The concept is simple enough: each celebrity pairs up with a professional dancer to try and impress a panel of professional judges and the viewing public. In Britain, where the programme originated, Strictly Come Dancing has proved a major hit for the BBC, and the American version, Dancing with the Stars, was one of the most watched shows of 2005.
In Sweden, Let’s Dance already looks set to be the most talked-about show of the season. A creatively entertaining line-up of minor celebrities, from TV4’s Norwegian weather presenter Tone Bekkestad to boxer-turned-TV presenter Paolo Roberto, look set to get Swedes cheering from their sofas, following the debut show on Friday.
And according to Englishman Tony Irving, chairman of the Swedish judging panel, the Swedish dancers could compete with the very best from many of the foreign versions.
“Compare what we saw on Friday with the first seasons in Denmark and America, and this was better,” Englishman Irving told The Local, although he admitted that there was a bit of catching-up to do with the standards in the UK programme.
“But then, we do have such a large base of ballroom and latin dancing there,” he added.
Friday’s first episode saw Bekkestad and her partner Peter Broström waltz elegantly into first place on the leadership board. Despite the manful efforts of her pro dancer partner Daniel da Silva, former Big Brother contestant Carolina Gynning brought up the rear after galumphing around the dance floor as if she was wearing lead boots.
While the jury saved the points for the other pairs, they saved their sarcasm for topless model and occasional author Carolina.
“You should try keeping your legs closer together,” jury member Ann Wilson told Carolina.
Directly after the show Carolina hit back.
“The jury clearly thinks that beautiful girls can’t dance. They just want to have a laugh at my expense,” she said.
The jury did acknowledge that Carolina and Daniel “looked great”, and there certainly appears to be some sizzlement in the offing, albeit off the dancefloor. But if jury boss Tony Irving were on the dancefloor himself he would want it to be with buxom songstress Anna Book.
“She’s got so much feeling when she dances. It’s great to dance with a woman with a bit of passion,” he said.
Book is dancing with David Watson, one of two Irishmen on the programme, the other being jury member Dermot Cleminger.
Why are there so many people from Britain and Ireland on this Swedish game show? According to Irving, it has to do with the fact that ballroom and latin dancing is strong in the UK and Ireland, and many dancers there look abroad for partners.
Irving himself has been living in Sweden since 1996. He first came in 1993 to judge the Swedish ballroom dancing championships, “and it just snowballed from there”.
And if this week’s figures are anything to go by, Let’s Dance looks set to snowball too. The first programme attracted 1.4 million viewers – a impressive figure for Swedish television.
The next episode of Let’s Dance is on Friday, 13th January at 8pm