Time to get the flock out of here
Keeley Bolger herds up some behind-the-scenes gossip from the new ITV celebrity sheepdog competition hosted by Gabby Logan
Over the past decade, we've witnessed celebrities singing for their suppers, chowing down on eyeballs for prizes, and even roughing it in the wild with Bear Grylls, all in the name of reality TV.
Indeed, so keen are our famous folk to show the public a 'never seen before' side to their personality and grit, it seems they're willing to give anything a go. And later this month, eight celebrities will be upping sticks for ITV's new sheepdog competition.
Called Flockstars, the show will see the familiar faces head to a farm, where they will hone their herding skills and compete in a series of tasks to be crowned the programme's rural champion.
Shown over eight weeks, each celebrity will first be paired with a sheepdog. They will then have to win the trust and respect of the pooches they're partnered with, if they are going to be with a chance of completing the all-important time trials in the best time.
"The sporting part of it is quite serious and done in a competitive way," explains Leeds-born presenter Gabby Logan, who will be hosting the series. "There are some tight photo finishes, but there is also some real comedy when things go wrong."
But how exactly will the show unfold? And which celebrities are trading the red carpet for muddy fields and Wellington boots? Let's find out.
THE SET UP
Once the celebs have been paired with a sheepdog, they'll first be taught how to gain the respect of their four-legged friends. Commanding a dog to herd a flock of sheep - and sometimes a gaggle of geese - is nigh on impossible if the animal is not willing to listen to you, after all. After bonding successfully, they'll have to earn how to issue the commands and get the pooches to guide the flocks around the courses, which become ever more challenging as the series go on.
They won't be alone, though, as helping them along the way are three professional sheepdog mentors, 25-year-old Welsh rock climber and shepherding expert Ioan Doyle, 28-year-old Scottish trainer Emma Gray, and English sheepdog expert Ed Hawkins, also 28.
To add to the pressure, the tasks will be performed in front of a live studio audience. The eventual winner will be the celebrity to have completed the course in the fastest time with the least number of errors.
Each week, the celeb with the slowest time and most errors will be eliminated from the competition. Aside from the respect of the rural community and fellow competitors, the celebs left in the competition will be gunning for the main prize - a shiny new Flockstars champion shield.
And rather than having meddlesome judges in the way, the contestants must instead impress the audience.
"Nobody's being told what they're doing wrong," explains Logan. "And that's good, because not only is it nicer for the contestants, but also because judges can slow up a programme. This show whizzes along because there's no long-winded discourse with somebody afterwards, analysing every move.
"It's a nice move away from that. I think we're the first of this sort of show who have done that."
Putting their rural skills to the test are DJ Tony Blackburn, who is paired with strong-willed Bess; ex-Eternal singer Kelle Bryan who'll be attempting the tasks with two-year-old Max; Strictly Come Dancing's Brendan Cole who's paired with energetic Hoggy; ex N-Dubz rapper Richard Rawson, partnered with three-year-old Jack; Birds Of A Feather star Lesley Joseph, who's teamed up with easygoing Gyp; TV presenter Amanda Lamb, paired with sweet tempered Midge; actress Wendi Peters competing with nine-year-old Bill, and Paralympic athlete Lee Pearson, who'll enter the arena with speedy Skye.
While all of the contestants have impressed Logan with their "hard work and commitment", some stars are having more success with their sheepdog skills than others.
"Tony is so polite with the dog, it's hilarious," the presenter explains. "He begs Bess, 'Please lie down', and she doesn't do it."
Meanwhile, Lee is "no nonsense", Amanda and Richard are "so competitive" and Brendan is finding it "interesting being on the other side of the learning experience", after years of being the gatekeeper to all the dancing knowledge in Strictly.
So far, Logan reckons that the doggy stars have been "better behaved" than "a lot of humans" on the show. And fortunately there have been no calls of nature - yet.
"We haven't had any dog poo moments yet. I used to do this chat show on Channel 5, where we brought on micro pigs one day and they pooed all over the set. I was expecting a few incidents here, but the dogs are too respectful."
- Flockstars begins on ITV on Thursday, July 30