We have to hand it to the Dancing On Ice team – they’ve well and truly managed to keep the show on the road this year despite hurdles like injuries, switch-ups within the cast and, of course, the small matter of a global pandemic to contend with.
It’s clearly been quite the challenge, though.
Since the new series launched in January, we’ve seen a total of five celebrity contestants and two professional skaters forced to withdraw from the show for a variety of reasons, with ITV even putting the show on pause for one week to give the cast and crew a bit of respite.
Here’s the rocky story so far of Dancing On Ice’s unlucky 13th series...
Before The Series
In May 2020, when much of the TV industry was still grappling with being shut down due to Covid-19, it was reported that ITV was giving Dancing On Ice a bumper budget “in a bid to make it a real ratings winner again”.
The line-up was first announced in September, with star bookings including media personality Myleene Klass, comedian Rufus Hound, rapper Lady Leshurr and Rebekah Vardy – who had been in the headlines due to her “WAGatha Christie” row with Coleen Rooney.
Dancing On Ice has frequently been referred to as ITV’s answer to Strictly Come Dancing, and this year’s line-up also saw them signing up their first ever former Strictly contestants: Colin Jackson, Denise Van Outen and Jason Donovan.
Of course, the show had to make some changes to make it as Covid-safe as possible. The show ditched its usual studio audience, and celebrities were required to form a bubble with their skating partners.
Like last year’s Strictly, group performances were also recorded ahead of time, while the judges and presenters Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield were required to maintain a two-metre distance from one another at all times.
Disaster struck fairly early on, when professional skater Yebin Mok suffered a “freak accident” while rehearsing with her celebrity partner, Grahame Bell.
Phillip Schofield explained: “We had a Zoom meeting yesterday with the team and they showed us a picture that we can not show you on TV.
“Holly couldn’t even look at it, she had to look away – and it was a very nasty stab wound from an ice blade. You could see the tendons... [Dancing On Ice] is a very dangerous show.”
Due to Yebin’s injury, she was replaced on the show by Karina Manta, and Grahame’s first performance was pushed back a week, to allow him more time to rehearse with his new partner.
Because of this, Rufus Hound’s first time on the ice was brought forward a week, and he ended up impressing the judges, being awarded a Golden Ticket to guarantee him a spot in the next stage of the competition.
Denise Van Outen was also forced to perform an abridged version of her routine, having been rushed to hospital days earlier after a fall on the ice.
More on that in a second...
Despite his success a week earlier, Rufus was absent from the second week of performances. The comedian was required to self-isolate as he’d come into contact with someone who’d tested positive for Covid-19, though at the time the show was insistent they hoped Rufus would be back later down the line.
Meanwhile, DVO returned to the studio with her arm in a sling, appearing in a group number with the rest of her fellow skaters, but remained seated for almost all of it.
By week three, it had been announced that Denise would not be continuing with the series, as her injury was considerably more serious than was first thought.
“Initially we thought with rest I could make a return to the ice, but a recent MRI scan has shown that I have 3 bone fractures as well as a partial dislocation,” she wrote on Instagram.
“OUCH! No wonder I’ve been in agony.”
Denise was replaced by Olympic gymnast Amy Tinkler, performing with partner Joe Johnson for the first time during week three.
Rufus missed his second show in a row due to his self-isolation, while reality star Billie Shepherd was also absent from the live show due to a family bereavement.
Sadly, Billie was unable to return to Dancing On Ice as she suffered a concussion during rehearsals, and the rules state that if a contestant misses two weeks in a row, they are not allowed to return.
After two weeks’ absence, it was revealed that Rufus Hound would not be returning either, having tested positive for coronavirus.
Rufus was replaced by former Xtra Factor host Matt Richardson, but after his first performance, he was swiftly eliminated.
Dancing On Ice had its fourth contestant withdraw in the lead-up to week five, with frontrunner Joe-Warren Plant and his partner Vanessa Bauer both contracting Covid-19.
Due to ongoing back pain, Jason Donovan was also absent from week five’s live show, with ITV saying they “looked forward to welcoming him back next week”.
Viewers also spotted that Faye Brookes’ professional partner Hamish Gaman was performing with two of his fingers strapped, after snapping a tendon while putting on his sock.
The day after week five’s live show, ITV released a statement announcing they were putting the show on pause for one weekend only.
“Each week our production team and cast have delivered a fantastic show during incredibly challenging times,” they said.
“The welfare of all of those involved is important to us and we felt it prudent to take a week’s break at this juncture.”
The following day, it was announced that due to his injury, Hamish Gaman would not be able to continue in the competition.
An ITV rep said: “Sadly we can confirm that Hamish Gaman, who has been partnered with Faye Brookes, has had to withdraw from the competition.
“We thank him for all his hard work and wish him the very best as he takes some time out to allow his injury to fully heal.”
It was revealed that Faye will remain in the competition, skating with Matt Evers, who was previously partnered with Denise Van Outen prior to her exit.
In place of week six’s live show, a one-off special titled Dancing On Ice: The Greatest Show On Ice aired, looking back at some of the show’s most memorable moments ever.
Sadly, though, despite the week off, there was more bad news to come...
The day after what should have been the sixth live show of the series, ITV confirmed that because of his back pain, Jason Donovan would not be returning to the ice.
A Dancing On Ice spokesperson said: “Jason Donovan has brought us so much joy with his performances on Dancing On Ice – from Priscilla through to the tango. Our thanks go to Jason and his partner Alex for being so wonderful and committed to the series.
“We’re sorry to see them leave and we wish Jason a speedy recovery.”
Jason later told fans: “It’s a nightmare and I’m completely gutted. We put so much work into getting to this point but I have to respect my health and I have to respect my body moving forward. That is my biggest priority.”
This latest exit leaves just five stars left in the competition – with only four contestants having actually been eliminated via the traditional voting process.
The Sun has claimed that following Jason’s exit, bosses are planning to invite Joe-Warren Plant and Vanessa Bauer back into the competition for the last three weeks. HuffPost UK has contacted ITV for comment.
Dancing On Ice airs on Sunday nights at 6pm on ITV.