Season 16 of ITV’s much-loved figure skating competition has kicked off with its first live show on Sunday night (14 January).
Six of the 12 participating celebrities are taking to the ice for the first time to show off their new moves after weeks of training. See all the 2024 contestants here.
All eyes, however, were on Willoughby, 42, as she returns to ITV for the first time in three months following her exit from This Morning in October last year.
She will present the programme alongside Deal or No Deal star Stephen Mulhern who is replacing Phillip Schofield after he quit the network, admitting to having an “unwise but not illegal affair” with a younger male colleague.
Willoughby wore a sparkly silver gown for her TV comeback, matching with the contestants who wore similarly shiny outfits for the opening number set to Sylvester’s 1978 disco jam “You Make Me Feel Mighty Real”.
“We are off! Welcome to the greatest show on ice,” said Willoughby, before asking fans to give her new co-host a warm reception.
“And also can we just say a huge welcome to Stephen Mulhern!”
The new line-up reunites Willoughby and Mulhern after two decades. They first worked together on the Saturday morning children’s show Ministry of Mayhem, which was later renamed Holly & Stephen’s Saturday Showdown.
It is not the first time the pair have presented Dancing on Ice together, though. In 2022, prior to Schofield stepping away from ITV, Mulhern briefly co-hosted the programme with Willoughby after Schofield tested positive for Covid-19.
In other news. Nice to have Holly back! She's a very good presenter ! 💖 #hollywilloughby
— EMMA💫🌙 (@xemmaslifestyle) January 14, 2024
In December 2023, it was confirmed that Willoughby would return to host Dancing On Ice without Schofield. The duo had presented the ice skating competition together since 2006.
Viewers shared their reaction to Willoughy’s return on X, formerly known as Twitter, mostly overjoyed to have the TV star back on screen.
— Ciaraspinksparklepodcast (@ciaraspinkpod) January 14, 2024
“Holly Willoughby back where she belongs,” said one person.
Another added: “I’ve missed Holly Willoughby so so much,” with a third writing: “So good to see Holly Willoughby back.”
Others, however, have criticised her return. “I was looking forward to Dancing on Ice, then I remembered Holly Willoughby is hosting,” wrote one viewer.
The show returns to screens with Jayne Torvill, Christopher Dean, Ashley Banjo, and Oti Mabuse sitting on the judging panel once again.
Like him or loathe him but it’s only taken ten minutes of Dancing On Ice to appreciate what a brilliant presenter Phillip Schofield is. #DancingOnIce #phillipschofield #hollywilloughby pic.twitter.com/iS8RRTl9O5
— Andrew Jazzie (@AndrewJazzie) January 14, 2024
This year’s contestants include former world champion boxer Ricky Hatton, Coronation Street star Claire Sweeney, S Club singer Hannah Spearritt, West End star and Love Island winner Amber Davies, and Olympian Greg Rutherford.
TV personality Miles Nazaire, comedian and writer Lou Sanders, actor Ricky Norwood, radio presenter Adele Roberts, actor Ryan Thomas and Emmerdale’s Roxy Shahidi will also compete.
The series is rarely without its bumps and bruises, and season 16 has got off to a particuarly rocky start with two early exits already.
— chris floyd (@mrchrisfloyd) January 14, 2024
Another contestant, Shahidi, recently spoke out about an injury that she sustained during training that left her “unable to breathe” days before the series premiered.
Willoughby has been absent from television since she stepped down from This Morning in October.
News of her exit followed Schofield’s departure in May. In a statement, Willoughby said that she was leaving the show “for me and my family”. You can read the full statement here.