Strictly surge | 

Strictly Come Dancing launch show sees spike in viewers

Saturday night’s episode achieved a 42.2% audience share.

The dancers were paired up during the launch show (BBC/PA)

By Tom Horton, PA

The launch episode of Strictly Come Dancing was watched by an average of 8.6 million viewers, according to overnight ratings.

This marks an increase from the 2019 series opener, which launched to an average audience of 7.8 million people.

Saturday night’s episode achieved a 42.2% audience share and had a peak of nine million viewers, a spokesman for the programme said.

The dancers could only get within close distance of their own partners due to coronavirus rules (BBC/PA)

It was the most watched programme across all channels on Saturday night, he added.

Last year’s launch had a 44.7% share of all those watching television in the timeslot, with the audience peaking at 8.3 million.

Saturday’s launch saw a celebrity perform as part of a same-sex pairing for the first time in the programme’s history.

Nicola Adams and Katya Jones are the programme’s first ever same-sex couple (BBC/PA)

Nicola Adams was paired with Katya Jones, while celebrities including comedian Bill Bailey, actress Caroline Quentin and former home secretary Jacqui Smith also featured.

YouTuber HRVY, Made In Chelsea star Jamie Laing, EastEnders actress Maisie Smith, radio DJ Clara Amfo, former NFL player Jason Bell, musician Max George and TV presenters JJ Chalmers and Ranvir Singh are also taking part.

The programme featured pre-recorded routines from the BBC One dancing competition’s professionals, as well as a group performance from this year’s entire cohort of contestants.

However during the performance the couples only got within close distance of their own partners, due to coronavirus rules.

Comedian Bill Bailey is paired with professional dancer Oti Mabuse (BBC/PA)

Either the professional dancer or the celebrity is living on their own for the duration of the series as they form an exclusive support bubble.

The programme is being filmed in front of a socially-distanced audience.

Judges Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse and Shirley Ballas returned to the panel, however Bruno Tonioli was absent from the launch as he is in the US working on Dancing With The Stars.

The Italian will appear remotely for the results shows before he returns full-time towards the end of the series.

Strictly Come Dancing continues next Saturday on BBC One at 7.25pm.

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