Dancing with the Stars: All Stars

Back in 2004 Seven’s local version of Strictly Come Dancing, renamed as Dancing with the Stars, would become a runaway hit.

With the likes of Bec Hewitt, Matt Shirvington, John Wood and, controversially, Pauline Hanson, it drew ratings of 1.9m viewers. By 2006 they blew out to 2.2m -the ratings equivalent of cha-cha perfect 10.

Daryl Somers hosted 8 of those seasons with sidekick Sonia Kruger, both of whom return for Seven’s 2021 nostalgic revival. Gone is a live band and live to air broadcast in this “All Stars” version, but there are plenty of returning favourites in Bec Hewitt, Tom Williams, Jamie Durie, Ada Nicodemou, Lincoln Lewis, Manu Feildel and more. ‘Wildcard’ entrants are Matty J., Jessica Gomes, Renee Bargh and -in a nod to controversy once more- Schapelle Corby.

Of course in the intervening years, 10 had two spins on the dance floor with hosts Grant Denyer & Amanda Keller, and under producers Warner Bros. this has the look and feel of the 10 version (same set, same sky lounge).

And how do our hosts look 17 years after they first appeared? Ageless Sonia Kruger looks amazing, and while Daryl may not boast quite the same spring in his step he is still more at ease off-script than on. There are spontaneous Dazza gags aplenty (yes all era appropriate) and you’re either on board with those or you’re not. What the show unashamedly offers is a return to showbiz, frocks and a few sequins -most of which have been bumped off TV schedules in place of reality catfights, cooking and renovation.

And then there are the judges: Todd McKenney, Helen Richey, Paul Mercurio, Mark Wilson and Mark Wilson’s Hair. Todd leads the pack with his quips, while Helen still brings a touch of sophistication.

Episode 1 features 7 of the 14 dancers: Bec Hewitt, Tom Williams, Kyly Clarke, Fifi Box -all of whom are now parents (cut to kids in the audience) plus Lincoln Lewis. Newcomers Matty J. and Schapelle Corby also perform.

Given there are so many past performers in the mix it has to be said: the level of dancing for Episode 1 is probably the strongest so far. Hewitt and Williams (there are lots of references to “that” shirtless routine) are standouts. Lincoln Lewis has more pep than the Energizer bunny.

But the big surprise of the night is Schapelle Corby. Say what you will about the network casting decision, her performance left judges rethinking their preconceptions. I can’t imagine in what universe I ever expected to see Daryl Somers interviewing Schapelle Corby (April 1 has been and gone) but viewers have always responded to performers ‘having a go.’

It’s also worth noting how far we’ve come with shoulder to shoulder audience members -something even 10 had to abandon when coronavirus began to grip the country.

But while the budget-friendly showbiz and daggy jokes are back, the Seven production still has one foot in the past. 10 had Courtney Act and the UK has featured same sex partners, yet there’s barely any sign of progress or inclusion in this terribly caucasian cast. Sonia Kruger, who has amply hosted numerous franchises for Seven, politely steps into the ‘sky lounge’ role here, duties that were shared equally by Denyer & Keller on 10. Come on Seven, move with the times please.

That said, there is a lot of nostalgia to like here and while this surely won’t hit the heights of 2.2m ever again, Seven’s broad audience should feel right at home.

Dancing with the Stars premieres 7pm Sunday and continues Monday and Tuesday on Seven.

29 Comments:

  1. I always thought the fourth judge was rather bland in the past, but he’s emerged as rather eccentric and odd. Which does now, make him as watchable as the other judges.

  2. An entertaining show last night. Surely channel 7 can produce a live version once a year, bring us dancers a bit of joy. 🎼 Wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’ 🎼

  3. When are people going to leave Schapelle alone, whether guilty or not she served her time what more do you want at least she is trying to get on with her life. Good luck to her.

    • I agree, she was very grateful to be included, and put in a good effort. I was pleased she made it through to next round, although disappointed Fifi was eliminated.

  4. Can we just leave diversity out of it for once? All it is now about diversity or race. You don’t need to have it everywhere and in every show. We are the human race. So just have humans.
    Also someone mentioned home and away well Leah is Greek and the Parata family are from NZ, Willow is bisexual, sure there are others.
    Anyway looking forward to dwts

    • DWTS is nostalgic entertainment which will entertain. But as I noted there’s barely any progress from 2004 – 2021 in the Seven version, which contrasts to what other versions of the same show have achieved. History also shows us that television has overlooked a lot of its own audience (“just have humans” approach hasn’t worked for many in the community) but in recent years is making improvements. Seven no longer likes to claim it makes “roast chook” TV but as a signatory to an industry diversity charter it still has some ground to make up. As for H&A I’d recommend Andrew Mercado’s piece in Mediaweek.

    • How is this person a star? To put a convicted drug smuggler in the same line up as genuine hard working entertainment professionals is an error on 7’s part. I will not be watching this. It is disturbing to me and many I have spoken with that this person is given (handed out) life changing opportunities to succeed when so many of our entertainment industries representatives struggle to make ends meet. Shame DWTS. Shame.

  5. thedirtydigger

    I’m sure Seven wishes it could drag it out for a month or more, obviously the celebs schedules and price points would not accommodate.
    Sad to see Seven looking back to those golden times when it was on top of the rating’s heap…lots of dogs ( sorry PP reference ) have helped put the Network in the awful place it is now.
    Holey Moley who would have guessed ?

  6. In fairness, if you’re doing a show that’s pre-emptively shrouded in race-related controversy (between the Daryl stuff of the last few weeks and the very very white cast), it’s probably a good idea to not put Sonia front and center given her history.

  7. daveinprogress

    Great review and preview (is that possible in one post, i guess it is :). I am conflicted about this. I really enjoyed Keller/Denyer and warmed to the judges on the Ten version, but also have a fondness for the original and its judges. I guess a nostalgia factor is not a bad thing, as our world has been turned upside down, but whether Somers/Kruger are the tonic – and ‘all star’ returns will attract enough eyeballs for this to be successful – time will tell. I will tune in….

  8. Was it really necessary to grandstand on how “terribly Caucasian” the cast is? I am not Caucasian, but this is a Caucasian-majority country, and it’s not in bad faith that certain productions would reflect that.

    Hypothetically, if I were offered the stint, I would decline on the grounds that I do not think it is appropriate to dance intimately with complete strangers before millions of people, and many of my background would share such values. Hell, many of the routines on shows such as So You Think You Can Dance better resembled foreplay than what I would consider to be dancing. Different strokes, I guess.

    “Representation” is merely disingenuous when “achieved” by casting outliers who are more willing to conform to a certain image than those who better reflect the social/cultural groups that they represent (which would in part explain their absence in certain reality…

      • Thanks for the kind words, David. I wasn’t sure how my comment would be received. That remark was more of a general observation as there tends to be a lot of chat about diversity, and there are reasons (at least those of which are obvious to me) as to why some shows tend to be culturally homogeneous. I would rather not see tokenism whereby minorities are represented by those so far removed from their roots that any “diversity” is merely superficial.

        Diverse casting comes naturally to game shows, MasterChef etc., as they carry universal appeal, and do not require participants to forfeit their inhibitions (particularly) like dating shows do, as many cultures have expectations of chastity, upholding their family’s dignity, setting a good example for children etc. Progress is wonderful, but many underestimate the dangers of subversion merely to spite history.

      • agreed, they could look at the cast of Home & Away for a start, H&A has to be the most generic cast of any show on Australian TV, doesn’t really seem to fit in with the TV landscape of 2021. Still they get the good ratings, so i suppose no one really cares much. *shrug*

    • What a sad comment Hank. You’ve totally missed the point and made diversity and representation about only your personal experience without a thought for others.
      Just to educate you, diversity and representation is about ethnicity, sexuality, gender, disability etc.
      You can’t be what you can’t see – and this terribly Caucasian and straight set of dancers represents no one but the ageing channel 7 audience (so they deserve kudos for knowing where their bread is buttered i guess)

      • You have only proven my point, Ditto, especially with your sweeping and condescending assumptions (and insinuations of ignorance) in spite of not knowing me, and interpreting my comment in such a myopically superficial manner.

        Diversity isn’t just about what you can see with your eyes (and to address your examples, “sexuality” isn’t “visible” unless one wants to be ostentatious about it, and many disabilities are also “invisible”).

        What good is diversity if everybody is superficially distinct, but otherwise indistinguishable in their actions, their speech, and their beliefs? Diversity in thought is more important than what is merely on the surface. It’s a tremendous shame if you cannot (or simply refuse to) see beyond one’s appearance.

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