“Don’t give up the day job” is something Craig Revel Horwood might scathingly tell a hapless Strictly Come Dancing contestant before raising his “3” paddle – but actually, could trying to juggle Strictly with a full-time job have a serious impact on results?
This is certainly what Judge Rinder thinks. Writing in his Radio Times column, the solicitor and TV star explained: “The problem is, Melvin, Tameka and Naga, who all had day jobs, have gone. There’s definitely something in that.
“I’m filming Judge Rinder a couple of days a week now and I’m one of the only ones left with such a big commitment. There just aren’t enough hours.”
With a solid 30 to 40 hours of Strictly Come Dancing training to squeeze in – as well as the Saturday night live shows and appearances on spin-off show It Takes Two – it’s no surprise Rinder is exasperated by his fully-packed diary.
Looking at who’s out and who’s still in this year’s series, you can see what he means.
Lesley Joseph was so busy filming Birds of a Feather that Anton Du Beke had to go all the way to Malta to teach her the Charleston. Melvin Odoom must have been exhausted by hosting the Kiss FM breakfast show and following it up with a full day of training. Tameka Empson had intensive filming for EastEnders, while Naga Munchetty was straight onto BBC Breakfast after long Saturday nights in the ballroom. All four are now out of the competition.
The remaining contestants have less punishing schedules by far. Ex-MP Ed Balls and former Hollyoaks actor Danny Mac can throw themselves into rehearsals, while Louise Redknapp and Anastacia have plenty of flexibility (in the non-dance sense of the word, at least). Hours in the training room are absolutely vital, and too many commitments can leave celebrities over-stretched (again: figuratively speaking).
However, if Rinder is fretting about his chances as he looks at his diary in despair, we have good news: having a full-time job is not a Strictly death sentence.
In fact, he should have a chat with Kellie Bright, who went all the way to the final last year despite a full-on filming schedule for EastEnders – or Bright’s co-star Jake Wood, who made it to the semi-finals in 2014.
Susanna Reid was presenting BBC Breakfast when she reached the final in 2013. Proms presenter Katie Derham, Countryfile’s Anita Rani, Casualty actress Sunetra Sarker – all have done well in recent series. All are very busy women indeed.
By contrast, those without intensive day jobs are by no means guaranteed to go far, no matter how much time they spend perfecting their moves.
This is understandable when it comes to the retirees on the senior end of the scale – say, Tony Jacklin, who was almost 70 when he went out in the second week in 2013. It is more of a mystery when it comes to younger celebrities such as Anthony Ogogo, 27. Despite having plenty of time as he was taking a break from boxing, he was out in week three last year. Similarly, Peter Andre couldn’t seem to improve despite a fairly free schedule, and went out in week ten.
But still the question nags: could any of the celebrities with full-time jobs have gone further if they had more time on their hands?
It is impossible to know, but fans of the show certainly felt for Ashley Taylor Dawson in series 11 as he struggled with filming Hollyoaks and looking after a new baby and training all at the same time. He had so much potential, as did Jake Wood – would a few more hours of practice have helped them both make it into the final?
When you look at past winners, it is certainly true that they tend to fit a certain profile. Strictly champions are fit, young – and, broadly, not incredibly busy.
Early winners such as Natasha Kaplinksy and Jill Halfpenny and Darren Gough kept the day jobs going, but as the show has become ever-more competitive and the standard ever-higher, things have changed.
Recent years have ushered in the likes of gymnast Louis Smith, actress Kara Tointon, singer Jay McGuiness, TV presenter Caroline Flack and model Abbey Clancy as winners, all of whom could dedicate serious time to training. Tointon, for instance, had just left EastEnders; Smith had just finished competing in the Olympics.
Becoming a Strictly champion is a serious time commitment, so it is hard not to feel for Judge Rinder. But though this year has seen the early exit of the ultra-busy Odoom, Empson and Munchetty, he should not give up just yet.
The lesson of previous years is this: work hard and you never know how far you can go.
Strictly Come Dancing continues on Saturday 29th October at 6:45pm on BBC1
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