‘Pairing celebrity dancers with wheelchair users sounds like tabloid television, but the result is beautiful – and deadly serious.’ Danny Scott
‘There’s an obvious emotional weight to the Strictly-style story of first-timers finding their rhythm, but this is an absorbing contest in its own right. Training the couples is Brian Fortuna, who ditches his nice-guy persona and starts swearing and cracking the whip, eyes smouldering, top three buttons thrillingly undone.’ Jack Seale
‘…a faithful and utterly compelling version of the popular Strictly format.’ Culture TV listings
‘In Dancing on Wheels, the BBC provided a welcome variation on the increasingly mindless string of dance programmes dominating our screens. Six wheelchair-users are paired with "celebrity" partners, and given the chance to compete for a spot representing Great Britain in the Wheelchair Dance Sport European Championships. Honestly, I'd no idea such a sport existed, though it seems that's not saying much. It is, apparently, practised in more than 40 countries by upwards of 5,000 competitors.
‘Admittedly, the programme's choice of celebrity was a little random (Heather Small from M People, anyone? Jake Dean off of Hollyoaks?), as are the judges (two dancers from Strictly Come Dancing and the former wheelchair-basketball player Ade Adepitan), though that's more than offset by Brian Fortuna. He was in charge of coaching the contestants and was completely brilliant. Gone was the sappy nice guy persona he maintains on Strictly, replaced instead by a kind of foul-mouthed New York stage school sass. When the peculiarly sideburned James (accompanied by TV presenter Caroline Flack) dared to criticise his choreography, he virtually hit the wall, leaping all over the place spitting profanities. He was perfect. Though I do wish he'd stop wearing that stupid baseball cap.
‘Each week, one couple is eliminated. Last night, it was the lovely Carolyne and her partner, the former rugby league player Martin Offiah, which was a shame because they were one of my favourites. Now Carolyne's out of the running, I'm throwing my weight firmly behind Di to win. She's got a wicked sense of humour, and plenty of guts. Much to her delight, she's partnered by Mark Foster. "Aren't I a lucky girl?" she giggles. Actually, I'd say he's the lucky one’ Alice-Azania Jarvis
‘Another week, another competitive dancing showcase. And annoyingly, its tougher to be dismissively cynical about this one. Dancing on Wheels features wheelchair users competing in a combi event which involves one able-bodied partner. On paper, it could be fist-bitingly patronising, but happily everything about this competition is serious and unsentimental. That’s partly thanks to the competitors,who are a feisty, cheerfully argumentative bunch (particularly Diana, pictured who ‘doesn’t want to be this show’s John Sergeant’), but mainly down to mentor Brian Fortuna. Brian’s a sharp-tongued, occasionally snarky presence and a hard taskmaster, towards both able-bodied and disabled contestants. Furthermore, the winners won’t be gushing their way to temporary media ubiquity……
‘It’s a shame a slot couldn’t be found for Dancing on Wheels on BBC1, as this could well be rather more stirring and less desperate than most talent shows in recent memory.’ Phil Harrison
THE NOT SO BAD. . .
‘Finally a reality show that gets it right – BBC3’s Dancing With (sic) Wheels
‘Dance pro Brian Fortuna teaches six wheelchair users to ballroom dance, as each is paired with a celebrity. It’s Strictly Come Dancing – but where the contestants’ stories actually have a meaning and the effort and energy put in is genuinely impressive. (As opposed to the main show where the whopping great pay packet and desperation for fame take over).
'You just had to feel for contestant Di when she told us: ‘Just moving in a straight line is tricky.’ That’s alright luv, you should have seen Jo Wood. Just moving was tricky enough for her.’ Jon Wise – aka The Wise Man of TV
WOW BITES BACK (or is it a nibble?)
WOW says: Jon, Jon, Jon – could we please get the quote correct? What I actually said to Brian was: ‘Straight Lines? – F*** Off!’
. . .AND THE DOWNRIGHT UGLY
ASSUME OF THE WEEK (If you "assume", you make an ASS out of U and ME.)
‘To end on the high point of the week: you remember Monkey Tennis? From Alan Partridge’s list of TV proposals that were patently absurd? This could be one of them. Dancing on Wheels. Almost literally car-crash broadcasting. I wish they’d filmed the meeting where the disability access convener proposed it. And, one by one, editors and commissioners nodded that they thought it was an innovative and entertaining idea whose time had come.
‘It’s not that dancing in a wheelchair is absurd. People can do whatever they want: dance in wheelchairs, without wheelchairs, in wheelbarrows. What was misbegotten was the format of pairing men and women with able-bodied partners who weren’t professional dancers but those celebrities bred specifically for reality shows, who then are made to do all the predictable, stressful “work”, get knocked out by judges and burst into tears. It’s not the wheelchair that’s humiliating, it’s the vile format pasted onto the disabled to give it an extra twist of pathos. And what does wheelchair dancing look like? What do you think? Silly and kitsch. If it were in a club or at a wedding, it would be as exciting and touching as anyone else dancing. In a reality show, it’s manipulation on wheels.' AA Gill: The Culture
WOW Bites Back:WOW says: Nice Food Critic, Shame about the Novel, eh Adrian? Expect you may well get gout from all that lovely food you endlessly consume (or God forbid end up with a disintegrating leg due to a poisoned oyster like your food fight friend Michael Winner) and have to resort to wheels or even a wheelbarrow to get into the lovely restaurants you so frequently inhabit. That’s if you can get in, of course. Wonder if you’d look Silly and Kitsch?
WOW Watchers: More Reviews/Previews next week….