Steps - The Reunion, the Sky TV four part series, has all the ham drama of UK semi-reality shows like The Only Way is Essex (aka TOWIE) or its up-market telly clone, Made In Chelsea. Except this time, emotional tension is not embellished by set pieces blatantly shoved in for dramatic effect. If you’ve ever watched The Real Housewives of (Wherever) USA, you’ll be familiar with the format – real life characters shoe-horned into emotionally tense situations, carefully crafted by TV production companies, and posing as real life. This is ‘guilty pleasure’ TV, combining the ‘must see’ momentum of TV soaps, with the voyeurism of knowing it’s all true. Well, ish.
So it was a ‘made in Heaven’ telly moment when Sky Living TV filmed the reunion of fabulously successful 90s song and dance band Steps. Together for just five years they sold 10 million records and 2 million concert tickets worldwide, and became the fastest selling British band since the Beatles. Marking the 10th anniversary of their ‘shock horror’ split at the end of 2001, their record company planned to release ‘The Ultimate Collection’ tribute album, with or without the band’s involvement. Having balked at getting back together for a decade, yet wanting to retain artistic control, Steps agree to be filmed making another go of it. Each of them has a vested interest in this working out and yet, it’s a palpably painful process.
Episode One shows them meeting up at a country hotel, and hammering it out. Why did 'H' and Claire inform the other three they were leaving the band just before they went onstage to a sell out crowd in Manchester, on the night after Christmas, all those years ago? Lisa, Lee and Faye were left reeling and resentful, and a decade on, the resentment and the tears spill over. Claire and H look awkward, Lee looks long suffering and the other girls look heartbroken. High drama! The show is a success then - and irresistible to watch.
We follow the girls to Marbella, where they all bond as Claire looks uncomfortable at a nightclub, and the boys to Wales, where they both bond over the original letter that H gave to his fellow band members, announcing his decision to quit. H looks uncomfortable. He also looks false and shifty, though a man with a guilty conscience intent on being loveable and conciliatory has to be 100% genuine, or a good actor, to pull it off. We don’t know which of these he is, and I suspect he’s having a hard time working it out for himself, especially with a camera recording each embarrassing nuance and Lee looking both sympathetic and smug. Again, not an easy look to carry off.
Meanwhile, poor Claire looks miserable, out of place and confused. Not just in Marbella, but in every episode. Just before going live on breakfast TV, she confesses to feeling like ‘an elephant’ – now a mother, her weight is more suited to her recent role in ITV’s ‘Pop Star to Opera Star’ than it is to the camp yet demanding choreography of Steps. Never still for a second, the band historically line danced their way through every number, and this level of energy takes some getting used to. Claire persistently looks beleaguered. You wonder if she wants this at all.
Interviewed by online UK magazine ‘digital spy’ ,and asked their future plans for the band H says they will take it ‘one step at a time’ and Claire announces –‘ Lets stick to the TV show for now. I think that’s enough’. The poor girl doesn’t seem to realize the ball is already rolling. They’re all back in the big time! A contemporary cover of Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’ is added to The Ultimate Collection, which goes straight to the top of the UK music charts on release. The TV show is a (surprise) massive hit, Twitter goes Steps mad, and the whole shebang is back on the road, with The Ultimate Steps Tour due in April, 2012.
‘We see this as the next leg’ says Lee in the last episode, clearly up for it, as he always was. Lisa looks determinedly optimistic – a perennial ‘glass half full’ kinda gal, and H looks bemused throughout. Faye spends the whole series looking nervously at her old nemesis, Claire, patting her reassuringly and holding her hand when the dance rehearsals all get a bit much. Frankly Claire still looks as if the whole thing is maybe just a step too far, and this certainly doesn’t go unnoticed by the others. If Steps are back together then, their trajectory is definitely still uphill, and right now they are bound by very fragile links.
Eileen recommends -
She watched Steps - The Reunion on Brit TV