Camper than Christmas?

Tony Grew December 29, 2006
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For some it was the most exquisite realisation of their gay daydreams – what if real life was just like a musical?

For others it was car crash television, a jaw-dropping, buttock-clenching disaster and yet another sign that ITV have lost not just the plot but the whole damn novel.

Viewers will have a chance to judge for themselves as the programme that divided the critics returns to our screens tomorrow night.

It’s Now Or Never is an example of the sort of high-concept TV format that seems to have dominated the schedules in recent years.

However, in July ITV pulled the series from its Saturday night slot after just one week.

The debut episode, in which a member of the public proposed to his partner by singing Take That’s A Million Love Songs, attracted a disappointing 1.7m viewers.

The commercial channel’s precarious ratings position meant they ditched the show before it had a chance to build up a loyal following.

Now it is getting a reprieve, with a prime-time slot over the holiday season for the second episode, which was recorded earlier in the year.

It’s Now or Never is presented by Philip Schofield, who introduces us to 35-year-old Louise Holliday. Louise wants to show her best friend Lorraine just how much she means to her.

So Louise is going to perform Lorraine’s favourite song, on national TV. So far, so Stars In Their Eyes.

But wait, there is more. Louise is going to undergo eight days of training with dancers and voice coaches, she is going to surprise Lorraine with not just a tune but a song and dance routine, with troupes of performers, just like a big West End show.

Louise is going to trick Lorraine into thinking that they are going on a luxury holiday, then when they are at the airport, suddenly burst into song. The baggage handlers, the check-in girls and the other holiday-makers all join in, just like in the musicals.

It certainly does not lack ambition. The show is the brainchild of gay couple Ricky Dyer and Steven Gower, both TV production veterans.

Ricky and Steven first had the inspiration for It’s Now Or Never after an evening of watching musical films such as Buffy, Once More With Feeling and Chicago.

“It always struck us as odd that within the musical theatre genre spontaneously bursting into song and dancing your heart out was the norm and no-one batted an eyelid. If that actually occurred in the ‘real’ world what would the response be?” Ricky told

“Songs within musicals always progress the story or have an important message so we thought ‘why not allow the public the same forum to say what needs to be said to their loved ones?'”

When the programme first aired over the summer, it divided the critics. The News of the World called it “a worse Saturday night ITV show than Ice Warriors.” while Metro lamented that, “it must have seemed like such a good idea during one of those boozy media lunches.”

It certainly divided gay viewers, with some drawn to the drama and others turned off by the camp aesthetic. The echoes of other shows are never far away.

“It is very resonant of Fame Academy and Faking It but then again I found it hard to stop watching on account of there being about fifty extremely hot male dancers running around all the time,” reader Andy Gold commented after watching the preview DVD.

The show’s choreographer and eye-candy-in-chief, Ashley Wallen, has worked with Kylie, Will Young, Sugababes, Jamelia and Charlotte Church, and he is, in the words of the cult movie Zoolander, “very hot right now.” He is also the chief choreographer for ITV’s X-Factor.

The large-scale choreographed dance scenes are an undisputed triumph of the show, which has many supporters, with critics dubbing it the campest thing on TV and Heat saying it was “A-mazing” and giving it five stars.

Love it or hate it, It’s Now or Never will definitely provoke a reaction.

Viewers will get to judge Louise’s song and dance efforts for themselves tomorrow night.

It’s Now or Never is on ITV1 on the 30th December at 5.30pm.

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