Holly Willoughby has given a “huge welcome” to Stephen Mulhern as he became a permanent presenter on Dancing On Ice.
Willoughby, 42, who left This Morning in October after 14 years on the sofa, has been hosting the ITV skating show since 2006.
She worked decades ago with Mulhern on ITV Saturday morning children’s show Ministry Of Mayhem.
Mulhern, 46, hosted the show briefly in 2022 after Phillip Schofield tested positive for Covid-19.
— Stephen Mulhern (@StephenMulhern) January 14, 2024
On Sunday, the series kicked off with an opening performance from the professional skaters and the introduction of the new celebrity contestants.
Willoughby, who wore a silver sparkly dress, said: “To the greatest show on ice, and let’s hear it for the amazing cast of 2024. Let me just say a huge welcome to Stephen Mulhern.”
Schofield left ITV last year after admitting to a relationship with a male This Morning employee.
Willoughby also posted a picture of her Dancing On Ice outfit on Instagram. TV personality Ferne McCann, EastEnders star Patsy Palmer, comedian Alan Carr and model Abbey Clancy sent her messages of support.
Palmer, who competed last year, wrote: “Best of luck beautiful.”
Before the series returned, Mulhern wrote on X: “Today is the day! I can’t wait to be reuniting with @HollyWills at 6:30pm to kick off the brand new series of @DancingOnIce! Don’t miss it, live on @ITV!.”
In a post on Instagram, This Morning said: “So great to see @hollywilloughby back on our screens where she belongs. Good luck for tonight’s launch of @dancingonice – we’ll be watching!”
Dancing On Ice also saw This Morning star Josie Gibson, who was in I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! last year, welcome Willoughby back when she arrived on the ice in a sled.
In the TV audience was Stephen Lustig-Webb, who was originally meant to compete but was forced to withdraw due to an injury and was replaced by former ski jumper Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards.
Meanwhile, Ricky Hatton was put in the skate off after a boxing-inspired performance did not thrill the judges or TV audience.
The former world champion boxer, 45, received 12.5 points from the judges and he could face elimination next week following a public vote.
Dressed in a boxing outfit, Hatton wore knee pads as he did mini-punches and press-ups on the ice to Rocky movie theme tune Gonna Fly Now by Bill Conti, with his skating partner Robin Johnstone.
Judge Ashley Banjo said it was “iconic” and he could be proud of the audience’s reaction.
Topping the leaderboard with the judges was former Coronation Street actor Ryan Thomas, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, and partner Amani Fancy with 26.5 points.
His energetic performance to Kings of Leon’s Sex On Fire, featuring a pirouette move, was called “absolutely brilliant” by judge Oti Mabuse.
Love Island winner and West End star Amber Davies, Emmerdale actress Roxy Shahidi, Olympian Greg Rutherford and S Club 7 star Hannah Spearritt also performed during the launch.
— Dancing on Ice (@dancingonice) January 14, 2024
Rutherford was seen jumping in one of his showcased moves as he skated to Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now with professional Vanessa James.
Judge Christopher Dean said his high jump was “amazing” and praised his lift of James, as he scored 24.5 points.
Spearritt had seemed in jeopardy as she received 19.5 points from the judges for her skate to Ariana Grande’s Break Free with professional Andy Buchanan.
Next week radio presenter Adele Roberts, EastEnders star Ricky Norwood, actress Claire Sweeney, TV personality Miles Nazaire, comedian and writer Lou Sanders and Edwards compete for the first time.