Rose-Tinted Spectacle

Sep 17, 2021 by

Rose-Tinted Spectacle

There has only been 1 female winner now in the last 6 years of Strictly – Stacey Dooley in 2018 paired, notably, with the popular Kevin Clifton – highlighting how tough it is for women, in general, to win the show. The historic tally now stands at 11-7 in favour of male winners over female across the 18 seasons to date.

Intrinsically, it is harder for women to win over Strictly’s core voting demographic. The pairing is key, along with a female celeb’s affinity not to get the hackles up among the middle England viewership of older female voters.

The Strictly Arena Tour will return in 2022 with dates pencilled in starting from January 20 running until February 13. All eyes need to remain peeled to see who is signed up for it because historically those taking part on the tour are given a leg up on the show and favoured.

If any pro or contestant tests positive for Covid during this series run they will be allowed a bye week, though the 10-day quarantine period will mean if it’s a celeb who returns a positive lateral flow test they will only have about 2 days to learn their next dance routine together with their pro partner in the training studio. And after Nadia Bychkova was struck down with Covid, another Strictly pro has tested positive on the eve of the series.

There has been a distinctly plausible spoiler of the pairings doing the rounds online on the back of last Saturday’s launch show being recorded. Look away now and don’t read the remainder of this article if you would rather watch tomorrow night in blissful ignorance.

Show spoiler
Adam Peaty & Katya Jones
AJ Odudu & Kai Widdrington
Dan Walker & Nadiya Bychkova
Greg Wise & Karen Hauer
John Whaite & Johannes Radebe
Judi Love & Graziano Di Prima
Katie McGlynn & Gorka Marquez
Nina Wadia & Neil Jones
Rhys Stephenson & Nancy Xu
Robert Webb & Dianne Buswell
Rose Ayling-Ellis & Giovanni Pernice
Sara Davies & Aljaž Skorjanec
Tilly Ramsay & Nikita Kuzmin
Tom Fletcher & Amy Dowden
Ugo Monye & Oti Mabuse

Treating the spoiler list as correct… Katya is a big plus for Adam Peaty (26). As much as her stock has gone down following the Seann Walsh affair, she can work wonders with her celeb partner and can come up with some inspired choreo. Adam may not be a natural at series start but we could see improvement and a journey with him. Katya is a hard taskmaster and as an Olympic athlete Adam will no doubt fully commit to the competition, so you can envisage these two putting in countless training hours together.

Kai and AJ (33) looks a top notch dance partnership in the making. Kai is unknown to the Strictly audience at this point which could be seen as a negative but among the new pros he looks the best match with middle England. Artem (Kara Tointon) and Aljaz (Abbey Clancy) won in their first seasons on the show so there are precedents, and based on his past record as a pro on Dancing With The Stars Ireland, where he made 2 finals, he should be a safe pair of hands as a teacher and choreographer.

Katya is a hard taskmaster and as an Olympic athlete Adam will no doubt fully commit to the competition, so you can envisage these two putting in countless training hours together

TV presenter AJ is a fitness nut and certainly has the physique of a potentially excellent dancer. She also has something of a BBC brand turning up on various of its shows. But we also know there are many more obstacles to overcome for female celebs on Strictly to charm voters and AJ could walk a tightrope given her strong Lancashire accent and confident persona.

Breakfast’s Dan Walker (44), paired with Nadiya, was a pairing you could see coming a mile off based on height alone. He is a likeable guy and will be hoping to do a Chris Hollins who won the Glitterball trophy back in 2009. Being tall will make the fast Latin dances difficult for him but he should have a decent run and could enjoy a degree of favour as the BBC will want to keep him in for as long as possible for the sake of plugging the show and charting his progress on Breakfast.

Actor Greg Wise (55) is Emma Thompson’s other half and as a handsome older male contestant he looks, on paper, a good fit with the voting audience. Trouble is, he has confessed he ‘can’t dance’. After Karen made the final last year, they may have paired her with a no-hoper, a pattern we have often seen over the years, and unless he is telling fibs Greg could well find himself strongly in the mix for an early bath.

John Whaite (33) and Johannes will make history as the show’s first same-sex male couple. John has some dance training lurking in his background and may well impress on the dancefloor but it will be a tall order for John and Johannes to earn widespread support among the BBC’s predominantly older, Conservative, middle England audience.

Dan could enjoy a degree of favour as the BBC will want to keep him in for as long as possible for the sake of plugging the show and charting his progress on Breakfast

Counter to this, it is also likely the show will do its utmost to promote them – we can probably expect to see an early pimp slot for the pairing, and the eulogies will be flowing among the panel. So get ready for a battle royal between backers and layers on the Betfair Exchange over the early weeks of the series.

Loose Women’s Judi Love (41) is paired with Graziano whose last and only appearance as a Strictly pro previously was a disappointing outing with Vick Hope in 2018. On that evidence alone, it is hard to trust Graziano as a teacher or a choreographer. A fun, uptempo routine in week 2 might offer Judi’s best chance of avoiding the ignominy of being a first dance-off contender.

Rochdale-born actress Katie McGlynn (28) is now a cast member of Hollyoaks and has already mentioned the fact her filming schedule could compromise the hours she can put in in the training room. In Gorka she has a solid enough partner who has made 2 previous Strictly finals, but Katie is not expected to be at the ‘ringer’ levels of dance ability exhibited by Alex Burke, or Maisie Smith last year. However, she comes across as down to earth in interview, likeable enough, and could have journey prospects.

Actress and comedian Nina Wadia (52) says she is looking forward to tango most so she can incorporate her acting skills. Neil Jones is a well-liked pro and you sense they may go down the fun/comedy route to a large degree. Pint-sized Nina could be surprisingly nimble and there is room for her to surprise.

A small amount of social media sleuthing suggests CBBC presenter Rhys Stephenson (28) is going to be a ringer. Expect him to come flying out of the blocks in the first 2 weeks and impress everyone with his snake hips. In Nancy he has a Latin champion as his partner but her pro profile is severely lacking and no one likes a ringer when it comes to Strictly so his progress throughout the series could be hamstrung by this tag.

Peep Show’s Robert Webb (48) made me a decent few quid back in 2009 when he won BBC1’s Let’s Dance For Comic Relief with an inspired Flashdance parody. While it was 12 years ago, this highlighted his performance skills and no shortage of dance acumen.

Robert’s brief may well be to entertain and you would imagine his partner Dianne is clued-up enough to play to his performance strengths. The worry is, Robert is arriving on the show hot on the heels of Bill Bailey’s victory last year and his potential shtick looks a bit too close to Bailey’s winning ingredients.

Eastenders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis (26) will pioneer the way as Strictly’s first ever deaf contestant. She couldn’t have asked for a better pro partner than Giovanni Pernice who is arguably the best, long standing pro on the show never to have won, making 3 previous finals with Georgia May Foote, Debbie McGee and Faye Tozer.

Rose is unlikely to be one of the stand-out dancers at series start but we all know the fable about the tortoise and the hare, and the history of Strictly informs us, you want to ideally be cast as the tortoise. Less able-bodied contestants have also outrun their odds in previous seasons and Rose looks poised to be praised throughout for being such an inspiration and breaking down barriers.

Rose is unlikely to be one of the stand-out dancers at series start but we all know the fable about the tortoise and the hare, and the history of Strictly informs us, you ideally want to be cast as the tortoise

Sara Davies (37) is best known from Dragons’ Den and being a multi-millionairess tempers her potential to tap into the ‘every woman’ vote. She looks like she is going to fully embrace the challenge but she will need to tread carefully in not coming across as too try-hard. In Aljaz she has drawn one of the best and most well-liked male pros on the show. It won’t do her any harm that Aljaz’s wife Janette is the new presenter of the spin-off BBC2 show It Takes Two, and similar to Nina there is room for Sara to surprise and trade shorter.

Tilly Ramsay (19) is the daughter of tv chef Gordon and is described as a social media sensation due to her 9.5 million followers on TikTok. The showbiz nepotism label puts her on the back foot from the get-go and being 19 is simply not a good match with the voting audience. But we have seen the show get behind the younger, social media titans before – Joe Sugg, Saffron Barker, HRVY – so Tilly could be pencilled in for the business end of the competition. Her pro partner Nikita has it all to prove, however, having only made it to the 2nd week of the German version of Strictly last year.

McFly’s Tom Fletcher (36) will be hoping to follow in the botafogos of his bandmate Harry Judd who won Strictly ten years ago. The issue might be, Harry had heart-throb status in the band and turned out to be one of the best male celebs in the history of Strictly. There is also a law of diminishing returns with pop group contestants on the show which suggests Tom will fare worse. Amy has made the final before with Karim Zeroual in 2019 but this has the feel of a potentially vanilla pairing.

The showbiz nepotism label puts Tilly on the back foot from the get-go and being 19 is simply not a good match with the voting audience

Former England rugby player Ugo Monye (38) is one of the new team captains on the re-launched A Question Of Sport which, by all accounts, has been haemorrhaging viewers. His partner Oti is trying for a 3-peat in her last year on the show. She is a great teacher and choreographer, the very best on the female pro side along with Katya Jones. But this pairing screams of the producers being determined Oti doesn’t win again, and Ugo should be on the radar for a potential early exit.

All eyes, as always, will be focused on the group dance which, Covid precautions-permitting, should climax tomorrow night’s launch show. A full list of first dances and accompanying songs is expected to follow early next week, along with some training room VTs.

As usual, there will be no elimination in week 1 but the first few jigsaw pieces should start to slot into place with a view to who is most likely in danger of being the first elimination in week 2.


  1. Stoney

    Hi Rob and Co. Hope all is good. I have gone in big on Rose. Larger than any previous series before a live show. If she can at least move in time she is a shoe in for the win. Only covid can stop her in my opinion. Should be shorter than she is. Nice to see her odds shortening now. She already leads the social media polls. Should be a juggernaut going in to the lives.

    • Rob

      Good to hear from you Stoney & good luck for the coming series. I’m sure there will be a few twists and turns along the way. Plenty of money around for Ugo today.

      Will be interesting to see what happens with Rose’s price if she underwhelms at series start. Some suggestions she might have jive week 1 which is a tough assignment for most but, at the same time, a good one to get out of the way.

  2. James

    Hi Rob. Great to read your thoughts about the upcoming series. I would agree that Rose has a strong chance of victory. My main concern is whether her dancing will be good enough to avoid the dance off at the semi final stage, although in fairness, I had the same doubts about Bill last year.

    Male celebrities aged 28 or under have a great record on the show, with 8 of the last 10 reaching the final, which bodes well for both Adam & Rhys.

    My predicted finalists are Adam, AJ, Rhys & Rose. Out of those four, I think either Adam or Rose would top the vote, so the 5/1 on Adam for ‘top male’ would provide a return either way.

  3. Rob

    Thanks for posting your thoughts, James, and good luck in this upcoming series. Adam Peaty has been well-backed today on the Outright. It’s going to be a lively betting heat this year with lots of price movements which is potentially great news if you can get on the right side of the graph.

  4. Stoney

    The perfect start for Rose backers last night. A competent enough start, with plenty of room for improvement. Despite being down the bottom end of the leader board, she still remains the top of the betting market. Because the market now knows the way this show works, and what the public expects. Far too many week one stand outs last night which will get boring. None of them have the Kelvin appeal to see off a handy capped BBC employed sweetheart. In my opinion of course.

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