All 7 Strictly men of 2015 present and mostly correct.
Jeremy Vine : OK, let’s try to get through this without being inevitably diverted into paragraph after paragraph of discussion as to which of the Eggheads should do the show (the answer is CLEARLY either “nobody but Judith” or “anybody but CJ” but I guess you can have a poll about it in the Launch Show recap if you must). A nice, comfortable, Heartland BBC choice to lure back the million or so put off by last year’s ITV2 friendly line-up, before we inevitably get blasted in the face with Peter Andre, Jamelia, and the entire cast of Ex On The Beach later on next week, Jeremy Vine is the host of Eggheads, Points Of View, and the Radio 2 lunchtime show. He’s also gangly, awkward, 50 years old, and over 6ft tall, a combination of which facts have led a nation of Natalie Lowe stans to frantically add more imaginary inches to Otlile Mabuse than you get from a whole flotilla of Grindr profiles (“SHE’S CLEARLY AT LEAST 5FT 11, SHE’S CROUCHING IN ALL THE REHEARSAL PICTURES, YOU’LL SEE”) to try to keep her safe from another year of middling dufferdom. Personally I don’t hold out much hope for his making the show watchable from a dance perspective (although if Tess is having trouble padding the show with meaningless waffle to run to time, he’s got form) but based on a cursory glance at his pre-show interviews I’ve already seen him reference two of Strictly’s greatest moments (Sergeant’s epic resignation press conference/personality cult meeting and Natalie Gumede touching the divine) so at least we might have a Superfan with a bit of taste and decorum this year rather than a weepy needy desperado. Although if he wants to be that as well, I’m all for it.
Ainsley Harriott : Another solid BBC heartland choice here, especially for those of us who were students in the 90s or early 00s, as Ainsley reigned goggle-eyed and supreme over daytime alongside Suzie Salt, Percy Pepper, Carlotta Cumin, Petunia P. Parsley, FiFi O’Fennel, and a variety of other condiment themed drag queens probably I don’t know. This terrifying array of imaginary friends were in charge of both Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook and Ready Steady Cook, two cookery competition formats between which there were definitely differences, even if I can’t remember what they are. Sadly to every epoch of daytime filler there is a turn, and Ainsley was left behind by the transition from watching people who can’t cook being ordered to very slowly chop carrots by Kevin Woodford to antiquing rubbish, forced to spend his dotage shilling couscous in Sainsburys. BUT NOW HE’S BACK! AND ON STRICTLY! With two distinct advantages. First of all as a calypso musician and…you know… black man, if Ainsley isn’t praised every single week for his “natural rhythm” I will pay you £10. Secondly his entire presenting career has basically been one long gurning campy innuendo filled run-up for a leap at Charleston. If he doesn’t make it to Wembley at the very least I’ll be very surprised.
Peter Andre : So yes, today, like his ex wife’s boob implants or Gareth Gates upon first impact with his ex wife’s boob implants, Peter Andre leaked out early. Some poor BBC tech intern put some copy up on the website before they were supposed to, and now everyone knows he’s doing Strictly. You know…more than we already did before, when he spent the last three months going “WHAT DO YOU MEAN AM I DOING STRICTLY I’M NOT DOING STRICTLY I’VE NOT EVEN BEEN ASKED WHY WOULD YOU THINK THAT WINK WINK”. So I’m writing up his preview ahead of his official release. If it turns out to be a hoax, we can always pretend this didn’t happen. And, to be honest, even if it doesn’t. Such a sloppy opening only fits Peter Andre too well, as the foghorn breaking the lovely tranquility of what has so far mostly been a lovely BBC Heartland line-up. I’ve seen people claiming that hiring Peter is “scraping the depths of the z-list bucket”, which is both an unkind thing to call Katie Price, and also not true. Peter Andre is in fact what has floated to the TOP of the z-list bucket. That’s right, the cream! Three number 1 singles ; 6 top 10s ; a number 1 album ; a spot on every schoolgirl’s desk-lid in the 90s, in that picture where his glistening wet torso had the same texture that chicken breasts have when you tip them out the moulded plastic tub ; and of course most importantly a television empire. Peter Andre has had more ITV shows devoted to him than any other human being FACT! When Jordan Met Peter, Jordan & Peter : Marriage & Mayhem ; Katie & Peter : African Adventures ; Katie & Peter : Back In The Habit ; Katie & Peter : Let’s Get Silly ; Jordan & Katie : A Conversation With Myself ; Katie & Peter : A Two State Solution ; Peter Andre – Dancing By Myself ; Peter Andre : LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME OR I’LL DIE and my own personal favourite Katie & Peter : Katie Won’t Do Anal For A Month Because Pete Forgot To Renew The Sky Subscription, The Nob. Harrowing scenes. So even if you’re going to be a crashing snob about his participation, let’s all at least admit that if
Strictly is going to cast this type, they’ve hit on its purest embodiment.
Daniel O’Donnell : The first of hopefully many Strictly contestants whose name sounds a bit like a judge on the Voice (Thomas Jane, Juicy J, Lita Ford, Prince Will.i.am…), Daniel O’Donnell has entered into this field at exactly the right point. As the reveals have gone by the cast has become, as a body, steadily more MOR, middle-aged and cheesy. And now BAM, right at the halfway point we hit the zenith, the peak. The Grand Fromage, the Sultan of Stilton, the Prince of Paneer, the Raja of Reblochon, the Capo De Tutti Camemberts. Ireland’s answer to Cliff Richard, a good Christian singer of songs about Jesus and innocent childhood crushes and candy floss and bunnies and yer mammy pegging out the washing, Daniel promises to swamp the entire course of this series with a flood of his fanbase – slightly infirm old ladies who smell faintly of pot pourri and talc and lose control of their already fading cognitive functions at the sight of a Nice Well-Dressed Young Man. Well I guess if they can’t wield their influence from behind the judging desk any more (not since Series 7 anyway) it’s only fair. Personally I’m incredibly excited by the arrival of Daniel, because he’s such an exquisitely naff fluffy jumper of a man, all twinkly eyes and handclaps and “c’mon!”s and utter sincerity that I just can’t wait to see him and Peter Andre have a FACE-OFF to show us all which generation does schmaltz better (spoiler : it’s Daniel’s). Now some of you apparently think Daniel might struggle doing the latin dances due to an inability to tap into his sexy side. To which people I say, “FEAST YOUR EYES ON THIS AND WEEP!”. No really.
Anthony Ogogo : After driving them to the edge of sanity, forcing them all to ponder whether the producers really had decided to do an ENTIRE SERIES of middle-aged men and that one girl from Corrie you’ve never heard of, the show decided to throw a bone (…) to the salivating hoardes of the Internet and reveal that Anthony Ogogo, Olympic Bronze Medallist, Big Brother 4th placer, Retiree from Tom Daley’s Celebrity Splash, and above all, possessor of a sensitive mouf, will be taking part in this year’s Strictly. Young, athletic, and not uncomely if you’re into that sort of thing I guess, Anthony sadly has a couple of major hurdles between him and the glitterball. Firstly he’s a boxer, and Joe Calzaghe, Audley Harrison and Evander Holyfield (lol remember that Christmas Special?) before him have shown that skill in the ring doesn’t necessarily translate to skill on the dancefloor (a fact also shown by previous contestants Ma[DON’T EVEN GO THERE – Monkseal’s Lawyers]. Secondly, he has apparently decided that Strictly will be a great thing to do whilst recuperating from a major shoulder injury. Two words Anthony… Jade Johnson. I know everyone wants to forget Series 7, but when this ends up with you collapsed on the floor mid-cha-cha clutching at your arm as it slides entirely out of its socket, whilst Tess walks around going “OH NO LADIES AND GENTLEMEN” and looking frantically around for a competent person to come and do something, don’t come crying to me. Also from what I remember of Big Brother Celebrity Hijack, he was a bit of a nob. Admittedly a bit of a nob by the standards of that increibly benign series (it was cast entirely of bright shiny young people who were selected because of their prodigious gifts in certain disciplines) (of course it was still Big Brother, so amongst the disciplines were “modelling” and “doing a circus act in your pants”) not the screeching, hissing, spitting standards of the show toay. And he was young. Maybe he’s grown… Not just like that ladies, calm down.
Jay McGuiness : As the slowly dying dinosaur mass of One Direction sinks gently into the tar pit of history, so their erstwhile arch-nemeses swoop in from the shadows like jackals to pick over the bones and try to fill the vaccuum. (I know, I know, a feud between One Direction and The Wanted how butch). Max had his starring role in Glee and somehow being first boot on Bear Gryllls : Mission Survive ahead of Jamelia (JAMELIA!), Tom had his 6th place showing on Celebrity Masterchef, Nathan has his solo career that will wind up inevitably being one single long and Siva has…being really really ridiculously good looking I guess? Anyway now, Jay McGuiness, the FORGOTTEN WANTED, so forgotten that he’s obviously hoping nobody checks up on his apparently extensive CV of contemporary dance (ie he went to a dance-leaning stage school for a bit) (it’s alright Jay, you’re a bloke, it won’t count against you), to appear as a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing. Combined, their efforts to steal the spotlight whilst One Direction are “on hiatus” (ie trying to sabotage one another’s solo careers) will no doubt combine to bring The Wanted back up to a combined total level of fame…somewhere around Niall’s maybe? (For reference for all those One Direction fans in denial, “The Wanted” are also currently “on hiatus” by the way) Jay’s role in The Wanted was, as far as I can tell, to be the rough one who always looked a bit drunk, with curly hair. Bodes well.
Iwan Thomas : It’s odd ; 6 or 7 years ago Iwan Thomas, with his stints on Celebrity Masterchef, Deadline, Superstars, Hole In The Wall and Total Wipeout, felt like a total reality tv gameshow whore but looking back at his resume now, at the reveal what feels like an inevitable stint on Strictly, he looks positively innocent in comparison to some. Anyway, back before he was beating Dom Joly, Yvette Fielding and Ingrid Tarrant at writing a pretend celebrity magazine for Janet Street Porter, Iwan Thomas was notionally a 400m runner for Wales and the United Kingdom, winning gold medals at the World, Commonwealth and European Championships but sadly never the Olympics, making him very much the Mark Foster of Strictly 2015. If only Hayley Holt! was still here to help him learn how to slam it the left and shake it to the right. Iwan’s day job now is now being an over-enthusiastic roving reporter for The One Show producing hard-hitting exposes about ducks, how you get fewer Haribos in a packet these days than you used to, and a new pop-up Thai food chain in Swansea. Amongst other things. Actually it feels odd to have a retired sports star who already has an established presenting career amongst the cast rather than one who’s just looking for one. Why is he even here? To learn to dance? In 2015?
And my suggested pro-celebrity aportionings :
Ainsley & Ola
Anthony & Janette
Daniel & Kristina
Iwan & Aliona
Jay & Natalie
Jeremy & Karen
Peter & Otlile