Despite being, fundamentally, a deep-frozen version of Strictly Come Dancing, Dancing on Ice has never quite managed to capture the nation’s imagination in the same way Strictly has.
As the jewel in the crown of the BBC’s autumn schedules, Strictly has pulled in big name celebrities, world-class performers and several column inches of tabloid ‘romance’ intrigue. While Dancing on Ice has had some of the biggest names in ITV’s talent-pool attached to it, Gemma Collins taking a tumble on the ice is not quite as universally appealing as Kelvin Fletcher working his hips.
However, having restructured and bulked up for series 12, might Dancing on Ice finally give Strictly a run for its money?
One of the biggest and best changes Dancing on Ice has made is the inclusion of a same-sex couple. By pairing Ian ‘H from Steps’ Watkins with long-running pro Matt Evers, Dancing on Ice is now a trailblazer at the forefront of an ongoing national conversation about LGBTQ+ representation, with Matt Evers saying this is something he has been longing for “for years”.
Dancing On Ice’s decision to put a same-sex couple in their line-up have left Strictly playing catch-up, leaving many to question whether they will follow suit for their 18th series.
A shake-up in the judging panel is also a welcome change for the show. Former resident ‘mean’ judge Jason Gardiner may have potentially crossed the line from pantomime TV villain (a la Craig Revel-Horwood) to just outright nasty, when his on-screen feuding with Gemma Collins made for uncomfortable viewing last year.
John Barrowman is a safe choice to take over the reigns. With his renewed popularity – thanks to his I’m a Celebrity stint in 2018 – the former Dancing on Ice contestant can provide an insight other judges cannot, while bringing his trademark flamboyance and ‘fabulous’ catchphrase to brighten up a previously stale panel.
Although unintentional, interest around Dancing on Ice has also been bolstered by recent tabloid stories of a fall out between hosts Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield. While reports of a rift were quickly dismissed by ITV, it has given Dancing on Ice the sniff of scandal and intrigue which Strictly 2019 desperately needed.
With Dancing on Ice 2019 drawing an average of 5.6 million viewers compared to Strictly’s audience of more than 10 million, Strictly Come Dancing will likely remain the bigger show in 2020.
But Dancing on Ice’s recent updates should give the BBC some food for thought – and may serve to catalyse change.
Dancing on Ice launches on Sunday 5th January 2020