Here’s your first look at socially-distanced Strictly Come Dancing

Tonight sees the return of the (now COVID-compliant) ballroom extravaganza.

Launch show

Tonight is a huge night for Strictly Come Dancing fans, with the ballroom extravaganza returning for its COVID-compliant 18th series.

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The launch show will be the first chance for viewers to see the new batch of celebrity and professional dancer pairings – and will also offer a glimpse at what Strictly will look like under socially-distanced restrictions.

Of course, the dances themselves won’t be socially distanced, but – as has been the case in various other entertainment shows returning since the first lockdown – the presenters and judges will be keeping two metres apart.

And now the BBC has released some pictures providing a preview at what that will look like, with Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly standing at a distance as they host the pre-recorded episode.

Launch show
BBC

A second image shows judges Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mobuse and Shirley Ballas also abiding by social distancing rules, with a two-metre gap between their tables (see main picture above).

Launch show
BBC

The new setup is notable for another key reason: the absence of fourth judge Bruno Tonioli. The LA-based Italian is unable to attend much of this year’s shows due to travel and quarantine restrictions.

Tonioli will be appearing virtually throughout the series giving his verdict on each week’s performances during the results show. However, he will not be providing a score like in normal years.

Meanwhile, it is still hoped that the popular judge will be able to make appearances in person for both the semi-final and final.

A number of changes have been made to ensure that Strictly is able to go ahead in spite of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In September, the BBC confirmed that there would be an audience, albeit a reduced and socially-distanced one with a range of safety measures in place. These include mandatory plain black face coverings to be worn by the limited crowd throughout the recording.

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There is also a slightly smaller Strictly Come Dancing line-up than usual, with 12 celebrities taking part in this year’s series, including Good Morning Britain presenter Ranvir Singh, BBC Radio 1 DJ Clara Amfo and boxer Nicola Adams, who will be one half of the show’s first-ever same-sex pairing.

Strictly Come Dancing is set to return to BBC One tonight, Saturday 17th October at 7:50pm. You can see the full celebrity Strictly Come Dancing line-up here. To find out what else is on in the mean time, check out our TV Guide.