Holly Willoughby has said she is “very proud” of Dancing On Ice for becoming the first prime-time TV programme to feature a “groundbreaking” same-sex couple.
However, the presenter, who hosts the ITV show with Phillip Schofield, said the change should have happened “a long time ago”.
Steps star Ian “H” Watkins is taking part in the forthcoming series of the ice skating show, paired with professional skater Matt Evers.
The announcement that Dancing On Ice would feature its first same-sex couple came after years of speculation that same-sex couples would feature on a TV dance competition.
Asked what she was most intrigued to see this year, Willoughby said: “I think Matt and H, because that is groundbreaking. I think what that symbolises and what that means on how far we’ve come.
“A primetime show has a same-sex couple skating together and why shouldn’t they?
“It should have been happening a long time ago. For that reason, I’m very proud of Dancing On Ice.”
Willoughby said The Only Way Is Essex star Gemma Collins had gone down in history after her famous fall on the previous series.
Collins had a rocky time in the competition, falling on her face and becoming embroiled in a spat with then judge Jason Gardiner.
Willoughby said: “She’s gone down in Dancing On Ice history, without a doubt. I think people will always talk about her on the show.”
Schofield said: “She could have easily knocked her teeth out or broken her nose… That would have been absolutely horrific.
“But she’s laughed about it as well. It was a spectacular fall. It sits in along with the moments like when (actor and former contestant) Todd Carty skated out and was pushed back on.
“There are a number of moments in the Dancing On Ice history and Gemma has now entered the hall of fame.”
Torchwood and Doctor Who star John Barrowman is replacing Gardiner on the panel, alongside returning judges Jayne Torvill, Christopher Dean and Ashley Banjo.
Schofield said: “He is literally fabulous! He used to be a guest on Going Live! when I was doing Saturday morning telly so I’ve known him for years. He is the all-round showman.”
Willoughby added: “This is an industry he has worked in, for a very long time, albeit not skating specifically but entertainment, showbiz, performing, dancing and putting on a show ultimately.”
Barrowan said he would be “honest yet critical”, and promised to be always “fabulous”.
Asked how he planned to judge the 12 celebrity contestants, he said: “I don’t know how to sum it up yet because I haven’t started on the show.
“I have judged on prior TV shows and was always truthful, honest yet critical. That’s what I will continue to carry through to this show. Always being fabulous.”
– Dancing On Ice begins on Sunday January 5 at 6pm on ITV.