Battle of the Holbys and the X Factors!
It’s just under a week since the BBC confirmed the final cast line-up for Strictly Come Dancing series 15, and…well, it seems fairly solid to me. It’s not quite as exciting on paper as last year’s, but it was always going to be hard to top a series that featured Anastacia, Judge Rinder, Louise from Eternal, Will Young, Dorien, and Greg Rutherford’s Arse. That said, there are some signings this year that I’m genuinely excited about (Kush from EastEnders! Jonnie Peacock! Alexandra Burke DOT COM!), so let’s take a little wander through this year’s line-up and I’ll make my predictions about what I think lies ahead. (Disclaimer: the partner suggestions are very much just for fun. We’ve got three new pros this year who I barely know anything about, and also we have an excess of tall male celebrities and a dearth of tall female pros to put them with, so most of this have just been put together by process of elimination rather than any science or educated guessing.)
Who? Winner of The X Factor series five. Holder of the record for biggest-selling X Factor winner’s single ever (and, considering the general direction that The X Factor is going these days, that’s a title she’s likely to hold in perpetuity). Beyoncé-hugger. One-time Kelly Rowland stand-in-dot-com. The only reason that anyone in the United Kingdom has ever heard the phrase “the elephant in the room”.
Will she be any good? Well, she’s been touring in a musical directed by Craig Revel Horwood for quite some time now, so it’s probably in his best interests that she should be. I’ve seen some people complaining that it’s a conflict of interests to have Craig judging Alexandra when they’ve worked together and that she’ll be overmarked as a result of it, which a) seems to imply a basic misunderstanding of Craig Revel Horwood’s entire purpose on this show, and b) neglects to take into account that Len Goodman was doing travel and cookery shows with Ainsley Harriott before the latter did Strictly, and nobody is using the phrase “Strictly champion Ainsley Harriott” these days, are they? Anyway, I don’t quite think she’s likely to repeat her X Factor path of a glide to victory without ever touching the bottom two: I’m thinking it’s more likely that she gets the “frontrunner in early dance-off” shock and hits it once or twice more on her way to a runner-up position.
Suggested partner: AJ Pritchard. It’s genuinely quite difficult to see which of this year’s women would be a good fit for him, but I don’t see the producers benching him after one year when he appeals to a young demographic that most of the other pros can’t reach, so let’s put the two of them together. Plus “Alexandra and AJ” has a nice ring to it.
Who? One-quarter of The X Factor series five runner-up. Yep, the same series as Alexandra. Apparently we’re just rerunning old reality shows under new conditions now. Former blue-hoodie wearer. Recorder of as-yet-unreleased solo album. Former judge on Sky1’s Got To Dance, which I imagine will be mumbled about in much the same way as Louise’s stint on So You Think You Can Dance was last year.
Will he be any good? Well yes, he was a judge on a dance show. Unless of course that was some sort of elaborate con job. I didn’t watch Got To Dance, so for all I know he spent the entire time arguing with Kimberly Wyatt about the best way to cultivate his herbaceous borders.
Suggested partner: Janette Manrara. He’s tiny, she’s tiny, and they’ll probably want to give her someone with decent prospects by way of apology for The Incident last year.
Who? Comedian and TV presenter. I’m sure he had other characters beyond Nick Frisbee (“IT’S A PUPPEEEEEEEEHHHHT!”) but that’s the only one I can remember. Currently the host of The TV That Made Me, which is a TV show where people talk about TV shows. Has done a fair bit of musical theatre and has also been directed by Craig Revel Horwood in the past. Small world.
Will he be any good? Moderately competent at ballroom, relying on comedy for Latin is my guess. Probably this year’s most likely candidate to attempt to go viral with something that was briefly a fad four years ago.
Suggested partner: Oti Mabuse. She’s probably too short for him, but she’s had two young guys so far and I quite want to see what she does with an older gentleman.
Who? Part of the presenting team for Good Morning Britain, which means she has to deal with Piers Morgan every day and hasn’t lamped him yet. This either means she’s a woman of considerable patience, or she’s part of the problem. I haven’t quite decided yet.
Will she be any good? This one could go either way: on the one hand, she’s young(ish) and athletic-looking, on the other hand, she’s a breakfast presenter on ITV. Actually, come to think of it, breakfast presenters in general haven’t really had a good run of it since Susanna. But they are co-workers, so hopefully Susanna will have passed on some tips on how to do well in Strictly, which may or may not involve “watch out for leggy models suffering from nehhhhhves”.
Suggested partner: Aljaž Skorjanec, who’s probably due a duffer so let’s hand him an ITV breakfast presenter and see if his luck holds out.
Who? Formerly Mo Effanga on Holby City. I don’t watch a lot of Holby but my understanding is that she was the firm-but-fair type who everyone respected even if they didn’t always like her, and also that she had some sort of on-off-on-off thing happening with a character called Mr T, who wasn’t that Mr T. Look, I just watch the bits with the gays in, okay.
Will she be any good? Made the final of Let’s Sing And Dance For Comic Relief earlier this year and finished as runner-up (as part of the wider Casualty/Holby City ensemble anyway), for what that’s worth. It’s also my understanding that she managed this while fairly hungover because it was the day after her leaving party, so I say we underestimate her at our peril. I think she’ll work very hard, whatever happens.
Suggested partner: Kevin Clifton. She’s not an obvious ringer on first impressions so that ought to quieten some of his more vocal detractors.
Who? Best known as market trader Kush Kazemi in EastEnders and yes, he really does play Bonnie Langford’s son. I know it sounds improbable but it kind of works on screen. Owner of easily the best arms in Walford. I saw him first, yes I did, I’ve fancied him since he was on Taggart so you can form a queue behind me thanks.
Will he be any good? Well, he’s not actually a Langford, he just plays one on TV. Also he’s very tall and muscular which can sometimes be more of a hindrance than a help when it comes to quick and nimble movement. I bet he’ll have a lovely ballroom frame, though. And he’ll look great in a mesh shirt.
Suggested partner: Nadiya Bychkova. I’ll be honest, the three new pros are all a bit of a mystery to me but as far as I can tell Nadya is the SEXXXXY one so that seems like as good a pairing as any.
Who? The Lovely Debbie McGee, one half of Britain’s most beloved magical double act. Former ballet dancer, for those of you paying attention to Ringerwatch 2015. Now mostly working her way around the reality TV circuit, having just been beaten to a semi-final spot on Celebrity MasterChef by Dame Becky Adlington and Dev from Radio 1 (and Rachel Stevens, who didn’t qualify either but was definitely in with more of a shot than Debbie was).
Will she be any good? She had her own ballet company, so yes, I should think so.
Suggested partner: Anton Du Beke. Sorry, Debbie, but someone has to have him, and as this year’s oldest woman (one whole year older than Ruth), it might as well be you.
Who? Soap stalwart, formerly Lisa Hunter in Hollyoaks, Tamzin Bayle on Casualty and Carly Hope on Emmerdale. A “lads’ mag favourite” back in the days when there was still a market for such things, before men realised you could get actual porn for free on the internet. Now co-hosts the breakfast show on Key103 in Manchester.
Will she be any good? I’d be very surprised if she wasn’t – they don’t generally cast young, attractive women to be no-hopers (Rachel Riley being the exception that proves the rule).
Suggested partner: Neil Jones. He had to sit out last year so by rights he should get someone who looks like a contender this time.
Who? Currently Raf di Lucca in Holby City (yep, we’ve gone to the Holby well twice this year), but also known for Heartbeat, Sex, Chips and Rock ‘n’ Roll, The Crow Road, Take The High Road and Take The High Crow Road. Also, on a personal level, I saw him playing Mark in Rent when I was 18 and let’s just say that was a very formative experience for me in a great many ways.
Will he be any good? Well, there’s the aforementioned West End experience that’s bound to be a leg-up, though for some reason I think he’s going to be one of the ones whose journey involves frequent invocations of his nerves.
Suggested partner: Karen Clifton. Look, if you’re going to cast two people from the same show, might as well fling ’em a Clifton each and LET BATTLE COMMENCE.
Who? Gold medal-winning Paralympic sprinter and this year’s obligatory SPORTSMAN. Also obviously I’m not the type to objectify people (lol jk) but he is very handsome, isn’t he? Just look at him. He is, to my knowledge, the first contestant in Strictly history to have a prosthetic leg, and I imagine that will not go unremarked-upon but hopefully it won’t completely overshadow his story arc at the expense of everything else.
Will he be any good? Sports stars have a good track record (sorry) on this show and I would imagine he’ll be following that path.
Suggested partner: Chloe Hewitt. Like Neil, she spent a year doing It Takes Two segments instead of dancing so surely she deserves someone with good prospects this year.
Who? A Saturday, but not one of the top-tier ones, by which I mean the ones who were in S Club 8 when they were kids. That said, apparently Mollie was a champion skier as a child which is not to be sniffed at either. Has apparently got a new single out round about now, which is very convenient timing.
Will she be any good? Girlbanders are just about the most reliably competent casting demographic on this show (Michelle Williams being the exception that proves the rule), so I think skills-wise she’s going to be fine. She’ll need to win the whole thing in order to be crowned Top Saturday though.
Suggested partner: Gorka Márquez. She’s short, he’s short, she’s sexy, he’s sexy, she’s probably a ringer, he deserves to last longer than he did in series 14.
Rev. Richard Coles
Who? Once a Communard, now a member of the clergy. Radio regular. Fifth place finisher on last year’s Celebrity MasterChef, and I know it’s considered heresy to say this in most quarters, but I found him kind of insufferable on that, so he’s probably the one I’m least excited about at this point. But I’m doing my best to keep an open mind.
Will he be any good? He’s already referenced his arthritic knees, so probably not. He’ll be the inspirational one giving it a damn good go.
Suggested partner: Dianne Buswell. Is a professional dancer on this show this year, apparently.
Who? Television presenter. Loose Woman. Does This Morning when Holly’s having a day off. Also does programmes on Channel 5 with her husband Eamonn Holmes where they go and see what it’s like to be a super-rich person, which is the definition of “nice work if you can get it”. Bit of a Strictly superfan who’s been angling to do the show for years, and this is finally her year.
Will she be any good? I actually think she might surprise us and be quite decent. I’m not really basing that on anything in particular apart from that video she put on Twitter where she was practising jumping into Rylan’s arms, but sometimes that’s all you need?
Suggested partner: Brendan Cole. If you can handle Eamonn Holmes, you can definitely handle Brendan.
Who? Chef. Host of Sunday Brunch on Channel 4, where despite primarily being a chef by trade rather than a TV presenter, he’s still much better at it than Tim Lovejoy. Mind you, all those years of tuning out inane patter will serve him well when it comes to those post-performance chats with Tess, so maybe that’s his secret weapon.
Will he be any good? I don’t think so, sadly. Chefs don’t have a particularly illustrious history on this show, but perhaps he’ll be the one to buck the trend?
Suggested partner: Katya Jones. I think they’d be a good fit personality-wise, and he’s just different enough from Ed Balls not to feel like a total retread of her storyline from last year.
Who? A stand-up comedian who’s recently been making the transition into hosting quiz shows. Also, slightly more notably, the first out and proud lesbian in Strictly Come Dancing history, and it is slightly embarrassing that it took us 13 years to get here. Like Ruth, she’s a major Strictly fan and has made no secret of her desire to do the show, and has certainly been very excited about it all on Twitter so far.
Will she be any good? I’m not sensing that she’s exactly a ringer, but I think she’ll definitely add in razzmatazz whatever she may lack in technique. I reckon she’s got some good party Latin in her.
Suggested partner: Pasha Kovalev. She’s a comedian, he has possibly the worst comic timing of anyone I’ve ever seen, do not tell me you don’t want to watch those pre-performance VTs. I for one would pay to see them.