Dancing on Ice: the z-list peril-fest you've been waiting for

Reality TV review: Kem from ‘Love Island’ lurches into the top slot in week one

The full line-up of Dancing On Ice 2018 Photograph: ITV

The full line-up of Dancing On Ice 2018 Photograph: ITV

 

The new year in reality telly is usually ushered in with the sight of daytime soap stars and ex-sporting heroes slaloming themselves into a waiting ambulance on Channel 4’s The Jump – AKA Celebrity Deathmatch on Ice. Nothing makes the viewing public feel better about failing to join the gym for another year than witnessing someone from TOWIE bouncing down the side of a mountain in Switzerland. Alas, The Jump was forced to slide unceremoniously off our screens this year after too many career diminishing injuries and perhaps due to Channel 4’s ever increasing insurance bill.

Luckily for Schadenfreudes everywhere, just as one winter sports-based celebrity gameshow melts away, it’s replaced by another. Yes, Dancing on Ice (TV3, Sunday) is back! After four years, ITV’s answer to Strictly Come Dancing (but with added peril) has finally been thawed out. There may be the Curse of Strictly, but those relationship dramas are nothing compared to the near-death experiences of Dancing on Ice – from David Seaman dropping his partner chin-first on to the rink, Jennifer Ellison slashing her head open with her skate and Eastenders’ Todd Carty sliding off camera completely, there is always a chilling moment of breathless tension as another Bambi-legged celeb trips on to the ice.

The show’s line-up is as gloriously incongruous as ever, a pick-n-mix of those who may have missed out on the Jungle or were too obscure for their big BBC rival, so there’s Cheryl Baker, Donna Air, Sean from Corrie and those from the reality telly side of the fence including Love Island’s Kem Cetinay and X Factor’s Jake Quickenden, who refers to himself as a “reality TV veteran” due to his appearance on multiple shows. This is Jake’s career now, being thought of as that one from that show that’s not the other guy with the eyebrows.

Bizarrely, the series also features 2016’s Great British Bake-Off winner Candice Brown. Bake Off winners are usually off perfecting their crème patisserie in a tiny French boulangerie somewhere, not inelegantly getting their legs thrown over their head in an RAF hanger of a Sunday evening. It’s disconcerting, like seeing a University Challenge contestant on The Cube.

Being the first show back, it all feels a bit rickety, with Holly Willoughby and Philip Schofield’s Carry On-style innuendo failing to lighten proceedings as nerves get the better of most of the celebs who are too distracted to make jokes or even engage in conversation. On top of that, there’s the echoing arena and the grating commentary making it feel like a cheap variety show.

It’s left up to Kem to conjure up some magic. The clown prince of ITV2 is as cheerful and charismatic as ever referring to himself as Kimbo Slice and wearing his hair in toddler bunches while stumbling around the rink in rehearsals. Appearing like an Essex boy Frank Spencer (the hapless star of that long ago comedy Some Mothers do ’Ave ’Em), it would be easy to imagine him succumbing to tragedy and ending up as the show’s first casualty, but the endearingly cheeky chap defies the odds and picks up one of the highest scores of the night. It’s early days and if he can avoid the fate of slipping into the Emergency Department, crafty Kem is on track to melt that ice like those hearts he captured on Love Island.

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