I'd Do Anything (2)
BBC One, 15 March to 31 May 2008 (22 episodes in 1 series)
Third time around the block for the BBC's musical theatre casting programmes, following the success of How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? (2006) and Any Dream Will Do (2007). Here, cameras followed the competitors for two roles in Andrew Lloyd Webber's forthcoming production of Oliver!. Not only did we see auditions and training for the young boys playing the title role, but the programme's centrepiece was twelve young ladies in bodices who would all like to be Nancy.
By now, viewers and performers knew roughly what to expect. So did the producers: six of the final twelve were already professional actors. The show's run was criticised by Kevin Spacey, a theatre director at the Old Vic, who wondered why the BBC gave so much space to Mr. Lloyd Webber's musicals, and so little to proper theatre. The Beeb's argument - that the shows are a celebration of musical theatre - would have carried much more weight if most of the songs weren't just confections of pop music with the occasional bit from the shows thrown in.
During the series, it became clear that the best performers were most comfortable when they were singing songs from musical theatre, and found it increasingly difficult to perform pop songs, as they were asked to do most weeks. It was noted that the judging panel - for this series, all stage performers - applied significantly higher standards to professionally-trained performers. Some commentators also found that the filmed inserts to find the Olivers were confusing, as it was difficult to form a bond with any of the characters.
Not that any of this bothered the viewing public, who weren't tuning in to debate the fine points of musical theatre so much as they were waiting to be entertained by Graham Norton and a bunch of Nancys. Good singers belting out familiar numbers, being chided and aided by seasoned pros, while catching up on the progress of the kiddiwinks, proved a successful combination.
Nancy: Jodie Prenger
Olivers: Gwion Jones, Harry Stott and Laurence Jeffcoate
The series followed a precedent set by Strictly Come Dancing the previous autumn, by having a live performance show on Saturday nights, with the results programme taped to air on Sunday evening. Though the performances were simulcast on the BBC's new high-definition channel, the results programmes were not.
The final 12 profiled at The Stage.