Craig Revel Horwood: the first ever episode of Strictly Come Dancing was scripted

The Strictly judge reveals how the BBC deliberately gave the panellists characters and explains where he developed his famous enunciated vowels

We expect it from the likes of TOWIE and Made in Chelsea, but the news that the first episode of Strictly Come Dancing ran to a pre-written script may come as something of a surprise.

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Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood revealed that the first ever episode of the dance contest was acted out. The story begins back in 2004, when the choreographer and director received a call from BBC bosses asking him to audition for their new show…

“They put a little monitor over there, gave me a clipboard and a pen and there were two people pretending to be a celebrity and a dancer and a pretend Bruce and Tess. I watched a bit of footage and I was thinking, ‘This woman couldn’t even walk down the stairs, let alone dance’. By the time she got on the dancefloor, I went, ‘That guy, whoever he is, is just dragging her around – it’s ghaaastly’. They said, ‘Craig can you wrap the whole dance that you’ve seen up in three words?’ and I said, ‘Yes. Dull, dull, dull’.

“The first show was scripted from all of our interviews, bizarrely, and the people I was watching on that screen were Natasha Kaplinsky and Brendan Cole who went on to win it! Hilarious.”

Revel Horwood – who has appeared on the judging panel since series one – went on to describe his experiences during that unusual first show. “We were terrified. I was saying, ‘I’m not an actor,’ and Len is not an actor and Bruno most certainly isn’t an actor. So they scripted us I guess to give us characters but none of us really knew that because we’d really said all of those things about those people.

“Then we were so bad at that they took the scripts away the next week and we weren’t allowed to watch any footage.”

The 48-year-old, who was born in Australia but has since been awarded British citizenship, also explained where his clipped accent and famously enunciated vowels materialised from.

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“I’ve never really lived with any other Australians so as soon as I came over I was always living with posh people and I guess it just rubs off. And when you’re public speaking, you become a little bit nervous about that and certainly, I was never really good at that. It wasn’t until I got the job on Strictly that I had to actually speak publically and when you’re a dancer, you’re told to shut up and just dance – you’re not allowed to talk in class – so a lot of dancers have problems with it. I guess it was through that that I started to enunciate.”