Craig Revel Horwood relishes giving scathing critiques on entertainment juggernaut Strictly Come Dancing. Now, as part of Channel 4’s season of programming to mark 50 years since the first Pride march in the UK, the razor-tongued judge is swapping the ballroom for the living room to air his views on the week’s telly for a special edition of Celebrity Gogglebox.
The one-off will see Craig join other LGBTQ+ personalities plus series regulars — including Rylan Clark and his mum Linda, West End favourites Denise Van Outen and Duncan James, plus Eurovision stars Sam Ryder and Scott Mills — to give their take on everything from documentaries to dramas.
Here, Craig Revel Horwood, who’ll be sharing the sofa with his good friend, pianist Ben Goddard, tells us why he couldn’t wait to take part…
Have you always loved Gogglebox?
"I’m a huge fan of Gogglebox! When it first came out [in 2013], I thought why would anyone be interested in watching people watching TV? I thought it was ridiculous… and then I was hooked!
"Because this is a special to mark Pride, I wanted to do the show with one of my straight mates. Everyone knows I’m opinionated and I thought it’d be really cool to bounce off Ben, as a heterosexual man, and ask for his take on certain things — Ben has an opinion on everything!"
What genre of shows do you like watching? And which get you reaching for the remote?
"I enjoy watching crime investigation-type programs. And I thought [BBC thriller] Killing Eve was brilliant because it’s so theatrical and I love those sorts of shows.
"My TV turn-off would be game shows. I know I’ve been guilty of appearing on them, but it’s different being there and playing, rather than watching it on TV at home."
Which programmes do you think have represented the LGBTQ+ community well on TV?
"I thought the drama It’s a Sin, which aired on C4 last year, was absolutely brilliant. I lived through the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and I personally lost a lot of friends to the disease. I was in my prime of late teens to early 20s and then, suddenly, all of my friends who were 21 and 22 were dying.
"It was a really scary, awful time, and It’s a Sin brought back memories of that era and found a brilliant way of telling that story, because it was so true to life. I also really enjoyed Queer as Folk, which was shown on C4 in the late 1990s."
Queer as Folk, which like It’s a Sin was created by Russell T Davies, was ground-breaking, wasn’t it?
"Yes, it was amazing because it was really gritty and it was the first time anyone had seen that sort of stuff on TV. It really represented the gay community at a time when same-sex partners couldn’t get married and when people were still fighting for gay rights. I thought the writing and acting was sensational. It was one of those shows where you had to watch the next episode on the night it was on."
Do you think we’ve come a long way in terms of how the gay community is portrayed on TV?
"Oh, most definitely. If you’d have told me when Strictly started in 2004 that, in 2021, we’d see two men — Bake Off winner John Whaite and pro dancer Johannes Radebe — dancing together on the show, I’d have laughed my head off. I would never have believed it.
"Similarly, soaps like Coronation Street and EastEnders, and dramas like BBC One’s Gentleman Jack, have helped get the message out there that being gay is normal. And I’m so pleased it’s happened during my lifetime. When I was growing up in Australia, homophobia was everywhere. But things are changing and it’s magnificent."
John and Johannes are also taking part in this Gogglebox special…
"They’ll be fab-u-lous! I know Johannes will be very polite; he won’t say anything too racy or too nasty about anyone. Whereas John, on the other hand, will just speak his mind; he doesn’t care. They’re like chalk and cheese – they’ll work really well on Gogglebox."
What would you say about Strictly if you were asked to watch it for Gogglebox?
"I would probably say, ‘Oh, who is that nasty piece of work sitting on the end of the judging panel? He’s a complete misery!’ I’d have the same opinion of me as the people on Gogglebox have!
"When it’s about dance, I’m super-critical because I work hard to maintain high standards. But I’m actually very nice and very sweet, and people will see that when they watch me on Gogglebox!"
Why is Pride as an event important to you?
"It’s a celebration, not of being gay but of people and life and how, as human beings, we love to dance and have fun. Pride is like a big fancy dress party, where people are encouraged to be who they want to be. The parades themselves are hugely entertaining and, more and more, it’s becoming a day out for all the family; kids get excited about all the feathers, flags, colour and movement.
"Pride is for everybody; it doesn’t segregate. It’s not just for the LGBTQ+ community. It’s for everyone to pull together."
Finally, how excited are you for the upcoming 20th series of Strictly?
"I’m really looking forward to Strictly, like I do every year, because every time it’s different — different faces doing different dances and telling different stories.
"I’d love to see Britain’s Got Talent judge Simon Cowell on the show. He’d be brilliant. He’ll be used to the high-waisted trousers, but we could get him out of his black clothes, dress him in pink and, of course, give him some Strictly sparkle.
"As for my commenting on his dancing, Simon invented harsh critique, so he should be able to take it!"
Celebrity Gogglebox’s Pride special can be seen on Friday July 1 at 9pm Channel 4.
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With over 20 years’ experience writing about TV and film, Vicky currently writes features for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week magazines plus news and watching guides for WhatToWatch.com, a job which involves chatting to a whole host of famous faces. Our Vicky LOVES light entertainment, with Strictly Come Dancing, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice UK among her fave shows. Basically, if it’s got a shiny floor, she’s all over it! When she’s not watching TV, you might find Vicky in therapy… retail therapy that is!