General Selections — the greatest SA show of the highest importance you aren’t watching

General Selections — the greatest SA show of the highest importance you aren’t watching
Jacob Zuma and ANC leaders dance on a stage at a rally. (Photo: Esa Alexander / Sunday Times)

Watch the brilliant dance competition, an equally brilliant spinoff reality TV game show, then vote for your favourite performers.

Dearest long-suffering fans of the South Africa Sh** Show (Sass). The ratings are in and, unsurprisingly, Season 30 has been one of Sass’s most watched. Not since Season 1 have there been so many eyes glued to screens in anticipation of this viral show’s ever-scarier plot twists, jump scares and gruesome portrayal of violence and gangsterism.

However, as amazing as that is, I am concerned that audiences have been missing out on Sass’s equally brilliant spinoff reality TV game show, General Selections. To be fair, that’s probably because the studio behind Sass only releases a season of the spinoff every five years. Fortunately, it’s almost time for the next season, its seventh, which kicks off early in 2024.

To catch you up before it starts, General Selections is a dance competition inspired by Sass. As we all know, the performing arts are an integral part of the Sass universe, where dance moves are the most important, and sometimes only, skills needed to reach the highest offices in the land.

So dedicated is this show to the performing arts that any actor who hopes to play key roles such as the president or a high-ranking member of the show’s various governing organisations must demonstrate impressive dancing skills during their audition.

Hence, General Selections features various dance crews competing for a spot in the National Ensemble, which I’m sure you know is the governing class of dancers, stage performers and fabulously entertaining clowns that rule our country. The best dancers get to keep their spot for the next five years until the next season, and even longer if they can keep viewers distracted and capture their emotional state with new dance trickery. The best part of this original and truly democratic show is that the eventual winners are always judged by the viewers.

As our country’s greatest living or unliving film critic, I have been sent a preview link for the upcoming season. From what I’ve seen so far, I predict many voters will be mesmerised by the dance-floor antics of a group known as the Ageing National Capers. There’s something inspiring about watching dancers well beyond their prime knock out fierce dance moves.

These senior citizens were once the country’s most revolutionary dancers. I wish you’d seen some of their dance routines in seasons one and two. They were praised around the world. But over the past four seasons greed, infighting, greed, corruption, greed and incompetence have led to increasingly lacklustre performances, and as a result they have lost many of their best dancers. Many viewers have lost faith in the National Ensemble and have even started to question whether these dancers are the most qualified people to lead our country.

Still, I imagine their performance in the upcoming season is one that viewers will be keeping a close eye on, especially as another crew, the Disco Alliance, are set on outdancing them. Admittedly, the Disco Alliance are not the best of dancers. Some say they peaked in seasons 5 and 6, streamed in 2009 and 2014, respectively. Their lead dancers seemed to be among South Africa’s most talented back then. These days, they are middling at best and their moves are often out of step, which has led to an exodus of some of their most promising members.

Disco Alliance, General Selections

Helen Zille and Patricia de Lille (background) show off their moves at a DA rally in Nelson Mandela Bay. (Photo: Gallo Images / The Herald / Brian Witbooi)

As the season begins, things look bleak for this somewhat mediocre bunch. That said, the stakes are high for the Disco Alliance — the seventh season is their chance to prove themselves against the Ageing National Capers and another crew hot on their heels: the younger Everlasting Fun Fraternity. This flaming bunch of upstarts has given the game show some of its most exciting and potentially viral moments in the past.

In the few episodes of Season 7 I got to preview, I never witnessed any other crew that was as good at improvisational interpretive dance as the Everlasting Fun Fraternity. You’ll think you know their dance moves, but they’ll surprise you with their ability to switch disciplines mid-dance in response to audience reactions.

Julius Malema

Julius Malema feels the rhythm at an EFF youth rally. (Photo: EFF Twitter)

Thankfully, for viewers who prefer classic, calmer and predictable dance moves that won’t change the world, but will at least keep one somewhat entertained, there are always smaller dedicated crews to look forward to.

Over the years, I’ve found myself tickled by the silly dance routines of the Illicit Fun Parade, the Ultimate Dance Movement, the Frolicking Fools Plus and even the comically untalented newcomers, All Jammers-Aweh.

Even if you haven’t watched before, even if you’re one of those ageists who thought the Ageing National Capers didn’t deserve their last few wins, I urge you to watch the upcoming season and, most importantly, vote for your favourite crew. Besides the poor ratings, the past few General Selections seasons have been let down by what can only be described as selectile dysfunction, as many viewers just didn’t vote. That can’t be good for our country’s National Ensemble. Do the right thing: watch and vote. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

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