Strictly’s launch night scored its lowest ever viewing figures on Saturday – with the low numbers said to be down to good weather, line-up and anti-vaxx controversy.
The BBC show attracted an audience of 7.2 million viewers for the inaugural show over the weekend, and while those numbers remain broadly impressive, they still represent a significant drop from last year’s 8.6 million.
While insiders remain positive over live shows, prior to the launch airing, fans insisted they were less than impressed with the line-up and news that two pro dancers refused to have the coronavirus vaccination for the live shows.
Record low: Strictly Come Dancing returned to screens for its 2021 run on Saturday evening – drawing in 7 million viewers and peaking at 7.3 million
The launch night audience reached its peak in 2016, with a viewership of 9.3 million, while 2017 rang in 8.8 million, followed by 8.1 million in 2018, just under eight million tuning in 2019 and then last year’s 8.6 million.
A source said: ‘The ratings are sure to pick up once the live shows start next weekend, and viewers get to see whether the celebs can actually dance – or not.’
This year’s line-up features stars including Robert Webb, Tilly Ramsay, Judi Love, Tom Fletcher, Sara Davies and Adam Peaty.
Prior to the show, fans took to Twitter to detail their thoughts on the show, with some voicing dismay over the line-up and insisting they were less than impressed. A fan penned: ‘Not watching strictly this year because the cast is awful # self care’.
Wow! Coronation Street star Katie McGlynn is pictured on Saturday’s show
Here she is! Gordon Ramsay’s daughter Tilly is taking to the floor
Other users grumbled over the absence of Janette Manrara and insisted the show peaked with last year’s winner Bill Bailey.
Strictly’s dropping numbers
2016: 9.3 million
2017: 8.8 million
2018: 8.1 million
2019: 7.9 million
2020: 8.6 million
2021: 7.2 million
The Twitter users in question penned: ‘Why is janette not dancing this year? I love watching her. It’s not the same on ITT… I’m not even watching it this year, Bill was peak Strictly for me, cannot be beaten’.
Another claim was that the weather was a key factor in explaining the figures.
The TV source told the Sunday Mirror newspaper: ‘Lots of people had been out and about enjoying the early autumn sunshine and will probably watch on catch-up today.’
Other concerns surround the news of a ‘no jab, no jive’ row, over the refusal of two of its dancers to be vaccinated.
Leading figures from the worlds of medicine and entertainment urged the professionals to ‘reconsider their positions’ as the row threatened to overshadow last night’s opening show of the new series.
One unnamed professional dancer is already isolating after a positive Covid-19 test, with reports that their celebrity partner might be paired with another dancer.
And there are fears an outbreak could jeopardise the BBC‘s flagship show, which is set to welcome back hundreds of people into its studio audience.
A source said: ‘The dancers who won’t get vaccinated have been a topic of conversation with cast and crew for weeks – even before the positive test.’
Moves: The BBC show attracted an audience of 7.2 million viewers for the inaugural show over the weekend, and while those numbers remain broadly impressive, they still represent a significant drop from last year’s 8.6 million
Rage: A fan penned: ‘Not watching strictly this year because the cast is awful # self care’
Shock: The Twitter users in question penned: ‘Why is janette not dancing this year? I love watching her. It’s not the same on ITT… I’m not even watching it this year, Bill was peak Strictly for me, cannot be beaten’
Shock: Other concerns surround the news of a ‘no jab, no jive’ row, over the refusal of two of its dancers to be vaccinated, with one Twitter user claiming the show should be pulled
One fan took to Twitter to pen: ‘The BBC should pull Strictly Come Dancing and make it clear it is not prepared to put the safety of the entire team on the line because of a couple of anti-vaxxers. I can’t think of a more powerful way to drive home the message that vaccination of one promotes the safety of all.’
Meanwhile, Craig Revel Horwood has tipped John Waite and Johannes Radebe to win this year’s ‘Strictly’.
The duo have formed the first ever all-male pairing on the show, and Craig views them as the frontrunners in this year’s competition.
Changes: A TV source blamed the clement September weather, saying: ‘Lots of people had been out and about enjoying the early autumn sunshine and will probably watch on catch-up today’
He said: ‘I’ve been championing this for five years and finally it has come to fruition. They look like they’re going to be a couple to beat.
‘I really want to see them do an Argentine tango together. I think it will be absolutely fierce.’
Despite this, Craig thinks they will face tough competition from kids TV presenter Rhys Stephenson and his professional partner Nancy Xu.
He said: ‘Oh my god, I totally love him. And his dancing. He is shining on that dancefloor. He has some moves that not even the pros can do. I love his dancing. He’s got it all. Really incredible.’
Tuning in: While the number seems far from paltry, this was in fact the BBC’s powerhouse series’ least-watched ‘pairing up’ show since its inception [pictured hosts Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly]
STRICTLY COME DANCING 2021: WHO ARE THE CONTESTANTS?
Profession: McFly musician
Tom says: ‘I’m so pleased the news is out it’s been so hard keeping it secret. Equal parts excited and terrified.’
Fun fact: Tom’s McFly bandmate Harry Judd won Strictly Come Dancing in 2011. Tom’s wife Giovanna Fletcher is the reigning champion of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!
Profession: Actor and comedian
Robert says: ‘It’s very exciting but with a slight undertone of quivering terror.’
Fun Fact: Robert squeezed into a shiny leotard to take the title of Let’s Dance For Comic Relief in 2009, performing What A Feeling from ’80s film Flashdance, beating the likes of Keith Lemon and Paddy McGuinness to the title.
Profession: CBBC presenter
Rhys says: ‘I have dreamt about being on this show, and I know for a fact that it is going to exceed every expectation’
Fun fact: Rhys has been an actor since the age of ten, performing alongside Matt Smith and Hugh Bonneville.
Katie says: ‘I’m really not a dancer, but I’m so excited to learn a new skill on this crazy journey and cannot wait to slip into some sequins along the way.’
Fun fact: Katie, who played Sinead Tinker in Corrie, won a NTA for Best Serial Drama Performance in 2020.
Profession: CBBC presenter
Tilly says: ’I’m going to put my heart and soul into this and can’t wait to get my dancing shoes on!’
Fun fact: Tilly’s father is celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and the pair often star in dancing TikTok videos.
Nina says: ‘I think I should do this before I’m too old and can’t walk anymore. I just want to grab life by the horns and just enjoy it.’
Fun fact: Nina is a JDRF Ambassador and was awarded an OBE in the 2021 New Year’s Honours List.
Adam says: ‘I’m really looking forward to doing something totally different and challenging myself away from the pool.’
Fun fact: Adam becoming the first British swimmer to defend an Olympic title at Tokyo 2020.
Profession: Rugby player and sports pundit
Ugo says: ‘What a dream come true! Strictly is the biggest entertainment show on TV and I can’t wait to show everyone I’ve got more than just dad dancing moves.
Fun fact: Beginning his rugby career at Harlequins in 2002, Ugo went on to make 241 appearances for the club where he scored 89 tries, won a Premiership and made his England debut in 2008.
Profession: TV presenter
AJ says: ‘I think it’s going to be really challenging. I can’t wait for the sequins, the wigs, the glitz and the glamour.’
Fun Fact: Apocalypse Wow hosts AJ has featured on a whopping 14 TV shows this year, competing in the likes oF Cooking With The Stars and Celebrity Karaoke Club. She has appeared as a panelist on Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two in the past, too.
Profession: Great British Bake Off Winner and TV chef
John says: ‘I’m so grateful, excited, and nervous to be joining the Strictly 2021 family… I’ve been wearing sequins and jazzy attire since I was three years old and can’t wait to hurl myself, full throttle, around the most glamorous dance floor on earth’
Fun Fact: John is set tp be part of the first ever all-male partnering – the first in 17 years of the show.
Sara says: ‘I’m really nervous because so far the producers keep asking me if I can dance… Truth be told – I haven’t got a clue! I’ve not danced since I did ballet lessons when I was little.’
Fun fact: Sara was the youngest ever dragon on BBC show Dragons’ Den.
Dan says: ‘I’m enjoying the experience when it starts of learning to dance. I’ll be honest I’m not making room on any shelves in my house for the glitterball.’
Fun fact: Dan recently quit Football Focus after 12 years at the helm and has been covering Tokyo Olympics.
Greg says: ‘It’s about being out there and exposing yourself as someone who can’t dance, and learning.’
Fun fact: Greg is married to the actress Emma Thompson who he met while filming Sense and Sensibility.
Rose says: ‘I hope I will do the deaf community proud and break down more barriers. I am also very excited to learn an incredible new skill.’
Fun fact: Rose will make history as Strictly’s first deaf contestant.
Judi says: ‘I’m truly looking forward to pushing myself in something that I could have only dreamed of doing and now it’s actually coming true!’
Fun fact: Judi began comedy when she performed a set in front of her class for a degree module.