Guess what? The nation’s most loved entertainment show is back and it’s as sparkly as ever! Pairing some of Britain’s favourite celebs with professional ballroom dancers to entertain us every Saturday night and ultimately compete for the illustrious glitter-ball trophy, this fabulous show is adored by audiences of all ages across the country. We’ve relished in 16 whole years of ballroom magic and I have no doubt will continue to tune into BBC1 every weekend for the foreseeable future.
While the show may not have been at the forefront of our minds given these unprecedented last few months, I’m sure like me you were anticipating the prospect of the 18th series of the show going ahead in spite of the pandemic. Rumours were flying about for months but much to my relief, the series will be starting up in addition to a few sensible changes accommodating to the pandemic. The series has also launched a month later than usual (allowing my excitement to build even more than normal) and will run for only nine weeks instead of the customary 13.
The gorgeous duo, Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman, have returned as hosts, dazzling us once more with their style and charm. The pair have been co-hosting the show since Claudia took over from Bruce Forsyth in 2014. The judging panel looks slightly different this year too – head judge Shirley Ballas, nicknamed ‘Queen of Latin’, is back alongside Motsi Mabuse and the legendary Craig Revel Horwood. However, to our despair, beloved TV personality and choreographer Bruno Tonioli has been unable to come over from Los Angeles and join his fellow judges this year. Bruno… how you’ll be missed!
In order to further fuel our Strictly obsession, the BBC released four special episodes featuring some of our favourite moments from previous seasons, which included clips from the Blackpool Ballroom, Movie Week and Grand Final. The closing episode featured a beautiful tribute to 2014 champ Caroline Flack who devastatingly, at the age of only 40, died earlier this year.
What about the 2020 celebrity line up? TV personality and entrepreneur Jamie Laing has returned to the ballroom for a second attempt this year, after injuring himself during the launch show last year. Best known for appearing in reality series Made in Chelsea, we’re more used to seeing Jamie on our screens ‘brunching’ at the Bluebird with fellow cast members. It wouldn’t be a series of Strictly without a soap star and this year it’s Eastenders’ Maisie Smith, whom as a well-established member of the Butcher family, has won many awards for her role as Tiffany in Albert Square. Sporting sensation Nicola Adams is also in the 2020 line up. Nicola found fame when she became the first female amateur boxer to win an Olympic gold medal at London 2012 and in 2016, she was made an OBE in the New Year’s Honours list. We have two sporting stars in Strictly this year, as American Footballer Jason Bell will be dancing alongside his professional partner, Luba Mushtuk.
Alongside Radio 1’s popular DJ Clara Amfo are singer Max George and comedian Bill Bailey. With over a billion combined streams to his name, 21-year-old pop-star HRVY is also in the line-up. HRVY is joined by actress Caroline Quentin, ITV presenter Ravnir Singh and former Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith. To complete the class of 2020, the final contestant is JJ Chalmers, a TV Presenter with a remarkable history as a former Royal Marine. JJ’s career was cut short after sustaining a number of life-challenging injuries after an explosion in Afghanistan. Following rehabilitation, he then went on to compete in the 2014 Invictus Games where he took home, not one but three medals. JJ will be dancing alongside the lovely Amy Dowden, the first Welsh professional dancer to enter the Strictly ballroom.
In a sort of Strictly Come Dancing meets Love Island fashion, there was quite a bit of speculation around whether the cast were going to isolate in a hotel together for the duration of the series. Yet perhaps disappointingly, producers seem not to have opted for the idea. Nonetheless, I’m sure that Strictly’s COVID ‘couple-bubbles’ will be the perfect remedy for the dreary winter ahead. During the launch show, the audience was fully reassured that everyone is keeping safe and that the cast had been tested twice before forming their bubbles. This whole ‘couple-bubble’ concept may well exacerbate the gossip surrounding the so called ‘Strictly curse’ and I’m sure we’re all secretly eager to read the outrageous headlines in the coming weeks!
I think it’s safe to say that our excitement is summed up in the words of Craig Revel Horwood, “Three letters darling – O.M.G”. I do believe that Strictly Come Dancing will give us all that warm fuzzy feeling on a cold Saturday night. Well done BBC, this really is what the nation needs!
Words By: Olivia Snelson
Edited By: Anthea Pei