Dancing on Ice has made its big comeback after three years off air, and the rebooted version is one of the most exciting TV events of the New Year.
The judging panel has had a shake-up, the contestants are more competitive than ever, and hosts Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby have been reunited on the ice for the first time since 2011.
We caught up with some of the stars of the reality contest to find out how they felt about the ice rink opening for competition once more.
Brand new judges
The only returning judge for the new series is Mr Nasty himself, Jason Gardiner – something the contestants must have been thrilled to hear.
But his three colleagues are no strangers to viewers, as Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean swap their roles as mentors to become joint head judges, and choreographer and dancer extraordinaire Ashley Banjo completes the line-up.
Jason said: “For the first time, the panel feels solid. Everyone on it is an expert in their own right and has credible experience which they can bring to the show. Before, it was missing anyone who was really outstanding and experienced in dance.”
Talking about her new job, Jayne said: “I don’t think it’s possible to be as nasty as Jason. But we’ve got to be honest and if someone is not looking so good, we’ve got to say it.”
Diversity star Ashley was also unfazed by the prospect of having to tell the celebrities some tough home truths.
“I think I’ll be an honest judge, I’m always honest,” he said. “What’s interesting about Jason is that we will have really similar opinions but our delivery is different.
“Celebs like [Love Island winner] Kem Cetinay are the ones I’m most excited about. There’s an element of technicality, but also an element of guts, courageousness, and smoke and mirrors.
"If somebody like Kem comes out when he can’t compete technically, I will be really interested to see how he can beef up his performance and create something entertaining. There are definitely points for that.
"Even if you’re great technically, if you’re boring you won’t get a top score from me, no way.”
But presenter Holly argued that no one should be afraid of an ear bashing from Jason, as after all, it’s part and parcel of the show.
“People know what Jason is like now,” she said. “If it was me and he was critiquing me, I would be disappointed if he didn’t say something like that! You want him to do a Jason on you!”
Dream team Phillip and Holly back together
Way back in the days before Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield were This Morning couch-mates, the pair were first introduced to each other on a brand new show called Dancing on Ice.
The rest is history, but when Holly took a break from the programme, and even though Christine Bleakley (now Christine Lampard) did a grand job, plenty of us missed the easy camaraderie between Holly and Phil.
So almost as good as the show’s return was the news that the original hosts were signed up, and they couldn’t wait to get stuck in.
Phillip said: “The amount of time Holly and I spend together is not even a consideration. We don’t fall out, we’ve never even had a tiff, let alone a row, we just don’t argue, ever.
"So there’s no issue with spending time together, and how lucky. It’s like presenting with my younger sister or best mate.”
Holly added: “I have found a new appreciation for this kind of show since having the kids. It is exactly the type of show we sit and watch as a family. We love Strictly, the X Factor and we love sitting there watching those big family event TV moments. It is nice my children are now old enough to come and watch and enjoy Dancing on Ice.”
We may have been sad about the gaping hole the series left in January’s TV schedules while it was off air, but Phillip reckons it was vital to have time off. “It definitely needed a break. We had broken most of the people who would have done it! We had to hatch some more celebrities to break because it is so hard.”
Avid fans of the show might remember Phil taking to the ice for the last episode before it wrapped, but he has warned that it’s unlikely to become a regular fixture.
He said: “The show went live, I skated out, the wind was whistling through my hair, I felt amazing, my feet were planted, and I thought ‘This looks fantastic, finally after all these years I am on the ice’. I did my thing and stopped, and then I watched it back and thought, ’Oh god, I was going so slowly!’ There was no wind passing by my hair, I couldn’t have been slower. The moves I did didn’t look remotely interesting.
“There is no question, if you want to skate you have to have a huge amount of time and input, which I never have. So would I do it? Actually, no. I’d need to be working as hard as the celebs are now. If you do it you want to look good and for people to go, ‘Bloody hell, he’s good’, and I know that’s not what they said.”
Ice cool celebrities
Dancing on Ice is famed for such moments as Jennifer Ellison managing to kick herself in the head with a skating blade, Jorgie Porter slashing open her partner’s face when her boot slipped, and Keith Chegwin breaking his shoulder on the first day of training.
However, none of that has put 2018’s intrepid group of would-be skaters off giving the competition their best go.
As ever, the world of soaps is heavily represented with Coronation Street pair Brooke Vincent and Antony Cotton and Hollyoaks star Stephanie Waring all taking part.
Brooke, who plays Sophie Webster, admitted: “I would rather be watching it on the couch with a big box of Celebrations, laughing at people falling over.”
A slightly nervous Stephanie added: “I don’t take criticism well. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I’m quite sensitive. I will try to take it on the chin but I do let negative comments bother me a bit. I tend to be a people pleaser. My blood might boil if I think it’s unfair or unnecessary, but I can be quite emotional as well.”
It sounds as though Antony is the celeb who really needs to watch out for the wrath of Jason, even though the pair have been mates for years.
Jason warned: “I’m going to be harder on Antony because of the fact I’ve known him for 20 years. Nobody gets special dispensation from me. He’s ready for it, he can give as good as he gets.”
Sure enough, Antony agreed: “Jason will be tougher on me than anyone else. I know the real Jason and I know the job he has to do on TV. He’ll be cruel to me and I’m really sadistically looking forward to him saying something spectacularly vile about me because I will find it hilarious. He’s my mate and I find him funny. If he’s going to throw shade, I’m going to throw a shade grenade – a shanade.”
Athletes often rise to the challenge and this series, track and field star Perri Shakes-Drayton and rugby player Max Evans will take part. They were supposed to be joined by cricketer Monty Panesar, but he was the first victim of the rink, breaking his ankle in training; he has been replaced by singer Lemar.
Another performer in the line-up is Bucks Fizz star Cheryl Baker, although she’s already admitted that she’s not expecting to win.
She said: “I am competitive, but I am also a good loser and I am fully expecting to lose because I’m not as agile or fit as I was 40 years ago. I expect it to be won by someone who is young and supple - seriously, who is going to win at my age? But I would like to come somewhere in the middle.”
Like many of the celebrity skaters, former Byker Grove actress Donna Air is hoping that the training regime will help her to tone up.
Asked what had tempted her to take part, she enthused: “The sparkles! The costumes. And also getting fit and learning to ice skate. I’m really hoping I come out of the show with a six pack. And I might even get a bottom. It’s all to play for!”
Good Morning Britain weatherman Alex Beresford could be facing a tough extra challenge as he is arguably the least well-known contestant, meaning that he also needs to make enough of an impression to win public votes – something that he’s said he plans to do tactically by remaining on the bad side of his much-maligned colleague, Piers Morgan.
Reality TV stars adding another string to their bows are Great British Bake Off winner Candice Brown, Love Island winner Kem Cetinay, and X Factor and I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! veteran Jake Quickenden.
Popular Kem explained how his training had been progressing: "I’m not spending as much time with the plastic penguin anymore, so I’m falling over more now. I’m really clumsy."
He added that unlike some contestants, he would not be shying away from the gaudy outfits. “I’m so extra it’s a joke! I want more colours, more sequins. I love that type of stuff. If you’re going to do it, you might as well do it properly. I don’t want to wear a basic outfit, I want to be over the top. That’s just the way I am.”
Jake, who has yet to be crowned a TV contest winner despite two shots at the X Factor and a runners-up stint in the jungle, is hoping it’ll be his lucky year: “I’m very competitive. Every show I’ve done, I’ve wanted to win. I’m just planning to try hard, and do well, and if I win, I win.”
However, struggling contestants can take heart from Christopher Dean’s words of wisdom on why it’s not always about the winning: “If I asked people one moment they remembered from Dancing On Ice they’d say Todd Carty, so it’s not always about the best skaters.”
Dancing on Ice continues on Sunday, January 14 at 6pm on ITV.