The cast of Strictly Come Dancing 2015 is now complete, and god love them, it is every bit as heartland BBC (plus Peter Andre) as we were promised. So let’s take a look at this year’s 15 celebrities, consider whether they might be any good, and have a wild stab in the dark at which professional will be (un)lucky enough to get paired with them in the competition.
Who?: Celebrity chef beloved of the BBC in the 90s/00s. Former host of Ready Steady Cook, Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook and probably several other things with “cook” in the title. Most recently seen, to the best of my knowledge, as the host of the surprisingly enjoyable Ainsley Harriott’s Street Food on More4. I was convinced he’d already done this show back in the early years, when it was less of a draw and they had to pull more contestants from the ranks of those already employed by the BBC just to fill out the cast list, but apparently not.
Will he be any good?: Well, not to be ageist right off the bat, but at 58 he’s the oldest of this year’s contestants and therefore might have to work a little harder to keep up. That said, nothing I’ve seen of him lately suggests he’s got any less energy than he had in his heyday and, well, look at what he’s got going on here. I don’t think he’ll be in the top half of the ultimate finishing order, but if the fates align and he draws some high energy dances early on (I’m thinking one of the salsambchas) he could get enough of a head of steam going to stick around for a while.
Suggested partner: Karen Clifton. After holding up the human tablecloth that was Mark Wright for 13 weeks last year, let’s give her someone with a bit of personality for a change.
Who?: Host of (deep breath) Watchdog, The One Show, Escape To The Continent, Countryfile, Four Rooms, Russia On Four Wheels and just this week The World’s Busiest Railway 2015. Basically if you’ve watched factual-entertainment television at all over the last 12 months, you’ve probably seen a programme that Anita has hosted, even if she wasn’t hosting that particular episode.
Will she be any good?: I think she might, actually. She looks like she could be light on her feet, and she strikes me as a trier. But I don’t know how much of a built-in fanbase she’s going to have, so she might need to be good to survive the first few rounds, because if she’s near the lower end of the leaderboard she might be in trouble.
Suggested partner: Kevin Clifton. Kevin’s been in two series and made the final in both of them, so I think the producers will want to give him someone who’s less of a sure thing this year just so it doesn’t look like they’re playing favourites. At the same time, he’s a popular pro, so it makes sense to at least give him someone with the potential to do well. Anita seems to fit that narrow niche pretty well, so let’s go with that.
Who?: Olympic bronze medal-winning boxer, fourth-place finisher in Big Brother: Celebrity Hijack and would-be semi-finalist in series one of Splash! if he hadn’t had to pull out due to injury. Speaking of which, apparently the only reason he’s doing this show is because he’s recovering from a shoulder injury and can’t box until December anyway.
Will he be any good?: Well, the shoulder injury is going to make lifts difficult, for a start. On one hand, he’s young, attractive and athletic, which is always a good start on this show. On the other, he’s a boxer, and Joe Calzaghe, Barry McGuigan, Evander Holyfield and Audley Harrison all stand testament to the fact that boxers seldom make good dancers.
Suggested partner: Janette Manrara. If she can’t get his hips moving, I’m not sure anyone can.
Who?: The latest in a long line of BBC Breakfast faces to sign up for Strictly Come Dancing but, I believe, the first weather presenter in the show’s history. And if this sets us up for Schafernaker Domination 2016, I’m all in favour.
Will she be any good?: It’s hard to tell how skilled a mover someone is when you’ve mostly seen them standing in front of a CGI weathermap, so I don’t know. She feels destined to be our designated ‘inspirational older woman’ candidate who’ll get praised for a decent week one waltz and then struggle with anything more complicated, though I’d love her to prove me wrong.
Suggested partner: Anton Du Beke. It seems inevitable.
Who?: Only Daniel O’MotherfuckingDonnell! Million-selling recording artist! Housewives’ favourite! Mercilessly spoofed in that episode of Father Ted!
Will he be any good?: Oh, I hope not. I want nothing more for this series than for Daniel to be genuinely terrible on all fronts, but still to be carried right through to the final thanks to his insatiable fanbase and give Len the mother of all hissyfits in the process.
Suggested partner: Kristina Rihanoff. It seems the safest way to keep her out of the tabloids this year.
Georgia May Foote
Who?: “Katy Armstrong” from Coronation Street, apparently. I haven’t watched it properly in ages, so I couldn’t tell you. Apparently she had a baby with Chesney, or something, which is distressing to me because I’m sure Chesney was about nine the last time I watched properly.
Will she be any good?: Almost certainly, she’s got ringer written all over her. People seem very excited about her already, since the first response to anything that gets posted on the BBC Strictly Twitter feed seems to be “Can’t wait to see beautiful Georgia win it all!” or something equally terrifying. So I’m not concerned about her skill, I’m concerned that in the grand pantheon of former Corrie star personality types she’s going to be more Tiny Tina than Gumede Goddess.
Suggested partner: Gleb Savchenko. Might as well give her one of the SEXY NEWCOMERS so we can talk about WHAT A SEXY COUPLE THEY ARE.
Who?: Nurse Trixie Franklin from Call The Midwife. The fashion-forward (for the 1950s) one with the immaculate hair. The good-time gal who looked set to marry a vicar and settle down, but then broke off the engagement and spiralled into alcoholism instead.
Will she be any good?: The ringiest of ringers, I should think. Ballet-trained, tons of West End experience, I will eat one of those unflattering hats that the midwives wear when they do their rounds if she turns out to have two left feet.
Suggested partner: Giovanni Pernice. Not sure why, just a gut feeling.
Who?: Olympic silver and Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning sprinter, also a TV presenter on the likes of The One Show and has, as far as I can tell, done just about every reality show going at some point. I’m surprised it’s taken him this long to get around to doing Strictly, to be honest.
Will he be any good?: Yeah, I think he should be. He might need his pro to do a bit of reconditioning to get him out of athletics-mode and into ballroom in terms of his posture and general movement, but assuming that doesn’t take too long, he could be a contender. He’s quite nice to look at as well, which doesn’t hurt.
Suggested partner: Otlile Mabuse. Again, having not seen her in action yet it’s hard to know who she’d be a good match with, so I’m just going with instinct here too.
Who?: Singer of ‘Superstar’, ‘Thank You’, ‘See It In A Boy’s Eyes’, ‘Beware Of The Dog’ etc. Loose Woman. Famously outspoken, like her pro-thinspo speech about how high-street stores shouldn’t provide clothes for fat people, or that time on Never Mind The Buzzcocks when she called Javine a slag.
Will she be any good?: Well, she’s a pop star, so she ought to at least have a basic ability to pick up choreography. Of course, Michelle Williams stands as the eternal counterpoint to that argument. Jamelia reckons her kids laughed when they said she was doing this show because they know what a terrible dancer she is, but literally everybody says that.
Suggested partner: Brendan Cole. They’ll either be delightfully villainous together or hate each other on sight. Either way, it should be fun.
Who?: The one from The Wanted who isn’t the one who’s 12 years old, the one who did Celebrity MasterChef, the one who was in Glee, or the good-looking one. I’ll be honest: of all 15 celebrities this year, he was the only one who I actually had to google because I didn’t recognise him on name alone. Sorry Jay.
Will he be any good?: I’ve paid as little attention to The Wanted as I can justifiably get away with, so I don’t know if any of them were particularly good at dancing. But as I said above, you’d think a pop star ought to at least know the basics already.
Suggested partner: Natalie Lowe. Out of all of this year’s tall chaps, he seems like the one with the most potential, and it’s about time Natalie had a shot at the title again.
Who?: Brother of Tim, but not of Sarah, much to my surprise. Host of needlessly inflammatory phone-ins on Radio 2. Also the host of Eggheads.
Will he be any good?: I don’t really see it, to be honest. I see him as the type who’ll make a decent stab of his opening ballroom and then be hopelessly lost in the latin, never to recover.
Suggested partner: Aliona Vilani. I’m not saying he’s going to be the first boot, mind.
Who?: Formerly of ITV, now firmly ensconced back in the bosom of Mother BBC, with a brief that extends to covering the Proms every year and also hosting various shows on Radios 3 and 4. A bit of an unexpected casting choice, to be honest – I don’t remember ever having heard her as one of the rumours – but I rather like that she’s a bit of a leftfield offering.
Will she be any good?: She finished fourth on Maestro, which would imply a grasp of rhythm – but then Goldie was the runner-up, and he was the first boot when he did Strictly. (This is an elaborate way of saying “I don’t know”, can you tell?)
Suggested partner: Pasha Kovalev. He’s had four athletic(ish) young women in a row, let’s see how he fares with an older woman for a change.
Who?: Depending on your age and your cultural interests, you will almost certainly know her as one or more of the following: Sally Simpkins in T-Bag, Jo in The Upper Hand, Kate Madikane (née Aldridge) in The Archers, MeJulie in Ali G Indahouse, Cassie Tyler in Bad Girls, Joan Trotter in Rock & Chips, Linda Carter in EastEnders.
Will she be any good?: She went to Sylvia Young so must at least have had *some* dance training at some point in her life, although not necessarily any time recently. But, series six and Christopher Parker aside, EastEnders types don’t tend to embarrass themselves too much on Strictly, and I think Kellie could be decent, maybe even great.
Suggested partner: Tristan McManus. He didn’t exactly cover himself in glory in his brief stint on the show last year, but those who like(/fancy) him have been crying out for him to get a chance to prove himself with a contender, so let’s give him to Kellie and see what happens.
Who?: A presenter on Sky Sports News, and also on the first series of the Gladiators revival. She was also one of the original hosts of Channel 4’s ill-fated The Big Breakfast replacement RI:SE, if you can remember that far back. She also has a bit of prior with competitive reality TV as the winner of the third series of Channel 4’s The Games.
Will she be any good?: Something about her gives me “second coming of Gabby Logan” vibes in terms of ability. Whether she’ll also be the second coming of Gabby Logan in terms of the ‘shock early boot’ side of things remains to be seen.
Suggested partner: Aljaž Skorjanec. They’ll make a very handsome couple.
Who?: The singer that every girl you knew fancied in the mid-1990s. “Whoa-ooh-ooh-oh-ooh-ooh-whoa, mysterious girl”. “Doo-doo-doo-doo, this is Insania”. Did I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!, married Katie Price, had a bunch of kids, divorced Katie Price, had a couple more kids (probably), did a load more reality shows, took over 60 Minute Makeover, shilled for Iceland, loves his kids.
Will he be any good?: I don’t think it’ll matter either way, to be honest. I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t at least make top six.
Suggested partner: Ola Jordan. They’re already mates, apparently, and she’s been campaigning for it. Might as well give her what she wants, she’ll only tell the papers she’s being bullied otherwise.