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They really will make a celebrity competition show about anything



Thirty-five years since Dirty Dancing’s release, E4 is celebrating with a kitschy new dance competition based on the film, The Real Dirty Dancing, which felt both impossibly particular and very familiar indeed.

On the one hand, its format (celebrities competing not-very-fiercely to be on TV for the longest, in a kind of mash-up between Strictly and I’m A Celeb) is well established. On the other, the way the show paid homage to a film seemed less workaday – but with each week promising a new array of Dirty Dancing-themed challenges, we’ll have plenty of time to get used to it.

In the first episode we met the contestants, savvily cast to satisfy all generations and interests. Towie’s Arg, Hollyoaks actor (and Strictly runner-up) Chelsee Healey, Lee Ryan from Noughties boy band Blue and controversial “queen of clean” Anthea Turner ticked the primetime box, while YouTuber Saffron Barker and Gogglebox star Tom Malone Jr flew the flag for younger viewers.

Perhaps with that cohort in mind, we were shown relevant scenes from the film to contextualise each task. As such, less-than-diehard fans could be confident of keeping up – the first challenge, in which the contestants entered clutching watermelons, was a case in point (Baby and Johnny at the staff party, remember? Me neither).

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After the contestants took to the floor in pairs, Anthea and Arg emerged as the freestyle champions. Then it was time to pair up with professional dancers and work on individual routines. Lee was deemed the best male contestant. Next week, the women will battle it out for the chance to play the Baby to his Johnny.

Hosts Keith Lemon and Ashley Roberts injected just the right amount of irreverence to appease cynics. Sure, the word “real” is a weird choice for a show in which glossy celebrities emulate scenes from a film, but it’s hard to be annoyed when something is this much fun.

The Real Dirty Dancing continues on Tuesday 22 February at 9pm on E4

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