It’s the new series of Dancing On Ice, but am I ready? Chocolate? Check. Booze? Check. Something to do during the interminable filler (the main show + the results show = 2.5 hours)? Check (organise tax return receipts).
ITV have obviously hammered the budget for this one since it began with Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean emerging from a giant chandelier before skating, accompanied by a huge troupe (or rather “ensemble” as host Phillip Schofield subsequently said – with the French pronunciation, no less) of dancers and skaters to Shirley Bassey’s version of P!nk’s I’m Comin’ Up. It could not have been camper.
This year the twelve contestants are: Javelin champion Steve Backley, Chris Fountain out of Hollyoaks, “pop star” Gareth Gates, TV presenter Sarah Greene, Emmerdale actress Linda Lusardi, How Clean Is Your House’s Aggie Mackenzie, singer Samantha Mumba, TV presenter Natalie Pinkham, tennis star Greg Rusedski, Suzanne Shaw out of Hear’say, GMTV’s Michael Underwood, and TV presenter Tim Vincent.
The “ice panel” of judges is the same – Jason Gardiner, Karen Barber, Robin Cousins, Nicky Slater – but with the addition of musical theatre star Ruthie Henshall. Five judges is just too many, particularly when three of them are so dull.
Greg Rusedski was out first, looking highly embarrassed. The whole routine was a bit tentative and, while he can skate (being Canadian, he’s played ice hockey), he doesn’t seem to have much in the way of rhythm. Jason said his performance level was “akin to Herman Munster”.
Suzanne Shaw looked incredible in training and her partner, Matt, said he was amazed by how she got so good so fast (if she’s got any sense she will have started training before the last series even finished). She looked confident from the beginning and she performed it beautifully, even doing some difficult lifts.
Aggie Mackenzie banged her head on the ice twice in training and then pulled her hamstring in the studio rehearsal so if you watch these type of shows hoping to see someone injure themselves, she’d be your best bet. She looked understandably tentative, but she did a good job. The scored were dreadful though, with a 1.0 from Jason, who said it looked like her partner, Sergei, was flinging around an OAP. “This woman has been there every single day,” said Karen, redundantly. Of course she’s been there every day, she’s paid to be!
I’d completely forgotten that Sarah Greene used to present Going Live with Phillip Schofield. Ah, those were the days. She was struggling until they told her that her music was Downtown by Petula Clark and she got tearful since it has memories of a romantic break with her husband, Mike. Mike Smith? Oh well. There’s a lid for every pot. She was so nervous that her top lip was sticking to her teeth, but I thought she did okay. The scores were poor and Nicky read a poem, which was just excruciating. He must have done it for a bet. Phillip’s face was a picture. (Later, when Phillip referred to it again, Nicky’s face was a picture. Of Not Impressed.)
Chris Fountain’s program was streets ahead of any of the others. They said beforehand that he was the best skater, but also the most likely to fall over, but he was just brilliant, which was reflected in the score of 20, the highest score of the show so far.
The remaining contestants were all okay – there were no total disasters – but in the early stages it’s hard to maintain interest, let alone choose between them. I was just thinking, “Oh look. Some more skating.”
Saving Gareth Gates for last suggested that he was the headliner. Plus the audience screamed every time his name was mentioned. Jeez, it’s only Gareth Gates. I did enjoy his performance, though. Apart from Chris Fountain and Suzanne Shaw, he was the only one to fully hold my attention. He’s definitely got … something.
At the end of the show, Chris Fountain was top and Aggie Mackenzie bottom, but as I expected, being a veteran viewer of celebrity reality shows, Aggie was saved by the viewers, leaving Sarah Greene and Samantha Mumba in the skate-off. The judges unanimously saved Samantha and Sarah skated off into the sunset (or at least the arms of Mike Smith).
Dancing On Ice, ITV1, Sunday 20 January, 5.50pm & 8.50pm