Type keyword(s) to search

Quick Hits

FOX's Flirty Dancing Is the Natural Endpoint of Dating (and Dancing) Shows

Finally a reality series that mixes blind dating with the risk of physical injury.
  • Blind date dance partners Octavius and Megan shake a leg in the first episode of Flirty Dancing (FOX)
    Blind date dance partners Octavius and Megan shake a leg in the first episode of Flirty Dancing (FOX)

    In the current far-reaching spectrum of reality television, two of the most robust sub-genres are dating shows and dance shows. Perhaps that's because they're two activities that people feel they must experience in order to enjoy full and satisfying lives. Of course both activities are much more difficult, stressful, and chemistry-dependent than they initially may seem. Which is why it was probably inevitable that the dance and dating genres would find themselves in a garish marriage the likes of FOX's new reality series Flirty Dancing.

    The concept is dangerously simple: two singles are matched up for a blind date, but before they can meet, they must learn a dance routine. Each one works on learning the routine with a  professional partner. Then, when it comes time for the date, they meet their intended for the very first time and — before exchanging so much as a "Hello" or a "Hey, this is really weird, right?" — perform this dance they've learned... together. Then, in a twist added for American audiences (the show is already a hit in the UK), they'll both repeat the number with a second potential love intererest, and choose the partner with whom they felt the most chemistry.

    The in-show rationale for treating human beings this way is that it's better than dinner and the movies or coffee at a local shop, performing a dance routine is an immediate and intimate way to see if you have chemistry with this person. Which is true. But it's also the main rationale for the classic teen party game Seven Minutes in Heaven. (Which, granted, would probably make for a great reality TV show, so I suppose my objection is sustained.) In the best-case scenario, these singles will find that one of their partners has steps that match their own, and they'll dance off into the night, never to be separated. Like a fairy tale story.

    That's the ideal. The reality is that these routines, even the good ones — especially the good ones! — carry with them such an intense cringe factor that they become hard to watch. I'm basing this on clips from the U.K. version of the series. Take these two perfectly lovely, handsome, bearded gay men who meet while performing a modern dance melange, prancing up the steps to a museum and frolicking in tandem around all the artwork.

    I want it on the record that I am opposed to neither modern dance, nor love, nor hot bearded gay guys. Modern dance performed at an elite level, with complete commitment and skill and the dancers' confidence in their abilities can be a breathtaking way to express art. Watching two non-dancers who just learned a routine in a few weeks and who are good enough at it to be performing it on television but not quite at the level where it's sublime unconscious body movement is straight-up horrifying. It's one of those uncanny valley situations, where the closer they get to the real thing without actually being the real thing, the more it repels me.

    All that said… this could all just be me. I can very much see where this concept would appeal to TV viewers who have, say, grown weary of a show like The Bachelor, whose veneer of self-righteousness barely covers up the deeply cynical enterprise underneath. Flirty Dancing seems to genuinely buy into its own concept. This is made perfectly evident by Jenna Dewan, who you may remember as a dancer, an occasional So You Think You Can Dance guest judge, the star of the first Step Up movie, and the former Mrs. Channing Tatum.

    The more you watch clips from the UK Flirty Dancing, the more you understand why this show is the inevitable end point for both dancing and dating TV shows. It boils down the essence of the myth of love-at-first-sight that dating shows depend upon, and packages it in this surreal dream world that dance shows have built for themselves. A show like So You Think You Can Dance gets away with more earnestness in an hour than most shows are alotted in a year, and it's because dance requires such intense belief in its own concept in order to execute the motions. Combining both subgenres in a show that's tailor made for viral moments and sharable videos? It's lunacy that just might work.

    Flirty Dancing airs a special sneak peek Sunday December 29 at 8:00 PM ET, followed by its timeslot premiere in The Masked Singer's 8:00 PM ET Wednesday night slot January 1st on Fox.

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Flirty Dancing, FOX, Jenna Dewan, Reality TV