Strictly Come Dancing looks a little different this year.
To bring us our favourite winter comfort watch safely, the BBC have put a whole raft of distancing measures in place: the judges are presiding over the dancefloor from solo podiums, the live audience has been dramatically curtailed and the group dances have been pre-recorded.
Covid-imposed differences aside, though, the show’s sparkly spirit remains intact. Strictly’s charm lies in its familiarity — yes, the same things happen every year, and that’s precisely why we love it.
As the show gears up for its shortened run of live shows, here are our predictions for what’s in store from the first round...
A wild card success story
Every year, Strictly producers tend to sign up celebrities from across the spectrum of natural dance talent, from the likely (athletes, stage school-trained actors and presenters) to the… less so (former politicians). Every so often, though, there’s a star who bucks the trend and goes on to become an unexpected success story. Judging from the (admittedly brief) group dance during last week’s episode, perhaps comedian Bill Bailey could be this year’s wild card. He’s paired up with the reliably brilliant Oti Mabuse, for one, and it’s 2020 — stranger things have happened.
Craig Revel Horwood gets his claws out
While Motsi Mabuse is the panel’s relentless optimist and Shirley Ballas is a stickler for technique, Craig Revel Horwood is notoriously hard to please — and prone to dishing out increasingly savage one-liners. Months and months of lockdown will surely have given him plenty of time to hone his sharpest zingers. It remains to be seen who his primary target will be, though Anton Du Beke is a reasonably safe bet — Revel Horwood’s most devastating remark of the 2019 series was actually inadvertently mean, when he praised Du Beke for donning a pair of fake teeth as part of his costume. They were his real teeth.
A spray tan makeover takes tangerine to new heights
Of all the beautification treatments that the new Strictly cohort will undergo, spray tanning is arguably the one that best lends itself to social distancing, so there’s no reason why this year’s contest won’t be as tangerine-hued as previous series. It’s inevitable that at least one contestant will take it too far, though (our money is on the already St Tropez-ed Jamie Laing).
Tess and Claudia remind us that each couple has been tested at least TWICE this week...
As countless Twitter users pointed out during last week’s launch show, Strictly’s approach to managing Covid-19 feels far more clear and coherent than the government’s tier system and endless three-part slogans — but did the presenters have to keep reminding us of the twice-weekly testing policy after every single VT? Clearly “our dancers are tested twice a week” is to Strictly 2020 what “100 percent my type on paper” was to Love Island 2017 and onwards.
… and that the couples have formed ‘support bubbles’ with one another
We get it, the dancers and contestants have moved away from their families in the service of Covid-proof Saturday night light entertainment. It’s a noble calling, especially as we all need the glittery joys of Strictly this year more than ever. But do we really need to hear about it after every performance? If the launch episode is anything to go by, the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’
It’ll certainly be interesting to see whether the ‘bubble’ chat remains top of the agenda as the competition progresses, when the inevitable Strictly curse rumours start to emerge…
Jamie Laing reminds us he’s SO excited to be here
Made in Chelsea fixture and biscuit heir Jamie Laing was unlucky enough to rule himself out of last year’s series almost immediately, after he managed to seriously injure his foot during the launch episode. It must have been an extra kick in the teeth to see his replacement Kelvin Fletcher dance all the way to the glitterball trophy. Laing has since become the only contestant in the show’s history to get a second chance, returning to make his mark on the 2020 competition, and he’s very happy about it. Expect more gushing declarations of just how lucky, blessed and/or excited he is to be back — and plenty of jokes about his and dance partner Karen Hauer’s matching peroxide dye jobs.
An over- (or under-) scoring row brews online
Ever found yourself criticising a Masterchef contestant’s plate of scallops with pea puree while eating your third bowl of pesto pasta of the week? We’re all armchair experts when it comes to reality telly — and when Strictly’s on air, this impulse to critique often manifests itself in disagreeing with the extremely well-qualified judges’ assessment of a particularly niche piece of ballroom footwork. It’s rare that an episode passes without Twitter exploding into passionate discussions of whether Ballas and co have let the contestants off too easily, especially in the early stages of the competition.
Although with Bruno Tonioli (who’s probably the panellist most willing to give contestants the benefit of the doubt) absent from the Saturday night shows, there’s always a chance that the judges will be called out for being too harsh.
Strictly Come Dancing continues on BBC One at 7.25pm on October 24