Pan’s People: Digging the Dancing Queens, BBC2

by | Jul 30, 2006 | All, Reviews


• After an evening of genuine sadness and teary nostalgia at seeing one of British TV’s most endearing institutions come to end, it was inspired to culminate the night with a look at TOTP’s most offbeat – and rather comedic – feature.

• Undoubtedly the dancing queens of 70s and 80s Britain had considerable appeal and a certain charm still applies today, only more so now for the kitsch pointlessness of it all. • This documentary provided enough material to demonstrate how their sheer ambition to bring some fun to Thursday night telly struck a chord with the nation.

• Although we had to sit through some distressingly dull talking heads (including serial soul-destroying offender Tony Blackburn), luckily for us the programme let a lot of the hilariously camp footage speak for itself. There was an abundance of simultaneously fabulous and revolting costumes to savour, as well as rum musical hits to be wistful about.

• Our favourite examples included the infamous Monster Mash routine, complete with one PP dressed as King Kong sitting on top of the Empire State Building, and the literal interpretation of You’re So Vain’s “clouds in my coffee’” refrain.

• Ultimately, we couldn’t help but feel that Pan’s People were a necessary ingredient to the programme since they provided viewers with an escape route when the week’s Top 40 meant terrible artists were on the bill. Perhaps we still need them in 2006 when the likes of James Blunt and Sandi Thom trouble the charts?


• The programme was immensely dated, complete with staid Powerpoint backgrounds, early 90s haircuts and fresh faced celebrity contributors (how long has it been since Chris Tarrant had a mullet and Jimmy Saville was comprehensive in conversation?). Sadly, this out-of-date look and feel conflicted with the evening’s earlier immediacy when we bid farewell to the TOTP phenomenon.

• According to Jilly Johnson (where the hell are you now?), “Pan’s People were a way of life for British people”. Honestly?

• While nostalgia was certainly catered for, the documentary suffered however because its subjects were wholesome and virtuous. It would have been much more insightful and enjoyable if Pan’s People had been involved in a bit more sex, drugs and rock & roll.

• We couldn’t actually avoid the impression that despite their vibrancy, Pan’s People were actually rather crap dancers. Sticking your arms out in front of you while your hair flops in your face does not a great mover make – and this regular routine made them more like Hammer Horror extras rather than anything laudable.

Similarly, there was an uncomfortable recognition that watching a group of attractive girls lip-synching to cheesy music wasn’t any different to how TOTP ended up in the end.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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