What Makes a Good Dancing On Ice Contestant or Team?
No, I still can’t answer the question of who’s going to win. Ask the bookies that question! However, I do have some thoughts on how the various celebrities will fare, and since much of the outcome is based on voting, you’ll again see why I think skating is just a small factor. (The judges are also, obviously, a factor, but that might be a subject for a future post – we’ll see.)
What are some of the factors influencing outcomes of these celebrity talent shows?
A big one – Celebrities we love to hate. Bet you’ve noticed this one: often, the biggest celebrities are the most disliked (see the US Kardashians for an example of this).
Another big one – the demographics of the viewers and WHO, of those viewers, actually VOTES each week. In the UK, that is further influenced by who will pay to vote more. I’ve included a table of current social media followings for the celebrities and skating pros. These will change over the course of the show, but it’s worth a look to see the huge variations among the participants. Also, just consider the demographics of the viewing public – what ages are more active on what social media platforms, what age demographic votes on this show (versus Love Island, for example), etc. No point in getting bogged down in the algorithms here, but they obviously affect the outcome.
For the celebrities themselves, I think it matters quite a lot if the celeb has reality TV experience. That may seem obvious, but it may also answer the common question of why reality TV stars go from reality show to reality show. Other types of acting and performance experience are helpful, but different.
Skating experience – yes, this makes a difference, but not in the way you might think. One of the biggest difficulties for an adult learning skating is FEAR, fear of falling. Thus, an adult who has skated as a child, even if just skating about in winters, has a big leg up on an adult who has never stepped foot on the ice. They are also likely to progress more quickly, and limited time is a factor for this show. So, no, I’m not buying the “oh, I just mucked about on the ice a bit as a kid, but that doesn’t help at all,” line. It doesn’t help you do a Salchow, but it does help you have less fear learning it – that’s huge.
Desire, schedule, time commitment – there comes a point on the show where some level of skating ability is necessary. Whether or not a skater celebrity reaches that point before being voted off, and continues to progress, is greatly influenced by how much time they spent actually SKATING on the ice in the months leading up to the show – posing for the cameras doesn’t count, sorry. Hate to sound like the crotchety old coach here, but there is only so much a pro can do to make up for lack of training time. There are tricks to cover, but there is a limit, and you can only learn so much week-to-week during the show – it’s busy then! Put simply, the hay is in the barn by now – we’ll soon see who took their preparation seriously and who wants to be on the ice.
Story – does the celebrity or team have a compelling story that leads to votes? This is entertainment, after all, and that is ALWAYS about story. That could include love, overcoming injury, resilience, the underdog succeeding, and so much more. We can’t really know just yet whose story might touch our hearts, but it is exciting to see these develop – or how the editors develop them.
Skating Professional – Of course, it helps to have more years of experience on a show like this. You know how the rehearsal and show schedule will run, you know lots of the people, and – most of all – you know how to cover your celebs shortcomings. I can’t comment on early seasons, but it’s obvious to me that having Torvill & Dean do choreography was a huge task for them (there was just a recent interview where Chris acknowledged this), and old pros had the wonderful opportunity to learn from that. This year, Dancing On Ice has got Karen Barber back on board, which I think is awesome, and it is clear from the early social media posts that they were getting things in order earlier. Smart move! Still, same as time on the ice matters, experience matters. However, it’s not a golden bullet, as last year had all three finalists partnered by new pros, in a season that didn’t have the background support.
With these concepts in mind, here are my preliminary thoughts on the teams (keeping in mind that I’ve not seen them skate). I do think ITV does a fab job casting the teams so I’m excited to see them develop.
In alphabetical order:
Week 1 Teams
Sara Aalto & Hamish Gaman
I like this team because Saara looks relatively comfortable on the ice and Hamish will have her looking great in lifts. (I know many viewers question the number of lifts v. actual skating, but let’s save that for if/when it happens.) Also, Saara clearly has a rockin’ fan base and has done a reality show before. I do wonder about time commitment, but we’ll see.
Gemma Collins & Matt Evers
So much hate out there in the social media world for the GC! Ahem, see my 1st concept above. 😊 OK, I’m guessing lifting is not going to be the focus of this team, but I’ll also bet GC ends up being a better skater than the haters are expecting. Why? No Fear! I’m excited to see her give it a go, and disagree with those who say plus-size people can’t skate. Biggest question: will she skate or will she drama queen? But who cares – at the end of the day, haters gonna hate (trust me, I know), and the GC is just gonna laugh her way to the bank. You go girl!
Didi Conn & Lukasz Rozycki
I’m loving Didi’s story, but will she get the votes? I think the demographics may be in her favor, but we’ll see. I also may have a slight inside line on her pre-show training, as she was skating in one of my home training rinks, but best keep that to myself. Right now, I’d call her the sentimental favorite.
Jane Danson & Sylvain Longchambon
Well, I may have a slight soft spot for the Corrie team 😊 and Corrie fans vote! Also, from the little I have seen, Jane looks solid on the ice, though not flashy. She has the benefit of a strong relationship with her skating pro, and is surrounded by friends who have done the show before. I sense an underdog who may have a bit of an edge here (punny, I know).
James Jordan & Alexandra Lukasz
I’m excited to see James take to the ice, but am finding the “I’ve no clue what I’m doing,” story line a tad disingenuous. Sorry, not sorry. I’d be thrilled to switch places and give Strictly a go, so he should be viewing this as amazing fun. I was fine with it until the little clip of James’ miscount on an off-ice session. OK, we get it – no one’s perfect. He clearly knows how these shows work, and has an experienced pro. He also oozes musicality and performance experience, and has a fan base directly derived from voting viewers (BBC, I know, but isn’t the cross-over to ITV the point?) I believe there is more potential in this team than they’re letting on.
Mark Little & Brianne DelCourt
I can’t say much about this team because I’ve seen so little of Mark. I love it when any older person (well, older to me, anyway) has the courage to give a show like this a go, and Brianne is an amazing pro. He could not ask for better! Like Didi, he’ll likely be favored by the older viewers (and, for them, their social media means less because of the demographics), but will there be enough humor or story to keep them in? I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for them.
Week 2 Teams
I know there’s comments that Week 2 teams have an “unfair” advantage, but – really – it’s a TV show, not the Olympics, so let’s just move on from that. Is there a benefit? Perhaps a slight increased comfort level with how the show runs and/or a “get your act together” moment. The teams below have that.
Richard Blackwood & Carlotta Edwards
So, he’s “in it to win it” and his skating pro is exuberant, but has the time been put in? The limited skating clips would suggest not, but maybe that’s just the editing. Tons of experience, but not reality TV. I can’t really express an opinion on this team. What do you guys think?
Saira Khan & Mark Hanretty
If Saira has put the time in, she will know how to skate. Of the pros, Mark has my respect for best skating skills. Obviously, she’s comfortable in front of a camera and with the negativity that comes from being in the public eye. It’s hard to judge how her popularity will stand up to, for example, Corrie voters, or how strong her desire is to succeed on the show. Will there be a great story line? Lot’s of potential here, but so far, I’m not feeling it.
Brian McFadden & Alex Murphy
I love this guy’s enthusiasm – and he even skated over the Christmas holidays! Alex is equally enthusiastic with lots of experience. On attitude and skating so far, they may be my favorites. I don’t have the knowledge to judge how his fan base translates to viewers and voters, nor do I know what his story will be, but I’m looking forward to seeing what they bring to the rink!
Melody Thornton & Alex Demetriou
Reality TV experience in droves meets new Dancing On Ice Pro. The looks work, but does the team? I’d say it depends on whether Melody believes her partner knows what he is doing and how well they work together. The limited clips I’ve seen of their training don’t show enough for me to judge that – in fact, much of it cuts off her feet – you know, the body part where the skates go. Holding out judgment on this one – let me know what your thoughts are.
Wes Nelson & Vanessa Bauer
Obviously, Wes Nelson is this year’s Kem – bring in the younger viewers who watch Love Island, and they did vote to keep Kem in through much of the season. Vanessa was partnered with last year’s winner. Seems a golden combination. But, Jake had tons of time to train (plus a fair amount of prior skating experience), and the story so far is that Wes does not. Is it true, or is it editing? Only time will tell.
Ryan Sidebottom & Brandee Malto
I think that the transition from cricket to the ice is perhaps the toughest transition among this group of celebrities. Kudos for the effort! Ryan’s quirky sense of humor and kind nature are a huge plus. I wouldn’t put this team in my top half (pending seeing the skating), but even that is partly because I’m not sure how his fan base will translate to this show and voting. Keeping my fingers crossed that he makes a good first showing and has the chance to build a following.
If you have any questions or comments, please comment below. I’ll do my best to reply. However, nasty comments, spam and such will be deleted – my discretion. I’m happy to engage in dialogue, but you won’t find me trash talking Dancing On Ice, the celebrities or skating professionals here, and I won’t have that on my website.
If there’s interest, I’ll keep posting through the season, and maybe answer questions via podcast or Instagram live, etc. Let me know what you like, and don’t like – and, going back to the art, take a look around the rest of my webpage and let me know what you think.
Thanks for reading!!