Strictly Come Dancing is about to go into full swing, as our 15 celebrities will take to the dancefloor to impress the judges – but more importantly, us at home.
While Craig Revel-Horwood and co. will be dolling out scores on the flapper boards, it’s fundamentally down to us, the public, to pick the winner of Strictly 2019.
But who is going to waltzing into our hearts and all the way to the top? And who will be quickstepping out the door on week two? Here’s our top analysis…
The bookies’ favourites
Whether you’re a hardened betting man or just fancy a casual flutter on Strictly, you’ve probably already see that footballer Alex Scott and kids TV presenter Karim Zeroual are the frontrunners to lift the glitterball – and they’ve barely even danced yet.
Alex’s place in the lead most likely stems from the fact she’s actually already won Strictly before – having won the glitterball with the now dearly departed Pasha Kovalev for the Sports Relief Special in 2018.
But the former pro-footballer doesn’t believe her previous win will give her an advantage over the other celebs for Strictly 2019 – something she was keen to stress when RadioTimes.com grabbed her for a chat.
“I had a couple of hours dancing with Pasha and that was it,” she said. “This was our dance, not even really learning the steps, and that was absolutely it. But I loved it, and that’s why I wanted to be a part of it still.
“It’s a totally level playing field.”
Karim, however, is probably more on the money in terms of actual dance ability – having likely had some sort of training, no matter how minimal, at the Sylvia Young’s Theatre School.
Former Strictly contestant Jamie Laing (who would have also been a favourite had he not done his leg in) was incredibly vocal about Karim’s dance abilities.
“You know when you look at someone and go ‘God they’d be so great in bed?’” he said to RadioTimes.com. “That’s Karim. Everything moves in the right way.”
Dev Griffin agreed. “He can do flips and scissor kicks and that kind of stuff,” he said.
However, we should also point out that being almost too good at dancing at the start can be a turn-off for audiences, as we are denied seeing the all-important ‘journey’ that our dancers go on (Ashley Roberts and Alexandra Burke will rather painfully remember this).
Our annual stats pieces also show that the best dancer from week 1 never actually takes the top prize – which points to some of our lesser known Strictly celebs set to surprise us.
The YouTube generation
Following in the ever-nimble footsteps of Joe Sugg last year, Saffron Barker could sail through to the grand finale – thanks to her sizeable fanbase.
While most of us over the age of 25 may have scratched our head and mouthed ‘who?’ at seeing Saffron announced for Strictly, it seems we’re the fools for not knowing her.
With 1.3 million Instagram followers, and 2.19million YouTube subscribers, Saffron is this year’s most followed contestant – with the social media star admitting her following may help her win votes.
“I hope having a big fanbase will help me,” she said. “A lot [of my fans] have said that they are going to watch it. We will just have to wait and see.”
Saffron’s chances are further boosted after being partnered with AJ Pritchard – a Strictly favourite who has made it to the semi’s for five years in a row.
With Saffron on his arm, we predict AJ will be able to replicate his previous successes – at the very minimum.
Soapstar Superstar – and the Sympathy Card
It’s a particularly sudsy Strictly this year, with three soaps being represented on the dancefloor – each coming with their own sizeable fanbase.
Waving the flag for the Corrie camp is (Auntie) Catherine Tyldesley, who has been hotly rumoured for Strictly ever since she left the ITV soap in 2017.
With half of Weatherfield having taken to the dancefloor before, Catherine knows what she’s getting in to – which could work to her advantage.
“Gemma Atkinson, Lisa Riley, Tina O’Brien all said the exact same thing which is ‘enjoy it’, because if you don’t let go of your inhibitions it is just going to be really stressful,” she said.
Catherine’s chances in the competition may also be buoyed having been paired with the previously benched Johannes Radebe. While it may be an initial disadvantage to be paired with a lesser-known pro, Johannes is so instantly warm and likeable that he may very well win a place in all our hearts. They’re likely to go far.
The EastEnders crew is represented by Emma Barton, who has already set herself a fairly big trap by saying she’s actually fairly good at dancing. She even previously said in 2009 that after doing Chicago she would arguably have “too much experience” for Strictly – something she has rapidly back-peddled on since.
“That was 10 years ago and I haven’t really done anything since being on telly. But I have got musicality, I’ve got good ear for music so I hope that will help me,” she said.
Emma may have that slight edge over Cath after being paired with the much maligned Anton Du Beke – the Strictly stalwart usually paired with complete duffers.
The last few years have seen him paired with last placed Susanna Constantine, and week 8 casualty Ruth Langford.
Even former judge Len Goodman is backing Anton to go further than week two for a change.
“I’m glad Anton has someone who looks like a possibility,” he told RadioTimes.com. “He’s had loads of Ann Widdecombe’s and Nancy Dell’Olio’s. They’re all getting these young Dolly Birds and he gets Esther Rantzen and he has to come over and go ‘That’s the one I wanted’ when he’s thinking ‘Oh no, I’m out next week’.”
However, the Strictly sympathy card may be more deserving of Oti Mabuse, who, having lost out on Jamie following his injury, believed that she would no longer be dancing in the show.
“I was devastated when Jamie hurt himself and I had a long, tearful conversation with him,” she said. “For a while I thought I had no partner and I was in bed all day thinking ‘I can’t do the show!’ In moments like that you realise how much you love something.”
Emmerdale star Kelvin Fletcher may win a few points for being the show’s underdog, having started training late – although Oti has said he’s incredible.
“With everything I do, I seem to be the underdog!” he laughed
There’s also something to be said about the celebrities who are so bad, they’re entertaining.
Stiff-shouldered Anneka Rice (paired with the perpetually popular Kevin Clifton) has joked about being the new Ann Widdecombe, whereas James Cracknell told RadioTimes.com, “I won’t be staying that long. I’ll have to get a proper job by Christmas.”
Cheery-faced Will Bayley admitted he went wildly off-script during the group performance (“I was giving it a bit of air guitar,” he admitted) – but there’s something so endearing about watching someone’s Strictly journey throughout, even if it’s going from totally awful to slightly-less-awful.
I defy anyone to watch Mike Bushell somehow managing to walk out of rhythm, but with a big smile on his face, and not feel even slightly warm towards him.
Those who may find themselves in trouble are the middlers, who are neither distinguishably good nor bad, nor having a significant enough fanbase to see them through.
Michelle Visage is an absolute queen in Drag Race, but may appear somewhat abrasive to the usual tea-sipping BBC1 Strictly audience. Likewise, Dev Griffin, Chris Ramsey and David James may also find themselves shown the door not because they’re bad, but because they may get lost between the top tier and the terrible.
Emma Weymouth may find herself being the easiest to cull from the competition simply because she doesn’t have an immediate discernible fanbase amongst viewers – even if she does look amazing on the dancefloor.
So, who’s going to win then?
Although our head says Karim and Amy, our heart cries Mike and Katya.
However, with Strictly always being full of surprises, you may find these predictions turned on their heads – much like the dancers themselves…
Strictly Come Dancing launches Saturday at 7pm on BBC1