Belfast Telegraph

Strictly Come Dancing: It's back but how do the celebs measure up?

By Maureen Coleman

It's beaten the X Factor in the ratings war over the past couple of years, with its interesting mix of glamour-pusses and hunks, stunning costumes and dazzling dance-floor routines.

The line-up for Strictly Come Dancing 2014 is perhaps the most underwhelming yet, hinting at a flat rather than 'fab-u-lous' series starting on Sunday night at 8pm.

The BBC has unveiled the official photographs of the 15 celebrities taking part but there's a distinct lack of razzmatazz about this year's motley bunch.

While some of the participants might be minor household names, many viewers could be left baffled by the identity of several unfamiliar faces.

In previous years, the BBC has pulled out all the stops to attract big name stars to the show.

Contestants have included supermodels Jodie Kidd and Jerry Hall, Olympic champions Louis Smith and Victoria Pendleton, former Premiership footballers Robbie Savage and John Barnes, Hollywood actors Colin Salmon and Stephanie Beacham, even a Destiny's Child, Michelle Williams.

Not so this year. There are no transatlantic special guests to bring a touch of A-list sparkle, no politicians to love or loathe and no outstanding sportsmen.

But we do have former rugby player Thom Evans.

While male viewers should be happy to see the inclusion of gorgeous pop princesses Pixie Lott and Frankie Bridge in the line-up, the beefcake quota for the female audience is well down on past years.

Jake Wood's Max Branning may be a woman magnet in EastEnders, but the actor doesn't really size up when compared to Mark Ramprakash, Ben Cohen or Harry Judd.

With contestants like Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills, TOWIE star and Michelle Keegan's fiancé Mark Wright and former Xtra Factor host Caroline Flack taking part, the BBC seems to be targeting a younger demographic, but Strictly Come Dancing has always taken pride in its status as a family entertainment show and it needs to appeal to all ages and tastes if it wants to successfully continue its run.

Also gearing up to trip the light fantastic is former Blue pop star Simon Webbe, Casualty's Sunetra Sarker, Andy Murray's mum Judy, Masterchef co-host Greg Wallace and borrowed from ITV This Morning, occasional presenter Alison Hammond.

Jennifer Gibney from Mrs Brown's Boys, Tim Wonnacott from Bargain Hunt and CBBC presenter Steve Backshall – all BBC programmes – complete this year's line-up. While the Strictly chorus line may prove to be a disappointment to many fans, the new presenting team is not without risk either. Traditionalists will be sorry to see the loss of veteran co-host Sir Bruce Forsythe, set to be replaced by the kooky Claudia Winkleman. Claudia has faced criticism in the past over her '60s-influenced heavy fringe and kohl-rimmed eyes.

The new official stills from the programme show a stripped back, classy Winkleman, devoid of her thick eye make-up, raising the glamour stakes alongside co-host Tess Daly.

The pairing works well together and Winkleman injects just the right amount of humour.

Several years ago, the BBC was at the centre of an ageism row, when Strictly replaced judge Arlene Phillips with the much younger Alesha Dixon. Tess Daly claims the show is championing mature women as she and Winkleman are both in their 40s.

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