try to impress not only the viewers at home but The Front Row (judges, basically): Wayne Sleep, Mel B and Dancing On Ice’s resident pantomime villain, Jason Gardiner. Beginning in episode two next Saturday, each week one celebrity couple will be voted out by the public.
Now, you only had to quickly glance at Twitter to discover that people – mainly TV critics – were queuing up to condemn Stepping Out before the titles had even begun rolling – and very few people changed their minds. They hated it.
It has to be said that it wasn’t the most dazzling opener to a show I’ve ever seen. It didn’t impress me, it didn’t seem to stand out from the (rather large) talent show crowd. In fact, apart from the ‘real-life couples’ aspect, there was nothing original in the show and, despite Davina McCall’s protestations on This Morning on Friday, it really wasn’t much different to Strictly. Although Davina was funnier than Brucie. But then Boom Town is funnier than Brucie.
Let’s face it, Stepping Out was merely a warm-up for The X Factor, wasn’t it? Perhaps ITV’s plan was to avoid a repeat of last year’s speculation that Cowell’s contest is struggling and looking tired by plonking something like this before it – to make X Factor look amazing in comparison? Well even if that wasn’t the plan, that’s certainly how it appeared, and Stepping Out always was going to be living in X Factor’s shadow – even if it had been scheduled hours away from it. The fact that it’s a talent show starting around the same time on the same channel means that it was never going to be regarded as well as it probably would have been if it had been on earlier in the year, like Splash! or Your Face Sounds Familiar.
The main reason for Stepping Out not opening as brazenly as its name suggests was the couples’ performances. Of course, as with any celebrity talent show, the first week is always going to be the weakest: the competitors are still finding their feet and nerves will inevitably get the better of a few of them. Some will even simply have been handed quite rubbish routines to work with, meaning they don’t shine as much as their rivals. The thing is, though, shows like Strictly and Dancing on Ice are such a firm part of many people’s viewing that even if the first few weeks are disappointing, we’ll persevere because we know it’s going to get better. The Stepping Out team can’t afford to do that though – especially with only five weeks to play with – so the somewhat weak routines which we saw in this first episode may have deterred quite a few people, because there’s no promise of the standard increasing. Granted, couples like Glynis Barber and Michael Brandon, Brian McFadden and Vogue Williams, and Ortisé Williams and AJ Azari pulled very impressive performances out of the bag, but they were the last three to perform. The first few couples – Carl Froch and Rachel Cordingley, Denise Welch and Lincoln Townley, and Laurence and Jackie Llwelyn-Bowen – weren’t particularly…um…well they didn’t shine, shall we say? Carl and Rachel’s routine was neither nothing nor something, Denise and Lincoln’s was camp and funny but without much technicality, and as for Laurence and Jackie! ‘OMG’ is all I can say.
I have little doubt that by as early as next week we will begin to see gradual improvements in each of the couples’ dancing but I honestly wish they had been better for this big launch night. As I said, they were the main reason for Stepping Out not living up to its hype.
So, far from a brilliant start but I’d like to say a decent one. In the hands of someone less capable than Davina, the ship of Stepping Out would, I’m sure, already be sinking, and I would just like to commend the show’s team for one thing: they know what kind of programme they’re trying to make, and no one is taking it too seriously. Even Jason Gardiner has toned down his trademark Dancing on Ice bitchiness – who’d have thought it?
Stepping Out will either grow on viewers or see figures deteriorate week after week. I hope it’s the former (I rarely want to see a TV show do badly) but I honestly don’t know at this stage. I just doubt it’ll be the monster hit that ITV hoped for.
Stepping Out is on Saturdays at 6:30pm on ITV
What did you think of Stepping Out? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer.
You can also see what’s coming up on TV in the coming week on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.