05/01/2019 21:00 GMT

'The Greatest Dancer' Is The Fresh Talent Show 'X Factor' Wishes It Could Be – HuffPost Verdict

And that has a lot to do with Oti Mabuse.


K E Y   P O I N T S

  • ‘The Greatest Dancer’ is the BBC’s new dance competition, which is the brainchild of Simon Cowell
  • It sees dancers audition for a panel of judges (sound familiar?), before going through call backs and live shows to be crowned the UK’s Greatest Dancer
  • As well as the title, the winning contestant or group will win a £50,000 cash prize and a guest performance on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’
  • Auditionees try out in a dance studio with a two-way mirror separating them from the judges and the theatre audience
  • The audience are firmly in control during the audition process, and if 75% of them vote to send the dancers through, the mirrors will open 
  • If the mirrors open during their performance, the judges (or dance captains as they are known) are able to give feedback, but if they do not score highly enough, they leave immediately
  • The captains are ‘Strictly’ professional Oti Mabuse, ‘Glee’ and Broadway star Matthew Morrison, and former ‘X Factor’ judge Cheryl
  • Alesha Dixon and Jordan Banjo are on hosting duties.

S N A P   V E R D I C T

With appetite for TV talent shows seemingly at an all-time low, it was an odd move for the BBC to take a risk on launching a brand new one – especially one divised by the boss of the ailing ‘X Factor’, Simon Cowell. And if you only tuned into the first five minutes of ‘The Greatest Dancer’, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was another textbook Syco production.

There are dramatic opening montages, glam shots of the judges, films of nervous contestants getting ready at home, sped-up shots auditoriums filling up, ‘Gogglebox’-style audience commentary and a predictable selection of music overlays. However, when you stick with it, you quickly realise it’s fresher than any similar shows that have been on TV in at least the last five years.

This is thanks to a number of format tweaks – some new, some borrowed – with the decision to take contestant’s success out of the judges’ hands and into those of the audience members adding a real sense of jeopardy. Having the auditionees placed behind a two-way mirror also allows them to have a lovely ‘reveal’ moment should they make it through.

While it’s not going to be for everyone, we actually really enjoyed the installation of a ‘Celebs Go Dating’-style reception area. Not only do we get to know the contestants away from the usual VT format, but receptionist Amelia Wilson is already a star in the making and we’re looking forward to seeing a lot more of her over the coming weeks. We just hope she’s commanding as good a salary as hosts Alesha Dixon and Jordan Banjo, seeing as she has more to do than them.

However, the main reason why people are likely to keep coming back to ‘The Greatest Dancer’ is ‘Strictly’ pro Oti Mabuse, whose casting is a truly inspired one.


While most of the chat may have been about Cheryl in the lead up to the series launch, it is Oti who completely steals the show in the opening episode. She’s kind, compassionate, feisty, funny and, moreover, properly knows her shit – all of these qualities she demonstrated when the young Latin American dance troupe from Wales auditioned.

This isn’t to say Cheryl is not a good addition to the panel, though, and there’s still a twinkle in her eye, even without Mr Cowell to spar with. What’s more is that there isn’t a whiff of animosity between her and Oti, despite tiresome tabloid claims – in fact, we have a feeling we’re about to see a new womance develop over the series.

Matthew Morrison may have to work a little harder to make an impression, however, while the addition of a choreographer and producer in the dance studio makes the show feel a little over-staffed.  

As far as the actual talent is concerned though, it’s mix of great, good and slightly more eccentric, but not in an uncomfortable way, which, for a Syco show, is a real step forward.

B E S T   L I N E S

If we weren’t black, we’d be red right now.”Alesha Dixon on her and Oti Mabuse getting hot under the collar after one group's performance
“Voting on this was harder than Brexit.”an audience member wondering if they made the right decision

T A K E   H O M E   M E S S A G E

With The X Factor’s fortunes on the wane, Simon Cowell will be praying his new baby is a hit. While it isn’t likely to ever hit the dizzy heights its sister show reached at its peak, ‘The Greatest Dancer’ deserves a moment of your attention – especially when the alternative is watching yet another series of ‘The Voice’ on ITV. 

‘The Greatest Dancer’ continues next Saturday on BBC One.