Dancing On Ice 2012: Bring On The Flesh Wounds

With Strictly and X-Factor under wraps for another few months, it's time for the reserve reality shows to kick into gear. Get you skates on...
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Bleakley: Like Danni Minogue with gastroenteritis

Forget about eating kangaroo bollocks or crawling through a cave full of reptiles, if you want to see celebrities in mortal jeopardy, Dancing On Ice is where it's at. In the Big Brother house, the biggest danger any of the celebrities face is picking up a waterborne disease from sharing a hot-tub with Frankie Cocozza, but our skating stars are constantly at risk of being cut to ribbons. Which, of course, makes for a curiously watchable show.

The concept of celebrities on ice has me conjuring up images of Walt Disney's head in a bell jar. But there are no cryogenic shenanigans here, just a bunch of low rent names who think that a near-death experience is the best way to rejuvenate their careers.

As usual the show opens with a routine from its royal couple-in-residence, Jayne Torville and Christopher Dean. In the seven years that they've been doing Dancing On Ice, Jayne has really slimmed down, but she still has a decidedly hefty air. So spare a thought for Chris, who's still able to smile despite having flung her around for the last three decades. He must have arms like a Pickfords driver.

In light of Holly Willoughby's departure, Philip Schofield has been paired with Christine Bleakely, who's a dead ringer for Dannii Minogue after a nasty bout of gastroenteritis. Our hosts call out all fifteen stars, giving us a chance to instantly work out who's going to blow us away, and who's got the emergency services on speed dial. As with most of these celebrity shows, there's an odd mix of 'where are they now' actors, TV presenters and someone from Hollyoaks. They've also drafted Chico to replace Chesney Hawkes, who came a cropper last week and had to drop out. Unfortunately, this means that Pip Schofield won't be able to use any of those 'The one and only' jokes he's been feverishly jotting down since the original line-up was announced.

According to Torville and Dean, they also 'broke' Keith Chegwin, but I thought Maggie Philbin had already taken care of that. To be honest, I'm quite relieved Cheggers won't be taking part, since there's always the danger he'd get confused and think he was back on The Naked Jungle.

It's all change this year, with a new 'Ice Panel' of judges to critique the performances. Karen Barber's passive aggressive temper tantrums last year obviously had the desired effect, since Jason Gardiner's been dumped and replaced with Louie Spence. As he lisps "I am daaaaaaance" into the camera, Panadol experiences a sudden spike in sales that's likely to last for the next 12 weeks. Christine introduces Robin Cousins and the rest of the judges, and Louie gushes "You're looking absolutely sensational." Credit where it's due - she managed to smile through a faceful of spit.

Next week, more talk of sequins, lines and toe-picks. And if we're lucky, a flesh wound or two.

Tonight's first skater is Heidi Range, who you may recognise from the current line-up of Sugababes. After overcoming her fear of lifts, it looks as though they might have overdone the training, because her partner Sylvain has ruptured a bicep. I bet Laila Morse's partner is shitting himself. Heidi and her replacement pro perform to Katy Perry's ET, and the best thing that can be said about it is that at least we were spared a house-band cover version, which is what we'd be getting if this was on the Beeb. I know she said she's comfortable with the lifts now, but her hair-do looks like it could be concealing a crash-helmet.

Following Heidi's unspectacular opening, we've got one half of 'TV's Sam and Mark'. You know who they are - the poor man's Ant & Dec. So you can imagine what an embarrassment of riches that promises. Mark's pretty hopeless on the ice, managing to make me long for the grace and musicality of Todd Carty. When I was a teenager I once spent a very long evening at a Young Farmer's Disco in Huddersfield. The dancing there was about on a par with Mark's performance. His partner Frankie tells Philip that Mark started out "as an absolute zero" and, let's be honest, he's not come that far. After a harsh critique from Louie, Mark offers to snog him for more votes. That's what we want from our Sunday tea-time viewing, gay-for-pay prostitution.

Charlene Tilton tells us that "viewers in the UK would probably know me best as Lucy Ewing from Dallas." Presumably, she's earned some alternative notoriety in the States, but let's not dwell on that. She's actually a pretty good skater, starting off with a solo display that would have most of the other contestants shitting sequins. But it's not all good - watching her creakily raise her leg in the air for a spiral, I was reminded of trying to lift up a soup tin lid that hasn't been opened properly. Robin Cousins makes a weak pun using Charlene's song title, and a brief flash of panic appears on Philip's face. I do hope he wasn't planning on using the same gag when he reads out the phone vote number later.

After the break, Christine tells us "It's been a great night so far", and Phil enthusiastically agrees. The audience remain curiously silent though. Next up is Jorgie Porter from Hollyoaks, who's described by her partner Matt Evers as "an absolute sponge". Which'll come in handy when the bleeding starts. Once the performance begins she looks gorgeous, and she's very confident on the ice. She's been telling the tabloids that she can crack nuts with her arse, thanks to the training for this show. We'll I've got a bag of Brazils here, that she's welcome to.

Since we only get to see half the celebrities skating tonight, it's time to check in with the other eight to see how they've been getting on. Sam (of 'and Mark' sort-of fame) tells us that he wants to win, "just to stick it in Mark's face." Isn't that just another Saturday morning for him? We also get a glimpse of Laila Morse and Rosemary Conley, proving that advanced osteoporosis is no obstacle to taking up new hobbies. I'm not entirely sure why Laila's on here, except that I once compared this show to Nil By Mouth. Maybe someone on the production crew read that and got the wrong idea. Christine's so happy schmoozing with the contestants, she says that doesn't want to move. But her dress is so tight I figure she'd need a forklift to get anywhere.

There's always a sporting star taking part in Dancing on Ice, but this year they've actually found someone who's used to winter sports - skier Chemmy Alcott. She smashed her leg to bits last year, so although she's comfortable with the cold, she's not fully recovered from her injuries. Unlike the other male skaters, who all look like interchangeable Ken dolls, Chemmy's partner is more like Al Murray, complete with a beer gut. Tony Gubba's been retained to provide commentary for the show, so by the end of the series we'll all be talking about how easily spirals transition into a fish lift. Oh, just me then.

Our next contestant is Andy Akinwolere, a Blue Peter presenter who has obviously undergone extensive courses in how to be annoyingly over-eager. He's been paired with Maria Filippov, who's a tiny little pocket rocket, and tonight they're dancing to Moves Like Jagger. If nothing else, I think we can all be grateful that they didn't take the song's title literally - no-one needs to see funky chicken on ice.

Tonight's final skater is Andy Whyment from Coronation Street, who looks like a Chad graffiti come to life. Male soap stars don't tend to fare very well on this show, so expectations are duly lowered. Tony Gubba thinks that Andy's a 'natural comedian', suggesting that one of us needs to update our dictionary. Christopher Dean describes Andy as having experienced "the greatest journey so far" which is a bit of an overstatement. He stomped around the ice dressed like a magician at a kid's party, hardly on a par with Hannibal's march across the Pyrenees.

Next week, more talk of sequins, lines and toe-picks. And if we're lucky, a flesh wound or two.

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