Mollie King : Just like in 2014, our first reveal is a Saturday, making this the first time the show has ever double dipped into the same pop band, unless you count how they scouted both Tameka and Kellie from this iconic performance (the bit where Tameka forgets her choreography and just…bobbles off being particularly illuminating). Really it’s no surprise that the show’s first slip into repeat casting has come via The Saturdays, as they were all good looking, just succesful enough to have a couple of indelible hits and for people to be able to remember they had names (if not exactly what those names were) but not so big that they would be able to consider themselves above the show. Mollie is the blonde one who looks a bit like Sienna Miller but with shinier teeth, who dated David Gandy and almost but not quite got to the live shows on X Factor. Her casting also reveals that the start of “Higher” was in fact a prophecy revealing the order in which all five Saturdays will do Strictly, which means that in 2020 we will be seeing some b tier Olympians competing with Una Foden aka Granny Saturday aka Mrs Ben Foden aka get Ben Foden in the audience now please preferably without a top on thanks.
Ruth Langsford Probably the show’s longest running storyline over the years (other than “Anton du Beke eh? What’s going on there then? Still live with his mother does he?”) was the show’s ongoing quest to find a GMTV contestant who could DANCE! Then it turned out they couldn’t. So now apparently the show floats liberally like a loose zeppelin round the ITV schedule trawling for contestants from anywhere to pull in that key working class mum demographic to the BBC. A Loose Woman here, a Judge Rinder there, even former Big Brother contestants can get in if they’re loud enough to get noticed and their show airs between 10 and 4. And a substory of this has been Ruth Langsford, waving sadly up at the sky and desperately trying to get cast, her agent sprinkling her name to the tabloids as a “rumour” every year since about 2012. And for their part, the casting team have almost certainly been waiting and waiting until she’s famous enough that she can be cast in her own right as a celebrity by herself, so they don’t have to deal with Eamonn Holmes on a daily basis. And now…HERE WE ARE. THE HOUR HAS COME! Ruth is ready to live out her daytime dreams of dancing with an Aljaz or a Pasha or a What’s That Spanish One Called Again, Gurkha?
Gemma Atkinson : So, if so far the names have been, whilst predictable, not the usual faces you see churning through the reality tv/celebrity quiz content machine……well here’s Gemma Atkinson. Previously a contestant on (*deep breath*) I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here (5th place), Soapstar Superstar (5th place), Celebrity Masterchef (Early Boot), Celebrity Weakest Link : Couples Special (dunno), Celebrity Family Fortunes (lost to Anthony Cotton), and Celebrity Chase (won, but against Shaun, the worst Egghead) (no offence Shaun). So…you know, she gets about a bit. But that’s not all! As an actress, Gemma has managed the unusual feat of being a regular on not one, not two, but three soaps, playing Lisa Hunter (surly teen, stalking victim, walking PSA about self-harm) on Hollyoaks, Hollyoaks : Let Loose, Hollyoaks : After Hours, and Hollyoaks : In The City ; Tamzin Bayle (paramedic, bit shit at it, love interest died in a minibus explosion) in Casualty ; and Carly Hope (shop owner, serial fiancee, did a bit of light fraud) in Emmerdale. So say what you will about Gemma Atkinson, she’s put her time in at the coal face of fame, she’s not been put on after three months on Corrie and a photoshoot in Grazia Magazine. Could the casting department be more creative though? Maybe…
Susan Calman : So after some fairly predictable and safe choices (*eyes upwards*) we finally have a mould breaker! Firstly a female comedian, which is a first if you don’t count impressionists as comedians, and lord knows I don’t. Secondly she’s a lesbian which, yes that’s a first as well, even as we approach the show’s 15th incarnation we’ve never before had a female woman person who is also a full time public swimmer in the LGBTQ+ alphabetti spaghetti. Thirdly, and even more of a sign of the times, she’s the first married gay contestant the show’s ever had, meaning we as a community are FINALLY RESPECTABLE, GLORY BE let’s make a statue. She’s also tiny and approaching middle age, and of no dance or performance background whatsoever, and therefore feels exactly like the “duffer” that Kevin has spent the last couple of years orbiting ever and ever closer to. Now let’s all imagine Kevin in a VT with an actual COMEDIAN to complement his…leanings, and hunker down for the winter. And at the same time imagine how they could put her with AJ and it could all be much much worse.
Charlotte Hawkins : So after saying that the show had officially given up on its quest to find an ITV breakfast presenter who could dance…here we are again! Charlotte here is apparently occasionally a co-presenter, but mostly the newsreader on Good Morning Brian (named, in case you need reminding, after its one viewer). Yes, I know, Good Morning Brian has an actual news section and I presume it’s not just a long list of factual corrections to whatever garbage just came out of Piers Morgan’s mouth about how JK Rowling hired a transman to assassinate the glorious eternal high hierophant Donald Trump praise be upon him forever he’s not that bad you know he let me win a gameshow. To be honest, outside of that, I know absolutely nothing about Charlotte Hawkins other than that she probably did ballet lessons as a girl and also she’s older than she looks, well done her, maybe she and Simon Rimmer can have a chat about that and also how three middle aged morning tv hosts from the commercial networks all got cast on the same series, along with three X Factor contestants, two gay comic relief contestants, and, yes, two actors from Holby City. WELL DONE CASTING EVILS FOR GETTING PISHED IN THE OFF SEASON AND DEVELOPING DOUBLE VISION APPARENTLY.
Chizzy Akudolu : Thanks goodness this year saw the return of Let’s Drag Up For Comic Relief. Not because it was any good (it wasn’t) but because it allowed us once more to see something like the first stages of auditions for the show, as a general dance warm up. Previously the show has been a fertile proving ground for subsequent Strictly stars, like Tracy Beaker, Ore Oduba, Ricky Whittle, Drunken Auntie Debbie Meaden and…erm…Richard Arnold? Anyway whilst certain people clearly being lined up for a potential run on the BBC 1 reality flagship of flagships flopped harder than Omid Djalili on Celebrity Splash with Tom Daley (looking at you Danny-Boy Hatchard from off of Eastenders), Chizzy booked herself a spot by somehow single-handedly managing to get a comedy medical routine based around Uptown Funk all the way to the runner up slot for the entire series. And she beat previous Strictly alum Melvin Odoom, Dominic Littlewood, Iwan Thomas, Russell Grant Alison Hammond, AND both James and Ola Jordan on the way. Other than that she played a bossy surgeon on Holby City and a zombie in Charlie Brooker’s Dead Set but did I mention she beat both Ola AND James Jordan? Worth it.
Debbie McGee : So seven years after her husband was a second boot, and a year after he died, here comes Debbie McGee, trailed and dogged by that one liner about how she’s a gold-digger everywhere she goes. Seriously, even on the fluffy lovely One Show it was used to introduce her, which seems a bit much, especially as she is now almost 60 and therefore a bit beyond playing the scheming eye-fluttering ingenue. For over 30 years, Debbie was the glamorous assistant of Paul Daniels, using her dance training with the IRANIAN NATIONAL BALLET (ringah do’dingah singah fo’fingah RIN-GAH! OY!) to get in and out of boxes and then in and out of other boxes and then in and out of the first box again but this time on fire. And then giggle. Magician’s assistant is a new casting for the show and, let’s face it, not one that’s likely to be filled again in the immediate future, so let’s enjoy her for however long she’s here, and all pray she gets paired with a male pro I can make a lot of wand jokes about.
Alexandra Burke dot com : Goodness me, when they crack open those X Factor floodgates they never stop do they? After Mollie, Aston, and actually come to think of it Debbie McGee was first boot on X Factor : Battle Of The Stars so let’s crowbar her into this as well, really stretch the point, now we get Alexandra Burke, winner of Series 5 and recorder of what is still the best selling winners single in the history of the show. Alexandra’s path through X Factor was an interesting one, as she kept her personality very firmly under wraps off stage until the final, when it exploded all over Beyonce’s face, along with a load of snot and tears and belt notes and culminated in her snatching her winners cd out of Dermot O’Leary’s hands before holding it aloft at the audience roaring bloody murder like she’d just decapitated him in the Colisuem. So it’ll be interesting to see how this new “with a personality” Alexandra goes over on a show where she’s a musical theatre/pop star ringah who’s spent the last year being Craig Revel Horwood’s muse. Based on her One Show appearance, where she made an early head start sprinting towards the record for “Most Times Telling Us Her Dance Experience Doesn’t Matter In One Series”, maybe not well? We shall see.