It’s like they cast the thing directly from the centre of my id.
Earlier this week the cast list for Strictly Come Dancing 2016 was confirmed, and let’s just say I’m more excited about this line-up than I have been about any of them in quite some time. On paper, I’d say it’s up there with series five and series eight – two of the best-cast series in the show’s history. (And also it doesn’t hurt that it features two of my current crushes.) So let’s take a look at this year’s cast and attempt to guess which professional dancer they’ll each be paired with – which is a little bit trickier this year, as there are 17 professional dancers and only 15 celebrities. Let’s hope I fare a little better than last year, when I scored a spectacular 1/15.
Who?: Singer responsible for ‘I’m Outta Love’, ‘Left Outside Alone’ and…others. Made quite a splash on the results show last year (which is apparently why they decided to cast her for the main show this year), has also seemingly overcome just about every illness known to man. She’s made of strong stuff, is Anastacia. She’s also this year’s designated “contestant whose name I will have to double-check the spelling of every week”.
Will she be any good?: Well, she started out as a dancer before becoming known as a singer – admittedly, that was quite some time ago and she’s in her 40s now, so she may not be quite as supple as she used to be, but it ought to provide some sort of stable foundations for one of the pros to build upon. That said, I still haven’t ruled out the possibility of her turning out to be another Michelle Williams.
Suggested partner: Kevin Clifton. I don’t think the show would give him an outright duffer at this point, but the fact remains that he’s made the final for three years in a row and it’s probably time he got someone a little less ringer-ish. Anastacia seems like a reasonable compromise of someone who’ll be quite good but isn’t really expected to go the whole way.
Who?: “Cloudier”, not “Claw-dia”, the announcement of her participation this year caught everyone off guard when it went out at about 11pm on a Saturday, but I guess that’s the Rio time difference for you. Anyway, we were all wondering which Olympians they’d get for us this year, and one of the answers was “Claudia Fragapane”. An interesting choice, considering she didn’t medal (and I don’t think anyone expected her to), but she’s a Commonwealth Games hero (that’s just as good, right?) and a quick non-scientific poll of people I follow on Twitter suggests that everyone loves her, so that’s good.
Will she be any good?: Louis Smith, Matt Baker and Gabby Logan have set a pretty good precedent on this show for the dancing skills of gymnasts, so I say yes.
Suggested partner: AJ Pritchard. She’s tiny, he’s tiny, it seems written in the stars.
Who?: She’s modelled for Chanel, Vivienne Westwood, Henry Holland and Agent Provocateur, just to name a few, so of all the people who’ve appeared on this show over the years stating their occupation as “model”, she’s one of the more legitimately successful ones. She’s also the daughter of Pearl Lowe and Gavin Rossdale and is, according to a showbiz insider I was chatting to at a party the other night, an exceptionally nice person. And us hacks don’t say those sorts of things lightly, you know.
Will she be any good?: Again, models have a reasonable track record on this show after Abbey Clancy won and Lisa Snowdon was, lest we forget, the most talented female celebrity never to win the show (per Len). Also apparently she danced in a music video one time like Alesha did, and therefore is clearly a dirty ringah.
Suggested partner: Gorka Marquez. Pair sexy single model with sexy new pro for maximum showmance potential.
Who?: He played Dodger Savage in Hollyoaks for four years and is a three-time winner of Sexiest Male at the Inside Soap Awards, so that’s this year’s eye candy taken care of. (I’m telling you now, if they shave his chest hair I will be HAVING WORDS.)
Will he be any good?: He’s got a bit of a West End Wendy background as he was in the cast of Wicked for several years, though the Van Outen Enquiry is still investigating how much time he spent sitting on a chair.
Suggested partner: Karen Clifton. They can have SEXY CHEMISTRY together and, since she’s a happily married woman, he can be kept available for the ladies (and some gentlemen) of the audience to project their fantasies onto.
Who?: Ed Balls
Will he be any good?: It seems unlikely. He’s quite tall, he’s not from any sort of showbiz background, and politicians have a pretty disastrous track record on this show skill-wise. The general consensus at present seems to be that he’ll be the first boot, though apparently he may have some sort of “housewives’ favourite” vote behind him, if you believe in patronising things like that.
Suggested partner: Katya Jones. Let’s give the new pro a lolitician on her first outing and see how she gets on.
Who?: Olympic long jump gold medal winner in 2012. Poster boy for “hot gingers”. Fond of taking his clothes off for photoshoots. Has already done celebrity editions of The Chase, The Million Pound Drop Live, The Great British Bake Off and numerous panel shows, so Strictly seems like a logical next step.
Will he be any good?: Hmm. I want to believe, I really do, but he’s this year’s tallest contestant by quite a margin, so I’m worried he’ll be a bit uncoordinated. Might turn out to be more of a Iwan Thomas than a Colin Jackson.
Suggested partner: Natalie Lowe. She’s the only one who won’t get a crick in her neck.
Who?: The host of every show on ITV2 that isn’t already being presented by Caroline Flack. Not to be confused with Sarah Whatmore.
Will she be any good?: Oh, I should think so. She’s a young and attractive and, more often than not, that particular casting niche is where all of the contenders are found. I can see her going the distance, although probably with some sort of shock bottom two placement around week five or six as young, attractive women on this show tend to do.
Suggested partner: Aljaž Skorjanec, for no real reason other than I think they’d look very nice together.
Who?: Best known as Dorien Green in Birds Of A Feather and also for being one of the first people on Celebrity Come Dine With Me to serve up an entire evening’s worth of inedible slop. Also responsible for one of the defining sitcom moments of my childhood:
Will she be any good?: She’s the oldest woman ever to compete on the show, so she’s got her work cut out for her. Still, she’s in good shape for her age and still touring in musicals (ringer!), so she could surprise us.
Suggested partner: Anton Du Beke. Yes, I know we’ve already had a “Lesley & Anton”, but I can’t see who they’d put with Anton if not Lesley. Although if they wanted to pair her with Brendan to mark their shared history on Flockstars, I’d be down with that.
Who?: Founder member of Eternal turned solo singer with hits including ‘Naked’, ‘Arms Around The World’ and ‘2-Faced’ (“hi girls!” “HI LOUISE!”). After retiring from the pop world, she re-established herself as a television presenter on Something For The Weekend and also as a judge on So You Think You Can Dance UK, though I imagine she’ll probably be keeping that one fairly quiet.
Will she be any good?: She’s got that solid girl group choreographical foundation, and that video she posted on Twitter the other week of her dancing with her dog suggested she’s still got it.
Suggested partner: Giovanni Pernice. Let’s see how he fares with a slightly more mature celebrity, and also give him a year off from showmances. (Seriously, if the Strictly Curse strikes Louise and Jamie, I will lose all faith in love.)
Who?: Award-winning host of the Kiss FM breakfast show, former presenter of The Xtra Factor, team captain on BBC3 panel show Sweat The Small Stuff and host of recent ITV game show Bang On The Money.
Will he be any good?: Well, The Sun reported that he’s taught dance to children before so he must be a DIRTY RINGAH, even though my experience of children’s dance lessons tends to be that they involve little more than holding hands and wiggling your hips a bit. He’ll probably have some moves though, I think. I refuse to believe that someone who works for Kiss FM can’t at least dance a bit.
Suggested partner: Janette Manrara. I really think they’d get on.
Who?: BBC Breakfast goddess, usually found on the sofa of a morning being wryly humorous and hinting that she might have shagged Prince once upon a time. Sensibly does not generally use her married name, Naga Haggar. Also a golf enthusiast.
Will she be any good?: Breakfast presenters tend to do well on this show, with Natasha Kaplinsky, Bill Turnbull and Susanna Reid all chalking up respectable finishes. (Carol Kirkwood somewhat less so, but she’s a weather presenter and doesn’t quite fit this category.) Let’s hope she’s a better dancer than the last golfer we had on the show, anyway.
Suggested partner: Brendan Cole. She won’t take any nonsense from him.
Who?: BBC Sport presenter, just back from covering the Olympics in Rio. Recently accused of spoiling the result of Celebrity MasterChef by idiots who can’t tell when someone is taking the piss. Excessively handsome, don’t pretend you didn’t notice.
Will he be any good?: This performance from Let’s Wear Wigs For Comic Relief certainly shows promise, so fingers crossed. I’m voting for him whether he’s any good or not, because *heart-eyes emoji*.
Suggested partner: Oksana Platero. Not really sure why, just a gut feeling.
Who?: Barrister and star of ITV’s Judge Rinder, where he settles small claims disputes for members of the public and former Big Brother contestants. Also bezzie mates with Benedict Cumberbatch, and you just know the producers are hoping they’ll be able to cut to him applauding in the front row at some point.
Will he be any good?: There was a brief clip of him doing something that looked a bit like a paso in one of the trailers for his show, and he looked quite good there. Plus he seems to have a healthy ego, and I really doubt he’d have signed up without at least checking to see if he could actually dance first.
Suggested partner: Oti Mabuse. After the rum deal she got last year, she deserves someone with some skill – and I think they could be a really fun pairing.
Who?: Currently best known as Kim Fox-Hubbard in EastEnders, but also beloved of gays of a certain age for playing Leah in the film of Beautiful Thing and a star of BBC3 hidden camera comedy show 3 Non Blondes. Also, rumour has it she was originally booked to compete in series 11 back in 2013, but had to withdraw from that one after discovering she was pregnant.
Will she be any good?: Even if she’s not technically any good, I think she’ll deliver some great comedy routines, so frankly I don’t really see how we can lose here.
Suggested partner: Pasha Kovalev. It’s been too long since Pasha had a partner who kept cracking jokes at him while he just stared uncomprehendingly back at her.
Who?: Britain’s inaugural Pop Idol after unexpectedly defeating Gareth Gates in 2002, hits include ‘Leave Right Now’ which will almost certainly be mercilessly mined for gags this series. Did lots of cool videos, has also dabbled in acting and appearing on Question Time.
Will he be any good?: He’s done a bit of shuffling around on stage in his pop career and he’s apparently been taking ballet lessons for quite some time, so the potential is certainly there.
Suggested partner: Joanne Clifton. I think they owe her a ringer after she had to sit out last year.