Photos were recently released revealing Seann Walsh, a comedian and contestant on this year’s Strictly Come Dancing, kissing his professional dance partner, the married Katya Jones. Rumours of a so-called ‘Strictly curse’ circulate without fail each year, usually without causing much harm and simply generating a bit more of a buzz around the show – the idea being that after potentially as long as three months up close and personal with a dance partner, romantic sparks can sometimes fly. The difference this time, however, is apparent in multiple ways. Firstly, there is the problem of Katya being married to fellow pro-dancer Neil Jones. The BBC may rightly claim to be the ultimate family channel, while Strictly is undeniably a family show. With Katya having won the show last year with partner Joe McFadden, she is in an incredibly prominent position, surely making her a representative for the family values that the BBC wishes to promote. Arguably her actions instead represent the way that the pro dancers have become celebrities themselves, becoming less and less professional in their approaches to their job. Instead they are being sucked into the world of gossip and scandal.
Secondly, the main issue is with Walsh himself. It was his (now ex-) girlfriend’s birthday on the day that he was spotted with Jones outside a pub in London, and in the statement she (Rebecca Humphries) made on Twitter she described the way that he had repeatedly called her “psycho” for her worries about the nature of his relationship with his partner. Humphries went on to describe him as both ‘controlling’ and ‘aggressive’ throughout their relationship. Although it is not clear from her brief statement the severity of the situation, the question remains: should a man described in such terms be allowed to remain on a show such as this?
On other reality TV shows this sort of scandal could only be a good thing, and it is clear from BBC bosses’ decision to allow Walsh to dance on Saturday and the avoidance of the topic this week on spin-off show ‘It Takes Two’, that the producers are in no rush to end the buzz and controversy that has been sparked from the story. But the fact remains that Strictly is not any old reality show, and the BBC is not any old channel. Amidst the ‘Me Too’ movement and the realignment that the entertainment industry is facing in terms of what is acceptable and what is not, surely the BBC should also be forced to consider how far it will allow this scandal to go, and where the line should be drawn. Perhaps the BBC would rather leave the decision to the public vote this weekend – but that begs the question, for how long can the BBC stay out of such important discussions?
Image: Tim Loudon