ITVs Torvill and Dean sketches the build-up to the couples Olympic-winning Bolero performance, which sacrifices getting under the skin of its subjects for a by-the-numbers biopic.
A two-hour drama about the origins of Torvill and Dean is the most ITV production thats ever ITVd. As quasi-marketing for Dancing On Ices return in January, the show is already cynically timed – feeling whiffs away from retelling Jason Gardiners birth under fire and brimstone, or seeing Phillip Schofield lock eyes across the room with Gordon The Gopher.
The story of Jayne Torvills and Christopher Deans rise, however, carries enough interesting blanks to warrant a deep dive. While it feels like their famed Bolero has been bludgeoned over our heads for centuries, their success is still a jewel of British Olympic history which holds record scores to this day. Coupled with a 1970s Nottingham backdrop and the fascination over whether they banged or not, theres plenty of reasons why this biopic could be a worthwhile endeavour.
Kicking off in 1968, were hastily introduced into their family situations as young kids. Jayne Torvill takes her first trip to the skating rink where she discovers a natural instinct on the ice, while Christopher Dean, more interestingly, is trying to block out a broken home; seen burying his head into the TV while his parents argue over an apparent affair. His mother leaves home, before his new mum is quickly brought onto the scene equipped with his first pair of ice skates.
The show touches on these personal cracks but is always rushing to the next beat. The distant presence of Christophers mum becomes a reoccurring sticking point as the show gallops through time, but the context around her absence feels too thin to connect with. This applies to the question of Torvill and Deans rumoured romance too, which is comically brushed off in a time jump quickly after they kiss in the back of a coach.
These fleeting glimpses on their personal lives makes the entire production feel very stiff, despite attempts to capture the carefree 70s with David Bowie and Queen on the soundtrack. The drama fails to get under the skin of Nottingham as a city too, with Calverton and Clifton namedrops masking the fact it could be set inside any city with an ice rink.
Torvill and Dean is improved significantly by its two leads performances. Will Tudor plays a more fiery, passionate Christopher Dean than we see in the public eye, causing rifts with other girls who dont match his lofty standards. Poppy Lee Friar is the delicate, shy counterweight to their partnership – who both convince in forming a unique friendship which veers between sexual tension and professional thirst for medal success.
The supporting cast also shine when theyre given screentime to flourish. Jaime Winstone as their first coach Janet Sawbridge steals every scene she saunters through, with an early highlight seeing her leave Torvill and Dean pelvis connected while she sips coffee in the backroom as an opening icebreaker between them.
As they step out for their career-defining Sarajevo performance, we transition into the real footage with a hanging realisation weve learned little about the stars themselves. As a straight-forward dramatic retelling which falls entirely within expectations, Torvill and Dean is a respectable job, but little of this safe, diluted biopic will linger after the sherry sets in.
Torvill and Dean airs Christmas Day on ITV at 9pm.